UPA’s death blow to the morale of Indian Armed Forces
B.R. Haran has rightly observed: ‘If Parliament is the 'Heart' of Democracy, then the Armed Forces can be called as the 'Central Nervous System', which is vital for the democracy to survive and succeed.
The political class might feel proud of being the Members of Parliament of the world's largest democracy, but it had miserably failed to take care of its 'central nervous system', which is now threatening to complicate the system of democracy, which is not good for the health of the country’.
The Armed Forces, serving as well as retired, have been deeply perturbed by the callous attitude of the UPA government. They are all disappointed and demoralized by the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission headed by Justice B.N. Srikrishna. In fact, the resentment in the Armed Forces has actually started from the third pay commission (1976) itself and it has been growing since then and has reached a boiling point now due to the total neglect of the essential needs, fundamental feelings, emotions and sentiments of the Armed Forces of India as a whole, by the Sixth Pay Commission. It is high time that the government wakes-up to the issue and solves it, or otherwise, a volcano is waiting to erupt with disastrous consequences for our already weak nation’s future.
The Armed Forces and the organizations like 'All India Veterans Welfare Association' (AIVWA) have been repeatedly airing their grievances to the government, but to no avail. Even at the time of constitution of the Sixth Pay Commission, they had requested for the inclusion of a few serving and retired military officers as members of the Pay Commission, but the government had turned a deaf ear to this very reasonable request. The Armed Forces of India today strongly feel that the government has acted in a partial manner according to the whims and fancy of the bureaucracy, resulting in the total neglect of the Armed Forces and its requirements. The Sixth Pay Commission, which comprises of members only from bureaucracy, has allegedly taken care of its self-interests while turning a blind eye to the legitimate urges and aspirations of Armed Forces.
In this context I would like to quote the appropriate words of Major General Eustace D’Souza (Retd.): ‘Never before since Independence have the Armed Forces reacted with such unison to express their deep disappointment at the recommendations of Justice B.N.Srikrishna’s Sixth Pay Commission currently being hotly and emotionally challenged by all ranks serving and retired, of our Armed Forces. The Babus or the Mandarins in Delhi who considered the issue bring back to mind an incident at the Course no: 7 of the National Defence College New Delhi in 1967. The speaker for that morning was the then Defence Secretary. At the conclusion of his presentation, three serving Officers Captain (IN) E.Chandy Kuruvilla (later Vice Admiral), Air Commodore Idris Hasan Lattif (later Air Chief Marshall, Chief of the Air Staff) and myself, then a Brigadier fresh from facing the PLA (the Communist Chinese Peoples Liberation Army) on the high altitude of East Sikkim Watershed, rose in unison and posed this question: ‘The Armed Forces have been on the qui vive ever since Independence: the Punjab Boundary Force, Kashmir, counter insurgency in the North East, the ill-fated 1962 War against the Chinese, the 1965 War against Pakistan yet keeping a wary eye on China in the East – there were four skirmishes at Yak La and Nathu La --- that there was no National War Memorial to the thousands of our gallant soldiers, sailors and airmen who had sacrificed their lives for the Nation. Yet, the British had erected the most impressive War Memorial, the India Gate on the high visibility Raj Path, a tourist landmark, for Indian troops that sacrificed their lives in World War I’. Pat came the typically suave Babu reply: ‘Whatever for? They are only doing their duty’. That wooden, lifeless and irresponsible Defence Secretary whoever he was has been rightly consigned to an ineluctable oblivion’.
Let us salute our Armed Forces “A glorious death is his Who for his country falls” - Homer in his ‘Iliad’ in 9th century B.C.
According to Major General D’Souza, it was only after the 1971 War that the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi agreed to put up a National War Memorial in the form of a Samadhi but under the Imperial National War Memorial. Indira Gandhi was a mean, vicious, graceless and small-minded woman. In a very touching manner Major General D’Souza has lamented: ‘Dwarfed by the imposing landmark of India Gate very few of our countrymen stop to say a silent prayer or place a posy of flowers’. If we have any national self-respect, we should compare this meager Indian Memorial with the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London or the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs Elysee in Paris, or Arlington in Washington, or Sofia in Bulgaria, wherever. I have mentioned this incident only because it is a true reflection of the very same Babus, who comprise the Pay Commission. It is obvious that their callous motto is: ‘I am alright, you are alright, so what is the problem?’ This attitude has become glaringly evident in the Sixth Pay Commission’s recommendations.
Crooked and corrupt Indian Politicians (mostly belonging to the Congress Party) have been constructing innumerable statues and memorials at public cost to perpetuate their dastardly public deeds of crime and infamy. They have no time or grace or heart for the un-mourned and unsung heroes of our Armed Forces who have laid down their lives for the safety and integrity of our Motherland. Thousands of Indian Soldiers have died fighting for our Country after our independence. No memorial has been raised for them. All the War Memorials in India were raised during the days of British Raj.
The fact of the matter is that right from day after our Independence, the Congress Party and the government of India became two sides of the same coin. Though the message of Satyameva Jayathe (Truth alone Triumphs) was inscribed on the Official Emblem of the government of India, yet the working motto of all our Prime Ministers starting from the infantile and nervous Jawaharlal Nehru in 1947 till the tottering and faltering Dr. Man Mohan Singh of 2008 has been: Asatyameva Jayathe! (Untruth (Congress Falsehood) alone Triumphs).
According to Col. S S Rajan, it is indeed a matter of shame that right from 15 August 1947, the Government of India, i.e. the Prime Ministers starting from Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi down to Sardar Manmohan Singh, the present Prime Minister, have never consulted, nay even ignored, the Chiefs of the Armed Forces while taking policy decisions in matters affecting the security and territorial integrity of our Nation.
A few examples by way of illustrations would amply illuminate what has been stated above.
1.When the Pakistan Army, in the garb of Tribals attacked India in Jammu & Kashmir to capture and annex the State of Jammu & Kashmir forcibly, and when the Pakistan Army was on the outskirts of Srinagar, the Indian Army was flown into Srinagar and soon, the Indian Army not only stemmed the tide but also drove back the Pakistan Army and was in the process of rolling back the Pakistan Army out of Jammu & Kashmir. And General Cariappa, the then Commander of the Indian Forces in Kashmir told Nehru that the Indian Army would accomplish their task of throwing out the invaders from Jammu & Kashmir in a matter of just two weeks. Unfortunately, Nehru without consulting General Cariappa, foolishly went in for a cease fire in Kashmir, the starting point of the problem which has festered for the past 60 years.
2. The brave soldiers of the Indian Army captured the strategically important ‘Haji Pir Pass’ in Jammu & Kashmir during the 1965 Indo-Pak War. After shedding much blood, Lal Bahadur Shastri, the then Prime Minister, without consulting the Armed Forces gave back the ‘Haji Pir Pass’ to Pakistan following Tashkend Talks after the War.
3. The brave soldiers of the Indian Armed Forces fought gallantly in the 1971 war leading to the liberation of Bangladesh and captured of 94000 Pakistan soldiers as prisoners of War. These prisoners were treated as Royal Guests and kept by the government of India for two years and were returned to Pakistan after the Simla Talks with Zulfikar Ali Bhuto of Pakistan. Indira Gandhi took this disordered anti-national decision without consulting the chiefs of Armed Forces. Indira Gandhi treated them as Bangladesh refugees. The message Indira Gandhi gave to the nation was ‘Our soldiers have indeed died in vain. 94000 Pakistan soldiers who were imprisoned and later returned to Pakistan did not go to war without a cause’. In the garb of exercising civilian control over the Armed Forces by the Civilians in a Democracy, successive govt. in power have not only diluted the Combat Effectiveness or Worthiness of the Armed Forces, but also lowered its stature & image in the eyes of the public.
Every war after independence has been viewed as a SKIRMISH from the point of view of the Armed Forces and as great WARS for National Liberation from the point of view of our wicked unpatriotic politicians. That is how Nehru became the Hero of the Kashmir War in 1947, and the Chinese War in 1962; Lal Bahadur Shastri in the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965; and Indira Gandhi in the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971. That is why 94000 Pakistan Soldiers taken as prisoners by the Great General Arora and his heroic men, were returned in a shamelessly submissive manner to Pakistan by Indira Gandhi.
Her egoism was such that whenever she was attending a wedding, she wanted to replace the bride; and whenever she was attending a funeral she wanted to replace the corpse. All our politicians (particularly Congress) are mortally scared of Muslims of India and Pakistan. That is the reason they always fight shy of declaring our Martyrs from the Armed Forces of India, who have triumphantly fought against Pakistan, as War Heroes and build memorials for them. No wonder, any act of Islamic Terrorism – either in India or outside – is viewed by all our Political Leaders as acts of grace and compassion.
And, one is thus reminded of Francis Quarles' poem:
God and the soldier, all men adore,
In time of danger and not before;
When the danger is passed and all things righted,
God is forgotten and the soldier slighted.
The Officers and Men in the Armed Forces of India today are in a sad state and mood of general disappointment, depression and dissatisfaction, which is having an adverse impact on their morale.
I have just finished reading an article by Major General E.D’ Souza, PVSM which was published in the June 2008 issue of Freedom First The Liberal Position under the title ‘Whatever For? They Are Only Doing Their Duty’. In Post-Independent India we seem to be more concerned with corrupt and unscrupulous politicians and their innumerable concubines! The nation never tries to recall or remember the lives and achievements of outstanding Officers and Men from the Armed Forces of India who have distinguished themselves in selfless national service.
Before I deal with the substantive issues Major General E. D’Souza has raised relating to the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission relating to the Armed Forces as a whole, I would like to refer to the distinguished life and achievements of Major General E. D’Souza as an Army Officer from 1942 till 1977. Born in 1921, he graduated in Science from St. Xaviers College, Bombay in 1941. He joined the Army in 1942 and was commissioned from the Indian Military Academy in 1943 and posted to the Mahratta Light Infantry. His Army Unit fought in the Italian Campaign from May 1944 to September 1945 in all the major battles after the fall of MONTE CASSINO to the crossing of the PO. Later he moved with his Unit to Japan as part of Brigadier Thimayya’s 268 Indian Infantry Brigade of the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces from February 1946 to September 1947. After becoming a regular Officer of the Indian Army in November 1945, Major General D’ Souza distinguished himself in operations in the Uri Sector in Jammu & Kashmir in 1948 and was mentioned in Dispatches. At the young age of 28, he went to the Defence Services Staff College at Wellington, Nilgris in 1949. In 1952, he was posted on the Staff of Military Adviser HICOMIND London and he served in that position till 1955. He commanded a force of 25000 regular and para military forces during the 1971 War against Pakistan and was awarded PVSM. He retired as GOC Delhi Area in 1975, after 33 years of very distinguished and meritorious service. Even after his retirement, he has kept himself busy in very meaningful social and public service. Several organizations have honoured him for his public-spirited endeavours. The Rotary Club of Bombay honoured him with its Public Award for Courage and Perseverance during the 1995 Mumbai Riots.
Referring to the low level of emoluments in the Armed Forces, Major General D’ Souza states that there is a great disparity between emoluments of the Private Sector and the Armed Forces which is not only dissuading young Indians from applying for Commissions in the Armed Forces, but is also pushing Serving Officers to seek premature retirement in order to move to greener pastures. Why not? Officers of the Armed Forces need to live decent lives, educate their children and plan for an early retirement between 50 and 60 depending on their ranks and not as in the Civil Services at 60.
In the context of hardships and ordeals faced by Army Officers during their official career, I would like to cite the example of Major General D’ Souza. After serving in the Army for 16 years from 1942, he was posted to the militant-prone sector of Poonch in 1958. Thus he was separated from his family from 1958 till 1969. He kept his wife in a private bungalow in Mhow Cantt. He was forced to send his two sons to Mt.Abu because there were no good English Medium Schools in Mhow Cantt. at that time. Thus he gives us this sad story relating to the difficulties he had to face on account of his having to maintain three family establishments with his meager salary in those days. As a result of these prolonged separations, his wife suffered a nervous breakdown! There are innumerable examples of this kind relating to family trauma in the Armed Forces. As Major General D’ Souza puts it in poignant terms: ‘Which Babu sitting in his luxury office in South Block sends his sons to the Army? Because of his cozy stability, he is able to send his children to Ivy League Institutions in India and Abroad. How can such a bureaucrat ever get the feel of the inbuilt hazards of soldiering in its current avatar?’
When GEORGE FERNANDES, our former DEFENCE MINISTER, went to visit our troops in Siachen, he was shocked to see the conditions of service in the highest battlefield in the World, facing a live and deadly enemy. He was aghast to note the shortage of Snowmobiles that were available for transporting supplies to our Armed Forces in Siachen including kerosene from helipads/dropping zones. On his return to his office in South Block in New Delhi, George Fernandes called for the files and was shocked to learn that his Babu’s were totally unconcerned about processing the case for acquisition of additional vehicles for military use in Siachen. To teach them a lesson, George Fernandes packed those wooden, insensitive, and irresponsible Babus to get a taste of Siachen. The files thereafter were never held up by these Babus and were cleared expeditiously!
Never since Independence have elemental passions and emotions——not only among serving Services Personnel but also among Ex-servicemen — been aroused to such an extent as in recent weeks in different parts of India. All of them have made it clear to the government of India that they can never hope to get any justice from the Sixth Pay Commission. When the disgruntled and agitating ex-servicemen wanted to air their legitimate grievances in a silent and disciplined manner by paying their homage to the martyrs who have died fighting for our country at the Amar Jawan Jyothi Memorial at India Gate in New Delhi on 27 April 2008, the government of Delhi (which does not exclude the government of India!) covered themselves with everlasting shame and infamy by imposing a ban under Section 144 of the IPC. Un-subdued, unshaken and un-seduced, the ex-servicemen of India conducted 30 meetings at War Memorials in different parts of the country — Delhi (Jantar Mantar), Chandigarh, Amritsar, Bangalore, Nerul Navi Mumbai etc. Protesting through demonstrations and speeches (quite contrary to the Armed Forces culture) several meetings were organized in a dignified manner. In all those meetings, the services of thousands of men who have sacrificed their lives for our country were remembered and recalled. The three Service Chiefs, in a demonstration of solidarity, met the Defence Minister A K Anthony and expressed their strong sense of dismay and unhappiness at the Sixth Pay Commissions recommendations on which there was no representative of the Armed Forces.
An Ex-Army Chief General Malik made an impassioned written appeal to the Prime Minister bringing these patent instances of injustice done to the Armed Forces of India to his notice. As a poor consolation prize, the impotent government of India nominated its no less impotent Cabinet Secretary to conduct a lunch meeting with the three Service Chiefs. This is a classic instance of ‘Sonia-Congress UPA hypocrisy at its pseudo secular anti-national (anti-Armed Forces!) best’. In this context, I am only reminded of the following rapier-like words of W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965): ‘Hypocrisy is the most difficult and nerve-racking vice that any man can pursue; it needs an unceasing vigilance and a rare detachment of spirit. It cannot, like adultery or gluttony, be practiced at spare moments; it is a whole time job’.
In my view the following are the main legitimate grievances of the Armed Forces of India:
1. There is an imperative national need to have a separate Pay Commission for the Armed Forces of India.
2. One representative each from the Army, Navy and the Air Force will have to be included in all such Pay Commissions.
3. There has to be a revision of emoluments in the Armed Forces in an issue based manner and the long-standing demand for ‘One Rank One Pension’ has to be conceded forthwith to boost the sagging morale of the Armed Forces.
I fully endorse the following words of Major General D’Souza: ‘Logic demands that service in the Armed Forces of India based on historic grounds since Independence cannot be equated with other Civil Services. Unless the whole procedure and composition of Pay Commissions are revised, the Services will no longer be sought by our youth as careers, especially in the Officer cadre. This is obvious from the marked short fall in intakes for Commissions and the increasing number of Service Personnel seeking premature retirement. Can the Nation afford to reach such a dangerous impasse with cross border militancy on the increase as evidenced in the recent Samba and Pulwama incidents; the growing problems of Naxalites; the location of Chinese Nuclear Missiles on the Indo-Chinese border facing India and its strident claims on Arunachal Pradesh; the growing Maoist influence in our immediate neighbourhood and our UN Commitments’.
Against this background, Major General D’ Souza has made the following recommendations on the sensitive issue of emoluments in the Armed Forces of India:
A. As a long-term measure, there should be a separate Pay Commission for the Armed Forces.
B. In the case of the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations, a GOP of Ministers from all parties representing all States should be set up to examine and rectify the Sixth Pay Commission’s recommendations. This high level group should be divided into sub-groups to examine the serving conditions of the Services in Siachen, the desert, the tropical jungles of the North-East, Jammu & Kashmir and North-East Frontier Agency and the plight of Ex-servicemen.
C. The equation with the Civil Services should be rectified.
D. The Supreme Commander, our President, should be apprised of these glaring deficiencies.
E. Early retirement ages should be compensated by lateral entry into the public sector.
F. All our TV channels should have a debate on this issue both in Hindi and English and the regional languages so that the person in the street is made aware of these disparities.
In these columns I have been highlighting the fundamental fact that the government of India after our Independence, right from the days of Jawaharlal Nehru till today, have been callously indifferent, wooden and insensitive towards the professional passions, feelings and emotions of our Armed Forces.
On the contrary, the British government were always noted for their informed understanding and consideration for their Armed Forces in India. Indian Army played a very important role during the Second World War in several war theatres outside India and more particularly in Europe. The Fourth, Eighth and Tenth Indian Divisions of the Indian Army played a very important role in the last two years of the War. For example, the stellar role played by the Indian Army in the capture of Rome, the Liberation of Florence and the breaking of the Gothic Line in 1944-45 will be inscribed on the pages of history forever.
In January 1946, it was clear to all concerned that the British Rule in India was going to come to an end, sooner than later. And yet, even at that moment, the British government did not fail in its duty of recording for posterity the great role played by the Indian Army in the Liberation of Rome and Italy. Recently I was fortunate to lay my hands upon a very rare and historic book, titled ‘THE TIGER TRIUMPHS, The Story of Three Great Divisions in Italy’ published in January 1946 by HIS MAJESTY’S STATIONERY OFFICE FOR THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA in New Delhi. I am presenting below the first cover page of this historic book:
Major General Mark W.Clark was the Divisional Commander in 1944-45 of the TRIO OF GREAT INDIAN DIVISIONS then fighting in Italy– The Fourth, Eighth and Tenth Divisions. He wrote an inspiring preface to the above book on 27 February 1945. I am presenting below the facsimile of the page that carried the preface of Major General Mark W Clark:
The following six soldiers who fought in Italy were awarded the Victoria Cross for Supreme Valour in battle. I am presenting their photographs from the book titled The Tiger Triumphs referred to above.
I have referred to the historic book brought out by the British government in India in January 1946 only to bring out the fact that the government of India after our Independence has been hell bent only on distorting or destroying our cultural and military history. The Congress Party after our Independence has believed only in this dangerous philosophy: ‘Who controls the Past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past’. The Indian Armed Forces, after our Independence fought valiantly in the 1948 War against Pakistan; in the 1962 War against China; in the 1965 War against Pakistan; in the 1971 War against Pakistan and finally in the 1999 Kargil War against Pakistan. Government of India has never brought out any report on these 5 major military operations after our Independence. This indifference is on account of supreme contempt successive Prime Ministers from the days of Nehru have had for the Armed Forces of India.
This terrible situation has not changed till today. Col Vasant Venugopal was a commanding officer of 9 Marathas. Under his command, the battalion killed nine Pakistani terrorists in Uri Sector of Jammu and Kashmir on 31 July 2007. He left behind his wife Subhashini, and daughters Rukmini, and Yashoda. Col Vasant Venugopal was awarded ‘The Ashok Chakra’. The Ashok Chakra is awarded for valour, courageous action or self-sacrifice away from the battlefield. It is the peace time equivalent of the Param Vir Chakra and is awarded for the ‘most conspicuous bravery’. When Col. Vasant Venugopal’s body was brought to Bangalore for cremation with full military honours, neither the then Chief Minister Kumaraswamy nor any of his Cabinet Ministers participated in the funeral. Thus they showed that they are only carrying on the ignoble tradition of contempt for the Armed Forces of India established by Jawaharlal Nehru and his successors.
Likewise, I can give another example. Major Manish Pitambare died fighting against the militants at Anantnag in South Kashmir in November 2006. When he was cremated with full military honours at Thane, the pseudo-secular mafia of mass media — both print and electronic media — not only completely blacked out the news about this funeral, but instead in a shameful manner presented a 24 hour news account of how and for what reason the ‘great’ film star Sanjay Dutt was acquitted of his TADA charges by a criminal court!
Our disgraceful Parliament was in session on that day. Most of our criminal MPs were more interested in discussing the acquittal of Sanjay Dutt than in the martyrdom of Major Manish Pitambare.
T.S. Elliot, the great English Poet, paid his tribute to the soldiers drawn from different countries who fought in several war theatres of Europe during Second World War, in these immortal lines:
A Man’s destination in his own village,
His own fire and his wife’s cooking,
To sit in front of his own door at sunset
And see his grandson and his neighbours’ grandson
Play in the dust together.
Scarred but secure he has many narratives
To repeat at the hour of conversation
(The warm, or the cool hour, according to the climate)
Of foreign men, who fought in foreign places,
Foreign to each other.
This was not your land or ours: But a village in the Midlands
And one in the five rivers, may have the same memories.
Let those who go home tell the same story of you——
OF ACTION WITH A COMMON PURPOSE, ACTIONNONE THE LESS FRUITFUL IF NEITHER YOU NOR I KNOW UNTIL THE JUDGEMENT AFTER DEATH, WHAT IS THE FRUIT OF ACTION