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Friday, February 24, 2017

On Reemployment and Dignity of Labour and an Egalitarian Society

A few days ago, I responded to a tweet wherein a Subedar Major was driving a cab to earn his living. I found the situation odd because of reasons I would articulate in due course, within this write-up.

There were mixed reactions to my response on twitter. Some agreed with me, while some, including a few of my very good friends, stated that we should respect dignity of labour and that there was nothing wrong in driving a cab to earn one’s living.

I fully stand behind the concept of dignity of labour. I also firmly believe in an egalitarian society. I further believe in living a life shorn of redundant ceremonial regalia and working with my own hands. But that is not the point that I wish to make.

My plain and simple argument is that as a society and a nation we have failed to harness the skills of our military veterans, in this case, a Subedar Major of the Corps of Engineers of the Indian Army who would have served in uniform for at least three decades and who retired from a Group B (Formerly known as Class II) level gazetted appointment. Would a Subedar Major be driving a cab if offered a commensurate post-retirement placement by us as national policy? the answer would probably be in the negative. Would an equivalent gazetted police or civil officer be found driving a cab like him? the answer to that too would probably be in the negative.

Egalitarianism and dignity of labour is one thing, however making use of skills and providing a dignified post-retirement re-settlement to soldiers is a different issue altogether. Our soldiers start retiring in their 30s, while some of us may be happy to see them stand guard at the neighbourhood ATMs, that simply is not what they are worth. All organisations have a certain hierarchy based upon skills and experience, and that hierarchy cannot be merely brushed aside or stretched to absurd levels in the name of ‘dignity of labour’, since if that be so, then there would be no harm in a retired Colonel or a retired DIG of Police taking up the appointment of a security guard after retirement! If that be so, then there should be and would be no reason for holding on to any hierarchy in any organisation or establishment.

Though much effort is going into it today, the state of resettlement of our soldiers is not worth praise. To take an example, the Railways, with much fanfare keep initiating special drives for recruitment of ex-servicemen. But what are the appointments? -the jobs of cleaners and helpers and khalasis at Group D level (junior even to a newly recruited Sepoy) being offered to all ranks, including to Junior Commissioned Officers of the rank of Naib Subedar, Subedar and Subedar Major. Appointing a former senior functionary of the Army as a cleaner or even a driver is not dignity of labour, it is an affront to the dignity and experience of the military rank, it is indignity of skill sets, it is exploitation of human resources. A fauji lives and dies for his izzat but there is no protection of his military status on re-employment on the civil side. This old news-report would also show how such appointments were accepted with heavy hearts by ex-servicemen and not willingly. Our society also is blissfully unaware that if soldiers are unable to find a suitable vocation after their early release from the defence services at the peak of their lives, they at times develop complexes and even psychiatric ailments, which, of course is an area not even documented or researched upon this side of the world.

Of about 60,000 personnel who retire every year, the Directorate General of Resettlement (DGR) is able to adjust only about 4000. Even after the DGR had written to all Defence Public Sector Undertakings on directions of the Defence Minister, just 8 PSUs even cared to reply with only about 9.5% vacancies utilized. If such is the response of the official establishment even to the right intentioned moves of the political executive, one can well imagine the overall state of affairs.

Familial and societal responsibilities are at peak levels when soldiers retire in their 30s and 40s. Their income drops down exactly to half when they are released, unlike their civilian counterparts who continue in guaranteed employment till the age of 60. To thrust upon any kind of job onto such veterans in the name of ‘dignity of labour’ not commensurate to their skills or experience, would thus be a disservice, to say the least, in my humble opinion. 

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