Failure of the Army can lead to national catastrophe, endangering the survival of the Nation

published on November 9, 2008

Emoluments of Army Officers



In his address to West Point, President Eisenhower said, ” When diplomats fail to maintain peace the soldier is called out to restore peace. When the civil administration fails to maintain order the soldier is called out to restore order. As the Nation’s final safeguard, the Army cannot afford a failure in either circumstance. Failure of the Army can lead to national catastrophe, endangering the survival of the Nation.” I would urge our decision-makers to ponder over this statement of Eisenhower.

As one who served in the Indian Army both before and after Independence, I would like to apprise you how the emoluments and status of Army officers have been persistently lowered since Independence.

Before Independence, the Army got emoluments at par with the ICS and at some points higher than the latter.

After Independence the Government brought down the salary of Army officers to the level of IPS officers, with a slight edge for the former. This resulted in our salaries getting considerably slashed.


At the time of Independence, I was drawing a salary of Rs 1300 a month which overnight got reduced to Rs 770. Never before or after, have salaries of serving personnel been reduced so arbitrarily. The old salaries of our contemporaries in the ICS and IP were duly protected. No one from the Army went to court or launched any agitation. We accepted this blatant injustice with a stiff upper lip and enthusiastically went to war in Kashmir in which many of my colleagues got martyred. That was in 1947. We must accept that India of today is very different.

The pay equation between Army and Police officers was maintained till the Fourth Pay Commission, when this started being altered to the disadvantage of Army officers. I compliment the three Service Chiefs for doing their bounden duty in taking up the case of the emoluments of Lt Cols and Lt Gens at the highest level. I am surprised that some journalists, ignorant of facts have been critical of the Army and the Chiefs on this score.

I do not wish to bother you with details. I understand that to scuttle the case of Lt Cols, a red herring of comparing them with Deputy Commandants of Para Military Forces, has been raised. The latter till recently were Class 2 officers and even today are not at par with IPS officers. Moreover, the role and responsibility of the Army is different from that of the Para Military. As for
Lt Gens, they got higher emoluments and held higher status than the Chief of Police of a State. That equation is also now sought to be altered to the disadvantage of the Army.

In 1973 Manekshaw was appointed Field Marshal. As Adjutant General I took up the case of the salary of Field Marshal with the Government. It took the Babus 33 years to take a decision and finally Manekshaw got his arrears of Rs 1.2 crores in 2007. The Defence Secretary handed over a cheque for that amount to him. Soon after, I met Manekshaw in the hospital, when he was on a ventilator. I congratulated him. He smiled and in his imitable way said that a Babu had given him a cheque but he was not sure if that cheque would be honoured.

Not only in terms of emoluments but also protocol, the position of Army officers has been persistently lowered after Independence. This applies to the Army Chief downwards and often this has been done after  the Army has fought a war successfully. The protocol status of a Field Marshal has not yet been fixed in the Table of Precedence because Babudom wants to preserve the higher status of the ‘ Bara Babu ‘, the ‘ Cabinet Secretary ‘. When our first Field Marshal passed away recently, only a Minister of State attended the funeral. When the first British Field Marshal, the Duke of Wellington, passed away, Heads of States , Ambassadors, Prime Minister and Ministers attended his funeral. Such a cavalier approach of our rulers to the Army, aptly described by Eisenhower as the Nation’s ultimate weapon, is not in our national interest. 

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