Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Unknown Soldier remains Unseen and Unthanked

"We remember our soldiers - who defend our borders in snowy mountains, in deserts, in jungles, on the shores and in the oceans."

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had this ridiculously ironic statement to make as part of the preamble to his astonishingly tiresome August 15 speech from the ramparts of Red Fort. His 40-minute address was wall-to-wall election rhetoric, but that's a different matter. Because, the matter at hand -- the matter that should be at hand -- is far more embarrassing, far more a shame and ignominy than the tediously predictable compulsions of electoral politics that compel even an honourable man like Dr Singh to hijack and defile a sacred day for petty party PR.

There is something unique about the way the Indian system treats its armed forces jawans. Even though they form a good part of the sociological and cultural core that defines India (Jai Jawan! etc), they simultaneously are looked upon the the most dispensable. While the Indian Army reels under an officer shortage -- which, while serious, is more notional than popularly projected -- it has never posted a dearth of jawans, never needed to take extraordinary measures to ensure that its soldier ranks are adequately supplied. And this alone may be why it has never had to made any major effort whatsoever to even bother making the profession of a jawan an attractive one.

And while you'll certainly see throngs of ex-servicemen on hugerstrike and officers of all ranks who'll pick through the pay commission papers to find the detail's devils, you'll never see jawans complain in public. Their sense of outrage is a quiet one -- more infused with the dignity of their task than any other part of the armed forces. The jawan lives and works in the toughest conditions. His opportunities are far more limited. And therein lies his silence.

By increasing the military service pay of jawans from Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000 instead of the recommended Rs 3,000, the government has made a grave transgression of propriety. Not only has it failed to meet what the Army itself feels should a minimum benchmark for its real fighters. But it has psychologically injured all jawans, and infused in them a simmering sense of having been betrayed by their masters -- both the Army leadership, and the government. While mid-level and senior officers will celebrate what hectic lobbying has managed to pull off in the 6PC, jawans have once again been left in the cold, thrown crumbs and ordered to be satisfied, even smile.

Which is why it struck me that it was sheer audacity that had Manmohan Singh open his ridiculous speech with that terribly true line.

Photo by Shiv Aroor/LiveFist (Army Jawans at Leimakhong, Manipur)

11 comments :

Anonymous said...

This Govt deserves absolute contempt for a variety of actions, its casteist rhetoric throughout, its minority politicking, its sops to the worst of terror supporting regional satraps, and now this - the final insult vs the armed forces. Never before in independent india have the armed forces publically protested - but the MMS govt had it achieved.

Anonymous said...

they are the true underdogs of indian society today. we should be ashamed when we hear the phrase "jai jawan" used anywhere. they are anything but blessed.

Anonymous said...

shiv why are you allowing people to post phone numbers on your blog? please tell whoever is responsible that it is illegal and a crime.

Anonymous said...

Well, going by sheer ecomonic soundness and tact, the 'jawans' are generally villagers who would have earned less than perhaps Rs 1000 per month had it not been for the army...

So IMHO, the army is still their best option.

The govt knows this, hence the reluctance in raising the amount even further. I'm not professing the Govt policies, i agree with Shiv, but then the reason i just mentioned must be true.

Anonymous said...

Well, going by sheer ecomonic soundness and tact, the 'jawans' are generally villagers who would have earned less than perhaps Rs 1000 per month had it not been for the army...

So IMHO, the army is still their best option.

The govt knows this, hence the reluctance in raising the amount even further. I'm not professing the Govt policies, i agree with Shiv, but then the reason i just mentioned must be true.

Anonymous said...

Well, going by sheer ecomonic soundness and tact, the 'jawans' are generally villagers who would have earned less than perhaps Rs 1000 per month had it not been for the army...

So IMHO, the army is still their best option.

The govt knows this, hence the reluctance in raising the amount even further. I'm not professing the Govt policies, i agree with Shiv, but then the reason i just mentioned must be true.

Anonymous said...

??

Anti-Pragmatic said...

Shiv,

You have got it completely wrong with your rhetoric.

This is from Pragmatic's blog.
http://pragmatic.nationalinterest.in/2008/08/14/pay-commission-implemented/#comment-7027

Though we would not like to admit it, the PBOR have not been given such a raw deal. And please do not flame me here till you analyse what I say.

I’ll give you an example. The Pay-scales of PBOR and men/women of the CPOs are now exactly the same (earlier the defence services had an edge of about Rs 100 - 200 on each rank). But over and above the scales, we have now managed to garner Rs 2000/- as Military Service Pay which would count for all purposes (except status) as basic pay and also towards DA. Then over and above Rs 2000/-, we also get an additional Rs 1400/- for the X group, which more than the Army would be a great help to IAF and IN. So ultimately, every single PBOR of the Army gets Rs 2000/- extra than the CPOs and PBOR of the X group get Rs 3400/- more than their counterparts. Pensionable limit is achievable in 15 years with us but 20 years in CPOs. We get ‘Ex-Serviceman’ status and military facilities all throughout our lives coupled with reservation in govt jobs - and hence a second career and also an opportunity to earn two pensions after retirement from the civil side and one military pension plus additional civil govt pay if serving in civil after retirement from military life. Let us not just slam the Pay Com for the heck of it. Even at the officers’ level, monetarily the pay com has not been that bad, it is the status equation in which we have suffered. On the other side though, the status equation for PBOR has been enhanced. A Nk of the Army is now officially equivalent to a Head Constable, a Havaldar is equivalent now to an ASI, a Nb Sub is equivalent to an SI, a Subedar is equal to an Inspr while the rank of Sub Maj is now equated with an Assistant Commissioner of Police/DSP of Group B Services.

Anonymous said...

anti-pragmatic, what a load of garbage. it is not about comparisons or levels or equations. it is about the absolute. the notional value of what you get that counts. what does it matter who jawans are equal to. our govt treats our jawans like trash, and there is no argument.

Anonymous said...

anon who posted at 9.55am, i strongly disagree with your views. by employing jawans, the country is not doing them a favour economically. their duty and function far surpasses the regular civilian code of an employee-employer relationship. their job is voluntary, and let us not even get into the trade off that is implied in joining the army by the peasantry. just because the army provides economic opportunity to the rural, it does not mean the govt gets to treat them any which way it wants. and lip service like manmohan singh's just does not count i am sorry.

Anonymous said...

boss, try asking a jawan what he goes through. unlike an officer who at least can go the IIM/ISB route, a jawan loses the best years of his life, and his solace is to be a guard for an ATM while you draw cash. do you guys even understand the amount of suffering these guys go through? there are jawans with eyes, hands, legs missing, who silently go back to their rural environs with their kith and kin taking care of them, and you middle class types like that a$$ at nationalinterest quibble over the "raw amount" and so on. actually, the most shameful idiots are those in the civil services, who do their utmost to deny every rupee increment to the services and the central R&D institutions, and even DPSUs, and yet set policy for them. and run to their political masters to make sure their perks and privileges are ever increased. truly the IAS are the bane of this country along with our politicians. my tax money goes for all these people whereas the ordinary jawan makes do with peanuts, and dpsu's, army etc serve as bakras for the bureaucrats decision making.