Contrary to what is being projected on social media, there is a well-organised, time-tested system of ration procurement, supply and catering in the Army. Army HQ procures dry rations (flour, rice, lentils, tinned substitutes etc) in bulk from the FCI. Perishables (vegetables, milk, meat etc) are bought from suppliers through local contracts. Food is supplied through a system of supply depots and field units. Various scales based on climate, altitude and specialisations like a separate, higher scale for troops in Siachen (taking into account the extreme climate) or again a higher scale for special forces (to cater to their arduous physical exertion) are supplied to units.
Over time, aberrations have crept in of course. L-1 or the system of accepting the lowest bid for supplying perishables has resulted in great variation in quality of vegetables for instance. There have also been welcome reforms like introducing branded rice and flour at select stations with a view to extending it to the whole Army. Cooks, trained in establishments at Bengaluru and Gaya, are now available to cater to Jawans’ palate and regional preferences. Jawans’ ration scales have been enhanced with more meat, eggs and fruit.
By far the biggest factor in ensuring that our Jawans get adequate, wholesome nourishment is the devotion of officers to the men that they command. As long as the sacred officer-Jawan relationship remains strong, we need have no fear for soldiers’ welfare.
NFU FOR ARMED FORCES
Non Functional Upgrade (NFU) enables Group ‘A’ cavil services officers to get the pay scale of the highest promoted officer of their batch even if they themselves are not promoted to the same rank, two years after the batch mate achieves the advancement. This has been done in order to assuage stagnation in the cadre. However, NFU has not been extended to the armed forces even though stagnation is at it’s worst in the services because of their pyramidical structure.
The principal bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), New Delhi, in a recent landmark judgement, has extended NFU to all defence services officers on the same lines as being currently enjoyed by the civil service. The petitioners in this case were Colonel Mukul Dev of the Army’s Judge Advocate General Branch along with some five hundred Army officers. The Union of India has also been denied leave to appeal to the Supreme Court against the judgement.
This should ordinarily mean the rendering of justice unto tens of thousands of services officers. However, given the government’s abysmal track record in implementing court orders and dogged resistance to verdicts of justice, one is not unduly optimistic about NFU being implemented any time soon. A change of mindset is required particularly among military bureaucrats who too seem to be averse to the idea.
INS Kalvari, the first of the six conventionally-powered hunter-killer submarines based on the Scorpene-class, is expected to be commissioned by May. It has been built by Mazagaon Docks Limited under a technology-transfer agreement with the French company DCNS. With superior stealth technology, the Kalvari will be armed with six 533-mm torpedo tubes for launching eighteen Black Shark heavyweight torpedoes or sea-skimming SM 39 Exocet anti-shipping missiles or mines. The Kalvari-class will be a replacement for the Sindhughosh-class and Shishumar-class of submarines acquired in the 80s.
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