The union ministry of defence (MoD) continues to work against the military's interests. This sustained attitude and practice of the MoD has created deep fissures in its relationship with the military. There is palpable mistrust of the ministry among the armed forces.
While the union ministry of home affairs fights tooth and nail to protect interests of, say central police organisations (CPOs - inappropriately called paramilitary), the MoD operates in a motivated and deliberate manner against interests of the military. This adversarial stance of the MoD has been more visible in the case of successive Central Pay Commissions (CPCs).
Defence services personnel posted in, say Siliguri (not an insurgency area), are not entitled to any extra allowances, whereas the CPOs are. In insurgency-hit areas, army officers and men of special forces get allowances from Rs 800 to Rs 1,200 per month, CPOs (their special forces such as Cobras, Greyhounds) get Rs 7,200 to Rs 11,000 per month.
Central services officers, when posted in the northeast, get 12.5% of the basic pay as special duty allowance, with double HRA (house rent allowance). For IAS officers, the allowance is 25% of the basic pay. There are no such allowances for defence personnel. While many other disparities can be listed, the case of grant of Non-Functional Advancement largesse to all central services officers by the Sixth CPC but not to defence officers is simply scandalous.
In every CPC, the MoD, instead of promoting the military's cause, played a negative role. Every case of injustice fought and won by military personnel in lower courts has been contested by the MoD in higher courts. So much so that in such cases, the MoD has been seeking review of Supreme Court judgments as well. Often, it has compelled the army headquarters to join hands with the ministry in seeking such reviews from the highest court in, for example, the case of pension of Majors General.
During my briefing of the Prime Minister at the Raj Bhawan in Chandigarh, besides other issues, I brought to his notice making service headquarters party to these review petitions and the dangers of this gameplan. There is great bonding between veterans and serving personnel, which is unique to the military. Any mistrust in this bonding will be deleterious and affect the morale of those in service. I followed this up with a detailed letter to the PM, highlighting these issues, to which a wishy-washy reply was received.
The most wicked and despicable case is that of deduction of rank pay, as granted by the Fourth Pay Commission to officers up to the rank of brigadier. This was the exclusive machination of the MoD in collaboration with the Controller of Defence Accounts (Officers). One gutsy Major fought the case right up to the Supreme Court to get his rank pay from 1986 onwards. All through, the MoD opposed the case and now, when some spirited officers took up the case on behalf of all affected officers, the ministry conveyed to the highest court that the armed forces headquarters, too, were against grant of rank pay.
When the service headquarters told the Attorney General in writing that there was no opposition from them and instead they fully supported the cause, the MoD tried to arm-twist the service headquarters. Now that the Supreme Court has settled this case, those who played this mischief need to be identified and taken to task, including those who have since retired.
From the Fourth Pay Commission onwards, the services have been putting up their cases before this august body, but support from the MoD has been negative and that is how defence services were downgraded every time. In the case of the Sixth Pay Commission, there are 39 anomalies pertaining to the defence services which are yet to be resolved. If a career in the armed forces has become the last choice for the youth of the country, the MoD has played a key role in this degradation of the military.
Handling of a simple case of age of the previous army chief is a more recent example of cussedness in the MoD's attitude. While the issue was attracting national attention, somewhat mischievously were floated the cases of "wire tapping" of the defence minister's office, a military coup and leak of a top-secret letter from the Chief of Army Staff to the PM. While the first two failed miserably, the last bounced back on the government. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is still to tell the nation as to who leaked this letter.