Is it to enable the thugs, scoundrels and traitors in offices of authority to continue with their crimes with impunity?
The woes of the Indian soldiers began the day the reins of governance were handed over to Jawaharlal Nehru. In retrospect it seems that the reins of power were handed over to Jawaharlal Nehru the individual rather than a leader of the people. In the elections to the office of the President, AICC, Jawahar is learnt to have got just one vote against 18 votes in favour of Sardar Patel. It was an agreed fact that whoever won the election would be the 1st PM of India. But then Gandhiji prevailed on Patel to withdraw his candidature. Why Gandhiji did so has been shrouded in mystery. But a video on YouTube featuring Rajiv Dixit would have us believe that Nehru had blackmailed Gandhiji by declaring that if he was not made the PM he would cause split in the Congress that could delay freedom!
Nehru who felt he was competent to be the 1st PM of a nation which had just shaken off its colonial yoke floundered when it came to having an Indian as Governor General of free India. He let Mountbatten continue. But when it came to his wish to have a Briton as the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of free India he had to reckon with the outspokenness of Gen Nathu Singh Rathore. In the manner of advocates trying to prove that victims of rape asked to be treated as such, Nehru wanted his military officers to confess that they were incompetent to head the army because they did not have such experience before. But Gen Rathore spoke up: Mr Nehru, how have you taken over as the PM without any such previous experience? The advocate in Nehru retorted: then are you ready to take over as the Chief? Nathu Singh Rathore replied that his senior Gen Cariappa was there who was competent enough to do the job. Nehru had to concede defeat. (What a fall for the armed forces from Gen Nathu Singh Rathore to Gen Bikram Singh, who has been favoured in the most abominable manner by the current UPA government!) And from there started the era of neglecting and belittling the nation’s armed forces. It resulted in the 1962 debacle with the Chinese intruding upto Tezpur in interior Assam and walking back freely! Nehru escaped blame by victimizing his Defense Minister and a few military officers. The bureaucrats who have never shied away from flaunting their clout in the decision making process were nowhere to be seen once things went hay way. There is a question being asked by soldiers even today: what happened to the then Defense Secretary? But soldiers know that Nehru was the cause and effect of the ‘62 debacle when they had been moved to forward areas provocatively without even protective clothing, leave alone weapons and ammunition! Book lovers should read the many books written by soldiers on this war, especially the ‘Himalayan Blunder’ by Brig Dalvi who had been commanding a brigade in the eastern frontier when the Chinese struck and had been a Prisoner of War for many years.
Thanks to the ‘62 slap on the face, we were spared another debacle in 1971. In Field Marshal (then General and Chief of Army Staff) Manekshaw’s own words, he had been asked to liberate Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) by Mrs Indira Gandhi, the then PM, in May of that year. The professional advice tendered by the soldier was: I assure you of 100 percent defeat, if am ordered to launch an operation now. Indira, touted as the only man in her Cabinet, was taken aback. But the memories of 1962 helped her to listen to the sagacious advice of the army chief. She learnt that rail, road and air space would be required heavily to move troops to the borders. That East Pakistan will be flooded in summer and we were not equipped to move in flooded terrain, leave alone fight a battle there. So the time and space were left to professional judgement and we witnessed one of the biggest victories in recorded military history. They say success has many claimants, defeat is an orphan. So after the glorious military victory the soldiers were soon forgotten and Indira became India and Durga and what not! Manekshaw who got elevated as a Field Marshall got his pay as arrears when he was in his deathbed, more than 35 years later! And, horribly, he was insulted even in his death what with not even the Defense Minister, leave alone the President and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, attending his funeral!
During the colonial times the Chief of Staff was the 2nd senior most official in the hierarchy, the Viceroy being the first! Come freedom and democracy the nature of governance had to change. But as far as the role of the armed forces was concerned it continued to be guarding the nation’s frontiers and protecting its integrity. But did the nature of governance change? Definitely not! Arguing against granting freedom to India, Winston Churchill had said: “Power will go to the hands of rascals, rogues, freebooters; all Indian leaders will be of low caliber & men of straw. They will have sweet tongues & silly hearts. They will fight amongst themselves for power & India will be lost in political squabbles. A day would come when even air & water would be taxed in India.” In less than 70 years we have established him as a prophet! Many commissions have enquired into the politician-bureaucrat-underworld nexus and presented reports which have, for all practical purposes, been dumped into waste paper baskets. But then even this abominable, criminal nexus can be said to pale into insignificance when compared to the judge-advocate nexus. And how is this relevant in the context of soldiers? We just saw how the Supreme Court of India, denied a just verdict to Gen V K Singh, then Chief of Army Staff, in the matter of a simple issue like his date of birth! To those who are uninformed or ill informed on the issue the fact is that there was no dispute regarding the date of birth of Gen V K Singh, who was born to an army officer in an army hospital in Pune and all his official documents, including the Matriculation Certificate, showed his correct date of birth. It was only after Man Mohan Singh became the first Sikh PM of this country and General Jogender Singh became the 1st Sikh Chief of Army Staff that the issue of a wrong entry in an application filled out for joining the National Defense Academy, became the ground for a raging controversy that ended up with the apex court directing the Defense Minister to review the General’s statutory complaint which had been dismissed without application of mind!
If the problem with aam aadmi is that they do not get any service of the government without bribes, the problems of soldiers are worse. They are no more than bonded labourers! If in 1962 more soldiers died due to inclement weather on snowy tops without even proper foot wear, the condition of today’s soldiers isn’t any better. The Bofors controversy, known as the Mother of all Scams, has been buried without even a single accused being brought to book. Worse, Bofors is being touted as a good gun which did us proud in Kargil. But what has been left unsaid is that when it was being evaluated it had come up only as the 2nd best, the best being French Sofna! It was a scam where the nation’s PM was directly an accused and his name had been taken of the list of accused after his death. Defense deals have always remained milch cows for the corrupt. And the deals are always processed by the babus of the Ministry of Defense (Ministry against Defense, as Lt Gen P C Katoch put it more appropriately!) Starting with the Jeep scam in 1947 to Westland hepter the list is long, very long. But the fact remains that the victims of all these scams are the soldiers who have to do with the worst equipments, vehicles and logistics and the price they pay is their own lives! In fact it is only the soldiers who pay for their own follies as well as the follies of the politicians, bureaucrats and judges! Can anybody recollect how many politicians, bureaucrats or judges have ever been punished till date? Lalu Prasad Yadav, Raja and Kanimozhi are still strutting around even after conviction and/or during bail. And what is former judge P D Dinakaran doing? Enjoying the fruits from the adivasi land he had encroached on?
‘One Rank, One Pension (OROP)’, lateral employment till retirement age of their civilian counterparts, an Ex Serviceman Commission on the lines of Women’s Commission, SC/ST Commission etc have been legiti-mate demands of soldiers for ages. In fact the demand of OROP had been accepted in principle way back in 1974 itself but has yet to reach the implementation stage. Not only is there no attendance being paid to redress these genuine problems of all the soldiers over the years, the case of Rank Pay affecting all officers of the armed forces is one that exposed the gullibility of the soldiers as much as it exposed the treachery of the clerks in the MoD. The 4th Central Pay Commission, in 1986, while introducing running pay scale for officers in the ranks of Captain to Brigadier introduced a rank pay also in addition to the basic pay but the clerks who drafted the orders managed to have the rank pay reduced from the basic pay while fixing the basic pay thus denied all the officers serving at that time their lawful dues. Worse, none of the 50,000 odd officers serving in the armed forces then even realized the treachery that had been made victims of. It was one Maj Dhanapalan who much later took up the matter with the Kerala High Court and got a favourable verdict. Appeals, revisions and SLPs later when the officer finally got his arrears the rest of the officers had to go to court for getting their own dues. The matter is yet to be resolved even after the apex court ordered grant of this due to all affected officers. But then again did the apex court give justice to the affected officers? No interest for the period from 1/1/1986 till 31/12/2005 and only 6 pc simple interest thereafter can hardly be counted as justice done! It has been calculated that a soldier who joins the army at 18 years of age and retires at 35 years stand to lose almost Rs 3 Cr compared to his counterpart in civil. The loss keeps increasing with the rank in which one joins and retires. So today there are no takers for joining as officers in the armed forces. The deficiency is of the order of 25 to 30 pc of the authorized strength. Soon there is going to be deficiency in the lower ranks also. Thanks to the information revolution ushered in by technology, youth is knowledgeable and cannot be motivated by misleading advertisements. They have seen how the Govt of India reacted to renegade Pakistan soldiers capturing Indian soldiers, torturing them and mutilating their bodies beyond recognition and how the same government reacted to the allegation of a ‘diplomat’ breaching laws of her host country and was required to be prosecuted!
It is this sordid state of affairs that gives one the creepy feeling that the security and integrity of the country is under threat. Unless the masses wake up and react to make the people in government deliver what they are tasked, empowered and compensated to deliver, the day may not be far off when the sacrifices made by the freedom fighters and the soldiers of free India would have been in vain.
Soldiers against Traitorsfirstname.lastname@example.org
This is a translation, with minor changes, of a leaflet I had prepared to educate those who were going to participate in a function on 13 Nov 2012 where the chief guest was A K Antony. The original Malayalam version is available at http://www.slideshare.net/raviforjustice/soldiers-against-traitors