Wednesday, 29 April 2015


In a million strong Army, the distinguished service awards seem to be almost entirely dominated by the higher ranked officers. Is it that the lower ranks have not done their bit?It’s been a momentous Republic Day for the country. For several reasons and beyond.The Indian Army too has done its role. The Parade down Rajpath is what is on public display; but behind the scenes there is a major exercise which comes to a close the evening before every Republic Day – the announcement of gallantry and distinguished service awards.The science of Phaleristics (the Greek and Roman word for award) does go to say that human beings have an innate desire to distinguish themselves from other individuals. People have a strong urge to be better than others. The quest for social distinction is taken to be a hardwired trait of human nature.
Shubhojit is a retired Army officer. An NDA alumnus, he has commanded an artillery regiment and also done a stint with the United Nations. Out on civvy street, he works in the energy sector, and goes around the world creating wind farms.

In the present context we shall not touch upon the gallantry awards for they are akin to a holy cow. Though there are many in uniform, who know much more than what the citation does go ahead and say for each of the winners we shall not delve into them simply for two reasons – they are for gallantry and that is something none of us can ever sit on judgement on; secondly, let’s give the devil his due.But the story of the distinguished service awards is seriously unnerving. Firstly, the statistics this year.

1. Param Vishisht Seva Medal: 19 – All awarded to Lt Gen only
2. Uttam Yudh Seva Medal : 03 – All awarded to Lt Gen only
3. Bar to Ati Vishisht Seva Medal: 03 – All awarded to Lt Gen only

4. AVSM – 31
a. 15 – Lt Generals                                                                                   

b. 16 – Maj Generals

5. 13 - Yudh Seva Medal
a. 04 – Maj Generals
b. 08 – Brigadiers
c. 01 – Colonel

6. 42 - Sena Medal (Devotion to Duty) 
a. 03 – Maj Generals
b. 09 – Brigadiers
c. 15 – Colonels
d. 06 – Lt Colonels
e. 07 – Majors
f. 02 – Naib Subedars

7. Vishisht Seva Medal – 76
a. 02 – Lt Generals
b. 20 – Maj Generals
c. 33 – Brigadiers
d.19 – Colonels
e. 02 – Lt Colonels

8. Bar to VSM – 04
a. 03 – Maj Generals
b. 01 – Brigadier
Total works out to be:

1.      Lt Gens – 42
2.      Maj Gens – 46
3.      Brigadiers – 51
4.      Colonels – 35
5.      Lt Colonels – 08
6.      Majors – 07
7.      JCOs – 02
The reality is startling. The Generals have it all. Shameless and undignified is not the word. The dole keeps decreasing in pecking order. The distribution is absolutely disproportionate to the strength of cadre in each rank but then who does care
Interesting queries that do arise are –
– Is performance the criteria or is the appointment you hold which makes you eligible for the award

– Is it de riguer that every General, who is the Head of Arm or Service or an Army Cdr have to be awarded PVSMs and AVSMs?
In a fighting and active Army such as ours such forms of blatant adulation towards ones peer group spells of cranny sycophancy and sheer self-promotion, which we not only do not require but can well do without too.
 The lower ranks conspicuously absent from the seva medals.
The number of lower ranks very low in the distinguished service awards
Is it that in a million strong Army the lower ranks have not done their bit or have faltered in their levels of dedication to service and degree of loyalty? That’s what this list reeks of. Even a cursory perusal of the citation for these awards (and a citation is the start point of each and every award) would make one laugh at the sheer play of words and the English written.
Each and every one in uniform does his / her duty, but these awards in specific go to say that some do their duty much more diligently and sincerely than the hoi polloi around them.
Is it not time that we took a stand and decided to do away with this entire mockery of an exercise of distinguished awards. Ask the Army and they will flout grand phrases such as “motivation”, “dedication to duty”, but after thirty plus years, which these Generals usually have put in, do they need such inanities to spur them on?
Studies go to say that individuals tend to exhibit a higher demand for awards if they live in a society in which one’s position in society is uncertain and has to be advertised, rather than a society in which the social rank of the various members is well established and recognized by others; in the latter case, it is less necessary to establish one’s status through awards. Are we to believe that our Generals are in desperate need of some soul searching?
It will require much more than guts (and common sense) to overturn this annual ritual. Does the present Chief “have it in him”? Or, will he simply toe the well-worn line and continue to set new standards of ridicule as he did by presenting a cheque of Rs 115 crores by pooling in a day’s salary of all his men – without their concurrence!


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