CHANDIGARH: On Sunday, September 11, 2016, some news papers had prominently reported the decision of the three Service Chiefs not to accept the unjust award of the Seventh Pay Commission, as it pertains to the military. Others ignored this important news, either on account of a gag order or perhaps not to annoy the government, as the news does show how badly the politico-bureaucratic combine has treated the military!

This news reflects two important points. Firstly, it shows the government in very bad light indeed, and is actually a slur on the ability of the political leadership not to understand the extent of angst in all ranks of our military.

Secondly, it shows the resolve of the Chiefs to fight a highly unjust award, planned, written and implemented by the bureaucracy by taking a nod from the political leadership.

I want to congratulate the Chiefs for their principled stand, which they have taken for the good of all ranks of their commands. I doff my hat to you Sirs!

The Indian Military has been at the receiving end of unjust and even illegal decisions that our political leaders have thrust on the military, at the behest of the bureaucracy. There are many reasons for this state of affairs, but it will suffice to say that due to their naivety in the intricacies of governance, they have become marionettes to whatever the bureaucrats tell them. Sometimes I wonder whether ours is a democracy or a bureaucracy ruled oligarchy!

Besides the above, the bulk of current Members of Parliament (MP’s) are semi-literate, who have been elected only on account of money and muscle power and selling dreams to the gullible in the name of caste, creed and religion; as well as the much publicised ‘Jumlas’, which many in the current government have stated a number of times.

If memory serves me right, it was the venerable Finance Minister who uttered the word first; and then the party president followed on more than one occasion! In addition, with more talk and less implementation in most areas of governance, this government has already earned the sobriquet: “Jumla Sarkar”!

The result is all round ignorance of the bulk of MP’s in their ability to govern and falling back on the bureaucrats to make decisions on their behalf. Our Prime Minister, of course never tires of telling the nation in his speeches, which he delivers with gusto and panache, about how he will clean up the Augean Stables of the bureaucracy, but we are still to see any action or implementation in this regard..

The bureaucrats being clever, if not wily, have been taking the elected representatives of the people, who constitute the decision-making ‘Executive’ in accordance with our Constitution, for a right royal ride! The pity is that barring a few political leaders who understand the nuances of governance, the rest are mediocre, if not worse. These leaders belong to all political parties and the abrogation of their powers to the bureaucracy has steadily increased over the years and decades. A great pity indeed, especially for a nation that prides itself in its knowledge in all facets of life, not just governance for centuries.

The time has come for the nation to reflect on the treatment meted out to the most dynamic institution of the country – the Indian Military. The niche carved by the military’s selfless service has been an enduring example to the nation – always dependable, standing rock-like in the service of the nation and the people, and religiously adhering to the Chedwodian motto “The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time …”.

While the bulk of the citizens have a great deal of love and respect for their military, the policies of various successive governments towards the military have ranged from ambivalence to downright antagonism. Has it served the nation well and how does the nation view it? Has it received the support of the various governments that have ruled the nation during the last 70 years and the people who had elected them? Have the aspirations of the Indian Military been met by successive governments?

The nation needs to and must know how the manipulating bureaucrats have tried their best not just to downgrade the military in all spheres but have made it hollow and indeed impotent! Strong words no doubt, but the time has come to say them openly.

Let me spell out how it has happened, for which the start point is our Independence in 1947.

Following Independence in 1947, organisational changes strengthened ‘civilian’ (meaning ‘political’) control over the military, which was fully accepted by the military hierarchy. This has continued for the last 70 years, even though there were many occasions when any other military would have revolted.

However, the ethos of the Indian Military; its training and discipline; its culture of loyalty; and above all its leadership, at the senior levels especially and also at other subordinate levels, acted with maturity and balance, averting ugly situations.

It is a great pity, however, that the government in power at that time and also later governments, egged on by the self-serving bureaucracy, misinterpreted their sacrifices as a sign of docility and weakness, not appreciating that it was all done in the national interest.

At Independence, the Indian Military had firmly believed that the new dispensation would be as fair as the last one, if not better, and the ‘System’ would take care of their concerns and aspirations, without their kowtowing to the new political leadership. Sadly, the bureaucracy did just the opposite and ingratiated themselves with the new leaders. Even then they were not satisfied, for their thirst for power and the filthy lucre was unending and continues to be so.

Over the years and decades, on account of the naivety of the political leaders, the bureaucrats have made themselves indispensable to the political leaders. Without going into any detailed explanations, it is quite obvious that the elected representatives of the people have steadily abrogated their responsibilities to the bureaucrats.

In the Fifth and Sixth Pay Commissions, their greed had reached new heights and the military, though extremely angry, again controlled itself and accepted the downgrading, though there was an obvious fall in morale. Again, instead of taking cognizance of it, as also the loyalty and incredible sacrifices of the armed forces and meeting their concerns, the various governments, including the present one, continued delaying the ‘anomalies’ on one pretext or the other.

With this background, it is no wonder that the three Chiefs have taken a very wise decision not to implement the heavily skewed dispensation between the military on the one hand and every other branch of government employees, from IAS, IFS, IPS and the so-called other Allied Class I Services to the other. The three Chiefs’ need to be congratulated for taking a principled stand against an unjust award, and doing so in such a mature and balanced manner.

It is the paramount duty of all military commanders to get the best for their commands and now the Chief’s have done so. I have no doubt that they would now be offered blandishments of all types, like more committees; ministerial interventions and even subtle threats, not to mention the usual ‘how much the nation needs you’ kind of words! They must desist and not fall for such ploys.

The Indian Army has been engaged in active operations on a sustained basis, since Independence, with only short periods of peace. These challenges have helped the Army to earn a formidable reputation of a force that delivers, usually against heavy odds. It will continue to fight the nation’s wars and conflicts, giving its best, but the nation must also support it to the maximum extent, meet its aspirations and restore its “izzat”, besides alleviating its concerns and misgivings.

Let me end by once again drawing the attention of our political leaders to the oft-quoted words of Chanakya; “The day a soldier has to demand his dues, is truly a sad day in the history of the nation”.

(The writer is a former Vice Chief of Army Staff)