Sixth Pay Commission relief on August 15? Don't count on it...

The government's final word on the 6th Pay Commission for the armed forces is to be announced by the Prime Minister on August 15, though nobody's really holding their breath. Never before has a single Commission of any sort inspired such a sense of widespread -- if mostly understated -- mutiny among our men and women in uniform. Indeed, it has gone on to spawn semi-organised opposition activities, like the formation of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (its abbreviation, IESM, is gaining acceptance) by Major General Satbir Singh and a few others. A mail from him yesterday reads:
"Since govt has shown no positive concerns towards the Defence Forces, the Military veterans pan India have decided to intensify Nation wide Movement against the 6th PCR. They have decided hold a Think Thank Meeting of Veterans on 13 August 2008 starting at 11 AM at Community Centre Sector 37 NODIA to deliberate and decide on the future course of action plans to intensify the Movement. The representatives from the states will take part."

That a movement of this sort was found necessary to engender is itself tragic (Admiral Arun Prakash has written about this tragedy eloquently here). I've spoken to a lot of the retired officers who find themselves compelled to hold dharnas at India Gate, and court arrest by flouting security regulations at Vijay Chowk. And one question always resounds -- what have we become, that our veterans, many of them former participants in wars and conflicts who should be sipping lassi now with their legs up and playing with their grandchildren, are forced to cast aside retirement and clamour at the doors of the executive for fairplay?

Because, let's not kid ourselves. Too many believe that the backlash from the armed forces is just a lot of noise -- the "they'll never be happy with anything" syndrome. Yet, a cursory examination of the current lack of parity between the uniformed and civil services in terms of pay structures and benefits is not just alarming -- it's a crime. The problems of youth not joining the armed forces, officers leaving service in droves and the generally pervasive sense of resentment are not ambiguous or indefinite maladies -- these are clear, real and present afflictions, and they're unfolding with untold swiftness. Also, they're dangerously contagious.

Sadly enough, maybe the only way for the armed forces to really get their due is to become one enormous politically-astute electoral votebank. There will be no end to whey they can ask for then.

Photo ┬ęShiv Aroor/LiveFist (A jawan stands guard at the Army's Red Horns Division in Rangiya, Assam)

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