The government took a U-turn on the civil-military rank disparity on Friday, deciding to form a panel to look into the row a day after it ruled out a relook at the new norms that have angered the armed forces.
Defence ministry sources said the government has decided to re-examine the “complicated issues” surrounding the rank-equivalence structure to “settle the matter once and for all.”
“Some aspects related to rank parity may not have been fully addressed. The panel will pore over all relevant documents and letters issued during the last 30 years,” a source said.
The committee will also look into the decision of a group of ministers (GoM) on the matter in 2009, which the armed forces are citing to push their case for rank parity with civilians.
“There would have been no controversy if the 2009 GoM decision ratified by the cabinet had been studied along with other documents and court rulings,” a senior army officer said.
The rank parity controversy erupted after hindustantimes.com broke the story on October 24 about a government letter dated October 18 downgrading the status of military officers compared to their civilian counterparts.
The next day, defence minister Manohar Parrikar assured the armed forces that any discrepancy in rank structure would be corrected in a week. But the military’s hopes were dashed on Thursday when the defence ministry said the existing rank equation would stay.
Under the new norms, a civilian principal director who was equivalent to a brigadier was equated to a major general, a director-ranked officer to a brigadier and a joint director to a colonel.
Till now, a major general was on par with a joint secretary and a colonel’s civil administration counterpart was a director. A lieutenant colonel, earlier equivalent to a joint director, has been scaled down to a deputy director.
The rank issue has threatened to widen the civil-military divide against the backdrop of the armed forces’ concerns over the 7th pay commission report and the one rank-one pension (OROP) scheme.
The rank equation is followed while assigning duties, it decides the channel of reporting, plays a role when officers are sent for training courses and also determines perks such as stenographic and secretarial assistance.