Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Heed the cry of the armed forces

M P Anil Kumar

An interesting article in Rediff News
October 03, 2008

Fighter pilot.' Whenever I introduced myself that way, while in
service and now out of it, I could always espy a sense of awe and

Yet, I have forever regarded the infantry officer more than anyone
else. For, I have been mesmerised by his mettle to command
unquestioned obedience from the men he led into battle when everyone
knew a likely death lurked round the bend.

But the soldier also knew that his officer would do his utmost to
ensure the soldier's safety, and thus reposed unwavering faith in
his leadership and followed him in the charge, hollering the war

Infantry officers are moulded out of an extraordinary metal and they
form a rare breed. And warriors like them are the ones who make
soldiering the noble profession that it is. Where else will you find
subordinates ready to live and die for you?

Unlike this sod, the Union government does not apparently think in
such mushy terms about the image of its soldiers, sailors and
airmen. Otherwise, it would not have compelled the three services
chiefs to petition the defence minister to restore the existing
parity with those from other central services, with respect to the
Sixth Central Pay Commission (SCPC) awards. (A section of the media
regrettably painted this as whinging and blackmail by the defence
forces. Far from the truth. More than pay, what they are actually
pleading is for the restoration of status and honour trampled
hitherto by successive governments. )

In response, the government has constituted a panel of three top
cabinet ministers to address the discordant subjects (upgrade
lieutenant colonel to pay band 4, place lieutenant general in higher
administrative grade plus and restore pensionary benefits of
personnel below officer rank) highlighted by the chiefs.

The sitrep

The forces had earlier raised several disquieting anomalies in the
SCPC recommendations, and sought equitable remuneration for the kind
of toil they do day in, day out. The government tasked a committee
of secretaries to fix it. Given the composition of IAS officers in
the committee, only a nincompoop would have expected justice for the

The committee should have conjured up adequate pecuniary
compensation for the posts in which the officers have to serve long,
and also where the deficit of officers was most grave. But instead
of smoothening ruffled feathers, its prescription made more hackles
to rise. The fear of antagonists sabotaging the hope for obtaining a
fair deal had come true.

Worse, the government twisted the knife in at a time when the three
services were fighting a rearguard battle to attract talented
candidates and to stem the exit of middle-rung officers. Not a soul
in the government, evidently, has grasped the acuteness of crisis
hobbling the armed forces. Nor has anyone attempted to fathom the
depth of their discontentment nor estimate the fallout of the
peacetime attrition.

Small wonder then that the services, which lumped the humiliation of
its systematic downgrading all these years, were forced to tell the
nation that they have had enough. The high and mighty clearly had
not heard of the idiom even a worm will turn.

Military vis-a-vis civil service: two universes

Forget the primary role of defending our national territory, waters
and air space. Forget fighting the armed inimical elements in Jammu
& Kashmir, the Northeast and elsewhere. Now the services are
requisitioned to do the salvage job, every day.

When the deluge ravaged Bihar, Assam, UP and Orissa recently, the
army, navy and air force had to be marshalled to mount rescue
missions. The civil administration was conspicuous by its truancy,
making one wonder why crores are spent on such slothful and corrupt
bodies, as the army will be SOSed ultimately. Mind you, these bodies
are headed by IAS officers, the lot mainly responsible for the
rotten state of governance in this country.

Not just natural disasters; they are summoned when the police bungle
too. When a party of the anti-Naxal force Greyhounds was ambushed at
Chitrakonda in the hills of Malkangiri district of Orissa on June
29, while boating in a reservoir, as the escape routes were heavily
mined, the rescue operations had to be supported by air in marginal
weather. The air effort and the team of 30 divers were provided by
Eastern Naval Command headquartered at Visakhapatnam [Images].

Let me recall a recent newsbrief in a mainstream English daily as a
primer to give you a peek into the contrastive ethos of the military
and civilian universes. The vice chief of naval staff lamented that
when the navy was called in for rescue and relief in inundated parts
of Bihar, formal orders did not come in immediately from the
government, and the financial head of the ministry of defence
refused to release funds, forcing the navy to use its non-public
funds to rush relief teams.

For the babu, the written order dripping officialese is gospel, does
not matter if such devotion leads to the drowning of hundreds of

The serviceman could be excused if he thought that he was being used
by the politicians and bureaucrats to conceal their incompetence and
to clean up the accumulated mess excreted by their rank misrule.

The army, given the emasculation of the state police, will continue
to be employed for internal security -- counter-terrorism, and
before long it will be tasked to crush the subnationalist forces and
insurrectionists like the Maoists. With body bags set to become an
everyday sight, how many parents will be willing to send their sons
to this death trap?

Since the very idea of India is at stake, both the polity and policy
mavens need to put heads together to pre-empt the portent. But who,
ensconced in ivory towers, cares?

The holy warrant of precedence

Why is the State unconscionably shoving its boots on the face of the
military? What explains its downhill journey in the warrant of

Lately, in an article, retired Lt Gen Harwant Singh cited why the
defence officers were being hard-bone-by. The bureaucracy, taking
advantage of the Congress party's detestation of the military, kept
the pot stirred by raising the odds of a military coup, and worked
up this fear to emasculate the status of the top echelon, at the
cost of the nation's overall strategic disadvantage.

A committee of secretaries revises the warrant of precedence
periodically. Gen Harwant Singh writes that as the chief of defence
staff in 1981, Gen O P Malhotra raised the issue of downgrading of
service officers in the warrant of precedence (this has direct
bearing on the pay).

In response, the committee of secretaries recorded, 'Military
officers were placed unduly high in the old warrant of precedence,
presumably as it was considered essential for officers of an army of
occupation to be given special status and authority.' Mind you, it
is not Mirwaiz Umar Farooq but the bureaucrats that called the
Indian Army [Images] as an army of occupation!

Of course, Gen Malhotra riposted that the pliant colonial
bureaucracy (civil servants and police) was the tool of oppression
wielded by the Raj to quell the freedom movement, not the army. In
fact, the strike of naval ratings in Bombay on February 18, 1946,
that spread to major cities was what signalled to the British that
it was time to pack their bags and decamp.

Gen Harwant Singh rightly concluded that it was highly malicious for
anyone to decry the Indian Army as an army of occupation.

Once the political class colluded with the bureaucracy, there was no
stopping the descent down the warrant of precedence. Perhaps the
mandarins still see the military as an army of occupation, which
should explain why they are pulling out all the stops to belittle
it. Hence their effort to further throttle the services through the

Course of action

When I was commissioned into the IAF in 1984, the air force pilot
had the highest starting pay among the central government Class I
officers. (That is history; the Book has been overwritten several

Smitten by aircraft, bewitched by flying, fascinated by the frisson
of foiling gravity, I joined the IAF. The smell of adventure in the
air, the prestige associated with the uniform and the decent quality
of life it offered were simply inciting appetisers. Oddly, till I
was handed my first pay packet, after prevailing three rigorous
years at the National Defence Academy and another exacting year at
the Air Force Academy, I did not know what my starting pay would be!

Will I embrace the IAF again? I doubt. Gone are those days of
chasing quixotic idealism to quench an inner itch. Now lads want to
know how much their sweat will swell the bank account. Unless
military service is made attractive, few will want to join it.

A decade back, an IAS officer of Maharashtra cadre, a friend, told
me he had brought out a paper on the need for officers both military
and civilian to bury the hatchet, complement each other, and work
together for the larger cause of nation-building instead of cutting
the other down to size. Although his supremacist brethren laughed
his treatise out of court, I ditto his standpoint.

Though carved out of the same governmental womb, the professions of
arms and file-pushing are as different, alas as cold to each other,
as the Ambani brothers. So, in the long run, the answer lies in
delinking both the pay and stature of the armed forces from their
civilian counterparts.

As the nature of jobs, career prospects, hierarchy, attributes,
hardships and workplaces are poles apart, the very precept of inter
se parity sounds disjointed. Actually it is preposterous to liken a
major general with 33 years of service to a joint secretary having
17 years under his belt.

The pyramidal promotion-prospects of the forces and everyone-makes-
it framework of the civil services are beyond comparison. Therefore,
prudence suggests that instead of indulging in structural tinkering
through pay commissions, it makes sense to have a separate pay
commission for the defence forces. That is the only durable solution.

As for now, the recently convened ministerial panel must heed the
cry of the armed forces and reinstate its stolen status and
benefits. It is their due. High morale is the best known force

A nation neglects its soldiers at its peril.

M P Anil Kumar is a former fighter pilot with the Indian Air Force.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Now fluttering: The Indian Tricolour on the moon

Now fluttering: The Tricolour on the moon
Vicky Nanjappa

November 14, 2008 20:52 IST
Last Updated: November 14, 2008 22:04 IST

A beaming Tricolour will flutter on the moon now.

India is officially on the moon. After a couple of tense moments, the Lunar Impact Probe which was launched by the Chandrayaan planted the Tricolour on the moon at 8.31pm.

India thus becomes the fourth nation after the US, Japan [Images] and Russia [Images] to have successfully planted their flags on the moon.

At 8.06, the Moon [Images] Impact Probe was released from the Chandrayaan and successfully landed on the moon. The idea to plant the Tricolour on the moon was the brain child of former President of India Dr A P J Abdul Kalam. That, he said, was a way of telling the entire world that India has reached the moon.

The impact probe which was successfully launched will now beam images of its journey. The Moon Impact Probe carries along with it a visual imaging system, mass sectra meter and a radar alti meter.

While the visual imaging system will take images of the surface of the moon, the mass sectra meter will determine the mineral composition of the moon.

The radar alti meter will determine the altitude of the Chandrayaan. ISRO officials say that it would with the visual imaging system ISRO is trying to create the world's best 3D image of the lunar surface.

Apart from this the impact probe will also give details about the mineral and chemical composition of the moon apart from finding out whether there is water on the moon.

"We have reached the moon. It is a remarkable achievement. The MIP impacted the moon at the designated spot," said Madhavan Nair, chairman of ISRO.

6th CPC article espousing the cause of the military by a non-Fauji , a finance expert at that.

Dear Friends,

A well written article espousing the cause of the military by a non -Fauji , a finance expert at that. Sunder, the writer is a former banker who was with the SBI Group and DSP Merrill Lynch Ltd. This Deserves a Standing Ovation......!!!! Read on..

We need a permanent solution to this tussle over emoluments so that the armed forces need only confront the enemies of the nation, says T.R.Ramaswami

In the continuing debate on pay scales for the armed forces, there has to be a serious and transparent effort to ensure that the country is not faced with an unnecessary civil-military confrontation. That effort will have to come from the netas, who are the real and true bosses of the armed forces and not the civil bureaucracy. A solution may lie in what follows. This country requires the best armed forces, the best police and the best civil service. In fact that is what the British ensured.. By best one means that a person chooses which service he wants as per his desires/capabilities and not based on the vast differential in prospects in the various services. How much differential is there? Take Maharashtra, one of the most parsimonious with police ranks thus still retaining some merit - the 1981 IPS batch have become 3-star generals, the 1987 are 2-star and the 1994 1-star.. In the army the corresponding years are 1972, 1975, 1979. – ie a differential of 10-15 years. While the differential is more with the IAS, the variance with the IPS is all the more glaring because both are uniformed services and the grades are "visible" on the shoulders.

First some general aspects. Only the armed forces are a real profession – ie where you rise to the top only by joining at the bottom. We have had professors of economics become Finance Secretaries or even Governors of RBI. We have any number of MBBSs, engineers, MBAs, in the police force though what their qualifications lend to their jobs is a moot point. You can join at any level in the civil service, except Cabinet Secretary. A civil servant can move from Animal Husbandry to Civil Aviation to Fertilisers to Steel to yes, unfortunately, even to Defence.. But the army never asks for Brigade Commanders or a Commandant of the Army War College or even Director General Military Intelligence, even from RAW or IB. Army officers can and have moved into organizations like IB and RAW but it is never the other way round. MBBS and Law graduates are only in the Medical or JAG Corps and do nothing beyond their narrow areas. Every Army Chief - in any army - has risen from being a commander of a platoon to company to battalion to brigade to division to corps to army. In fact the
professionalism is so intense that no non-armoured corps officer ever commands an armoured formation – first and possibly only exception in world military history – General K. Sunderji. Perhaps it is this outstanding professionalism that irks the civil services.

Next, one must note the rigidity and steep pyramid of the army's rank structure. In the civil services any post is fungible with any grade based on political expediency and the desires of the service. For example I know of one case where one department downgraded one post in another state and up-graded one in Mumbai just to enable someone continue in Mumbai after promotion! You can't fool around like this in the armed forces. A very good Brigadier cannot be made a Major-General and continue as brigade commander. There has to be a clear vacancy for a Major General and even then there may be others better than him. Further the top five ranks in the army comprise only 10% of the officer strength. Contrast this with the civil services where entire batches become Joint Secretaries.

Even the meaning of the word "merit" is vastly different in the army and the civil services. Some years back an officer of the Maharashtra cadre claimed that he should be the Chief Secretary as he was first in the merit list. Which merit list? At the time of entry more than 35 years before! The fact is that this is how merit is decided in the IAS and IPS. Every time a batch gets promoted the inter-se merit is still retained as at the time of entry. In other words if you are first in a batch at the time of entry, then as long as you get promoted, you continue to remain first! This is like someone in the army claiming that he should become chief because he got the Sword of Honour at the IMA. Even a Param Vir Chakra does not count for promotion, assuming that you are still alive. In the armed forces, merit is a continuous process - each time a batch is promoted the merit list is redrawn according to your performance in all the previous assignments with additional weightage given not only to the last one but also to your suitability for the next one.

Thus if you are a Brigade Commander and found fit to become a Major General, you may not get a division because others have been found better to head a division. That effectively puts an end to your promotion to Lt. General.

The compensation package must therefore address all the above issues. In each service, anyone must get the same total compensation by the time he reaches the 'mode rank' of his service. "Mode" is a statistical term – the value where the maximum number of variables fall. In the IAS normally everyone reaches Director and in the IPS it is DIG. In the army, given the aforementioned rank and grade rigidities and pyramidical structure, the mode rank cannot exceed Colonel. Thus a Colonel's gross career earnings (not salary scales alone) must be at par with that of a Director. But remember that a Colonel retires at 54, but every babu from peon to Secretary at 60 regardless of performance. Further, it takes 16-18 years to become a Colonel whereas in that time an IAS officer reaches the next higher grade of Joint Secretary, which is considered equal to a Major General. These aspects and others - like postings in non-family stations - must be addressed while fixing the overall pay scales of Colonel and below. Thereafter a Brigadier will be made equal to a Joint Secretary, a Major-General to an Additional Secretary and a Lt. General to a Secretary. The Army Commanders deserve a new rank - Colonel General - and should be above a Secretary but below Cabinet Secretary. The equalization takes place at the level of Cabinet Secretary and Army Chief. If this is financially a problem I have another solution. Without increasing the armed forces' scales, reduce the scales of the IAS and IPS till they too have 20% shortage. Done? Even India 's corruption index will go down. If the above is accepted in principle, there is a good case to review the number of posts above Colonel. Senior ranks in the armed forces have become devalued with more and more posts being created.

But the same pruning exercise is necessary in the IAS and more so in the IPS, where Directors General in some states are re-writing police manuals – one is doing Volume I and another Volume II! Further the civil services have such facilities as "compulsory wait" – basically a picnic at taxpayers cost. And if you are not promoted or posted where you don't want to go they seem able to take off on leave with much ease. In the army you will be court-martialled. Also find out how many are on study leave. The country cannot afford this.

Let not someone say that the IAS and IPS exams are tougher and hence the quality of the officers better. An exam at the age of 24 has to be tougher than one at the age of 16. The taxpaying citizen is not interested in your essay/note writing capabilities or whether you know Cleopatra's grandfather. As a citizen I always see the army being called to hold the pants of the civil services and the police and never the other way round. That's enough proof as to who is really more capable. Also recall the insensitive statements made by the IG Meerut in the Aarushi case and the Home Secretary after the blasts. Further, when the IAS and IPS hopefuls are sleeping, eating and studying, their school mates, who have joined the army, stand vigil on the borders to make it possible for them to do so.

Remember that the armed forces can only fight for above the table pay. They can never compete with the civil services and definitely not with the police for the under the table variety.

Finally, there is one supreme national necessity. The political class – not the bureaucracy - which represents the real civil supremacy better become more savvy on matters relating to the armed forces. Till then they are at the mercy of the civil service, who frequently play their own little war games. At ministerial level there are some very specialized departments – Finance, Railways, Security (Home), Foreign and Defence, where split second decisions are necessary. It is always possible to find netas savvy in finance, foreign relations and railways. Security has been addressed in getting a former IPS officer as NSA at the level of a MoS. Is it time that a professional is also brought into the Defence Ministry as MoS? The sooner the better. In fact this will be better than a CoDS because the armed forces will have someone not constrained by the Army Act or Article 33 of the Constitution. Of course the loudest howls will come from the babus. The netas must realize that a divide and rule policy cannot work where the country's security is concerned. Recall 1962?

Our army, already engaged in activities not core to their functions, including rescuing babies from borewells (!), should not have to engage in civil wars over their pay scales.

The writer is a former banker who was with the SBI Group and DSP Merrill Lynch Ltd.

I only hope our def minister or anyone who would take a reasonable stand for def forces ever gets to see this article. It would definitely affect any person with an iota of integrity.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Purohit’s improbable path to becoming a terrorist - The Hindu

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Purohit’s improbable path to becoming a terrorist

Praveen Swami
Neighbours wonder why the soft-spoken man would want blood on his hands

He appeared pious but made no secret of his political views

He is believed to have set up Abhinav Bharat soon after he moved to Maharashtra in 2005

NEW DELHI: Lieutenant-Colonel Prasad Shrikant Purohit’s ageing mother isn’t the only one who isn’t willing to believe he could be a terrorist.

Just like the communities of many Islamist terror suspects held this summer, his Pune neighbours are struggling to understand why a soft-spoken middle-class man would want the blood of innocents on his hands. The Maharashtra Police’s Anti-Terrorism Squad is working overtime to answer that question. Along with India’s intelligence services, it hopes to establish if Purohit’s case was a one-off or whether, as some fear, it points to a large-scale penetration of India’s armed forces by Hindutva groups. Some answers are beginning to emerge.

Hate school

The son of a bank officer with no particular political leanings, Purohit seems to have first encountered Hindutva politics in his late teens when he attended a special coaching class for short service commission officer-aspirants at the Bhonsala Military School in Pune.

Founded in 1937 by B.S. Moonje, the controversial school drew on fascist pedagogical practices the Hindutva ideologue encountered on a visit to Europe. Moonje, who had earlier served with the British Indian army as a doctor during the visit, met with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and studied fascist institutions.

Purohit’s education at the school helped him secure a commission in the Indian Army. His subsequent career, however, was unexceptional.

In 2002, he participated in 15 Maratha Light Infantry’s counter-terrorism operations in Jammu and Kashmir, but won no special honours. Later, he was given an administrative job linked to the raising of 41 Rashtriya Rifles, a dedicated counter-terrorism formation that operates out of Kupwara, in northern Kashmir. His tenure in Jammu and Kashmir ended in January, 2005, while serving in the Awantipora-based 31-Counter Intelligence Unit of the Military Intelligence Directorate, an assignment not considered among the most prestigious.

Officers who knew Purohit in Jammu and Kashmir described him as devoted to his wife Aparna, a military homoeopath, and their two children. To his colleagues, he appeared pious and soft spoken but made no secret of his political views. He believed that the Indian state was unable to defend Hindus, one contemporary says, and thought it was incumbent on all of us to do something about it.

Investigators suspect Purohit’s decision to set up Abhinav Bharat germinated soon after he moved to Maharashtra in 2005.

Purohit was assigned charge of an Army Liaison Unit, an MI cell responsible for developing and maintaining links between the army and local communities. The job provided a perfect cover for developing contacts with his old school, and the circle of Pune-region Hindutva activists who were connected to it

School commandant Colonel S.S. Raikar, the investigators say, played a key role in putting Purohit in touch with the activists who went on to form Abhinav Bharat. Colonel Raikar, who retired from the Indian Army as head of a Military Intelligence detachment in Manipur, has denied any criminal wrongdoing. The Bhonsala Military School, too, insists it has no links to political groups.

In the summer of 2006, though, Abhinav Bharat held the first of what was to be a series of meetings in rooms provided by the Bhonsala Military School. From the outset, it made no secret of its objectives. Abhinav Bharat drew its name from a terrorist group set up by Hindutva activists in 1904 to fight colonial Britain. Himani Savarkar, grandniece of the Hindutva movement’s founding patriarch Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and niece of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse, was appointed the organisation’s president.

Purohit is alleged to have told Abhinav Bharat supporters that his military background had equipped him, unlike the political leadership of existing Hindutva organisations, to prepare for what he saw as an inevitable Hindu-Muslim civilisational war. He would often invent stories of heroic covert exploits against jihadi terrorists to impress his recruits, member of the investigation team told The Hindu.

Full-time cadre of the organisation were known by the honorific Chanakya, a reference to the scholar-advisor who is reputed to have helped build the foundations for the rule of the emperor Chandragupta Maurya.

In August, 2007, Purohit volunteered for a course in Arabic, a move, the investigators now believe, that was driven less by a desire for learning and more by the prospect of remaining in regular contact with Abhinav Bharat.

When the Indian Mujahideen offensive gathered pace this summer, the investigators say, Abhinav Bharat’s core leadership saw the opportunity to strike. Plans for the Malegaon attack were rapidly put in place, plans that the ATS hopes Purohit’s arrest will help them unravel.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008