|| By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd.)
Former Director General of Information Systems, Indian Army
The latest attack on the military’s ethos came from the MoD through the GoI letter number A/24577/CAO/CP Cell dated October 18, described by a national daily in talking about rank “equivalence” between defence officers and “armed forces headquarters civil service officers”. The equivalence defined implied: a civilian Group B section officer equated with army captain; a civilian joint director who till now was equated with army lieutenant colonel, now equaled to army full colonel; a civilian director earlier equated with army full colonel now equated with army brigadier; and; civilian principal director earlier equated with army brigadier, now equated with army major general. This letter signed by a joint secretary stated that 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. Most significantly, this letter had the approval of the MoD.
Now if an army captain is equated to a Group ‘B’ section officer of MoD, might as well qualify whether the Group ‘B’ section officer is actually a clerk or a head clerk, and whether a subsequent downgradation will equate the army captain with a chaprasi (peon) of MoD. After the furore in the media over the issue, instead of cancelling this letter forthwith, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar remarked that he would “rectify” the letter. The lackadaisical manner of his remark indicates that he has no understanding of the ethos of the military or is party to military’s denigration. Since this letter too was issued with MoD approval, he is directly responsible for it even he does not understand what he approves and signs. Next, is the issue of MoD’s September 30 notification that drastically lowered the disability pension of military personnel by converting the percentage based system (as effective under 6th CPC) to fixed slab system has been in the news. The fact that this notification was issued two days after the surgical strikes, made it more cynical, coupled with Parrikar’s comical pronouncements like he ‘made the army realize their capabilities’ and ‘RSS is behind the success of the surgical strikes’.
Eventually the government has been forced to refer the disability pension case to the ‘Anomalies Committee’ but the mere fact that the notification was issued implied that either the Defence Minister had no idea about it all (as he talked of VRS at the time of press briefing for OROP) or he is party to it. The media also threw up a letter purportedly written by serving DGAFMS to the Defence Secretary that Military Generals were misusing provision of disability pension. All these accusations were duly trashed and rebutted though the mystery will remain whether this was deliberate mischief. As if this was not enough, media also threw up an old letter from the Controller General of Defence Accounts (CGDA) to Chief of Army Staff written in September 2015 saying large number of army officers belonging to the “non-fighting corps” have been getting disability medical grading. Wonder if the said CGDA can define which is the “non-fighting corps” in our army, and which “fighting corps” do civilian defence officials claiming disability belong to? One wonders if Parrikar realizes that the propensity with which the soldier’s ethos is being attacked and dues denied under the present dispensation is getting him ill-repute worse than AK Anthony. Already, he was derided both by serving and veteran military for the act of summoning the Service Chiefs and directing them to implement the 7th CPC “immediately”, even though it brought the military below the level of police – leading to queries whether Parrikar was Defence Minister of India or Pakistan? It also led to the unprecedented action in independent India of Service Chiefs telling the Defence Minister that the military would wait for the anomalies of 7th CPC to be resolved first.
To cap this all, in a recent meeting with military veterans, Defence Minister Parrikar stated that veterans should not deride bureaucrats of MoD. He did not qualify whether these bureaucrats should instead be praised because a Group ‘B’ section officer is equal to an army captain, a civilian principal director is equal to an army major general, or whether despite joint secretaries of MoD being on all boards of the DRDO-DPSUs-OF the governmental defence-industrial complex remains defunct and we continue to import over 70% of our defence needs. Despite all the brouhaha, India is placed at 130th position because of red tape. Not only has Parrikar failed in undertaking administrative reforms in MoD, he is showing subservience to the bureaucracy at the cost of the military and the defence of the country.