MYSURU: When the Service Chiefs did not accept the 7th Central Pay Commission award because of its blatant injustice to the military, and went to meet Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, serving and retired Faujis were hopeful that the government would sit up and take notice.

But only the solid walls of South Block are privy to whether the Service Chiefs mustered up the courage to tell Minister Parrikar of the widespread outrage and dissatisfaction among the rank-and-file and officers, with the cavalier manner in which the bureaucrat-manned 7CPC has dealt with the Fauj.

The Service Chiefs have come back from their meeting with MinisterParrikar and made the bland statement that the latter has assured them he would “resolve” the differences, and that the 7CPC award for the military would be notified as-is. Based on experience with the present and earlier governments, it is clear to the most simple-minded Fauji that “resolving” differences will be bureaucrat-offered crumbs with or without verbiage.

When other All India services have raised their 7CPC issues with the Prime Minister, it is not at all clear why the Service Chiefs (if they were not satisfied with the RM's assurance) did not raise the level by meeting PM Narendra Modi to place the problem of the men whom they commmand, before him. But perhaps the Service Chiefs were satisfied with Minister Parrikar's “assurance”, or perhaps they did not have the stomach to face PM Modi.

So, of the three choices which lay before the Service Chiefs (accepting Defence Minister Parrikar's decision, insisting on a review, or tendering their resignation, see: when they took the matter of soldiers' outrage and dissatisfaction with the 7CPC award to government, in their collective wisdom they chose to follow the first, namely tamely accepting the Minister’s “assurance” that he would “resolve” the differences, and they would implement the award.

Faujis' belief in the bureaucracy had died years ago, but their belief in the good intentions of the present Modi-led NDA government persisted, notwithstanding PM Modi's barb that giving OROP (to the soldier who retires at 38-years age) would involve taking money from the poor of India, and physically sidelining the GOC Delhi Area, at his Red Fort national address on Independence Day.

Was the PM unaware of the feelings of his soldiers? If he was unaware, he fails in his understanding of national security; and if he was aware, it indicates his disdain for his soldiers. At any rate, the lingering belief in his good intentions has now been laid to rest.

Chetwode's credo for military officers places Country First, the Men they command Next, and themselves Last, always and every time. The higher the level of command, the more serious are the effects of not adhering to the “always and every time” part of the credo.

The Service Chiefs rightly placed “country first” when they duly took the unjust 7CPC award to government. But it might appear that the other two parts of the dictum were reversed, with its albeit slow but immeasurably deleterious effect on command and control vital to military functioning.

The Service Chiefs' announcement of the 7CPC award is disappointing. It will have its effect of loss of faith in the “system” among the rank-and-file and officers, and consequent lowered morale, because Faujis have been given the short end of the stick repeatedly by different political dispensations. Hopefully, there will be no immediate fallout, but the adverse repercussions on national security will become obvious in coming days. It is additionally galling that the bureaucrats will have the last laugh.

(Major General S.G. Vombatkere, VSM, retired as Additional DG Discipline & Vigilance in Army HQ AG's Branch. )