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Services Corp officers allege promotion bias

Services Corp officers allege promotion bias
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Some officers of the Army Services Corp (ASC) have petitioned the chief of army staff General Bikram Singh, urging him to look into the Indian Army’s promotion policy, because they feel their careers stultify in the face of competition with the combat arms and combat support arms. These are the infantry, armoured, artillery, aviation, air defence, etc.

These ASC officers have also moved the Armed Forces Tribunal, seeking redressal. The Army Headquarters has also constituted a high-powered committee, headed by a senior lieutenant general to look into the issue, a major general in the Army’s headquarters at South Block said.

While the complaint of the ASC, and other support services, says that the new promotion policy that have been implemented since 2009, discriminates against them. The basis of the new command-based procedure – to bring down the age of the army’s general cadre – says that an infantry officer gets to spend about 2.5 years in command and the other combat and combat support services need to do three years at the same station, the ASC and other support services need to spend five years.

As a result the rank of a colonel and above has highest turnover in the combat and combat support services, while the ASC and other support services slow down in terms of overall career growth. They have challenged this bias of the promotion policy on the basis of the fact that when there is actual operational deployment, they all move together as a division.

But, the source in South Block pointed out that the support services never are placed at the battlefield and remain in the rear. So, they cannot be compared to the combat and combat support services on that count.

However, a veteran of the Indian army, Brigadier (retd) S K Chatterjee enunciated a different kind of change that is required. According to him, the new battleground is changing fast with more and more technological solutions pervading the battle scenario. So, it is imperative that the army brings up more technologically trained officers from the engineers and signals to command positions.

He also argues that the army is based on the ‘leadership’ paradigm than management strategies. The ASC and other support services do not necessarily fit the bill in terms of that criterion.

But, it remains a fact that officers from support services often become major generals faster than the combat and combat support arms. Brig. Chatterjee, a former artillery officer, said that the real anomaly remains in the way artillery have been kept as combat support, while in today’s battlefield the requirement is for manoeuvre and fire power. While armoured takes care of the manoeuvre aspect, artillery provides the fire power. In effect that should lead the artillery to be included into combat arm from combat support.
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