Indian Army Chief Gen Dalbir Singh appears to have upset some of his officers by ordering a day’s pay-cut following his announcement that the organisation would contribute Rs 100 crore to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund to help flood-affected people in Jammu & Kashmir.
Sources told The Indian Express that at least two Colonel-rank officers have recorded their objections on the order, or “signal”, received from the Army HQ on the pay cut. A third officer, who did not wish to be named, said that some of them are even contemplating legal action against the decision to “deduct a day’s pay without prior consent”.
According to the sources, while the Army chief had announced the contribution during the “At Home” function to mark Army Day on January 15, the “signal” communicating the pay cut was received by many at the formation-level only Monday.
When contacted, an Army spokesperson said that “the contribution of one day’s salary by all Army personnel was not an arbitrary decision” and that obtaining “consent in writing from every member would be logistically impractical”.
“Contribution for such cases are purely voluntary,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “The formation commanders down the chain, COs of units and heads of battalions and institutions are consulted before any such decision is taken. Consent in writing from every member would be logistically impractical and by convention only verbal consent is taken.”
Saying the decision was taken after “deliberate consideration”, the statement added, “The proposal was discussed during the Army Commanders’ conference on October 14 and after initial concurrence therein, the proposal was referred for comments by field formations and units. It was only after their consensus that the decision was taken.”
However, the officer who said that he was exploring legal options denied that the contribution was voluntary.
“We are planning to approach the court,” the officer said. “Following all orders in the line of duty is one thing, but deduction of salary is another. I will contribute if I want to. Can this contribution be from one’s salary without his or her consent?” he asked.
Army rules empowers its chief to make contributions towards funds that have been approved by the Prime Minister.
“But why was such a decision not taken after the Uttarakhand floods?” the officer asked. “Why not after the Assam floods? Why not after the Bhuj earthquake? The donations in Jammu and Kashmir have political ramifications and Army should refrain from sending any such signals,” he added.
The last time the Army had taken a day’s pay-cut was to help victims of the 2004 Tsunami. There’s also the famous instance in 1947 when Field Marshal K M Cariappa, the then commander-in-chief, took a “voluntary” pay cut as his contribution to the nation’s economy. Maj Gen (retd) Dhruv Katoch fears that the decision to cut a day’s pay “in this manner” may send a “wrong signal”.
“I am surprised. The Army should have been taken onboard. The decision should have trickled down officially before the announcement was made. It sends a wrong signal… While money isn’t an issue, the larger question remains: is such action principally justified?”