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Indian Army to Restructure Selection and Promotion as General Rawat Sets out to Please Government

Updated on July 18, 2018

The Beginning

The Indian Army has a long and chequered history, which extends to over 200 years. Until 1947, the Indian Army was known as the British Indian Army and it is on record that the army was well looked after. In return, the army did the job of holding the British Empire and fought battles from Peking to Burma and France to Palestine.

After 1947 the political leadership led by Jawaharlal Nehru was extremely suspicious of the Army as the Indian leadership had no strategic sense. They allowed the army to go to seed. The purpose was to de-fang the Army and at the same time make it into a toothless tiger.

During the time of General Cariappa and Rajendra Singhji the first steps were taken by Nehru when he abolished the post of the commander- in- chief India and replaced it with the Chief of staff. The concept of unified command which is a Principle War was thrown in the Bay of Bengal. Over the next six decades, the policy of subservience by Cariappa and Rajendra Singh Ji has continued and no Indian Army Chief has been able to do anything about the salary, prospects, and career of the military personnel. There is no point in talking about the past generals now and discussing their infirmities, but we can look at the man who is presently the chief of the Indian army-general Bipin Rawat.

The first thing which one can observe is that general Rawat was not the automatic choice to become the Army chief and had to supersede two senior generals. Rawat became the chief with a lot of fan fair but over the last 2 years of his stewardship, he has been unable to make a dent with the government on pay, pensions, and perks of the service personnel. This must be a matter of great tribulation to him but the same time he probably wanted to show to the government that he is their man and he will be able to solve the problems of the army as well as reduce the defense budget.

The Plan

After the Army chief General Bewoor had accepted the reduction of pensions by 30% in 1973, all the Army chiefs that followed failed to get this reduction restored. Maybe they didn't follow it up forcefully but for whatever reason, the anomaly of pensions continued. It was only in 2015 that the agitation by the ex-servicemen gathered momentum under General Satbir Singh that the government was forced to give a limited form of one rank one pension.

It was expected that when general Rawat became the Army chief, he would pressurize the government to restore the status of the armed forces officers which have been downgraded and also get the non-functional upgradation of salary in lieu of promotion as applicable to Civil Services.

However, the government did not listen to him. There was more misery as on top of it the COAS accepted that rations for army officers sanctioned by Indira Gandhi in 1983 could be stopped. The net result of all this was that the Army is at the moment an extremely unattractive career for the youth in India. There is a shortage of officers running into thousands and the government has been pressurizing the Army chief to do something about it.

He cannot do anything as the feedback among the young men in India about the army pay and perks is extremely poor. General Rawat has also not been able to pressurize the BJP government to ensure that the servicemen get their promotions and salaries as given to their Civil counterparts.

The general is in a bind. At the same time is under pressure to show some results to the BJP government and Modi in particular who has appointed him Army chief by superseding other generals. The general took the easy path out and has appointed a lieutenant-general as Head of a Committee to restructure the ranks and recruitment of the armed forces

In the succeeding paragraphs, I will tell you what is the thinking of the general and his coterie.

The proposal

As per reports emanating from Army headquarters, a proposal is likely to be put up to the government. This includes firstly abolition of the rank of Brigadier in the Indian Army. This would mean that a colonel would be promoted to the rank of major general. In a way, this will solve the issue of parity with the civil services.

His second proposal is, even more, revolutionary and will take care of the young man not joining the Indian army at the officer level. General Rawat has proposed or rather is likely to propose that 50% of the cadre vacancies be earmarked for JCO'sfrom the ranks.

Most of the JCO's are not young men and to become a JCO, that is a junior commissioned officer it takes a minimum of 20 years. Generals Rawat's proposal is very faulty as it will mean inducting almost 50% of the officer cadre which will be well past the prime as officers. This would no doubt solve the problem of recruitment but the efficiency of the army will suffer terribly. It will also lead to the reduction of the salary bill as most of the JCO's will retire as captain /major and as such the pension bill will go down.

The general would like this proposal to be put up to the government before he retires so that the government can be told by him that he has done what they want him to do. He has solved the problem of the salary bill, the non-functional upgradation of pay as well as recruitment of young man to the Indian Army. The solution is simple, replace the young man who is not joining the army with junior commanding officers from the ranks who may be 40 +. There is a positive point also as the balance of 50 % of the officers left behind will have a better career and most of them can become full Colonels and even Major Generals.

This proposal is risky and many retired officers whom I have contacted are aghast at what general Rawat is planning. The general is looking for short-term backslapping from the BJP. No doubt the salary and the pension bill will go down and the problem of officers not joining will also be solved. He plans to do this by inducting almost 50% of the cadre from the ranks. In such a case a man who joined as a sepoy in the army can rise to be an officer if he reaches the rank of a JCO. But it's too dangerous a proposal to be allowed to go through

Last Word

There is another question and one wonders how the 40+ aged officers will integrate with young YO's. Obviously, they can't as they have lived through a different environment and that could mean that the officer cadre will lose its cohesive force.

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