By stopping free rations for peace stations, we are letting the armed forces down at a crucial time

For bad timing, this is difficult to beat. With the Chinese dragon belching fire down our backs, it could not be a more inopportune time to ‘go get the armed forces.’

With the double downgrade of perks and privileges by reducing canteen limits according to rank and now, stopping free rations for those posted in peace stations, there is a clear stomping of the terms and conditions of service.

 By stopping free rations for peace stations, we are letting the armed forces down at a crucial time

Representational image. PTI

This would make the government the first to arbitrarily mess with the armed forces after Jawaharlal Nehru. Nehru cut down salaries of officers after the Second World War and the departure of the British by almost 50 percent on the grounds that India was pacifist and did not need armies.

This sunny-side-up attitude was all very well in those days but look where it got us in 1962. The sidelining was done then on the grounds that the army might take over the country in much the same fashion as was happening in Pakistan in that time span.

This argument has been effectively used to frighten politicians into making non-military decisions for the military. Whether it is One Rank One Pension (OROP) or the chasms between the deals given to the bureaucracy vis a vis their emoluments and how they are calculated, as well as their disparate pensions, the urge to keep the uniform suppressed and docile is paramount. How on earth does it help the morale of the nation at this moment when we are facing active hostility on the three borders by messing about with accepted premises for those who join the forces?

How can you break the promise?

At the very outset, this concept of peace postings in cantonments gives the impression that everyone is on vacation. This is far from the truth. Officers and soldiers are on 24/7 duty and training hard.

What happens to a division when it is activated and moved to the frontlines? Does the free ration clause become valid again?

It is bad enough that we have so blithely informed the enemy that we have only ten days ammunition on a war scale after which our guns will run dry. It is even worse that we have a part-time defence minister. But to bring our forces to the point where an officer of the rank of colonel is compelled to go to court against the arbitrary change in the promised terms and conditions is pathetic.

Not only is Colonel Mukul Dev an advocate but he has also done his homework. You cannot ipso facto change the premise on which people were recruited. You do not have to be a legal eagle to know that he has a very sound case. But what is worrying is that we have reached this point where letting the forces down has become sport. There is little realisation of the fact that we are surrounded by hostile elements and the basic tenet that war can only be avoided by having a strong and viable peacetime armed forces. The Rs 96 per day ration money is ludicrously insulting.

The chiefs of the three forces also need to lead from the front. This General Malik-inspired sentiment of ‘we will fight with what we have’ is largely a surrender to the civilian cadres and the political firmament, few (if any) of whom have sons and daughters in the forces. Hooray Henry grandstanding does not protect national security. The silence on the part of the current incumbents is stunning. They have to fight for their troops and the men who lead them.

Are we so blind to what is happening on the borders?

Updated Date: Jul 26, 2017 07:41:22 IST