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October 17, 2008
Army Guns for Babus: The Literal Lowdown
On Tuesday evening, the Ministry of Defence formally denied the existence of a sensitive article from South Block that Headlines Today put on air the same afternoon — an article honestly, violently and articulately full of hate for the bureaucracy, and packed with insider detail of just how the pay commission mess has been allowed to snowball into the crisis it is now. Denial apart (there’s no way the Ministry could accept the existence of such an article — that would be tantamount to admitting just how dangerous things have gotten), we stuck by our story and went on air with it again primetime at 9.30pm Tuesday night, double pep, through the night and the earlier half of today. The note, being called an “article” has been authored by senior serving officer(s). Well since the Ministry of Defence denies the existence of the article (in essence, a retort to Shekhar Gupta’s column from October 4), and we stand by it, I thought I’d put it up here for anyone who cares to have a look at it. These are excerpts:
Setting Up of Committee of Secretaries (CoS). CoS was set up to look into and resolve the anomalies in the 6th CPC report, as highlighted by various Central Govt cadres.
Armed Forces Representative Not Included In Any Capacity. Verbal assurances were offered by the officials of the Def Ministry that the issues raised by the Armed Forces were well understood by them and will be pursued most honestly and diligently by the Def Secy (a member in the CoS). Hence, they justified non-inclusion of any Armed Forces Rep in the CoS, even in advisory or observer capacity.
Opaqueness in Deliberations of CoS. In absence of any communication from the CoS, the Chairman COSC formally sought that the findings and recommendation of the CoS be shared with the Armed Forces for them to attach their concurrence or observations, if any, prior to the same being submitted to the Cabinet for “Informed Decision Making”. No formal or Informal Response was received to this formal request.
Cabinet Decision : Ill Informed. The Cabinet could not be faulted in giving its approval to the recommendations of the CoS. They were fair in assuming that Armed Forces views would have been objectively presented and analysed as the Def Secy was on the panel of CoS.
Questionable Manner of Dissemination of Govt Notification of the CPC. The Govt Notification was made available to the Services HQ late on Friday (after 5.30 PM the office closing time in South Block). Further, only that portion of the notification was made available which pertained to the Armed Forces. This prevented the concerned Armed Forces officials to study the Govt Notfn at least until offices opened on Monday; and even then, unable to do any comparative analysis vis-à-vis provisions made for other Govt Services, they would not be in position to analyse the implications on parity/disparity issues for quite some time thereafter.
Major Discrepancies Noticed by Armed Forces in Govt Notfn. While being exposed to continued “informal pressure from the bureaucracy” to commence the implementation process, the Armed Forces, with ‘patient haste’ conducted a detailed study and analysis to find “four major discrepancies” in the Govt notfn. While, one of the core anomalies was the legacy of the original CPC report, the Armed Forces were surprised that the other three had been introduced surreptitiously by the CoS itself (please remember, the CoS was constituted to resolve anomalies and NOT create them).
Chairman COSC and Services Chiefs Meet RM. The RM, when presented the facts pertaining to the 4 Core Anomalies, was convinced of their logic and legitimacy and promised the Service Chiefs to take up the issue with the PM. He directed the officials in the MoD to communicate the same to the PMO, with his recommendations for early resolution.
The Bureaucratic Subversion. In absence of the RM, the MoD did not send any communication to the PMO as directed by the Minister. Instead, it sent a note for consideration of the officials of the Fin Ministry. The note thus sent, diluted the Armed Forces’ case as was presented to the RM and with which the RM had already concurred. The officials of the Fin Ministry diluted the Armed Forces case even further and presented the same to the Fin Minister. The Note, thus rejecting most of the Armed Forces’ observations and proposals was to be dispatched to the PMO.
Service Chiefs Meet Finance Minister: Bureaucratic Subversion Partially Exposed. The Service Chiefs (at least the two of them) met the Fin Minister before the Note rejecting the Armed Forces’ case could be dispatched to the PMO. After detailed presentation of their case, the Fin Minister acknowledged that “officials in his Ministry had misled him and had also misrepresented facts”.
Bureaucratic Fiat Issued Separately to Three Services to Notify Govt Notfn on Pay Commission so as to Ensure Its Implementation wef 01 Oct 08. Three separate notes were issued separately directly to the three Services HQ (please remember, all communication on the subject between the MoD and the Services were with the Central Pay Commission Cell in the COSC and not directly with the Services HQ). Moreover, the notes were issued by the MoD in absence of the RM who still was away on foreign visit.
Service Chiefs Meet PM. The PM responded favorably to the Service Chiefs’ presentation of the core anomalies. He also stated that he had received favorable comments on the issues, from the Fin Minister but, the PMO could not proceed to take a view as it had not yet received any communication on the issue from the MoD. (Please remember again that the RM, before proceeding on visit abroad, had instructed his Ministry to send a formal communication to the PMO).
Service Chiefs Meet RM : Fears of Further Exposure of Bureaucratic Subversion. Service Chiefs apprised the RM of their meetings with the Fin Minister and the PM. They also apprised him of the fact that no communication had been sent by the MoD, as personally directed by him) to the PMO. The RM directed a letter drafted immediately, recommending all Armed Forces’ proposals. The same was dispatched, addressed to the PM and personally signed by the RM.
Services Chiefs Issue Communication to All Ranks. The nature of sudden and intense media campaign which had potential of subverting the morale and maybe discipline of personnel, issue communications to all ranks in respective services.
The following basic principles must be considered and informed view taken in the context of the issue being discussed:
Is Govt Authority synonymous with the Bureaucratic Authority? Is Subservience of the Military to the Civil Authority in a Democracy synonymous with Subservience of the Military to Bureaucratic Authority?
Each one in the Armed Forces have grown, since their initial induction, learning that in a Democracy, in the context of the Military’s Subservience to the Civil Authority, the Civil Authority signifies the “Elected Govt” and at the larger levels, the “Parliament” and the “Constitution of India”. On day-to-day functioning, the bureaucracy may represent the elected Govt but it surely does NOT replace elected Govt.
The bureaucracy misled the Cabinet into believing that their recommendations were based on fair consideration of the views and logic of the Armed Forces (if it was not so, the RM, FM and PM would not have been surprised and found merit in the issues raised by the Armed Forces subsequently).
The bureaucracy, knowing the schedule of foreign visits by the RM and PM, deliberately worked in a manner that would prevent exhaustive deliberations with the deadline of 01 Oct and thus pressurise (the pressure was brought through a section of the media, led by Indian Express and a print news agency) the Armed Forces to implement the Pay Commission in its current form and deferring the resolution of the core anomalies indefinitely. This is exactly what they achieved in the case of previous Pay Commission.
What is most disconcerting in the bureaucratic design that they resorted to “disobeying instructions of the RM”; and “Misleading the FM and Misrepresenting Facts Before Him”. The charge of “Defiance of Govt Authority” that is being labeled upon the Service Chiefs actually should be labeled upon the Bureaucracy.
As for the Service Chiefs withholding Notifying the Govt Order, it is a simple case of they being morally bound to apprise the Govt of their perception of anomalies and ill-effects of implementing its order, prior to blindly executing it. Once the Govt (represented by the RM and PM) found merit in reconsidering the aspects brought before it by the Armed Forces and assured the Service Chiefs of having a re-look, until it got back to the Services with fresh instructions, the Services cannot be blamed for ‘defiance’ or ‘disobedience’. Once the Govt did come back during the previous weekend with interim orders, the Services have accepted the same and are implementing.
As far as the communications issued by the three Services Chiefs to all ranks is concerned, one ought to read the complete documents and understand the context. There is nothing in them which can be distantly construed as ‘defiance of govt authority’. In fact, in all manuals on military leadership and of late, also included in teachings on HR by the corporates, one of the abiding principles is that of “keep men informed”. This is expressly meant for men not following prey to rumours, propaganda and misinformation as they can seriously subvert the morale, discipline and ultimately operational effectiveness of any organized group and especially, the Armed Forces.
Mr Shekhar Gupta’s contention of the Service Chiefs behaving as “Union Leaders” egged by cheering ex-Servicemen, is gross misrepresentation. The Armed Forces are denied right to form unions, firmly in the belief that the concerns of each individual are addressed by a strict chain of command. This chain leads to the Service Chiefs. The Service Chiefs are thus doing what they ought to do in a democratic setup and purely as per democratic norms which govern the interface between the Civil Govt leadership and its subordinate military leadership. Mr Shekhar Gupta has also attributed the Services Chiefs with “Open Defiance of Civil Authority”. Is he in know of or can he recollect any instance of any act or articulation by services Chiefs which any sensible person can construe as defiance of civil authority? He surely cannot. Further, the ex-Servicemen should, if at all, be complimented for expressing their concerns and grievances, not only in democratic fashion but in a “dignified democratic fashion”. He, through his column, could have actually asked other interest groups and individuals to emulate them.
The whole episode so far, has been a classic case of the bureaucracy “subverting the democratic functioning of the state”; “undermining ‘informed – thus wise’ decision making by the Elected Govt”; and “Subverting the Public Opinion by Using/Misusing the Media”.
The facts and their sequence as brought out may be verified by those willing and an objective opinion may only be made thereafter. The provisions of the RTI Act would surely help uncover the criminal collusion and lengths to which the officials in the concerned Ministries have gone to, to ensure misrepresentation of issues, misleading their own Ministers (and thus the Govt) with the ill-intent of depriving legitimate dues to the Armed Forces personnel and undermining their status.
The bureaucracy, especially those associated with the Defence Ministry, during the past six decades, have found themselves not only increasingly incompetent but even unwilling to develop related competencies, to fulfill their assigned roles. As this episode clearly shows, the bureaucracy have instead, attempted to usurp the role of the Ministers (& thus the Govt) by assigning most of the “decision making” to themselves in the growing belief that in all cases of Ministerial interventions, they can effectively misrepresent facts and mislead the busy Ministers and further, that their acts of commission and omission will never be open to scrutiny of the Armed Forces. In the instant case, the concerned bureaucrats had not bargained for the Service Chiefs walking up the political masters which led to exposing of their nefarious designs and professional gross misconduct.
It is anybody’s guess that the current media campaign is the handiwork of the same very bureaucrats in a last ditch effort to scuttle the “Informed Decision Making Process by the Appointed GoM” and to “Cover Bureaucratic Misdeeds & Follies” by raising the bogey of “Armed Forces’ Defiance of the Govt Authority”.
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