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Govt downgrades ranks of defence officers, civil-military rift may widen

The government seems to have downgraded the status of military officers compared to their civilian counterparts, a new defence ministry letter accessed by HT has revealed.

india Updated: Oct 24, 2016 23:37 IST
Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh
Hindustan Times
Military,Defence ministry,Civil-military rift
An ambassador car drives past the country's seat of power South Block, which houses the defence ministry.(AP Photo)

The government has downgraded the status of military officers compared to their civilian counterparts, a new defence ministry letter accessed by HT has revealed.

A civilian principal director, who was equivalent to a brigadier, has been equated to a two-star general, a director-ranked officer to a brigadier and a joint director to a colonel, triggering widespread resentment in military circles.

Until now, a colonel was equivalent to a director and a lieutenant colonel to a joint director.

The letter, dated October 18, talks about rank “equivalence” between defence officers and “armed forces headquarters civil service officers”. It says issues regarding rank equation were examined in detail.

“By this equation, a captain is equivalent to a civilian Group B section officer. This isn’t mischief, but mischief-plus by bureaucrats,” said an army officer on condition of anonymity.

The letter, signed by a joint secretary, says the government has referred to administrative orders issued by the army, navy and air force during 2003-08. Several serving officers HT spoke to said the orders mentioned in the letter were only for internal cadre management.

“They have deliberately misinterpreted the orders. It’s an attempt to reverse clearly established protocols established by successive pay panel reports and court rulings,” said another officer, who did not wish to be named. He said the diktat was also against the spirit of recommendations made by a GoM headed by Pranab Mukherjee after the 6th Pay Commission report.

The letter states the rank equation laid down in it is to be followed in assigning duties/functional responsibilities and for all purposes such as channel of reporting, detailing of officers for training courses, providing stenographic assistance etc. HT is in possession of the letter.

A defence ministry official said he was aware of the communication but not all the details, adding that the letter says some points have been reiterated.

The letter says in the recent past some directorates have sent communications questioning the established rank equations by relying on incorrect information.

The letter No A/24577/CAO/CP Cell further states, “A common presumption in these communications is a pay determined rank equation which is erroneous as a different pay and rank structure exists for the the armed forces.” The letter has the defence minister’s approval.

The letter has stoked a controversy at a time when the armed forces and the ministry have divergent views on the 7th Pay Commission report and the OROP.

“The October 18 letter has downgraded the status of defence officers to a level lower than even Group B service officers. We have been stabbed in the back,” said a senior officer.

The civil-military rift will further widen if the issue is not resolved, said sources.

“For the morale of soldiers, victory in this internal battle is very important,” the sources added.

First Published: Oct 24, 2016 23:30 IST