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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Rumours on military promotion boards, and then some....

The Tribune has today reported that the defence minister, while addressing senior military commanders, has clarified that he had not passed any instructions for some sort of civilian oversight in military promotion boards as rumoured.

If it is true that the Minister has made this statement, then I am glad on this proactive step of clearing the air since this was a regrettable rumour doing the rounds and which was also unfortunately bought by many (otherwise well meaning) senior retired veterans. It had been incorrectly stated that the Minister had passed directions that civilian officers shall be members of promotion boards of the defence services.

The truth is totally the opposite and the rumour has other origins. In fact, the issue had not even emanated from the Minister or his office and relates to the Committee of Experts constituted by the Government, of which even I was one of the Members.

Within the military environment, there are murmurs regarding lack of transparency in selection boards. Some may call it perceived, some may label it real, but a fact that cannot be ignored is that there has been a spurt in complaints related to this aspect. To counter this, the Ministry of Defence came up with the suggestion of a civilian member in promotion boards of the defence services. This recommendation was deliberated by the ibid Committee of Experts specifically constituted to look into ways of reducing litigation and improving redressal of grievances, and ultimately the said proposal of the Ministry was REJECTED. Instead, we recommended the strengthening of the existing system of observers by providing that out of the total observers, two could be from sister services or even civilians (not Civil Servants) to alleviate any negative perception. Hence the rumours were wrong on various levels- Firstly, there were no such directions from the Minister, in fact, the Minister did not interfere at all with the Panel and rather wanted us to be totally objective and truthful. Secondly, the proposal was initiated due to constant complaints by serving officers of the defence services and not by the Ministry on its own volition. Thirdly, the said proposal was rejected and we did not agree with the Ministry. Fourthly, the system of observers already exists and the ultimate recommendation was to continue with the same with the minor change as above and without any voting rights.  

I sincerely feel that attempts should be made to verify facts before floating messages which have the propensity to damage institutions and cause disaffection. Also, ultimately the military must, and would have to, yield to transparency which is a pertinent need in this time and age, except in operational and strategic matters, to counterbalance both sides of the spectrum and offset misgivings. We would be indulging in the greatest disservice if we close our eyes and rationalize or attempt to justify that all is well. Since apparently there is nothing to hide, measures of openness should rather be welcomed. A closed non-dynamic system resting on the supposedly ‘time-tested’ past laurels may ultimately be counterproductive. There is no right or wrong in many of such issues and it is the duty of all stakeholders to ensure objectivity and lower the levels of dissatisfaction. Of course, for that, we need to have an unbolted mind and not react negatively to every hint of a wind of change. As Kennedy once addressed, “conformity is the jailer of freedom and enemy of growth”.

I hope we can rise to the occasion and become mature enough to debate the merits and demerits of adjustments and readjustments in the existing dispensation with the openness it deserves


shareitall said...

Dear Navdeep, now that the forces have found a voice through veterans, we need not grudge it. In fact, we have and cobtinue to be short charged. We will and have to be vigilent.at some instances we may exceed limits, so be it. Regards. N nath, WG CDR, retd.

Sunny Pant said...

Well..to expect that all will be satisfied with promotion boards is an unrealistic ask. Observers (of all kinds & variety) presence notwithstanding. Flaw is in the grading system which needs to be revisited holistically.Too much subjectivity, lopsided and unprofessional priorities of IOs & ROs create disgruntlement which manifests as cases seeking readdressal in the courts. But to also say that nothing is amiss in promotion boards would also be far from truth.

saffronheart said...

Thanks for the clearing the 'air' but there is no doubt that in every promotion bd there is 10% surprise element, ie 5% who deserve don't and 5% who don't do. And primarily it is due to the powers gtd to the COAS to grant full/partial redressal to Non-Stat complaints. One has heard a No of times in one's service how this has benefitted some offrs, some deserving most not so.Since most discussion in any bd is about the border line cases, would it not be fair to info these offrs prior to the bd about the damaging CRs and ask for their comments on the same, while treating their replies as first Non-Stat on the subject? These then be discussed/analysed by the bd and put up with their recommendations with regards to promotion or otherwise to powers that be?

Col SP Joshi(retd)
(IC 31053A)

saffronheart said...

Navdeep bash on regardless! No veteran in his senses will ever doubt your credentials, so carry on with what you are doing!

Best wishes,

Col SP JOshi