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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Mandalisation of the Army



India Gate
Image by Christian Haugen via Flickr

Ajai Shukla’s article ‘Soldier Heal Thyself’ in Business Standard talks about ‘Mandalisation’ of the Army as one of the many ills that ail its appraisal and promotion systems. The previous Blogitorial on this Blog had also spoken of the urgent requirement of overhauling these. I would like to dwell a little further on the ‘pro rata’ policy responsible for this ‘Mandalisation’ – the background, possible reasons, and its impact.

Prior to the introduction of this policy, the Combat Arms i.e. Armoured Corps, Infantry and Mechanised Infantry comprised the ‘General Cadre’, with no distinction amongst them for promotional vacancies. Selected officers from Combat Support Arms like Artillery, Engineers and Signals, based on merit, were also given the option to join the general cadre, giving them the opportunity to rise to the highest ranks. Each service had its own fixed vacancies for higher ranks for appointments that could be held only by officers of the particular service, such as the head of service in each formation HQ. Each combat support arm also had such vacancies – such as Chief Engineer or MG Arty.  The only specified vacancies within general cadre were at the Line Directorates of each arm and their Schools of Instruction. Even within this, the Mechanised Infantry had the smallest share as it was clubbed with the Armoured Corps in the Line Directorate, and had a smaller centre commanded by a Brigadier.

Somewhere along the line, resentment grew amongst the ranks of Infantry about the disproportionate number of Armoured Corps officers getting the share of the general cadre vacancies. This feeling came to a head in the early nineties, when the COAS and five Army Commanders at one time were from the Armoured Corps, and the sixth Army Commander and Vice Chief from Artillery. Thus, the biggest fighting arm in terms of strength, which was also bearing the brunt of the Counter Insurgency operations in North East and J&K, had no representation at the upper echelons of command. Remember, this was just before the Rashtriya Rifles was raised, and therefore the deployment of officers from other arms in such operations was therefore limited to a handful, and those also on staff duties in formation HQs.

While the chagrin of Infantry officers was justified, the causes attributed to this state of affairs was not entirely fair or true. The perception was that all officers in the Armoured Corps received inflated ACRs as a matter of routine, and that there was a high degree of parochialism within the Corps, leading to better promotional prospects. Instances of inflated ACRs and parochialism, while not completely absent in the Armoured Corps as in any other, were really not the real reason behind Armoured Corps officers ‘doing well’. The real reasons lay in the quality of initial intake at some points in time, better professional exposure due to nature of the arm’s operational roles, and environment in the Armoured Regiments being by and large more conducive to professional development. Each of these needs some explanation.

Till a few years back (before the impact of ‘pro rata’ took its toll), Armoured Corps was the most sought after arm amongst the Gentlemen Cadets passing out of IMA / OTA. In almost all courses that passed out, more than half the GCs from the ‘Super Block’ i.e. in the first ten or so in the overall order of merit of the course, opted for it. In fact the perception was that the only way one could get commissioned into Armoured Corps was either by being in the super block, having ‘Parental Claim’ (GCs whose fathers had served in a particular arm / regiment had a lien on getting commissioned into it), or having some very strong strings to pull. Infantry, on the other hand, was not very popular as a choice, and people opting for other arms landing up in Infantry used to call themselves ‘casualties’. The reasons for this can be debated at length and probably acrimoniously, but that is not the point at issue. The point is that a disproportionately large number of young officers getting commissioned into Armoured Corps were from the higher end of the merit in their course. Although performance in the Academies and passing out merit cannot be taken as an unfailing yardstick for subsequent performance, law of averages would dictate that a large number of these high achievers would continue to excel throughout their service and therefore have an edge when the batch was considered for promotion. Thus the impact of ‘quality of initial intake’.

Better professional exposure relates to the role of armour in operations. Normally, a squadron of armour supports the operations of an infantry brigade, and a regiment that of a division. The ‘area of influence’ and ‘area of interest’ of an armour commander is therefore vast as compared to his counterpart in Infantry. Even during peacetime training events and exercises, a squadron commander is therefore an inherent part of the planning process at the Brigade HQs, and his CO is an advisor to the GOC. Such exposures give them a degree of self assurance, insight and opportunities for learning that are not available to their counterparts in the Infantry. For instance, when the squadron commander attends his CO’s orders, he gets a fair insight into the way the GOC intends to fight the divisional battle.

Environment in majority of the Armoured Regiments is conducive to further enhancing such professional growth and development. Young officers are encouraged to speak their minds and also be unhesitant about asking questions on professional matters, not only within the unit, but also during formation training events. Rarely is their professional initiative or curiosity curbed. The outcome of these opportunities becomes apparent at courses of instruction where such an exposure gives them an edge over their counterparts. Unfortunately, this is often ill conceived as flamboyance or arrogance, leading to greater resentment against them.

So, while inflated ACRs and sheltered service under parochial senior officers of the same arm can be the cause of the rise of some officers (as in any other arm or service), it would be a gross oversimplification to ignore the abovementioned factors as amongst the causes for disproportionate number of Armoured Corps officers qualifying for promotions when general cadre vacancies formed a common pool.

Coming back to the origins of the ‘pro rata’ policy. Gen VP Malik was the first Infantry chief to take over after the highly resented period described above, and it was during this tenure that the policy of reserving promotional vacancies in the general cadre based on the strength of an arm was formulated. Thus began the process of ‘Mandalisation’ of the army, where promotions to higher ranks are now on the basis of quota for arms rather than on the comparative merit within a batch. Thus, if there are 12 vacancies for Armoured Corps and 100 vacancies for Infantry in a batch of 500 Lt Cols being considered for promotion, an Armoured Corps officer who may be 13th in Armoured Corps and 20th in the overall merit amongst those 500 will not be promoted, while an Infantry officer who is 130th may be.

Another reason cited for this preferential treatment is the Infantry’s need to be compensated for greater hardships such as deployment in Counter Insurgency. Not only is this logic warped, in today’s scenario when officers of all arms get exposure to such environments through RR and other tenures, it is no longer valid. Rewards for service adverse conditions also come through higher allowances, gallantry awards, and additional weightage for field / operational service in promotion boards and selection for foreign assignments. In the example cited earlier, it is feasible that the Armoured Corps officer 13th in merit may have had two field tenures and the Infantry officer at 130 may not have had any at all – there is no mechanism to avoid such lacunae. Reserving promotional vacancies for an arm on this basis is therefore not warranted, particularly when merit is the casualty.

The impact of this policy has been visible on the morale of officers of Armoured Corps and Mechanised Infantry. A clear indicator of this is the Staff College results in the past few years, which has seen a declining number of officers from these corps qualifying. The reason is the general belief in the futility of aspiring for the professional course in the ‘pro rata’ regime. It must be emphasised that no matter what the size or role of any arm or service, each has a vital role in the ultimate operational effectiveness of the Army, and appeasing one at the extreme cost of another is far from prudent.

It is unfortunate that decisions at the apex levels in the Army have been made based on loyalties other than to the organisation as an entity. Officers beyond the rank of Brigadier are supposed to be above the constraints of arms or regiments, and that is the reason traditionally they no longer wear the shoulder insignia of their regiment / corps. They are also supposed suffix ‘IA’ (Indian Army) to their names, as opposed to the regiment / corps suffixed by officers below that rank. This practice seems to have been lost, not only in letter, but also in spirit. Things had reached such a head recently that even the press commented on the proclivity of senior officers to bat for their own arms.

One hopes that when the new chief sets about improving the internal health of the Army, he would be able to rise above narrower affiliations and be able to act in the overall interests of the organisation.

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34 Responses “Mandalisation of the Army”

  1. d
    07 Apr 2010 at 4:37 pm

    dear sir,one needs to carry out analysis of the AV singh phase 2 vacancies.and whether they have been distributed even on prorata basis.there was a report in tribune contradicting the same.you may carry out some more analysis on it

  2. yogi
    07 Apr 2010 at 5:43 pm

    Dear Sir,

    Pro-rata System of Promotion: Is it Mandalisation of the Army

    Recently there have been two articles on the issue of pro-rata system of promotions in the Army. First by Ajai Shukla in his article ‘Soldier Heal Thyself’ in Business Standard and second by another armoured corps officer http://goodnewz.in/Blog2/?p=101

    Let us look at the points they make and see as to where would they eventually lead.

    First it is said that in earlier times only three types were commissioned into the Armoured Corps, namely those in `super block’ who at a certain time were graded higher than others, for the time being let us say that grading was entirely fair. No. 2 were those with `parental claim’, apparently they had no intrinsic claim to `merit’ except `birth’. No. 3 who could pull strings.

    So the Armoured Corps of the yore was a very close-knit closed society with links and cross-links between majority of officers. Obvious conclusion is that such a group will take care of each-other and inflated assessment would be the norm.

    Now come to second point they make, that is, `wider canvass’ on which the armoured corps officer supposedly operated. If we accept this logic, than we should accept that a cardiologists would be better than a General Physician? You may like to ask some doctor, who would tell you that each has a specific role. Moreover this argument is quite dangerous because if we accept this hypothesis then IAS and IFS officers of Additional Secretary level would be better Corps Commanders because they have wider knowledge of internal functioning of government and external dimensions. Fact of the matter is professional competence of military profession cannot be defined with such casual remarks as `a squadron commander is therefore an inherent part of the planning process at the Brigade HQs, and his CO is an advisor to the GOC’. In reality these worthies are advisors with regard to their own arm and have NO (NO) mandate to define the deployment of battalions or brigades. On the other hand the company commanders by virtue of being basic building block have a larger say in deployment and role in subsequent shaping the battle.

    The fact is that an army officer is required to operate at a particular level while in a certain service bracket. Just because one of them has wider general knowledge about affairs at another level does not make him better always. That is why entrance examination for DSSC is pitched at Battalion level, irrespective of the knowledge some officer may have about operational plans of a corps. Third part is about specialization of each arm. The very edifice of the Army is built of many `corps’ who exist due to their specialization, that is, Armoured Corps has specialization in mechanised warfare. Infantry by its very nature is more flexible and more usable and hence more prevalent. Hence the infantry are not only more suited but more deserving for heading combined arms organisations.

    However to be fair to all and in respect to their specialization the concept of pro-rata has been instituted, which is fair and square from every angle.

  3. admin
    07 Apr 2010 at 6:27 pm

    @Yogi,

    Some clarifications. About the ‘three types of entries’, this is mentioned as a “perception” the prevailed because it was a sought after arm with few vacancies. It being a close knit arm and inflated ACRs being prevalent may seem logical to you – doesn’t to me. On the contrary, human nature would dictate that people who are high achievers would tend to be more competitive.

    Unfortunately you are contradicting yourself when you say that a particular role or ‘canvas’ does not make any corps better, also cautioning against this being a dangerous logic as relating to IAS / IFS officers being more suitable by virtue of better knowledge. In the very next paragraph, you advocate that Infantry is better suited for command due to its flexibility. Isn’t that a dangerous argument like the previous one?

    Incidentally, nowhere in the post does it say that having such an exposure or role makes the officers from armoured corps any better. This is mentioned in the context of it providing “a degree of self assurance, insight and opportunities for learning”. Nor is it suggested that the advisory role is for telling the commander how to deploy his integral units. As to the relative importance of the role of either a company commander or a squadron commander, I feel each would play an irreplaceable role as important as the other. The point again is not whose role is more important, but that the squadron commander’s role gives him more opportunity for learning and a wider perspective.

    You seem to have missed the point of the entire post. The point is not that any arm or its role is better or inferior. Each arm has an irreplaceable role, and are important in their own right.

    The point is that merit, and not role or hardships faced, should be the criteria for promotion to higher ranks.

    You are, of course, entitled to your disagreement with this.

  4. Lt Col (Retd) U P Mathur
    08 Apr 2010 at 5:35 am

    Vacancies based on Arms or Service is highly illogical if we want a Professional Army. For that matter, even vacancies for DSSC arm wise is not correct. Both of these should be open and merit should be the criteria for selection to DSSC and further courses and thereafter General Cadre. Officers above the rank of Brigadier should not be narrow minded and confine themselves to the interest of their Regiment or Arm.
    U P Mathur
    Lt Col (Retd)

  5. Yogi
    08 Apr 2010 at 5:46 am

    @admin 6.27Pm

    Thank you for your detailed response. Let me clarify. First I have served two tenures in `mechanised’ environment and am happy for it. Second, my grand father and his brothers served with distinction the cavalry. So I can only have higest regard for the Lancers.
    The point I wish to make is same as you sign off with, that is, merit ought to be the criteria. Now we need to define the merit. As you agree all have arole to play. Since we all have roles these are not similar roles, rather these are concurrent and supporting roles. So the deduction is that let us all play our roles with out editing each-other out.

  6. admin
    08 Apr 2010 at 6:20 am

    @Col Mathur – to the best of my knowledge, vacancies for DSSC are not arm / service wise. In fact, in the past few years, officers from services have had a bigger representation than those from the Armoured Corps.

    @Yogi – I am glad we agree on the macro issues. I also am of the view that we need a better definition of merit, and that the appraisal system needs substantial overhauling. I have spoken about the same in a previous post.

  7. Lt Col (Retd) U P Mathur
    08 Apr 2010 at 11:03 am

    While I was in service DSSC vacancies were arm wise excluding the competitive vacancies as I recollect. For Corps of Engineers there were about 20 vacancies. The thinking was that if they have open competition, then not many Infantry officers compared to their strength would qualify.
    Besides, all Heads of Arms and Services should be of the status, rank and pay of Army Commanders. The best of officers who are with services or from Arms and either do not accept or make it to General Cadre should at least have one vacancy each to reach the level of Army Commander, since there is a difference in their pay.
    U P Mathur

  8. Kirpy
    08 Apr 2010 at 6:17 pm

    Nice article – logic and passion!!! Merit needs to be the single criteria in each and every field …NOT only the Armed Forces … we need to get the best to do the job rather than some sort of MANDALISATION ….

  9. admin
    10 Apr 2010 at 8:47 am

    Thanks Kirpy

  10. IronRaven
    16 Apr 2010 at 3:29 pm

    There is a long-standing & suppressed demand for including mutual assessment by peers & subordinates in the appraisal process. This has been stymied repeatedly by the brass-hats who see a threat to their actual worth & power to decide career progression.

    Another emerging (& proliferating) trend is that of hanging onto coat-tails of a superior & following him up the ladder – sort of ‘piggy-backing’ to professional ascent. The Army is replete with such ‘hangers-on’ who are today three-star generals (with more on the way) thanks to a lifelong association with a superior where ACRs were taken care of. What galls me is that once an officer is identified as ‘meritorious’ or ‘professionally eminent’, he is never tested in professionally trying circumstances. Officers (Colonels) who undergo the Higher Command / Higher Defence Management Courses look for desk jobs (on staff) under favourable appraisal and/or administrative environments where risks of disclosure of professional (in)competence & acumen are
    minimal. And once these ‘jockeys’ ride out the minimal required staff tenures they opt for ‘study leave’ & await promotional boards to work their magic.

    There was a time when the high-fliers (by ACR ratings), & the professional demons (by course gradings) & the ‘brahmins’ from Higher Command / Long Defense Management Course / National Defense College were put through a second command tenure in areas of counter-insurgency & adverse operational conditions to test their true mettle. Nowadays the output from these pinnacle-courses go occupy desks & revel in ‘making-it’. The ground soldiers plod on in ignominy quite like the
    worker ants in an ant colony; the ‘elite’ professional swingers are the ‘drones’ that fertilise the Queen…

    Till we actually test the product of our pinnacle-courses I assure you that we continue to nurture & promote officers who are patrons of moral turpitude, professional shams, sheltered tenures, inflated appraisals & sycophancy.

    I hate to admit it but another round with Pakistan will unearth the true capabilities of our officer cadre with the exception of the subalterns who are a proud saving grace (yet!). Taking on a larger enemy may impact the Nation as a whole but a tryst with the Pakis will be a self-containing spring-cleaning excercise. You have to see the shit that we carry…..

    Please check out the article at http://www.newsweek.com/id/222793 it’s a revelation & the Utopia that I seek.

  11. admin
    16 Apr 2010 at 3:56 pm

    @Iron Raven – I agree with the points made by you. The inordinate amount of importance accorded to career courses has resulted in command tenures being viewed more as vehicles to prove one’s mettle in the race for nomination to them rather than opportunities to work towards contributing meaningfully to one’s command. Unfortunately, often the requirements for these two conflict. This is a self perpetuating cycle, making matters worse.

    We do need to take inspiration from IDF and Israel’s example. But there is an issue of core values as a country, where we differ substantially from that country.

  12. Awasthi
    21 Apr 2010 at 9:35 am

    It is not untrue that large number of officers who were higher in merit got into Armoured Corps. The problem lies in sending high merit officers to armoured Corps at the cost of other arms and services. the system of blocks and superblocks is counter productive. Sort this out and pro-rata is fine.

  13. pk
    24 Apr 2010 at 8:53 am

    the basic issue has escaped the notice of every one.the distribution of vacancies in not even on prorata basis.The vacancies allotted to infantry and arty are in excess of their share as per prorata also.This needs to be analysed in more details.The same may be obtained through the rti route

  14. admin
    24 Apr 2010 at 1:03 pm

    @PK – would you have any figures to support that?

  15. pk
    26 Apr 2010 at 6:02 am

    probably a look at the various board results will provide you the data,also there was an artical in tribune long time back.for the results for the favoured ones are close to 60% where as for others its close to 25-30%only.how can that be possible.

  16. pk
    28 Apr 2010 at 7:51 am

    waiting to hear from you,sir

  17. admin
    28 Apr 2010 at 12:29 pm

    @PK – unfortunately, there is not much to reply. You are probably right about the statistics, but all that is covered by the policy, which is made by the same people. A lot of creative policy making. All other arms gain because of exclusive command vacancies available to them – they get their share of gen cadre, plus Engrs have works and Border Roads, Arty have their own exclusive vacancies, as does Signals. Infantry has RR and Assam Rifles. In Armd Corps, the vacancies for Cols is restricted to the slots available for command of Armd Regts. And beyond that, general cadre vacancies are divided arm wise. There is further engineering going into it through extending command tenures of all arms other than infantry.
    So what can be done? Nothing I can think of.

  18. sierralfa
    04 Jun 2010 at 3:45 pm

    Your last blog of 28 Apr couldn’t be further from the truth. I am a serving officer who has been extensively involved with formulation of this policy, especially the issue you are discussing. Since I would not like to blog on a public forum on this I am open to any discussion through emails. I would be failing you and the organisation if I did not convince you that the system is completely fair and this perceived martyr status of the Armd Corps is completely unjustified. How come you do not bring out the fact that 10 out of 11 Brigs in the last board of Brigs to Maj Gen, have been approved.You also do not mention that the policy presently is only for the funnel of Col to Brig. Yes, lots of Armd Corps offrs have told me that with the policy at this level only a restricted number of Armd Corps Brigs are available as agenda for the board for Maj Gen.

    How do you justify merit….just what is merit. It is your perception that Armd Corps offrs are more confident, more aware and so on. Would you like to revisit the 1974 batch and take a call. Perhaps you will change your mind. This is always the trend….a good batch of Armr followed by Inf etc etc. Since one cannot find a scientific method to ensure 100 percent satisfaction it is best to have a pro-rata.

    Lstly, no one gains command vacancies, that is a misnomer being spread around

    We can discuss and you can even set up a meeting on this. Needless to say I am an Inf man committed only to the good of the Indian Army.

  19. Sword
    05 Jun 2010 at 5:40 am

    @sierralfa,

    I appreciate your sincerity of intent and conviction in the correctness of the pro rata system – particularly since you are one of its architects as you mentioned. I would love to carry forward the discussion through any medium of your choice. However, for now, please allow me to state my views on the aspects brought out by you here itself.

    Before that, I just want to clarify that:-
    1. The discussion is purely of academic interest to me, since I am not affected by the policies, right or wrong, any more. But yes, interested I am.
    2. Whatever I write is based on my personal experiences and perceptions since I have had no official exposure or a tenure dealing with the issue. I have, though, been on the receiving end.
    3. I am completely open to being corrected and convinced, as long as the arguments are convincing.

    Firstly, about 10 out of 11 Brigs in the last board being approved, as I mentioned I have avoided specifics for various reasons. However, you have answered given out the reason yourself. I am sure you would agree that the boards are by and large fair, and therefore each one of them was deserving. Logically,if you filter out a batch at Lt Col and Col level, leaving only the very few on top, they would tend to sail through subsequent boards, provided they don’t get into trouble along the way.

    Secondly, to the best of my knowledge pro rata applies at Lt Col level too, and not only for Col to Brig as mentioned by you. But I may be wrong. In any case, once you have applied this filter, you have already wasted out a large number of deserving officers who may be higher in merit than at least a few of their colleagues from other arms and services.

    As for what is merit – that question is best answered by someone who has handled it in dealing with career management of officers. But to a layman like me, it is whatever the organisation has presently defined it to mean. And whatever its definition, right or wrong, the point is that the parameters are equally applicable to all arms. Therefore a person who is higher in merit has been judged by the same parameters by the organisation as one who is lower. The difference in arms does not play a role here.

    The basic flaw in the pro rata system as applicable to the general cadre is that officers of the same batch from different arms, evaluated throughout their service on the same parameters, do not have a level playing field when it comes to being considered for promotion. The differentiation on the basis of arms is illogical because there is no differentiation in their subsequent employment.

    Lastly, I find one particular statement of yours intriguing – “… since one can not find a scientific method …it is best to have pro rata”. The issue is not of satisfaction but of a level playing field. As you said, the quality of officers of different arms across batches differ. I see this as all the more reason to have a common pool of selection for the general cadre. This would ensure that in a particular batch, if a particular arm has a good lot, they do not suffer because of restriction of vacancies. Conversely, if an arm is weak in a batch, the officers selected would be of higher merit irrespective of the arm. I seen nothing fairer than this.

  20. pk
    07 Jun 2010 at 6:09 am

    sierraalfa,
    please tell me if the overall number of vacancies in all arms and services are exactly on prorata or it is biased towards some arms.I read a report in tribune saying that the ratio was heavily skewed towards infantry and artillery.especially the distribution of vacancies of phase 2 of av singh committee.it has also introduced disparity in seniority by as much as three years in substantive ranks,across batches.perhaps in IMA they shd tell it clearly that they will be discriminated upon like this and given an option to leave if they are allotted other arms and services against their wishes.the same shd also be there in ads for university entrance schemes for technical graduates too.

  21. Ravin Kumar
    22 Jul 2010 at 5:17 pm

    The perspective of both the parties; those who are percieved to be the sufferers and those that seem to have had the windfall are justifiable …depending on the angle from which they are viewed!! There are no right or wrong answers….

    The problem is therefore a bit complex and vexed….but i beg to submit that it is my personal conviction that the solution for this is pretty much simple….

    Put all the pieces into one basket, …Cavalry, mech, artillery, engineers, infantry men, possibly signals as well (with a pinch of salt) and have one selection board…..total up the vacancies across the so called Combat and Combat support Arms….and distribute them as per merit!

    As regards the issue of merit…lets try to find a system to ascertain true merit which is NOT just based on the ubiquitous ACR or decorations or field postings….but on actual parameters to guaze performance….

    Me thinks that it will result in the deserving getting the due across the board.

    My logic…the command function demands more or less similar expectations across various arms with minor variations.

  22. pistolero
    25 Aug 2010 at 4:43 pm

    WEll, Just read through. Two bits…. “merit”seems to be defined by excellence inwritten exams… probably service in a couple of “hot” fields would elucidate merit better. The infantry YO does not live in a professional environment at all… like as not He gets deployed ab initio as an independent company commander in counter terrorism where he is immediately a part of the microcosm of local society, politics and so on. His much touted “military knowledge” does not grow. Acute shortages at YO level do not allow for adequately long courses but more like putting him through a fast series of tests assessing him and out with it. And the beauty is the whole world knows the ‘infantry’ task better than the infantryman himself !!! A few years back, serving in a ‘soft’ field I was astonished when a mech officer said “Sir don’t you realise this is my op report” The remark is self explanatory in light of the fact that all but one of my reports to that day were op reports! This is obviously an infantryman talking…

  23. Sword
    25 Aug 2010 at 4:57 pm

    @Pistolero – there is a lot of truth in what you are saying. But then, does that mean that none of the infantrymen do well in written exams? Or do all have an equitable distribution of field tenures? I know of at least two infantrymen who have finished command of their respective battalions without having ventured either north of Jammu or east of Allahabad. But when it comes to pro-rata, they also enjoy the same benefits as you, who has rarely had anything but an op report.
    My point remains the same – yes, give advantage for field tenures, not for belonging to an arm that generally faces hardships. By that logic, the army in general has a much tougher time than any of the civil services. So why doesn’t the government reserve some of the top slots in every ministry for faujis?

  24. siera.siera
    10 Jan 2011 at 7:03 am

    The Army today is reflective of all malaise afflicting our civil society and it has to. Mandalisation is one small part of it but with great resultant deterioration in leadership. It breeds mediocrity. All logic given above are applicable but their weightage varies. Equal opportunities, exposure and then level playing field based on merit would help but that would need a transformational change in policies, processes and structures. The Army should do it inhouse before some politician or bureaucrat imposes them on the army.

  25. sanjay singh
    10 Jan 2011 at 1:12 pm

    One of the most hilarious debates. Excellence by and large, reduced to good tenures near home stations, less an odd tenure in field, ability to voice ideas and concepts that cannot be tested, some good golf, regular whiskey and repertoire of jokes and fine dressing. Our nation deserves something far more from its military leaders.

  26. Sword
    10 Jan 2011 at 3:50 pm

    @Siera – Neither the brass, nor others (politicians and bureaucrats) have the time to do anything like that. They will only come into play when there is some kind of a crisis and action is unavoidable.
    @Sanjay – your comment just goes to illustrate all that has been written on the stereotypical perception of Armoured Corps amongst others. Isn’t it so easy to stereotype – like certain people having their brains in their knees?

  27. aziz
    10 Jan 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Browsed through the back n forth on pro-rata. makes interesting reading, but unfortunately we have reached a sit where it is not feasible to find a propah solution. There are a lot of ills- parochialism, protected tenures, varying yardsticks for gauging professionalism by different evaluators etc etc.Let sleeping lions lie. Just do your bit and leave it to providence for everything else.

  28. siera.siera
    12 Feb 2011 at 3:26 pm

    Reservation conceptually is providing a crutch and not curing the illness. Crutches don’t produce sprinters. Pro-rata is a dole, a political legacy in our country for short term gains.

  29. teji
    09 Jul 2011 at 2:54 pm

    Armd corps offrs need to look at practical operational experience of infantry officers. Their are armd corps offrs who have rose to become general without even firning a shot in live sitution. We do not need paper tigers. Even few finish their command without seeing 45 tanks taking part in an excercise. Even excercise areas are restricted to limited areas and same from lt and even when he grows to become general. We do not need flambouyant professors but soldiers who can undertake operational stress. If so much aggrieved why not take INFANTRY.

  30. Sword
    09 Jul 2011 at 3:21 pm

    @Teji, while a lot of what you say may be true but theere are a number of Generals from the infantry too, who may not have seen a shot fired in anger. Why not then let operational experience, not the colour of your beret be the criteria? And if we can get along with everyone joining the infantry, why not just disband Armoured Corps

  31. Suruchi
    04 Sep 2011 at 7:13 am

    The entire article is based on false notions.
    First, about Quality of initial intake. This is a highly debated issue not only in the present context but at national level logic of some bureaucracies advanced by services such as IAS. Being son of a CO or SM is an incentive and not a higher Quality. Whether, the initial order of merit of IMA / OTA should be the sole determinant in deciding the life long seniority within a batch is absolutely faulty as would be exhibited if one carries out a comparative analysis of the performances of officers of “Super Blocks” versus other blocks over the years. In a system where organizational biases of “Close Mind” characteristics are promoted in the name of “Types” ( Squarden type, School Types, Country Type and if nothing Train Types), gaining merit most of the time is without merit. Unfortunately, similar trends remain prevalent after commissioning, albeit the association types undergo modifications. This argument invariably is faulty. That is what characterizes close minds. If this was true, then why assess them year by year. Make all of them generals from IMA itself !

    Second, about Better professional exposure due to nature of the arm’s operational roles. We shall take, say, ten years of Service exposure. Armoured, Artillary and Infantry officer would have undergone two Courses by then but under differing circumstances and preparation time etc. An Infantry officer would have had at least three to four types of terrain and operational exposures, at least two of those of active service. May be for some, one staff / regimental / instructional exposure. In the same time frame an average Mechanized or Armoured officer is exposed only to a very few things except to running on models. Only a few lucky get a chance to chase hounds and smell the soil. If the meaning to better exposure is taken to remain in a station for six to ten years, then those officers are fit only to remain there only rather than being able to go somewhere else. An Infantry officer is the over exposed professional who knows more rather than speaks more. This argument is devoid of facts.

    The third, about Environment in the Armoured Regiments being by and large more conducive to professional development. The point is what is profession and what is development? What mileage an officer of Armoured Corps would have done on his Tank at completion of ten years or twenty years of Service? He would be lucky to have been exposed to two types of Tanks as commander and two possible terrain types. Compare that with the knee mileage of an infantry officer at the same length of service span. What professional development are we talking about? I hope not Event management, Golf strokes or some forced Safaris.

    There is some polemics involved, or rather quite a lot. Area of influence, Area of Interest, would make the PARA and even better the AIF most exposed rather than AC officers to qualify them to be IA leaders. The same argument can be used to deduce AC unfit for 80 percent of our borders and further to restrict them to only less than 10 percent of overall vacancies, that too for lower grades. Influence of Brahmos would still be better.

    The only area of growth for AC officer is that they are not exposed to “Vital Risks of being Exposed” on the ground as majority of Infantry officers undergo through their service. If you are not vitally exposed, there are no chances of vitally being extinguished. Mediocrity prevails and other areas emerge as chances of growth. Do we need that professionalism? The Armed Forces do not need “Generals of the Book” exorcising the enemy by mere mantras chanted in accented English.

    The last point about Morale. Does the AC want to sustain its morale by being “out of proportions”, thereby, logically demoralizing others? Obtaining fair share is necessarry for the morale of every one. No one except AC claim that they need others share by claiming their superiority on false grounds ? What has been the quality of generalship when AC generals were out of proportions? And still are !
    The point is, who is Mandalising whom by having such illogical and false notions and trying to institutionalize those for perpetuity? In our Country and Society, who does not know that Mandalism was the consequences of monopolization by a certain section. Why cry over it and disgrace the word. One can see the list of Gallantry award winner of Khem Karan Sector of 1965 Indo – Pak war and then adjudge how illogical some commander can be under this notions of superiority of Arm as if no other arm ever participated in that sector. Blaming it on Gen Malik or others is being very superficial. The arguments must be based on facts and figures. No one quotes those figure as those are dangerous and would expose the reality. For example, if one was to carry out an analysis of the Armoured Corps Generals and then see how many Artillary or Infantry brigadiers under them make it to the General grades as compared to percentage of Armoured Corps brigadiers, etc, etc. Those empirical findings have been much more dangerous than polemics of the grade being used here. The attitude that Armoured Corps officers are inherently superior to others itself is fraught with grave dangers for organizational health and may entitle others to seek escape from serving with or under them to get a fair chance of growth, equality and dignity.
    Ajay Shukla has chucked Armoured Corps. Please do not subscribe to such rotten views for the sake of every one.
    Since we are a reflection of our society, the way forward is to accept it and look for newer areas of growth and opportunities.

    The basic rule of comparison is that it is carried out among similars. The article asserts that AC and other Fighting Arms are not similar former being superior (means different). Then why argue to have them in the same basket to award generalship? Let all be compared with comparables. Let their be a fair share of all grades, the superior AC and inferior others! That is what makes an organization. Prorate is good for the health or the system rather than oligarchy of AC.

  32. Sword
    04 Sep 2011 at 4:41 pm

    @Suruchi,you seem to have missed the points made in my post completely, as is evident by the fact that you have raised the very same arguments that I have cited or dealt with.
    Most of this argument is academic, as neither of our points of view are going to materially affect the policy. Having said that, I reiterate my basic points:-

    – Service conditions for different arms / services vary depending on their roles.
    – Individuals of a specific arm / service do not specifically opt for specific service conditions, but are ‘thrown’ into them as per organizational requirements. Thus, if the organization requires an infantry officer to be posted in a field area, he doesn’t have much choice about it. Similarly, officers of other arms and services also get their share of operational tenures whether in RR or otherwise. And a large number of them do acquit themselves creditably during such tenures, including winning gallantry awards.
    – Such service is compensated through additional points, monetary allowances, and gallantry awards of other recognition as deserved (sometimes undeserved too – but that’s another story).

    Then, why not allow a level playing field – let infantry officers who have not seen field service be disqualified from taking advantage of the pro rata quota, while allowing officers of other arms / services who have to form part of it?

    Some of your assertions are truly intriguing. To the best of my knowledge, Col Ajay Shukla has not ‘chucked’ the Armoured Corps (as in left it and joined some other arm), but ‘chucked’ the Army. Though what relation does his career choice have with the current argument beats me.

    One place where I agree with you is in the fact that PARA (actually I would say SF) officers have a far greater exposure than either inf or armd corps officers.

    I guess a lot of what you have said just goes to prove what I was trying to – that there exists a jaundiced mindset, and this is a deep rooted malaise. One can only bemoan the organization that is in the hands of people with such a mindset.

    All the best to you.

  33. Suruchi
    04 Sep 2011 at 5:18 pm

    @ Dear Sword

    First of all, I have highest regard for Ajay Shukla having perhaps cut the bread with him (irrespective of his views on Arjun and Mandalisation).

    Ok, the moment one uses the word ” mandalisation”, one is being nastily political in an all representative apolitical and national orgainisation having no other organisation so good as Indian Armed Forces.

    That Infantry and Artillary has mandalised the Army tentamounts to claiming for oneself the status of Brahmins and castigating others as OBCs and even better the Shudras. Have not you used same logic of merit and superiority on false notions of birth (commission) through out?

    About AC officer having faced bullets in RR or otherwise, he gets benefits for it in comparisions to the Brahmins of AC. Same is true of Infantry Shudras being left out if he has not done enough inspite of his feild tenures.

    The issue is benfits within and not superlative benefits. The issue is proprtional represation at decision making level. Otherwise, as since 1947, AC will change over to five tank types and poor infantry will remain stuck up with SLR. No tanks will face the battle but SLR will take severe beatings thousand of times.

    Proof of intentions and mindset is in actions and not pontifications, declarations and articles.

    I am for the synergy and you appear to be advancing towards politicisation of the organisation. This way you will remit your legitimate role of leadership of land warfare to long range navy and air force and argue that they should be leaders of of all Armoured Formations.

    Warped thinking and logic at its best.

    All the best.

  34. Sword
    05 Sep 2011 at 3:57 am

    @Suruchi, you are obfuscating the issue by bringing in caste issues in what was the reference to a term that was meant to denote merit being over ridden by other factors.
    Unfortunately a lot of what you write is not clear to me. What do you mean by “I am for the synergy you appear to be advancing towards politicisation of the organisation”. I have not advanced any argument towards politicization, nor do I believe in it. If you are for such a synergy, good luck to you. The organization seems to be succeeding quite well, with or without your support – recently 20 MPs petitioned the PM to accept the Chief as one year younger. That’s synergy for politicization for you!

    And I still fail to see how you having broken (or “cut”) bread with Col Ajay Shukla has got anything to do with the present case.

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