Economic & Political Weekly
Current Issue : VOL 44 No. 17 April 25 - May 01, 2009
The Fauji Devalued
Live issues within the military, such as physically and psychologically trying service conditions, especially during internal security duties, insufficient living accommodation, all jawans having to retire at the age of 38, 60% officers by the age of 54, and promotions (to which pay is linked) being very limited especially in the officer cadre, have been borne without much murmur. But now the dissatisfaction in the military is at high pitch, although this may not be seen by those outside “the system” – not even those who have access to intelligence reports, because most intelligence agencies keep uncomfortable facts away from the boss. The hard fact is that, justifiable or not, most faujis and veterans harbour a grudge against the bureaucracy, which they see as the hand behind the consistent denial of their just and fair demands. Admittedly, every person feels that his demand is just and fair. But we must note the great dissimilarity between what the fauji does, how he lives and works with risk to life and limb on the one hand, and on the other, bureaucrats who live relatively comfortable lives, receive assured promotions, draw higher salaries and earn more during their much longer service life.
It is appropriate to quote examples. Only 7% of military officers get promoted to Brigadier rank after 28 years of service, much of it in hard areas, while 100% of the Indian Police Service officers are elevated to the “equivalent” post of Director/ Inspector General after 14 years of service. Similarly, only 2% of military officers get promoted to major general after 32 years of service, while 100% of IAS officers are promoted to the “equivalent” senior administrative grade after 14 years of service. (This coincidentally shows how the Indian Administrative Service is one-up on the IPS!). But this is not about officers alone, because the status inequity goes down the hierarchy to the sepoy who, though living a much riskier life and retiring much earlier, becomes inferior to his civilian counterpart.
The load on the exchequer for providing military personnel status-service-salary parity with the IAS or police at all levels is not unaffordable considering, for example, the huge tax holidays and concessions being freely given to commercial and industrial corporations. While he freely accepts being under control of the union cabinet through the defence minister, the fauji resents the real-time control that is exercised by the bureaucracy to his personal detriment and the izzat of his service. He feels devalued, neglected and insulted. This state of affairs is undoubtedly harmful for the country’s internal and external security.
The Burden of Military pensions- by Gautam Navlakha