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Superseded Officers: Handle them with Compassion
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Maj Gen Mrinal Suman | Date:21 Jun , 2014 95 Comments
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.

It is the saddest sight in any social gathering to find all superseded officers huddled together in a corner. They appear more comfortable interacting with each other, stay in the background and avoid intermingling with others, especially the senior officers. Their deportment, appearance and bearing show a discernible lack of zest. They go through the paces of a social evening in a detached manner. Apparently, supersession hits very hard.

In a command oriented army, supersession impacts the psyche of the affected officers immensely and becomes a traumatic experience for them and their families…

Search for recognition is one of the pursuits which all human beings indulge in and continuously strive for. Promotions and advancement in career are important aspects of their aspirations. It is more so in the army where rank fixes one’s place in the army’s hierarchy and is a conspicuous demonstration of an officer’s success in profession. Therefore, supersession hurts immensely and transforms personality overnight – many outgoing officers lose their ‘spark’, withdraw into their shell and become introverts.

Despite creation of additional appointments at the top, the manpower structure of the Indian army continues to be like a steep pyramid. Against the authorised strength of 46,500 officers, vacancies for generals and brigadiers are only 379 and 1088 respectively. It implies that the percentage of appointments of brigadier and above is a mere 3.2 percent. Most of the officers do not advance beyond the rank of colonel.

All service officers come through highly competitive examinations. Applicant to Post Ratio (APR) is a standard index used to indicate the number of candidates aspiring for the available posts through respective examinations. APR for the National Defence Academy varies between 450 and 500. As only one out of 450-500 candidates secures entry into NDA, it means that every selected candidate is brilliant and possesses necessary potential.

All cadets go through identical training and achieve the laid down standards before getting commissioned into the army. It proves that all young officers possess the same caliber at the start of their careers. As the steep pyramid-like structure provides limited promotional avenues, many officers fail to make to higher ranks. Many brilliant officers suffer due to the shortage of vacancies and retire as colonels.

Many brilliant officers suffer due to the shortage of vacancies and retire as colonels.

The system is reasonably fair and most officers gain promotions due to their own competence. However, there are many who benefit from regimental, caste and school affiliations. Parochialism and protégé-syndrome also influence promotions. In some cases, highly capable officers become victim of unfortunate circumstances or hostile environment; and they have no control over quirks of destiny.

Supersession Hurts

Supersession in itself is quite distressing. The severity of shock becomes extremely painful in case of the officers who are confident of getting approved for the next rank. Being unprepared for such a prospect, the blow has a devastating effect on their persona. Perversity of the current system of annual performance appraisal is responsible for giving false hopes to the officers.

The annual performance report consists of two parts. The first part contains assessment of personal qualities and demonstrated performance. It is shown to the officer reported upon. The second part contains comments on his potential for promotion and is not shown to the assessed officer.

It is a very painful experience for the affected officers when they realise that their dedication to the organisation is considered suspect. Such an insulting treatment increases the hurt manifold…

Lacking moral courage and with a view to keep their officers in good humour, many assessing officers grade their subordinates at 8 points and above (on a scale of 1 to 9 points) in the first part. Secure in the knowledge that the officers reported upon would never learn about the contents of the second part, unscrupulous assessing officers mark them as unfit for promotion.

As the shown part invariably borders on ‘outstanding’ grade, the officers reported upon become certain of getting promoted. The news of their non-approval comes as a bolt from the blue and they get shell-shocked. They fail to understand as to why they have been overlooked despite their outstanding reports. As is natural, they feel wronged and lose faith in the fairness of the system. With very few exit options, they do not know how to cope up with the heartbreak.

In a command oriented army, supersession impacts the psyche of the affected officers immensely and becomes a traumatic experience for them and their families. Many start suffering from acute persecution-complex and show signs of professional and social withdrawal.

Absurdity and Insensitivity of Organisational Response

Most unfairly, non-approval for promotion has come to carry an element of stigma of professional incompetence. It is forgotten that in a highly competitive environment, it is invariably a question of a few decimal points in the report that makes the difference in inter-se appraisal for the limited vacancies.

In a hierarchical organisation like the army, social events cannot be totally free from rank consideration. However, blatant social discrimination or what is euphemistically called ‘social apartheid’ is highly appalling and hurtful.

The organisation’s handling of the superseded officers is both irrational and insensitive. Instead of reassuring the officers that they are valued members of the organisation, it does just the opposite. Rather than assuaging their feelings, it intensifies their sense of hurt through thoughtless treatment.

It presupposes that all superseded officers would lack motivation to excel. Even highly qualified and competent officers are posted to lesser appointments, thereby wasting their potential. Worse, it sends a wrong signal to the affected officers, showing organisation’s lack of confidence in their commitment to deliver. They are treated as a liability which the organisation has to carry till their superannuation.

It is a very painful experience for the affected officers when they realise that their dedication to the organisation is considered suspect. Such an insulting treatment increases the hurt manifold – first a hopeful officer is denied promotion and then he is considered untrustworthy for important appointments.

In a hierarchical organisation like the army, social events cannot be totally free from rank consideration. However, blatant social discrimination or what is euphemistically called ‘social apartheid’ is highly appalling and hurtful. It makes superseded officers wary of mixing with those who have achieved higher ranks. Social inequities add to their discomfort.

“The waiter offered scotch whiskey to him in a crystal glass and pulled the tray away when I tried to pick a glass stating that another waiter was bringing my whiskey. It was a terribly humiliating experience.”

When queried, a superseded officer was candid enough to share his feelings – “In a party, I was talking to a Brigadier, an old friend and a course-mate. The waiter offered scotch whiskey to him in a crystal glass and pulled the tray away when I tried to pick a glass stating that another waiter was bringing my whiskey. It was a terribly humiliating experience.”

Another officer asked a very pointed question – “I know that I have been found unfit for the next rank, but why must it be rubbed-in at all times? Why make us feel like lesser officers? It hurts more when my wife is treated equally shabbily in social functions.”

Finally

The government has taken a number of measures to mitigate the adverse effect of supersession on the financial remunerations and the retirement age. However, it is the treatment meted out to such officers by the army that needs correction.

Instead of boosting the self-confidence of the superseded officers by reposing faith in their competence and reassuring them that they are valued members of the organisation, the army does just the opposite. Rather than ‘wasting them out’ on inconsequential appointments, their potential must be utilised.

…the army must understand the sensitivities of the superseded officers and their families. They should be handled with due care and empathy.

To start with, the current system of showing demonstrated performance and hiding potential promotes must be replaced either by an open or a closed appraisal system. False hopes should not be raised as disappointment can be heart breaking.

Secondly, most superseded officers possess vast experience. They welcome assignments of responsibility and excel in them. Conscious of their self-respect, they put in extra effort to ensure that no fingers are ever raised at their commitment and dedication.

Finally, the army must understand the sensitivities of the superseded officers and their families. They should be handled with due care and empathy. As is the norm, there should be no rank-based discrimination in the messes. Social inequities are an anathema to army culture and it breeds a sense of alienation among the superseded officers. Instead of considering them as ‘dead load’, their skills should be exploited. The army can ill-afford to let the potential of half of its officers’ strength remain untapped.

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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.

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95 thoughts on “Superseded Officers: Handle them with Compassion

  1. Dear Sir,

    It was really a true analysis. I am a retired Sailor, what I can make out after serving for 15 years at all kinds of Naval organisations from ship to NHQ that blaming system is not appropriate. The problem initiates at our training itself. Most of the people are self centric and don’t bother to even think whether their working style or ambition are spoiling life of subordinates.

    Like this we spoil life of others and when there is our turn we say, it’s bad. Further, I must say that in 99% cases, the so called dedication and service mind attitudes come to an end when we don’t get promotion.

    First, we have to check our behaviour with others let it be a person at lowest hierarchy. I would like to conclude myself with the words of Sant Tulsidas:-

    Karm Pradhan Vishwa Kari Rakha
    Jo Jas Karhi Tas Fal Chakha

  2. An excellent article. All superseded are bad is a wrong perception. They are good not made it due to limited vacancies and other factors.NFU is an answer to keep their morale high and to work hard.Generals shld not feel threatened as they will not be loosing on their status and pperks.It is imp that Def forces shld look after them or allow them to retire with full benefits.

  3. All brass heavy in forum do talks about superceded officer and ask them to become good human beings that means post supersession they have become animals. Sir after supersession officer works for self actualisation, despite knowing that there is a huge wall however hard they try they cannot break or climb. So stop humiliating, by making him remember that friend you are looser.
    Our top heavy lost for NFU (post 5th pay commission we (army) did not accept…. How can non selected grade enjoy all perks what selection grade does)……humiliation despite being superceded our top brass cannot assure TS to all. The rule discrimination exist there too atleast don’t humiliation second time.
    Experience of superceded no one cares. They are non PSC (mostly) so they don’t know anything.
    One more thing why discriminate post commissioning in all forms asking about type of commission. How does it matters after 15 years of service.
    Posting of superceded officer is the last priority. Allow him now to choose his postings. How does posting profile make any difference after supersession.
    Give some space to them…..they are also amongst the best it just because of non availability of vacancies they could not be promoted and reason is you who were promoted, who forgot them and could not create more space when you were on top…….their voice in ministry…….

  4. Dear Sir,
    Nice article and great comments to read. Infact the comments/points put up by aarkay on October 24, 2014 at 9:43 pm on this article are the simple solutions. But who is interested in the solutions!! The purity of breed is important and that is what the IPS Cadre has done. There are so many types of entries but the super-cession for IPS is an exception rather than a norm. I have served in MHA and have seen an ASI/Inspector commanding a para military post , co-located with army where a Lt Col/Maj is post commander. Why could we not create different layers of Cadre in Officer Rank. In CPMFs, IPS are the masters, then the pure breed of that CPMF, then the promo-tees from PBORs and then the effective Inspectors and so on. Now, who stops us. The short service of 05 years became 14 yrs and then became PC. One can join thru NDA or OTA, all the same. Rather NDA becomes a negative point since one looses early contact with civil life and the advantages linked to it. Then, the Finance Ministry never differentiated between TS and select but we did it. We deny many perks to our men which otherwise are legitimately authorised by the Govt. In CPMFs, almost all become Comdt (Col) at 15 tears, DIG at 20-21 years (except BSF, which has some problems of promotions. Then, in BSF, too, whenevr one picks up his rank, no matter how late, it is at par with others in the same rank. We often blame the Govt, but we forget the fact that we are the Govt. I just do not appreciate the criticism of Govt/bureaucracy since it is up to us to give whatever shape we want to give. Seniors first need to start giving whatever the Govt. has already given. Time for introspection.

  5. Though it’s a great talk but the reality is that once an officer is overlooked he is looked down upon and it gives real pleasure to most of the so called more competent officer or those who get their promotions. Demarcation between the two segments becomes very significant and senior officers just do not bother to look into the matter, treatment to supersede officer in almost all the forums becomes second class& he is not being considered the valued member of the team. To make the matter even worse you stamp these officers with TS even if some one is promoted to the rank of Colonel. Basically to maintain the ego of so called selection grade officers. Superceded officer carries the stigma of his incompetence and is always reminded him of the same whenever he sees his name on official documents such as Col ( TS ) I M Not Required.

    It’s the attitude and high headed ness of these promoted officer that the other lot not even get their right, leave apart privileges and rightful place in military society

  6. The rank structure, ie one Service chief in a country where each state has 7/8 DGP, including two for writing Manuals I & II, the supercession is a reality, non grant of NFU only makes it worse.

    Options:-

    One:- If in a position to leave after 20/22 years, have confidence in your abilities, which all of us have, pl leave in an honorable manner. I have seen scores of officers doing very well in the corporate and running their ventures.

    Two:- While they are there after being overlooked, do not let them feel small, utilize their expertise, their rapport with troops in other training institutes, which will keep them motivated. I have seen Staff Q officer, who was DQ of a prominent Bde, had opted to do staff course rather than accompanying unit going out for Peace keeping abroad, being GLO in an obscure place after missing out being upright. He left after some sometime, well, the loss certainly was not his, but Army. He is doing very well outside and playing golf.

    I have been fortunate enough to seek PMR at 22 years(due to study leave obligation), was in the corporate for 12 years and now spending leisure time in India and with children in Canada & US. Only last month, I walked up to senior officer, then number II in MS Br in 2002 to thank him that had he given me the posting that I sought (as he felt I had been too much in the NE, as if five postings in NE, three of them in a row, two of which in High Altitude, were my choice!), I would have now retired after re Emp and would have missed out on corporate experience and other benefits of leaving in 2002/3 when property prices were low. What I have today is Kind courtesy that Maj Gen Saheb, so I went and thanked him. It did shock him, but I only stated facts in thanking him and nothing derogatory.

    When He closes one door, He wants you to see other doors, ready to be explored. Believe in destiny, leave, who ever has gained banging against wall, sulking and staying, spoiling your health and progress!

    God bless you all

  7. Very very genuine Article.To add insult to the injuries to superseeded Lt Cols Particularly ex ACC Officers who are not in a position to complete 26 years of commissioned service mark kept by AVSC1 are being retired in Lt Col rank despite serving the Nation for four decades due to the insensitivity and disrespect being shown by the bureaucrat .One can imagine their demotivation level and low self esteem on their retirement.Further apathy that some bureaucrat in MOF stalling the case of reduction of service for Col (TS) under the garb that policy matters take time which has been initiated by the Army 04 years ago genuinely to meet the aspirations of affected Officers and thus huge Army ,Navy and Air Force is not at all in a position to ensure that this case sees the light of the day to benefit the affected Officers.God if YOU are there kindly tell that bureaucrat who is sitting over the file and playing marry-hell with the morale,self esteem and motivation of all affected Officers despite Army putting all efforts to make this case happen at the soonest and avoid making the affected Officers to knock the doors of Honorable Courts for Justice against their wish.

  8. Eventually, EVERYONE gets superseded – at different levels of the pyramid of course. Many superseded officers work with greater dedication than those on the other side. One has to level with them: show empathy, but not pity. Some do get superseded due anomalies in the system (ALL systems have anomalies – though in varying degrees), but it is silly to ignore that some have actually reached their peak. There is no scope to look down on them – but then an organization cannot (and must not) suffer “on-the-job-retirees” out of (misplaced) compassion. Once a superseded officer has decided to stay (for whatever reasons), it is his/her bounden duty to work with sincerity. It is also the duty of the leadership to tap the (many) resources of a superseded officer – to organizational advantage of course. Finally, it is a case of “Managing the Supersession Conundrum”: by both the concerned individual and the organization to mutual advantage – the organizational advantage being the overriding factor.

  9. Sir,

    We are thankful to you for showing concern about us.
    on 26 Jan 2015 out of about 191 distinguished awards 73% are Brigs and above. This speaks about the mentality of the authorities towards their subordinates.
    If we do some good work , other offrs are recommended for awards as proxy

  10. it is a very nicely brought up article on superseded issue. Army and for that matter whole defense services are looser. When the 6 th pay commission was decussing this issue many high ranking officer was against making. Brigadier as time scale rank and selection after that.
    This will be a better solution. There should be minimum expectable label for Col. And brigadier rank .

    It will solve many problems

  11. Excellent article sir…especially in the light of the fact when most of us are staring in to the doorways of super-cession in the next few years.. as we see most brilliant guys around not making it because they did not belong to certain caste, regiment or parochialism ….as they say it. But, the articles alas!! has very conveniently skirted the main issue of how army should treat its officers, instead hammered a few good words of “Pure English” on the subject. So with super-cession staring at us, what do we do ? Plain-Simple: Just enjoy your present appointments, believe in motto :”Once an Officer – Always an Officer”, dish out help as much as we can to friends, colleagues and subordinates and learn to love oneself.

  12. Its the failure of the Army and the Govt to realize that every defence service officer is a national asset. They are well trained and with appropriate retraining can easily be absorbed into the government and civilian industries.

    Recognition of all the experience to be equated with civilian degrees would be a start.

  13. Agree with u gen…..a person who is working hard bcoz of lesser vacancy with in a sec u proved him unfit.not only officer u behave in the way with his family also this is just disgusting…… If a brigader s wife n his kids going for a movie organisation make them sit in d front row……but a Lt col with his family will sit in a last row…it means his place is below then brigadier kids……l will never ever allow my kids to join army what ever l be suffered I don’t want my kids to face…..

  14. outstanding thought – this. also the fwg may be considered :-
    1. employment in the PMF
    2. empployment in other def estb
    3. promote select JCOs upto the rk of Capt. the pyramid wud get balanced
    4. go ahead with specialisaton thing. instead of the concept “jack of all trades & master of none”
    5. no offices in peace time. its only either trg in fd or rest. look at the motivation then. roman army had this concept.
    6. no clause as “min pensionable service”. whosoever wants to call it a day may be permitted.
    7. employment in civ admn.
    8. SS :- Mandatory retirement at 5.
    9. no multiple agencies for selection. only NDA, IMA, Engr graduates. thats it.

  15. Dear Sir,
    An accurate assessment of the situation that is resulting in deterioration in the organisation. Although it will be unjust to call for promotion to all, still majority fail to get ‘through’. They invariably are made to look as social outcasts in all gatherings. Missing selection board at 15-16 years of service means, holding a large number of demoralised and underemployed officers till their superannuation (another 15-17 years). This a great loss to the armed forces. Today, with promotion to the rank of Lt Col at 13 years, most of the units have low strength of officers, there these Lt Cols cannot be expected to serve under COs junior to them. The vast reservoir of experienced and seasoned officers is lost to the organisation and at the same time these officers remain underutilised for the rest of time.
    The superseded officers are forced to huddle in the comfort of their “own types” in any social gathering as they are valued below-par by those who have broken through the “promotion-barrier”. This is a great loss, which is likely to severely affect the organisation in the near future.
    In case of any emergency, services of these officers are not considered thereby depriving them from doing “their bit” as well as reducing reducing the effectiveness of the services despite having a wealth of excellent brains put down the drain due to the unjust treatment and utilisation.

  16. An article that makes huge sense and its time that we in the Army make amends. There is a dire need to build professional career not just based on performance in terms of grant of ranks but also base it on specialisation. An example could be specialisation in say a particular sector of the terrain/ adversary. A domain expertise must be the bedrock of the career path. this would enable an officer to be continued to be gainfully employed professionally so that even if the rank does not come his/her way, he/she has a domain knowledge growth to look forward to.
    The entire HR management system in the Army seems to be too over focussed on Command which by its very nature is excessively limited in the time duration. By developing each officer as a domain expert the Army too would reap benefits and not loose out a trained professional, who in todays environment is either wasted out as a MCO/ or a Staff Officer or in NCC and the likes. Or he/she steps out into the corporate to redesign their lives all over again.Not to leave the domain expertise limited to officers alone, this must be extended right down to the troops. There should be a tag of Specialist attached to each and everyone, the days of Soldier GD need upgradation.
    Jai Hind!

  17. ONCE SUPERSEEDED A OFFICER MUST NEVER STAY IN THE SERVICE S. HIS TRAINING AND OTHER POSITIVES OF SERVICE LIFE ARE FAR MORE SUPERIOR ESPECIALLY CAPACITY FOR HARD WORK AND WORKING WITHOUT ADEQUATE RESOURCES . HE ONLY NEEDS TO UPGRADE HIS MANAGEMENT EDUCATION EITHER BY DOING A MBA FROM A REKNOWNED INSTITUTION, OR COMMERCIAL FLYING OR MERCHANT MARINE . STAYING IN THE SERVICE IS GOOD FOR HIS SMALL CHILDREN AND WIFE BUT HE WILL ROT AND PICK UP DISEASE . OUTSIDE HIS ANIMAL SPIRITS WILL AGAIN BE KINDLED AND HIS SINCERITY WILL INVARIABLY BRING HIM GOOD FORTUNE , LUCK AND MONEY . HIS RISK TAKING CAPACITY WILL IMPROVE AND ATLEAST HE CAN FULLFILL ALL HIS AND HIS FAMILIES MATERIAL DESIRES . EVEN IF HE IS NOT LUCKY ATLEAST HE WILL BE FREE BIRD AND WILL LEARN TO SURVIVE IN THE CRUEL UNFORGIVING CIVIL WORLD WHERE INVARIABLY HE HAS TO COME AND SETTLE SOMETIME IN HIS LIFETIME

  18. good english. i do not the general personally or i could have given examples about him. it is not that the organisation Indian Army is bad, it is the people who have become responsible have gone astray. the CR are given for the loyalty to the chair and not for the loyalty to the organisation. the general is the product of the same system. in present day who goes up – who is like them.

  19. What about the PBOR’s are they not suffering..they are the most sufferrs because they are facing discrimination in their own country . why the old british rules are not changing ? Because officers are only worried about their own interest . As we are seeing now days these scams done by senior officers ..these things are only a slight hint that how deep our defence services are currupt. Britishers had long back changed their rules but we still follow them because it is benifit of officers. what an appathy :-(

  20. the great structures of aspirations have always been made out of injustice to others… where sincere people work and opportunists take advantage …. similarly in armed forces superseded officers suffer… or wait … is organisation not suffering !! …

    firstly…. on one side we cry constantly about officer deficiency …. and when a person is on peak of his efficiency after gaining a vast experience in armed forces he is conveniently superseded …for none of his fault… what a waste ! …a psychological burden on both.. the man and the organisation.

    secondly …. it is high time we understand our organisational needs and task all officers as per their true potential…. few AVSMs and PVSMs have done a great harm to the organisation.

    thirdly … yes it is true that people will be overlooked in due course of time due to the pyramid … but we need to bring in mammoth attitudinal changes in the environment and set thinking process in right direction for the organisational benefits… because as prevalent anywhere else… top man is always right in the armed forces also, therefore changes have to be brought in from senior to junior level.

    lastly …. superseded officers don’t need compassion… what they need is the respect and right kind of working environment in the organisation.

  21. It is very depressing for anyone to get superseded particularly for those who believe in their abilities and capabilities. It is very hard for them to take supersession in a stride as it is hard to develope an aptitude to do so. May be some of the officers who rise in the hierarchy appreciate their knowledge and some of them do try to make the best use of that, the superseded officers know and do not have any say in their opinion/ findings implemented. At many times they are superseded there also.
    One should not give own examples and hence I will desist doing so. However I for one decided to quit. Not that I am doing very well but am much more respected with authority, responsibility and answerability. This is what everyone worth his salt is looking for. Can we give that to every supersede officer. I think not. Also I don’t expect very person taking PMR to get such opportunities in the civil life. I would recommend the following:
    1. Prepare the officers who get superseded to the life after supersession.
    2. Offer them postings where they have opportunities to take responsibilities.
    3. If they desire to retire prepare them for life in the civil stream. The pre- retirement courses do not work much in this. It will be better for them to be sent on deputation in Public Sectors, Other Govt Departments as well as to Corporate Sectors. Provisions exist in some countries to undertake such actions. I believe we also have such provisions in the law but have not taken advantage of this.
    4. Parallel absorption in other govt organisation has been voiced in the past by many. However it has not progressed anywhere. For this also the officers will have to be prepared bu way of courses, deputations etc.

  22. I have two comments: 1. Why can’t we make some efforts to crush the pyramid to make it a cylinder ; are we mummy’s ; ( I asked this question to a Brigadier who was going to NDC and he replied, it will increase inefficiency< the my next question_ So, you mean to say you are scared to manage youe officers, if so, why are you creating superceded officers and creating rifts_ No answer)

    2. Even after retirement, why re-employ and demean a Colonel by putting him in a Major's place and make him work under a Lt Colonel; afterall, there is no change to the overall financial effects to the Government.

    It is clear, as long as you are riding high, you cannot see what's below; we lack vision, foresight and brotherhood, stop teaching bureaucrats aannd learn some thing from the

  23. It’s a career hazard that large %age of offrs will be superseded. Point is their management.

    Professionally, better qualified but overlooked officers should be given due appointments for two reasons. A. They have more experience. B. They will be not be sycophants. These offrs cannot be stripped off of their knowledge, skills and talents on next working day the board results are out. With this premise a Corps Cdr who cannot make it to Army Cdr due to age should stop working?

    Secondly, social divide amongst the officers should be removed immediately. The dinner invitations like Brigs & above only, Parking Brigs & above only, even wash rooms, swimming pool timings. This is ridiculous.

    We have to carry a superseded offrs in service for more than 16 yrs at times. For all this period he is made to realise every moment that you are 2nd grade citizen and a dead wood. Even if he is not one he becomes one.
    The organisation should not lose confidence in an Offr who doesn’t make a cut for vacancy reasons.

    A realistic ACR is responsibility of the IO. if, he cannot fulfil it he should never be rated more than 4 in moral courage and integrity by his IO in turn. These days IO and RO connive to make a fool of Offr and the appraisal system and our hierarchy hold their hands.

    Subject needs in depth deliberations and brainstorming sessions with major participation of superseded offrs.

  24. Many offrs get superceded for not so thumping ACRs in the crucial stg of their career while serving under not very competent superiors who pursue their own personal agenda.So system should have some inbuilt mechanism to ensure that deserving offrs reach upto their optimum level in the higher ranks.competent offrs but finally superceded should be given opportunities for lateral absorption in other org for the benefit of such offrs and country as a whole.

  25. Some thoughts on this..maybe some find this palatable.Let it be like the civvy street, if you are superseded, switch to other avenues, going out with all the benefits..after all the man has given his youth to the organisation. Man, you will find even some hot shots would prefer to get superseded if they really have it in them..after all the opportunities outside are colossal.

  26. Irrespective of the situation or any other facts, there is a need to ask a simple question – Should everybody be promoted, does every one deserve, there would be some who deserve more but didnt make it and at same time less deserving making – can happen – but again question remains can there be an organisation where every one can be and should be promoted ? Is it possible – is it feasible – is it required – is it justified – the problem is lack of a credible system and transparency the day that happens – solutions emerge automatically till then ——- carry on – lug it

  27. Having been superceded before retirement, I would differ a bit. Senior officers are reluctant to talk to superceded officers. You give solutions to problems and they are all ears but the conversation closes the moment the answer to the question “when is your board due? ” is given

  28. This is true but that is what is taught from the trg days to step over your own and keep moving forward and never look back. It is the seniors at each stage which bring out the relevance of performance for ACR, “the pen is mightier than the sword” as they say. When vacancies are less at the top it is but natural that those who make it would have a sense of achievement, which develops a sense of superiority above those who are left out. In fact the answer is not to be empathetic towards those who are left behind but to have counselling right from training days to personnel to accept being superseded. Mediocrity should not be tolerated specially in the services, those who make should be high achievers which is requirement of the org.
    Each individual is capable but to get the right person moving up the ladder there needs to be transparency in the ACR and promotions. A new assessment system needs to be evolved where all from a particular peer group are assessed in a set of similar conditions and not by there superior officers as the present system which breeds sycophancy and has lot of loop hole for bias. An officer considered for promotion should do so based on his/ her individual performance merit.
    It is time the importance to involvement of the ladies be stopped in the social life in the org. When the men are in field or in operations, what the lady is capable will have no bearing on the performance of the officer. Many countries military and definitely all private companies the ladies have no involvement in an matters of the org. Today we have reached a stage that it appears that without any SSB or formulated training the performance of the lady in OLQ’s are much better than the officers. If so be the case then we should not be going through such a rigorous selection procedure to select the officers for the armed forces.
    Finally, the armed forces have and will continue to survive on the actual hard work of 30 % of dedicated people who don’t work for promotion.

  29. sir…extremely well written article which covers almost all aspects of the agony of a superseded officer,including the treatment meted out to their spouse.The article is Equally applicable in the sister organisation IAF too.Earlier it was the divide between fliers & non fliers…now throw in the divde of “upcoming officer ” & a PPO i.e. Permanently Passed Over Officer.There is no time neither any inclination to know why an above- the- average officer “missed out” vis -a-vis an oficer on the news of whose promotion half the organisation is bewildered… “don’t tell me he made it”…!!! Once you have missed all 3 Boards you are..as you rightly said a “dead stock”, a liability to the organisation..!!!The worst part is when an officer during his crucial reporting period is working under a Senior whose wife has a particular dislike for the subordinate officer’s spouse….for the assessing officer it could be something as trivial as his wife telling them in private…”…honey make sure so & so is shown where he belongs..i’ve been watching his wife she’s growing too big for her shoes….”…& the junior officers years of hard work is brought to a naught at hands of the senior !!! In my observation there is also an increase in the number of officers who are making it on an exceptionally different skill set…”Jugad”.(..only next to Sycophancy altho’)..Senior officer often remark…”….that chap is a dud when it comes to professional proficiency…but “sahi Jugad lagata hai”…theres nothing under the sun he cannot arrange…our branch’s /unit’s last Husband’s Night was a Grand success … you know he arranged camels for the Arabian nite theme…excellent.” jo bhi ho bandha go_getter hai.’…Rest is all History. The only silver lining is the Gita’s verses prepares one for the Harsh reality of SUPERCESION….” karma karte jao phal ki kamana mat kaor..’…The supercede should make “down but not out” their mantra….Jai Hind.

  30. Sir,

    I agree with what you have written…..and personally seen the same

    My only question to you, with due respect, is why you are expressing your views when you have crossed the stage where you could have made some change to this system. You have been part of this setup and at some stages you have also written these same CRs … could you initiate steps at that time to bring some changes

    Were any steps taken to reduce this aparthied (approved VS Unapproved) when you were at decision making appts… it is easy to bring out faults of a system when we are not part of it…..strength is when we can raise voice when we are part of it

    Sir……Lastly I request you not take my comments as if I questioning your intentions…But my question is for all senior retd offrs who speak up after moving out of organisation

    Regards

  31. A thouhtful and well brought out fact which should stimulate the hiearchy in the Armed forces to initiate appropriate measures. Infact the responsibilty of overcoming this malaise should be undertaken by the chain of Command emanating from the regimental level. Perhaps this aspect coulld also be embedded in the confidental reports by the Initiating/ reviwing offrs.

  32. hi,
    this is a very noble thought being promulgated in the article. but one has some observations beyond the article, which is a parallel to the article..
    firstly, get some parity within the army (i am excl navy and air force since i assume that things are fairer there). It is understood, that anyone in infantry (or Arms), if he does not slap a superior, will certainly become a Colonel, and if he simply remains physically fit, he will become a General !!!. Whereas in Services (like Ord, EME etc ), if an officer is a high flier, then he will become a Colonel if he is lucky, and a General, if his course mates retire before he retires !!!
    secondly, the so called nomination courses, are like toffees or goodies. most officers are nominated on merit, but there are also a larger lot, who get nominated because the big bosses ‘gift’ them theses courses on networking considerations.
    thus, the major issue is that let there be fairness in the army on issues of selection. let only the deserving be selected for promotions/ career courses etc. then the Utopian idea enumerated by the author can be a welcome tenet.
    regards,

  33. What ever has been written is 100% correct and with some experience. I can mention some more experiences for which I have been fighting.WHO IS TO BE BLAMED. ? Our own so called seniors. Can be discussed for hours.

  34. The Potential of the super seeded officers should be exploited to the maximum. Some of the officers who take Pre mature release and join the corporate sector/civil sector after their super session, do extremely well in the civil field. Life is a like a Cricket match, some one do very well in the first inning and are out on duck in the second inning , whereas, some one are failure in the first and do extremely in the second inning.

  35. When army itself has not shunned this attempt at ostracising its own officer cadre on grounds of promotion , why would the bureaucrats not treat defence in a similar manner and show it down.
    I have known starred rank officers openly demeaning their superseded course mates in front of senior bureaucracy, so as to remain in their good books and gain affluence.
    The damage has been done on a very extensive scale to be undone only by publishing some articles on the topic
    So the lesson to be learned is that “Charity begins at Home” Let the defence forces learn to respect its own ranks first before expecting others to do so.

  36. Thanks for bringing out this hidden aspect of super-session.Cold not have been presented more candidly.It reminds me of feeling humiliated by the attitude and behavior of our senior officers.No one expected you to be commited to your responsibilities. In fact I have dubious distinction of being told by my DG AFMS why did I put up papers for PMR when I could have enjoyed serving without having any responsibility and commitment for organization at a time when i was virtually managing workload of 3-4 colleagues in a busy department of prominent Base Hospital.
    Most of senior officer do not want to treat superseded officer with empathy and equality to maintain aura of exclusive club of selection-grade officers and in the bargain superseded officers and their families have to undergo social boycott. I only hope our senior officers become more compassionate and learn to deal with problem humanely.

  37. I would like to thank the General for putting across this issue. Its not the supersession that hits a person bad but its the outlook of the others towards the superceded officer. An officer who was once found fit to command a Battalion is suddenly found only fit to be the MCO, CO of a transit camp or such lesser appointments that are there in the Army. Well its a complicated issue as to whats to be done with these officers but surely dont treat them as discards.

  38. Dear Gen, a good article, first time the problem has been highlighted. In the past, superseded offr was treated respectfully by the Civilians. even now it is the same. It the Army brass which treats them with contempt, a second class catagory. Loss of authorityRank), perks and pay are three important and serious losses in respect of superseded offrs. Though sepersession is inevitable in the peramid, offers and jawans should be compensated by paying them the last pay drawn till the age of 60 at which other officers retire. after OROP this should be our demand. Though I am not effected. I would like to give the example of Air India Hostesses. a similar writ needs to be filed.
    TK Choudhary
    Retd DGP, Maharashtra.

  39. THE POINTS MENTIONED BY THE GENERAL IS ABSOLUTELY CORRECT . BUT IT IS EASIER SAID THAN DONE — SELECT GRADE OFFICERS ( NOT ALL ) DERIVE A SADISTIC PLEASURE OUT OF HUMILIATING SUPERSEDED OFFICERS IN ALL PLACES INCLUDING THE MESS , WHERE SOMETIMES THEY ARE MADE TO STAND ALONG WITH THEIR WIVES DURING DINNER WHEN SEATING SPACE IS LIMITED — WHEREAS SELECT GRADE JUNIOR OFFICERS FIND A PLACE IN THE SEATING ARRANGEMENT , ALONG WITH WIVES , WHICH SOMEHOW EMBARRASSES THE WIFE OF THE SUPERSEDED OFFICER MORE . SHE THEN RIDICULES THE HUSBAND FOR NOT HAVING MADE IT TO THE NEXT RANK.

  40. INDIAN ARMY has no place for out-spoken .straight- forward and professionally competent officers . I ,having been a Commissioned Officer for over 24 years ,and having remained as a ‘Major ‘ for almost 16 years ,know how it feels and hurts . Just because I had NOT CALLED ON THE BRIGADE COMMANDER , I was fixed for the ‘omission and commission ‘ that took place in my absence of over 6 1/2 months during which I attended JC and pre -staff courses followed by annual leave preparing for DSSC .I had qualified in the first attempt .
    Result : Reduced to Substantive Rank ( Captain ) and summarily tried
    under AA 63 , LESS THAN 24 HOURS before leaving for DSSC Wellington ,at a point- of- no- return ,I attended Staff Course as CAPTAIN IN MY 12th year of service – humiliated ,heart-broken and victimized . ……………………
    Even for the next 12 years till I retired ,I served with high self- esteem ,honour and total dedication monitoring my own-self conscientiously .
    Subsequently ,I also suffered at the hands of superiors for not being subservient ,
    My colleagues told me that ” I lacked SOCIAL INTELLIGENCE – THE ABILITY TO MANAGE SUPERIORS and SITUATIONS TO MY ADVANTAGE” . Many superiors ,who fixed did NOT match my caliber ,in many cases .
    Indian Army officers have become manipulators , careerists due to cut-throat competition . NOT all who rise above COLONEL’s rank are really deserving .
    GOD BLESS THOSE who cut short my otherwise brilliant career .My course-mates who are still alive will vouch for me . I suffered heavily in terms of pension benefits
    At 73 plus ,I am still alive ,vibrant and healthy ,leading a balanced and harmonious life. I have NO REGRETS for being simple ,straight forward and out spoken .
    In ‘OWL 1978 ‘ DSSC magazine ,my course-mates knew me as ” PARTNER , I AM A SIMPLE FELLOW and DO NOT KNOW ANY AIRY-FAIRY ” Still I am, what I was born as . INDIAN ARMY definitely needs MENTAL-OVERHAUL

  41. INDIAN ARMY has no place for out-spoken .straight- forward and professionally competent officers . I ,having been a Commissioned Officer for over 24 years ,and having remained as a ‘Major ‘ for almost 16 years ,know how it feels and hurts . Just because I had NOT CALLED ON THE BRIGADE COMMANDER , I was fixed for the ‘omission and commission ‘ that took place in my absence of over 6 1/2 months during which I attended JC and pre -staff courses followed by annual leave preparing for DSSC .I had qualified in the first attempt .
    Result : Reduced to Substantive Rank ( Captain ) and summarily tried
    under AA 63 , LESS THAN 24 HOURS before leaving for DSSC Wellington ,at a point- of- no- return ,I attended Staff Course as CAPTAIN IN MY 12th year of service – humiliated ,heart-broken and victimized . ……………………
    Even for the next 12 years till I retired ,I served with high self- esteem ,honour and total dedication monitoring my own-self conscientiously .
    Subsequently ,I also suffered at the hands of superiors for not being subservient ,
    My colleagues told me that ” I lacked SOCIAL INTELLIGENCE – THE ABILITY TO MANAGE SUPERIORS and SITUATIONS TO MY ADVANTAGE” . Many superiors ,who fixed did NOT match my caliber ,in many cases .
    Indian Army officers have become manipulators , careerists due to cut-throat competition . NOT all who rise above COLONEL’s rank are really deserving .
    GOD BLESS THOSE who cut short my otherwise brilliant career .My course-mates who are still alive will vouch for me . I suffered heavily in terms of pension benefits
    At 73 plus ,I am still alive ,vibrant and healthy ,leading a balanced and harmonious life. I have NO REGRETS for being simple ,straight forward and out spoken .
    In ‘OWL 1978 ‘ DSSC magazine ,my course-mates knew me as ” PARTNER , I AM A SIMPLE FELLOW and DO NOT KNOW ANY AIRY-FAIRY ” Still I am, what I was born as . INDIAN ARMY needs MENTAL-OVERHAUL .

  42. Sir, I was also in the above category. However, I strongly feel that superseded officers need not feel low on morale / motivation. No one can insult you until you allow them to. It is as simple as that.

    As regards the state in the Armed Forces, it will continue and not improve until more posts are created. Promotions should be at least 90 % till Lt General. Sounds funny, but this is the case with IAS and IPS.

    Unless we increase our promotion levels, nothing will improve. IAS / IPS create new posts every day – DGP , ADDL DGP, Joint DGP, Addl Joint DGP etc. etc. – funny – DGP Housing, DGP Trg / Computers, etc. etc. So let us stop cribbing and move ahead. Make promotion percentages 90 %, or retire personnel when they don’t get promotion -by giving them a golden handshake equivalent to the salary they would have got till the age of superannuation. Nothing is difficult. Also, there is no shortage of money. Either pay well or promote well. No point being hypocrites.Last but not the least, everyone will get superseded some time or other. No need to get worried. :)

  43. Sir, I am also in the above category. However, I strongly feel that superseded officers need not feel low on morale / motivation. No one can insult you until you allow them to. It is as simple as that.

    As regards the state in the Armed Forces, it will continue and not improve until more posts are created. Promotions should be at least 90 % till Lt General. Sounds funny, but this is the case with IAS and IPS.

    Unless we increase our promotion levels, nothing will improve. IAS / IPS create new posts every day – DGP , ADDL DGP, Joint DGP, Addl Joint DGP etc. etc. – funny – DGP Housing, DGP Trg / Computers, etc. etc. So let us stop cribbing and move ahead. Make promotion percentages 90 %, or retire personnel when they don’t get promotion -by giving them a golden handshake equivalent to the salary they would have got till the age of superannuation. Nothing is difficult. Also, there is no shortage of money. Either pay well or promote well. No point being hypocrites.Last but not the least, everyone will get superseded some time or other. No need to get worried. :)

  44. An excellent write up. I have suffered myself. Despite excellent performance in all courses/assignments, I was passed over for promotion because one IO did not like my frank opinion (but that is another story). My reaction – on supersession I rang up a coursemate in Delhi to congratulate him on his well deserved promotion and requested him to ring up this senior officer (they were in the same directorate in NHQ) and thank him on my behalf. Now I had the option to leave the Navy and earn much more in the mercantile marine. I was able to comfortably pay for the higher education of my son and twin daughters (which would have been a problem with fauji pay). God is great!

  45. The system of assessing an officer is wrong.
    Different apprising officers have different ways, motives, and different personal wants, while assessing officers. It may have nothing to do with professionalism.
    An officers postings, which in not in one’s hands, also affects his promotion.
    In peacetime, even if you are professionslly very good, another officer who has the means to socialise, even if he is professionally very poor, stands a grest chance of getting very high grsdes.There is no way for counter checking the correctness of sessmrnts
    Superseded officers must get some independent commands, or suitable postngs in Police or coast guard after resttlement trsining.
    (These are only my personal views. NOT to affend anyone)

  46. Why the IO who writes two opposite report is not given 4 in moral courage by his IO and RO? A corrupted system has to be replaced first. Secondly, a highly qualified officer seems to become dead wood after board results. His employability in existing rank should be higher for his vast experience. Unless he proves himself to be demotivated the organisation should give him enough chances. In social gatherings the invitation is “Brig and above” Parking area ditto. Chauffeur driven staff cars get premium parking then old Offr self driven cars with ladies. Don’t we all know it General? It’s a terrible Army of sycophants obviously promoting more like themselves. I am talking of general part and not exceptions which are found every where.

  47. The problem has other solutions which apparently need to be addressed in right earnest,a few solutions are enumerated below:
    1.Restructuring/Cadre Review.TS promotins to be immediately on final non empanelment and extended up to rk of Brigadier.NO its will not lead to degradation of rank but would help keep non empaneled officers motivated and productive.
    2.NFU Implementation.
    3.Lateral absorption in other Central/State Govt Organisation,PSUs.
    4.No re-employment,however increase in retirement age on par with civil servants.Rattling on young army be limited to Fd Fmn level personnel.Moreover a serious study of impact of promotion at younger age needs to be carried out in view of incr in discp cases in the environment.
    5 Reduction of civilian vacancies in MoD,MES,BRO,DRDO,Svy of India,
    6.Tie up with pvt cos,even MNCs and train non empanelled officers to be absorbed their in.
    .
    .The problem has simple solution. Do we have the will
    .

  48. Let us face the truth realistically – in a pyramidal organization, the vacancies get lesser as one approaches the top. All officers may be good, but some are better – though some officers clearly don’t have what it takes. it is better to face the issue philosophically and get on with life. i do accept that some do get wronged and have the misfortune of serving under incompetent commanders – but that’s life!!

  49. Supersession is a sadistic ring. It is waiting all along the carrier and strikes to everyone, even to the person who has achieved a reasonable higher rank, e.g. let’s say the rank of a Lt Gen. One day he is swatting to become say COAS and doesn’t make it, gets same jolt followed by the same amount of frustration, annoyance, dissatisfaction and disturbance for rest of his life, what he would have otherwise got it, if he had not made it to the rank of Lt Col from the rank of Major at the time of his first selection board.
    You occupy a mountain peak, make yourself comfortable there, and then feel that the next mountain peak is more strategically important. In the knack of mountain warfare, the strategists call it “yet another mountain peak phobia”.
    I think we all suffer from yet another rank phobia”.

  50. However bellyaching has never solves issues. The senior officers though aware of this rot are doing nothing to stem it. Why? Because manyof them if not all have also risen using the same very abhorred techniques that are sadly the norm in today’s army. A few pointers to remedy the situation:

    1. ACRs weightage in selection boards to be reduced.

    2. Introduce some sort of peer review.

    3. Make attending Staff College compulsory for all, maybe by reducing the duration to six months and doing away with frivolous (maybe not to some, but frivolous all the same in terms of military learning) content like dissertations & focus on content that’ll help officers become better suited for Staff & Command and not a better public speaker or a better rider !

    4. Now that the requisite service for commanding a unit has come down to 14-15 years, let the officers attend staff college AFTER having commanded. Don’t half the units have COs that aren’t staff college qualified. Are they doing any lesser? Of course this may mean that the BMs and other Staff appointment may not be Staff Course qualified. This can be remedied by introducing relevant staff college course content in JC Course to prepare the officers for Staff Appointments.

    6. Create additional vacancies in the Colonel rank. Create non-command vacancies and promote officers. Same at the level of brigadiers and Major Generals.

    7. Post meritorious officers to non glamorous yet crucial appointments like Quality Assurance and Training Centres.

    8. Having brought down the weightage of ACRs and introduced some objective screening for career advancement, remove pro-rata. This is like a caste system/ reservation system that ensure that the non-deserving also rise to command while meritorious talented officers are frittered away courtsey a hare brained scheme that’s set to favour only a select few because they belonged to certain branch of the army.

  51. It’s unfortunate the way the superseded officers are treated in the Army. However, it is a just reflection of the greater malaise in the society – everybody salutes a rising star. Only it’s manifesting at a rather alarming pace in an army that once prided on living by ethos and values. Friendships too are based on the worth/importance of an individual so networking mat. Superseded officers more often than not are in not so key appointments and hence can’t help people out of turn. That is why one sees so called ‘successful’ officers inundated with congratulatory DO (Demi Official) letters while the forgotten officers of the same Paltan are hardly ever thought of, let alone spoken to ! It’s a reflection of the society as a whole but nowhere is it more evident than it is in the Army.

    The values that the British left us (though they still try to imbibe it in the cadets across various Training Academies) have all been brushed aside and sadly sycophancy rules the roost. Expensive gifts are the norm for your immediate superior’s birthday or wedding anniversary, however the same zeal and enthusiasm is missing for even remembering that of of superseded colleague or Paltan Officer. (Maybe that’s why they call it the Ugly Truth).

    And let alone supersession, the distinct dividing lines manifest themselves much earlier in the unit , especially in Corps where having passed Staff College Exam is a must for future promotions. The moment a fellow officer exhausts all his chances for passing the exam, the seniors and juniors alike tend to treat him with an air of indifference. If it is perceived that the officer is not slated to command his paltan, the officers and sadly even the jawans start taking him lightly. However this will not be the case with a ‘rising star’ of the Paltan, an officer who is staff college qualified and thought of as confident of making it to the Colonel’s rank – after all he has to write countless Performance Reviews (ACRs) and nobody wants his spoiled!

  52. You seem to be NDA type (sorry for being rude) but they surely have missed the higher education and exposure to mature world the institution should be made Graduate entry with two years of training.
    Next the staff college should be for officers above the rank of Colonel as of now even before one has put in more then couple of years start thinking about staff college and forget about soldering and carry a rifle plus regimental service instead start carrying brief case and note books and look for staff jobs
    About suppression (I was one) if one does not have it in him might as well give him what he deserves.
    However selection criterion based on PSc and Non PSc is faulty in 71 operation i have seen majority of Officers who could write flawless battalion level tactical appreciation hiding in the trenches and unable to lead even a platoon whereas your so sadly painted superseded Officer won the battle for days upon days.
    Let us put it this way all soldiers are not warriors and only some can become Generals but all get superseded
    As the angel rightly said
    They also serve who wait and stand
    And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.

  53. I normally do not comment on matters military . But what i read today i see on daily basis as i play at the Army Golf Course and therefore get to see and attend some parties .
    The scotch story is so true .
    Superseded officers huddled in a corner is also so true.
    Parochialism and protege syndrome …. This works better then most understand
    Army has class within a class of offrs. The rot is too deep.the suffers are not only superceded offrs but lady wives andchildren
    Nation suffers due to chiefs of kargil to sukh…na
    Hope gen suman article goes to someone who has time for the institution and the nation .

  54. It is very sickening to to learn about the treatment meted out to superseded officers which impacts on their self esteem and on their family as well ! While this can be resolved only by MOD, it would be interesting to know as to what these officers themselves have done to those who are stuck up at lower levels of PBOR for a life time for want of vacancies or if they consider them as not possessed of any human sentiments worth the consideration !. I recently came across a Junior Warrant Officer who was promoted to that rank during the 14th year of his service and retired in the same rank after 24 years, not because of any supersession but arbitrarily the branch he served was merged with another technical branch thus making his juniors at par with him and thus crowding the eligible numbers in the list of candidates to be promoted !

  55. I wonder to why this issue is actually not being addressed by the top brass.After the level of mistreatment that a superceded officer goes through it is very difficult to remain motivated.In static formations of the army, about 60% people are superceded.
    Everywhere that a superceded officer goes, they get alienated as of they aren’t a part of the system.It’s not that people who get superceded are incompetent instead, there have been numerous instances in recent past when good officers have been superceded for upholding values and laws of the forces and not bowing down to their seniors whims n novices.Many officers, continue to work with utmost fervour and dedication even after supersession as it is not their temperament to run away from responsibility.But with no incentive for hardwork and continuos rebuke, there originates an environment where people try to look down upon such officers.Of what I have seen, I can surely say that supercession does hurt, but what hurts more is being labelled incompetent and not being respected in the workplace.

  56. In the next seven years say by 2020, we will have approximately 20000-25000 superseded officers in the Indian army in active service? Is it not alarming?
    If immediate remedial measures not taken to curb this trend, will lead to far reaching repercussions.

  57. Very well written article. Considers all angles and has brought out well the agony of supersession. However No concrete suggestions are made what the organisation should do on ground. One aspect will be to probe avenues in deputations in civil / paramilitary establishments without disclosing that these are superceded officers. Rehabilitate them well with early retirement and giving supersession allowance of one time extra gratuity in addition to normal allowances with giving two years leave for civil management qualification.

  58. I would like to add more to the state of Superseded officers and its overall impact in the defence services in general and security of this country in particular.
    1.In the past say thirty years back, board for the Lt col use to be held around 20 years plus. So, an officer getting commissioned in to service say at the age of 23-24 gets in to the selection criteria only at the age of 43-44 and having missed his selection after two more boards, he was left with only few more years to serve as the age of retirement was 50 years for Majors and 51 years for Lt col (Ts)(if I am not wrong).
    2. Superseded officers were treated with compassion and dignity then
    3. There use to no or negligible discrimination in any social functions. However, these things can be seen very glaringly now. In fact senior officers would tick off units/institutions conducting function if they flout this rules those days.
    4. However, in the present scenario, an officer is screened by a board for selection in 15-16 years of service when his age would be just 37-38 years. Once having superseded, he remains in service for another 16-17 years which is detrimental to the services and also plays havoc to the psychological feelings of the officer and the family.
    5. You don’t require a motivated enemy to break the morale of the officers of Indian Army, if we keep more than 50% of officers superseded at any given time as of now.
    6.Hence, it should be the endevour of the army to keep highly motivated lot of officers all the time. Army should innovate and make the officers carriers all the time competitive.
    7. One of the suggestion is to ensure close to 90-95% of officers get selected for Col and there can be a command stream and admin stream. Every three years their status can be reviewed based on the performance. Hence, an officer in command stream can be posted to admin stream and vice versa.

    8. There should no super session for an officer except in the inevitable last few years of his

  59. There actually was a proposal a few years ago to effect changes in the uniform being worn by the ‘Time Scale Colonels’ to differentiate them with the ‘Selection Grade Colonels’. Views were asked from the environment and I had sent my views in black and white and had suggested that they ( The Time Scale Colonels and all other superseded lot ) should be give Khaaki Uniform to wear. They should not be part of Officer’s Messes and no weapon should be authorized for them. I do not know what happened to my fantastic proposal.
    ………………………………………………………….ranbir ( superseded )

  60. I am one such officer. It is very discouraging ,bordering on humiliation to continue in service . Those who can find other avenues would be able to leave on premature retirement, as I did. But it is a serious matter for those who cannot leave. The services should borrow HR from latest schools of thought and see that these officers are employed to utilize their experience without treading on their toes.

  61. I agree with General Suman’s view, it is high time that we understand the subject of HR. Also the organization should see that good HR practices are implemented and followed. Wasting of costly human resource is criminal, the well trained and experienced lot of officers should be used judiciously for the benefit of the organization.

  62. I am a 10th course JSW., NDA entrant in 1953. I read the article by General Mrinal Suman and it is an article well thoughout and remarkably true. The one with the “crystal glass” was a real hurt to the officer concerned. Well done General on an excllent article. I do hope the senior officers in the Army would read the article understand it, and keep the morale of those superseded oficers high.

  63. Compassion is not the right word. I would hate to be pitied, for any reason whatsoever. What is the need of the hour is RESPECT – respect for each other regardless of rank, from Sepoy to the top general. When there is mutual respect, things like cut glass and scotch won’t happen. If the brigadiers huddle together it’s because they “think” they are superior and so it goes up the ladder. Respect the person for what he is and not for what rank he holds – and super cession becomes meaningless. Am I oversimplifying ??? I think not.

    • Prem has taken a very narrow view of the term compassion. If you right click on the word compassion in a word document, the synonyms are sympathy, empathy, concern, kindness, consideration and care. Pity is neither there nor did I mean it.

      My point was that superseded officers should be treated with due consideration and respect (not pity) and their competence utilised by the organisation. I was talking of only those officers who continue to stay in the army after supersession due to the compulsions better known to them. There are very few suitable jobs available in the civil street for non-technical officers unless they acquire necessary qualifications in advance.

      I think self respect is a great motivator.

      • What Prem is saying that when you try and treat a person unnecessarily with ‘ sympathy, empathy, concern, kindness, consideration and care’ you some how give him an impression that you are worried about him. This fills him with self pity if he is a self respecting man. General you too are guilty of not understanding what goes on in the mind of a superseded soldier. Can’t we just be normal, just normal the way we are with each before we have gone through the selection boards. Can the Army not keep on posting officers based on their qualifications other then where Command criteria is involved. Can we do away with ‘A Messes’, ‘ B Messes’ ans hold your breath even ‘C Masses’ at some places. The Generals of the Indian Army don’t want it and they will not do it.

  64. The article brings out the realities of supersession in the Army very aptly. The fault lies squarely with the Army hierarchy which ought to correct this malaise. When we were young we were told that there was no rank in the mess. Discussing ladies, politics and official business were forbidden and that culture was intact till about mid-70s. It was at that point in time when people started serving different quality liquor to guests depending on rank. We even went to the extent of serving two separate enclosures for food for senior and junior officers and their wives. I recall a mess party where they made such an arrangement, Lt Gen Abhimanyu Vohra, GOC – in – C Southern Command quietly moved into the junior officers’ enclosure for dinner and followed it up with a stinker to the Brigade Commander and the GOC.
    The onus lies in the senior officers. If they put their foot down, I have no doubt things will change.
    My compliments to you for this very forthright and a wonderful article.

  65. The issue raised is both interesting and thought provoking.THE MOOT QUESTION IS___DO WE JOIN SERVICES FOR PROMOTION ONLY? though passed over at the very first rung of the career,it has not deterred me from enjoying various other facets of Army service [and life as such]. LIFE IS TOO BEAUTIFUL AND 2 ENCOMPASSING FOR ISSUES LIKE PROMOTION TOO HALT U IN YOUR TRACKS. Barring few cases here and there, it is one’s own personality, attitude, work and adaptability to changing environment along with whims of people who matter which enable/disable an individual to move up. SO FORGET IT, RANK OR NO RANK LET US ENJOY LIFE.

  66. kudos to you maj gen mrinal suman! I have seen my husband suffering silently the humiliation of being shunted from one miserable posting to another after getting superseded. For an officer who was known for his sincerity and uprightness and commitment towards the organisation it was a very depressing phase.so instead of the prospect of going through the humiliation, he quit the army and started a life afresh where he gets appreciated for his qualities and capabilities.

  67. Having gone through the experience I can make a few comments. Firstly, it is ridiculous that different standard of liquor should be served at an Army party. In my long years as a commanding officer it was never done in my Regiment and I do not see why any one allows that to happen. Secondly, within a unit there never is a problem on this count but it does happen at fmn levels. That can only be stopped by the fmn cdr. Thirdly, the best way to deal with this issue is to open the civilian avenues to such officers should they choose to tred that path. And finally it is the officer’s call: does he want to carry on just to collect a monthly pay or strike out to chart a new career? My final word is that the service must ensure that the dignity of an officer is never ever lowered.

  68. Dear General,
    Undoubtedly it reflects the true state of affairs the onus for which lies on both sides the seniors need to shed away their superiority complex while the others their inferiority complex. The presonal prejudices had always played their part in grading and subsequent selection system.We ought to realise that besides competence luck,functional environment and likes and dislikes do act as elavators. The seniors also need to remember that stiff necks are indicators of incompetence and hence try and shed these while others should remember that if they have some metal there are wide opportunities to excel after retirement and not get unduly disturbed and shrug it off as temporary phase of bad luck If one misses a train possibly the journey by next may be better and rewarding.Life is a school we never graduate from. In life while one door closes another always opens provided we try to find it. Good some one has penned true state of affairs. With Regads- Col S B Singh,Retd , Jaipur

  69. An excellent analysis.
    I am one such example, a failure in the Army but acclaimed to be a super hero in the corporate.
    I have done well in all my courses, was a psc and did an excellent foreign tenure of over three years as Communications advisor to the Govt of Mauritius. It was my good fortune (I mean it) to serve under an unscrupulous CO on my return to India who showed absolutely poor moral values. He did not hesitate to even grab an extra potato apart from the goodies like meat, etc from jawan’s ration. I took him head on and paid the price. This gentleman is renowned for his unbecoming habits but the Army somehow failed to address this. I quit in 2001 and in two years became a CEO of a huge Telecom brand in India. In the next ten years I created a couple of more companies for my promoters and also came on board a few. I am now enjoying life at my own pace.
    I was fortunate to convert my failure into a bigger success and carry no animosity as over the period I hired a lot many officers/JCOs/Jawans in my group companies.

    Three lessons I carry forward.
    1. Be fair and impersonal in your dealings. In the corporate the appraisal is
    debated and is very open. The wife’s role does not impact career.
    2. Encourage candour and be humble to listen to your subordinates. Must
    understand the difference between candour and insubordination.
    3. Let heirarchy be an asset and not a threat.

    Four changes the Services could bring in :

    1. Offer a chair to the jawan. I have served with the French/British/US/Mauritius
    Army. The men do not stand.
    2. Overhaul the appraisal system. It must be objective. It is very unfortunate that
    one stroke from the wrong pen mars a career.
    3. Create a staff cadre like the British Army and consider promotion within this
    cadre to reduce /eliminate supersession of officers not being considered for
    command.
    4. Break the risk averse syndrome on going up the ladder which is apparent
    considering the steep pyramid.

    Rgds

  70. I am one of those superseded officers .
    It is not all that gloomy. I think I have a different opinion.
    I am one of those (very few ) who joined services after PG i.e M. Tech from IIT; its a different story altogether, as to why I joined services after M.Tech.
    I was never made to feel all that is said, may be its Corps of Engineers .
    I think I did contribute after super session, till superannuation.

  71. I totally agree with the writer.It is the top brass which is to blame for this situation
    I on retirement seteled in Chandigarh and attended a social function where the General rank officers were being entertained in a different encloser with better service and drinks. That was the last party that i have attended

  72. This is first time that I have read article so very understanding of superseded officers. MY husband was found unfit for promotion to be a colonel. Overnight we became second class citizens. Every one sympathised with us but their pity hurted more.We stopped getting invited to dinners of our approved course mates. My husband was heartbroken at their behaviour. Even my daughters 10 and 8 were affected. It was hell. Slowly we adjusted and joined our group with other superseded officers. We thought of quitting but jobs in civil are not easy to get. Thank you for publishing article on this sensitive issue.

  73. General,
    After reading your article, I am appalled at the treatment of officers in Indian Army. It tells me there are huge structural problems that need urgent correction. Is IA suffering from Amnesia of Lingering British Raj. It sickens me to no end. I am glad I didn’t join IA after passing my interview and medical at Banglore station. Instead I opted to for USA.
    Having worked at Pentagon, and other US Army bases, I have to say, India as a nation and Indian Army as an organization has to learn social norms, graces and modern practises of Human Resource Development. One thing that has baffled me the most is why doesn’t Indian Gov’t use the experience of these Officers who retire at young age of 40′s. The kind of pragmatic experience these officers have gained through their careers like motivating people, maintaining supply chain, keeping their men happy and mission focussed, establishing camaraderie is not taught in any business school. The biggest learning experience for me came from working for Pentagon and US Army. It taught me the value of project management, looking at bigger picture, 30k ft view that I have carried with me till this day.

    One thing we as a nation and IA has to learn that as people grow so does their talent. These officers may have developed and honed some other skills that are suitable for some other worth while positions.

    As an Indian it aches my heart to read such stories and makes me angry to no end at these political masters, who are a genre of scum bags.

    Thank You

    Krishan Chillar

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