One news report I heard last night is haunting me.
NDTV carried a story last night saying that there was a great deal of frustration in the armed forces on the huge disparity between the salaries of the armed forces and other wings of the government. Though the recent Pay Commission has tried to increase the payout to the armed forces, it is still peanuts. Fortunately the service chiefs recognised this and rejected the revised pay-package to bargain for more.
And if you pay peanuts, you will get monkeys. But national security is no monkey business.
It's sad, really really sad. These brave men lay down their lives defending our borders for us and yet we fail to give them sufficient dignity and respect. The corrupt bureaucrat takes a fatter paycheck than the average army officer. Is this how the honesty and bravery of our soldiers is rewarded? This is probably why the armed forces are not able to attract talent.
Today we dream of becoming a world power, a superpower - of having an economic might, exceeding some G8 countries. But we forget that economic power and military might go hand in hand. To defend our economic interests, we need a blue water navy patrolling the key shipping lanes. We need a air force that allows us to reach the Atlantic, Europe, Australia-Pacific, Africa, etc. And we need a land force to guard against our deceptive northern neighbour, whom we should not trust at any cost.
To do all this we need strategic minds -- minds that can plan not for today but for the next 30-50 years -- minds that can craft a viable military doctrine. In short, we need sharp minds. And we need a lot more officers and soldiers who are able to implement the crafted military doctrine. But today, why would any sane mind join the armed forces today, when a peer who is not so bright can join, say a BPO, earn more and enjoy life?
It's sad that the government is living in a state of denial -- it is shocking. They did show some foresight in enabling acquisition of the required military hardware -- Phalcon AWACS, IL78 mid-air refuellers that enable our Sukhoi Su30s to reach Alaska without halts, but that is simply not enough. But where is the talent to run these machines?
Respect is not only about the pay-package. It is also about honour. Not very long ago, we fought the Kargil war with Pakistan, came out victorious, thanks to some heroes, some of whom laid down their lives. These brave men were honoured - Vir Chakras, Ashok Chakras, etc. But their families did face a lot of harassment at the hands of greedy bureaucrats when it came to handing out the compensation -- this was well documented in the media and cinema also highlighted this issue. Is this how we respect our soldier? We all remember how the government recently Field Marshall Sam Maneckshaw "honoured" in death.
Dr. Manmohan Singh had the foresight to craft the nuclear deal for energy security. Dr. Singh yesterday mentioned that India loves Bush, for whatever he did for India.
But Dr. Singh, India also loves their brave soldiers and so you better show some respect to them. Don't test the soldier's patience anymore.