Exactly as the Narendra Modi government at the Centre and the BJP inundates social media as well as roads and public spaces in poll-bound states such as Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, with the posters of Indian Army's surgical strike that shows blown-up faces of the BJP leaders, the disheartening news of Army's disability pensions facing massive cuts is percolating among the rank and file of the country's armed forces.
According to this Business Standard report by veteran commentator and retired Army man Ajai Shukla, the ministry of defence "issued a letter that dramatically reduced pensions for soldiers invalided out from the Army after being crippled by battle injuries, or by injuries directly attributable to hazardous military service".
To add insult to injury, this terrible betrayal of a letter was issued on September 30, just a day after the surgical strike across the Line of Control in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir was conducted and then announced with immense fanfare on live television.
Here are six quick points on the latest decision by Modi sarkar and the political calculations and implications that go with it.
|According a Business Standard report, Indian Army pensions have been massively slashed by the ministry of defence on September 30, one day after the surgical strike across LoC. [Photo: Agencies]|
A huge letdown for defence personnel
Ajai Shukla breaks down exactly how, under the revised scheme effective retrospectively from January 1, 2017, will the defence personnel, who have faced grievous battle injuries, or are suffering from problems, ailments physiological and psychological that are attributable to military service, be getting only a portion of the disability pensions that he had been getting under the Sixth Pay Commission.
For example, a soldier who received Rs 45,200 as disability pension per month hitherto, would be getting only Rs 27,000 a month under the revised scheme. Majors with 10 years of service would be entitled to a staggering Rs 70,000 less a month henceforth. Those belonging to "other ranks" (OR), would be getting only Rs 12,000 a month as disability pension.
Milking the Army's achievements
So far, whether it's on news channels or on social media, we have seen a flurry of comments, tweets, posts and commendations by the BJP leaders, spokespersons and Union ministers including PM Narendra Modi, at the expense of the Special Forces' September 29 surgical strikes across LoC exterminating terror launch pads stationed in PoK.
In Assembly poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, Narendra Modi is being portrayed as Lord Ram who punished the evil Ravana in Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif, with only a silhouette of the soldier in the poster. This, despite the PM's casual, insincere instruction not to politicise the surgical strikes.
The most brazen flouting of PM's advice came from none other than BJP national secretary Amit Shah. In addition, none other than defence minister Manohar Parrikar had dubbed the armed forces as a clueless "Hanuman" who finally found its calling under the guidance of Narendra Modi government.
Naturally miffed, the Army and the previous UPA dispensation ensured that a "scoop" / "surgical leak" was published in a leading national daily, The Hindu, that gave details of a no-holds-barred surgical special forces operation in 2011, involving "beheadings" to boot!
Timed to insult
That the decision to slash the disability pension came barely a day after this major military achievement speaks volumes about exactly how much the present dispensation "cares" about its brave army cadres. It's evident that Army's selfless work is mere election fodder for the hypernationalism-spouting BJP.
Given that surgical strikes, including the ones carried out during the UPA regimes, is expected to incur often grievous injuries for the soldier giving an arm or a limb in service for his country, cutting the disability pension is a rude joke that not only insults the soldier but in fact leaves him hanging on his own without enough post-service financial support for himself and his family.
Pay scale battle
As reported in the Economic Times, the focus of surgical strike has taken the attention away from the long-drawn pay scale battle that the armed forces personnel are fighting against a recalcitrant and insensitive government. Even the arrears payment looks jeopardised until the "Indo-Pak issue is resolved", said the report, which means the soldiers and military officers would be left without much to cheer for this festive season.
It seems Diwali and Dusshera have come only for political parties exploiting the surgical strike to the hilt for their private electoral gains, leaving the armed forces to wage a solitary battle over basic amenities such as a decent financial remuneration, pensions and a dignified life post retirement.
Shaming the tricolour
While the televised byte of the tricolour-shrouded coffins of slain soldiers runs practically on loop in these tense times of escalated problems with Pakistan, a recently a Dadri murder accused, who died of lung infection, was wrapped in the Indian national flag and his "mourning ceremony" saw anti-Muslim hate speeches and a visit by Union culture minister Mahesh Sharma, whose parliamentary constituency it is.
Met the family of deceased Ravi in Bisara village, Greater Noida. Bisara get settled now pic.twitter.com/RfDzga3ddC— Dr. Mahesh Sharma (@dr_maheshsharma) October 7, 2016
Does the Indian soldier deserve to be compared to a communally motivated murder accused, as the latter too is hailed as a martyr and is rewarded with a hefty government compensation, even as the soldier fights for dignified financial support even after his death?
No questioning the Rafale deal
Exactly as the government squeezes the army personnel's disability pensions and sits on their arrear payments, a massively bloated Rafale deal is virtually facing no interrogation from the so-called defence journalists as well as experts of the country.
From a fleet of 126 Rafales that India was originally supposed to acquire (buying 18 ready-to-fly planes and manufacturing the rest 108 by HAL in India via technology transfer) from the French defence company Dassault at the cost of 10.2 billion US dollars, under the current dispensation led by Narendra Modi, India has bought just 36 planes for 8.74 billion US dollars. In other words, the cost per plane has shot up from 81 million US dollars to 243 million US dollars, incurring a straight threefold increase in the price!
Where is the hue and cry over the fact that this threefold price hike for the Indian government came after Mukesh Ambani entered into a partnership with Dassault?
Moreover, instead of HAL and the technology transfer that was supposed to accompany the deal, it's Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence, a company that is barely one year old and has absolutely no tested competence in manufacturing military quality aircraft spare parts, in addition to already having a staggering Rs 12,600 crore in bank debts, that has bagged the "offset" contract?
Given that the Rafale medium multi-role combat aircraft will be used by the fighter pilots of our Indian Air Force, how can Reliance Defence, a nascent company with zero credentials, guarantee that the pilots' safety will be the first and foremost on their agenda, in the wake of the fact that the technology transfer clause has been duly removed from the deal? And what about the billions of dollar loss to the public sector HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) which has been duly dropped from the deal, along with its decades of expertise at defence manufacturing?
Is this the shining example of Modi's Make in India - to pump the taxpayers' money into the already unfathomably deep pockets of the corporate oligarchs and denying the battle-bruised soldier his much deserved disability pension to the full?
It's a travesty of justice that the Indian soldier is browbeaten and demoralised to this extent by those very people who boast the most of their nationalist credentials and want no questions asked on its utterly errant political machinations and extremely suspect defence sweet deals. How is Rahul Gandhi wrong in dubbing this faux patriotism of this martyr-factory that is the current Indian governement as "khoon ki dalali"?
Watch: Nawaz Sharif at it again: Hails Burhan wani as martyr, assures support to Kashmiris