Monday, July 23, 2012


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.


  1. Dear brother in arms your narration hides more.We soldiers(common noun for soldiers, airmen, sailors) despair our lot and an elder brother ie a Gen consoled me in particular & soldiers in general that thinking of Ex-Servicemen as a COMMUNITY is GOOD but requires lot of dedication and YES sacrifices.We were thinking of demanding the polity to treat us like a community similar to say AngloIndians& so on.May this country ie BHARAT drive sense in to the elitist INDIA and treat us the way you have projected. LtCol retd TTKISHORE,ENGRS

  2. If market dynamics is what is understood by the Cabinet and the Bureaucracy, then may I suggest a simple solution to the problem !
    Cut the YES.
    All it would take is a well timed NO to get the wheels of decision making moving. And if one reads between the lines one is bound to notice discontent precipitating albeit slowly but surely.
    It is unfortunate but numbers do count.
    In a Democracy fewer numbers can also be good - ask the MPs, they are very clear there will be no increase in their numbers and like wise the IAS and others. We on the other hand seem to be proliferating without the end state designed or thought through.
    Notice the bulge between 15 and 54/ 58 and ones gets a sinking feeling we lost plot in '83 and thereafter its been one "roller coaster" ride downhill without the bottom in sight. I wonder where the seventh pay commission will take us !! We now have 8/9 different entries and similarly a myriad ideas at the table. Pray what of uniformity of look, thought, action etc. We seem to be reinventing established and time tested principle of military leadership (which without stretching the domain can also be seen as man management at the macro level) on the alter of Parity. And Parity with whom - Guys who can go on unpaid leave, extra ordinary leave, unending study leave, infinite deputation etc !!
    And to cap it all we have declined to staff the Central Pool on the premise that we are short on officers and "one down" is not acceptable to US. This "US" is as interesting as it can possibly get. An officer can decide to lead and get killed but the system takes over when he wants to make a difference in PROJECT TIGER, WWF, IB, RAW, NHPC, NTPC and so many other such avenues.
    Why is this consistent myopic view being taken when it is the ideal way forward to deal with the pompous Bureaucrat - take him head on in his domain and cut him to size. I guess the "enemy" understands this better than us and will not allow this even over their dead bodies. This is an issue which merits attention of the Senior Commanders not the mundane issues which seem to churning reams of A4 sized paper !!

  3. Sir, If only our leaders could think of the growing discontent among the armed forces as a national problem and not the one that needs to be sorted out or brushed under the carpet to appease some Bureaucrats. If only the "US" could merge into the "WE"