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Defence ministry announces withdrawal of controversial note on status equivalence

In a major decision, the defence ministry on Friday announced withdrawal of a controversial note it had issued over two years back on status equivalence between military officers and their civilian counterparts, which had triggered widespread anguish in the armed forces.

“The Ministry of Defence letter dated October 18, 2016 on the issue of equivalence between Armed Forces officers and Armed Forces Headquarters Civil Services (AFHQ CS) Officers is withdrawn,” the defence ministry said.

It said the letter has been withdrawn following direction by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

The ministry further said the cadre restructuring of AFHQ CS as approved by the Union Cabinet shall be duly implemented.

“Designations to be created in consequence of the additional posts sanctioned by the Cabinet will be done in consultation with Service HQs,” it said.

There has been growing resentment among the military officers who have been insisting that the current status equivalence was flawed and that the government must address their concerns.

For example, according to current norms, director-level officers have been put on the same level with the directors of the Armed Forces Headquarters-cadre. The military officials have been insisting that Lt Colonel is equivalent to directors of AFHQ cadre.

In the October 18, 2016, letter, the defence ministry, had made the rank equivalence between civilian officers and serving military officers on the basis of their functional responsibilities.

Following the order, for example, a Principal Director in AFHQ was made equivalent to a Major General, a Director was made equivalent to a Brigadier and a Joint Director was made on par with a Colonel.

A Colonel earlier was equivalent to a Director.

The ministry said “local designations” assigned to both service and civilian Officers in Service Headquarters/ Inter Service Organisations (ISOs) is also withdrawn.

It also said that both Service and Civilian Officers will use their respective cadre designations only.

“So far as the Channel of reporting/rendition of Annual Performance Appraisal Report (APAR) is concerned, status quo ante is hereby restored, i.e., the position which existed prior to the issue of MoD letter dated 18 October 2016 shall prevail,” the ministry said.

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