The armed forces have asked the government to withdraw a controversial order stopping Lt Colonels from being sent on deputation. In a letter dated January 14, the services say that not doing so will cause man management problems and reduce the army’s combat worthiness.
A government order dated December 31, 2008 had elevated Lt Colonels into the Pay Band 4 created by the Sixth Pay Commission, but asked the armed forces to send out officers equivalent to Major and Colonel (one rank above and below Lt Colonel, respectively) instead.
“Due to the government order, in one stroke, these vacancies on deputation have become unavailable to the services. Retaining such officers in units will lead to man management problems and thus reduce their combat worthiness,” says the January 14 letter from Vice Admiral D.K. Dewan, Chairman of the Principal Personnel Officers Committee.
The letter puts forth a series of arguments against banning Lt Colonels from deputations –from arguing that it would create a series of anomalies in fixing the pay of Lt Colonels and equivalents to the fact that they were against the principles of natural justice.
Lt Colonels and their equivalent form the largest percentage of cadre strength in the armed forces officers and spend from 13 to 26 years in service. Hence, posting them on deputation is an inescapable necessity, the letter states. Lt Colonels/equivalent with more than 17/18 years of service are non-empanelled for promotion. In order to maintain a youthful profile and to ensure that officers in the units are junior to Commanding Officers, senior Lt Colonels and their equivalent are posted on staff, Extra Regimental Employment and deputation.
Presently, approximately 2100 Lt Colonels and their equivalent ranks (Commanders, Wing Commanders) are on deputation. The armed forces say they cannot spare so many equivalent officers on deputation. They already have a shortage of Majors and Colonels and their equivalents are needed to man key operational appointments.
The letter says denying PB-4 to Lt Colonels on deputation will have ‘long term adverse implications on the officer cadre management of the services and combat worthiness of the units. Further, it will reduce efficacy of the organisations to which Lt Colonels are posted as they are user representatives and involved in joint research, development, production and training in organizations such as the DGQA, DRDCO, Ordnance factories and NCC.
The letter notes that the government order is against the spirit of the Ajai Vikram Singh committee report which recommended a youthful profile for the armed forces.
The letter questions the concept of ‘combat ready’ or ‘ready-to-combat’ jobs as mentioned in the January letter from the PMO. “Even ships, units and establishments located in peace stations are always in operational readiness. In an era of asymmetrical warfare, this aspect becomes more relevant as the recent Mumbai terror attacks have proved, when units of the army, navy and air force were pressed into action at the shortest notice possible,” the letter states.
Text of letter addressed by PMO to defence
Refer meeting on November 28 with the EM and RM
i) Lt Colonels in their parent service holding combat or ready to combat jobs may be placed in PB4 and may be given a grade pay of Rs 8000. Lt Colonels on deputation may be given PB4 and Grade Pay of Rs 8000 only when they return from deputation to their parent service
ii) While the dispensation in Para (i) above may apply to Lt Colonels already on deputation, in future no Lt Colonel may be sent on deputation. Only Majors and Colonels may be sent on deputation.
iii) A high powered committee may be set up to resolve command and control functions / status of armed forces officers vis-à-vis paramilitary forces and civilians
iv) In future, pay revision of armed forces may be delinked from civilians and separate board set up for the armed forces.
Source : India today (22.1.2009)