Our regular guest writer, BeeCee is back, and would like to share his views on post retirement jobs, veterans & serving personnel approaching judicial fora for relief and status issues. His earlier posts, and references to those posts, can be accessed by clicking here.
The views are his own. I would particularly invite the attention of readers, specially serving personnel, to his observations made in this post on status incongruities.
Navdeep's recent posts on Status issues and Rank pay, as well as some other mails on the net regarding post-retirement employment must give us pause to see the inter-connectedness of many of these issues. Also at play is the proposal to further restrict employment of ex-servicemen.
As correctly brought out in a mail among some veterans, further restrictions on post-retirement occupation is another self-goal in the making by the Services HQ.
1. Does the GOI actually have the right to decide what work you'll do or not do when you retire? In particular, to proscribe you from doing the job you are most competent to do? One veteran had also raised this issue more directly sometime back and suggested that the GOI must compensate the affected parties adequately if they apply such restrictions on employment.
2. Is there any other sector where the only people with domain knowledge are banned from working in the particular sector? Say, like 'if you have banking experience, you cannot work in the financial services industry' or if you have IT experience, you cannot work in the computer industry etc. What amazes me is that those who suggest these measures seem to be completely oblivious to the inherent self-contradiction in such blanket bans. The Service HQ must actually be actively involved in encouraging veterans to join the defence industry so that their knowledge and experience can be beneficial to both the vendor and the customer, and of course the country in general.
(Post Note on Points 1 & 2 : Yes, service rules prescribe prohibition on commercial employment for civilian as well as defence employees according to rank, however the said stipulations are peppered with many ifs and buts, and, as they stand now, are not blanket or draconian in nature – Navdeep.)
3. Isn't it also surprising that the same people who advocate greater removal of controls and regulation for better efficiency in the marketplace advocate the opposite for Defence industry. It does not stand to reason that openness and transparency that is beneficial everywhere else would be counterproductive only in the defense sector.
My own view is that discouraging Service personnel from embracing this is a deliberate ploy by those already in it or their cohorts, to minimise competition and scrutiny by others with product knowledge. Corruption is a red herring. Of course there may be corruption, as in any human activity and must be dealt with ruthlessly. But the solution to a headache is not to cut off the head. I haven't heard anyone say that people who understand telecom or coal must be banned from those sectors because of corruption there.
The surprise is that Service HQ (and many veterans) don't see through this. Or is it a case of turning the Nelson's eye? You can then have shadowy operators (veteran or otherwise) coming out of the woodwork without scrutiny. It is also a way of creating continued dependency of veterans on govt handouts whether it be in the form of public/political appointments, Track II sojourns etc instead of letting personnel strike out on their own and make a living based on their personal competence.
Instead of parroting such views, Services HQ/Veterans need to look at the constitutional validity of such instructions. I suspect what may be required is merely a full disclosure from the veteran regarding his military background. In case of any conflict of interest, his competitor (likely another veteran) is sure to bring it out easing out the job of the procurement agency and delivering better service.
General VK Singh in the spotlight
Fortunately, a fair amount of sensible comment is coming in the media, especially if the last rank in service was relatively junior. Let me add some points to ponder.
Maj Dhanapalan's going to court to claim what was legitimately due to him has been hailed by all of us because the court upheld his claim, and especially because the RDOA effectively made it into a class action with many benefitting.
When Gen VKS went to court to claim what was legitimately his due (at least I feel that way), many frowned and even became shrill when the court also took evasive action. Technically or legally, I think the General's claim was as valid as Maj Dhanapalan's.
But the point that needs to be made is that irrespective of personal opinions, both cases were caused by action/inaction at Service HQ, all three HQ in the former, and Army HQ in the latter. Has anyone been called to account for this? This, I think remains a fundamental failing.
When you compare DPA/NHQ's(reported) brief with that of RDOA on the Rank Pay case, one realises that nothing much has changed and Service HQ still haven't got their head out of the sand. The scales indicated in the letters in circulation are actually a bit lower than what would have been automatically available if we had just accepted civil norms to begin with.
Which brings me to the third issue highlighted by Navdeep on his blog and various comments thereon regarding status.
Again, here the primary culprit is Services HQ in the past because status is related to pay. This is what happens if you have a bunch of decision makers who feel that 'Service officers have/had an edge over others in pay', then further create an ambiguity in basic pay through integrated scale/Rank Pay and then add to it some officers who want to hang around in Delhi in whatever position is available.
NHQ had caught on to this sham in the mid 90s when the Cabinet Secretariat had asked for "Commanders (psc) on deputation to work as Under Secys in ......”. Navy wrote back to Cabinet Secretariat to make up their mind on whether they wanted Commanders or Under Secys to Govt of India. If it was the former, then they would have to be designated as Directors and if it was the latter, Navy will send Lieutenants. After some back and forth and a meeting between COP and the Secy, a meeting was convened to iron out an agreement between NHQ and Cabinet Secretariat.
The interesting aspect is that none of the civilians on the other side of the table had a problem with a pay based equation (which was finally agreed to) as suggested by the Navy and is the norm elsewhere. Vociferous objection was from the senior military officer in the Cabinet Secretariat, a Maj Gen. The substance of his argument was that rank for rank military officers were paid higher and that it is only NHQ that had a problem while Army and Air HQ were willing to send even Cols/Gp Capts to Under Secy level posts. NHQ did win the argument there at the time but the latter part of his stand was also true. This and the exchange of words between the Maj Gen and a relatively junior naval rep provided much amusement to the civilians present during discussions.
Unfortunately, he was not alone in that line of thinking. At Delhi, it was common to see Majors and Dy Secys Govt of India/Directors staying in the same block of DII accommodation. This was because they had similar levels of pay and service and you didn't have to be a genius to realise that these grades were at par. However most Service officers of the rank of Major had convinced themselves that they were junior, but were paid higher with better accommodation entitlements. A classic case Groupthink, at variance from reality.
On the comments of some bloggers that individual officers must refuse to take up lower level deputation posts, my view is that it could be done, but it will only have marginal impact. Addressing systemic faults is the responsibility of Services HQ and they need to ensure that no individual is put in a position to make such difficult choices.
For whatever it's worth