Reports have revealed that the armed forces have written to the defence ministry in 2003, 2005, 2008 and as recently as last month expressing their misgivings over the downgrading of military officials with respect to their civilian counterparts.
The latest missive was sent in response to a letter from the defence ministry promoting civilian officers over military. The document, which was signed by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, has sparked strong feelings among the establishment as well as political parties.
Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarindar Singh demanded Parrikar's resignation as a boost to the morale of the Indian army. He wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking him to sack the defence minister, in case he did not voluntarily quit his position. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) also made similar noises, calling out the government for taking pride in the army's recent surgical strikes along the Line of Control (LoC) but failing to protect its interests. A report earlier this month revealed that the government had made major cuts to the disability pensions of soldiers, leading to a wave of criticism.
A colonel, who was the equivalent of a director until now, has been downgraded to the rank equivalent to a joint director. A director-ranked civilian officer has been made equal to a brigadier, while principal directors are now equivalent to a major general.
"Status and functional responsibility go hand in hand. How can you separate them?" former army chief General VP Malik told NDTV.
"The armed forces are very, very sensitive about their status and social standing... I do not know why somebody thought of disturbing the status at a time the whole world is praising the armed forces' action after Uri attack. A letter like this affects morale," he added.
Parrikar said he would look into the allegations and a solution is expected soon. "I will see and if I find any reduction in functional responsibilities — this is not status ... some people are trying to misguide — they will be on same platform as earlier," he told NDTV.
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