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Instead of Ladakh, MPs were discussing uniforms!

By Ajai Shukla
December 17, 2020 07:05 IST
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Top military officers, including Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, had been summoned to make presentations on military uniforms.
Ajai Shukla reports.

 Indian Army trucks move along a highway leading to Ladakh, June 17, 2020. Photograph: Danish Ismail/Reuters

IMAGE: Indian Army trucks move along a highway leading to Ladakh, June 17, 2020. Photograph: Danish Ismail/Reuters
 

Even as the national political leadership grapples with the biggest Chinese military intrusions into Indian territory since the 1962 War, the parliamentary standing committee on defence on Wednesday, December 16, discussed soldiers' rank badges and uniforms for over an hour, over the objections of several members who demanded the committee focus on matters of strategic importance.

After ruling party members shouted down others who objected to discussing 'irrelevant' and 'minor' matters and demanded a discussion on equipping the Indian Army to face the Chinese intrusions, Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi walked out of the meeting in protest.

Gandhi was also protesting at not being allowed to speak without interruption by the chairman, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Jual Oram.

A bevy of top military officers, including Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, had been summoned to the standing committee meeting to make presentations on military uniforms.

Speaking off the record, two officers expressed bemusement at tying up senior officers in a discussion on uniforms at a time like the present.

The discussion on rank badges and uniforms is learned to have taken place at the behest of BJP Rajya Sabha member, Lieutenant General Devender Paul Vats, who had proposed that all three services -- Army, Navy and Air Force -- wear similar uniforms and rank badges.

In the Indian military, all three services have their own uniforms, rank names and rank badges. This tradition was inherited from the British armed forces.

Gandhi stated that, if a change was required, it should be decided by the military brass, not the political leadership.

Contacted for comments, the ministry of defence has not responded. Committee members have declined to comment, citing privilege.

While many parliamentary committees are holding virtual meetings on Zoom, this was the second physical meeting that the standing committee on defence since the outbreak of the pandemic.

The committee has 21 members from the Lok Sabha and 10 from the Rajya Sabha. It is intended to fulfil the role of parliamentary oversight of defence matters.

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Ajai Shukla
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