Surgical strikes have become the flavor of the season with news, discussions and debates continuing endlessly. It is amusing to watch media Napoleons working vigorously reconstructing the scene on models of the areas of PoK where the 28 September strikes took place, adding personal embellishments — some even hilariously amusing — about how the Special Forces went in, executing high altitude, high opening (HAHO) combat military technique. It is unclear whether they confused HAHO with Naga Ho Ho, and dreamed of themselves in Pentagon’s operations room the previous night or they were simply shocked by Pierce Brosnan endorsing Pan Bahar. But, they did manage to get some not so junior veterans to nod their heads in unison. Certainly not beyond them to next describe that the special forces commandos actually tunneled underground all the way to envelop the terrorist launch pads.
This followed a report that we had also launched surgical strikes in cyberspace — Indian hackers singed the Pakistan government network and locked their computers in the wake of Pakistani hackers defacing Indian sites, and Pakistani hackers reportedly offering to pay our hackers with Bitcoins in order to have their systems unlocked.
Of course this did not start any war in the political area for there were no claims – only an unverified report, no calls for giving proof and certainly no Ghulam Akbar, SP of Mirpur spilling the beans from across the border. On the contrary, the Bitcoins bit may have cocked the years of the enterprising ones; wondering what this hitherto unheard currency is about, what technological find it is, how they can add it to their personal stash and whether it would be categorized black or white money.
But then, there is this third surgical strike which has been executed with such finesse that no one knows who held the scalpel and who the surgeons are, while the media is busy with the din of the other types of surgical operations. On 30 September 2016, MoD has issued the notification for grant of pensionary awards based on the recommendations of the 7th CPC. This notification very regressively has reduced the amount of disability benefits admissible to disability pensioners relegating the rates to the ‘slab system’ as was prevalent prior to the 6th CPC thereby placing defence disability pensioners at a sharp disadvantage as compared to civil disability pensioners. Would it surprise the public that under this notification, even if a military officer of three star rank is disabled completely (read 100 percent) in combat, he will get a ‘disability pension’ of Rs 27,000 whereas if a secretary level officer of the government becomes 100 percent disabled whether having fallen off his balcony or for any other reason, he will get ‘disability pension’ of Rs 67,500.
With respect to the above vastly differing ‘disability pension’ mentioned above, the difference before the issue of this notification was zero. When the government has not promulgated the ‘allowances’ part of 7th CPC till the anomalies are addressed post representations by the military, why have such grave anomalies in disability pension been promulgated? The fact that this unjustifiable notification was issued just two days after the military executed the surgical strikes in POK hurts even more. The question now is whether the bureaucracy has managed to undercut the Modi Government or is this with connivance of the polity. Would the defence minister go beyond theatrics claiming: “I made the Army realize their power”, and explain why this injustice is heaped upon the Armed Forces – is this a gift for the surgical strikes? The 7th CPC apparently is the unfinished grand design of the politico-bureaucratic nexus to completely degrade and demoralise the Armed Forces. It has brought Armed Forces below other government employees including IAS, central armed police forces, police, even the civilian defence employees, with latter consuming large share of the defence pension budget despite their small numbers.
The public would also be unaware the manner in which Armed Forces have been/are being dealt with by all governments. By now, it must be common knowledge that after the liberation of Bangladesh and Indian Armed forces having taken 93,000 Pakistani military prisoners (largest after World war II), a hard blow was inflicted on the Armed Forces arbitrarily by the 3rd CPC wherein pension of soldiers was reduced from 70 percent to 50 percent of last pay drawn. But how many would know that Lieutenant General Vijay Oberoi who lost a leg in battle as a young officer and later became the Vice Chief of Army Staff, had to fight a seven year legal battle to get his disability pension after superannuating from service. So what do you expect soldiers would have to undergo if this is happening to a Vice Chief level officer. And don’t think this happens only during Congress rule. Based on a petition filed by a military veteran that the Government constituted Anomalies Committees to look into 7th CPC recommendations is not granting any opportunity to hear or interact with official defence establishment and even the Standing Committee on Welfare of Ex-servicemen which was ordered to hold meetings every three months by none less than the Defence Minister has not even held a single meeting thereby undermining political authority by lower officials, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has issued notice to the Central Government, also directing that in the meantime the Anomaly Committee shall take into account the views on anomalies affecting defence personnel.
Government may take the surgical strikes in POK to the public for vote-bank politicking for undoubtedly this was a bold decision by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But till the surgical strikes against the ethos and honour of the Armed Forces continue and the soldier is denigrated and denied his due, our enemy’s hybrid warfare of making India hollow from within will keep succeeding. Both the MoD and MoF appear to be playing to the advantage of our enemies – loved by the latter. The question is have the Prime Minister and the NSA being an Army officer’s son taken note, and more importantly would this be rectified?
The author is veteran Lt. General of the Indian Army.