Friday, 19 December , 2008, 12:49
My father Daroga Prasad Rai, who was Chief Minister of Bihar in 1970, motivated and encouraged me to join Sainik School Tilaiya with a view to make me join Armed Forces as an officer.
He always spoke of the Indian Armed Forces with the highest regard. At that time I was only about nine years old. At that impressionable age I became highly motivated.
I do not deny that I was thrilled by the prospect of joining the most noble profession, where one gets a chance to make the supreme sacrifice for his country.
Accordingly I competed and joined Sainik School Tilaiya. But I did not want to leave any stone unturned in my ambition to become an Army Officer. When I came to know about Rashtriya Indian Military College, Dehradun (RIMC), which was considered to be the best, I competed and joined the RIMC in January 1973.
Even though my initial enthusiasm had not waned, by the time I reached 11th standard, with whatever understanding I had, I started enquiring about a career in the Armed Forces.
My seniors who were at the Indian Military Academy by then, fed me some comparisons. First, they showed me that all the Class-I Services officers (including IAS and IPS) started their career at a basic salary of Rs 700/- per month, whereas in the case of Armed Forces officers it was Rs 750/- per month. (I later came to know that this extra Rs 50/- was special disturbance allowance, which was merged with basic pay by the Third Pay Commission).
Second, they also showed me the orders where a Major was equated with an IAS Officer with not less than 12 years of service. The obvious conclusion, which will be drawn by any 16 or 17-year-old boy, would be that the Army as a career was almost equal to the IAS, and certainly better than the IPS or other Class-I central services.
Having convinced myself, I put in my best in the NDA exam, and ranked eighth in the final merit list. After successfully completing my training at NDA Khadakwasla and IMA, Dehradun, I was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in June 1981 in the 7th Battalion the Sikh Regiment, on my own choice i.e., after exactly 11 years of hard training and spartan living. But due to an injury, attributable to Military Service, I was placed in a permanent low medical category. Consequently, I was transferred to the Army Ordnance Corps in 1988 i.e., after seven years of regimental service in Infantry. On transfer I was posted to the Ordnance Depot, Shakurbasti, Delhi. It was here I learnt that whatever I had been thinking about the career in the Indian Army was wrong.
In the Ordnance Depot, I discovered that the JCOs who are Gazetted Officers (I have seen the Gazette Notification of JCOs) are equated with non-gazetted civilian employees and that too of Class-III i.e., Group-C. The point has only been made to emphasise the arbitrariness and irrationality of orders regarding the relativity of ranks. And as the de facto equation stands today, there cannot be any service with worse career prospects than the Army except some Group-B services.
But is this the result of a “steep pyramidal hierarchy” as is often claimed? No. It is the result of a conscious effort by the bureaucracy to degrade the services ever since independence. To undo this, i.e., if the Government is sincere, the solution is to revert to the pre-A V Singh Committee implementation stage and reintroduce the rank of 2nd Lieutenant, and to offer one-rank one-pay scale in the standard pay scales as was applicable to all the Organised Central Group-A Civil Services ( erstwhile allied services).
Till recently, the Warrant of Precedence stated that a Major is equal to an IAS Officer with not less than 12 years of service and a Superintendent of Police with not less than 15 years of service.
The status of Army officers was further degraded as per the underlying thrust of the Sixth Pay Commission, at the behest of bureaucracy. Why are these facts not disseminated to the young aspirants to the Armed Forces? If bureaucrats and policemen are higher in rank and status, then why are Army officers debarred from taking the IAS and IPS exams? I do not think that anyone today, if he is aware of of these facts, would join the Army, except to earn hsi bread. As for myself, had I known this, forget the Sainik School or RIMC, I would have never joined the Army. The relativity in rank and status is irrational and arbitrary, against the letter and spirit of the Constitution and violates my fundamental rights.
By Lt Col A K Rai (Retd)
An alumnus of Sainik School Tilaiya, Rashtriya Indian Military College, Deharadun, NDA, Khadakwasla, the author was commissioned into the Sikh Regiment in Jun 1981. he was transferred to the AOC in 1988. He took premature retirement after serving the mandatory period, he now works as the Chief Administrative Officer of a 150-bed hospital in Patna.
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