Defence Ministry Withdraws Controversial Order Seen To Downgrade Military Officers

According to the 2016 order, a principal director with the Armed Forces Civil Services was equated with a Major General instead of a Brigadier.

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Defence Ministry Withdraws Controversial Order Seen To Downgrade Military Officers

Nirmala Sitharaman meeting the Indian army soldiers in Arunachal Pradesh (file)

New Delhi: 

Highlights

  1. In military circles, letter interpreted as attempt to downgrade forces
  2. Manohar Parrikar had responded with a promise to revisit the order
  3. Nirmala Sitharaman has now withdrawn the 2016 order
In a move long demanded by the armed forces, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has withdrawn a 2016 order which appeared to downgrade the rank and status of armed forces officers as compared to their civilian counterparts within the defence ministry.

Ms Sitharaman's order has cleared the decks for restructuring of ranks in the defence ministry in consultation with the armed forces.

The controversial order was seen to elevate civilian officers in comparison to their military counterparts and had the military seething. "We are categorically objecting to the systematic downgrading of Defence Officers in status/equivalence vis-a-vis civilian officers," the army had told the government back then.

According to the 2016 order, a principal director with the Armed Forces Civil Services will be handled by a major general instead of a brigadier.

A director-rank officer, earlier equated with a Colonel, was ranked with a brigadier. A joint director was being handled by a Colonel, instead of Lieutenant Colonel.  

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In military circles, the letter was interpreted as an attempt to downgrade the forces, for whom rank signifies honour and respect. "Status and functional responsibility go hand in hand. How can you separate them?" former army chief General VP Malik had then told NDTV.

Manohar Parrikar, who was the defence minister, had then responded to the outrage in the forces with a promise to revisit the order. But the ministry had later ruled out a change, insisting that the letter did not really alter the parity between civilian officials and the military. Ms Sitharaman's intervention overrules this stand.

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