Sunday, September 19, 2010

Soldiers lost in the babu maze

Deccan Chronicle September 15th, 2010 Soldiers lost in the babu maze by S.K. Sinha

Since 1947, career prospects in the armed forces, compared to the civil services, have become phenomenally worse. Wholesale proliferation of higher ranks in the civil services since 1947 has resulted in India having the most top-heavy civil administration. This only undermines efficient functioning. In a state there used to be one chief secretary, but now there are dozens of super chief secretaries with higher rank and pay. Similarly, instead of one inspector general of police in a state, we have dozens of DGPs, ADGPs and numerous IGPs. There used to be only four levels of civil servants in the Central Secretariat, from undersecretary to secretary. That has now increased to seven levels, to principal secretary. In the police a new zonal level of functioning has been introduced in many states to supervise the supervisors. Almost all IAS officers end up as secretary or additional secretary, and all IPS officers as DG or additional DG. In the Army, the majority of officers cannot go beyond colonel. The shortage of several thousand officers in the Army underscores that the Army is now a very unattractive career.

The protocol status of the Army in the table of precedence has also been successively downgraded with every revision of the table. After Independence, the Army Chief was initially ranked with the judges of the Supreme Court but above the secretary-general (this appointment was abolished after a while and in 1963 the appointment of Cabinet Secretary introduced). The Army Chief was now placed below Cabinet Secretary, and thereafter to many others. Today he ranks below members of the Union Public Service Commission.

This persistent downgrading of the Army applies to all officer ranks in the Army. In 1972 we had proposed that the Field Marshal should get his full pay as he is not supposed to retire and be ranked with Bharat Ratna holders, that is, just below Cabinet ministers. This was not accepted and he was ranked along with the service chiefs, that is, below Cabinet Secretary. As for salary, Manekshaw was given arrears amounting to `1.2 crores after 33 years, a few weeks before he died. Imagine. Such shabby treatment of India’s first Field Marshal who led Indian arms to a great victory. A minister of state represented the Indian government at his funeral.

The cause of the neglect of the Army in India is our irrational higher defence organisation on which the bureaucracy has a stranglehold, isolating the Army from decision-making. This does not happen in any other democracy. Unless this is set right, the Army will remain neglected.

- The author, a retired lieutenant-general, was Vice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir.
Extracted: Click Link for full article
Soldiers lost in the babu maze

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