VERY IMPORTANT : Grant better pensionary benefits to all PBOR retirees irrespective of date of retirement and provide improved pension with effect from 1-1-1996 and not from 1-1-2006 : Punjab & Haryana High Court.
The said policy was however only implemented with effect from 1-1-2006. The same was challenged in the Hon’ble Punjab & Haryana High Court. In a major decision affecting all PBOR, the High Court has now held in Civil Writ Petition No 6223 of 2007, that the said policy would be applicable from 1-1-1996 and not from 1-1-2006 as made applicable by the Central Govt because the aim of the policy was also to remove an anomaly created by the 5th CPC. The Hon’ble Court has held that since the anomaly arose in 1996, it would have to be removed with effect from 1996 and not 2006. The Hon’ble Court has also observed the following :-
“The plea of financial constraints has been raised in respect of lowest paid employees of the Armed Forces, when all other categories of employees including services have been given the benefit. Such discriminatory treatment is wholly arbitrary.”
Maj Navdeep Singh (TA) Advocate, Punjab & Haryana High Court
In any other country this kind of question would evoke a laugh but not here in India. Bharat, that is Hindustan, is indeed a strange country. Swedish psychologist Jung found Indians to be forever in a trance and firm believers in world as 'Maya' (an illusion). German historian Spengler called it 'an amorphous mass of a meaningless humanity'. Nowhere else this strikes you hard when one watches the Indian attitude to the vital subject of national defence. Recently when thousands of ex- soldiers and even a former Army Chief literally had to take to streets to protest the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission, there was merely a small blip in the public consciousness. Soon the significant event was pushed out of headlines by the Slapgate (wherein one unruly cricketer slapped another equally undisciplined one) or some teenager's murder in Delhi!
Myths and Prejudice Indians have assiduously cultivated a myth that it was non-violent Gandhian struggle ALONE that got us freedom. No one can deny the role Gandhi played in mobilising the masses but it is too simplistic to attribute our freedom to that factor alone. Last year the Indian 'Jhollawalas' and sundry intellectuals of Delhi, were shocked when a British diplomat ( speaking on the occasion of Diamond jubilee of Indian independence) mentioned the Naval mutiny and Azad Hind Fauj of Subhas Chandra Bose, as the main reasons for British granting independence to India.
Indians have also forgotten that within two months of becoming independent, ie October 1947, the country had to use violence and its armed forces to save Kashmir from a tribal invasion masterminded by Pakistan. In his biography of General Rudra, Major General Palit has quoted a British General who believed that it was the invasion of Kashmir in 1947 that saved the Indian Army. The first Prime Minister Nehru, had intentions of disbanding it. Even more extraordinarily, just a fortnight before the Chinese invasion on October 20, 1962, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, India's first President, then in his retirement, had pleaded that India should disband its armed forces and set an example to the rest of the world.
Major General 'Baba" Bhide was the Chief Engineer of Eastern Command during the Bangladesh war, to whom the credit goes for his extraordinary feat of managing the logistics in the riverine terrain. As a young officer he was posted to military wing of the Cabinet Secretariat immediately after independence. He recalls that when it came to the issue of fixing the pay of an Army Lieutenant, Nehru had remarked that he can get a Police Sub Inspector for much less! It is true that the shoulder insignia of the two is same, but it is extraordinary that Nehru could or would not distinguish between law enforcement and war fighting. To most of the Indian politicians, armed forces are nothing more than glorified 'Chowkidars'.
The generation of politicians who emerged out of the freedom struggle (with a few honourable exceptions like Motilal Nehru, Viththalbhai and Vallabhbhai (Sardar) Patel and Pandit Hridaynath Kunzru) had an attitude of suspicion and disdain towards the uniformed forces. The forces' loyalty to the British and their way of life were intensely disliked. After independence every effort was made to downgrade them in public esteem. That era also saw a spate of military coup in our neighbourhood and in many newly independent Afro-Asian countries. The civil service, which had the ear of a politician, fuelled this further and tilted the civil-military balance decisively in favour of the former.
Bureaucratic Arrogance As an example, recently in Pune city, a district collector had the temerity to issue notice to the armed forces landholders that their land would be confiscated without compensation since they had violated the condition of constructing within three years! These were no ordinary ex-servicemen but winners of gallantry award in 1971 war or war widows! Even for this so called 'gift', the awardees had paid half the market price! Contrast this with the treatment meted out to illegal encroachers on government land - they are given free flats! Interestingly, while the local media did favourably highlight this issue, the so-called national media did not think this worthy of its attention. In the land where each and every issue is politicised, no political party has come to the aid of the hapless gallantry award winners! This single incident shows the general social attitude of the society towards the armed and defence forces.
Even sixty years after independence, India does not have fitting memorial to its soldiers who laid their lives for the nation. Incidentally, the India Gate in Delhi has the names of soldiers who died in the First World War and in front we have a hastily constructed Amar Jawan Jyoti. The capital still awaits its tryst with National War Memorial. Why is this so?
Lucky Nation. As far as war and its resultant devastation and loss of human life is concerned, India has been extraordinarily lucky. Both the great wars of 20th century left it untouched, though it contributed large manpower (close to 2 million in each war) to the defence of British Empire. Contrast this with Europe or America, where each and every household was directly affected by the war.
Post independence India did fight three to four wars. But all of these were essentially border conflicts and bulk of the population remained safe from harm. If we are to compare the casualties suffered, a country like the US that has one fourth of India's population lost close to 53,000 soldiers in Korea, 64,000 in Vietnam and in the recent war in Iraq the figure has crossed the 2000-mark. In comparison, in the last sixty years we have lost not more than 20,000 soldiers (Sailors and Airmen are included in this term). Given the fact that the US has one fourth of India's population, we can clearly see that the US has suffered a lot. So has China in its civil war and Japanese invasion. Tiny countries like Vietnam, Burma or even Pakistan, have paid a much greater price in terms of proportion of its population. According to one of my Gandhian friend, we got our independence cheap and continue to enjoy it at very little cost, so we do not value it.
Trouble for Future It is true that as yet we do not face any problem in recruitment at the Jawan level. The main reason for that is our large population base and relatively low skill requirement for that level. But once industrialisation picks up (after the Left gives up its agitational approach to SEZs), even here we may begin to feel the pinch. But a modern armed force is heavily dependent on its officers. It is the officers who transform a rural youth into a formidable soldier. An officer is expected to train, administer, motivate and lead his men in the most trying circumstances. So, at this point in time, atleast the problem is one of finding the officer material.
Many decades ago, when the career options were few, Armed forces ranked very high on the choice scale. I know of many batchmates who spurned the IIT and joined NDA (National Defence Academy). There is a case like Air Commodore Ashok Shinde, Vir Chakra (Retd), was offered a seat and scholarship in MIT but chose Air Force instead! Such instances will be impossible to find these days! Much of the problem is change in attitude of the youth. But even now there are possibly adventurous men willing to join forces, but many find it that BPO jobs pay them several times more with none of the deprivation associated with a soldier's job. Situation has become worse with the burden of insurgency. Today an infantry soldier suffers separation from family for 3 years at a stretch. Even peace station is no bed of roses, what with chronic lack of family accommodation and hassles involved in getting school admissions and constant movement!
I myself took the decision to leave early (at the age of 42) when promotion opportunity was very much available for me. My reasons were concern about my children's education and finances. Without a boast, both my children are today doing exceedingly well, one is a research scientist at Harvard and another a double post graduate who actually spurned a scholarship at the London School of Economics to pursue Environmental studies in a top US university. Their entire education was on fellowships. All this would have been impossible if they would have been moving from Kashmir to Kanyakumari with me! Even on the financial front, I realized that my pension plus investment of savings was only marginally less than the salary of my next rank of Brigadier, discounting the expenses of double establishment! So if many Colonels are deciding to seek a second career can they be blamed? Some can accuse me of (as a former Chief once actually did) of 'deserting' the services. That is a lie for I, as well as these Colonels who wish to take early retirement, gave our best years to the country. Reversing the famous quote by President John F. Kennedy " Ask not what we have to do more for the country, for we have done our share, but ask what the country is prepared to do for us!"
What is to be done NOW? It would be presumptuous on my part to claim to know the answer to the questions raised. But in the short term certain measures could be taken straight away.
A thorough review of border deployment, specially on China border to reduce the number of non- family postings.
Creation of maximum number of family stations near border areas.
Priority and quotas for children of soldiers in educational institutions.
Crash programme to create 100 per cent family accommodation.
Restore the dignity (Izzat) of a soldier in the society.
Protect the families and properties of soldiers serving on.
Adequate pay to all ranks to compensate the hazards of military service.
Lateral entry into civil services to deal with lack of promotions due to steep pyramid-like rank structure. But ultimately in the long term, we have to undertake a in-depth study of organising the forces and bringing them in line with current realities. Ours is a "Garrison Army and an expeditionary force" more suited to British Empire for a worldwide commitment. While in reality, we need a border defence force with a proportion for power projection in Asia and near East region. Some sort of mix of conscription and volunteer force has to be created to keep the costs low, average age low and retain efficiency. It is indeed a tall order but we have to begin this exercise in right earnest. Sooner, the better.
Col Anil A Athale (Retd)
Col Anil A Athale is a Fellow at the Centre for Armed Forces Historical Research. A former Joint Director (History Division) and infantryman, he has been running an NGO, Peace and Disarmament, based in Pune for the past 10 years. As a military historian he specialises in insurgency and peace process.
I hear, we have crossed the sixtieth year, Standing guard without any fear, Another day in the desert sun, Or a night at height, with a freezing gun, Tell me my India "What I am worth."
For the Battles and Wars that I fight, Never asking which one is right, From Dawn to Dusk and then to Dawn, Your Bishop, Your Knight Your Eternal Pawn, Tell me my India "What I am worth."
While you fill your coffers today, Wondering where and how to make, Another fortune, another buy, Your aspirations are now touching the Sky, Tell me my India" what I am worth."
You make a mention on your political line, Come to my post, wine and dine, Then run to your stock, while I stand your guard, Killing and dying but still fighting hard, Tell me my India" what I am worth."
The other day I was on TV too, You came up to me with your educated crew, Told me to speak cos you seemed to care, Wrote your story stripped me bare.
I was so naive I didn't know, For you it was the nine o'clock show, The country wants to hear some line, Before they sleep, knowing they are fine, Tell me my India" what I am worth."
My Men tell me, that they are strong, Would fight for their country, for all that's wrong, While I tell them to stand and fight, You ignore my existence, my very right, Tell me my India" what I am worth."
I thought I would tell my children in time, How I fought for this country, this love of mine, I wonder, if I should mention it though, Don't want them embarrassed, while they start to grow, Tell me my India" what I am worth."
I was your ambition, your child hood dream, Your Pilot, Your Sailor your Jawan in green, Where did we part as friends, our ways I never let you down a single day, Tell me my India" what I am worth."
There were many unanswered questions in my mind about Tsangdhar both related and unrelated to communications. The only person who could have thrown some light on that was 2 Lt AJS Behl, Capt Talwar’s No 2 and the GPO at Tsangdhar. I did not know his present whereabouts. On the spur of the moment I rang up Talwar, who not only told me about Behl, now a retired Brigadier and staying in Chandigarh, but also gave me his telephone number. He was also kind enough to speak to AmarJit Behl about me. Post haste I made a call to Brig Behl followed by a letter, we established a quick rapport and he was more than willing to answer my queries and sent me an account of the events from the time he and his boys left Agra on the morning of 30th September 1962 till they became the POW’s on the afternoon of 20th October 62.
No one has written an authentic account of the happenings on 20th at Tsangdhar, at least, to my knowledge. What was happening at Tsangdhar from 4.45am onwards when we in the Brigade HQ were under attack with Mortar Bombs? There were three wireless links working from Tsangdhar to Brigade HQ- that of Signal Section, of your Troop and that of Mortar Bty. None came on the air that morning? What happened to Maj Ram Singh and Sqn Ldr Sehgal? There was another Bell flight from Ziminthaung to Tsangdhar piloted by Williams to check as to what was happening at Tsangdhar when Sehgal did not return I believe it was also fired upon. What is the truth? While escaping from Rongla we could see small arms firing at Tsangdhar. Who was firing at whom and of course what was happening to your own Troops? These were the questions I put to Brig Behl in my letter, not only he answered all of them, but also brought some new and startling facts to light. Most gratifying was to learn about the high morale and the fighting spirit of the men and the baptism of young Behl by fire; an inspiring story of events unfolding at a rapid pace which would have taxed an officer with a many times over seniority as compared to that of an oven fresh Second Lieutenant. Read full story as recollected by Brig AJS Behl on the link given below.
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