From times immemorial history is replete with hundreds of examples, where nations worldwide, have abundantly rewarded their Armed Forces as a gratitude for protecting their Independence, Freedom, Unity, Integrity & Sovereignty! For some nefarious, cunning and treacherous reasons. The Indira Gandhi Regime, in connivance with IAS (read Babus), did exactly the opposite post 1971 Victory and thereafter. I dare ask, WHY? Enough is enough! This article, expresses the deep anguish, pain, humiliation& anger inflicted on The Armed Forces of India. It seeks Post Haste Redress of the injuries, insults & Injustices, which have indeed affected not only their pay & pensions, their Presidential Protocol seniority, but more importantly, affected their morale& IZZAT-O-IQBAL, very adversely indeed!
by Col SK Suri, M-in-D, Veteran
It was post 1971 and the nation was euphoric. Our countrymen were lauding the Indian Armed Forces for a spectacular victory that had changed the geography of the sub-continent. The nation was savouring the victory. The Armed Forces were feted everywhere for its courage and the people were convinced that it was one instrument that would never let the country down.
Amidst this euphoria there were 4000 families, who had lost their fathers, sons and husbands in the war. Another 10,000 were wounded and maimed for life. However, their sorrow was lost amidst the mirth, laughter and jubilation of victory. Unknown to the services, a band of bureaucrats were conspiring as to how to cut the Armed Forces to size. Defence Secretary was KB Lal, who was literally there for the entire duration of the Third Pay Commission. He provided the inputs to the Third Pay Commission which was constituted a year before the war and concluded two years after the war.
Its final recommendations marginalized the Armed Forces. It was made public two months after Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw relinquished the post of Chief. Indeed, it was a clever move as the most popular person in the country was not able to take cudgels against the government. This Pay Commission cut the Armed Forces to size for winning the war for the country.
Firstly they abolished a separate Pay Commission for the Armed Forces and formulated equivalence between the Armed Forces and Civilians. It was here that the Pay Commission struck its vilest blow when they considered that a trained infantry soldier with three years of service is below a skilled labour. Little do they know that it is the infantry soldier who does the actual fighting and charges the enemy with naked bayonet literally on the very front edge of the battle and makes eye and steel contact with the enemy?
In today’s modern Army he handles and maintains most sophisticated weaponry, communications etc. He is the one who bears the brunt of more than 90 per cent of casualty in all wars and yet he was considered the lowest strata to base their comparison. It also means that the infantry soldier with less than three years of service was considered a semi-skilled, unskilled labour. Please mark the irony of the sinister and ignorant move. Rest of the soldiers were equated based on this preposterous formula.
Next step was to reduce the percentage of pension for the Armed Forces. The OROP that was effective till 1972, was annulled after the Third Central Pay Commission. A soldier then served only for 15 years and went on pension at the ages ranging from 33 years to 36 years of age. In view of this, his pension was 70% of his basic pay and an officer’s pension was 50% of his basic pay as the bulk of them retired at 50 years of age. The civilian counterparts were getting only 30% of their basic pay as pension. Please note they served till they were 58 years of age, now 60 years, and the soldiers retired a quarter century earlier. The wretched Third Pay Commission did not consider the additional 25 years of service his civilian counterpart served and raised their pension to 50% and reduced a soldier’s pension from 70 to 50% in order to achieve the so called parity. Further, the government put mandatory 33 years of service for full pension fully knowing that the soldier then retired after 15 years of service.
They further as largesse, made a seemingly generous gesture to the Armed Forces by pegging the mandatory service for full pension 50% to 25 years. Just look at the clever move. They fully knew that the soldier retired after 15 years of service. Thus the soldier in effect got only 30% of pay after 15 years of service, as extrapolated from full pension of 50% of pay with 25 years of service. Thus the Indira government ingeniously cut a soldiers pension from 70 to 30% of pay at the same time enhancing the civilian pension from 30 to 50%. This was indeed a very cunning financial scam. Look at the perfidy – how can possibly a government run down her own Armed Forces? It is indeed a remarkable feat from a nation that was a slave nation for over two centuries, yet disregards her Armed Forces who ensure her hard earned freedom.
Indira Gandhi and our Defence Ministry were hand in glove with the proposals. There was not a whimper of protest to set right the injustice. The soldiers had to pay heavily for having Won the 1971 war for the country. Their travails were not over, more was yet to come. One would wonder why the soldiers did not protest against the brash injustice perpetrated on them. It would be difficult to believe, as those were the times the officers in particular were told that politics and pay were not to be discussed. But it was true then. Hence the entire master stroke of cutting the Armed forces to size by impoverishing them was done with so much of dexterity, it took us couple of decades to realise its negative impact.
Mrs Gandhi was feted and was called Durga and she basked in the limelight of victory and self-adulation. However, she proved to be the daughter of her illustrious father by sharing the same antipathy and disdain towards the Armed Forces. She was a smart woman hence concealed this fraud to a great extent with outer facade of support and derived maximum political mileage of the victory. The running down of the Armed Forces in the Third Pay Commission could not have been done without her active and positive consent in this theft from the Armed Forces and payment to the bureaucrats.
Sad to say, it is exactly that the government of his(the victorious Soldier’s) own country wants to deprive him of. He has been badgered, humiliated, impoverished and made a laughing stock in all the successive pay commissions, including the 7th CPC. His status has been lowered time and again by an insensitive government who have endangered the nation’s security. A CBI or judicial Enquiry by SC would also not be demanding too much. It is a result of this fraud that nearly 47% of our defence budget is being enjoyed by our defence civilian staff including the RM and all officials in the MoD Def. ministry, DPSUs, PCDA staff etc. All this is at the cost of our defence preparedness, and lowering the status, morale, salaries and pensions of our Armed Forces.
In view of repeated efforts of Hon Rahul Gandhi to destabilize the government by demanding a JPC into Raffle deal, our three Chiefs, the ESM Leaders, the BJP & other Military loyal MPs, Sitting members of RAJYA Sabha, must counter attack by demanding a JPC and judicial inquiry for the biggest financial scam done by the Indira Gandhi regime in connivance with Babus, after 1971’s thumping victory. The JPC must answer the following specific questions:
- Why did the Indira regime, instead of rewarding the defence forces, punish them by continuously, denuding their status, protocol seniority, pay and pensions?
- Why did the 3CPC steal the cash from the Armed Forces and give it to IAS and all other civil services?
- Specifically, why did they reduce Armed Forces’ pensions from the existing 70% of pay to 50% and increasing others from 30% to 50%?
- Why was OROP, which defence forces were always getting in view of early retirement stopped in 1972 and instead granted to IAS, all other civil services, judges and paramilitary forces?
- Why again in 6th CPC, did they award NFU fraudulently only to all others but the loyal Armed Forces?
- Why did they knowingly reward the weak for inefficiency solely on the basis of length of service, to ensure that 99% of them retire with the maximum pensions through NFU? Why was NFU denied to the Armed Forces, especially in view of their early retirements?
- What forced Indira Gandhi to insult Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw by not giving his due respect and life time pay? Was it due to personal whims and fancies of our Emergency tainted dictator, Indira Gandhi?
- Is it because we don’t strike, burn buses or private and government properties like the rest?
I dare say that, the Indira Regime, UPA-I, II and our cunning Babus, have taken full advantage of the Army Act, Army Rules and parallel Navy & Air Force Acts (by gross misuse), which were, in the first place, designed by the East India Company, for its slaves, in all the Colonies of Her Majesty’s Empire, to subjugate all slaves to put them in line. These Acts were okay in a monarchy, or even in a dictatorship, but are totally obsolete in a democracy like ours! The reason is very simple – Armed Forces being the most upright, loyal, patriotic, obedient, selfless and self-disciplined, have been subdued and tyrannized by being denied their fundamental rights of freedom of speech, freedom of press and freedom to strike (if I am not mistaken).
Even the IAS besides all others have gone on strikes and marched on the streets to our Parliament and President to demand their rights. Indira Gandhi and our Babus had/have become our modern ‘Gora Babus’ (to oppress and suppress the Armed Forces at will, with immunity)! We demand a separate expert judicial inquiry to redress this injury of denial of our Fundamental Rights, within reasonable limits. For these grave charges of tyranny and suppression, the Nehruvian era is as much to blame as the Indira regime and subsequent UPA governments in connivance with our Babus! Time is ripe to correct these injustices.
However, the Armed Forces are not hungry for money, but demand restoration of their status, their self-respect, honour and integrity. But we cannot and will not tolerate discrimination and oppression! We are NOT, hungry for OROP or NFU. Don’t give it to us! But, cancel these for all others immediately, or with retrospective effect! Let the IAS lobby, the judges, our honourable past and present MPs, MLAs, pay back their OROP and NFU moneys, or immediately pass and pay the same to the Armed forces of India, retrospectively. Nothing more, nothing less will redress our deep wounds of subjugation, oppression, discrimination and humiliations!
We are the first citizens of this great democracy. Enough is enough! We demand justice, the sooner the better! Let the JPC and the judicial inquiries, answer and account for all these to the defence forces and the people of this great nation. In the interim, please remove these Babus and all others who are eating away 47% of our defence budget and be brought under a separate ministry, so that the defence forces are better armed, equipped, clothed and fed.
This article is based on research conducted by Veteran Lt Gen PG Kamath. The opinion expressed here is of the author and not necessarily of the publication.
Col SK Suri, Mention-in-Despatches, Veteran, is a topper from the Maharashtra SSC board March 1959 and an alumnus of the NDA, DSSC and Punjab University. He was commissioned in the Regiment of Artillery and retired in 1993 after 34 years of service. He is also a lifetime member of Vanarai, an organization involved in the development of wastelands. Col Suri has always been a whistleblower and proudly calls himself a ‘pangebaaz’, taking on civic corruption and is actively engaged in social work. He can be reached on Email: firstname.lastname@example.org