Highlighting a widening rift between the armed forces and the bureaucracy over privileges and status, the Defence Ministry’s spokesperson on Friday tweeted about “misuse” of facilities by military officers, while responding to a tweet by Admiral Arun Prakash (retd), a former Navy chief.
While the tweet by the spokesperson, Swarnashree Rao Rajshekhar, from the official handle, @SpokespersonMoD, was later deleted, and she apologised for it, many military veterans expressed their outrage on Twitter.
Later in the evening, Rajshekhar went on leave. “Col. Aman Anand, took over as the acting Official Spokesperson of MoD as the spokesperson proceeds on leave,” said a tweet from the official handle.
In an earlier tweet, Admiral Prakash (retd) had commented on a photograph of the official vehicle of the internal financial advisor to the Army’s Western Command sporting a military rank flag. “Even if misuse of an Army Command’s insignia by a civilian is not a cognizable offence, the person needs to be reprimanded by the GOCinC whose ‘Financial Adviser’ he is,” he had tweeted.
Responding to this, Rajshekhar tweeted from @SpokespersonMoD: “What about misuse of jawans in your residence during an officer’s tenure sir? And how about children being picked up and dropped to school in fauji (military) gaadis (vehicles)? Not to forget Madam’s shopping expedition on government vehicles. And endless parties. Who pays for that?”
After an hour, she said the response to Prakash was tweeted “inadvertently”. She deleted the tweet, stating that she had tweeted by mistake a message which was intended for a private group on a mobile messaging app.
Expressing their outrage, military veterans said she reflected the views and attitude of the civilian bureaucracy towards the armed forces.
Admiral Prakash, however, responded by asking for “sober reflection; (a) by MoD on state of civil-mil relations and (b) by Military Leadership on the aspersions cast by MoD (IDAS?) civil-servant on personal conduct of Service officers”.
There has been a lot of angst in the armed forces over the award of the seventh pay commission and the alleged degradation in the status of military officers in the past few years.
A decorated war hero from the 1971 war, Admiral Prakash is a former Navy chief and Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee. He retired from service in October 2006 and is a commentator on strategic affairs.
Rajashekar, an officer from the Indian Defence Accounts Service, was appointed by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman as the principal spokesperson for the ministry, a post usually occupied by an Indian Information Service officer.