- This is one such phenomenon frequently witnessed across the world, irrespective of the standings, whenever a government in power attempts to introduce reformist measures with an aim to usher in much-needed changes. Experience suggests that nobody in their right mind questions the intent but the manner with which the implementation goes about is always questioned. Most often than not, the opposition to reforms envisaged is a direct result of the lack of open communication, opaqueness surrounding the move, and general cynicism about the government’s initiative.
PC: William Malsam
- The Indian citizens witnessed how the much-needed three Agri-Laws were met with stiff resistance from the farming community leading to a prolonged agitation that eventually resulted in the withdrawal of the same. Did someone say the only constant in life is the change itself? The increasingly worrying protests that erupted in the Hindi heartland against the Agnipath scheme of the Union Government is yet another instance of reforms being opposed stiffly. Alarmingly, the protests are spreading to more states even as we deliberate on the merits and demerits of the scheme introduced to even out the burgeoning salaries and pension bills of the armed forces.
- Needless to mention, nothing justifies the arson and other acts of violence. Understood, the underlying tension within the millions of youths about the depressing unemployment scenario is a genuine concern. But it does not mean the youngsters will indulge in anti-social disruptions causing extensive damage to public properties. Also, what this protest show is the scale of challenges in initiating reforms in India, even when fronted by a prime minister with the strongest political mandate in almost 50 years. Of course, one reason is pushback by interest groups that benefit from the status quo.
PC: Lane Report
- Equally, sloppy planning and execution feed into a pre-existing credibility crisis governments face making it even tougher. However, none can dispute the fact that military pension reforms are an absolute necessity given the budgetary spending. In hindsight, it appears the fiscally reckless act of introducing One Rank One Pay (OROP) without a concomitant move to rationalize numbers may have made introducing Agnipath inevitable. As reports suggest, the military’s pension spending increased from 19% of total defense expenses in 2010-11 to 26% a decade later, thereby squeezing out expenses on armaments. India’s challenge is not unique. China’s PLA’s modernization exercise last decade included demobilizing officers.
- However, a commentary by Rand Corporation observed there were concurrent steps to ease the transition. Chinese government officials were explicitly tasked to help in the job search and matching process, and it was linked to their promotion. It’s in such crucial areas of execution that India’s reform efforts falter. While the Indian government did well to offer a one-time waiver on the age it would have been better to have a credible pathway for lateral entry into paramilitary forces. Why? Because promises of priority at a future date will not cut in given the low confidence levels in government promises. Direct messaging too would have helped. Indeed the political executive has to take ownership before and during the process of implementing reforms.