Of promotions and equivalence in the Army!

The new age tendency to find equivalence and parity in the name of justice and equality seems to have percolated down to quasi judicial bodies like the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) too. The judgement by the Delhi bench of the AFT in early March striking down the Army’s 2009 policy of promotion for colonel rank officers stems exactly from this new fad.
Every organisation is made up of different arms with varying skills, roles and responsibilities. And so it is with the Army. All parts—infantry, artillery, armoured, engineers, signals, supply and ordnance, not to forget the RVC (the Remount Veterinary Corps)—make up for the sum total of the Army. But some, like infantry, armoured and artillery are more equal than others simply because of the nature of the job they have to do.
Although many of my friends in the non-combatant branches may want to strangle me for what I am going to say, the fact is in one stroke the AFT has tried to initiate a policy that orders parity between a combat arm officer and supply or logistics branch officers or between an armoured corps officer and an RVC officer for instance. No organisation can have that luxury, least of all the army. Let me try and give an analogy which may not be wholly appropriate but may be demonstrative.  
In a television news company for instance, there is an editorial team and then there are technical departments. The reporters and desk hands decide on the news content but the technical hands–camera persons, news producers, video editors–give the news the final shape. Reporters become Editors in due course, camera persons become senior camera persons and eventually rise to become heads of department as do video editors and news producers. But when it comes to choosing Chief Editors/Managing Editors/Executive Editors, as a rule only reporters and desk hands (turned editors) are considered, not the technical people, no matter how brilliant they are in their jobs simply because their training and experience is not geared towards doing the job at the very top.
Or to take an example from the government itself. All aspirants write the same exam for entry into civil services but once they get selected for the respective verticals (Indian Administrative Service, the Indian Revenue Service or the Indian Police Service), the officers compete between themselves within that particular vertical and depending on merit and available vacancies rise or not rise to the top. No IRS/IPS Officer demands or more appropriately, can demand equivalence with the IAS officer, notwithstanding individual brilliance or achievement.
While the contribution of combat support arms and services is acknowledged and well-known, the Indian army will perforce remain a pre-dominantly infantry and artillery oriented force given the nature of threats and challenges India faces. Other arms will remain in supporting roles. 
The tribunal in its judgement has held that the ‘discriminatory’ army promotion guidelines of 2009 denied ‘equal opportunity of promotion to all officers of all corps of the Indian Army,’ and ordered the reconvening of all promotion boards to the rank of colonel held since 2008. 
For decades, the infantry has had more promotion opportunities given the sheer number of battalions it has in the Indian army. In my view for the AFT to now say each of these services must be given equal opportunity for promotion, is to encroach upon the Army leadership’s prerogative to decide who it should promote or how it should run the force. That the Army needs to keep the age profile of the Commanding Officers in the infantry low is undeniable. That it needs to take the entire army along and not allow disaffection to set in in other arms is also accepted. May be the government should take a re-look at increasing the number of vacancies in the support arms to resolve the issue?
The Supreme Court is set to hear the government’s leave petition on 15 April. The verdict might as well go against the Army. If that happens, the Defence Ministry can release more vacancies for other aspirants without diluting the need to keep the Infantry and Artillery fighting fit and without letting the rancour seep too deep within.
Once the matter settles down, everyone should let the Army decide how to run the organisation, based on threat assessments.
  1. April 3, 2015 -

    Dear Nitin,Your examples don't stand to any logic. Army is going through worst kind of parochialism and reservation. When an officer becomes Brigadier he stops wearing regimental badge on cap because he a General officer . Take entire organisations along . Sadly from Gen Vij onwards we started getting Chiefs who were from Dogra Sikhli or Gurkha and so on. No body disputes the fact that Army should be young for that today an Infantry officer becomes Col three years Prior to a service officer. Sad part is Indian Army hasn't fought a conventional war after 71. Present generation only knows and talks of CI operations. They don't understand the logistics. Even MGO Branch and QMG branch is headed by Arms. Tell me why should an officer who is equally or better qualified from other arms and services should not become a Brigadier. Today drunkards from Infantry and Arty and Infantry who have been even Court Martialed Are becoming Bde Cdrs where As service officer who is much better Qualified has no chance if he does not get outstanding report through out. There is no case whatsoever to make an Idiot a Bde Cdr just because he is from Infantry or Arty. Nobody less than last MS has endorsed this policy is flawed and has no logic.

  2. April 3, 2015 -

    Totally disagree with your opinion. You have given wrong example of IAS/IPS/IRS. Tell me can you differentiate between IAS cadre of different state based on their nature of job or risk factor one posted in J&K and NE state with respect to other. Answer will be NO because both have same entry, same training. similarly all army officers have gone through same exam, same training in IMA/OTA. So they get equal opportunity. If you feel so strongly about so called fighting arms, then make separate entry and separate training for them. Then give whatever advantages you want to give. We all deviated from core issue that it should be given on pro rata basis without fighting who is more important than others. Else implement NFFU to all officers like IAS so that at least monetary all will be benefited if not given command or promotion. Its all about narrow mindset of selected arms.

  3. April 3, 2015 -

    Your argument is not only logical but also in keeping with practice prevalent in all professional armies. In fact Armies like UK, Malasia, Singapore as also bigger ones like USA give a definite edge to its Infantry soldier in X-Factor Pay, called Military Service Pay (MSP) in India. Sadly in Indian Army everyone from clerk, computer operator and store keepers to staff car driver in Delhi get same MSP as an Infantry soldier. Some even get it while posted to MES which is MoD equal of CPWD.

  4. April 3, 2015 -

    Agree with Yogi. Inf and Arty should ask for additional allowances in name of risk involves. You will be surprise that every unit of Inf have 3-4 Offr from services in fd area as attachment.

  5. April 3, 2015 -

    Reporting against verdict of judiciary like AFT is not advisable till the matter in SC. We all should respect verdict of AFT followed by SC.

  6. April 3, 2015 -

    The Price of Inequality ! Those who frame policies must read !If you sweep everything under the carpet, how long will it take for the carpet to be consumed by the girth ? Those who choose to make a portion of their family out of place shud not feel offended if it's no more referred to as HOME. The Inf has no qualms in handing over its men to a Services Officer in Battle Scenarios who has not even qualifies at the basic YOs course, today, it's crying over vacancies it usurped.You can't have it both ways.The Army Ord Corps tody has more number of Ashok Chakras than any Inf Regt.The essence of the anger and frustration of officers manning logistics and others lies in this 'Inequality'. Has our own Generals been mature enough, they wud have read the last 4 lines of Judgement which indicated that case should not have gone to SC. It's misplaced trust if u still trust these guys who have no qualms in treating their own creed differently.Why not simply ask for a Cadre-Restructure and make the services units like CMP, maint core-competence at the level of men, and 'spirit of inf' at the level of officers.Mark those words, if not for enough pressure, these guys will start going in for 'Regt-Wise' parchi.Much many than ordinary Rajput Bns were moved to a particular Comd just to ensure HC to their COs, not to mention small favors like Demo-Bn at AWC where they improve course-Gradings. In SiaChen, the Inf only provides 10 offrs, rest 17,14,12 (Northern,Central and Southern Glacier) comes from OAS.50% of the officers in Northern Comd carrying out duties of Inf Offrs in Inf Units/ RR Bns and fmns are OAS offrs.Kengurese, Kalia and Saurabh were all ASC Officers, who laid down their life in Op Vijay.Ata Hasnain has made a few noises, he has a habit of toying the middle-path est his credence as a man with solutions, he ain't bad but better than most other inf-lot who feel they are the first and last of Mohicans to fight on behalf of Countrymen 24*7.Since he has spoken of Tral, let's go by data. Tral is with 42 RR which lost a CO, the prev 2 Offr-casualities were Capt Sharma (Fatal-Signals), Maj Anil Gulia (Non-Fatal; Head Shot GSW).Now is that Inf officer's 'singular' contribution !The disparity doesn't end here !Why shud a section of officers wait for 3 yrs ?Why shud a section usurp 80% of UN Vacancies ? Why shudnt 'logistics cadre officers' get 'logistics' vacancies in UN ?Why shudnt you take an MTO to UN just like in RR, both are peace-keeping operations.Why is inf using OAS Offrs in inf ops then ?That too to the extent of 50% in Northern Comd where the entire action is, and then eat-away their vacancies in promotions, UN and Staff ?The attachment of officers, which began as a method to sensitise the Services Offrs about the needs of frontline, is now a mechanism to park vacancies for inf.If you need more in Inf, put them in Inf, why recall an Offr from Mid-Career when you made him undergo his YOs at 3.5 yrs of service, then you recall him for an RR tenure again at 7-9 yrs o service.As of now, an ASC officer is the most 'Fired-Upon' officer of 98 batch, ranging from bullets experienced on LC and RR, then you tell him that he will have to wait for 3 yrs and with 21% chances for next rank ? The Original Favouritism was obviously promulgated by The Armd Corps, whereby a GOC declared that all YOs will be graded 'Outstandig'. it's now paying all price with most of them fearing their own men.'The Price of InEquality' is too huge !Will the Paidal Sainiks please understand ?

  7. April 3, 2015 -

    Poor show nitin.Very lame article.Looks like a sponsered one to please your contacts in the army.Don't even feel like commenting on content.

  8. April 3, 2015 -

    Agree with the author. Inf Offr and OAS offrs cannot ask for equal perks and privileges. Inf offr fights ahead and rest others are to support Inf. Hence Inf should get more perks and privileges and hence OAS officers should not do inf attachment, should not do RR/AR and should always support Inf and not fight from front. In a media house a technician is never asked to do makeup and stand in front of the camera. If that is the Army we want then I fully agree with the author.

  9. April 5, 2015 -

    bang on

  10. April 5, 2015 -

    how true

  11. February 15, 2016 -

    your comments on Supreme Court verdict please