Sunday, April 24, 2016

Declining Status of the Indian Armed Forces

by Shashi Tharoor

For better or worse, Armed Force is the guarantor of a nation’s security. It protects the nation from threats extending beyond or within its borders. The Indian armed forces act as the guardian of the legitimacy enjoyed by the government through the spirit of the democratic process. The officers of our armed forces swear “true faith and allegiance” to the Constitution of India upon enrolment in the military. But do we, the political establishment, show the same faith and allegiance towards our uniformed citizens? I fear not. Petty slights, ranging from deliberately downgrading the military in protocol terms, to persistent actions to lower the status and compensation of our military personnel, have eroded the dignity of the Indian armed forces. The consequences will inevitably be suffered by all.
The armed forces are among those very few citizens of India who, at a moment’s notice, might be summoned to sacrifice their lives in the service of their country.
The 15 lakh servicemen constitute approximately 30% of central government employees.
However, with each Central Pay Commission (CPC), the seventh of which was released last year, we have proven to be blind to their enduring sacrifice. We have short-changed the remuneration of our armed servicemen. One such change put forward in the CPC is the status of Brigadiers, who, until the 3rd CPC, were granted a higher salary than the deputy inspector general (DIG) of the police.
Today, Brigadiers are equated to the deputy inspector general, and, after the implementation of the 7th CPC, will be relegated to a lower pay scale than DIGs. These changes defy reason: only 2% of defence officers achieve such a rank, which is only received after 12 more years of service than the designation of DIG.
The result is that longer service in the Indian Army is rewarded with less compensation than fewer years of service in the police force. What could possibly justify such a disparity?
7th Central Pay Commission
The 7th CPC also recommends, among other things:
*a separate pay matrix and 
*disability pension policy for defence forces, which largely disadvantages the defence personnel in favour of higher allowances for their civilian counterparts.
According to the 7th CPC, disabled junior commission officers in the IAF are given Rs 12,000 as a disability pension while the equivalent civilian with the same level of disability draws over twice that amount (Rs 27,690).
Disabled junior Commission Officers are given Rs 12,000 as pension.
A civilian with the same level of disability is given Rs 27,690.
But remuneration, as delineated in the CPC, is but one facet of a larger trend of diminishing the status of our servicemen.
The Order of Precedence is the official hierarchy of the Republic of India. It denotes the rank of government officials in the ceremonial protocol; an important point of pride and status for all government servants. By codifying government’s official rankings, it is a convenient illustration of the inconvenient reality of the lowered status of our military personnel.
Since 1947, subsequent to every Indian military victory (1947-8, 1965, and 1971), our military officers have been marginalized further and further down the Order of Precedence.
Post 1962
After the 1962 Indo-China war, the three Chiefs of Staff were put below the newly created Cabinet Secretary. The Major Generals were equated to a rank below the Director of the Intelligence Bureau.
Post 1965
After the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war, the Chiefs of Staff were further downgraded below the Attorney General.
In 1968
In 1968, Major Generals were placed below the Deputy Controller and Auditor-General.
In 1971
In 1971, the Service Chiefs came below the Comptroller and Auditor-General (both of whom were previously below Lieutenant General). Similarly, Lieutenant Generals have been placed below the Chief Secretaries, who were previously ranked lower than Major Generals.
With each war came the deaths of countless of our nation’s children, who gave the ultimate measure of devotion in service of their nation.
The changes to the Order of Precedence and the growing disparity in salary suggests that we have commemorated their sacrifice and rewarded their efforts with a harsh and unconscionable gift of declined dignity.
Protocol, Policy-Making and Peacekeeping -
I still recall in my UN peace-keeping days my astonishment at meeting an Indian delegation wherein an experienced and impressive Brigadier had to cede place to a less-informed Director-rank civilian from the MEA, purely on grounds of protocol. It taught me a great deal about what was wrong with our policy-making on peacekeeping.
Issues of status and remuneration might appear trivial, but they augur ill for the future well-being of the country.
The Army is not as attractive a career option for the next generation as it was for their forebears.
The armed forces are already arm-wrestling with the invisible hand of the market to capture the available talent and capacities of the younger generation. But their ability to recruit young citizens is, ironically, undermined by the very economic development that they guarantee though keeping our nation secure.
The armed forces are as critical to guaranteeing the safety of the nation in this century as in the last. Conventional wars over territorial disputes may appear improbable today. But make no mistake, while we are not at war, we are also not at peace.
The 21st century marks the beginning of a protracted era of geopolitical volatility that presents itself as an illusion of peace to the complacent. We have an unresolved border issue with China, continuing hostilities conducted by “non-state actors” from Pakistan, militants in Kashmir and the northeast, and the ever-present threat of terrorism.
The lowering of status and remuneration of the Indian armed forces is an attack on the very insurance that guarantees the liberties endowed to all citizens of India. We must empower our officers and soldiers and grant them the position of prominence they deserve. Revising the errors in the 7th Pay Commission decisions and in the Order of Precedence would be a good place to start.
(Former UN under-secretary-general, Shashi Tharoor is a Congress MP and author)


The politicians, the bureaucracy and now even the other civil services have been responsible for betraying and deliberately lowering the status, dignity and remunerations of the Armed Forces personnel. No one can ever deny the fact that time and again, they have stood by the Nation's security, territorial integrity and dignity, in every walk of life which more often is away from their normal course of duties, especially so when all other so to say specialised civil  have very often failed to perform even their normal day to day duties.

Under these circumstances, with what face and justification are the politico-bureaucratic combine is shamelessly bent upon down grading the Indian Armed Forces in every sphere of Nation's life. Is their any one in Indian political set up including the Prime Minister, who can check this downward slide of the Defence services?


  1. Shashi Tharoor remembering the Armed Forces at this juncture have got some irrelevant political angle and must not be treated seriously. His parent party totally neglected the Forces for six decades and have no moral right to shed crocodile tears now. The BJP in the guise of implementation of the long pending OROP degraded it further. So were the senior officers both serving and retired in recent times by neglecting the cause of the PBOR. Now onwards all the senior officers of the Army, both serving and retired must strive to improve the pay and allowances/pension of the PBOR instead of officer's parity at higher ranks with their civilian counterparts. It is pathetic to see all these seniors speak for their own welfare and not that of the PBOR. If the teeth are not strengthened, then the flab is a waste at the top. Points that require attention are, increase in the lowest pay, more increments and increment percentage as the promotions are too few in the short span of their services, their allowances must be at par the officers wherever the risks and hazards are accounted and the rank pay must be with a reasonable limits. The pension/family pension of the PBOR/family must be regularised to older 70% of their last pay drawn (here the pension/family pension must be one and the same with no reduction in the later) and the causality pension must be restored and bettered. Why our senior officers shy away from taking up the welfare of the soldiers in a stern way with the MOD be it the OROP issue or the 7 CPC recommendations. If they continue to self-serve themselves, then they will be digging their own graves for sure.

  2. Mr.Saai Tharoor has ignitated an issue which will continue to be debated by I intectual circle .unfortunately our political leaders are very less among such a lit.


  3. When the Chiefs themselves don't protest loud enough, why should the politician do so?

  4. Sir,

    Well said.
    Request you to sign my petition on this issue and also give it publicity through your blog.


    Thanks & regards,
    - Harry