Special Correspondent

Ensure fair play and transparency, commanders told

NEW DELHI: While assuring the armed forces a “fair solution” to their demand for a better monetary deal, Defence Minister A.K. Antony advised the top brass of the Army to balance their expectations by being equitable and fair to their juniors.

“The services have pointed out various anomalies which are being taken up at the appropriate level. I hope a fair solution will be arrived at the earliest,” he told the bi-annual army commanders’ conference. “But the officers must ensure equity, fair play and transparency so that the faith of soldiers in the system is reinforced.”

Noting that cases of suicide and fratricide had decreased, Mr. Antony nevertheless wanted army commanders to continue with the efforts to ensure better and more humane man management, respecting the dignity of jawans and promptly redressing their grievances. Officers must exercise their authority without arbitrariness or bias and streamline the process of promotions. Urgent remedial steps were also needed to reduce the increase in statutory complaints.

Mr. Antony said it was time women were granted their due in the services. “I have given an assurance in the Rajya Sabha that the Ministry will look into the grant of permanent commission to women in the non-combatant stream, to begin with. It is a commitment that we all must honour and endeavour to achieve this objective on priority,” he said. This is one of the issues the commanders will deliberate over the next few days.

A ‘defining moment’

On the international front, India continued to abide by confidence-building measures with China but it must constantly upgrade military and economic capabilities as “there is no room for complacency.”

Describing the current phase as a “defining moment” in the history of Nepal, New Delhi was committed to helping Kathmandu in every way to ensure an orderly and constitutional transition to multi-party democracy.

On the domestic front, he reiterated the Army’s involvement in J&K and the northeast, but felt its role in countering naxal violence was limited. “The Army has provided assistance to States by setting up counter-terrorism institutions. The task [of countering naxalism] lies clearly in the realm of State police forces and paramilitary forces. They must develop the requisite capacity and efficiency to deal with this menace effectively. However, they must benefit from the Army’s immense experience and expertise in these areas,” he said.

The conference, on till May 2, is expected to discuss an eclectic set of issues such as a different uniform, merger of regimental centres, study leave policy, and payment for land occupied in J&K.