Promotions in the Indian Army need to be earned, not demanded | Shonali Ghosal

Promotions in the Indian Army need to be earned, not demanded

Vijay Kumar shot to fame when he bagged the silver for the Men’s 25m Rapid Fire Pistol event at the London Olympics. Photo: AP

By Shonali  Ghosal

An Olympic silver medal, a Khel Ratna award, Rs1 crore from the Himachal government, Rs 50 lakh from the Rajasthan government, Rs 25 lakh from the Rifles Association of India, unbridled praise, recognition and an out-of-turn double promotion in the Indian Army. If all that doesn’t cut it for 27-year-old Vijay Kumar, not much else will satiate his Olympic-sized whims for long.

Kumar shot to fame, rightly so, when he bagged the silver for the Men’s 25m Rapid Fire Pistol event at the London Olympics. But a double promotion and all this talk about the Army Chief entertaining his demands (yes, demands) of yet another promotion to Officer Rank is deeply unsettling, to say the least. Winning an Olympic medal is no small feat. But there are some things that ought to be earned, that are greater than the Olympic medal, like deserving and earning a promotion in the Indian Army for instance. There is a distinction in the requisite educational qualification, the written tests one must take and the Services Selection Board (SSB) interview one must clear to become a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) and an Officer.

Subedar Major is the highest rank one can reach as a Junior Commissioned Officer, one that can take around 26 years of service to reach. Not every Jawan makes it to Subedar Major, no matter how hardworking, no matter how lucky. Is it then fair to “reward” a 27-year-old with a double promotion that takes 26 years to earn? Some may argue that he is no ordinary 27-year-old, how many win Olympic medals at that age?

Understandably rewarding sportspersons is one way of promoting sports but why aren’t the several cash awards and receiving the country’s highest honour for sports achievements, enough? And why should they be promoted in their professional space in order for us to honour their sporting talents? Let there at least be a plausible conclusion in sight for how it promotes the sport.

Kumar mentioned in an interview that Tendulkar and Dhoni were made honorary Group Captain in the Air Force and Lt Col in the Territorial Army respectively. If that be the justification, let’s make Kumar an ‘honorary’ officer too, one who doesn’t shoulder the duties and responsibilities of being a real officer employed in the services. To that effect, Ajay Maken’s plan to give bronze-medalist Gagan Narang a job at the Sports Authority of India still makes some sense. Narang can possibly help reduce the administrational problems a sportsperson might face, having been one.

Why are we creating a sporting culture where to truly appreciate one’s achievements, we must honour them with a government position that is entirely unrelated with their sport— a Rajya Sabha membership, IAS jobs or a double promotion in the Army? Let’s not forget that the individual gained as much, if not more, from his personal accomplishments as the country did. If indeed our intention is to dangle government jobs like carrots in front of a horse to create competent sportspersons, then this is the way.

There is a reason for the clichéd use of words like discipline, structure and rigour when one speaks of the Armed Forces. For Kumar to break rank and so much as hint at leaving the Army if not for the promotion, insults the opportunities that the Army gave him in the first place. To say, “I’ve won this and I’m still a Subedar” is offensive not only to the Army but to his fellow Subedars.

For Kumar to avail the appropriate training, facilities and coaching required to make an Olympic winner under the payroll of the Army and then threaten to walk out, if not promoted, does not exemplify the so-called capabilities to become an officer that the Army Chief claims to see. Talking in English does not make an officer. If he’s perfectly capable of becoming an officer, he should ask for a chance to rise by following procedure, clearing the exams and interviews.

Unfortunately, we don’t question the qualification of sportspersons with respect to the jobs rewarded to them since they apparently rise above the ordinary norms of procedure. God forbid, if we did, one might even start to wonder how the most perfect straight drive down the ground qualifies Sachin Tendulkar to become a Rajya Sabha member?

While supporting Kumar’s promotion to Officer, the Army Chief mentioned that the Army would “further strengthen his capabilities to make him a commissioned officer.” How about starting with some tips on officer-like conduct, just for kicks? After all, lesser mortals in the Army still are court-martialed for the lack of it.

(The views expressed in this column are the writer’s own)

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  • http://Website vispi

    Excellent piece.It highlights the slippery slide into mediocrity afflicting everything in India.Reservations in education,jobs,now promotions etc etc.And now we have sports persons demanding a bump up because they did well !!!What about the brilliant students scoring eye popping grades but are not so privileged to have been born as “backward” and hence cannot get admissions to good colleges ? What about the jawan who silently endures the rigors of his post till he gets his due promotion ? What about the hard working babu who cannot get a promotion because he doesn’t have the right caste credentials ? Are we slowly turning into a nation that celebrates mediocrity in the name of caste bias elimination? Cry my beloved country.

  • suvro

    Dont agree.If he has earned an Olympic medal and made the country proud then a double promotion is ok.Nothing exaggerated.How many 26 yr old can do that even if trained for 26 yrs?Can you do it?

    • http://Website Dibyajyoti

      Dear Subro,

      I agree with the author. Vijay Kumar won a coveted olympic medal for an olympic medal deprived country like ours and made everyone proud, Agreed. However, he did it in the capacity of a sportsman, for which he has been awarded, rewarded and also compensated. In his capacity as an armyman, he has already received more than his dues. He cannot barter ranks in a professional institution like Indian Army with a medal earned in a sporting event. That defeats the very values, which, as an Armyman and a Medallist, he proclaims to have inculcated.

    • Brajmohan

      Dear Survo,
      Getting an olympic medal for country and promotion in ranks are two different things, you must understand. As an olympics medalist, you deserve honour agreed, but (forcefully)demanding a promotion after winning the medal will only send wrong and negative signals to other sportsmen.

    • http://Website Roger

      I agree with you Suvro……..he earned it.

  • http://Website Shrithi

    Suvro – just a thought him being promoted to becoming an officer is an insult to every individual who works hard to pass the UPSC exams and the SSB interviews and then the rigorous training. I say let him go through the process of officer’s training and then let him get commissioned. I don’t mind that. I don’t see why he should be given a promotion because he won an Olympic medal. I really don’t

    Being an officer is hard work. To ask someone like him who feels entitled to privilege to be a leader of men is not something I am personally comfortable with. But then again, what the army chief chooses to do is not in our hands. I honestly hope that he doesn’t get promoted, it will set a bad precedent.

  • http://Website Arun

    I don’t agree with this. An Olympic Silver medalists deserves more.

  • http://Website Arun

    Vijay Kumar, however, denied that he had ever said anything about quitting the Army. “I have not said that I will leave the Army. It was the work of some mediaperson who had misquoted me. I had just said that if the Central Government has provision for promotions, then the Defence Ministry should do so,” he said.

  • Ratish Naroor

    Totally agree. Well said Shonali. The title of the blog post says it all.

  • http://Website Anil

    Nicely brought out facts….Indeed its a feat to earn an Olympic medal, but he earned it since there were others who were doing duties in his place. There were others who were away from their families and facing the vagaries of hardship on border and running around jungles and mountains in pursuit of AK wielding militants.

    Can there be bigger a feat than sacrificing one,s life for motherland? Then why those who laid down their life not given commission as officer posthumously. At least his family would earn an officers pension.

    He is just an ordinary soul trying to cash his chanced feat.

  • http://Website Augustine

    With Kumars logic, Rathore should be made General in the Army.

    • http://facebook raj

      Time for subedar major to try his marksmanship in jungles of J&K. All those who won gallantry awards in Kargil never asked for promotion because the were soldiers first.

  • Abhishek Ghosal

    Well-written! My sentiments exactly!!

  • http://Website Arun


    vijay Kumar: “I have not said that I will leave the Army. It was the work of some mediaperson who had misquoted me.”

    • http://Website Subash Vaid

      Also read the body language while interacted with media.

    • http://Website Al

      I remember actually seeing him hinting that sentiment on tv immediately after his win and I had thoughts similar to those expressed in the article. So when he lies about his statement it further erodes the expectation of officer like behavior. Now that he has enough money let him repeat his feat outside of the army and then he can be truly commended

  • http://Website Cecile

    Near perfect ability to shoot a pistol in the Olympics does not represent the skill to react accordingly in a combat or war situation. This athlete’s talent is commendable but I believe that a post in the Indian Army which requires 26 years of proven skill, discipline and dedication is almost inappropriate.

  • http://Website Cecile

    PS. great piece Shonali!

  • http://Website Vibhas

    Why is the olympian demanding only an Army Officer’s rank? If he has done something so spectacular then why not promote him to be the CABINET SECRETARY ? . That would be sacrilige as after all the suffix IAS cannot be gifted away . Isn’t it ? Then how does the public in general not view the rank and status of a commissioned officer of the Indian Army in the same light ? BTW for those who may be unaware an Army Officer is a CLASS I GAZETTED OFFICER much like the IAS/IPS/IRS officers. That their status and standing in society has been degraded over the years is a different matter. Also if winning a silver medal is such a great deal , what appointment do you have in mind for Sushil Kumar. He is definitely better than Vijay Kumar having won two medals.

  • http://Website Subash Vaid

    Shonali ! you are perfectly right. Discipline and devotion to organization should be uppermost on one’s mind. Vijay has diverted from basics of service, and fractured his concentration on shooting. He may not be shooter of this calibre again. Army should be more happy if he is inducted in to IAS.

  • http://Website mrinmoy purkayastha

    loved it….:)
    well dealt with a topic which has been intriguing for sometime…

  • http://Website mrinmoy purkayastha


  • http://Website Varun

    This article assumes that Vijay Kumar DEMANDED to be promoted, where is concrete proof of this beyond doubt?

    If it takes 26 years to achieve a Military Rank which millions have achieved in this Country’s history, HOW MANY HAVE WON INDIVIDUAL OLYMPIC MEDALS?

    So he got money along with rank, How Dare He, a Non-cricketer, get lots of money, right?

    Get of your high horse and self-elitist BS.
    Olympics is not a Bazaar, no wonder this country sucks at International competition of all sorts across all sectors, with Athletes & success stories subjected to such mindless backlashes.

    This twisted line of reasoning questions itself the credibility of Army’s internal decision making capabilities.
    There is no cure for such an eternal pessimist and cynic.

  • http://Website RAM PRATAP SINGH

    FIRST THING I MUST MAKE IT CLEAR NO ONE can tarnish the dignity of the INDIAN ARMY, if anyone belongs to armed forces must be aware of it the ARMY AIR FORCE OR NAVY feels extremely happy when someone moves to a higher position and they encourage it also, like this ARMED FORCES WORK; second thing if VIJAY wants to further excel in his career then what’s the problem, after 5 years when he will get retirement what he will do? so it good he is planning now.

  • http://Website Tatz Data

    By this logic, the young trooper who chased 3 hardcore Paki terrorists into a jungle and guns them down, while having his spine shot out, deserves to be the next COAS. Or even a Cabinet minister

  • http://Website virochan

    Shonali…Should this be only applicable to Army or other Public Sector Units owned by government?…Many sportsperson are appointed as Officers/Managers in the Public Sector Banks, Oil companies…to get to these post is it not required number of years to be put in…Sushil Kumar is a DySP…Has he got that post by passing an exam or as a Sports Person?…Do you have any idea how much efforts are required to pass a Civil services exam…Then Shonali why not a mention of these instances too…or is that Vijay Kumar being from a backward caste he is only mentioned…a typical attitude ‘Ghosal’…….

  • http://Website shri chand

    Hey Shonali,

    Agree with you totally.

  • http://Website Raza Hamid

    Getting an Olympic medal is not a big thing when u compare it with giving life for the country.He got crores for what he did and should even get more.I respect him for what he did and i am proud of him.
    Guys till date only 21 have got PVC the highest gallantry award in war time and 14 of which came posthumously.those 7 who got it in their lifetime also never demanded anything.They or any soldier only says when they don’t get what was promised to them.
    Still lets not make this a big issue and let him enjoy his success.
    Bring gold next time
    My wishes are with u…..

  • http://Website Roark

    All the people who are opposing Vijay Kumar including the author should do a reality check of our culture. Morally and ethically, he may be completely wrong…but are we all ready to face the mirror…??

    First of all those who are creating a hue and cry about the hard work required in getting entries to public companies, civil services…let me make it clear that it is not a cakewalk to win a medal in olympics where more then 200 countries are participating…and our olympians don’t even get proper infrastructural capacity for preparations…because we are too obsessed with cricket..

    We can argue that he has got a gold medal…a Crore cheque…then why this…Let me put a question to you all…How long is the shelf life of an athelete…and I am not talking about cricketers here…The answer is barely 10 years and that too only if you win a medal for the country, else no one will ever bother to be introduced with you…Then why should they feel motivated to work hard and get a medal for the country…when everything is so uncertain…and they are just taking the biggest risk of there life..when they have the best chance of making a good career elsewhere…??…Don’t they have a right to think about there family including there parents who expect them to be stable…So to motivate them you always need to encourage them bby providing a stable and a reputed career…

    What Vijay Kumar did maybe ethically incorrect…but he is just encashing his celebrity status..which he very well known will not last for long…in the country where celebrity are worshipped..How many of you remember that the birthday of Capt Vikram Batra who gave his life for the country falls on 9th September..the very same day when Akshay Kumar was born..NONE….You can find several retweets for the star..but no one remembers the martyr..just beyond the fact that his part was played by Abhishek Bachchan in LOC..

    Vijay Kumar, consciously or unconsciously knows it very well…that the memory of his countrymen is quite small…especially if you are not a doesn’t matter whether you are a NSG commando who fought against terrorists in 26/11…or the one who fought in Kargil in 1998…if MSD visits an army becomes a headline for next 2 days…but no one is ready to give a 10 second slot to the soldiers fighting in Siachen…at -30 degreres…and many end with an amputated leg..

    So, even if he is demanding the maybe a greed…but first the nationals of this nation…should be morally correct to give recognitions to TRUE SOLDIERS of this nation….and not just to one who are there sexual fantasies (pardon me, for being so harsh, but that is the reality)…so as to preach a lesson of morals to others….especially to one who is both serving his nation on the field..and also winning a medal…when a country of 1.2 billion prays just for an entry into the olympics….!!!

    • http://Website Prateek Saxena

      Excellent Points. I agree!!

  • http://Website Santosh J S

    Spot on Shonali; many of us had felt the same way when we first heard of this inappropriate demand for a higher post. And there ought to have been some visble action against him on this count.

  • http://Website Subhajit

    Hehe :) …The where is your logic in quota system??…quota on promotion also!!!!

  • http://Website Prateek Saxena

    “Unfortunately, we don’t question the qualification of sportspersons with respect to the jobs rewarded to them since they apparently rise above the ordinary norms of procedure. God forbid, if we did, one might even start to wonder how the most perfect straight drive down the ground qualifies Sachin Tendulkar to become a Rajya Sabha member?”

    Distasteful and ill-informed. The constitution of India gives the President the right to nominate 12 people to the Rajya Sabha who have contributed in their respective fields. Sachin’s nomination, therefore, does NOT flout any procedural norms as you seem to think!!!