Amitabh Bachchan offered a birthday gift to India’s forces and called for solidarity with them as they faced a crisis on the border. It was all very sentimental and touched the right chords even though it was a bit late in the day. But a Bachchan quote gets attention so it makes for a platform to bring up an issue that has been flung onto the back-burner. Last month it was a burning issue and today its shunted into a dark tunnel.
It begs the question: When do we not express solidarity with our soldiers? When retired officers and men demand 'One Rank One Pension' and are marked off as greedy, grizzled sods with nothing but money on their minds, retired pests blocking the Jantar Mantar road in Delhi.
Perhaps when three chiefs write a letter to the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister and bring up four major issues regarding the 7th pay commission as they did just before Uri occurred. The letter was ‘rejected’ by the CPC because of the anomalies that exist between the civil services and the forces. Again, these are seen as grasping people in uniform who are always griping about disparities and in this avatar really not worth expressing even a sliver of solidarity.
For example, the jawan who was wounded by firing in the ongoing Pampore takedown two days earlier will now get a third of the disability pension of someone in the IAS who may have unfortunately fallen down the stairs.
It is tough to make sense of this fiscal imbalance especially when everyone in the government is strutting around as if they won the WWII and no one is ready to speak out and say: Okay, this is just the beginning, there will likely be a lot more attacks, even a higher level of conflict as Pakistan’s generals get more jittery and what have we done these past four weeks as a political-bureaucratic combo to buy ammunition of which we are woefully short, build our War Wastage Materials potential towards 40 days as opposed to a low of 12 to 20 that being the projected current state.
We are just sitting around swirling the phrase ‘surgical strike’ like it was an expensive cognac and not the least bit concerned that the problem has not gone away…it has been exacerbated. We are under threat and whether it is Uri or Baramulla or Pampore, they will keep coming at us.
What better time than now to actually give our armed forces a moral boost by addressing the four outstanding issues missed out by the Pay Commission and making them feel that they are the custodians of our nation.
The setting up of the ‘Anomalies Committee’ last month to look into the demands by the three chiefs should be ordered to fast track their recommendations and get on with.
The other three points are not huge mountains to climb. There is a need to differentiate between JCOs and jawans whom they lead when it comes to military service pay. They cannot be the same. Because they are not the same.
Again, there is contention over the non-functional upgrade given the civil service and this should not be denied the Services. Finally, the pay brackets for the armed forces are less than their civilian counterparts enjoy, thus reducing their chances of getting raises.
At a time when the forces will be more exposed to hostility in what is an open ended engagement wouldn’t it be the appropriate gesture to concede these factors and send them into battle knowing their worth has been acknowledged.
I speak from ignorance here and hopefully will obtain enlightening answers but what exactly is the status of the wives and children of the 18 soldiers killed in Uri. How much ‘care’ have we taken of the next of kin and sliced through the red tape to ensure their basic needs.
I am not talking about steps taken by the Army Wives Welfare Organisation but the government at the Centre.