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Exodus In Armed Forces: MEET THEIR GROWING ASPIRATIONS, By Col.(Retd) P. K. Vasudeva, 7 Jan 08 Print E-mail


New Delhi, 7 January 2008 Exodus In Armed ForcesMEET THEIR GROWING ASPIRATIONS By Col.(Retd) P. K. Vasudeva, Ph.D. The Indian Army is secular, apolitical and a thoroughly professional force, which is an acknowledged fact. It is arguably also one of the last credible institutions of the country. What is, however, not widely known is that in its 60th year of its Independence, it is facing severe problems.  Officers in the armed forces are keen to shed their uniforms This is despite Defence minister A K Antony’s promise of "a good deal" for them in the Sixth Pay Commission In 2007 over 1,500 officers from the defence services have already applied for premature release/retirement following offers of lucrative jobs in the corporate world.  It is, therefore, essential to have a strong and professionally-led army controlled by capable officers having impeccable credentials, strength of character and integrity, which is vital to the national interest. A strong army can be a great deterrence and support for the Government to face any kind of enemy. Therefore, an exodus from the defence services in large numbers should be a grave cause of concern to the nation.  With the battlefield environment now being dominated by sub-conventional warfare, our forces are engaged in combating a hidden and undefined enemy. The use of high technology and the ever-increasing stress levels calls for leaders and men possessing a high educational standard, physically fitness and mentally alert personality. Technical and professional qualifications other than engineering and medical would also be the need of the hour. Two factors are vital to ensure that the military gets good material for its rank and file. The first is to ensure that the system of military administration, which is increasingly being plagued with corruption, sycophancy and nepotism, is kept clean, transparent and fair. The other is to make the pay and allowances commensurate with the tough service conditions and personal hardships faced by the troops. The remuneration should commensurate with the best available in the corporate world, as life in the Services in the face of the enemy is most hazardous than any of other existing services in the country.  As the Sixth Pay Commission is engaged in revising the pay and allowances of Central Government employees, including the armed forces personnel, the three Service Chiefs have already submitted their memorandum to it. According to reports, the Services are seeking a five-fold increase over their existing salaries to attract the best recruits and to check the growing exodus of officers.  It is for the first time that the three Services have jointly submitted a report to the Sixth Pay Commission. The report was based on a study carried out by the College of Defence Management (CDM), Secunderabad, at the behest of the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS).  A group comprising 12 CDM officers from the three Services and headed by a Brigadier made a presentation to Antony in May last about the model, which talks about "military compensation". The report presents a dynamic economic model created after studying the economic models of various developed and advance democracies.  According to recent reports, the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) is seeking a four-fold increase in salaries for its entire staff, besides significant performance-based monetary incentives for scientists from the Sixth Pay Commission. The organisation is also seeking an additional 30 per cent hike in basic salary for scientists as intellectual capital pays for generating intellectual property rights.  Several other incentives such as increased participation in international seminars outside the country to update them on technical developments, increase in study leave for scientists and an additional grant for higher academic studies, are also being sought for DRDO personnel.  Among all the categories of the Army, it is the doctors, followed by the engineers, who are the "most adversely affected". A study undertaken by two senior Army Medical Corps doctors, published in 2004, revealed that there was overall a low level of job satisfaction among medical officers. Besides, other pay and allowances, all doctors are entitled to non-practicing allowance, which is 25 per cent of the basic pay.  Recently, the armed forces went in for a tie-up with the Indian Institutes of Management for conducting capsule courses for officers nearing retirement so that they could re-orient themselves in civilian management practices for post-release employment. Ironically, this arena is overflowing with applications. Here six-month intensive business management course is being held for Service officers in IIMs, XLRI, Management Development Institute (MDI) and Narsee Monjee Institute of Management, which is attracting uniformed personnel in hordes.   The Directorate General of Resettlement has made some earnest efforts to assist the retiring officers to transit to a second career. Such officers are now well-placed in the corporate sector and are drawing handsome remuneration—in some instances, more than what they were drawing in the Services. It is important to note that the defence community has been clamouring for a separate pay commission for the armed forces since a long time. Its argument being that no member of the armed forces is included in the Pay Commissions and that civilians are unable to comprehend the tough service conditions, ground realities and military ethos while deciding the pay and allowances in the Services.  All major democracies have a separate Pay Commission for the armed forces. Even the United Kingdom, whose administrative pattern was followed by India post-Independence, has since then set up a separate Pay Commission for its soldiers.  In a letter to the President recently, former Lok Sabha MP, Lt Gen S.P.M. Tripathi (Retd), and six other retired generals and air marshals have expressed serious doubts over the Sixth Pay Commission meeting the aspirations of the armed forces. They said: "We have experienced that successive Pay Commissions have progressively wronged the defence forces in fixing their pay and allowances and apprehend that this step-motherly treatment may be repeated by the SPC." This, they add “has essentially been so because the Pay Commission members had no knowledge of the armed forces”.   In every democracy, these hardships are termed as the "X" factor and compensated through pay, perks and pensions. However, either the meaning of the "X" factor is not understood by the Pay Commissions or they have deliberately been ignoring it.  The British military is also in the grip of personnel crisis after the departure of a substantial number of servicemen in the past one year, prompting concerns that the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan could push the Armed Forces to breaking point. The latest quarterly figures for the RAF show that it is now more than 3,500 short of a requirement of 45,000 personnel. More than 1,000 have left since April 2007.  One of the veterans of the British army said, "Bribe them to join. The U.S. military is offering $20,000 for veterans to re-join their forces. So why don't we open up the vault and see what happens."  Many European countries still have National Service, though the UK abolished it way back in 1960. This Service was, in fact, a perfect way to give young people coming from  disadvantaged backgrounds a sense of respect for what they can become and can do.  India could consider introducing this to fill up the growing deficiencies. Some other recommendations for retaining the armed forces personnel in the service could be: Pay the armed services personnel properly, i.e. a lot more than they would get in civil life; Provide excellent accommodation for them and, especially, their families;     Provide the best possible arms, training and equipment; Look after the wounded troops in Military Hospitals; Change the warrant of precedence as it was after Partition and pay attention to perquisites like travel, LTC, easy visa facilities for visiting abroad.  Thus, give them a country worth fighting for. Is this too much to ask of this politically correct and inept government? I am afraid, the answer is yes. But if we took the above steps there would be no recruitment problems and no overstretch either. Bring back the pride and respect they commanded in the fifties. Is anyone listening? ---- INFA (Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)
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