"There is no such thing as 'Nurse-Doctor equality'. It exists only in the 'wildest imaginations of some AMC Docs'. The only issue is 'integration of Military Nursing Service as a Corps of regular Army'; not equating Nurses with the Doctors". : Anonymous Reader

BRINGING MILITARY NURSING SERVICE DIRECTLY UNDER THE ARMY ACT, 1950 (re-designation as a Corps of the regular Army)

The Military Nursing Service is 125 year old organization part of the Indian Army. It finds its origins from the Indian Army Nursing Service (IANS) formed in 1888 part of the British Indian Army. The force took its present form on 15 September 1943 along with the newly constituted Indian Army Medical Corps, now called the Army Medical Corps (AMC). Till the early 1950s the Nursing Services were the only arm of the Indian Army (or armed forces) in which women were allowed to serve. Since 1956 onwards a few women physicians and dentists were recruited in the Medical and Dental Corps of the Army. Finally, in 1992 the Government permitted women to serve in other arms and services, but restricted them to a strictly non-combatant role.

The history of the women in Indian armed forces is nothing but the history of the Nursing Services. It all began with the IANS in 1888; which went through many changes in its 125 years of existence. At the outbreak of world war (WW) – I, in 1914 there were just fewer than 300 nurses in the Nursing Services, by the end of the war this had raised to 10,404. The Army nurses served in Flanders, the Mediterranean, the Balkans, the Middle East and onboard hospital ships. More than 200 nurses belong to Indian Army Nursing Service died in active service till the end of the war in 1919.

The Indian Army Nurses once again found themselves serving all over the world with the outbreak of WW – II. They saw action in Hong Kong, Singapore, Burma, Italy, Mesopotamia, Ceylon, Egypt and Western Africa. The fall of Hong Kong and Singapore led to many of them being captured by the Japanese and endured terrible hardships and deprivations in POWs camps in Far East and many perished. Fifteen Indian army nurses died on a single day in the sinking of 'SS. Kuala' by the Japanese bombers on 14 February 1942 at Pom Pong Island near Indonesian Archipelago. 

During the middle of the WW – II, in 1943 the Indian Military Nursing Service was formed as an auxiliary force, from the Indian Nurses serving in the British Indian Army, through the Indian Military Nursing Service Ordinance, 1943; which conferred Commissioned Officer status to Army Nurses, the first ever in the history of Indian armed forces. Their uniform was changed to khaki slacks and battledress blouses with rank insignia due to the changing working conditions and officer status. This was done to give power command to the nurses over the nursing orderlies, stretcher bearers, ambulance drivers etc., whose assistance was essential for the proper care of the wounded soldiers in the war zone.

After the independence of our country, the word 'Indian' was dropped from the title, and since then the organization is known as Military Nursing Service (MNS). The women officers serving in the MNS are the most combat exposed women in Indian Army. They have served on the fringes of the battle fields in the five major bloody wars we have fought after independence. The officers of the MNS are still caring for the sick and wounded soldiers in the terrorist torn North and North East to the field area bunkers just a stone’s throw away from the international borders.                                                                                                                                                                                            
The women officers of MNS over the years have supported our combat forces in UN Missions at Korea, Gaza, Vietnam, Somalia, Rwanda, Angola, Ethiopia, Sudan, Lebanon, Cambodia, and Sierra Leone etc. They have served along with the IPKF in Sri Lanka. Some women officers of MNS are now with the ongoing UN Missions in South Sudan, Sierra Leone and the Indian mission in Afghanistan etc. No other women officer(s) from other services in the Indian Armed Forces ever got killed in action, or captured as PoWs or endured so many hardships in the service of our great Nation.

The women officers of MNS have received a number of Distinguished Service medals and other military recognitions. Apart from the professional activities, Officers of the Corps have also participated in sports and adventure activities at National and International levels. Major Saroja Kumari Juthu of the Corps won gold medal in 25 meter pistol at Melbourne Common Wealth Games held in 2006, the only women officer to do so. The Military Nursing Service no longer has any active shooters. As the officers of MNS are no longer given fire arms training, once again a strategy adopted in the recent past by the vested interests to discriminate them. Incidentally Major Juthu was the best shooter during her basic military training in 1991, she went on to make the nation proud by winning the countries first gold in women's shooting event in a CWG. During the World Wars the Army Nurses were armed with revolvers for protecting their patients and self. Further, the Article 22 (1) of Geneva Convention (Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field, 1949) ‘Granted the right to Medical and Nursing personnel to carry and use arms in their own defence or in that of the wounded and sick in their charge'. The small arms training to women officers of MNS were stopped to make them appear different from other women officers, by high lighting their non-combatant role.

In recent years the MNS has been side lined as an auxiliary force with utter disregard to its long history of distinguished services rendered to the Nation. There are vested interests very active in the armed forces trying everything possible to undermine Commissioned Officer status of the women serving in MNS. During 6th Central Pay Commission they have prevented the Government from placing the officers of MNS on the same Grade Pay and Pay Band, as applicable to officers from other Cadres of the Army as recommended by the 6th Central Pay Commission. However, the women officers of all other corps performing only non-combatant roles were placed on the same pay band and grade pay as their male counter parts of equivalent rank. They are also given the same military service pay. But the vested interests influenced, the Government and placed the officers of MNS on a lower scale ignoring the recommendations of the 6th Pay Commission.

The British after the Second World War in 1948 formed Army Nursing Corps from the Imperial Army’s Nursing Services. The United States has an Army Nurse Corps since 1901. Even our unfriendly neighbor in the western border re-designated their half of the Military Nursing Service in to a Corps of the Army in 1967. Almost every Nation including Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Afganistan, Myanmar, China, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa and Thailand etc. have Commissioned Officer Nurses in the Army. In some countries like UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Germany etc. the Navy and Air Force also has its own nursing branch headed by Commissioned Officer Nurses.

Due to the strong opposition from the vested interests, the formation of an ‘Army Nursing Corps’ in the Indian Army could not happen. They want to maintain the MNS as an auxiliary force recruited under the Indian Military Nursing Service Ordinance, 1943. As  the Army Act, 1950, applies to officers of MNS as it applies to the regular officers recruited under the Army Act, subject to the limitations specified in the Ordinance; the vested interests finds it easy to discriminate the women officers of MNS as being part of an auxiliary force. Even though, the Rules, Regulations and Orders issued subsequently treated the officer of MNS at par with the regular officers recruited under the Army Act, 1950.

As long as the women officers of MNS remain subject to the MNS Ordinance, the discrimination they face in everyday life in the Army (or armed forces) will continue. Moreover, the exception given to the women officers of MNS to some of the military offences defined under the Army Act, 1950, as provided for in the MNS Ordinance, 1943 is now irrelevant. Therefore the Government of India shall bring the Military Nursing Service directly under the Army Act, 1950; like any other Corps of the Indian Army (re-designate MNS as a Corps of the regular Army).  All existing members and future recruits of MNS shall only be subject to the Army Act, 1950; like the regular officers recruited under the Act. The Government shall issue an Army Instruction for bringing the MNS fully under the Army Act, 1950.

By bringing the MNS directly under the Army Act, 1950 the force will become better governable. Currently, MNS is plagued by problems of indiscipline due to the exemptions to military offences given under the MNS Ordinance. For example the largest percentage of absconding cases is from the MNS. Currently, the maximum punishment the Army can award is dismissal from service. Every proud officer of MNS would consider it better than the discrimination and humiliation; otherwise they have to face during every day of their service life as being part of an auxiliary force.

The current terms and conditions, promotion policy etc. governing the MNS shall continue to be in force without bringing any additional financial burden on the Government. Further, there is no need for a change in pay and allowances or other privileges to officers of MNS; and they are to remain in the current grade pay for the time being, which will not affect their status after they become officers of the regular Army, recruited under the Army Act, 1950. Even the officers of AMC demands a different grade pay for themselves, which is higher from the other officer of the Army, as they wants the implementation of dynamically assured career progression (DACP) as applicable to the Central Government service civil doctors. 

125th Coprs Day of Military Nursing Service on 01 Oct 2013

The Military Nursing Service will be celebrating its 125th Coprs Day on 01 October 2013. The Corps originated from the Indian Army Nursing Service formed in 1888 part of the Imperial Army. The force took its present form on 15 September 1943 along with the newly constituted Indian Army Medical Corps. Until the early nineteen fifties, the Nursing Services were the only arm of the Army in which women were allowed to serve. A few women physicians and dentists were subsequently allowed in the Medical and Dental Corps. Finally in 1992 the Government permitted women to serve in other arms and services, but restricted them to strictly non-combatant roles.
The history of the women in Indian Armed Forces is nothing but the history of the Military Nursing Service itself. It all began with the Indian Army Nursing Service, and the force went through many changes in the nearly one and quarter century of its existence. At the outbreak of First World War in 1914 there were just fewer than 300 nurses in the Nursing Services, by the end of the war this had raised to 10,404. The Army nurses served in Flanders, the Mediterranean, the Balkans, the Middle East and onboard hospital ships. More than 200 nurses belong to Indian Army Nursing Service died in active service till the end of the war in 1919.
The Indian Army Nurses once again found themselves serving all over the world with the outbreak of Second World War. They saw action in Hong Kong, Singapore, Burma, Italy, Mesopotamia, Ceylon, Egypt and Western Africa. The fall of Hong Kong and Singapore led to many of them being captured by the Japanese and endured terrible hardships and deprivations in POWs camps in Far East and many perished. Fifteen Indian army nurses died on a sigle day in the sinking of 'SS. Kuala' by the Japanese bombers on 14 February 1942 at Pom Pong Island near Indonesian Archipelago. During the war in 1943, the Indian Military Nursing Service was formed from the Indian Nurses serving in Imperial Army. They were conferred commissioned officer status, the earliest women in Indian Army to be honoured so. Their uniform was changed to khaki slacks and battledress blouses with rank insignia due to the changing working conditions and officer status. After the independence the word 'Indian' was dropped from the title of the Corps.

The Officers of Military Nursing Service are the most combat exposed women in Indian Army. They have served on the fringes of the battle fields in the five major bloody wars we have fought after independence. The Officers of the Corps are still caring for the sick and wounded soldiers in the terrorist torn North and North East to the field area bunkers just a stone’s throw away from the international borders. The Officers of Nursing Services over the years have supported our combat forces in UN Missions at Korea, Gaza, Vietnam, Somalia, Rwanda, Angola, Ethiopia, Sudan, Lebanon, Cambodia, and Sierra Leone etc. They have served along with the IPKF in Sri Lanka. Some Officers are now with the ongoing UN Missions and the Indian mission in Afghanistan. No other women officers in the Indian Armed Forces ever got killed in action, and had to endure so many hardships in the service of our great Nation.The women officers of Military Nursing Service have received a number of Distinguished Service medals and other military recognitions. Apart from the professional activities, Officers of the Corps have also participated in sports and adventure activities at National and International levels. Major Saroja Kumari Juthu of the Corps won gold medal in 25 meter pistol at Melbourne Common Wealth Games held in 2006, the only women officer to do so. The Corps has five shooters of international repute, and some medals are expected from CWG Delhi also.

In recent years the Corps has been side lined as an auxiliary force with utter disregard to its long history of distinguished services rendered to the Nation. Our new generation doctors believe that the officer status of the nurses undermines the traditional casteist nurse – doctor relationships. Post 6th pay commission they have successfully deprived the officers of nursing services, the same pay as applicable to officers from other cadres. The women officers of all other corps though they are performing only non-combatant roles are placed on the same pay band and grade pay as their male counter parts of equivalent rank. They are also given the same military service pay. But on the advice of the top brass, the Government placed the officers of nursing services on a lower scale ignoring the recommendations of the 6th pay commission.

The officers of the Corps are no longer given fire arms training, once again a strategy adopted to discriminate them. Incidentally Major Juthu was the best shooter during her basic military training in 1991, she went on to make the nation proud by winning the countries first gold in women's shooting event in a CWG. Even in the early twentieth century the army nurses were armed with revolvers for protecting their patients and self. Also the Article 22 (1) of Geneva Convention, 1949 ‘grants the right to medical and nursing personnel to carry and use arms in their own defence or in that of the wounded and sick in their charge'. The small arms training were stopped to highlight the non-combatant role of the women officers of nursing services. May be it is time for the ‘powers that be’ to wake up and re-introduce the arms training to officers of Military Nursing Service in the best interest of the Nation.

The British after the Second World War in 1948 formed Army Nursing Corps from the Imperial Army’s Nursing Services. The United States has an Army Nurse Corps since 1901. Even the Pakistan re-designated their half of the Military Nursing Service in to a Corps of the Army in 1967. Most of the countries including Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Afganistan, China, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa and Thailand etc. have Commissioned Army Officer Nurses/ Army Nurse Corps. In many countries like UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Germany etc. even the navy and air force has its own branch of nursing services headed by commissioned nursing officers.

However, formation of an Army Nursing Corps from the Military Nursing Service still remains a dream in Indian army. As long as the tag of auxiliary force remains with the Military Nursing Service as being subject to MNS Ordinance 1943, the discrimination will continue. The only way forward is to constitute an Army Nursing Corps from the Military Nursing Service, where its Officers are commissioned under the Army Act like any other Corps of the Army. The recent soaps like accelerated promotions and increased numbers of higher ranks does not change its status from an auxiliary force. Even a lean Army Nursing Corps constituting less number of commissioned officer nurses and more of PBOR nurses is better than the promised flood of general officers ranks in Military Nursing Service. On the 125th year of service to the Army and mother land let us acknowledge the yeoman service rendered by the generations of army nurses. May be it is time to end the discrimination against the army nurses, and constitute an Army Nursing Corps atleast for the sake of better patient care.

Commission for Male Nurses in Army

The passage of time changes everything and nothing stays permanent. The male nurses have existed in India for nearly as long as female nurses. However, the government, the military and the public mostly ignored their existence. Their story speaks of gender discrimination and the struggles to attain professional stature and acceptance while serving their nation. I don’t understand why there should be such discrimination between the two groups. Men nurses receive the same training as the women; are accepted for membership in the national nursing organizations and are eligible for registration in every State of the Indian Union. Yet, in spite of equal training, they are not accepted for peace time or war service in Military Nursing Service. The times have come to the expansion of the Military Nursing Service to an all gender organization. Under the present law the Nursing Services is for women only; the section 6 (1) of the nursing services act restricts appointment only to women Indian citizens. Hence, the journey of the male nurse to achieve equal stature within the Indian Army would be one fraught with obstacles.

The Indian Army Nursing Service formed in 1888; with changes made over the years became Military Nursing Service as we know it today. Most of its past 123 years of existence, it was the only Corps/Service in which women were allowed to serve. However opening up of the armed forces over the past two decades saw women serve in almost all the arms and services in noncombatant roles. Some of those women who fought against the gender discrimination in granting permanent commission have won their case, and soon we will see women in decision making roles. All these years we have kept the men away from the Military Nursing Service. Such gender discriminatory policy shall end; the law needs to be changed and male nurses also should be granted commission in the Army.

Historical evidence places male nurses on many battlefields throughout the course of Indian History. As early as 1842, during the 1st Afghan war, male nurses serving in the British Indian Army died in Afghanistan. The male nurses actively sought service in both World Wars, and post independence saw action in all the five major wars we fought. The male nurses have the same training and hold the same State Diplomas yet they are classed as orderlies or nursing assistants and paid about one half the salary of a female commissioned nurse. We need to question the status of male nurses who desired to serve their country. For those men trained as nurses, no opportunities exist within the Military Nursing Service. Presently in Army, Navy and Air Force the utilization of qualified and eligible graduate male nurses is stressed upon. However, no provision of law exists which authorize the commissioning of the male members of the nursing profession as such in the Armed Forces. This ceiling has to be broken to ensure gender parity and equal opportunity for male nurses. Today, commissioned male nurses represent over 35% of the US Army Nurse Corps, they have considerable presence in the Army Nurse Corps of UK, Canada, France, Singapore, Australia, Qatar, Yemen, China and many more.

The Military Nursing Service strives to represent the values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. The Nursing Services expresses these values through the motto “service with smile.” The male nurses also should be granted commission to serve parallel to their female counterparts, providing opportunity to exhibit their immense skill, compassion and professionalism; while continually upholding the core values of the Indian Army.

Post DACP: Please grant us our due


Grant of same grade pay, pay band & military service pay to MNS cadre as for other officers of the army

Armed Forces Proposals and 6th CPC Recommendations

1. The 6th Central Pay Commission (CPC) had recommended (Para 2.3.20, Page No. 79 of 6th CPC Report): "The Commission, however, is of the view that no differential in salary of officers belonging to the Services or MNS is justified and that the pay band and grade pay of similarly designated posts in Service Officers cadre and MNS cadre should be same." This was in line with the Proposals made by the Armed Forces to successive pay commissions:‑

(a) The Armed Forces had proposed to 4th Pay Commissioned to grant same pay scales to MNS as for other Service Officers" (Para 147.39, Page No. 1913 of 5th CPC Report).

(b) The Armed Forces have made the following proposals to 5th CPC with regard to pay of MNS Officers (Para 147.40, Page No. 1913-1914 of 5th CPC):

(i) There should be two integrated pay scales one upto rank of Col. and other from Brig to Maj. Gen.

(ii) The start of scale of Lt. to Col. should be one increment below the start of general list cadre.

(iii) B.Sc. Nursing entrants to MNS cadre should continue to have one year ante-date seniority over Diploma entrants.

(iv) To compensate for merit and responsibility of higher ranks, rank pay should be introduced.

2. The sub para 1(a) above leaves no manner of doubt that the Armed Forces wanted the "same pay scales to MNS as for other Service Officers" during 4th CPC. However, a slightly lower scale was recommended by the 4th CPC and the same accepted by the Government. From sub para (b) above it is clear that during the 5th CPC the Armed Forces wanted the 'MNS Officers of Brig and Maj Gen rank' to get the 'same pay scales as for other Service Officers', and also wanted to introduce rank pay for MNS Cadre Officers like the Service Officers cadre. The 5th CPC had Recommended Group A Civilian starting scale to MNS Cadre (slightly lower than Service Cadre Officers), and the same was accepted by the Government. Whereas, the 6th CPC had recommended 'same pay band and grade pay of similarly designated posts in Service Officers cadre and MNS cadre', there by accepting the Armed Forces own demand regarding MNS Cadre Officers pay scales to previous Pay Commissions.

COAS Objections on Selective Upgradation

3. However, after the submission of 6th CPC Recommendations, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) as an afterthought had vide letter no. C170211V1-PCC (Army) dated 20 Jun 08 written to the Cabinet Secretary that, 'selective upgradation of Basic Pay, Grade Pay and hence the status of Nurses only in the Armed Forces to equate them with Doctors will seriously impact on the functional relationship and command and control in the Military Hospitals, which would adversely affect patient care in the long run. Hence, there is a need of reconsidering those aspects and keeping the Pay and Grade Pay of MNS officers distinct from the Service Officers". The COAS letter was a quick turnaround from the Armed Forces established stand of demanding 'same pay scales to MNS Officers as for other Service Officers' made to the previous pay commissions. The 6th CPC observed that the starting pay scales of MNS cadre is equal to group A civilian starting pay scales, and is only slightly lower than the pay scales other service officers. The slight upgradation recommended by the 6th CPC was in line with the Armed Forces own pending demands. Opposing the upgradation of MNS cadre fearing an impact on the patient care is not logical while considering the following facts:‑

(a) As per Para 733 (b) of Defence Service Regulations, Regulations for theArmy [DSR (Army)], "women officers serving in the Army Medical Corps and officers in the Military Nursing Service will rank equally with male officers of the same titular rank". This was upheld by the AFT in Maj Gen Usha Sikdar vs Union of India & others. As the Officers of MNS are Commissioned Officers of Armed Forces, the relative seniority between MNS cadre and other cadre officers were to be determined by the date of substantive rank and or date of commission.

(b) The COAS letter was designed to lower the established status of MNS cadreby taking advantage of Para 2.3.13 of 6th CPC, that is "status of the Defence Forces officers would be determined by the grade pay attached to their post as is the case with civilians". However, in Para 1(xi), page 21 of Ministry of Defence Resolution (Gazette of India, dated 30 Aug 08), the Government further amplified this rule, and notified it as "Grade pay to determine seniority of posts only within a cadres hierarchy and not between various cadres." As the Army Doctors and Nurses belong to different cadres (AMC and MNS respectively), the status granted to MNS Officers vide Para 733 (b) of DSR (Army), still holds post 6th CPC implementation.

(c) As per Part-B Section-11 Para XII -1, page no. 45 (Gazette of IndiaExtraordinary, Part- II, Section-3, Sub-section (i) dated 29 August 2008), the Government in line with the 6th CPC recommendations has placed the 'Staff Nurse' (Civilian equivalent of Lieutenant in MNS) on PB - 2 with grade pay of Rs 4600. Also in the same gazette the posts carrying minimum qualification of either degree in Engineering or a Degree in Law (Part-B, Section-I, sub-para (iii), page no. 44) has been placed at par with 'Staff Nurse" on PB-2 with grade pay Rs 4600. In the Armed Forces every post for which minimum qualification of either degree in Engineering or a Degree in Law is a post occupied by a commissioned officer placed on PB-3 with grade pay Rs 5400. The commissioned officers of engineering branch additionally gets Technical Pay Rs 5000 per month. The 6th CPC doubled the Nursing Allowance to Rs 3200 for 'Nursing Personnel' on civil side (Para 3.3.16, page 195, 6th CPC report). But there are no such allowance exists for the MNS cadre officers.

(d) The Doctors in the Armed Forces also enjoys higher starting pay thantheir civilian counter parts. Doctors who join services after internship are inducted as Captain with grade pay of Rs 6100 and are given entry pay that is 10% higher than the minimum on PB-3. Whereas the Civilian counterpart joins as GDMO at grade pay Rs 5400 on PB-3, with no higher entry pay.

(e) The posts of Assistant Nursing Superintendent, Deputy NursingSuperintendent, Nursing Superintendent and Chief Nursing Officer are all group A posts on PB-3 with grade pay ranging from Rs 5400 to Rs 7600. As the General Duty Medical Officers starting grade pay Rs 5400, these posts of Nursing Officers were equal to or higher than many Doctors grade pay. However there was no objection from the civilian doctors. The reason is that by the time a Nurse reaches such a post a Doctor with similar length of service would have raised much higher in rank and pay. The same is true for the Armed Forces also.

(f) The direct entry Doctors joins service as Captain, further promotions are:Major - 4 years, Lt Col - 11 years, Col - 16 (select) years. Whereas for the Nurses it is Lt - on joining, Captain —5 years, Major - 12 years, Lt Col —20 years and Col - 30 years. The majority of Nurses employed in the clinicalfield is Majors and below, as the Lt Cols may be either in administrative or Clinical posts. The Col of MNS is purely an administrative post occupying the Principal Matron of the Hospital. The majority of the Captain and Major ranked Doctors are employed as Regimental Medical Officers (MBBS) in Ml Rooms, where no Nurses are posted. Due to the faster promotion available to the Doctors, by the time they become Specialist Doctors, they are Lt Cols or above rank, automatically out ranking the Nurses working in the hospitals.

(g) A Doctor in Armed Forces gets a starting pay of Rs 51536/‑approximately. However a CGHS GDMO gets only approximately Rs 37910/-The armed forces doctors gets approximately Rs 13626 more than their civilian counter parts. The difference in total emoluments (excluding HRA) at the starting scale between a Doctor and Nurse in Civil side is approximately Rs 12025, whereas in armed forces it comes to Rs 16996 approximately. It is beyond doubt that the armed forces Doctors enjoys an edge over their Civilian counter parts on starting pay scales. And also the difference in pay between doctors and nurses in armed forces is much more than the civil side. While comparing the starting pay of Nurses, the MNS Officers draws only approximately Rs 5055 more than their civilian counter parts (after considering Rs 3600 Nursing Allowance for the Civil Nurses). In Civil the ratio between the starting pay of Nurse:Doctors is 1:1.46, whereas in Armed Forces it is 1:1.49. It leaves no doubt that the difference in pay in starting scale between doctors and nurse is more in armed forces than the Civil, which negates beyond doubt the COAS arguments regarding 'same pay for doctors and nurses'.

(h) Therefore the COAS contention of selective upgradation of Nurses in armed forces does not hold water! The armed forces doctors earns approximately 40% more than their civilian counter parts on their starting pay scales. Whereas the Nurses in armed forces earns only 19.5% more than their civilian counter parts on the starting pay scales. Denying the MNS Officers the raise of few hundreds of rupees as a raise in grade pay (same grade as other service officers as recommended by 6th CPC) on the pretext that it will equate them with the Armed Forces Doctors in pay is not justified. While considering the hardships they endure by their long duty hours, hard area/ militancy infested areas, long isolation from families and their liability to serve in any part of the world like other armed forces personnel they ought to be paid more.

(j) However, notwithstanding the Armed Forces own proposals, the 6th CPC recommendations, and the status of MNS Officers under the statutory law and also the edge already enjoyed by the Doctors in Pay and Promotions over the Nurses, the Government had kept the Grade Pay of MNS cadre Officers lower from other Armed Forces Officers of equivalent rank (because of the fears expressed by the COAS on the impact on command and control). Whereas by granting such lower Grade Pay to MNS cadre Officers than other Service Officers on the recommendation of COAS had resulted only in the financial loss and loss of other privileges of rank like TA/DA, LTC etc. to the former, but made no difference in command and control aspect. Implimenting the DACP, thereby selectively upgrdating only the AMC officers with utter disregard for the same command and control in the army/ armed forces, exposes the double standards of the top brass. If DACP (upgradtion of grade pay) can be granted to AMC officers after delinking it from command and control aspects, then why a few hundreds of rupees was denied to the MNS officers in the first place? The MoD should take immediate action to set the records straight by upgrading the grade pay MNS officers at par with other officers.

Armed Forces Tribunal Order

4. In Maj Gen Mrs. Usha Sikdar Vs. Union of India & Ors (TA. No. 211/2010) the Hon'ble Principal Bench of AFT held that, "she is a regular commissioned officer of the Indian Armed Forces and she is authorised to all entitlements and benefits which a regular officer entitled under the Army Act, 1950 and rules framed thereunder and regulations issued from time to time. Therefore, we have no hesitation to declare that the petitioner is entitled to be treated as a commissioned officer and as a part of the regular force, and she is authorised to all entitlements which are authorised to the regular recruited army officers of the Indian Army." The AFT further directed the Government to "to treat all the commissioned officers of Military Nursing Service as a part of the regular force of the Indian Armed Forces and extend all entitlements which are commensurate with the rank as equal to commissioned officers of Indian Army to her". It is brought out here that, post 6th CPC implementation, the entitlements of a rank is based on the Grade Pay attached to the rank.

Status of Commissioned Nursing Officers Abroad

5. The Commissioned Officers of Nursing Services in the United States Army, Navy and Air Force have same status and pay scales while comparing to the Officers from other branches of the Armed Forces. Their Nurses are not discriminated because of the profession. The Nursing Officers belong to US Army Nurse Corps gets to command hospitals and army medical commands. The present Chief of Army Nurse Corps, Mai Gen Patricia D Horoho is the Commander of Western Region Medical Command as well. Similarly Commissioned Officers of Queen Alexandria's Army Nurse Corps also gets to Command Medical Units. Such Countries are apparently not worried about 'patient care being adversely affected' as the Nurses may sometimes out ranks the Doctors in their armed forces.

6. The USA became the first country in 1901, to constitute the Nursing Services as a Corps of its Army and placed all the Nursing Personnel under it. In 1943, the Nursing Services of Imperial Army and allied forces (UK, India/Pakistan, Korea, UAE, Qatar, Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar, Philippines, Canada, France, Portugal, Australia, South Africa, etc.) had the same status as 'auxiliary force' of army. After the war, all these Countries and many others, except India have formed Army Nurse Corps out of their own elements of Military Nursing Service. In UK though Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps (QARANC) was formed in 1949, the male nurses and medical orderlies remained part of Royal Army Medical Corps until 1992, when they were rebadged to QARANC. The proposal to re-designate the MNS in to a Corps of the Army like similar developments in other countries, by bringing it fully under the Army Act, was under consideration by the Ministry of Defence, but it never got implemented.

Grant of same rate of MSP to MNS Officers as for other Officers

7. The 6th CPC in Para 2.3.20 of the report observed that, "In line with the other Defence Personnel, Military Service Pay (MSP) also need to be extended in their case". The Commission then recommended that, "The rates of MSP would however need to be kept suitably lower keeping in view the fact that MNS officers are not primarily meant for combat duties". Even though the learned members of the Pay Commission had made this observation only with respect to the Women Officers serving in the Military Nursing Service, it is only the half truth. Presently in the Indian armed forces Women Officer are not being selected for the 'Combat Duties', they are allowed only in to branch/ corps/ service which are not likely to come in to contact with the enemy (as pleaded by the Government in 'PC for women officers' Para 21, page no. 14 - Delhi HC order dated 12 March 2010)). In the case of whether or not to grant PC for Women Officers in Air Force! Army the Hon'ble Delhi High Court [Date of decision: 12.03.2010 :-WP (C) No. 1597 of 2003, WP (C) No. 16010 of 2006, WP (C) No.3357 of 2007, WP (C) No.3686 of 2007, WP (C) No.902 8 of 2008, WP (C) No.7669 of 2009, WP (C) No.8492 of 2009, WP (C) No.8495 of 2009 & WP (C) No.9367 of 2009] observed that (Para 56, page no. 32), "We have taken note of the fact that Army women officers are placed on a different footing as there was no such direct assurance of grant of PC held out to them. These officers were, however, aware of such a promise held out to the women Air Force officers. The branches in which SSC was granted were also similar, if not, identical. These branches are non-combatant in nature."This Hon'ble Courts observation regarding the nature of duties of the Women Officers in armed forces as a whole is apt and is in the similar lines of the observation made by the 6th Pay Commission regarding Military Nursing Service.

8. In Para 34, page no. 21 of the order the Hon'ble Court noted that, "It can, however, hardly be doubted, in our considered view, that such recruitment of women in armed forces has gone through a process of evolution largely dependent on the social norms of the country. In the US, strength of women officers in the military rose from two per cent in 1967 to eleven per cent in 1993. Almost 90 per cent posts have slowly become open to women officers except in the field of Infantry, armour and special operations. The increase in the strength of women officers was also the direct result of the traditional distinctions between combat and non-combat or combat support roles having become blurred with the introduction of deep battlefield and over-the-horizon weaponry as observed by Dr. Jakkie Cilliers, Co-Director, Institute for Defence Policy in an article published in the South African Defence Review Issue No.9, 1993 'Feminism and the Military, Developments in the United States of America". The observation regarding the blurring of distinction between combat and non-combat or combat support roles with the introduction of deep battlefield and over-the-horizon weaponry is note worthy.

9. Regarding grant of PC to Women, "the Hon'ble Defence Minister, infact, gave an assurance in the Parliament that the Ministry would look into aspects of non-combat streams to begin with", (Para 35, page no. 22 of the Hon'ble court order). It leaves no doubt that in Indian armed forces women are inducted only in to non-combatant branches! duties. The Court further observed (Para 44, page no. 45) that, "the policy decision was that women personnel should be recruited in certain areas of operation of the Armed Forces which are not in combat and other such services." After considering the observations made by the Hon'ble Court in the said case as mentioned earlier, leaves no manner of doubt whatsoever that not only the women officers serving in the Military Nursing Service but the entire spectrum of women officers irrespective of branch/ corps/ service are recruited only for duties which are primarily no-combatant in nature. Therefore not granting MSP at the rate of Rs 6000 and also not placing the Lt Col ranks in PB-4 only in the case of women officers serving in Military Nursing Service is not justified.

10. The women officers serving in Military Nursing Service are exposed to the combat environment than any of the other branches where women are recruited. During the WW-II many women officers belong to the MNS had made the supreme sacrifice. 15 of them died on 14 February 1942 (their ship "SS. Kuala" which was sunk by Japanese bombers at Pom Pong Island in The Indonesian Archipelago) Many of these women lost their lives in the bombing of the ship whilst at anchor, or as they tried to swim to shore through bombs and machine gun fire (further information on these terrible events can be gathered from the websites Children of Far East POWs' and also the 'Malayan Volunteer Group'). There were also many Indian Nurses among the 180 nurses, women and children who had died when the vessel "SS. Tanjong Pinang" on the way to Sumatra from Pom Pong Island which was stopped and sunk by a Japanese submarine. There were only six survivors from the "Tanjong Pinang". Many Indian Women who served in the MNS in far-east became Prisoners of Wars (PoWs). They had endured great hardships and untold miseries in Japanese PoWs Camps.

11. The Military Nursing Service officers over the years have consistently exemplified a high degree of initiative, courage, and dedication in service to mankind, the Indian Army and our Nation. The officers of the Military Nursing Service cared for soldiers in their hour of greatest need; whether it was during the five wars, we fought since independence, or through the endless counter insurgency operations or peacekeeping operations and mercy missions we undertook in Sri Lanka, Somalia, Congo, Iran, Afganistan and many other nations. They nursed, they comforted, and they made sure no patient died alone. They selflessly endured countless hours of their patient's pain, sorrow, screams, blood, mutilation and at times death. And when it was over, they quietly withdraw to the background. They all paid an emotional price for those selfless services to humanity, though not always physically scarred. The Military Nursing Service officers served with distinction wherever they have been. Some of those brave women paid the ultimate price for their nation as a result of hostile fire. The Army since independence has decorated many nurses for bravery and distinguished service. The nation is eternally grateful for the dedication, courage, and sacrifices made by the women of the Military Nursing Service, but the Army is not. Even when I am writing this many women officers of Military Nursing are serving in many trouble torn corners of the world from Afghanistan to Somalia, Congo to Kashmir and India's North East. They are attached to Field Ambulances, and serves at border posts like 'Thangdar' in J&K. More than any other women officers in armed forces other branches, the women of Military Nursing Service are exposed to combat, still they are being denied the privileges which the other women officers who are also recruited for a primarily non-combatant role' enjoys.

The Prayer to the Appropriate Authorities

12. In view of the 'Armed Forces proposals to previous pay commissions', 6th CPC Recommendations' and the order of Hon'ble AFT dated 30 Mar 2010, and based on the observations made by the Hon'ble Delhi High Court (PC for women officers)dated 12 March 2010, and also the decision to implement DACP for the AMC Officers the following prayer is being made for your kind consideration:‑

(a) All women officers of MNS may be granted the same Grade Pay, Pay Band and MSP which is entitled to Officers of Army as per SAII2ISI08. That is to say: ‑

(i) Grant of same grade pay to the Officers of MNS (from Capt to Maj Gen) as applicable for other officers of the Army.

(ii) Grant of MSP Rs 6000 to all Officers of MNS from Lt to Brig and revised pay fixation for Mai Gen of MNS considering MSP Rs 6000.

(iii) Place the Officers of MNS of the rank of Lt Col on Pay Band -4.

(b) The pensionary benefits of all the retired Officers of MNS shall accordingly be revised based on enhanced Grade Pay, Pay band and MSP.

(c) Impliment already notified ACP for MNS officers upto the rank of Lt Col as available for the other officers (and stop the dilution to time bound promotions in the name of cadre review).

(d) The Government shall make the MNS a Corps of the army for the complete integration the Military Nursing Service in the Indian Army. This will ensure better manageability of the women officers (or male officers when admitted) serving in the MNS as being subject to the Army Act, 1950 like the rest of the officer cadres. The time has arrived to redesignate the MNS as a Corps of the army to bring it fully under the Army Act. It will alleviate the concerns of the Army as expressed by the COAS in the mentioned letter dated 20 Jun 2008.

DACP for AMC vs. Command and Control

The dynamic assured career progression (DACP) with a time bound progression till Grade Pay of Rs 10,000 @ 20 years of service was recommended by the 6th CPC for all doctors under the Central Govt (which includes the AMC & ADC) and the same was also duly notified by the Government of India. The DACP was accordingly implemented for all doctors under the Central Govt including civilian doctors serving under the DGAFMS. The DACP had also been implemented for the combatised uniformed medical cadres (para-military) of the Home Ministry by delinking it from status, pay and rank badges. The proposal for DACP for armed forces doctors was accepted by the MoD, despite reservations expressed by some quarters within the services on the issue of status vis-à-vis other arms and services. Those reservations were also addressed on file when it was resolved that the scheme would be implemented after delinking it from status and rank and would hence involve only financial gain. In the ultimate analysis, everybody, including the Services HQrs and the DGAFMS have agreed to implement the DACP minus the rank and status. The DACP would now be implemented to AMC & ADC doctors without any link to rank, status or hierarchy. The final orders are awaited any time soon (expected as a Corps Day present for AMC on Jan 1st).

The 6th CPC had also recommended the same pay band and grade pay for all officers of the armed forces including those of MNS cadre. However ‘in the name of command and control’ the MNS officers were placed on a lower grade pay than other cadre officers. After the DACP is implemented an AMC doctor of Lt Col rank may draw the grade pay of Rs 10000, and would still be wearing the rank badges of a Lt Col and be called a 'Lt Col'. However he can be placed under an officer from other Corps who may be a Lt Col or above but drawing a grade pay (GP of Rs 8000 - 8900: Lt Col - Brig) less than that of the said 'Lt Col AMC'. Whereas, under the 'ploy of the command and control' the Army had forced the government to reduce the grade of the MNS officers. Wouldn’t that command and control now be affected by this selective up gradation to the doctors?

The army hastily concluded the MNS cadre restructuring and pushed it through cabinet to scuttle another recommendation of the 6th CPC, i,e. ‘granting the scheme of time scale promotion available to other officers up to the rank of Lt Col to MNS cadre’. The said cadre restructuring had nullified the time bound promotion (Capt – 2yrs, Maj – 6yrs, Lt Col – 13 yrs) to MNS cadre as recommended by the 6th CPC which was already duly notified by the Government of India.

During 6th CPC implementation the grade pay of MNS officers was lowered on the issue of the same command and control. The implementation of the DACP for the AMC doctors makes it clear that, when it comes to personnel from different Corps, the command and control in the Army would not have any relation to the grade pay (and would not be affected even when the subordinate officer is drawing the same or even higher grade pay). Therefore the decision of placing the officers of the MNS on a lower grade pay comparing to officers from other corps wearing the same titular rank 'citing the issue of the same command and control' is totally unjustified. Hence the government should implement the pay commission recommendations in its letter and spirit by granting the same pay band and grade pay to the MNS cadre as applicable to the officers from other cadres. The army should also implement the duly notified extension of 'the scheme of time scale up to Lt Col rank as available to other cadres officers' to MNS cadre without further delay.

Constitution of ‘Armed Forces Greivances Redressal Commission’

The Hon'ble Supreme Court on 15 Nov 2010, has ordered the immediate constitution of a separate commission to examine the pay / pension anomalies and other grievances of the defence services.The functioning of the commission would be directly monitored by the Supreme Court. The Commission would comprise of Justice Kuldip Singh, Retired SC Judge as the Chairperson and would have as its members Justice SS Sodhi, General VP Malik, Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi and one person to be nominated by the Government of India.The Commission would independently look into the grievances of members of the defence services and the Government would have no say in the same. The salient features for the said Commission, as laid down by the Supreme Court in its order, are as follows:
(1) The Commission shall be called ‘Armed Forces Greivances Redressal Commission’.
(2) The Commission shall look into all grievances forwarded to them in writing or email by serving and retired personnel.
(3) Commission shall frame schemes for rehabilitation of soldiers who are discharged at young ages.
(4) The term of the first Commission shall be two years, renewable at the option of the central govt.
(5) The Commission shall be based at CHANDIGARH. Central Govt to provide adequate infrastructure for the same.
(6) Last drawn pay and allowances of the members to be protected.
(7) The Commission shall also recommend change of rules if in its opinion the same are defective or inadequate.
(8) All civil and military authorities to extend full co-operation to the Commission.

'Nurse Basher' General in the Dock

The Officers of MNS can never forget Mr. 'Kapoor Saab'. During the implimentation of 6th Pay Commission recommendations, he as the Army Chief misled the MoD resulting in the down gradation of the MNS Cadre Officers, understandably on the behest of the Docs (the 6th PC recommended the same pay and status to all officer of the army including the MNS cadre). Click here to read our earlier blog. Some reports suggests that he was offered disability pension by the Docs for a minor hearing loss suffred while in service. When they tried to facilitate disability pension to a retiring Chief 'for services rendered', they compensated the exchequer by denying even a partial disability pension to a bed ridden Ex Havildar. The AFT Jaipur Bench described the incident as "a shockingly bizarre incident reflects inhuman treatment which had crossed all boundaries of humanity".

His name now figures in the top of the beneficiaries list in the Mumbai Adarsh Society Scam!
In the name of Kargil War Widows, a prime plot that was in the army's custody for years was appropriated for building a posh highrise apartment complex in Mumbai's Colaba area. In the process, the army even lied to the MoD, which then misled Parliament, when a starred question regarding the ownership of the land came up in 2003. Almost every army officer involved in misleading Parliament now owns a house in the complex.

Stung by this embarrassing scam in which military top brass (now retired) connived with Maharashtra bureaucrats and politicians to corner a prized piece of property in Mumbai's posh Colaba all in the name of ‘Kargil War Widows’ the defence ministry and the army have now decided to come down like a ton of bricks and are considering invoking the Defence of India Rules (DIR) to take over the property and call in the CBI to probe the scandal.

It seems that the law is at last catching up with our 'Kapoor Saab'. Let us hope that soon he will run out of luck! He is also the 'kingpin among the conspirators' behind denying the MNS cadre the recommended pay post 6th PC. The government should take note of these facts, and make amends to the relevant orders to impliment the 6th PC recommendations in its letter and spirit. That is the ‘same pay band and grade pay’ for all officers of the Army including those of the MNS cadre.

122nd Corps Day of Military Nursing Service

The Military Nursing Service will be celebrating its 122nd anniversary on 01 October 2010. The Corps originated from the Indian Army Nursing Service formed in 1888 part of the Imperial Army. The force took its present form on 15 September 1943 along with the newly constituted Indian Army Medical Corps. Until the early nineteen fifties, the Nursing Services were the only arm of the Army in which women were allowed to serve. A few women physicians and dentists were subsequently allowed in the Medical and Dental Corps. Finally in 1992 the Government permitted women to serve in other arms and services, but restricted them to strictly non-combatant roles.

The history of the women in Indian Armed Forces is nothing but the history of the Military Nursing Service itself. It all began with the Indian Army Nursing Service, and the force went through many changes in the nearly one and quarter century of its existence. At the outbreak of First World War in 1914 there were just fewer than 300 nurses in the Nursing Services, by the end of the war this had raised to 10,404. The Army nurses served in Flanders, the Mediterranean, the Balkans, the Middle East and onboard hospital ships. More than 200 nurses belong to Indian Army Nursing Service died in active service till the end of the war in 1919.

The Indian Army Nurses once again found themselves serving all over the world with the outbreak of Second World War. They saw action in Hong Kong, Singapore, Burma, Italy, Mesopotamia, Ceylon, Egypt and Western Africa. The fall of Hong Kong and Singapore led to many of them being captured by the Japanese and endured terrible hardships and deprivations in POWs camps in Far East and many perished. Fifteen Indian army nurses died on a sigle day in the sinking of 'SS. Kuala' by the Japanese bombers on 14 February 1942 at Pom Pong Island near Indonesian Archipelago. During the war in 1943, the Indian Military Nursing Service was formed from the Indian Nurses serving in Imperial Army. They were conferred commissioned officer status, the earliest women in Indian Army to be honoured so. Their uniform was changed to khaki slacks and battledress blouses with rank insignia due to the changing working conditions and officer status. After the independence the word 'Indian' was dropped from the title of the Corps.

The Officers of Military Nursing Service are the most combat exposed women in Indian Army. They have served on the fringes of the battle fields in the five major bloody wars we have fought after independence. The Officers of the Corps are still caring for the sick and wounded soldiers in the terrorist torn North and North East to the field area bunkers just a stone’s throw away from the international borders. The Officers of Nursing Services over the years have supported our combat forces in UN Missions at Korea, Gaza, Vietnam, Somalia, Rwanda, Angola, Ethiopia, Sudan, Lebanon, Cambodia, and Sierra Leone etc. They have served along with the IPKF in Sri Lanka. Some Officers are now with the ongoing UN Missions and the Indian mission in Afghanistan. No other women officers in the Indian Armed Forces ever got killed in action, and had to endure so many hardships in the service of our great Nation.

The women officers of Military Nursing Service have received a number of Distinguished Service medals and other military recognitions. Apart from the professional activities, Officers of the Corps have also participated in sports and adventure activities at National and International levels. Major Saroja Kumari Juthu of the Corps won gold medal in 25 meter pistol at Melbourne Common Wealth Games held in 2006, the only women officer to do so. The Corps has five shooters of international repute, and some medals are expected from CWG Delhi also.

In recent years the Corps has been side lined as an auxiliary force with utter disregard to its long history of distinguished services rendered to the Nation. Our new generation doctors believe that the officer status of the nurses undermines the traditional casteist nurse – doctor relationships. Post 6th pay commission they have successfully deprived the officers of nursing services, the same pay as applicable to officers from other cadres. The women officers of all other corps though they are performing only non-combatant roles are placed on the same pay band and grade pay as their male counter parts of equivalent rank. They are also given the same military service pay. But on the advice of the top brass, the Government placed the officers of nursing services on a lower scale ignoring the recommendations of the 6th pay commission.

The officers of the Corps are no longer given fire arms training, once again a strategy adopted to discriminate them. Incidentally Major Juthu was the best shooter during her basic military training in 1991, she went on to make the nation proud by winning the countries first gold in women's shooting event in a CWG. Even in the early twentieth century the army nurses were armed with revolvers for protecting their patients and self. Also the Article 22 (1) of Geneva Convention, 1949 ‘grants the right to medical and nursing personnel to carry and use arms in their own defence or in that of the wounded and sick in their charge'. The small arms training were stopped to highlight the non-combatant role of the women officers of nursing services. May be it is time for the ‘powers that be’ to wake up and re-introduce the arms training to officers of Military Nursing Service in the best interest of the Nation.

The British after the Second World War in 1948 formed Army Nursing Corps from the Imperial Army’s Nursing Services. The United States has an Army Nurse Corps since 1901. Even the Pakistan re-designated their half of the Military Nursing Service in to a Corps of the Army in 1967. Most of the countries including China, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa and Thailand etc. now have an Army Nurse Corps. In many countries like UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Germany etc. even the navy and air force has its own branch of nursing services headed by commissioned nursing officers.

However, formation of an Army Nursing Corps from the Military Nursing Service still remains a dream in Indian army. As long as the tag of auxiliary force remains with the Military Nursing Service as being subject to MNS Ordinance 1943, the discrimination will continue. The only way forward is to constitute an Army Nursing Corps from the Military Nursing Service, where its Officers are commissioned under the Army Act like any other Corps of the Army. The recent soaps like accelerated promotions and increased numbers of higher ranks does not change its status from an auxiliary force. Even a lean Army Nursing Corps constituting less number of commissioned officer nurses and more of PBOR nurses is better than the promised flood of general officers ranks in Military Nursing Service. On the 122nd year of service to the Army and mother land let us acknowledge the yeoman service rendered by the generations of army nurses. May be it is time to end the discrimination against the army nurses, and constitute an Army Nursing Corps atleast for the sake of better patient care. I hope that somebody is listening!

25/09/2010

Preliminary Hearing : Delay Condoned

The appeal filed by the Army in Supreme Court against the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) order dated 30 Mar 2010 in the case of ‘Union of India & Ors Vs. Major General Usha Sikdar’ was heard in the court of Hon'ble Mr. Justice Aftab Alam and Hon'ble Mr Justice RM Lodha on 1st September 2010.

The essence of the submissions made by the appellants counsel was that, the Army is not opposed to General Officers (Brigadiers & Major General) of Military Nursing Service from flying flags and displaying star plates on official vehicles. However making this appeal against the AFT order (treat all the commissioned officers of Military Nursing Service as a part of the regular force of the Indian Armed Forces and extend all entitlements which are commensurate with the rank as equal to commissioned officers of Indian Army) mainly to save the National Exchequer from the financial burden (likely to arise from granting pay and allowances at par with others).

The Hon’ble Supreme Court upon hearing the counsel made the following orders: Delay condoned (delay in filing the appeal), Issue notice to the counsel for the sole respondent (Maj Gen Sikdar), and till further orders there shall be stay of the impugned order (AFT order).

Cabinet Decision on Restructuring of MNS

Cabinet on Thursday approved the cadre restructuring of the Military Nursing Service (MNS) officers, aiming to reduce stagnation and providing adequate career opportunities to officers. "The decision will reduce stagnation in the various ranks of MNS by increasing the number of select appointments and will also help in retaining competent and qualified officers in service by providing adequate opportunities for career progression," a government release said.

Under this, the number of vacancies in senior ranks in the service have been increased by the government. "74 posts of Lieutenant Colonels (time scale) have been upgraded to Lt Col (Select) and above. Now, there will be two Major Generals, 18 Brigadiers, 58 Colonels and 157 Lt. Colonels (Select) in MNS," the release said. After this decision, the number of officers under selection grade has been increased from 161 to 309 in the 3,860 officer-strong cadre to further improve the quality of leadership in the service.

"To retain qualified and trained nursing officers, it was considered necessary to improve promotional avenues at all levels to mitigate the hardship of nursing officers by increasing the number of posts in select grade appointments within the overall strength of cadre," the statement said.

The time scale promotion of MNS officers up to the rank of Lt Cols has also been reviewed; as an officer will become a Captain from Lieutenant after three years of service from existing five years, become Major after eight years and a Lt Col (time scale) in 16 years from the present 20 years.

The qualifying service for Lt Col (Select) rank by the Selection Board has also been revised from the existing 18 years to 14 years.

The last cadre review of Military Nursing Service was carried out in 1986. Hindustan Times

There is nothing to cheer about 'the Cadre Restructuring' with respect to 'Reduction in Years of Service for Promotion' as this has been done to deny the already approved 'Scheme of time bound promotions upto the level of Lt Col' to MNS cadre officers as applicable to the other cadre officers (VI CPC recommendation Para 2.3.21 notified through Gazette of India, dated 30 Aug 08). This becomes clear while comparing the years of service for promotion: other service cadres Capt - 2 yrs, Maj - 6 yrs, Lt Col - 13 yrs and the same was extended to the MNS cadre on the recommendation of 6th Pay Commission with the approval of the Cabinet. Whereas now under the pretext of 'Cadre Restructuring' the MNS cadre is being denied of this 'Time Promotion Scheme up to Lt Col as applicable to other cadres'.

Army Appeals in Supreme Court

An appealed has been filed by Army in Supreme Court against the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) order dated 30 Mar 2010 in the case of ‘Union of India & Ors Vs. Major General Usha Sikdar’. Click here to view the case status as listed in Supreme Court.

For the uninitiated, in a well reasoned decision the Hon’ble
Principal Bench of AFT held that Officers of Military Nursing Service (MNS) cadre are Commissioned Officers of the regular Army and are entitled to the privileges of their respective rank like the rest of the Officer cadres of the Army. The decision came in the backdrop of the refusal of authorities to allow Major General Usha Sikdar, then head of the MNS, to display stars and a flag on her official car, after the Army issued a letter on April 30, 2004 saying that MNS officers were not true Army officers, but officers under the Nursing Service.

Let me remind everyone here that Madam Sikdar single handedly fought the case through Delhi High Court and AFT for six years to restore the honour and prestige of every Officer past or present. Now the future of the Military Nursing Service depends upon the outcome of this appeal. Madam Sikdar even at her advanced age of 67 years is willing to fight the case through the Supreme Court for ourselves and the future generations of the Nursing Services. We must help her in everyway possible, so that the case is decisively settled for ever. The General Officer is now staying at Gurgaon and is determined to fight on the case for us all. You are free to contact her or her legal adviser, Lt Col PDP Deo (retd) on mobile number 09312381625 or land line 011 28052695.

Maj Gen Usha Sikdar,
D-15/11 IInd Floor Ardee City,
Sector - 52 Gurgaon, Haryana.
PIN - 122003

Telephone: 0124 4253642
Mobile: 09711335994

Lessons from Desai Effect

“A shockingly bizarre incident reflects inhuman treatment which had crossed all boundaries of humanity by superior responsible Armed Forces Medical Officers, whose actions when resulted into injustice forced the applicant to seek his legal remedy in the form of the present application for grant of disability pension.” This is the opening line of the judgment delivered by the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) Regional Bench, Jaipur in Ex Hav Moharsingh vs. Union of India & Others (TA No.309/2009). The AFT terms it as a glaring example of gross negligence, callous manner, inhuman approach and failure of performance of duty on the part of the members of the Appeal Medical Board (AMB). The three senior doctors, including an Air Commodore, could face a court martial over the issue.

Havildar Moharsingh of Rajasthan had received multiple injuries on head and other parts of the body while travelling in an Army truck during Operation Falcon near Tawang in February 2002. After a six-month hospital stay in Pune, Command Hospital, Lucknow, suggested that he be invalided out. The invaliding medical board assessed his disability of motor neuron disease as 80 per cent for life and attributed it to military service. His case was forwarded to the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (Pensions), which rejected his claim for disability pension on the grounds that it was constitutional in nature and not related to military service. Moharsingh went for an AMB, which described the percentage of his disability as Nil and held that the disability suffered by him was not attributable to or aggravated by military service. Thereafter, he sought judicial redressal to his grievances. The tribunal summoned the petitioner and looking at his pathetic condition wherein he was brought in on a stretcher, it ordered the Commandant of the Military Hospital, Jaipur, to medically examine him. The medical board held last month assessed his disability as 100 per cent and attributed it to military service. The medical expert opined that Moharsingh was suffering from a progressive, degenerative neurological disorder with no specific treatment.

Observing that the report of the AMB, was not only contrary to that of two other boards, but also did not mention the reasons for assessing disability as Nil, the Tribunal held that AMB was grossly incorrect and deserved to be deprecated. “We direct that these three officers be subjected to disciplinary action under the Army Act. It is expected that necessary action against them shall be taken at the earliest and the result thereof be intimated to the Tribunal,” the Bench ordered while imposing costs of Rs 1 lakh to be paid to the petitioner by the government to be recovered from the salaries of the AMB members. Click here to read the order

While we sympathize with those colleagues from Army Medical Corps (AMC) on whom costs and disciplinary action have been imposed, we shall learn our own lessons too. This incident should serve as an awakening call for the Military Nursing Service (MNS). The AFT had recently interpreted the status of MNS under the statutory law and extended, “all entitlements which are commensurate with the rank as equal to commissioned officers of Indian Army” to Officers of MNS. This surely calls for celebration, but we shall be humble in the times of joy. We shall pledge ourselves to the service of armed forces and practice nursing with conscience and with dignity. Our colonial past still hunts the Army. Anyone with some authority acts as the master and treats others as colonial slaves. All those who are employed to serve and assist the soldiers have become their masters. Such colonial mentality plagues the support services, whether it is ASC, AOC, MES, CDA etc; all of them treats the soldiers as their colonial subjects. It is time the Nursing Services show the way and bring in the change. Let us serve with utmost dedication, equanimity, compassion and humility; regardless of the 'considerations of rank or social standing' of our patients.

General Sikdar's best wishes to all Officers and families

Major General Usha Sikdar, former ADGMNS conveys her best wishes to all Officers of Nursing Services and their Families on the back of her recent land mark victory. The General Officer terms this as the victory of truth and fairness synonymous with the Indian Judiciary. She said, “This is a victory with far reaching implications; and on which we need to work on further. Our ultimate aim is to achieve equality in the true letter and spirit of the AFT’s order (treat all the commissioned officers of Military Nursing Service as a part of the regular force of the Indian Armed Forces and extend all entitlements which are commensurate with the rank as equal to commissioned officers of Indian Army)”. The Army HQs is now hotly pursuing the case, and the Government may be shortly filing an appeal in the Honorable Supreme Court against the AFT order.

The next pay commission is going to be an in house affair (may be a pay commission by the Generals for the Generals – a separate pay commission for armed forces as promised by our honourable Prime Minister). If we lose the present battle, we all are going to lose a great deal more then financially, that is in year 2016 onwards. Moreover, the followers of ‘Saint VK Singh’ will not leave any stone unturned to push us many more steps down in the status also.

I suggest every Officer must find time to personally call up General Sikdar and thank her for restoring the honour, dignity and pride of our Corps. And, also your intensions and plans to support her in every way possible till the very end. The General Officer will be happy to hear from you all. She is staying at the following address.

Maj Gen Usha Sikdar,
D-15/11 IInd Floor Ardee City,
Sector - 52 Gurgaon, Haryana.
PIN - 122003

Telephone: 0124 4253642
Mobile: 09711335994

Lastly, in the words of Dr. Benjamin Hooks, I sum up: “Let’s fight on until justice runs down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream. Let’s fight on until there is no down-sizing, until there is no glass ceiling. Let’s fight on until God shall gather the four winds of heaven; until the angel shall plant one foot on the sea and the other on dry land and declare that the time that has been will be no more. Fight on, until the lion shall lie down with the lamb. Fight on, until justice, righteousness, hopes equality and opportunity is the birthright of all.”

Avoid frivolous appeals: Law Ministry

In dismissing one of the frivolous appeals by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) the Hon’ble Supreme Court had remarked that ‘Don’t treat soldiers like beggars’. But did the disparaging remarks will have any effect on the MoD? Only the time shall tell.

There are clear-cut directions from the Ministry of Law against the auto-pilot mode of some departments and ministries in filing frivolous appeals. Besides some recent directions, it had shot a missive to all departments and ministries last year in September too. Click here to read it.

Hopefully the MoD would make the Armed Forces Medical Services bosses realise that sometimes it does not pay to take a purely legalistic view of human issues. After all, we are dealing with the Army Nurses here, not machines or corporates. But then, that would make things too easy for the implimentation of AFT's order. Looks like my wishful thinking is too unrealistic ! Please correct me, if I am wrong.

The responsibilities of a commissioned officer

Every Officer of the Nursing Services shall always bear in mind that the authority of Commissioned Rank brings in added responsibility on your shoulders. An officer shall be a lady in personal affairs, moral standards, conduct, manners and appearance. An officer must also demonstrate an unflinching commitment and enthusiasm for the honour and glory of the armed forces medical services and the Army.

You as a Commissioned Officer derive authority directly from the President of India and, as such, hold a commission charging you with the duties and responsibilities of Nursing Care in armed forces medical facilities. You are mandated to live by a set of expectations. First and foremost, you must set the example of the highest ethical and professional standards. Your endeavor shall be to provide the best of the care and facilities to every Patient under your charge irrespective their military rank. You must mentor and develop your subordinates skills and knowledge and foster a healthy relationship between the ranks.

You shall never allow the rank and seniority to come between your professional duties and responsibilities. You shall maintain a healthy professional relationship with other healthcare professionals (doctors/dentists). Always willing to travel that extra mile to make the junior doctors comfortable in your presence, and respect them for their professional ability and knowledge. You must understand that both (doctor and nurse) have a mutually full filling role, neither works under, but works besides each other. Both cannot perform each other’s job, even if one wants to (nurse - licensed under INC Act, 1947 and doctor - under IMC Act, 1956). There is no command and control aspect in such professional relationships. No matter what the seniority of the nurse, decisions regarding patient care are finally taken by the doctor (in consultation with the nurse, who often provides valuable inputs - after all she spends more time with the patient and the patient's family). The doctor is ultimately answerable regarding medical decisions.

The officers shall ensure that their relationship with the men in ranks be scrupulously devoid of familiarity, and is based on a firm and friendly foundation that is mature enough to ward off intimacy and informality. Respect the JCOs and NCOs for their age, experience and service. Recognise and appreciate a good jawan and remember that his welfare is your concern. Social calls between officers and PBORs are strictly not made. The avoidance of social liaison between officers and men is a custom observed in the best interest of good discipline, command and authority. Those officers who have relatives in the ranks must encourage them to avoid familiarity and refrain from going out with them socially in service environments. The officers' relatives must be tactfully explained the customs of service without unduly hurting their feelings. Every young women officer shall be careful while selecting her life partner. Always remember that the officers’ community makes class distinctions. Marrying within the armed forces is encouraged, but it is very unforgiving to those who find match below the commissioned officer ranks. The one who have fallen in ‘love trap’ is sure to face lifelong social ostracism in the officers’ society.

Every women officer must be vigilant about sexual harassments in armed forces. The sexual harassment has been recognised as the most intimidating and most violating form of violence against women. Any action or gesture, which directly or by implication aims at or has the tendency to outrage the modesty of women, falls under its general definition. The Supreme Court of India defined sexual harassment at workplace, according to the Court, sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexually determined behaviour, such as:- Physical contact, A demand or request for sexual favours, Sexually coloured remarks, Showing pornography, Any other physical or verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature. It is the moral responsibility of every women officer to stand up against sexual harassments against herself or any other female employee. When faced with sexual harassment, report immediately in writing to the Commanding Officer. Always provide witness in any such case happened in your presence or knowledge. The armed forces takes very serious view of sexual harassments, and as an officer, it is your duty to bring the sexual offenders to book.

The Officers shall be aware of the 'provisions of military law' governing the armed forces in general. The knowledge of 'relevant provisions of statutory law governing the Nursing Services and the Army' is a must for her proper conduct as a commissioned officer among the rest of the armed forces officers. The 'knowledge of military law' is very essential for the enforcement of her rights and privilleges, and also for maintenence of discipline in her work environment. Lastly, your attention is drawn to Army Act, 1950, Section 27. “Remedy of aggrieved officers.–Any officer who deems himself wronged by his commanding officer or any superior officer and who on due application made to his commanding officer does not receive the redress to which he considers himself entitled, may complain to the Central Government in such manner as may from time to time be specified by the proper authority” While individually acting to implement the AFT’s order (“treat all the commissioned officers of Military Nursing Service as a part of the regular force of the Indian Armed Forces and extend all entitlements which are commensurate with the rank as equal to commissioned officers of Indian Army”) in its finest details, always be within the bounds of army discipline expected of you as a commissioned officer. Your actions shall never bring dishonour to the Army. Remember that, every gentlemen officer shall treat you as a lady by virtue of your noble profession. The issues which you are going to raise are mere ‘technical in character (points of law)’ which shall be better left to the judiciary to decide.

Your right under Section 27 of Army Act is a statutory right and nobody can stop you from exercising it. Be firm, but always be polite and lady like, when the dusts settles down, we are going to show such camaraderie and sisterly love to our fellow health care professionals that they shall never ever remember such disputes ever arised !
(read carefully the previous blog 'options based on AFT ruling' before taking any action)

Click here to read: 'must-know provisions of military law'

The options based on AFT ruling

Anonymous said...
"Resepcted Madams,
We few people from MNS serving cadre are willing to file our legal representation in AFT or Court. We therefore seek your able guidance in the matter. Since MoD is not able to provide the written order vide which time bound promotion extended to MNS officers vide Gazette dated 30.08.08 has been denied to them by the Govt of India. There exists no such written order with them(RTI application proved it).
The issues to be contested, are PB-4 and time bound promotions to Lt Col in 13 years.
Because Madam Sikdar's order does not seems to be related to PB-4 and time bound promotions upto Lt Col in 13 years.
with regards, an early reply would be appreciated.
Yours sincerely"

My Dear Officers, We have considered the issues in detail.......

"...........treat all the commissioned officers of Military Nursing Service as a part of the regular force of the Indian Armed Forces and extend all entitlements which are commensurate with the rank as equal to commissioned officers of Indian Army .........." : Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), principal bench

After reading the AFT order, we are in no doubt, that MNS Officers are at par with the rest of the Commissioned Officers of the armed forces in all respects what soever. Though they are commissioned under the authority of MNS Ordinance, the Officers of MNS are defacto Army Officers.

The immediate out come would be:

1. Right to fly Flags and display stars on official vehicles restored for General Officers Ranks.

2. Salute and compliments to all MNS Officers from the rest of the armed forces personnel as authorised to other commissioned officers.

3. Memberships in recreational clubs (RSI, DSOI etc.) for defence officers which were stopped earlier.

The following would require further petition to the AFT, through the laid down procedure.

The 6th CPC recommended same pay band and grade pay to all commissioned officers of armed forces. This was lowered with respect to MNS Officers on the recommendations of a misguided and ill informed Army Chief. Interestingly, the Armed Forces proposed the "same pay scales to MNS as for other Service Officers" in its representation to the 4th Pay Commission. And to the 5th Pay Commission Armed Forces proposed that, "to compensate for merit and responsibility of higher ranks, rank pay should be introduced" for MNS Officers. Therefore granting the 'same pay band and grade pay for MNS Officers as for other Service Officers' would be in line with the Armed Forces own proposals to the successive Pay Commissions and also the 6th Pay Commission's Recommendations. The armed forces earlier demand of 'granting same pay scales to MNS Officers as for other Service Officers' is now further strenghtened by the AFT's order dated 30 March 2010.

As per the AFT the Govt shall extend all entitlements which are commensurate with the rank as equal to commissioned officers of Indian Army to the MNS Officers. That shall also translate in to :-

1. Same pay band and grade pay for all according to the rank.

2. PB-4 to Lt Col may be required to be fought separately: The 6th CPC only mentioned that, 'Officers of MNS are not primarily meant for combat duties'. The Govt on many occassions said that the women officers of armed forces are not selected for combat duties. As they (other women Lt Cols/ eq.) are getting PB-4, it cannot be denied to MNS Lt Cols.

3. MNS officers also should get MSP Rs 6,000, as other women officers (though not selected for combat duties) are getting it.

4. Other allowances, where ever it is different from other commissioned officers may be challenged (on a case to case basis).

The action plan:

1. The Govt. is sure to appeal in the Supreme Court. Therefore we shall support 'Madam Sikdar', emotionally as well as financially (most essential) through the Supreme Court. [the process of appeal by the Govt. is routine in nature. An appeal against this order can be filed in Supreme Court under Section 30 (1) subject to provisions of Section 31 of AFTA, 2007 - within 90 days of the order, with the leave of the Tribunal; and such leave shall not be granted unless it is certified by the Tribunal that a point of law of general public importance is involved in the decision, or it appears to the Supreme Court that the point is one ought to be considered by that Court.]

2. We may wait for the final out come of such appeal, if any (or 90 days which ever is later), before filing any petitions (to extend all entitlements which are commensurate with the rank as equal to commissioned officers of Indian Army to MNS Officers) based on this order dated 30.03.2010.

3. In the foot steps of her eminence Maj Gen Usha Sikdar, ADGMNS (retd.), the present ADG shall have the honour to petition the AFT for implimentation of pay commission report in its letter and spirit (same pay band and grade pay) *[also MSP Rs 6,000 and any other allowance - like other women officers (non-combatants / not primarily meant for combat duties) are getting], for all commissioned officers of military nursing service (as per SAI/2/S/08 - applicable to rest of the officers of the army) based on AFT's order. She shall have the support of all officers of the Corps, and also the larger fraternity.

* This differs from 6CPC recommendations, therefore may required to take up separately as given in para-4 below.

4. Serving Lt Cols and Post 2006 retired Lt Cols in separate groups shall petition AFT for PB-4, MSP Rs 6,000 and any other allowances / the revised pension based on PB-4 and enhanced grade pay, respectively.

5. All 3200 serving officers (retired offr also) shall support the petitioners financially as well as emotionally. Because the victory will decide the fate of the MNS for the years to come.

6. The ACP for all officers up to the rank of Lt Col (as available to other officers), is still in progress. The file is pending with the Ministry of Finance for approval; we shall be patient, let it take its own course.

7. Never leave any officer (serving / retired) unsupported or to fend for her self, because she is fighting for us all. The moto shall be 'one for all, and all for one'.

Nurse-General & Staff. Is our top brass suffering from selective blindness ?

Nurse-General & Staff. Is our top brass suffering from selective blindness ?
Maj Gen Melissa A Rank, Asst Air Force Surg Gen Medical Force Development, and Asst Air Force Surg Gen Nursing Services USAF