Editor's Note: This letter was obtained from a senior officer in the armed forces and has been dispatched to the rank and file.
Guess after OROP, whenever Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar enter office and see a buff envelope on their tables, they know it's from the Service chiefs and they think, oh no, not again, now what?
Now, a lot of stuff, and as the three chiefs band together and dispatch their four points of objection to the 7th Pay Commission under the signature of the Chairman of the Chief of Staff committee Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, the battle is joined once more.
To reject it outright is to throw a damp leather gauntlet in the face of the government and it's never been done before in such a defiant manner.
More worrying is the absence of wriggle room on either side.
Perhaps the ‘attitude’ from the Services' point of view is best seen in the last point which will probably get the least attention and yet, stands testament to the way the faujis get the short straw. The disability pension for an Additional Secretary is Rs 70,000 and that of a three-star General only Rs 27,000. This disparity is laughable. The odds of a man or woman in uniform getting injured or losing a limb is several times more likely than that of the civilian counterpart. What would a Secretary have to do to be disabled? Fall out of his official car. At least make it the same.
While the spotlight stays fixed on that old wrangle over the salary and perks gap between the IAS and the police and bureaucrats in general as opposed to the armed forces, the indictment actually stems from the mindset where both government and bureaucrats see the armed forces as inferior to them and, therefore, to be kept in their place.
Even if one argues that point three demanding the non functional upgrade that is enjoyed by the civil services is an attempt to seek more money, this little pot of honey decided by the bureaucracy for the bureaucracy is a burr under the military saddle because it also underscores the same sense of superiority.
By that token, the military service pay (MSP) for Junior Commissioned Officers stays the same as that of a soldier and both the 6th and 7th pay commissions have failed to make a differentiation between the JCOs and the men they lead.
Troop morale is maintained by JCOs and they are the bridge between the officers and the soldiers and must be given that importance. The ‘Sergeant Major’ syndrome is global and whether in military history or cartoons, the ‘sarge’ is the man that both men and officers rely upon to keep the discipline and the mood upbeat.
Anyway you look at it, this is not a happy development and places a schism between the forces and their government at a time when India’s armed forces need public support for their deployment.
We live in perilous times and our men in uniform calling for parity cannot be seen as the shrill yelp of spoilt brats.
Those who take that stance never go beyond this bridge and ask why the police, for example, should get so much sweeter a career deal than the standing forces.
It would be in the fitness of things for both Modi and Parrikar to take this issue very seriously before it grows into an impasse that generates ill will.
What one fails to understand is why such a letter has not stayed confidential between a PM, a DM and three four star generals.
Before it being leaked, there should have been some negotiations, reducing the call for confrontation.
Now, pride, ego and obstinacy will gambol onto the stage and take over. Exit discretion chased by a bear.