Government downgrades ranks of defence officers
According to communications from the Defence Ministry, the government has downgraded the status of military officers vis-a-vis their civilian counterparts. The communication dated October 18, 2016 refers to examination of rank related issues and mentions "equivalence" between defence officers and civil service officers in the armed forces. Sources indicated that this will further add to the existing friction between the servicemen and the government.
BJP's promises to the armed forces
BJP had promised to implement the 'One-Rank-One-Pension' scheme if voted into power. The government did reinstate it but its implementation was virulently opposed. Other decisions pertaining to the armed forces have attracted strong criticism from several quarters, increasing friction between both sides.
Armed forces disappointed with 7th Pay Commission
The government notified the 'One-Rank-One-Pension' (OROP) scheme for veterans of the armed forces in November 2015. The OROP scheme impacts over 24 lakh servicemen and nearly 6 lakh war widows. However, veterans were deeply disappointed and said there were "seven serious shortcomings" in the government's OROP scheme. Ex-service personnel held major protests and lengthy hunger strikes for months insisting their recommendations be included.
On September 10, the three service chiefs wrote to the government pleading for 7th pay commission to be paused until anomalies in OROP were rectified. The main "anomaly" is that the formula adopted for determining 'basic pay' for armed forces differs from that for central-government employees; hence, service officers are at lower pay scales. The armed forces want implementation of a 'Uniform Pay Matrix'.
Disability pension rules modified
Two weeks ago, the government notified new disability pension norms for the armed forces; a move that was criticized by opposition parties and the security establishment. The change is about recalculating the pension amount; the revised methodology results in a reduction in the quantum of disability pension. The armed forces were very disappointed that civilian employees would draw higher pension than their military counterparts.
Proposal to downgrade
The October 18 circular has downgraded officers across the the armed forces, the navy and air force who are required to work with bureaucrats at respective headquarters. The order provides that 'a civilian principal director' formerly equivalent to a brigadier will now be equivalent to a 'two-star general'. Director-ranked officers are now equivalent to a 'brigadier' and a joint-director now equates to a colonel.
Commissioned officers and their ranks in the armed forces
Lieutenant is the junior most rank of a commissioned-officer, right above it are Captain and Major. Whereas, Colonel, Brigadier and Major General are the fifth, fourth and third highest ranks. At the top are Lieutenant General and General, second-highest and the highest-rank in the Army.
Circular evokes strong reactions
On condition of anonymity, an army officer commented, "By this equation, a captain is equivalent to a civilian Group B section officer. This isn't mischief, but mischief-plus by bureaucrats." Reportedly the October 18 circular states that it "has the approval of the Hon'ble Defence minister"; however Defence minister, Manohar Parrikar, responded that the government was sensitive to the downgrade issue and would study it.