Tarun Reflex

September 3, 2008

"It’s the uniform" from Indian Express | Comment by our Reader

Filed under: argument,comment by reader,The Indian Express — Tarun @ 4:52 pm

In todays’s Indian Express Edition on the Editorial page, An article titled “Its the Uniform” appeared which by its very language ignited arguments. I am presenting the article (courtsey : The Indian Express) followed by Comment by one of our readers:

It’s the uniform
It’s unique, blends dignity, honour. Seeking parity with IAS, service chiefs miss this.
India’s defence services should now be paid more. The cabinet cleared the Sixth Pay Commission’s recommendations for new pay bands for defence employees on August 14; on Monday, the defence ministry officially sanctioned the implementation of the cabinet’s suggested changes. The cabinet went well beyond what was recommended by the pay commission, except, unfortunately, in the matter of severance packages — which would have helped the armed forces’ growing pension bill — and flexible hours. In particular, the concern that lower ranks were not being given enough of a raise has been addressed. It was doubly disappointing, therefore, that the seniormost uniformed officers in the country have written to Defence Minister A.K. Antony demanding that the pay rise be put on hold.
There are a hundred jokes in the services about how difficult it is to get the army, navy and air force to agree on anything. For the leaders of the three uniformed branches to join each other in writing to their civilian superior, one would think that something of earth-shattering import needed to be addressed. On discovering what it is, however, all notions of what the three service chiefs consider an earth-shattering crisis might need to be revised. In essence, the chiefs are upset that senior ranks in the armed forces are not being paid an amount commensurate with what they believe equivalent ranks in the IAS receive. (The pay commission held sharply differing, and more rational, views on what constituted an equivalent rank.) 
The armed services do indeed see a steady leaking of talent. However, so do other services. The problem is that by grounding their complaint in a spurious comparison to the IAS and the IPS rather than as a reasoned exposition — using labour market analysis — of how higher pay might stop that leakage, the armed forces come off as depressingly petty and bureaucratic. Senior soldiers obsessing over points of order and the order of precedence is not going to help that leakage; worldwide, what keeps soldiers in uniform is not parity with civilian administrators but a sense that for what they do they receive recognition of a unique order, and that the uniform itself ensures they will receive a certain dignity and respect. When the seniormost of those wearing that uniform write letters of the sort that the defence minister just received, that hope receives a small jolt.
Comment by Mr. D.K. Joshi :
The Editor
Indian Express
New Delhi

Dear Editor,

Apropos editorial on the Armed Forces titled It’s the Uniform in Indian Express issue dated 03 Sep 08.

It is with disgust that I read your editorial on the issue of the parity sought by the Armed Forces chiefs. A hollow claim by hollow Newspapers is what comes to mind. Journalistic freedom does not and should not smack of favoring particular lobbies without going into the merits or demerits of the issues at stake. Your editorial board should have taken some pains to delve into the matter before coming out with such a partisan and insulting editorial. It seems the paper has taken upon itself to deride the Armed Forces as a national issue, which transgress other burning issues in the country. Journalism has degraded itself to serving as mouthpieces of interested parties in trying to deny the Forces their due.

Let me start by iterating a statement that often gets lost in the polarized views of today. We remain dedicated to the Motherland. It is the Indian Army which has till today undergone extreme hardships and made the supreme sacrifice whenever demanded by the situation in any eventuality whether on the borders, in foreign lands, in counter-insurgency operations within the country, natural calamities and so on. The country remembers the Forces when in dire need and then conveniently forgets when the situation stabilizes. Do you even care to count the dead, injured, handicapped by permanent injuries, the trauma suffered by the innumerable families and the separation from families, which is an everyday part of the existence of a soldier? Why should you, you have to cater to sensationalize or trivialize as your circulation depends on it, truth be damned, who has the time for it anyway?

Do you know the root cause for this decline in the number of people not wanting to join the Forces? Nobody who has some intelligence and has done reasonably well in the exams at the requisite level would be foolhardy to join a profession which has nothing to offer except hardships, treacherous terrain, threat to life and stagnation after 14 years at the rank of a Lt Col, Wing Commander and Commander, as over 60% of the officers get superceded at that rank. So at the age of about 35-38 years, after having given the best of his years to the service of the country, he has growing children, needing to settle down at one place rather than the nomadic shifting from a town or a city to a prolonged separation of three years. Who do you think will join the forces rather than an emotional fool? Today there exist innumerable jobs in the cities and towns where one can make a decent living, so why should he opt for hardships. Add to that an ungrateful nation and a hostile press like yours, who cannot fathom the depth of the invisible work being done by these brave soldiers.

The present problem is that of the officers of the rank of Lt Cols. They constitute the actual ground leaders who lead their men into battle, the company commanders, yes, statistics would show that the maximum number of officers of this rank have either sacrificed their lives or been injured. In the Air force they hold the most important operational commands and similarly in the Navy. This particular rank has been kept in Pay band 3 in the sixth pay commission whereas officers in civil services and the para- military forces who prior to this sixth pay commission were drawing the same salary as Lt Cols are now in pay band 4, drawing a salary which is Rs 11,000-14,000 higher. This has resulted in the lowering of status as well as financial fraud on this rank. To me it is an utter insult that there has been a systematic degradation and it seems that the Lt Col is an expendable commodity.

If you think that my demand is not justified, then all that I can say is that I am ashamed to be safeguarding such an ungrateful country, which does not want to give any thing to the man in uniform.

I salute the three service chiefs who have taken up the case so strongly. In addition, yes, I am a serving Lt Col and proud of my profession. This particular issue has conveniently been forgotten by your editorial while passing sarcastic comments on the Defence Services top brass for seeking parity at higher ranks. Why do you grudge the few Generals a status that they thoroughly deserve after having done their bit in uniform? I request you to carry out research on such issues before coming up with such unprofessional editorials.


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