Military & Aerospace

The NFU Saga of Armed Forces Degradation
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 17 Feb , 2023

General VP Malik, the former Chief of Army Staff, recently tweeted that the “Government now grants NFU to even Railway Officers who have their own assured career progression scheme… but refuses to Armed Forces…despite orders by AFT Bench Delhi…. Pays crores from defence budget for filing 189 SLP in SC… Our #Patriotic MOD certainly deserves a salute.”It is no secret that our military’s senior hierarchy had been consistently opposed to grant of NFU to the military for sensible reasons touched on later. What they failed to comprehend was what the impact of such a move would be if it were to be pushed through for other Central Government Services with the military being excluded, as has been the case. One is glad that the former Army Chief has had a change of heart and finally understood the adverse consequences of the degradation the military has been subjected to, better late than never.

Let us be clear, the Non-Functional Financial Upgrade (NFU) Scheme granted by the government following the 6thCPC is not only the most shameful of schemes, but also the biggest scam that the politician-bureaucrat nexus has inflicted on the taxpayer. This scandalous proposal, in essence, attempts to address stagnation across different Organised Group ‘A’ Services (Central Services) due to limited vacancies in higher grades. It does so by the grant of a higher pay scale on a non-functional basis till SAG and HAG level, after a gap of two years, as compared to an IAS officer of the same batch who is posted at the Centre at the SAG or HAG level. These promotions are independent of organisational requirements, availability of vacancies and level of responsibility or span of control of a post. It remains completely without precedent anywhere in the world, in either governments or the corporate world.

It was accepted by the Manmohan Singh government despite its “wide-ranging financial, organisational and governance implications” as the 7th CPC puts it, especially with regard to inter-se status between various services and their military counterparts, which had been sacrosanct till then since Independence. The irony of it was that the Armed Forces, the worst affected because of their steeply pyramidal structure, were kept out. As was bound to happen it had a particularly disastrous impact on the “Armed Forces morale, status, cohesion, and national security”, to quote the 7th CPC.

Justice Mathur, the Chairman of the 7th CPC recommended the same benefits be granted to the Armed Forces and others left out, along with the sacrilege of recommending the doing away with the two year advantage enjoyed by the IAS. One would have expected the IAS representative on the Commission to object to such a recommendation.

Surprisingly, Vivek Rae, the IAS member, did not, and in fact went on to recommend that the scheme be scrapped on grounds that “To strive for uniform career progression across such a diverse set of services and cadres, with widely varying functions, violates fundamental management principles relating to organisational structures. Such a dispensation, with automatic career progression till HAG level, completely buries the concept of merit based career progression and undermines considerations of efficiency and accountability. In effect, the present policy dispensation converts already weak organisational pyramids in Organised Group ‘A’ Services into broad cylinders, when in fact, considerations of efficiency and accountability require that the existing cylinders be converted into steeper pyramids.”

Interestingly, Mr. Rathin Roy, the other Member, while agreeing with Mr. Rae, differed on his reasons and pointed out that the “broad parity was disturbed by granting NFU to IPS, IFoS and Organised Group ‘A’ Services after the 6thCPC report, without a similar dispensation being extended to the Defence Forces. Consequently, the Defence Forces officers, who are in no way lower in status or responsibility than Group ‘A’ Central Services, though not classified as such, have fallen steeply behind IPS/IFoS and 49 Organised Group ‘A’ Services.” He cited another obvious fact that the pyramidal structure of the Armed Forces cannot be disturbed and therefore since they cannot be given this benefit, it must be done away in totality.

Undoubtedly, while the arguments made against the scheme were cogent, substantive, and not without merit, they did not find favour with the government, which ignored all recommendations and let the status quo prevail. It resulted in serving officers from the CAPF and the Armed Forces approaching the Delhi High Court and the Armed Forces Tribunal respectively. Not surprisingly, both the HC and AFT ruled favourably for the petitioners, leading to the Government promptly going into appeal against the orders to the HSC.

In what is now the norm in the manner the Armed Forces are summarily discriminated against, the HSC reserved its orders on the Government appeal against the AFT order, while it went on to accept the judgement of the Delhi HC. Interestingly, that court had concluded “The Government’s contention that NFFU cannot be granted since the CAPFs comprise a strict hierarchy with a well-defined Command and Control structure; that any interference with this structure would be detrimental to the interest of the forces and would adversely affect its operation and functioning; It was thus, claimed that all posts in the CAPFs are functional and there is no room for Non Functional posts, is untenable because by very definition there is no interference with functions, duties or the posts but only an increase in the financial prospects… It cannot be overemphasised that in matters relating to the Armed Forces and the Paramilitary/CAPFs there ought to be clarity and certainty apropos the service benefits which the forces would be entitled to.”

It goes without saying that the conclusions reached by the HC are equally applicable to the Armed Forces, especially given that the Delhi HC has recently ruled in another matter that the CAPF are Armed Forces of the Union akin to the Army, Navy and Air Force. Not only has it gone about destroying the earlier parity that existed between the Armed Forces, CAPF and other Group A Services by this manner, but also brought about the reduction in status of Junior Commissioned Officers by refusing to accept that they are Group B equivalent Gazetted Officers as has been specified by the Army Act 1950. The list of other such actions that have led to degradation of the military will fill pages.

The fact that the senior military hierarchy has been rendered irrelevant and shown to be self-seeking makes matters far worse.  All of this, along with the visible mistreatment of veterans, and introduction of fanciful recruitment schemes have had an extremely adverse impact on the morale and motivation of our Armed Forces.

A clear example of this can be drawn from the recent presentation to the Prime Minister by the Superintendent of Police, Leh. She stated “The extreme harsh climate, difficult terrain and remoteness of the area affects the morale and motivation of jawans and officers on ground, which only reminds them to start the reverse countdown of their deployment time and each unit wants to complete their tenure and return back to the plains. In the longer duration they don’t see the utility to defend the barren acres of land when no population or economic activity is being carried out…. During interaction with one senior officer whose unit is based right on the forward area, he shared that, if by retreating 400metresback we can buy peace with the PLA for four years then it is worth it.”If there is even an iota of truth in what has been stated, we should be extremely worried about the state of our national security. Clearly, as things stand, we are seeing the veritable destruction of our Armed Forces before our own eyes by a complicit Government for reasons that are utterly incomprehensible. There seems to be nothing that concerned citizens can do to change things and that is truly astounding and immensely saddening.

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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

Brig Deepak Sinha

is a Military Veteran. He is a Visiting Fellow with the Observer Research Foundation and a Senior Visiting Fellow with The Peninsula Foundation, Chennai.

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19 thoughts on “The NFU Saga of Armed Forces Degradation

  1. Today a soldier perceives himself as being expendable, inadequately equipped, equated with a policeman, failed by his senior leadership, used by the politician and unfairly compensated. The middle rung of the Army leadership, most affected by their employment and informed through social media, is the most disenchanted unlike the lower ranks that are relatively indifferent in their ignorance and bound by discipline and the higher echelons cocooned in their self-centred careerist pursuit. This is manifest in the recent Supreme Court petition by nearly 800 officers and men. As Bahadur Shah Zafar wrote after 1857: “Na Shah Iran ne na Czar Roos ne, Angres ko bardad kiya kartoos ne.” It can now be said: “Cheen ne, na Pakistan ne, apne fauj ko barbad kiya Hindustan ne.”

  2. NFU to any one be it IAS IPS IRS or any other services including Armed Forces is a BROAD DAY LIGHT ROBERY OF THE HONEST Taxpayers MONEY .IT MUST BE IMMEDIATELY WITHDRAWN.

  3. The NFU is a good step and has been implemented in sectors to enhance employees satisfaction and the same should also be implemented in the army . What I find lacking in this article is pure and simple ignorance on the necessity of implementing it in the army. When we know the lack of promotion avenues in the colonels rank and we know that deserving officers loose out for no fault of theirs then why should their family be deprived of enhanced pay which their batchmates are getting. You do not punish a family for lack of vacancies in the army .
    The need is for the government to go full throttle and implement NFU for the Indian army.

  4. The armed forces are not only being degraded but being treated like bonded labor, pawns or even guinea pigs. Adding fuel to the fire, the public servants who have reduced government administration and justice delivery to a synonym for corruption and treason are being pampered as if there is not tomorrow. I was reading a tweet/ fb post regarding introduction of SPARSH mode of payment of pension to veterans. It said something to the effect that TCS is a globally acknowledged software developer but when it came to developing a software for the veterans it has failed miserably and there is chaos all over.

  5. The armed forces status has been destroyed by officers of the armed forces who have limited exposure to the civy street and unlike the civilians for whom their welfare comes first the Chetwood preaching flag ranks have quietly accepted for themselves but ruined the officers and other ranks

  6. Deapak, you have hit the nail.onbthe head. A very fine and objective analysis of which the right quarters must take cognizance of but ate coviniently avoiding. Saviors of the nation in four full fledged wars , numerous border skirmishes and extremely active Insurgencies are hard pressed to get their rightful due is saddening. But we may also consider seriously about the agitational approach which does not yield good results. SC ruling in the OROP case vindicated this. I feel strongly that a soldier must maintain his dignity even when out of uniform. An improvemental request post implementation of initial OROP preceded by a gratitudinal message, would have yielded better results.
    My compliments on an incisive article.

    • Actually each and every political party has let down the forces. Modi may take selfies with soldiers on Diwali but none are worth their salt. No need to mention Congress which was even worse. They are all different shades of black.

      But our Generals too lacked Character. They looked for post retirement benefits. CDS Rawat too never stood with forces

  7. A very forthright writeup showing the mirror to the revri smitten politicobureaucratic dispensation that has thrown to winds some very basic management philosopy of merit based rewards to ensure productivity amongst human resourse. NFFU right from its inception has been the worst kind of populist appeasement & political lollypopping of babus, cops & all public ‘servants’ who are paid out of public money to serve the ‘paying’ public. The gainful financial impropriety that the beaurocrats organised for themselves through this scheme is a nobrainer.Similarly the politician secures purchasable ‘loyalty’ , causing a win win for both, unmindful of the consequence that common public is a loser. A typical modus operandi of the colonial masters. Good that former COAS Gen VP Malick has at long last realised that ‘All is not well’ for the health of essentially the finest out fit that this Country can boast of. The best in the world, of which he was fortunate to have once skippered.

  8. Vinod Rai was right that such a scheme should never been introduced which totally upset the balance between the Defence Forces and CAPF.At one point the government is crying over defense expenditure and now this.There was probably an ulterior motive of old adage divide and rule.As far as the top military brass they were right against this humbug but once approved it has resulted on total demoralization of armed forces.

  9. The theory of Karma ; one gets what one deserves. As in economics
    The Supply and Demand principles, determine the value and valuations of the armed forces. This so called concept of Discipline in the armed forces is the main culprit, Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full. The soldier will sacrifice his life fighting the enemy.But lacks the guts to tell his masters even when they are ignorant and totally wrong. Retired Generals continue to pontificate and carry out post-mortem of the current crisis, but none takes the responsibility for their own in actions and silence during their tenures when the things were going wrong. The armed forces have always short sold their services by misguided notions of patriotism and compromising leadership Sad, but true they are getting what they deserve.Jai Hind

  10. A great damage has been done by keeping Armed Forces out of NFU.
    In fact it is a massacre of the honest tax payers money of India. NFU to any service is MOST ILLEGAL.IT IS A DRAIN ON THE EXCHEQUER. IT SHOULD BE SCRAPPED FOR ALL

  11. The views expressed in the article are clear to everybody except Prime Minister, Raksha Mantri and may be to the Supreme Court, why else this gross injustice is being done to our Armed Forces who have rendered great service to the nation in every conflict since independence.

  12. Very well written. NFFU was the most disastrous decision for a poor country like India, where minimum wages and average salary is so low, taken by the MMS government; to appease the overpaid unaccountable bureaucracy. It neither added to the efficiency nor reduced corruption. In fact, his government saw a series of mega scams during his tenure. While all central government services were eligible for NFU, but armed forces were excluded from it, Rightly stated by the author, it led to the ultimate degradation of the defence services. How can we have an iniquitous and unfair system, wherein a service with minimal promotion avenues and maximum stagnation is deprived of legitimate financial entitlement?

  13. Very well written. NFFU has been one of the most disastrous decision for the financial health of the country taken by MMS just to appease the overpaid, inefficient & unaccountable, bureaucracy. It has neither added to the efficiency, nor reduced corruption in the Babudom. How can we have an inequitous system, wherein all central government services are eligible for NFU; except armed forces, just becoz they cannot form union and subjected to rigorous army act. Equally foolish and short sighted have been the top military hierarchy ppposing NFU, purely for their own selfish, petty gains, just for some crumbs.

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