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The Indian Armed Forces

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Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UK Essays.

Published: Thu, 11 May 2017

The Indian Armed Forces have long enjoyed the reputation of being one of the finest in the world. The armed forces render invaluable service to the country, in times of war as well as during peace, ensuring the security of the nation. They are also called to help restore law and order, ensure the safety of the people in times of internal strife, provide help and relief to victims of natural calamities & also contribute to the building of vital infrastructure facilities like roads and bridges in remote and war torn areas.

The Indian Armed Forces are facing an acute shortage of officers in all three services. The shortage of officers in the Army is around 11,500 and in the Navy, it is around 1507. Air Force is approx 1237 offrs short of its requirement [1] .

Statement of Problem.

Is there a need to enhance the social standing of Armed Forces personnel to continue to attract the right talent to serve the nation?


Though the profession of arms is a ‘calling’ & not a career, lately, some decline in the status & social standing of the combatants, particularly the officer cadre of the three services has been perceived. It has led to the present generation of youth preferring other professions, leading to a significant shortage of officers in all the three services. If not arrested, this trend can get aggravated and begin to compromise operational efficiency’ of our Armed Forces.

Justification For the Study

Though the subject of status of Armed Forces has been touched upon by a large number of eminent personalities, no writer has comprehensibly addressed the complete issue. The approach of all the writers was either towards financial aspirations or changing social environment or it was a fragmented effort, touching a large number of inter-related issues, eg promotional aspects & social standing in civil society.

Prominent writings on present day leadership challenges, change in socio economic environment, growing involvement of Armed Forces in IS duties, changes in the Warrant of Precedence etc along with practical approaches to meet the present day challenges have been drawn up by a large number of military minds, journalists, politicians & eminent scholars. It is felt that there is a requirement of articulation of these works in a comprehensive manner to recommend an appropriate approach towards the issue.


This paper aims to highlight the erosion in status in the Armed Forces starting from the time of Independence. The reasons for this erosion will be debated. The lack of intent and complete endeavor of defence and civil personnels will be brought to light. Finally some recommendations for making the ‘Defence Services’ more attractive would be discussed.


It is proposed to study the subject in the following parts:-

(a) Part I. Status of Armed Forces Officers before Independence.

(b) Part II. Post Independence era.

(c) Part III. Pay commission effects.

(d) Part IV. Warrant of Precedence & Present Status.

(e) Part VI. Intent and endeavor with Limitations & Positives

(f) Part VIII. Recommendations.

Source of Data

The study has been conducted based on books and columns written by eminent writers on the subject, official history and gazete notifications of GOI, newspaper articles and write ups from internet sites. A bibliography of sources is attached.



Warrant of Precedence Before 1947

Status of the ‘Commander-in-Chief’. The Warrant of Precedence of British India kept the Armed Forces Officers on a very high pedestal. The Precedence in India was regulated till the independence by a Royal Warrant which was promulgated on the 6th of May 1871 [2] . As per the Royal Warrant, the ‘Army Chief’, the erstwhile ‘Commander-in-Chief ‘was higher in rank to the ‘Chief Justice’ of the Supreme Court while Military Officers above rank of ‘Major-General’ were higher than the ‘Judge Advocate General of India’ & also the ‘Secretaries to the Government of India’.

Status of the ‘Major-Generals’. It is important to note that ‘First Class Civilians of 28 years’ standing were equated with ‘Major-Generals’ while in the present day it is with IAS of 14 years of service. Similarly ‘Civilians of 20 years’ standing were equated with ‘Colonels’ and included ‘Commissioners of Divisions’.

Status of the ‘Colonels’ & Below. ‘Inspector General of Police’, then the highest post in any state were similarly equated with ‘Chief Engineers’ & were in the same league as the ‘Colonels’. The next grade comprised of the ‘Third Class Civilians of 12 years’ standing who were equated with the ‘Lieutenant-Colonels’. These comprised of the ‘Under-Secretaries to Government of India’, ‘Inspector-Generals of Jails’ etc. The next grade comprised of the ‘Fourth Class Civilians of 8 years’ standing who were equated with the ‘Majors’ and so on.

The Comparison. It is evident from the above comparison, the high esteem of the officers of the Armed Forces which they enjoyed during the era. The ‘Inspector General’ was responsible for the complete state but was considered equivalent to a ‘Colonel’ of a Battalion with 20-25 officers. The same was required because the ‘State machinery’ was generally static but the Armed Forces were considered to be working in a volatile environment requiring split second decision making which resulted in a situation of life & death. There was no requirement felt of large number of officers in the police, where the job was to catch thieves and petty criminals. This task was found suitable for the lower staff in the police forces comprising one Darogah, one Jamadhar and a number of constables who were maintained at each district headquarters [3] . Later the same were controlled by the Deputy Superintendent, Inspectors, Head Constables and Constables.

The Indian Armed Forces as the Preferred Occupation of Royals and Dynasties

The Kashtriya Way of Life. Kashtriya meaning warrior formed one of the four varnas (social orders) in Hinduism. ‘Kshatriyas’ constituted the military and ruling elite of the Vedic-Hindu social system outlined by the Vedas and the Laws of Manu [4] . A ‘Kshatriya’ was a fighting man, he was bound by the holy scriptures to govern as a Dharma-Raja, with the main duties being protection of his subjects and livestock. The people looked upon Kshatriyans to protect them from all dangers. The great kings and generals on ancient and medieval India took pride in their Kshatriya lineage and took pride in being the kings and warriors in the army.

The British Age. During the British Empire, most of the royals had to give up the rights to their land. Some of the royal dynasties even acted as British protectorates’. In such times, only some of the dynasties could kept their own armies but the same was not possible with the smaller states. In time, it became a tradition of the royal princesses to either join the British Indian Army or to command their own troops in their small princely states. It was considered bounteous for these princes to command troops in the old ‘Kshatriya’ ways, be it in the Indian army or the state troops.

Serving the Army. Due to the above reasons, the British Indian Army was always associated with the rich & royalty who served its ranks often rising to the officer cadre due to their competence and efficiency. Even after independence, the tradition continued. The Indian royalty found itself in the who’s who of Indian army with few of them rising up to the highest ranks while serving the Army. Some of the prominent names among them are Colonel Sardar Bahadur Muzzaffar Jung Bahadur Thakur Girdhari Singh, O.B.E, O.B.I & Brigadier Th. Harish Chandra Singh, V.S.M. of Kuchela royal family [5] ; Capt Amarinder Singh of Patiyala royal family [6] ; Brig Sukhjit Singh, MVC of Kapurthala royal family [7] ; Brigadier Bhawani Singh, MVC of Jaipur royal family [8] .

The tradition of joining the Army gradually started to decline with time. The reasons can be attributable to a large number of facts to include the changing socio – economics, the changing of family values and the perceived social standing of Armed Forces personnel in civil society.



Involvement of Mil in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Mayanmar in their pol affairs

During the middle of 20th Century, most of the countries in Indian peninsula got their independence. Independent India found itself sandwiched between large numbers of politically unstable states in which the military frequently thrust itself in the political arena replacing the democratically elected political leaders. Large numbers of coups were accomplished by the military in the nearest neighborhood of India which fuelled mistrust for the Indian Generals in the political circle. The political class often found itself worried because of presence of influential leaders in the military.

Military coups in Pakistan began in 1958 and number three successful attempts. There have also been numerous unsuccessful attempts since 1949. Since its independence in 1947, Pakistan has spent several decades under military rule (1958 – 1971, 1977 – 1988, 1999 – 2008) [9] .

On the other hand, Bangladesh had military coups in 1975, 1977, 1981, 1982, 1996 & then in 2007. Bangladesh remained under military rule from 1975 – 1990 under two different military rulers [10] . Mayanmar had its share of military rule when democratic rule ended in 1962 when General Ne Win led a military coup d’état [11] only after fourteen years of democracy.

The reaction by the politicians to all of the above was obvious. Firstly the Defence Services were increasingly isolated from the process of decision making in defence matters. During the British era, India was perhaps the only country in the world which had a single Commander-in-Chief for all the three Services. In 1947, this arrangement was discarded and each Service came to have its own Commander-in-Chief, independent of each other. The nomenclature of the three Chiefs was changed in 1955 from Commanders-in-Chief to Chiefs of Staff. In this set up, the Chiefs of Staff are not part of the Ministry. They are not authorized to take any decision on behalf of the Government nor issue any Government orders. These functions are performed by civil officials in the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The Service Chiefs continue to function as Commanders-in-Chief of their Service [12] .

Each war increased the popularity of the Indian Army among the common masses and the status of the service chiefs was lowered after successive wars in the ‘Official Warrant of Precedence’ due to the perceived threat of a possible coup by the Armed Forces. Such was the popularity of eminent military leaders like Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw after the 1971 Bangladesh libration that late Indira Ghandhi feared a massive military coup in 1977 [13] .

Mistrust of the Political class fuelled by Bureaucrats. The mistrust of politicians for the military generals was always exploited by the bureaucrats in every way to increase the rift between them. The incidents of armed rebellions & coups in the neighboring countries & the world over always added fuel to the fire. Gradually the military generals were sidelined by their political masters & the bureaucrats made a place for themselves in between the political masters & the military & started making important decisions which made an impact on national security matters.

Tradition & History of Police Ranks

The Police followed the following system of rank badges till about independence :

(a) Superintendent of Police / Assistant Inspector General of Police. Three Stars (Upgraded to Crown on reaching the basic pay scale of Rs 950/-).

(b) Deputy Inspector General of Police. Crown with one Star.

(c) Inspector General of Police (highest police rank). Crown with Two Stars.

In the late 1950s and early 60s, the police establishment went in for a major overhaul and upgradation of rank badges. This followed the introduction of additional ranks such as Selection Grade etc. To meet new ranks, rank badges were appropriately upwardly modified. Contrary to popular perception, the Ministry of Defence very vehemently protested the rank confusion created by junior police officers wearing senior military rank badges but the issue was sorted out in a high level meeting between MHA and MoD (the meeting is documented and minuted) where it was rather unusually concluded that there could be no confusion between police and military ranks since police rank badges are silver in colour whereas military ranks are made of brass, and it was also decided that rank badges would not reflect the actual status comparison of military and police officers. This later resulted in the rank of DIG (then established by pay and by the MHA as being between a Lt Col and a full Colonel) wearing rank badges as worn by a Brigadier of the Army. So far so good. But this came to haunt the military years later when by forgetting the historical background of the issue; police officers started demanding status and pay equation by virtue of the rank badges worn. The skewed situation got adversely solidified when the 6th CPC commented about an ‘established relativity’ between a Brig and a DIG in all probability based on the equality of brass carried on the shoulders by the two ranks [14] .



Effect of Successive Pay Commissions

The Post War Pay Committee of 1946. The first attempt at rationalisation of the remuneration structure was made by the Post War Committee in 1946. The mendate of the Committee was to produce pay scales exclusively to Indian conditions, to simplify the pay system and achieve maximum amount of harmony between the three Services. A decision was also taken by the Government that the future pays of the Armed Forces should be linked with civil pays. Based on these parameters and guided by the Post War Pay Code of the British Armed Forces, the Post War Committee recommended a remuneration system based on the following equations [15] :-

(a) Service officers should broadly receive equal treatment with police officers.

(b) A fully trained infantry soldier with three years service was equated with a semi-skilled worker who in turn was equated with an Able Seaman of the Navy and the juniormost Leading Aircraftman of the Air Force.

Comparison of Officers. The closest comparator to Defence Services officers was identified as the Police as both wore a similar uniform due to the fact that the ‘Indian Police’ was manned by mostly retired British Army Officers in the past. This relativity had no other logic with regard to job content. The same continues till date, much to the detriment of the Service officers pay scales. In establishing this relativity, it was agreed that the end of the Maj scale should not exceed the end of the Senior Time Scale of the Police in which the SP was placed, thereby establishing a linkage between the two. The next link in the Police then was the DIG. The Service representatives sought a linkage of the DIG with the rank of Lt Col. However, DIG was finally placed between the service ranks of Lt Col and Col. One of the factors in establishing this linkage was that the three pillars of administration, namely the DIG of a Range, the Commissioner of a Division and the Commander of a Military District (of the rank of Colonel) had near identical years of service, were of approximately the same age and required to socially interact with each other.

The Raghuramaiah Committee Report. Consequent to the Second Pay Commission’s Report in 1960, a Departmental Committee, headed by Shri Raghuramaiah, examined the pay and allowances of the Armed Forces. It stated that [16] :-

“The Service representatives felt that pay scales approximating to the scales prevalent on the civil side were preferable to the existing pay structure, but that a revision would be such a complex and lengthy process that it was not practicable at the present juncture. In view of these practical difficulties, we decided that the present pay structure might be retained until such time as the Government finds it convenient to carry out a detailed review”.

Initiation of Major Changes in Cadre Structure by IAS & IPS. As the benefit of a review of their conditions of service and pay scales could not be done, the Armed Forces emerged into the post second Pay Commission scene with a arithmetical revision of their pay and allowances. At this stage the Civil Services, especially the IAS and IPS, initiated major changes in their cadre structure. A Selection Grade was introduced in the IPS, between the SP and DIG. This grade was equated to the service rank of Col and pressure was built up for revision of DIG’s pay scale. By 1969, the DIG had overtaken the rank of Col, and started drawing relativity with the ranks of Commodore and Brigadier, thereby lowering the status and relativity of the Armed Service Officer vis a vis the Police.

The Third Pay Commission. In early 1970, the Government while announcing the formation of the 3rd Pay Commission, for the first time, entrusted the task of reviewing the pay and allowances of the Armed Forces to a Pay Commission and not to a Departmental Committee. However, there was a major difference between the terms of reference as applicable to the Armed Forces and that of the civilians. In the case of the Armed Forces, the Commission was not asked to make recommendations on the conditions of service but take them as given. This difference was prominently highlighted by the Commission in their report. On the question of the presentation of the Services case, the Commission was of the view that the service personnel should have the liberty to represent their case directly before them like civilian employees. But this request to the Ministry of Defence was turned down on the grounds that the requirement of Armed Forces discipline would not permit such an approach. Thus the three Services could not explain their case directly to the Pay Commission. As a result, many of the anomalies injected by earlier Committees remained uncorrected [17] .

Status of Officers. The main thrust of the services was to seek parity in pay scales with the IAS. The Third Pay Commission was of the view however that the officer cadre of the Armed Forces was an omnibus group of individuals of varying disciplines, status and job responsibilities. Whilst there would certainly be some categories, though difficult to identify, who could claim parity with the IAS, the 60,000 strong Armed Forces officer cadre could at best be compared with the Class I officers cadre which had a similar disparate composition. Parity with IAS was therefore not accepted and the existing relativities were retained [18] .

Expert Cell. The Ministry of Defence now created an Expert Cell comprising the Chairmen of the three Services Pay Cells, a Joint Secretary and an Additional Financial Adviser. The Expert Cell was asked to scrutinise the Memorandum of each Service and give their own views to the Pay Commission. Unfortunately no agreement could be reached between the Service Members on the one side and the Ministry of Defence on the other. Eventually a report was submitted only by the Service Members. This resulted in the impact of their report being lost and the Third Pay Commission had to seek views of Ministry of Defence seperately.

Compensation for ‘X’ Factor. In the British Armed Forces Pay Structure, the ‘X’ factor compensated for the uniqueness and distinct disadvantages of service life. Service Headquarters sought the extension of the ‘X’ factor to the Indian Armed Forces. The Third Pay Commission examined the advantages and disadvantages of Service life, considered that the former outweighed the latter and concluded that there was no justification for the ‘X’ factor. One of the advantages of naval life taken into consideration was the opportunity for naval personnel to visit distant foreign countries at Government expense [19] .

Formulation of Rank Pay. The third pay commission also crafted a rank pay out of the existing pay for defence personals. This was to differentiate the pay from Captain to Brigadier in a running pay band. It was specified by the pay commission that the rank pay was part of basic pay for calculation of all emoluments & for consideration of status. The successive pay commissions continued with the same. But in the sixth pay commission, when the rank pay was abolished, the pay of all service personals was calculated erroneously as rank pay was not taken into consideration. This created a major anomaly.

Research of XLRI Jamshedpur for sixth pay Commission in Estimating cost of Benefits For Armed Forces to government & Incongruous Deductions

XLRI Jamshedpur was tasked by the sixth pay commission to estimate cost of benefits of all government servants including defence personals. In their estimate, mundane things like loans for housing, car & computer, canteen facilities, medical care etc were taken into consideration to calculate the cost of living of defence personals. The picture thus pasted was a very rosy one. The problems faced by defence personals in form of frequent transfers, separation from family, lack of stable education for wards of defence personals were not taken into consideration.

Comparison with IPS, PMF and Other gp ‘A’ services

The sixth pay commission compared the Brigadier rank of Defence forces with DIG of the IPS. This comparison was wrong because the DIG was placed between Lt Col & Col in all previous comparisons. The DIG wore the insignia of ‘Ashoka & a Star’ till early 1970s but later it was changed to ‘Ashoka & three Stars’. On being questioned, it was clarified by the MoH that police ranks wear ‘Silver Stars’ which was different from the ‘Brass Stars’ of the military & hence no comparison was possible.

The Commission also used the PMF for comparison with the Armed Forces forgetting that PMFs are not ‘Group A’ services. A service is considered ‘Group A’ service only if at least 80 % of its employees hold ranks equivalent to ‘Jt Secy’ & above. The same was utilized by the bureaucracy in creating a rift between the Armed Forces & the CPMFs & quoting the problems faced in empowerment of CPMFs whenever the injustice faced by the Armed Forces were highlighted.

Delinking the rank pay from the basic pay caused a major setback to the pay parity of Armed Forces with the other ‘Group A’ services. Certain ranks with a higher pay scale till fifth pay commission turned up with a lower grade pay after the ‘Sixth Pay Commission’. In a noteworthy judgment, the Supreme Court of India directed that ‘Rank Pay forms part of ‘Basic Pay’. The same was prayed by the Govt of India to reconsider & the same is still pending.

Comparison with Defence Support Services

It must also be brought to light that Defence Support Services like ‘Defence account services’, ‘Ordinance Board Services’ etc which are primarily existing for supporting the Armed Forces now enjoy a better pay scale that what is enjoyed by the services they serve. Also the promotion rate is much faster with an officer making it to ‘Jt Secy’ level in 16 yrs while a equivalent ‘Maj Gen’ makes it after almost 32 yrs of service.

The Govt Doctors also have a faster promotion rate due to the ‘MACP’ scheme but the same could never be implemented for ‘Armed Forces’ doctors due to the acute disparity they would cause.



Successive Lowering of Status

The status of Armed Forces Officers was lowered after each war as it was perceived by the civil society that the image of Armed Forces Officers was augmenting & the political as well as bureaucratic class found itself threatened by the same.

Analysis & Effects of 6th pay commission to Include Financial Effects

The pay commission was near sighted in determining the grade pay of ‘Armed Forces Officers’ but when faced with a large amount of criticism, it delinked ‘grade pay’ from status & clarified that ‘grade pay’ was only for determining inter services seniority. This was a knee jerk reaction but the damage was done. The ‘grade pay differences’ was not only to be used to determine the seniority for all practical purposes but also determined the amount of ‘Entitlements & Benefits’ for all personals. This caused a major ‘Financial Loss’ to all personals including loss of ‘Social Standing’ among peers.

Misinterpretation of the Warrant by Vested Interests

The ‘Warrant of Precedence’ shows ‘Jt Secy’ to the GOI to be equivalent to ‘Maj Gen’. The official warrant does not cover the lower ranks. This was taken as a guide map by vested interests in equating all civil posts of ‘IG police’ & similar posts with a ‘Maj Gen’. In view of the above, it must be stated that very few posts are equivalent to ‘Jt Secy to the GOI’ & posts like ‘IG police of a state’ is not equivalent unless empanelled by the GOI. These minor rules are not known by a large number of people & are being used by some persons for their advantage.

The Economic Boom & the Present IS Situation

The boom in the economy added to the aspiration of all persons including that of the Armed Forces. The present IS situation also increased the commitments lead to further increase in difficulties faced by the Defence personal. The same was not adequately compensated by the successive pay commissions or the government thus causing a steady decline in their strata in the society.

Status as Perceived by the Society

In the present society where the visible factors of money & power are taken as guidelines for deciding the ‘Social Standing’ of a person, the persons of ‘Armed Forces’ take a beating. This has caused a visible change in the social environment & has also affected the intake of officers in the Armed Forces.

This of status has even affected the parity which is perceived by the civil society which can be seen from various agencies intake of ex-servicemen. In a recent UCO bank intake, the post of ‘Security Officer’ was open to ‘Commissioned Officer in Army (Captain)/Navy (Lieutenant)/Air Force (Flight Lieutenant)’ and to ‘Any officer in the rank of Inspector (Executive)/Inspector (GD) from Para-Military forces like BSF, CRPF, ITBP, CISF etc’.

Shortage of Officers in the Armed Forces

The Armed Forced are facing a acute shortage of officers in all three services. The shortage of officers in the Army is around 11,500 and in the Navy, the shortage is around 1606. The numbers which are less in Air Force is around 1342. This shortage is causing serious hamper in the operational efficiency of the services & the trend need to be arrested at the earliest.

Noteworthy Judgment

Rank Pay Judgment & ‘Maj Dhanapalan case’ are major judgments of Honorable ‘Supreme Court’ of India stating ‘rank pay’ forming part of ‘basic pay’ for all intent & purposes.

The Supreme Court slamming the union for treating Armed Forces personnel like ‘beggars’ in respect of emoluments and pension & asking authorities to adopt a more ‘humane approach’ towards those bravely defending the country’s borders.

Treatment of Veterans by Civil and Military

The agenda of ‘One Rank One Pay’ is present in the election manifesto of most of the National parties but no party in power has done anything on the same except giving lip service. The ex-servicemen returning their medals to the President of India was a day of national shame but no concrete steps have yet been taken to meet the demands.



Approach of Govt to Incl Politicians and Civil Bureaucrats

The apathy towards Armed Forces was well observed when the ‘Committee of Secretaries’ formed to look after the anomaly of ‘Sixth Pay Commission’ was formed without a military member and established more anomalies in its verdict. The Group of Ministers formed after the same to look into possible anomalies has not given any verdict even after a year of its formation.

When the veterans demanding ‘One Rank One Pension’ marched toward the ‘Rashtrapati Bhavan’ for returning their medals, the President who is the ‘Supreme Commander of Armed Forces’ did not even feel it important to meet them and assigned a ‘Joint Secretary’ to receive the medals in her behalf.

Negating the Effects of AVC Commission

AVC Commission lowered the intake service for the rank of ‘Captain’ to two years and that of ‘Major’ to six years. This was done to increase the satisfaction level of the officers of the three services. The same effect was reversed by the ‘Sixth Pay Commission’ in which the grade pay of all ranks ‘Captain’ onwards was lowered such that now the ‘Major’ equaled the ‘Captain’ of the pre-AVC Commission days. It must be noted here that the ‘Major’ of post AVC Commission is not even authorized the ‘Majors Accommodation’ he possesses in a military station but now being equal to a erstwhile ‘Captain’, is authorized only the ‘Captains Accommodation’. This may not be a area of concern in a pure military station, but causes major embarrassments in a mixed station where the status has declined substantially. Similar problems exist for all military ranks.

The Working of Mil Machinery

Before the

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