Defence ministry denies eroding military’s status, but GoM report contradicts MoD - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Thursday 27 October 2016

Defence ministry denies eroding military’s status, but GoM report contradicts MoD

The 1992 letter from tri-service chief, General SF Roderigues, complaining to the MoD about incorrectly enhancing civilian officials' status vis-a-vis military officers

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 28th Oct 16

The government faces growing criticism for slashing the military’s pay, status and disability pensions even as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) reaps political benefits in on-going election campaign from the “surgical strikes” the army launched on Lashkar-e-Toiba launch pads in September.

On Monday, The Telegraph reported that the ministry of defence (MoD) had summarily downgraded the status of military officers by a notch, relative to their civilian colleagues. Facing sharp public criticism, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar promised he would not allow the status of the armed forces to be eroded.

On Thursday, the MoD flatly denied any reduction in the military’s status, stating: “there has been no down-gradation or any change in the existing equivalence of the Service ranks whatsoever. The existing functional equivalence as clarified in 1991 and further reiterated in 1992, 2000, 2004 and 2005 has only been re-affirmed.”

Essentially, the MoD cited multiple letters to argue that the “functional equivalence” between military officers and Armed Forces Headquarters Civil Service (AFHQCS) officials has always been: a joint director of AFHQCS is equated with a colonel, a director with a brigadier, and a principal director with a major general.

However, Business Standard learns that all the letters the MoD cites were superseded in 2009 by a Group of Ministers (GoM) report, prepared under the current president, Pranab Mukherjee. The GoM, which examining the military’s strong protests at the 6th Central Pay Commission recommendations, formally equated army colonels with AFHQCS directors. A new pay band was created for lieutenant colonels, placing them above deputy secretaries but slightly below directors.

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the union cabinet accepted these GoM recommendations, and the MoD passed instructions for implementing these in January 2009. All the letters the MoD cited today were superseded by this authority.

It is unclear whether Parrikar is even aware of the selective interpretation of facts in his ministry’s press release, or whether --- as his apologists argue --- he is a well-intentioned defence minister being undermined by his bureaucrats, who stand to gain from the new parities.

There are other recent issues, where the government has backtracked after initial denials. After this newspaper reported that the government had slashed disability pensions the day after announcing the army’s successful strikes on Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorist camps (October 10, “While ‘surgical strikes’ were under way, govt cut Army’s disability pensions”), the government first indicated it had actually increased pensions. Later, after checking the facts, the PMO referred the matter to a committee.

The question of inter-se parity with civilian officials has agitated the military for decades. A letter with Business Standard, written in 1992 by the army chief General SF Rodrigues, rails against the MoD’s attempts to change the status quo.

Rodrigues complained: “MoD, without consultations with Service HQ, had resorted to unauthorised and exaggerated designations of [civilians]… which has created aberrations and functional problems as [civilian] officers have refused to accept the authority of Service Officers under whom they had been working all these years.”

Nor is the military entirely blameless, since several service chiefs have acquiesced in granting higher “functional equivalence” to civilian officials, to promote smooth official functioning. However, Rodrigues writes: “[MoD has] taken undue advantage of this and unilaterally sought to upgrade the status of AFHQ cadre officials, to the detriment of the authority and status of the [military].”

That was in 1992. More than three decades later, the MoD’s jockeying over status still continues.

Diwali gloom in military

Disability pensions reduced, based on incorrect inputs by Controller General of Defence Accounts (CGDA)

Withdrawn toll tax exemption from servicemen, contravening a legislative act

Reduced status of military officers based on wrong inputs of civilian officials

Continuing delays in resolving 7th CPC anomalies, despite Chiefs’ requests

Pay issues referred to 7th CPC “anomalies committee”, even as the 6th CPC “anomalies committee” remains inconclusive

Continuing delays in resolving 7th CPC anomalies, despite service chiefs’ request


  1. Details are not necessary. It is well established that the biggest enemy of Indian armed forces is neither Pak nor China, but Indian MOD. Indian people are another problem area. They will talk good about us but will do nothing to show their anger against the MOD/Govt on this issue. I have always said and do so now here again - Why die for these guys? There are enough jobs in India for people who are prepared to work like we do in army life. Just join something else, or put up a paan shop in your neighborhood. If still keen to join armed forces, do not crib about MOD/Govt. There is absolutely no chance that things will improve. None whatsoever. Don't fool yourselves.

  2. There is something known as being ourposefully blind
    Mr Parriker, who is an intelligent man, would seem so

  3. Aur do modi ko vote.
    Ache din aa gaye, I think this is by far the worst govt. for armed forces.
    Rations next.... CSD later....
    This is just the beginning!!

    To not take everything away from modi. Atleast he tried to tell some ppl at a rally to respect and acknowledge faujis. That will encourage them... Similar to what happens in the US. Let's hope atleast that can change.

    That's a new! Kudos on that.

  4. Hello Col Shukla,

    Thank you for bringing out your articles unlike jumping on a story and running some research and bringing in context, Showing the history of Bureaucratic apathy against Military and how successive ministers and parties irrespective of good intent have been unable to get through the dirty power struggle in Bureaucracy at the cost of Services.

    But frankly I don't see ministers or the party at power today has nothing to gain, so I don't think they would make a false decision for the sake of it. Unbiased one can say this, but the resolution process to this looks really painful for the wait and process the services has to go through.

    Did anyone bring in a reforms panel so this does not happen to Civil or Military?

    One note the summary has repeated points and makes the list long, may be you had a different point in mind in the last one!

  5. No one will bother to even comment on such galing anomalies and army will be left to lick it's wound.

  6. Modi Government needs to correct perceptions created amongst defence personnel. RM needs to study facts prior signing letters put up by babus. Else Modi would lose big support from faujis.

  7. Hope the Defence Minister Reads and takes decisive action.

    Well Done, editor. Good Investigative reporting. : )

  8. This has been happening since we got independence . I think the civilian bureaucracy is not in favour of a common 5 star head of defence. He should be made defence secretary.

  9. I don't see any reasons why our military mob is of the notion that there is a inequality in the precedence of Civil-Military officer.
    Whatever it is,is very perfect.
    Why people are always criticizing our bureaucrats-they are the best minds and i think they are the people who have brought India at the top in the economy race.
    Hats off to them and of-course our frontiers.
    Please don't post such thinks i really make me feel that there are some people with an extreme level of ego-who only think of service candor and nothing else.

  10. If there has been no change in order of precedence then why issue a new letter ? Has no one asked this question. Simply withdraw the letter . Matter closed. Hope RM and PM realise this.
    It is these instances that create a mess running the military. So,we see delay not just in procuring new systems, but also spares, operational,items like bullets, safety items like helmets, BPJ.

  11. @Sachin

    I would accept all the prejudiced nuances of your comments but not the one for economic progress. That, India has achieved some economic progress despite Babus, is but a miracle by itself. Look how all sick and sucking PSUs and DPSUs etc have these "best minds" serving on boards or in other high positions !! How the third and independent party like World bank assesses this bureaucracy for "ease of doing business" and look what our own Ministers and Prime Minister think of that. Pathetic is the word.


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