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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Are the defence bureaucrats misleading the Indian government and people?

In January 2009, Col Pis Phulka said that bureaucrats had misled the UPA government (and the President Prathiba Patil) on the One Rank One Pension issue. See the Daily Excelsior article here. Two other statements from senior ministers are discussed here.
With due respect for the Minister of State for Defence, M. M. Pallam Raju, his statement to Shri T.K. Rangarajan in the Rajya Sabha could be construed as misleading. He claimed that Rs 7,500cr (approx US$1.6 billion) of contracts have been signed related to offset obligations. While this may be true, industry analysts say that less than 800cr has actually been invested. Of the money invested there are few, if any, offset success stories. By giving such a large figure Mr Pallam Raju seems to project that the offset program is a huge success but by any measure it has been a dismal failure. Neither has our indigenous capacity improved nor has any significant technology been transferred or indigenously developed in a sense that it would have a long term benefit. By projecting success instead of failure, the difficult issue of acquisition process reform and failure to involve the private sector has been sidelined. See the GOI press release here.
Separately, the Defence Minister A.K. Antony claimed that the armed forces are short of 15,000 staff. But the reality is that we have the third largest army in the world and the only battle we have seen in the last 10 years is in Kargil where a few thousand men were deployed. Globally there is a trend towards reduction in the number of personnel while using technology to increase the effectiveness of each soldier. This is thus an issue of a flawed long term strategy and also deploying of the army for issues that local bodies (police, CRPF etc) should be deployed. 8ak sources say that the shortage of staff at the levels like Lt Col is due to excessive promotions which have bloated the upper echelons of the forces. Read the article on Sify here.
Thirdly, during the budget presentation, Pranab Mukherjee's statements seemed to indicate that the Armed forces demand of One Rank, One Pension has been resolved. However Major Gen. (retired) Satbir Singh, the vice-chairman of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Association, said to the Calcutta Telegraph (here) “This is not an acceptance of our demand for one rank one pension,”. So while the politicians and bureaucrats have convinced themselves that the issue of low morale in the armed forces has been resolved, our sources in the Armed forces say that neither has it been resolved nor are the relevant issues being addressed. Refer to articles on blogs like IndiaMilitary.info and Pragmatic and its is easy to see that this is not true. The issue of low morale (as our forthcoming article will cover in detail) has less to do with pay but more to do with the armed personnel feeling a loss of honour of being a soldier. The reasons are the demeaning treatment meted out to Senior Defence Personnel by bureaucrats and politicians who have long viewed the army as an occupying force. A full analysis on this issue will follow in 2 weeks. See the Taragana article here
Also, India Today said that the armed forces were unhappy that the French National day was given more importance than the anniversary of Kargil where our bravest men laid down their lives against an unprovoked Pakistani attack. Read it here.(8ak)

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