Monday, 1 September 2014

Man, that’s how the Government of India works

“Who is senior, Major General or Lt General?” he almost barked the question. I was taken aback, and for many reasons. He was an IAS officer with at least 28 years of service behind him. Agreed that it was his first assignment in Ministry of Defence, but with his background and membership of elite Civil Service he was expected to have some understanding of the rank structure of Indian Army. 
“Sir, a Lt General is senior to a Major General,” I replied as politely as I could; a Joint Secretary must always be replied to politely, for that is the level where Government of India starts working and every underling is expected to assist him in performance of his onerous duties.
 He was not satisfied with my reply, and I could easily guess from his looks. But even in my wildest imagination I was not prepared for what was to come.
“Who is senior, Major or Lieutenant?” he fired his next question. I was totally floored. But I had no option but to reply.
“Sir, a Major is senior to Lieutenant,” I tried to be as polite as I could be.
“If that be so how come a Major General is junior to a Lt General,” he said with a triumphant glint in his narrow eyes.
I was dumbstruck by his logic and just did not know how I should react. I was tempted to say, “Sir, you would do a great service to the nation if you could analyse and decide issues with equal brilliance.’
However, I just mumbled something inane and wriggled myself out of the situation.

The officer in due course of time rose to head one of the crucial Ministries of Government of India. That is how the Government works. 


  1. This aspect had left me perplexed too in my earlier days at Army HQ. But then.. subsequently, I had read somewhere that in earlier days the Army was commanded by someone known as 'Captain General'. I suppose that's how this entire thing evolved.

    1. thanks Shaan for comments and for sharing it

  2. It is an interesting episode that exposes the level of ignorance quite often seen in senior officers of the All India Civil Services posted to the Ministry of Defence. Government should realise that Defence, as a whole, is a highly specialised area of government activity that is bound to be difficult for the Generalist cadres or other non-Defence cadres to manage.
    Notwithstanding the observation just made, the episode also rightly points out the incongruity in rank structuring as adopted by the Indian Defence forces unquestioningly. There is definite scope for rationalisation.
    A well recorded episode with useful lessons.

    1. nice you could find time to read it, and thanks for your comments

  3. I could quite agree to Joint Secretary's line of comprehension :-P