Checking piracy

Checking piracy

Your call to the government that it’s about time to counter the menace of piracy is timely. (“Indian seafarers turn wary of sailing through Somalian waters", Mint, 1 October, and Quick Edit, 2 October). The defence minister’s statement that “a strategy to counter the threat of piracy would be put in place soon" and “ruling out any hot pursuit of pirates" reflects poor preparedness and the slow pace with which authorities react. Even as our naval strength is inadequate to meet the emerging situation in the region, it’s disgusting to see the government’s weakness in not asserting its authority in the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. It’s not enough to crow about economic growth when little is done to protect our shipping from piracy.

—S. Subramanyan

The Quick Edit “Unreasonable demands", Mint, 29 September, did not do justice to the issues at hand.

The three Armed Forces chiefs have rightly acted by bringing to the notice of the government the serious anomalies in the Sixth Central Pay Commission (CPC) award approved by the Union cabinet.

It’s clear that Armed Forces chiefs acted in the national interest, for such an issue has a direct bearing on the morale and the fighting spirit of the Armed Forces. All previous requests by the chiefs to give justice to the Armed Forces fell on deaf ears. The government, by its stubbornness in not acceding to the genuine demands of the Armed Forces, has ensured that despondency sets in.

Soon after the CPC recommendations were announced in March, various anomalies were pointed out by different departments, including the allied services, academia, the police and the military, among others, and civil servants were tasked with the complex and challenging job of fine-tuning the report. Regrettably, these recommendations of the committee of secretaries that was constituted to harmonize the CPC distorted the final pay scales to the detriment of the Armed Forces in relation to the paramilitary. These distortions at the lieutenant colonel and equivalent level have immediate operational implications and were brought to the notice of the ministry of defence in late August, but from the current pattern of events, it’s evident that the defence minister was not apprised of the enormity of this bureaucratic insensitivity. Why the committee of secretaries came to this decision is intriguing and merits scrutiny at the highest political level.

The implication of this revision of pay bands is that a commandant of the Border Security Force (BSF) and coast guard, who till now was deemed to be junior to an army lieutenant colonel and a naval commander — they wear similar rank badges — will not only receive much higher pay but will have legitimate reason to consider himself to be senior to his military counterparts. The current operational directives to the Indian military as derived from the Constitution envisage that the three Armed Forces of the nation are the lead services and that in times of war, the paramilitary and the coast guard will function under the unified command of the military. The current anomalies in the CPC will completely distort this carefully arrived at hierarchy and given the ongoing low intensity conflict and internal security tasking of the Indian Army, BSF and the Central Reserve Police Force, serious operational imbalances will invariably occur.

Please appreciate that defence personnel have lost their fundamental right to strike work and bargain their emoluments like civilian employees. Even the police personnel can do that. Is it not the responsibility of the government to look into the needs of the defence personnel?

— Col S.L. Narula (retd)