Nagpur/Mhow: An application seeking early retirement put up by an officer of Colonel rank has sent ripples in the defence circles. The officer — Col Pankaj Bhagwati — had put up his papers saying that he can “no longer work in a decaying organization” and the Army is dogged by “excessive interference by civilian bureaucracy”.
The application was, however, promptly rejected by the Army headquarters. The grounds cited for rejection are that the reasons mentioned by the officer are “not good and sufficient”.
The application was made in May and the rejection followed almost immediately. However, copies of the letters are doing rounds on social media for the last couple of days and has become a hot topic. Bhagwati’s action has got appreciation as well as criticism in the Army circles.
TOI has a copy of the letter seeking premature retirement and the reply from the Army headquarters.
Here is an excerpt from the letter: “During my long service I have seen that higher ranks are not given adequate freedom to excise their authority, as they are tied down by civilian bureaucracy. Hence I am not keen on promotions to higher ranks. Political and civilian influence is eating away the magnificence of defence forces.”
It has been learnt that the lathicharge on veterans at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi was one of the prime reasons which prompted Col Bhagwati to call it a day in the Army. The latest interview by Army chief General Bipin Rawat in which he called for right-sizing of the Army has also led to large-scale resentment among others too, said sources.
Col Bhagwati, commissioned in the 11 Gorkha infantry regiment, was the commanding officer before being posted as an instructor at the Army War College (AWC) in Mhow, Madhya Pradesh. It has been learnt that he has a bright career ahead and could have reached the level of Brigadier.
A section of officers close to him said that he has been superseded, which means he cannot take the next rank for the rest of his career. What is unusual about Col Bhagwati’s application is the reason cited for seeking the early retirement.
In the Army, being superseded is an accepted ground for seeking early retirement. If the person is not superseded, then it can be personal issues like to take care of parents, disabled wards or even health reasons. If an officer is superseded that itself becomes a reason.
Bhagwati who could have easily asked for a retirement on any of these grounds.
TOI tried to contact him at Mhow but he was not available. Col Bhagwati’s colleagues sympathize with him saying that some of his concerns can be genuine but he should not have expressed his views openly. Others say it was a bold move to openly come out with the opinion instead of choosing the safer way to exit.
Lt Gen Ravindra Thodge (retd), who had also handled such applications, said, “Disgruntlement cannot be the reason to quit. If one wants to leave the force, an application can be made on grounds like personal health, reasons or supersession. By and large, the applications are accepted but certainly no officer should have openly criticised the organization.”
Colonel Virendra Kumar Saini, a retired artillery officer, said, “The issue must be addressed by the ministry to probe what has compelled the officer to leave the job. Posting the resignation letter on social media can be compared with returning of medals by retired officers during one rank, one pension (OROP) agitation. He (Col Bhagwati) has tried to start a debate on the issue as to why officers are getting dissatisfied from the Services.”