The government has assured the military that any disparity in rank structure of its officers with those in civil administration will be removed, slipping into damage control after a defence ministry letter downgraded the status of soldiers.
Any discrepancy in the ranks would be corrected in a week, defence minister Manohar Parrikar said on Tuesday, a day after HT website broke the story about the changes in rank equation that have left the military fuming. The ministry had conveyed the changes in an October 18 letter.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a naval commanders’ conference, the minister said, “Military officers will be on same platform as their civilian counterparts.”
#DefenceDowngrade: Minister Parrikar says if there's any discrepancy in Oct 18 order downgrading military rank, will correct it in 7 days.— Rahul Singh (@rahulsinghx) October 25, 2016
The letter, signed by a joint secretary, said the government had decided on the rank equation after looking at orders issued by the forces during 2003-08. The letter on rank-equivalence norms had Parrikar’s approval.
A civilian principal director, who was equivalent to a brigadier, has been 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 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.
Parrikar, who completes two years in office in November, said he had sought details of the October 18 letter and previous circulars/orders as well.
“Rank equation has gone wonky. It’s high time the government set things right and restore the status of defence officers,” said brigadier Pradeep Sharma (retired).
Parrikar will scrutinise the orders to detect anomalies that threaten to widen the civil-military divide against the backdrop of the armed forces concerns over seventh pay commission report and the one rank-one pension (OROP) scheme.
“It is an incontrovertible fact that the status of armed forces has been progressively diluted over last few years. This creates bad blood between the civilian and military services, which is best avoided,” said brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal (retired).
Several serving officers HT spoke to said the orders mentioned in the October 18 letter were only for internal management.
“What should be taken note of is whether the government is ready to act quickly or not,” Parrikar said. “When the seventh pay panel order was issued, there was some issue about a small paragraph. We got it removed.”
He said the government was sensitive to the military’s concerns and whenever “lacunae or difficulties” were brought to his notice, he had acted on them.