In 1983 a British general, sir John Hackett had used a commercial term "unlimited liability" to make the civilian bureaucracy understand the nature of military risk and what makes it necessary for governments to treat the military man differently.
‘Unlimited liability’ means that a soldier is constitutionally allowed the lawful killing of others in the performance of duty - the responsibility of military leadership permits the sacrifice of soldiers’ lives in order to achieve military objectives. Hackett had used a commercial phrase to quantify the ‘value’ inherent in ‘honour’ for all the elite who are more familiar with the ups and downs in stock markets than the trial and travails in a soldier’s life.
Unfortunately, many are unable to comprehend that Indian military's quest to seek parity with the civilian bureaucracy is only to maintain the uniqueness that is so very essential to keep the standing army of the state intact.
In fact, in the best interest of democracy, the armed forces have toned down their demand to have higher pay scales than those of civilian government officials and are even ready to accept parity in pay with a select few in the government service.
However, the denial of NFU (non-functional upgardation) status to commissioned officers - an anomaly introduced by the sixth pay commission – will eventually downgrade the military officer’s status below that of an officer in the Gp B services of the government.
In an administrative setup where basic pay determines your ultimate worth to the nation, the armed forces cannot allow the whims and fancies of a few over-smart bureaucrats to destroy the basic edifice of the Indian state.
Just as the detractors opposed to the armed forces refuse to budge from their stand on grant of NFU to commissioned officers, they are also reluctant to acknowledge the validity of one-rank-one-pension (OROP) demand. This happens mainly because these detractors are unable to comprehend the difference between a fire fighter and a soldier.
For economists, especially of the free market variety, the very mention of pension and social security gives goose bumps – and the very thought of OROP is nightmarish. In simple words, these financial wizards believe it is sacrilegious to talk of subsidies like OROP that may take the fiscal deficits to soaring heights.
What we need to ask these luminaries is, if soldiers are not different from civilians then why do the armed forces not come under the purview of CCS (Pension) Rules and why are they exempt from the National Pension Scheme (NPS) that was launched in 2004. And the only reason for excluding the armed forces from NPS is that the state cannot subject the social safety network of the soldiers to the vagaries of markets.
One would suggest to legal eagles who have difficulty in understanding the "separateness" between a soldier and a civilian to go through the Army, Navy and Air Force Acts that make it imperative for all serving personnel to forfeit three basic fundamental rights that are enshrined in Article 19 of the Indian Constitution –
a) Right to freedom of speech and expression
b) Right to assemble peaceably and without arms
c) Right to form associations or unions.
Furthermore, no other profession, but the armed forces debars its members from marrying a foreigner. There are ample love stories in the armed forces that have been sacrificed at the altar of service to the nation.
Now, if the prime minister cum finance minister does not have ample cash to announce on 15th August 2012 - the final resolution of 6th pay commission anomalies in favour of the armed forces - the solution is tax the rich more to maintain a solid standing army, because defence is a public good.
Unfortunately, the human civilization has miles to go before attaining a state of buddhahood, where conflict would become redundant and military will engage only in peacekeeping operations. Till then, let us act such that the strong arm of the state remains in the state’s noble hands and not tumble over into private arms.