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  • Discontent grows amongst India’s officer class

    by Rumbold
    14th July, 2008 at 9:29 pm    

    Post-colonial South Asia has had a turbulent time when it comes to military coups. Pakistan and Bangladesh have experienced numerous coups, while in Nepal and Sri Lanka the military has retained immense power thanks to the long civil wars in both those countries. India, for whatever reason, has not had the same troubles.

    Yet the Indian army today is facing increasingly levels of discontent amongst its officer class, mainly because of the pay, which is dwarfed by what one can earn in the private sector, or even many non-military civil service positions. The Indian army (as opposed to the whole of the armed forces), is facing a shortage of 11,238 officers, or nearly 25% of the total. Despite spending about £17 billion per year on defence, the government pay commission, which meets every ten years to decide state salaries, only recommended a 15% rise for the armed forces. That would be it for the next ten years, which given that annual inflation is running at 12%, is really not that impressive. Officers and veterans went on protests, and there was even a hunger strike. To quote former army chief General Shankar Roy Choundhury:

    “Political apathy and bureaucratic design and indifference are responsible. Army is one good institution. For heaven’s sake, don’t destroy it like you have destroyed everything else.”

    In an unprecedented move, 15 Colonels refused to sign up for a course open only to outstanding senior officers, and which is viewed as a necessity if one wishes to become a general. This was in protest against the poor pay for officers. All armies have their grievances. We only have to look at the discontent in the British army to see that what is happening in India is not an isolated incident. General Choundhury’s lament could have come from the mouth of General Dannatt. However, the Indian situation is more precarious then ours. Indian army officers only have to look their left to see the benefits enjoyed by Pakistani officers, or to their right to see their Bangladeshi counterparts in charge. The Indian army has a proud tradition of not interfering in politics, but will it get even weaker thanks to low recruitment and morale, or will it be tempted to intervene in some way?

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    Filed in: Current affairs,India

    8 Comments below   |  

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    1. Shamit Ghosh — on 14th July, 2008 at 10:28 pm  

      The Armed Forces in India are too disciplined and the country too politically aware for an armed forces coup to succeed.

      While it is accepted that armed forces must be under civilian control in India - this has been taken to extremes in India. A GOC-in-C of a regional command (usually with over 20 years in service) actually in protocol rank comes below the District Magistrate (someone in early 30s with less than 7-8 years of service). Further, while those in the civil service or even in the police service gain promotion irrespective of performance — obviously this is not the case for the armed forces. Also, when it comes to pay the Civil service (or retired IAS officers) are part of the pay commission and hence to ensure superiority of IAS they usually ensure Armed forces do not get similar perks or salaries.

      Add to that, the Indian Army (more than the other services) have been fighting low intensity conflicts on a regular basis for 50 years and loss of life has been common and loved ones of those laying down their lives for the country have to run from pillar to post to get their due benefits - thanks to the babudom.

      The regard the country and especially the bureaucracy and to a large extent politicians hold the army was quite evident when India’s most famous soldier and Field Marshall passed away. There was a debate whether to give him a State Funeral at all. But there the Prime Minister now seems to be behind the Army and has personally intervened to ensure that the pay package of Army is sorted out amidst grave protests from the Civil Services.

      Sadly the situation in Britain is not that encouraging either. The Prime Minister recently intervened to ensure that none of the current Chiefs succeed to become the Chief of Defence Staff as they have voiced their reservations about Government’s failure to support the troops. A number of former CDSs have said in public that they respected Blair while have been contemptuous about Brown both as Chancellor as well as PM. And various columnists sadly from the left have questioned the motives of the Armed Forces in asking for more money. It is sad that until Princes William and Harry started the campaign to support our troops especially those who come back from conflicts with injuries or worse are supported — the Government could not care less except for paying lip service. And the result, Iranian navy (which is nothing to write home about) could capture a British naval vessel in a war zone and slap us around. That happens when a country whose economy grow continuously for 15 years could not afford to equip our troops better or chose not too. And for 10 years the Prime Minister and the Defence Secretaries had to fight with the Treasury to give them the Armed forces their due. Finally the navy is getting its Carriers but that was done for political compulsions to ensure job creation rather than national security interests.

      Talking about coups, sorry to digress, but Ed Balls would have been an ideal corps commander of the 10 Army corps of Pakistan Army — the traditional position that has always helped the Army Chief remove the Civilian Head of Government.

      Anyway, I am glad pickled politics has picked up on this topic that should be debated and considering the kind of world we live in — if we are to succeed in protecting our nations interest then we need to pay more attention to our troops. And in a world of Mugabe’s, Putin and Am a dinner Jacket of Iran — and others such as Al- Qaeda — can we afford not to pay attention to our Armed forces.

    2. shuks — on 15th July, 2008 at 1:48 am  

      I am thinking of few years from now.May be some one Mangal Pandey will rise to the apathy of Indian Defence Services and would stand against beaurocratic and political nexus.Indian public should think and rethink that they want the treatment for their soldiers which is being given to them by all of us.Are we not culprit and blame worthy.Countrymen wake up before it is too late.

    3. shariq — on 15th July, 2008 at 2:54 pm  

      Rumbold, I will refrain from commenting on South Asian politics if the Indian Army stages a coup.

    4. Rumbold — on 15th July, 2008 at 8:44 pm  

      I think that people are right in that a coup is unlikely, but I just wonder whether or not the Indian Army will grow more restless if it thinks it is badly treated (which it is).

    5. Sid — on 18th July, 2008 at 4:43 pm  

      India should be proud of its armed forces and how a largely secular, democracy has managed to keep the military out of politics continues to be a model for political scientists in neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh.

      Now I think that the Indian military should be careful what it wishes for, since entry into politics for a military comes with great cost to
      1) Civil rights of the citizens
      2) Secularism, since the Pakistan model has shown how easily the military goes to bed with the Islamists.

      Meanwhile, Bangladesh is currently attempting to build the consensus for a National Security Council in the model of Pakistan, Turkey and Chile. Bad move for democracy.

      This is a published interview of Ayesha Siddiqa, the authority on Pakistan Military’s continual role in the country’s politics (she has published her work in a book “Military Inc”), which I did with my mate Syeed Ahamed.

    6. Sid — on 18th July, 2008 at 4:44 pm  

      OK, looks like I outed myself. Yes folks, Sid = Faisal :D

    7. kamal khan — on 23rd July, 2008 at 7:07 am  

      Soldiers are suppose to be the symbols of gallantry and dignity. Seems like Indian soldiers lack both of these codes.

      The key reason of suicides in Indian Army is frustration over various issues. One of these is leave; lack of adequate home leave enhances their depression and stress. Other factors include low morale, bad service conditions, lack of adequate facilities, unattractive pay packages, and a communication gap with superiors.

      Soldiers get extremely angry when they are denied leave and their officers themselves take time off, it triggers a reaction, and consequently they take their own life.

      Every one knows that Indian Army is committing heinous acts such as torture, rapes, murder, staged encounters, genocide, and ethnic cleansing in Kashmir and in other parts of India.

      In Kashmir valley, Indian Army has killed over 10, 0000 innocent people and in the state of Gujurat over 4,000 civilians were killed. These atrocities and heinous acts are the main reason of mental sickness of Indian Army.

      Suicide in Indian Army will keep on rising in future!!!!!

      How can one expect healthy normal personality from the force that has been assigned the task of massive killing and bloodshed of innocent civilians including women and children?

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