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C3S Members’ Corner: 01/2020
Of late a lot of gratuitous advice is found in Indian news media mostly by retired mandarins, civil servants and officers of the armed forces on how to tackle emergencies be they at the border or within the country.
Many of these advisors while in service were mostly pushing files up or down. Every time a crisis hits the country then they are all busy giving suggestions to improve things which probably they did not while in service.
This India – China conflict at the border should have been sensed by the NSAs who have been endlessly meeting their counterparts without anybody being wiser about the results of the meetings. The PMs have been content with such things till the dirt hit the fan as they call it.
China is a one-man country and he does not have to push many files. Getting desperate at home and wanting to divert attention he just pushes the button for his forces to move into Indian territory when we are asleep as it happened when the leaders on both sides were swinging on the swings as age-old friends. The media started talking about Wuhan or Mahabalipuram “spirits “ when no real spirit was served there with Modi being a teetotaller. But the Chinese forces were creeping in as the Pakistani forces did in Kargil while the Musharraf – Vajpayee talks were going on.
Why should this happen again and again?
Why are the armed forces allowing such things to happen in spite of their being one of the finest fighting forces in the world? Why does the government have to wake up and make hurried purchases of weaponry?
Two years ago the HAL offered to build the same Sukhois but were not given any orders but now it had to be done in the teeth of US sanctions against Russia.
Years ago a mountain corps was approved but curtailed drastically by a Finance Minister for want of money, but it was available for several freebies that did catch votes.
It is time for Modi to make a paradigm change in governance which he alone now can make without question. The author’s suggestions are:
1. Issue orders for short service commissions of 3/5/7 years for physically and mentally fit young men and women without the army stalling it in the name of the deep selection. Similarly, soldiers also are given the option to serve for 3/5/7 years after training. PM Modi was not the result of a deep selection process but emerged as a PM from a tea shop. The army should give up this obsession with a deep selection which they can reserve for the NDA selection process.
2. All central govt rules are amended to allow these officers and men/ women to compete for a limited exam for govt posts and they are given the full benefit of their service for seniority and pension. This was done earlier and can be done now but the PM must issue a cabinet order on this. If he asks for Babus or armed forces to make the proposals some assistant in the ministry will come up with hundreds of files how it cannot be done. There is a Parliamentary committee recommendation available for making service in the armed forces compulsory for any government service.
3. Rules of recruitment for the CPOs be amended for them to first absorb these young men and women who come out after their service in the forces against vacancies before they are advertised. Several pay commissions have recommended this but again they are in the dust bins.
4. Modiji should also make it possible for mentally and physically fit retired government officials on the civilian side to be on a RESERVE LIST to be called upon to take up assignments during emergent times such as war, natural calamities or even during normal times when their services are considered essential. This must become a condition precedent for any person joining government service.
Most of them now, as soon as they get their pensions to become Defence analysts if they are from the forces, or become lobbyists for weapon companies. The retired bureaucrats join as directors in the very same companies they regulated or even prosecuted to draw allowances to the tune of even one crore per annum and attacking the very govt which have made that possible for them. They also draw fat pensions in addition.
For example, in this pandemic, many of them could have rendered great service all be it in offices to monitor, collect statistics and do other chores which the regular officers now do along with their field responsibilities.
5. Govt of India should call a halt to buying cheap from China and ask Industrialists to make whatever can be made in India efficiently and economically domestically within two years in all areas where it can be done not that imports should be banned. They should innovate and make better and newer products. Billionaires in India make all the billions by producing not even one single technologically world-class product that acquired the standards of Apple or Google or Facebook. That is their genius. But could they not now use those billions to make a truly major breakthrough in any field where people around the world are groping to find a solution like for example a universal anti-snake venom( 1.4 million people die in India due to snake bites and anti snakebite venoms are snake specific) or a cure for retinitis pigmentosa which causes blindness amongst the young and old alike or an alternative for lithium-ion batteries. Of what use are those billions when once you are dead. Can not they emulate Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos and leave behind a name for the world to cherish?
6. The government should allow free flow of funds for the development of a fifth-generation MRCA on which work started some years ago but stopped and restarted again. In China, this probably does not happen. This is exactly why the development of TEJAS took such a long time. Do we not learn lessons but subject even national priority projects to the whims of political expediencies?
The GOI has reportedly started with the indigenisation of production of active pharmaceutical ingredients for which are almost wholly dependent on China hopefully they will pursue it vigorously.
A nation that can land a probe on the moon or mars is definitely capable of producing an air conditioner in India. Many large companies shamelessly closed down their production in India to source cheap from China even deceiving customers on the quality of products. This pursuit of cheap goods must stop. We produce them cheap in India.
China never permitted many Indian exports into their country piling up billions of dollars of trade surplus of around $300 billion in the last 5 years when China spent around $700 billions on their armed forces during the same period, in effect translating that into India financing the modernisation of their armed forces to seize our territory and get twenty of our soldiers clobbered to death in Ladakh. What a shame even though we might have paid them back in their own coin. If only the armed forces had been vigilant all along the LAC could this have happened?
We must have a provision in the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act of 2012 that at no time the budget for the armed forces should go below 2% of the GDP. Simultaneously the provision for health and education should not be less than 3% of GDP each at the least. If the amounts provided cannot be spent in any year then it should get funded and not reappropriated for other uses.
(Mr M. R. Sivaraman IAS (Retd.), Former Revenue Secretary GOI, ED IMF and Adviser UN SC CTC; Vice-President, C3S. Views expressed are personal)