Manohar Parrikar
Parrikar congratulated and thanked the prime minister for this "daring" move and said that this decision will also help bring down cases related to narcotic drugs and deter those who sponsor terrorism in India.Reuters

The Ministry of Defence has clarified its stand on reports of downgrading of ranks of the armed forces that has left the military upset.

A press release from the ministry stated that: "There has been no down-gradation...in the existing equivalence of the Service ranks whatsoever... The present reiteration of rank equivalence, is only for matters of assigning duties and functional responsibilities as is already existing in different offices of the respective Service HQrs of the Army, Navy and Air Force having component of Service personnel as well as Civilian officers. It has no bearing on civilian employees outside these offices of the Service HQrs."

The Ministry of Defence had reportedly overruled objections from the armed forces over the downgrading of ranks of defence officers with the recent announcement that the ranks of civilian officers would be elevated compared to their military counterparts.

The government's top lawyer briefed Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on the dispute on Thursday. Parrikar had signed a letter which contained details of changes in rank parity. Sources told NDTV that a solution is expected in a day or two.

The army had written a letter in August saying that "we are categorically objecting to the systematic downgrading of Defence Officers in status/equivalence vis a vis civilian officers." However, the defence ministry's letter dismissed such concerns a week ago.

The ministry's letter states that a principal director with the Armed Forces Civil Services, who was previously equivalent to a brigadier, will now be at the same rank as a major-general. A director-rank officer, earlier at the same rank as a Colonel, will now be ranked with a brigadier. A joint-director will be equivalent to a Colonel instead of Lieutenant Colonel.

Parrikar on Tuesday said that he would look into the allegations that bureaucrats in his ministry attempted to downgrade the forces.

"I will see and if I find any reduction in functional responsibilities - this is not status...some people are trying to misguide - they will be on same platform as earlier," the defence minister said, according to NDTV.

The Army, Air Force and Navy had written letters to the ministry independently about the same issue in 2003, 2005 and 2008 respectively. The defence ministry had responded saying that these were only functional changes and that there were no changes in rank, honour and respect for the armed forces.

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