Guest post by UJITHRA PONNIAH
‘7th Pay Commission: Modi government’s Diwali bonanza to armed forces! Indian soldiers to get 10% arrears’, on October 13, 2016 Zee News the current government’s pet broadcaster, tried to quell the rising disquiet within sections of the armed forces with the 7th pay commission recommendations[i]. The recommendations of the 7th pay commission headed by a retired Supreme Court judge, Justice Ashok Kumar Mathur came into effect from the January 1st, 2016. The three military chiefs in an uncharacteristic move since then have written repeated letters to the government, expressing their rising unhappiness within the ranks only to be swiftly turned down. The last on the matter from the defence minister Manohar Parrikar is a promise of referring the anomalies to a higher panel, a black hole where many concerns in the past have also been lost. Along with the current serving military chiefs, 10 ex-chiefs have also written to the Prime Minister, only to be met with the selective silence that many in the country are well familiar with[ii]. So what are the military’s concerns with the current pay commission?[iii] They can be swiftly summarized around three points though the issues run deeper: an increasing disparity between the military and the civilian central government employees both in terms of pay and hike (for example a hardship allowance for an IAS officer posted in the north east is more than a soldier in Siachen); a downsizing of the disability pension in the military; and the clubbing of the military service pay (MSP) of junior commissioned officers (who rise from within the ranks of the jawans) and the jawans[iv].
Continue reading Beyond pop nationalism – How neoliberalism affects the jawan: Ujithra Ponniah
Guest post by GAUTAM NAVLAKHA
Notwithstanding popular perception, professional soldiers do not join the armed services out of overwhelming ‘patriotism’. They are in fact driven by the desire to get a job that offers material security for them and their family. It is predominantly their own livelihood needs that drives people to enlist. On the other hand, the main objective of any government’s concern is to keep the morale of such professional soldiers high, so that they would go out and fight anyone as directed by the government, whether it is ‘enemies’ outside the nation’s borders or within – conducting the predatory war for ‘development’ which profits the corporate class or suppressing popular movements.
More than 101 Districts out of 680 in India are notified as ‘Disturbed Area’ where the military forces enjoy immunity from prosecution and exercise extraordinary authority. In addition, in 35 other districts similar conditions operate even though these have not been notified as “Disturbed Area”. However, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs exempts the personnel, through a notification, from prosecution for any crime they commit in course of their service in the designated areas. In the ‘Disturbed Areas’ the Army has begun to exercise veto power over both withdrawal of troops as well as removal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act. That apart, the very size of the military force, its use and misuse, its degradation, the fiscal ramifications and socio-political consequences of a bloated military are some of the aspects that invite scrutiny. Continue reading Armed Forces as livelihood and State power: Gautam Navlakha