Monday, 30 August 2010

Update from Leh - Insaniyat Team

We returned from Leh with a bag of mixed feelings. It was heart breaking to see the devastation. It was heart wrenching to see people who had lost everything, who would urge us to offer the relief supplies to someone needier. There was no jostling, pushing or grabbing. They stood with a quiet dignity accepting gratefully what was handed out.

People who had lost family members silently mourned their loss. We discovered they had a great sense of community living, sharing equally what little they had.. It was also heart warming to see the hope of strength with which they were ready to pick up the pieces. Corruption and Crime, we learned, was one of the lowest in the country. We infact received more than we gave. It was very rewarding and satisfying. We returned truly humbled.

Now for some mundane facts and data. We had put together 500 “family packs” which made distribution easier. Each pack contained a sleeping bag, a 12’x12’ tarpaulin, a blanket, a kerosene stove, a bucket with mug , a jerry can , a 13 piece set of steel utensils, a toilet kit and a torch. In addition we too 200 non-electric steel water purifiers, 200 blankets, and 20 high altitude (12’x12’) tents. All these were personally distributed by the INSANIYAT team.

Everyone knows that the Army has a huge presence in LEH. But what everyone doesn’t know is how the Army took charge instantly, starting rescue, clearing and cleaning operations. Simultaneously they provided medical and relief in housing, feeding and clothing the disaster stricken. All this while the local authorities were still in shock and inertia.

Regretfully the press has been rather irresponsible in reporting matters leading articles with big pictures of politicians visiting Leh made front page news. Lots of promises were made and a relief package announced.

Somewhere on page4 a small article mentioned the visit of the Army Chief of staff. No mention of the commendable work the Army was doing. Let us stand and salute the Army.

Unlike other disaster stricken areas, where relief and rehab can go on for many months, Leh has less than a 2 month window left. After this temperatures will drop precariously and any action will be impossible. Their greatest need right now is to build homes before the onset of Winter. After providing them with some basic provisions, we plan to finance some prefabricated housing .

We would like to thank all our friends for their generous contributions . Individual receipts will be sent.

Thanking you
Insaniyat Team

Monday, 23 August 2010

Indian Army Pay Scales: An Indian shame, as battle veterans of the Indian Army return medals & protest for what is their right.

An Indian shame, as old veterans of the Indian Army return medals and protest for what is their right. Glaring too is the hike given to parliamentarians in comparison. The real reason some believe for the alarming shortfall in the Officers and men of the Indian Army, despite all the spin! 
It does seem that Indian politicians and bureaucrats are set to destroy the one remaining institution of the Indian Republic. 
Below I am reproducing an e-mail that explains the issue in great lucidity:

Pay scales for the Armed Forces: Views of an IAS Officer

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, IAS.

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 is 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 18-20 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 eg one is doing Volume I and another Volume II!

Further the civil services have such facilities as "compulsory wait" ie “ 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 eg: 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.

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


Monday, 16 August 2010

India Again Looking for a Magic Bullet in Kashmir

By Shael Sharma on Monday, August 16, 2010 at 7:44pm

Instead of looking for a magic bullets, the policy wonks in MHA, Intelligence Agencies and PMO, should be doing what is real: ensure the credibility of the Indian state and ensure Law & Order.

While the intense focus of the Media and the resultant perception is creating confusion and obfuscating reality. Everyone in the UPA2 "Strategic Thinking" team seems to be in a state of silent freak out and alarm.

The wonks in MHA & PMO are looking for some exotic strategy, almost paralyzed by the wave of media hostility and disinformation on some districts of the Kashmir valley, in what was essentially petty criminals and OGWs (over ground workers) and out of work militants indulging in stone throwing and criminal arson.

What is really the news? To start with we managed to let the intelligence guard down and did not see this coming.

We have also let this happen before, and then the slow murderous crawl of the Indian Army in bringing Kashmir back in 1989!

The attack on 48 RR of the Indian Army and their subsequent neutralization of 3 terrorists in Rajouri today clearly brings home this point.

What is a multi-pronged assault, needs to be countered back on multiple fronts-soft and hard, economic and counter-terror but before all of this the supremacy of the state and its authority must not be allowed to be compromised, as seems the current aspiration of the current play by malcontents and their Pakistani backers in the Pakistan Army' Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).

The use of women and innocent children on the front line is an old ploy in such protests and the sensationalism value especially to media, and ensuing perception is highly calculated in its social engineering, which needs effective counter insurgency and terror strategies. The MHA and other security apparatus have not effectively countered this information warfare, and this has created a perception gap between reality and disinformation, where an ambulance chasing media has amplified bad news either by design or mistaken liberalism.

There is no magic solution to the insurgency or to infiltration. Economic integration of J&K is a first step, followed by abrogation of Article 370, ensuring the iron handling of security, and ensuring Law & Order. There can be no compromise with secularism or with territorial integrity for that is the bedrock of the Indian sovereignty, the plinth of the Indian dream.

Make no mistake: acts of omission or commission aren't really different in the 5 or so scamp districts led by Srinagar. Those who don't condemn stone throwing are as guilty, just as they were complicit when the genocide against Kashmiri Pandits was perpetrated.

The Muslim-Buddhist violence and tension in Ladakh again is a symptom of this covert militancy shrouded under religion. Kashmiri Muslims may be a majority in the valley, but regions of Jammu, Ladakh (glad the PM is finally visiting Leh and hopefully some good may come off it to the suffering people of Ladakh!) are not, both with a good sprinkling of Hindu, Buddhist, Shia and Sunni, who do not support the insurgency.

What is being glorified as Intifada and Azaadi (freedom) is sophistry and propaganda localized in 5 odd districts including the Srinagar valley only. This needs effective media management, and currently the initiative is not with our security or strategic set-up, who have failed in this area miserably.

In India, as anywhere else in the world, if you go and try to indulge in what is essentially criminal arson and assault, and stone throwing, expect to be shot at after due warning, law & order needs to be maintained with a iron hand, for the might of the state and its authority can not be undermined for essentially a whimsical and secessionist agenda.

Talks against real or imagined grouses can come, when things are calmer and never with a gun to the head, for the best negotiation comes from a position of strength and the last few statements by the UPA including the PM's statement of 15th August have done more harm than good, as they seem made under duress rather than with a welfare mindset.

The partition of undivided India was clearly on religious lines; any revisionist moves are nonviable to India and anathema to its idea of secularism, sovereignty and should be put down by force if necessary, especially if resulting from a frequent foreign sponsored religious mutiny by traitors and scamps.

Pakistan has lost every time in its designs persistently since 1947, 1948, 1965, 1971, Siachen, 1989, and Kargil, have borne witness. And it is this demon that Indian strategy has to slay again and not let down its guard or history will repeat!

Instead of looking for a magic bullet, if everyone in the strategic set-up and state administration do their job, and the political leadership in J&K became truly representative and not a monarchy! The leaders today are either legacy family scions or secessionist plants of Pakistan and do not seem to represent the malcontent youth's economic and other political aspirations.

The Indian Army in isolation and with great cost in blood and privation certainly has delivered, again and again, and remains an institution that today can claim to be the sole guardian of India's freedom and security, despite the bureaucratic, intelligence and political follies, and frequent bad judgment practiced in Kashmir for decades.

That then is a solution and we will ensure peace harmony and the dream of an India, that lives a multi-cultural existence, with multi-religious tolerance, and banish the two-nation theory once again! The answers are all there, in the words of the founding fathers, only if we cared to look.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Ladakh Disaster Relief

As disaster strikes, INSANYIAT once again springs into action. As you may recall Insaniyat is a Delhi based NGO spearheaded by my mother, Dr. Naresh Trehan and Pam Kapoor. Its primarily involved with disaster relief work. It was formed in response to the Gujarat Bhuj earthquake in 2001 and has since provided disaster relief aid to people affected by the Kargil war and Andaman tsunami, amongst others.

In response to the recent mudslides and floods that have devastated Ladakh, an Insanyiat team, including my mother, is heading up to Ladakh along with relief supplies later this week. The National Disaster Management Authority will airlift the supplies from Delhi to Leh on Saturday, August 14 and the Insanyiat team will start distribution on Sunday, August 15.As per Insanyiat's mission statement, their team will personally distribute each kit, rather than pass them off to another NGO or civil authorities.

Insanyiat is taking 500 Family Packs. Our composite ' family pack' consists of a sleeping bag, tarpaulin, blanket, 13 piece set of steel utensils, kerosene stove, water purifier, jerrycan, bucket with mug, bath towel, toilet kit, nylon rope etc. In addition we are sending 20 High Altitude tents (12' x 12'). Each kit costs apprx. Rs. 2000 and each tent is Rs. 10,000.Any number of kits or tents you wish to sponsor with be greatly appreciated. Cheques can be made in favour of 'Insanyiat'. Donations in cash are also welcome.

Please send to the following address:
Roshni Khattar
Empire EstateHouse
#8 Sultanpur, MG road
New Delhi 110030

Thanks and take care,

Roshni Khattar 

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