On Monday, Rajya Sabha marshals appeared in a dark-coloured suit and a peak cap. Amid the criticism that followed from former Army officers and Opposition leaders, Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu ordered a review of the new uniform on Tuesday.
What was changed: So far, Rajya Sabha marshals were wearing white safari suits with a white turban. Former MPs said this had not changed since at least 1965 — which suggests that this had been the uniform for over 50 years. The new dark suit and cap appeared on Monday, and was unveiled for the first time in a meeting that Naidu had with RS MPs the previous day.
About half a dozen marshals assist the Presiding Officers — the Chairman, Deputy Chairman and Vice Chairmen — in conducting the proceedings of the House. The Chairman is the authority for their appointment and service conditions.
Why the change: Rajya Sabha sources told The Indian Express that the marshals themselves had sought a change to a uniform that would be user-friendly, and have a modern look. There was unhappiness, according to the sources, among marshals as their existing uniform was the same as that of chamber attendants who are junior to them and assist MPs in the House.
“Marshals had long been demanding a change in attire because their earlier uniform was the same as what the non-gazetted staff wore, whereas the marshals are all officers,” said an official. Also, many described the turban as “cumbersome headgear that took very long to wear.”
Subsequently, senior officers of the Secretariat including the security officers held several rounds of discussions before designing the new dress. Instead of hiring an outside expert, the designing, sources said, was done in-house.
Why the outrage: The new uniform resembles that worn by Army officers. Former Chief of the Army Staff Gen V P Malik tweeted: “Copying and wearing of military uniforms by non military personnel is illegal and a security hazard. I hope @VPSecretariat, @RajyaSabha & @rajnathsingh ji will take early action.” Malik told The Indian Express: “There is a rule which has been followed most of the time; even recently the Ministry of Home Affairs sent out directions that people outside the Army should not be copying military uniform. Wearing of such uniforms by non-military people is a security hazard, amounts to impersonation. I had taken this up with the Home Ministry, and the Department too has done so at various times. Parliament in particular has faced attacks in the past.”
A former Presiding Officer of the House, speaking on condition of anonymity said: “They now look exactly like the ADCs that accompany a Governor or the military secretary to the President. The earlier uniform of the marshals added a bit of old-world glamour to the House, it was a part of the identity of the Upper House. Thank God Lok Sabha has not gone for such a change.”
RS secretary general Desh Deepak Verma was not available for comment.