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Military: Arrogance of Seniority
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 14 Apr , 2014

Starred Golf - Caddie on the Left is Displaying Three Stars while the Middle One Shows Two Stars

Search for recognition is one of the pursuits which all human beings indulge in and continuously strive for. For professionals, promotions and advancement in career are important aspects of their aspirations. In the services, rank achieved is a conspicuous and well-recognised measure of a soldier’s professional competence and an indicator of his progression. As rank fixes one’s place in the services hierarchy, senior officers have every reason to be proud of their achievement. They are justified in deriving a sense of justification from the heavy brass they carry on their shoulders. In a steep pyramid-like organisation, promotions do not come easily.

Senior commanders and their wives remain surrounded by their staff officers and cronies. They make no effort to walk up to the juniors to exchange pleasantries. At times one gets an impression that the senior brass considers it below their dignity to mix with subordinate officers.

However, it is equally important that they carry their rank with due dignity and composure. They should neither carry them to ridiculous limits nor flaunt them in an unbecoming manner. Increasing arrogance of seniority is clearly discernible in stratification of social events and indiscriminate flaunting of flags and stars, as discussed below.

Social Discrimination

There was a time when senior officers and their wives made use of social occasions to interact with junior officers and their wives to get a feel of their morale and establish informal rapport with them. On the other hand, junior officers and their wives learnt a great deal by watching the way the senior officers and their wives conducted themselves. Thus, social functions were considered to be excellent occasions to build cohesion in an informal manner. Additionally, military norms, ethics and values were passed on to the new-inductees.

Unfortunately, social functions have become highly stratified events. There is no interaction between the seniors and the juniors. Separate areas are earmarked for them. Exclusive seating for VIPs has become a standard practice. Senior commanders and their wives remain surrounded by their staff officers and cronies. They make no effort to walk up to the juniors to exchange pleasantries. At times one gets an impression that the senior brass considers it below their dignity to mix with subordinate officers.

There are three reasons for this obsession for exclusivity. One, senior officers get special treatment in terms of quality of liquor and food. Two, they get hospitality free whereas they should be paying for their drinks and food like the other officers. Finally, the current top brass is so self-seeking that it has no concern for others’ sensitivities and social niceties.

Earlier, all guests were treated at par and served the same food and drinks, irrespective of their rank. The only privilege that a senior officer enjoyed was that he was served his drink by the waiter and did not have to walk up to the bar like others. Today, not only the type of whisky but also the goblet – crystal for seniors and Borosil for others – are rank based.

Today, not only the type of whisky but also the goblet – crystal for seniors and Borosil for others – are rank based.

A few months ago, an Air Force Station had organised a social evening after an event and invited a large number of officers from the services. Prior to the serving of dinner, an announcement was made requesting all officers of one-star rank and their wives to have dinner in the hall while the others were asked to move to the tents on the side. It was such an insulting move that many officers and their wives walked out without dinner. One fails to understand how such petty mindedness has crept in the services’ culture. If a Brigadier or a General has dinner along with others, will it lower his dignity?

At a post-tournament dinner at an officers’ institute, the Army Commander, after showing his face for a few minutes, withdrew to an exclusive chamber along with his ‘Nav Ratnas’ (Major Generals) to enjoy the evening and exclusive hospitality. Others were left outside to interact with each other – a reminder of the grand old Mughal tradition of ‘Diwane Khaas’ and ‘Diwane Aam’.

Golf Cap with Stars Indicating Rank of the Player

Protocol golf is another innovative measure that displays haughtiness of seniority. In case senior commanders want to play golf after a conference, the golf course is declared off limits for others. It is a disgraceful sight to see 4 to 5 commanders playing golf on an 18-hole golf course with staff officers who are detailed to accompany them. It shows arrogance of the poorest order. Do the senior commanders find it demeaning if Colonels and Majors are also playing at the same time? Arrogance of rank cannot be carried to such limits.

Flaunting of Ranks

It must never be forgotten that badges of ranks worn by the soldiers represent national symbols – the Ashoka Lion and the five-pointed Indian Star. The nation has bestowed its greatest honour on its soldiers. Every officer understandably takes pride in his rank by displaying the stars and flying the flag that he is entitled to. However, it must be done with due decorum and as per the laid down norms. Their sanctity should never be demeaned. Of late, a tendency has been discernible amongst the senior officers to flaunt their stars and flags in most unbecoming manner.

…a garden umbrella at a divisional tennis court had two stars prominently displayed on it to indicate that it was exclusively reserved for the Divisional Commander and his wife.

Although display of star plates and flags on private cars is forbidden, many officers feel insecure without their use and openly flout the orders. There are many commanders who insist that the mules that they ride in mountainous terrain must be duly embellished with stars and flags – a ridiculous sight indeed.  Similarly, it was a shocking sight to see a Chief flying his flag and displaying four stars on his golf cart in New Delhi.

Recently, a photograph was circulated on the internet that showed golf caddies wearing jackets with stars prominently displayed on their backs to indicate ranks of the players they were assisting. Can there be a more ludicrous demonstration of disgraceful obsession with ranks?

Another absurd practice that has gained currency in the recent past is to present golf caps and tee-shirts to all participants with their ranks duly indicated through embossed/embroidered stars. It is a comical sight to see officers playing golf with their ranks duly advertised. It appears that senior officers are unable to swing their clubs unless adequately supported by the trappings of their ranks.

In another case, a garden umbrella at a divisional tennis court had two stars prominently displayed on it to indicate that it was exclusively reserved for the Divisional Commander and his wife. As human ingenuity has no limits, there are numerous such examples wherein display of rank has been carried to preposterous extent.

Senior commanders would do well to remember that humility is the hall mark of a good leader and a meta-virtue. A self-effacing demeanour indicates maturity and not meekness or timidity.

Many senior officers complain that they never demand such displays and that some over-enthusiastic juniors take initiative of their own accord. This explanation holds no water at all. Unless the junior officers are convinced that their initiative would fetch them a pat, they would never take the risk. Additionally, senior commanders can always order stoppage of such practices if they so desire. The fact is that they relish such treatment as it boosts their ego, gives them a ‘kick’ and makes them feel special.

Finally

Informal interaction between officers of different ranks should always be governed by the dictum that ‘a good senior does not flaunt his seniority all the time while a good junior does not forget his juniority at any time’. That should be the basis of healthy social equilibrium.

It must never be forgotten that the officers who fail to make to higher ranks are not incompetent. It is just that the steep pyramid-like structure provides limited promotional avenues. Many brilliant officers suffer due to the shortage of vacancies and retire as Colonels. Supersession impacts their psyche and they show signs of social withdrawal. Instead of reassuring them, social discrimination adds to their discomfort through shameless display of inequities. Worse, ‘social apartheid’ is widening the gulf between the top brass and the others.

Senior commanders would do well to remember that humility is the hall mark of a good leader and a meta-virtue. A self-effacing demeanour indicates maturity and not meekness or timidity. Humility is all about maintaining one’s pride about one’s worth and achievements, but without arrogance. It is an old saying that ‘those who achieve the most flaunt the least’.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Maj Gen Mrinal Suman

is India’s foremost expert in defence procurement procedures and offsets. He heads Defence Technical Assessment and Advisory Services Group of CII.

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138 thoughts on “Military: Arrogance of Seniority

  1. From The Front Line: Family Letters And Diaries, 1900 To The Falklands And Afghanistan, by Hew Pike, published by Pen & Sword Books at £19.99.

    …. In April 2006, after a tour of duty in Iraq, Will returned to Afghanistan, this time as a company commander with 3 Para.
    …. Peacekeeping had given way to serious fighting in Helmand Province. His diary soon recorded his fears about the Army’s preparedness, even after intensive training in Oman.
    …. He wrote: ‘Not enough troops, not nearly enough support helicopters and we have yet to see, let alone train on, some of our battle-winning equipment, which is disgraceful.’
    … Will’s frustrations pepper his diary: ‘Higher-level ignorance of sound military principles – no unity of command between the military, the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development.
    ….;Huge uncertainty and constant changes of plan so the soldiers feel f***** about and think much less of the chain of command.’

  2. …. one year to the day since my first comment ….. a rather humbling thought , but perhaps everybody ( whether in uniform or out of it ) must get on with the job in hand and stop belly – aching ….. a view that came out loud and clear from the results of Sunday’s municipal elections in the capital……… a worthwhile verdiict ! ! !

  3. Glad to know Sir that someone has got the gutts to call attention to this issue,(more suprisingly,from an officer’s side).I may not be exaggerating , if I mention that the discrimination system prevelent in defense forces can be compared to caste based biases in society.
    No institution exists without a hierarchy,but the difference between these levels should be work based not rank.But I’m really in agony that Indian defense which owes a tag of one of the most respectable institutions, displays discrimination amoung there own people,be it family gatherings,hospitals, CSD facilities.This happens when law makers want to hold on to the reins of authorities to themselves.I may seem to be harsh but this is the realistic scenario,which is a huge cause of concern

  4. ……….Politicians’ outburst against Army a new low in politics
    ……….Similar drills have also been conducted in states like UP, Bihar and Assam, without any fuss. Leaders of regional parties have responded with equally irresponsible or infantile comments, completely missing the crux of the matter.
    ………It is a indeed a supreme irony that some are benign in their tolerance of fundamentalists and jihadis, but loathe the Indian Army.

  5. Such vulgar display of arrogance of seniority..! As an NCO several decades ago, I have seen it myself in the military ‘functions’ but it was unimaginable that they could be so lowly among themselves..Is this what you call OLQ? How could the author withstand these humiliations for so long till be became a MG…?

    And here is one Bhuvanendu who quotes all the trash just for keeping his ‘TOPPER’ status intact.. Not grown beyond IMA?

  6. My diary entry dated 15 Aug 2003 :-

    ….. As a long time connoisseur of adversity ( I have experienced it first hand on countless occasions), I offer only one piece of advice for those afflicted ; avoid ENVY and SELF – PITY. These are two besetting sins of adversity – sins capable of destroying a perfectly decent human being……..

    From : The Great Survivors
    by Vinod Mehta ( OUTLOOK – Independence Day Special)

  7. My diary entry dated 6 May 1974 :-

    …… No wit of man can make it ( the Services ) a wholly ” democratic ” institution in its process without vitiating its strength , since it progresses through the exercise of unquestioned authority at various levels.

    From: The Officer as a Leader
    by Gen S L A Marshal

  8. Thank you Ms Gitanjali, for striking out for an organisation that many of us love ! ! !

    …… yet, in a lighter vein, I cannot resist the temptation to quote from Nobel Prize winning author Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s ‘August 1914′ ( my diary entry dated 6 June 1974 )

    ……. ” Soldier’s jokes are the slowest things to change in an army – they change more slowly than the weapons, the uniforms, or the regulations.”

  9. With all due respect, I think this article is quite biased and one sided. I agree there are some such elements but then there are senior officers who go out of way to help a junior. I also don’t agree abt the interaction bit. My husband is currently serving in Army and I find good interaction both ways from senior to junior and likewise.with Facebook groups and whatsapp, the interactions have improved.

    I am sure this article is venting out of some bad personal experience that you had. This can’t be taken as a generic statement on Army’s attitude.

    I am yet to see an organisation where brotherhood comrade is better than in Army. You call up ant unit officer, anywhere and you are sure to get some help.

    Such biased articles give civilians a very wrong notion about Army life.

  10. The soldiers are the most precious human beings that the country has ever had, and respecting each and every one of them should be our duty and right.
    No person can treat a soldier for his or her benefit. A soldier is always answerable to the country, and not to such arrogant individual.

    • ….. ‘ cerpt from my diary entry dated 20 May 1976.

      ” Contemporary feelings towards human associations tend to focus on what the individual can extract from the association rather than what he can contribute to it. Clearly, such an association of eccentric rather than concentric motivations will lack cohesiveness and attraction.”

  11. What ever Gen wrote is actual ground state of the present army. Bhuvanendu Ranesh may choose to drink soda or whiskey, its his choice, but what Gen Mrinal brought out is 100 percent right facts. The article perhaps would not have gone nice with him because his name is written as TOPPER on many boards. ….

      • My two-bit take (and I am 65 years young now) is that ‘ ANY veteran (however much well – meaning he might be ) should steer away from ‘any form of communication ‘ that can be exploited by the media and totally ‘unscrupulous elements ( nee politicians ) ‘ ! ! ! !

        All of us who have worn the uniform have ( when in power) tried in our own manner to leave the ‘profession of arms’ a better profession,, than what was bequeathed to us. That one is no longer in uniform doesn’t give one the license to belittle / debase the organisation that nurtured so many veterans, all of whom have contributed very effectively to getting a good name for the Services.

        I picked up the following comment from the net , and am pasting it below as ‘food for thought’ ; and, DEFINITELY without meaning to offend anyone (least of all any one, who has proudly worn his uniform ) :-

        ” Social media – the mindless jabbering of the ignorant and highly opinionated masses. What sort of monster have we created. “

    • ‘cerpt from my diary entry dated 25 July 1972 ……..

      ” His lack of means had also conditioned much of his behavior. He could not afford high mess bills. He did not drink or smoke, and while drinking and smoking may have little or no merit in themselves, they do enable men to relax in each other’s company in social intercourse. Especially is this true in the Services. Thus Monty embraced hard work, went early to bed and developed a marked professionalism in a Service which at times seemed almost to exalt the amateur.”

      From: The Montogomery Legend
      By : R W Thompson

    • ” I don’t tour the TV Studios. I don’t gossip about people over lunch. I don’t go drinking ….I just get on with the job in front of me.”
      Theresa May
      Conservative Party Leader
      UK
      (Interior Minister since 2010)

  12. Although I’ve read this article many times since it first appeared in ‘public domain’, it still seems silly and rather immature to me ; not the kind of article that one would expect of a ** officer.
    I continued to serve with respect and dignity in various responsible positions even as a passed over officer (for about half of my total commissioned service of 32 years ). Officers who went past me to dizzy heights always treated me with due respect,and continued to call me up on many occasions, for frank discussions on issues related to my sphere of expertise.
    Cads can be found anywhere, and the Services are no exception. So it is always left to one’s ingenuity to deal with ‘the lowliest of scums’ ……. and, BTW I never touched liquor ; always preferring aerated carbonated (soft) driinks.- Limca was my favorite, followed by Sprite ! ! !
    A word of thanks to the author of this article for having a viewpoint different from mine ….. many thanks , sir ….. but NO ONE can take away your sense of dignity unless you choose to pander it yourself ; and, certainly the choice / make of whisky is NOT worth losing your sleep about …….. and, if you’ll kindly permit some immodesty, my name is inscribed on enough ‘Honour Boards’ as a TOPPER ……..

  13. Although I’ve read this article many times since it first appeared in ‘public domain’, it still seems silly and rather immature to me ; not the kind of article that one would expect of a ** officer.
    I continued to serve with respect and dignity in various responsible positions even as a passed over officer (for about half of my total commissioned service of 32 years ). Officers who went past me to dizzy heights always treated me with due respect,and continued to call me up on many occasions, for frank discussions on issues related to my sphere of expertise.
    Cads can be found anywhere, and the Services are no exception. So it is always left to one’s ingenuity to deal with ‘the lowliest of scums’ ……. and, BTW I never touched liquor ; always preferring aerated carbonated (soft) driinks.- Limca was my favorite, followed by Sprite ! ! !
    A word of thanks to the author of this article for having a viewpoint different from mine ….. many thanks , sir ….. but NO ONE can take away your sense of dignity unless you choose to pander it yourself ; and, certainly the choice / make of whisky is NOT worth losing your sleep about …….. and, if you’ll kindly permit some indiscretion, my name is inscribed on enough ‘Honour Boards’ as a TOPPER ……..

  14. Had the Europeans not establish their rule in what is now called South Asia. This land mass would consist of small and large Principalities ruled by Nawabs, Rajas and Maharajas. There would have been no golf courses, Clubs, Cricket, Vale Hunt etc. The Caste system today works in different manner in the Armed Forces of India . Cheers.

  15. Oh you also have the problem….Just an anecdote, I was commanding a Training Regiment in Artillery Center, Attock, Pakistan. I was a regular Golfer with a 6 handicap. One day I saw the newly appointed Center Commandant (a Brigadier-the senior most officer in the Garrison) playing Golf-alone, followed by 2 caddies, the brigadier would hit the ball and it would invariably fall in the rough…the caddies did two actions-one was to kick the ball in the fairway…and secondly would then place the ball on the tee…..regardless of where the ball lied…even on the greens…where the brigadier would magnanimously place it back on the grass……..

  16. I believe Armed Forces are the most corrupt organ of government. The money meant for welfare of soldiers are utilized for displaying their status and to degrade juniors. Our soldiers lack morale and being harassed. Nobody cares about welfare of soldiers. This must be changed,every fund allocated to army must be strictly monitored by civil agencies,not a single penny of tax payers must not be misused for this showing off.

  17. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Even more irritating is the fact that, the ‘starred’ caddies, crystal goblets, may be even the golf set itself of these much starred general officers are basically loot from the organisation. The poor caddy standing there wearing those stupid stars on his back may be a combatant soldier who had taken oath at a Regtl Centre and his boss will be the one who had taken the Chetwode Oath while passing out of the IMA.
    Even more amusing is the fact that none of these ‘Banta Hai’ type of privileges are in any way authorised by the Govt, because these starred super officers of the Services do not get the same respect, regard by the people with real power, the politicians and the IAS officers. In fact, the bureaucrats consider them jokers of the lowest order, and rightly so.

  18. Shame, what all happening in the services. royal Emperor left within Independence. But made in India Sahibs are great disasters today.Indian Armed Forces status gone down.While those kings kept enjoying a royal life.And after BJP emerged as single power in Delhi, they are only caring those 3 star and above as Soldiers.Others just to die in sun, snow and fire. Recently interacted with lot many other forces officers too.They also are highly concerned at demoralising Indian tri services. Juniors lost morale today.Anyone waking up???

  19. my wife stopped going to ladies club which she enjoyed very much earlier. reason- all the seats are reserved as per ranks of their husband. My coursemates wife would definitely seat in her reserved seat and since my wife is only superseded colonel wife would have to seat earmarked for young ladies. Even my wife is very very senior in age, has to seat with young ladies which is very humiliating. Moreover when their is station ladies club, all brig and above get separate invitation card. Similarly in Cinema hall, the balcony is reserved for brig and above.

  20. True…

    Served in BRO for the last 26 years…and witness all these.
    Less intelligent officers and subordinates promote these type of habits..
    To get better benefits as well as to push intelligents…

  21. A well articulated Article. To me all this is a telling commentary on poor training and practice of OLQ. These are signs of an inherent inferiority complex. When we were young we made efforts to recognise our Flag Officers and pay them the customary respects even when in civvies. The display of Stars was infructuous.

    It appears that the Starred officers have not earned them but have connived to obtain them and that is why they feel inferior. lesser said about their wives the better.

    In all probability the Army is worse off given its huge numbers. In our days the Subedar Major was a feared guy by the subalterns and junior officers but from the inputs that I receive as President Bombay Ex Servicemen Association a lot of scum flows under the bridge.

    Saddening!

  22. This photograph of starred caddy is of Pakistan Army and not Indian Army.It appears Mrinal Suman is projecting Indian Army in certain way deliberately, because this error of photo has been pointed out to him when he wrote this years back, yet he has not corrected and remove the photo.May I request IDR to correct the mistake.I know Mirnal well, surprised at his insistence and not accepting obvious error.

  23. THIS IS TAKING THE RANK AND EGO TO THEIR INFLAMED LEVELS, WHICH IS OBVIOUSLY UNHEALTHY AND SHOULD BE HEALED IMMEDIATELY !!! THE SERVICE HEADQUARTERS SHOULD IMMEDIATELY ISSUE A DIRECTIVE THAT DISPLAY OF RANK, STARS WILL ONLY BE DISPLAYED ON THE UNIFORM AND THE OFFICIAL VEHICLE OF THE RANK HOLDER !!!

  24. Ouch! You hit the nail on the head! I couldn’t agree with you more!

    The quest for recognition stems from a deep-seated complex, or maybe some sort of insecurity. I’d like to add a few more absurdities to your list.

    I came across a group called the ‘one star club’ the members of which meet up regularly. This is the group that tasted blood, but were denied any of the flesh.

    My husband and I had visited the wife of one such person (retired a few years ago) in the Command hospital. The lady was in a touch-and-go state. Throughout our stay there, he lamented about how the hospital authorities played dirty with him, making his wife share the room (partitioned, of course) with a colonel’s wife!

    At almost all ladies’club functions, there is a separate dining area for a certain rank and above. Even old retired officers’ wives are not spared.The unfortunate part is, a serving officer’s wife cannot even avoid the function to save her dignity; she or her husband will be duly ‘sorted out’.

    The list is endless!

    -A bird that has flown the coop.

  25. Dear sir, with due respect I would like to ask you one ouestion, I have read your article, can u please tell me what about the self-esteem of ordinary ranks personnels and ofcours their wives. The kind of humiliation and discrimination they feel in their day to day life you even not imagine that because in army they are treated like slaves of higher official and their so called wives. I just want to say that the britishars are left our country so many years back but in Indian army for OR ranks personnels their is slavery system and they are slave of white collared people.
    plus comment if u agree
    Thanks

  26. sir ,great article.i am an army officers wife & everyday we go through such discrimination.i think army has become an event management organisation where everyone is busy pleasing the superiors.sir,kindly educate us about the army culture of various countries.it will be beneficial for us to learn & make a difference .

  27. Sir,
    Great read… it was as though I was reading thoughts of my own mind. So what I will write is harsh truth without frivolous diplomacy in language. Young women today are all well educated, smart, have a mind of their own. We have brought up by our parents, taught in school by teachers and encouraged by the society to speak up against any kind of injustice.
    The core function seems to have been completely lost and forgotten for cheap thrills and frills of certain imbecile ignoramuses. There is a lot of filth in general.
    Many ladies have worked in the civil before getting married to spouses in army. All know how hard one has to work to remain relevant and getting up the ladder in civil.
    You enter army life and one is bombarded with archaic courtesies and niceties and self-made whimsical rules bordering on subservience to the senior ladies.
    Now the thing with the courtesy and being nice to seniors in army has gone down these seniors thinking of themselves as monarchs. The pretension from their end is so glaring. And all for something you got because of your husband. I do not think it’s fair that the courtesies’ be imposed on junior ladies and not be reciprocated back.
    And it’s sad for me because my father also was an army officer and it was so different then.
    Thanks,

  28. This is the sad day for Indian Army by discriminating upper ranks & lower ranks attitude. A war cannot be won by only high ranking officers, a war can be won by unity, integration, discipline with self respect on the battlefield.
    This is the duty of the chief to bring in the rank a self respect & pride & oneness attitude among his fellow men.
    After the demise of our late Sam Bahadur, I guess ! this “derailment” attitude of seniors, prevails in the army. This must be urgently corrected for the betterment of army culture. Jai Hind.

  29. Dear Sir

    Could your please advice me as to what has to be done if a wife who is an Army officer is using her postings to emotionally abuse and blackmill the family member and the kids. So I would like to know if there is any redressal to such an act by an Army officer and whom to be approached for the redressal if in-case any system is available

    Thanks and Regards
    Saurav

  30. Respected Sir…please …please write an article about the soldiers also and let the world know the fact…….how they are misused, discriminated and demoralized everyday throughout their entire service carrier by some part of the said officers and their Wives (those..who have actually nothing to do straightway with the organization!) The said ‘British Raj’ still exists in the Armed forces of India; effecting the Human rights of the poor soldiers every now and then…..

  31. In Uttrakhand their is a saying- when a farmer is not capable of tilling the land and producing main crops he starts cultivating irrelevant items. Same can be said of senior officers- They cannot speak for their troops. It leaves a bad taste in the middle ranking officers and men when our starred officers go all out to even please DMs and DCs who are not in chain of service It can be only imagined how they must be behaving with MoD civil officials who matter. Very Poor. show.

  32. That’s the best contribution a retired Maj Gen can do to so widely read IDR. Crib about something that even his own juniors would probably accuse him of. BTW if you are retired which I think you are. Why aren’t you mentioning it in your name. That’s inappropriate hope you know that. The recent crop of retired almost senior officers show a common disgruntlement. That of not being asked to see their juniors in higher rank than what they themselves rise to. As if theyby had this birth right to make it all the way up. Wake up asses. You had your turn you couldn’t. Let present crop yield. Do something better, remember you always held your juniors from ‘premature’ separation due greener pastures. Now that you are out I guess you aren’t find it as green. If an officer is wearing his ranks and sports his stars when in uniform and on duty, then remember he is on duty 24×7. At the golf course it is to let other civilians to know that you have a general on board,yup I know it will pinch you so called veterans to find the star being one of your juniors. But remember even a father make way for his sons and daughters and that’s the sign of progress. It’s just that you nincompoops haven’t yet understood that you weren’t his enough to progress any further, therefore you have problems with others making it. Grow up, rather retire now

  33. The true facts represented in the softest imaginable words. However ,the reality is further dark really the senior lot now a days instead of looking after the juniors and soldiers for which they have been intrusted the ranks andare busy in massaging their own egos. Really sad……instead of proper urilisation of quality resources and time for nation and organisation upgradation soldiers and officers waste time on things like what the senior officer will like…what he will ate ….what his wife likes…..how to massage his ego….not to start by making exclusive zone at each place….god save the organisation

  34. This ridiculous behaviour was one amongst many, many other ridiculous behaviours that served as a catalyst for me to leave the navy ASAP. We have eventually overcome the modicum of decent behaviour left behind by the Brits and reverted back to the ‘royal’ behaviour of our ancestors, that – in large part – caused us to lose our independence in the first place.

  35. Indian airforce still follow british rules . severe discrimination. Once in un mission un objected running two dining mess one for men and one for officers and evn diffrent toilets . one fellow officer came out and said india follws british rules where men and ofgicers cant dine together. This social discrimination is not seen in military of devloped countries like usa , france etc. In joint exercises moral of indian soliders pulled down viewing such diffrences. So often men say ” azad desh ke gulam sipahi” . shri bhagat sing was right india will get freedom but things will remain same powers will jst get transferred from white hands to brown hands. Poor will be poor and rich will remain rich. Using soldiers for personal work by officers has to stop.

  36. Sir, Very apt observations. Yes I do remember once when I was asked to arrange for lunch for COAS, I WILL ONLY WATCH FROM A DISTANCE IF EVERY THING IS BEING SERVED RIGHT , BUT I WILL NOT JOIN THE LUNCH. I WAS TOLD ” YOU CAN FILL YOURSELF FROM THE LEFT OVER “. I WAS A CAPT WITH 14 YEARS SERVICE. Another episode – The Cdr ruled that there would be two BAR’s – one VIP with wall to wall carpet and another one for all and sundry. Reason – THE HOOFS OF REST OF THE OFFRS MAY SPOIL THE CARPET. Things have not changed. Even now I hear more eye popping stories. I can only say that it is in our DNA. we have our own caste system and we have NO (NO) desire to act otherwise. Given a chance we act with vengeance and do some thing more to DISPLAY OUR OWN STYLE.
    There is No hope.

  37. It is to be noted that those flaunting their rank in the manner discussed here, got those ranks , having been the hangers on junior officers! They were the best chamchas and YES MEN of their times when they were Majors and colonels ! Professional competence weighs not more than 25% in promotions. The major factor is Yes manship/chamchagiri.

    The army will be left with true professional cadre, if premature retirement with proportionate pension is allowed as a routine, and not at the pleasure of the President. Officers who do not fit in with this kind of yesmen ship/chamchagiri will opt out and leave the service.

  38. Dear General Suman,

    Apropos the article on ‘Military Arrogance of Seniority’. It is very good and hard hitting article. My compliments and wish your pen (mouse!) more might.

    About the remark in the article on ‘earlier times things being different, I beg to differ. Things were never different. even 40-40 years ago several units had instructions to preserve premium brnads of scotch like ‘black dog’ ‘king of kings. etc for the bde, div, corps, army cdrs or the Chief. I know first hand because I was guilty og once asking the Aabdar to bring ‘Black Dog for me. Things changed from the time when Gen O P Malhotra became chief.

    With best regards and best wishes,

    Yours,

    B C Joglekar

  39. how we get higher ranks in army in addition to professional proficiency is chamchagiri. we all know how people are helped at courses regimental affiliations, caste pullings , regional affiliations. with steel wire rope pullings, what do you expect from such senior officers? Only very few officers of moral calibre of Field Marshal Manekshaw and Gen Nanavati are there left in the army on whose shoulder the army is running. People who do well in operational areas and field areas are left out but theoretical copiers from internet and US field manuals keep rising one example comes to mind is Lt Gen Arjun Ray who was obsessed with asking his juniors to get him this or that from internet. His most of the articles written in journals were a copy of Field manuals from US Army. of course his English was good which helped him fool all. I served with him in a training formation under him. I even doubt those colleagues of mine who were with me at that time will stand by my statement as they also later rose up the ranks. Moral Fibre ?

  40. Very strange to read a senior officer writing so clearly and frankly about the malaise . If there are officers like him then the saying about senior officers may change .At present it is THEY FIGHT FOR EVERYTHING THAT IS FREE.
    THEY ARE parasites constituting 2% exploiting the money of 98% ARMY

  41. I totally agree … and Sir it only increasing every day. Maha Kumbh saw variety of Boats prepared by Engs, .. based on facilities and size they were GD, VIP, VVIP, VVVIP. One three star Generals wife even complained that the water in bathrooms on boat did not have the required warm water …!!! Even swimming pool have earmarked enclosures for changing and separate lanes to swim ….!!! What will happen to them when they retire …!!???

  42. Superb read…. cant this be circulated amongst all officers n wives of entire army dear general???
    My hubby is a full col .. commanded rr bn…done staff college… n there is a very senior offr who says colonels r good fr nothing … its only brig n above who matter…!!
    There shud be a rule made … for seniors to never flaunt their seniority… n juniors as it is never 4get that they r juniors!!!!
    my hubby n me command gr8 respect from all our juniors even today wen he is not writing their acrs… and I believe respect is always earned not demanded….. One more thing the seniors should never forget is that when they have retired n stepped off their chairs its these juniors who will take over n command .. …. !! Its probably at this tym realisation will set in… but why not before????

  43. Dear Sir,

    It’s in poor taste to post such one sided comments generalising your own experiences. It would have been prudent to also give out steps take by one in his days as a senior officer before ridiculing the Defence Forces on national media. There are always the black sheep in any organisation as we are but a subset of our society; but the fact remains that the values and beliefs in the forces keeps most of them away from such idiosyncratic behaviour. Jai Hind

  44. After reading some of your articles i feel “We are the best,Jeena toh aise jeena”is just that the army is hiding facts.And these are the “Do you have it in you” qualities???
    The army and the country will be waking up with bitter facts one day
    Number plates with the regimental insignia which covers more than 50% of the number plate.
    The people who dont belong to the army fraternity will judge such men in uniform just like the way SSB only sees negative points rather than positives of candidate.
    We respect the Indian Army but behaviour is to be monitored.One wrong act and the entire army will be seen in the same way.The police are seen as dacoits in India.
    No offence to anyone :)

  45. What about the treatment that is given by officers to PBOR ? If you are really fare enough than tell me why officers treat the jawan and their family so badly , are the officers pay them than who has given them the authoritto supress the jawan and their family. Be fair enough to each and everyone. Ihope reply from you.

  46. u are talking about relationship between officers with officers but what about jawan and officers? Officers used to treat pbor as their private slave.Jawans are humiliated by all means by their senior officers.what would u like to say about this thing?

  47. I would ask of you sir, when you were in service what steps have you taken to ensure this does not happen?
    Have you ever asked any general officer as to how he has recieved all the decorations after his colonels rank not before that? Did you ever stop it?
    Tell me of one action you have taken to curb wrong things and make the army clean? Why this wisdom now?

  48. It begins to look more and more like a Gilbert and Sullivan (or Beetle-Bailey and Sad Sack Cartoon where generals have stars stitched on their under wear) Armed Forces with four-five decks of medal ribbons There are too many decorations and grades within them. How does one really distinguish the inter-se merit? How can one say that Major Bhagat Singh should not have received a Maha Vir Chakra or a Param Vir Chakra instead of a mere Vir Chakra? ADC, SM, VSM, AVSM, PVSM? This sort of boastfulness and showing off is prone to stoking patronage, corruption, ketchup Colonels and Kargil-for-Profit Generals that devalues genuine merit, bravery, sacrifice and accomplishment. I like the simplicity and directness of the British Military decorations. The Military Medal, The Navy Cross, The distinguished Flying cross, The Military Cross, The Distinguished Service Cross, The George Cross, The Victoria Cross and the Distinguished Service Order. Each unique for a specific purpose and accomplishment without any of the prevarication and politics of the Padma awards and their British equivalents the MBE, OBE and KCBE . Like the British, India should keep the politics and facades like honorary “Doctorates” and Padma Awards dished out for seniority or political pliability out of the Army and in the political domain. Where is the simplicity, rigour and dedication of the Addiscombe Military Seminary from which the Indian Army is descended and which helped the likes of Lawrence, Nicholson, Abbot, and Mark Cubbon accomplish so much with so little and resist the temptations of absolute power and the vicissitudes of being ruled by professionally and morally bankrupt men like Gough and Dalhousie so well? Not so long ago, there was even a proposal to replace Chetwode’s simple, direct, concise, comprehensive dictum for the Indian Military Academy with a Mission Statement that had stars and the whole caboodle of ADC, SM, VSM, AVSM and PVSM embroidered in its under wear!!!

  49. In the OLD Indian Air Force that actually whipped the enemy to conserve the resources of the army instead of running away to conserve aircraft that are so much more expensive than soldiers who are “paid to die”, it used to be said that an Officer’s Lady would make an Air Man feel like an Air Marshal, whereas a Neta-Babu’s wife would make an Air Marshal feel like an Air Man. I remember King’s Commissioned Officers from my family who never used their rank or the “canteen services” after they retired . They used to talk with commiseration about officers without OLQ who used to take away the carpets and furniture provided by obliging mess contractors. It began with deliberately undoing and devaluing the value of family and School back grounds in an attempt to reduce and contain the armed forces at a level below India’s ruling scum lest they should, in protecting India, become a natural threat to India’s principal enemies, the ruling scum! The chronic and continuous attempts to corrode the culture and turn the pyramid upside down and impose the social engineering values and “ideals” that have destroyed India on the armed forces over so many decades, in many ways, has been very successful. On the rebound, it is all about “entitlements”, about pomp, pelf and plumage to compensate for deep inadequacies and inferiority in imitation of the ruling scum. The solution really lies in a ruthless adherence to merit and integrity. It must come from within the Officers’ Corps. Subtle messages of acceptance and exclusion, of clubbing and Coventry, to render the patronage and corruption inflicted by the Neta-Babus nul and void. But, in proportions, it may be already too late in a situation where the teeth to tail ration has reversed since 1947. Perhaps, only a revolution will serve to cleanse India’s Augean stables.

  50. The article is one sided and mostly incorrect. Senior officers almost always make greater effort to reach out to junior officers and their wives than junior officers do. The symbolisms of rank on caps, caddies shirts, umbrellas and separate seaintgs are all organised by subordinates who are hankering for favours and almost never asked for by senoirs. Who would want caps with stars that go waste once your rank changes or that you cannot give to your child to use? The senoirs could reject such arrangements, and sometimes do, but often desist for the sake of social courtesy toward your guests, just as you would not turn down a high calorie cake presented by your friend, even if you do not eat it. Wonder what the writer did himself to correct the situation when he served as a General?

      • I know a I know a young officer who resigned when he was ordered to entertain Chinese troops on incursive patrols with tea and biscuits instead of repulsing them. He didn’t want to be like a corrupt IAS/IPS/IFS chap. He is in the US now and doing well. One of the reasons for the cultural decline of the Armed Forces is that honourable young men from good family back grounds do not want to serve in the image of the dissembling, compromising and corrupt Neta-Babus who rule over the Armed Forces. Way back in the 70s, an Infantry Subedar on a Mountaineering Course confessed to me that he and his family would have been far better off had he joined the Police Service instead of following his family tradition and getting into the wrong service. He said that the British were worth serving but not the rogues who rule over India now. Matters have become far worse in the four decades since when Ministers state in public that soldiers are “paid to die”

  51. Sir, great article and great thought behind it. But here we are talking about officers, have we ever considered our Jawans and their wives. Many of the so called unit functions are organised with chairs for officers and their wives but a tarpaulin for Jawans and their wives. They are brought to the venue in 3 tons and 4 tons packed like sardines and that too hours in advance. They are served unit soda whereas officers and their families are served coke and other branded products and so on. Why can’t we have functions like they show in US Army where even Barack Obama is seen interacting with US soldiers and their wives, having the same food and same wine. Sir, my submission is, either we have full social equality or none. You can not have a qualified social equality, that in offrs gathering everyone will be equal but there will difference when JCOs, OR families are also attending the same function.

  52. Many of our senior officers play golf BUT ARE NOT GOLFERS! That’s the subtle difference. Rank consciousness on the golf course is getting from bad to worse,. The other day I saw the most ludicrous sight of the senior officer’s fore caddie carrying a small red flag with 3 stars to mark his ball with! Most likely the fore caddie is also briefed to improve the lie of his ball !

  53. My experience has been that subordinates actually like a hard and demanding commander – but a fair one. As the AOC Agra, I established a single set of rules for the subordinates and myself. I was then free to administer the base without any restraint. At parties, my wife and I used to hand over plates to the outgoing officer and spouse irrespective of rank. Ten years into retirement I got a telephone call from one of my subordinates who hardly interacted with me. She called to say that the two things she admired in me was that I was fair in my judgments and did not go kowtowing to senior officers. That just about said it all: I live in contented retirement!

  54. when asses amongst masses get promoted with their ficle minds and low mental calibre they will only indulge in these petty power games without a thought for
    the overall good of their organisation or morale of their troops . for majority of them the country doesnot come first . The officers and men they command can be and always come last their own fat stomach comes first always and every time. free scotch and food at the expence of juniors and non public and mess accounts is their birthright. THEY SIMPLY KNOW THEY WILL BE KICKED AND NOT EVEN RECOGNISED BY ANYONE AND HENCE MAKE MERRY AND LOOT TILL GOOD TIMES LAST .

  55. As an Air Force Kid, I can vouch, that all of this is part of the Air Force culture. Some may not, bust of most of them (Sr and Jr officers) do practice such level of ‘social apartheid’. What surprises me in this article, is that, its nothing new. Right from the “Scotch” to the food, everything is selected. I remember, just few years back, how my mother got a dressing down from an Air Marshal’s wife, on being served Jam in the breakfast, which was from the Ration and not the “selected” varieties (It so happened that the decision was taken by the Jr. Offer IC to use the normal Jam). And that point of time, my father was commanding a transport sqn in the Air Force.

    The situation is even worse, between officers cadre and Airmen/JCO/ORs. To an extent that officer’s parents would not allow their kids to mingle with their Airmen counterparts. It’s sad.. but it has been part of the service’s culture. All, Air Force station across the country have a Air Force or a KV School, but apart almost none of the officer kids study here. Some do, but thats about it.

    There are things which happen in the forces as part of culture and traditions, that many people in civil would frown upon.

  56. I left Army five years back and my initial reaction was that its good I do not have to suffer all this. That of course is a very selfish way of thinking. I then thought that is it a recent phenomenon or it was always like this.

    I was commissioned in the year 1982. With about three months of service, I was left behind in the unit loc to train with the cross country team when the bn had gone for field firing. Being the only officer I also became the OC Rear.

    Our GOC was posted out on a short notice and his farewell was being planned. I had the privilege of attending the Conf chaired by our Bde Cdr (who later became an Army Commander) along with other COs and the staff officers posted at the Bde HQ to plan the farewell.

    It was decided that one of the games to be played in the party will be won by the wife of the GOC who should be partnered by a young officer (I benefited by being nominated). The budget of the gift for the lady was specified. The strict instructions of the Bde Cdr was that everything should look normal. I was made to go through number of rehearsals along with the MC to ensure it.

    I was extremely disappointed to find that my prize was a bottle of Afgan Snow which was lying as dead stock in most of the CSD Canteens with the advent of ‘Fair & Lovely’. I do not know what the wife of the GOC got and would not like to share the planned budget.

    I am sure others who have served in the Army would have also gone through such incidents in their careers. Sycophancy was always part of the Armed Forces. The only difference is that like everything else in our society, things have become more brazen.

    We still have officers in the senior position who did not see any soldiering in their initial service. I am an eternal optimist and am sure that when the generation which began their careers (post 87) with actual action reaches the top, they will be more professional.

  57. I have always wondered why papers widely quoted, more often than not, are written by retired middle ranking officers from the Western armies. To rise up the strict hierarchical ladder one generally needs to be a conformist. A conformist would normally not be open to dissent and therefore will not encourage or nurture new ideas. Which is not conducive to evolving newer thoughts & processes. This vicious cycle is further nurtured in schools of instruction where creativity is discussed but never quite practiced since their evaluation is a standardised/ ing process! Think tanks closely associated to but not part of the system under evaluation are thus a good arena to throw up options and I only hope my view finds relevance in the current debate.

  58. The author has only touched the initial layer of a creeping change which is a symptomatic manifestation of a much larger issue. The changes over the years in the entire social fabric of the defense services must be appreciated to arrive at the reasons for what is happening and why.
    Our misplaced idea that Pay must be equated to Rank and pay can only increase with Rank is a major cause of all ills plaguing our system. The increasing embellishments on Cars, Caps, Clubs, Bags & Carts is only a manifestation of this lack of exclusivity associated with Rank. The aura of rank has been diluted to an extent that it is near irrelevant. Montgomery was probably the only General wearing two badges on his Beret in the entire WWII. And there were far fewer Generals relative to the numbers in both the armies; Allied and Axis. The sheer numbers will soon make one star Generals jostle for space at buffets in station functions. One cannot then find fault in the evolving system of separate tables and enforced segregation. Our yardsticks must progressively change to the new realities.
    How does quality of life changed over the years. The plinth area for Major to Brigadiers is the same. Earlier we had majors at 13 – 11 years, now it is 6 years substantive. A Brigadiers at 25 will move to a appointment house and at 26 will be back in the Dwelling Unit he occupied at 6 years of service ! A Colonel at 15 will have a fleet and thereafter be looking far and wide for a appointment with a Car till he finally retires at 54 and gets in line yet again for his 2+2 innings. His 17 to 58 experience will be worse than his initial days as he will be without assistance & yet expectations will be high. The Army requires officers in units and not in HQ but we have moved systemically moved against this requirement on the premise that COs need to be younger and fitter. The soldiers on the other hand are getting older serving longer. All this is a result of never actually looking the problem though.

  59. I am a serving officer. I vouch for every word of the article. I have seen comments of Ravi and Rohit. Either they are totally ignorant of the facts or outright liars. These are not stray incidents but regular practice. See other comments by persons describing their ex[erience. Ravi is comparing oyr 2-3 star generals with Alexandra and Napoleon. Never seen a more stupid logic. let them become world conquerers before denanduing special treatment. Perople like Ravi and Rohit are the types who encourage and tget promotions by fanning ego of seniors. It is a timely article and only fools can dispute its truth.

    • There is no truth, but perception, someone famously said. People at work, out to address institutional weaknesses, don’t make a song and dance about it. But these are regularly addressed as should be evident from the accomplishments of the Indian Army.

  60. Excellent depiction of the malaise of arrogance.Since police officers have been imitating army mindlessly in many such things,such arrogant behaviour is creeping into police hierarchy also.They forget that while army can afford such false protocols to some extent as they are isolated from public interaction and continue to be treated as holy cow by a majority of uninformed public,police being in public gaze cannot afford such a ridiculous luxury.Golf caps,t shirts and exlusive dinners and free drinks are now in vogue in police also.

  61. Thank you for highlighting the levels to which sycophancy has seeped into our Armed Forces. It is indeed shameful to learn that even food is now “Star” rated at mess parties.
    As an AirForce kid (my late dad flew the Super Constellation – 6 Sqn), I have such fond memories of the Bada Khana (in the aircraft hangars), Holi, Diwali, Christmas and a myriad other parties … where the Station Commander, including Air Chief IH Latif (then an Air Cmde) and his wife used to actually play with us kids. I remember that even the then Defence Minister joined in on one occasion.

    Though I am not in the armed forces, I have a lot of family serving the country, and I have seen an increasing amount of discrimination creeping in to our officer’s cadre … and as you rightly pointed out, the blame lies entirely on the senior officers for allowing such sycophancy.

    With the abysmal levels which our entire country’s social systems have fallen to, will anyone in the leadership structure of the Armed Forces have the moral courage to put an end to these practices.

    Regards
    Ashish

  62. Mr Suman, can you please tell us what were the measures taken by you when you were serving as junior officer and also as a Major general…… This holy cow posture of yours is highly questioned in the social media….. Sir bring out those good aspects…. so that people can differentiate between the swan and the crane…… waiting your reply……..

  63. I have seen better side of the Army when i was serving…. The article brings out the myopic vision of the Author, narrowed down towards a minuscule class of people who does that. It is highly disheartening to see senior officers writing such things about their own counterparts…..Shame on us… to let ourselves down

    • It is appreciable to note that you did see the better side of the Army. But it is a fact that you failed to see the other side at all.

      You feel the letting down of the comrade Officers, But it is ridiculous that the facts are felt bitter by you.

      Let the country have men in uniform who have a feeling that the motherland is first. Then there would be no discrimination in treating the fellow citizens who are a part of the Armed Forces, Officers/Men.

  64. I am surprised at this article reappearing afresh, al beit without the decorations and PhD mentioned after the author’s name in the previous version, which was commented upon as an example of the very arrogance and exhibitionism, otherwise derided in the article.
    Arrogance and pomp is a mil characteristic exhibited by most famous Generals. The meek and the modest don’t make the grade. Anyone heard of Alexander, Napoleon, Patton or Manekshaw being humble and modest?
    That said, I cannot but help regard this as a badly researched piece, based on stray incidents, more in journalistic mould to create sensation and seek publicity, than any deep statistical or empirical analysis. Your or my experiences are insufficient to comment about an entire Army and its leadership that has proved its mettle time and again in every crisis. And if it just an old schoolboy “my time” syndrome, then it is dangerous.
    What are we trying to achieve? Demoralise our junior officers? Weaken their faith in the senior leadership? For every General who may savour scotch in crystal, there are twenty who eat in steel plates with men in field. If it was an honest attempt to improve the organization we all love and are beholden to for most of ourselves, a DO letter to the concerned formation commander would have helped. Nobody ever improved an organization by screaming about its wrongs.
    Lastly, veterans would do well to appreciate the changing paradigm where info operations are as lethal, if not more, as the combat operations. Let us not be inadvertent, ignorant but willing accomplices of our adversaries in undermining the credibility of military leadership. The old world story of monkey and the crocodile in Panchtantra emphasized that a foolish friend is more dangerous than an intelligent enemy. Let us not be among the foolish friends of our beloved organisation.
    IDR ought to write about more intellectual issues than give space to such rants, which can be bettered in any langar any evening

  65. Oh wow ….. this is eyeopener …2 star Caddie haha . I can only laugh .As an ex officer even though I love the organisation and I do not write or speak against “Army” in civ forums. But this one deserves it . I think our Sr officers wants to see this sycophancy hence it continues. Every one loves to be pampered and no harm in it but not at the cost of whole organisation. 02 decades back a jawan was really from” Bharat” but I believe as the “Bharat ” shrinking and Jawans being of part of “India” . He is looking at all this , he knows what happening across the world with technology at his hand he will retaliate in some manner

  66. I remember Gen Sundarji’s famous letter when he took over as COAS – DO to all officers – Was he not right in every sense of the words he put in there? Alas! If he and all of us had heeded! In fact he should have created the environ to further all that he said therein. General Suman has rightly followed the degradation trends and highlighted the malaise.
    One can see a plethora of views – for and against – the General and the situation that he describes!! Not unexpected at all! We all have views. Neither the General nor those who support or oppose his views will have a database to work out a ratio of GOOD: BAD! We all must be open to criticism and when it comes from General Suman – we must accept it without skepticism.

  67. It is more a matter of practice what you preach.. Every visit we have the senior officer and their wives preach about keeping things simple. For example we were asked to do a simple welfare as the commander’s wife wanted to meet the ladies odd unit… We kept things simple but it was conveyed to us through the husbands that we had not done any preps for the welfare ( no flags and no frills). Even at so called social evenings the waiters are briefed to serve only the front two rows and that is it. Every social eve the circular says no lancers and no tea flags but when u reach the venue there they are. For once I would like to see any senior officer be firm on what they are preaching and set an example rather than handling out general instrs…… Otherwise why should we be any different in taking advantage when we have the chance… If you know that things are going wrong then stand up and take action.

  68. No doubt, what is written ,it appears Military has gone Mughal way; as Maj Gen Marinal Suman has mentioned. Too painful to read. During 71 war have seen Alpha mess and Charlie mess due operational requirement . But appears it has become now day to day affair. Require immediate look by COAS and MOD.

  69. A very well written piece. Thought provoking as your articles always are. This one definitely needs wide in -service circulation among all Service HQs to stem this trend. Allowed to continue it will have deleterious ramifications on officer-officer relationship (extreme camaraderie and bonhomie) which is one of our greatest Organisational strengths

  70. Well the General has put it nicely there. The malaise is commonly prevalent in the Indian Army. The Arrogance of seniority just doesn’t end at the social level it is also very much prevalent in the professional levels. Remember it’s the junior officers who are on ground and senior officers are in Helicopters. But during war games Corps Commanders and Divisional Commanders will not give a chance to anybody to speak his mind. In most cases all officers begin to follow the line taken by the Commander who is at the helm of the discussion, just to be on the safe side. Dissent expressed on a tactical issue is termed as arrogance or incompetence. I have seen many a General not familiar with his area of operations especially so in Mountains as most of them are physically unfit to go on ground everywhere. They go only where there is a road or there is a helipad. They are generally fond of helipads. This leads to the junior officers being contemptuous about senior officers. Its often heard “just listen to him and wait till the next one comes and he will tell you a different story on how he will win the war”. A pretty serious matter there. It affects the operational planning of a particular sector. In the Army there is a dictum “Know your Enemy”. But conversely more time and effort is being spent on knowing the senior commander. One young officer quipped ‘know this joker first; because you will have to deal with him first the enemy will come later’. Officers have been quite blatant in expressing their opinion about senior officers. Numerous letters written by young officers posted in operational areas are censored and it’s sad to see the amount of contempt they have for the senior officers. It’s a wakeup call for the senior lot of the Indian Army. Living in a fool’s paradise of Stars and Scotch is not going to take you anywhere – somewhere, some place, someone will ask you to stand in line when you visit the canteen after retirement. Good Luck.

  71. Let me build a context – may seem divergent, but it’s not.

    “ITS THE MAN BEHIND THE WEAPON” that wins wars – morale is what it underlines. Often one hears and braggingly, that we have tested missiles, acquired frigates, nuclear capability is at par, etc etc. Never have those who are going to fire them been in the foreground? Alas!
    All actions of superiors have a positive or negative impact on the MORALE! If negative, then breeds a corrupted culture and degrades the environ.
    Officers MESS – “Members of Equal Social Status”. Only hope these starred Generals are even aware of??Indeed General Suman has struck the right chord, but too late. A person of his service, experience and stature has – I bet – traversed the heirarchical ladder witnessing these and so many other symptoms of degradation and he and his ilk did have the remedies too, but alas only in their minds! they had the big picture in sight which was dazzling – that of the “STARS”. Grapevine has it that Regimental Funds/Canteen Funds/Training Funds et al and Regimental property misuse by Commanding Officers and above is in the limelight. Who has not seen this in service? Whenever somebody objected to it, he was rebuked by, “Hey these are perks/privileges”. When asked as to why these were not legitimized, “every thing cannot be written” came the terse reply.
    Whether Army can be restored to it’s pristine prestige of the yore? is a question none can answer. But it is extremely imperative, it’s a dire need – specially with China and Pak flexing jointly their muscles.
    I have invariably asked one question from senior army officers, if ever they had heard/seen cases of “fragging” when we were the British Indian Army, under whom we fought WW I and II? None came the reply.

  72. Every body sees it and nobody sees it, in defence cinema halls, seats for Brig n above have been placed separately without realizing that every officer is paying the same cost of ticket.

    But the best part is that after retrirement these star studded officers are running errands for whichever company hires them n their driver and caddies are not flaunting any stars, yet they are able to survive

  73. An excellent article which is true and reveals the bad practices. I welcome such open discussion. Hiding of weakness is the worst thing for an organisation. Weaknesses multiply and one day prove to uncontrollable. Better discuss in open and have courage to find solutions. Many units have suffered just becaise they kept hiding bad things to show unit spirit. Better face the bitter truth and correct in time rather than cry later. I have read comments below. No one has said that the writer has written is false. All agree it is happening. Rather than hiding let us correct.

  74. I always like ur candid views. Had this come from an even senior officer – it would hav been even better – but you are more forthright – keep it up – Surely the gud ones will change
    The article would have been balanced if only it also carried examples of those who still conduct them in exemplary manner – they too exist – unless mentioned this tribe wud shrink
    plz make your choices as you like

  75. and just because somebody is part of system, he loses the right to criticize it?
    doesnt happen dat way..
    whether some body did smthin or not..he can always point it out wat is wrong..
    so all my dear frends..
    THERE IS NO PPOINT SHOOTING THE MESSANGER..
    PL LOOK WITHIN..
    FOCUS ON COMPETENCE..
    NNOT PSYCHOPHANTS

  76. Rightly brought out sr..its really an eye opener …wat u said is because of psychphant culure creepin in army…no of SPINELESS people is on the rise in the name of incorporating FLEXIBILITY..all are Officers first anything else later..Even guestrooms are given only on basis of Liasion…based on one,s rank..
    Indian Army is its own biggest enemy..The ACR culture promote SMILE UP and KICK DOWN attitude ..officers are nly worid abt the nxt AE, next CR, a 9 pointer at any cost..egos inflate wid rank and since GENERALA are treated like non-entity by civ babuz..they exert their influence on their men in uniform..One Of so called PASSED OVER lt col wen asked y he left so early..he retorted..
    I DIDNT LEAVE ARMY..I
    I JUST LEFT MY GENERALS..

    • Dear Shamainder,
      The same things happen everyday. When with sailors’ wives, we get served differently. That is no discrimination. Tomorrow we say why differential pay? Privileges come with responsibilities. And let me assure you, when you have those responsibilities, these privileges, that matter so much to others, mean nothing to you. Edification of status is a necessity, in every organization. Equality means equality of opportunity, otherwise let us share our pay with the most underprivileged.

  77. I am really disappointed reading this article, Beating round the bush…… It seems like a cry baby post, bringing out petty issues….. We have 1.3 million army… small thing as u mentioned may be happening in some places agreed….. all fingers are not of same size na…… But over all the situation is not so bad as you tried to portray….Dont let down the organisation which made u what you are today, but talking insignificant issues……

  78. Well said Mrinal…..but as a common man i would like to know what you did during your 30+ years of service. Be specific… give us how many junior officers you court marshalled for doing favours to you…..and how many senior officers you annoyed by not doing what your juniors did……becos these days people like us feel it has become a fashion to become a holy cow once you hang the uniform….Please prove us wrong by giving specific….. dont make common statements like politicians….. Talk like a General by being specific….

  79. It is a vitrious concoction made by mixing large doses of megalomania and sycophancy in pretty much an equal ratio, in the hierarchy crucible. I have been ‘blessed’ enough to see an over eager Liaison Officer running around managing star plates to be mounted on a mule at the Amarnath Yatra. Thankfully, better sense had prevailed when the general officer took offense after witnessing an equally ranked equine.

  80. Dear author, can you also write what did you do regarding such practices which you would have seen in your long career in the defence???? I also hope that you can proudly say that you never practised such deeds…… I hope that your subordinates who tried to please you with creature comforts were suitably punished & that you made it a point to show your displeasure when you saw your seniors doing such things ……. waiting for your post on these aspects too……

  81. General Sahib, it seems that you have articulated every wrong that you saw during your long stint with the army. While I don’t support any of this but being from Bhatinda makes me feel otherwise since half of my town is a cantt. For a large family that the army is, these are small aberrations. The few will always do such things, the honest & hardworking majority will always remain the strength of the army. Do bring out specifics but don’t generalise please.

  82. I left the army after 30 years of service. I can vouch for every word of the article. I have seen small flags with stars being put on the golf course to mark position of balls of the senior officers. A general used to go far walk in civiies with cap showing stars. At a regimental centre, a bathroom was marked for Brigadiers and above only. Disgraceful. Caddies wearing stars used to be common sight in Western Command where the army commander wanted stars on every thing he used. Arrogance is hurting the army terribly. Hope the present commanders read this article.

  83. Thanks for courage to publish such hard but disgusting realities. One witnesses them in most stations. A recent addition is Pilot Jeeps and CMPs frantically throwing their weight on poor civilians to clear the way for the three star general who is about to travel back home for lunch.
    I hope those who indulge in all this are reading.

  84. A well articulated article on the feelings of the ranks in general. However, sir, the big question how many senior officers prevent such incidents. While the staff officers go overboard and behave like Muhamed Bin Thuglaq imposing restrictions, the Gen Offrs turn a blind eye and behave as if they are not aware of the restrictions. I remember two such incidents, which impacted my career adversely and unfortunately no one came to my support. I was advised to back off. The GOC in Sri Ganganagar, Maj Gen Suryawanshi, did not want any one to even walk when he was out on a walk, and vehicle movement was banned by an executive order of the HQ. Similarly, Dy GOC at Dipatoli, Brig Ravi Kumar, wanted exclusive timings at the gym of the Offrs Institute during prime time. Though unwritten in these terms, there were instructions that the gym was not to be used by officers and families at particular timings. When the issue was put up an agenda point for the GBM with an option of making the membership optional, it raised a hue and cry. They wanted our money but did not want to extend the facilities. Gen Padmanabhan, when GOC in Srinagar, wanted a ten feet barricade of CGI sheets along the road to the HQ so that he did not have to see the bodies of the men who had sacrificed their lives on his order and the faces of the comrades of the dead who would come to pay their last respects. When our own bosses do not have respect for the men who lay down their lives, it is but stupid to expect that civilians will treat them with respect. I am sure there are hundreds of upright, professionally competent officers like me who have faced the same dilemma and also paid a price. Unfortunately the top brass does not have the courage to do some house keeping. Pity that an elite and honorable profession losses talent on such flimsy grounds like rank, wives advice on the professional competency of an officer etc.

  85. Maj Gen MS is right that due to pyramid like structure the Juniors are not incompetent and the seniors are not gods…
    however without flaunting the brass, the flags, the stars they are just ordinary like any other person…

  86. 1. A reflection of junior officers feelings.
    2. Let an effort be made to educate those arrogant seniors who have found this as a way to mask their inability to face young enthusiasts.

  87. Sir,

    It was a pleasure reading this article. Post retirement, I have been working with student community and I can tell you that even they know of these practices and desist forces for some of these reasons.

    There are more retired officers in the field who discourage them from joining the forces than those who encourage. No wonder the forces are struggling to get the numbers corrected!!!

  88. Sir
    You could also consider researching and writing on the defacto
    Domination of senior ladies in military matters,the unabashed
    Prevalence of discrimibatory/condescending culture in ladies circles
    ,marginalisation of some on petty issues like personal jealousy etc.
    The omnipresence of cronies has invaded the other gender as well
    Leading to dissatisfaction among the balance majority. Thus culture
    Is conspicuous in peace stations leading ti feelibgs of no escape

  89. After doing through different articles related to defence it has been quiet clear that Defence organisation starts with senior officers and end with junior officers. My concern is that what the hell the so called personnel below officers ranks are doing all these days? The JCOs & ORs till exist or not?

  90. these lines were most striking one though the whole post is true depiction of current scenario in armed forces “senior does not flaunt his seniority all the time while a good junior does not forget his juniority at any time”

  91. Very rightly pointed out, but what this self obsession does not raises its head when an offices becomes a commander and so on. there are numerous examples of junior officers doing the same thing with their jawans. Recently quite a few incidents have happened that have highlighted this issue.

    I think it’s high time that somebody also sheds some light on how this because this rudness does not comes all of a sudden. They tend to develop it over the years and it starts with the juniors mistreating their japans.

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