What is the problem with us?
The problem is jealousy, and the lack of a democratic decision-making process.
While democracy can hardly be expected in operational or military matters per se, but it is the call of the times in personnel policies and policies affecting our pay, allowances and pensionary benefits.
Recent history stands witness, that whether it is the Ministry of Defence or the Defence Services internally, most of the problems emanate from the fact that the stake-holders have no say in the decision-making process, and power, or rather the voice, is concentrated in the chosen few who tend to impose their own opinions and views on millions of others who then suffer in silence.
Examples of self-defeating moves are many. An example which again raised its head was that of grant of Dynamic Assured Career Progression Scheme (DACP) for doctors. Documents reveal that the Chief of Staffs’ Committee (COSC) again opposed better pay and allowances under DACP for military doctors on the pretext that they would start getting higher pay and perks than other arms and services. What they did not realize was the fact that, firstly, doctors have historically enjoyed an edge in pay over other arms and services, and secondly, when other departments of the Govt, including the Central Armed Police Forces, have not had any problem with a similar dispensation, what makes the defence services deny dues to their own? Glaringly, the COSC/PPOC had then decided to tacitly state that DACP should only be granted to doctors if Non-Functional Upgradation (NFU) is implemented for the others. While the correct approach was to smoothly implement DACP and then raise the issue of NFU putting across that now that an anomaly in one cadre stood resolved, let us move for resolution of the other. In this bargain and with this bright idea of denial of an approved scheme of the cabinet for all central govt doctors w.e.f 2008, they lost out on both- DACP as well as NFU. While civilian doctors have been enjoying the benefits of DACP since 2008, military doctors remain without it till date, thanks to our own. Thankfully though, it was the Supreme Court which upheld the grant of DACP for military doctors, something denied by our own brethren. A similar problem was faced in the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) where DACP was given prospective effect, and not retrospective effect from 2008, but that has also now been resolved after a judgement of the Karnataka High Court which has been smoothly implemented by the Ministry of Home Affairs for all combatised doctors in CAPFs.
Another spanner in the works currently seems to emanate from the Navy during the implementation of One Rank One Pension scheme since it seems that the Navy wants to deny some benefits to a certain section of officers who have risen from the ranks. Rather than going with the flow and letting all officers and men reap the benefits of the classical definition of OROP propounded even by the Raksha Mantri, the Navy, it seems, wants to tinker with the definition, thus giving ammunition to those who are already waiting in the sidelines to deny benefits to military pensioners.
What senior officers at the Services HQ should understand is that the voice of the stake-holders must be heard before taking decisions with multiple implications. They should also appreciate that their knowledge in most of these matters is zilch and they need the inputs from experts and the affected parties to reach well-rounded conclusions. Benefits cannot be denied or held mortgage to a coterie’s thought-process. This must change.
Also at the Ministry of Defence level, especially with a change looming large, a decision needs to be taken to make the Defence Services a part of the decision-making machinery. The Rules of Business contain no reference to the Defence Services currently and the Defence Secretary happens to be responsible for the defence of the nation, and not the military. The easiest way out would be to conceptualize a Defence Board on the lines of the Railway Board which could be a mix of generalists, experts and military officers and which could take decisions in a much more holistic manner than the current system.
Besides the systemic change above, I’ll say it again- please do not be jealous of your peers. Do not deny others their respective dues only since in your perception you may have been disallowed yours. This is damaging. And with this attitude, you yourself shall not remain damage-proof. It all comes back.