Are We As a Nation Failing the Lady Officers of Military Nursing Service (MNS)?

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BRIEF ON DISCRIMINATION AGAINST THE ONLY ALL WOMEN OFFICERS OF MILITARY NURSING SERVICE (MNS)

o   Oldest Women Officer’s Organization Of Indian Armed Forces: Military Nursing Service (MNS) is the first corps or regiment of Indian Army which was open for recruitment to the Women in India. It was raised an Auxiliary Force like any other Regiments of Indian Army. It is the oldest and exclusive women officer’s organization of the Indian Armed Forces. Military nursing was the earliest type of nursing. In 1664 the East India Company started a hospital for soldiers in a house at Fort St.George, Madras. The first sisters were sent from St Thomas' Hospital, London to this Military Hospital. In 1888 Indian Nursing Service was established. The first batch of British trained Army nurses arrived in India for services in station hospitals for British Troops. 06 Nurses were posted to Rawalpindi and 04 to Bangalore

o   The Only All Women Officer’s Corps Of Indian Armed Forces Till Date: MNS still continues to be the only all women Corps in India

o   The Only Commissioned Officers Who Could Serve In All The Three Wings Of Indian Military: Women Officers of Military Nursing Service (MNS) are the only one to serve in the Military Hospitals/ Establishments of all the three wings of Indian Military namely Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force

o   The First Ever Women Promoted To The Flag Rank Of A Major General In Indian Armed Forces Was From MNS

o   Constitution And Development Of Military Nursing Service (MNS):

(i) 15.09.1943- The Central Government constituted a force called the IMNS, as part of the armed forces of the Union, through the Indian Military Nursing Service Ordinance, 1943 (30 of 1943)

(ii) 26.01.1950- The Parliament through the Adaptation of Laws Order (A.L.O.), 1950 amended the Indian Military Nursing Service Ordinance, 1943 on the Country becoming a Republic

(iii) 22.07.1950- The Indian Army Act, 1911 stood repealed and the Army Act, 1950 came in to force, vide Notification No. S.R.O. 120, dated 22 July 1950, Gazette of India, Part-II, Section-4; and the IMNS as a force cease to exist in the Army. IMNS ordinance, 1943 stood implied by repealed

 (iv)12.08.1950 - The MNS in the present form was constituted as the Government of India issued the Army Instruction 274/50, to set the terms and conditions of service for the grant of regular commissions in the MNS forming part of the Regular Army, subject to the Army Act, 1950, and the members of the erstwhile IMNS stood absorbed as officers in the MNS. The auxiliary force called IMNS cease to exist ever after

(v) 23.11.1954 - The Central Government made the Army Rules, 1954 and brought the corps/service called MNS under the Army Rules along with every other Corps/ Service of the Regular Army. Ever since, the Nursing Officers are commissioned in to the Regular Army by the President of India in accordance with Section 10, 16 and 17 of the Army Act, 1950 read with Rule 8 and 9 of the Army Rules 1954

(vi) 03.01.1959 - Through the Army Instruction 4/59, the Government of India re-designated the rank of the officers in the MNS to conform to the nomenclature used by the other officers of the Regular Army

(vii)1963 - The Chief of Army Staff through Army Order 501/63 laid down that the MNS Officers are required to salute and are entitled to salutes in the manner as other Commissioned Officers of the Army

(viii) 1973 - The Chief of Army Staff through the Army Order 120/73; laid down the order of precedence of the Arms/ Services and Units of the Army including the MNS

(ix) 23.03.1973 - The Chief of Army Staff through Army Order 353/73 cancelled the Army Order 501/63 and laid down that the MNS Officers are required to salute and are entitled to salutes in the same manner as other Commissioned Officers

(x) 15.03.1982 - The Chief of Army Staff through the Army Order 11/82 laid down the order of precedence of the Arms/ Services and Units of the Army including the MNS and the cancelled the earlier Army Order 120/73 on the subject

(xi) 1985 - The Army proposed to the 4th Central pay Commission for granting the same rank based pay scales to officers in the MNS as for other Service officers

(xii) 05.12.1986 - The Government of India issued the Defence Service Regulations, Regulations for the Army, 1987 for the administration of the Regular Army. The said regulations addresses the MNS as a Corps/Service, and stated that officers in the MNS are Army Officers and will rank equally with male officers of the same titular rank

(xiii) 06.12.1993 - The Government of India amended the Army Rules 1954 and inserted the Rule 16A dealing with the retirement of officers of the Regular Army from all Corps/ Services including the MNS

(xiv) 1995 - The Army proposed to the 5th Central pay Commission to introduce rank pay to officers in the MNS as available for other service officers

o   Selection And Training:  MNS is one of the key constituent of the Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) along with the Army Medical Corps (AMC) and Army Dental Corps (ADC). The method of selection, training, terms & conditions of service and employability of officers are same in all the three constituents of AFMS. The officers in the Army Medical Corps (AMC), Army Dental Corps (ADC) and Military Nursing Service (MNS) are selected for training based on a departmentally conducted test and interview in accordance with Para 109 of regulations for the Army, 1987.The Nursing Officers do a 4 year degree program before commissioning just as the Medical Officers spends the same 4 years plus an additional 6 months for surgery

o   Oath And Gazette Notification: The MNS Officers take the same oath as other Officers of the Army to duty bound, honestly and faithfully serve in the regular Army of the Union of India. Their appointments and promotions are notified in the Gazette of India like other Commissioned Officers of the Army

o   Service Liability: The service Liability of Officers of Military Nursing Service (MNS) like any other service personnel of Indian Armed Forces is pan India. They are transferred to Field Areas, Modified Field Areas and Peace Areas and have been serving regularly in the troubled states of Jammu & Kashmir and North Eastern Sector of the country

o   Tough Working Conditions: MNS officers have a very hectic daily work schedule and need to perform duties, working hours schedule and duration of which keeps varying depending upon the type of duties they are performing. They work for 55 hours a week through short and long duties on alternate days. They get a weekly day off, which is by rule only on a day of short duty. Further, most of the half days are occupied attending clinical meetings, seminars, party preparations etc. Of course apart from all this 15 days night duty will be there once in every 2 months or so. This is often very demanding and physically and mentally draining as well. Working conditions leaves no time for their families. This necessitates frequent adjustment on the part of these Officers which has to be psychological, physiological and also as per day to day family obligations and routine. Thus severe conditions have made their family environment miserable. The overworking schedule is also affecting their physical & mental health. The variety of duties are :

(a) Day Duty: The day duty is performed alternatively as long duty and short duty by MNS officers as per following working hours/duration:

·         Long Duty: From 0730 hrs to 1930 Hrs with 02 hours break for Lunch (12 Hours)

·         Short Duty: From 0730 Hrs to 1300 Hrs ( 05.30 hours)

(b) Night Duty: From 1930 Hrs to 0730 Hrs on next day (12 Hours). The night duty roster is completed compulsorily once in cycle of 45 to 60 days by each MNS officer for a period of 15 days on a stretch depending upon availability of staff

o   Shortage of Manpower And Workload: There is a 12 percent cadre deficiency/ shortage of officers in MNS which has an overall strength of 4500 Officers against availability of 35,000 hospital beds in the country. This leads to over burden of workload on the already deficient MNS officers. In All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) there are 2000 nurses for 1000 beds, whereas in Army Hospital Research & Referral (AHR&R) there are 196 Nursing Officers for 1000 beds (which does not account for absence of MNS officers on Annual Leave, Casual Leave, Maternity Leave, Child Care Leave, Sick Leave, Temporary Duty for Specialization Courses/ Deputation for UN Mission etc)

o   Participation By Military Nursing Service (MNS) Officers In major Wars: The Nursing Officers of MNS have provided nursing care during the two World Wars, Four wars with Pakistan (1947, 1965, 1971 & 1998 Kargil War), 1962 Indo China War, have served with Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) and United Nations (UN) Missions

o   War Casualties: At the outbreak of world war in 1914 there were just fewer than 300 nurses in the QAIMNS, 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. They provided care in base, evacuation, and mobile surgical hospitals in India, Aden, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Italy and France. They nursed the wounded on hospital ships ferrying home across the Indian Ocean. The World War – II saw the Military Nurses in every campaign from Burma to the France. Thousands of Army Nurses were assigned to hospital ships and trains, flying ambulances, field hospitals, evacuation stations, and general hospitals at home and overseas, from Middle East to Far East, Africa to Europe, nursing the sick and wounded and sharing the hazards of warfare Of the 200 plus army nurses died on active service, many were Indians. Some spent long frustrating years as prisoners of war

o   Beginning of Discrimination: The Process of Discrimination began with the change of Uniform for MNS officers in 2000

(i) The terrorist activities in Jammu & Kashmir during 1990 as well as continued counter insurgency operations in the North East region of the country wherein a large number of MNS officers are posted, became a concern both for the MNS fraternity and the Army authorities because Nursing Officers were not in uniform as was worn by the rest of the Armed Forces but in white colour European pattern dress which made them vulnerable all over the country

(ii) 01.01.2000: This necessitated change of uniform. Accordingly, a dress review committee appointed by the COAS during 1999 after due deliberations, recommended wearing of OG (olive green) uniform by the officers of MNS as is in vogue in the Armed Forces and the same was approved by the then COAS/Min of Def. The OG uniform was implemented from 01 Jan 2000

(iii) However, wearing of OG uniform by the MNS officer became an eye sore/ heartburn especially to the fraternity of the AMC officers and an unprecedented campaign was launched in the form of write ups to the Army Head Quarters and in the media

(iv) The write ups emphasized that Olive Green uniform worn by the MNS officer is unethical, not patient friendly, does not distinguish between the medical and nursing officers, causes confusion amongst the patients, has made the nursing officers undisciplined etc. Such write-ups also made a number of false and baseless allegations against the nursing officers

(v) 2003: The Army introduced a Military Law Book including a bogus version of the Indian Military Nursing Service Ordinance, 1943 at its Officer Training School AMC Centre & School Lucknow to deliberately misguide the AMC officer trainees and to encourage them to discriminate and ill treat the women MNS officers

(vi) 09.02.2004: The Army vide letter no. B/42706/MNS/AG/CW-1 dated 9th February 2004 changed the olive green shirt and pants (like other officers in the Army) worn by the officers in the MNS to safari style beige color uniform

(vii) From this date onwards officers in the MNS were being discriminated due to their profession and is a grave gender injustice as the MNS is the only all women Corps of the Regular Army. The change of uniform/rules was to tell officers in the MNS that “you are not our equals

(viii) Non-acceptance of the grievances / representations of the nursing officers by any authority in the hierarchy of medical services as well as in the Army Headquarters leading to fresh court cases which was further utilized by the authorities to antagonize the environment

(ix) Grievances of the officers of MNS forwarded to the Adjutant General (AG) by the ADGMNS was termed as violation of channel of correspondence and was counseled by the DGMS (Army) conveying the nursing fraternity that their head of the services would also not be spared

(x) 2003: The representation of the ADGMNS for not being allowed to display Star Plates and Flag on her official vehicle during her official visit to Naval Hospital, INHS Ashvini, Mumbai by the then Commandant, Surgeon Rear Admiral V K Singh, later on Director General Armed Forces Medical services (DGAFMS), was not appreciated and another counseling was served to her by the AG himself stating that “Officers of MNS are not covered under the definition of Officer as per Sec 3 (xviii) of the Army Act 1950 and that Members of MNS are commissioned in the Military Nursing Service and therefore display of star plates and flying of flag on the vehicles entitled to all other army officers of the rank of Brig and above vide Army Order (AO) 46/87 and Para 773 and 774 of Regulations of Army (RA), is not applicable for the officers of MNS

(xi) 30 Apr 2004:  AG’s Branch Army headquarters issued a letter declaring that “MNS Officers are not Officers of the Regular Army, that they are not at par with the commissioned officers of the rest of the Armed Forces and that perks and privileges entitled to all other officers of the Armed Forces are thus, not entitled to the officers of MNS”. The letter further said that MNS was raised vide Indian Military Nursing Ordinance 1943, and MNS officers are appointed as 'officers of IMNS and not that of the regular army'

(xii) Disappointed by all above, the ADGMNS approached then Chief of the Army Staff who assured her restoration of the dignity, honour & pride of the officers of MNS. Accordingly the then COAS asked then AG to appoint a committee to look into the grievances of the Nursing Officers. A controversial & arbitrary committee appointed by the AG without any Independent Panel with only two officers representing MNS, unilaterally concluded their recommendations ignoring/violating all the provisions of existing Ordinance/ Rules / Regulations of Army/Army Orders/Army Instructions and even without obtaining the signatures of MNS member officers of the committee

(xiii) The entire report of the committee, comprised of top brasses of the Army Medical Corps (AMC) with few from the Adjutant General’s (AG) Branch in league with them, is highly derogatory, malicious, unfounded, illogical, illegal, unconstitutional and without any legal justifications and has surprisingly been upheld by the Chief of Staff Committee & eventually by the Chief of Army Staff ( COAS), with an aim to create a reign of terror amongst the officers of MNS so that they dare not ever ask for their legitimate rights & remain puppets of the AMC Cadre for all times to come and deprives the officers of MNS their status, pride, dignity & honor which they earned through more than 80 years of distinguished services

(xiv) 2004: The Ajai Vikram Singh Committee Report recommending accelerated promotion for officers in the Army and sister services was not implemented for the officers in the MNS, creating huge disparities in the promotions between MNS and other officer cadres

(xv) 2005: The Annual confidential report channel was revised and MNS officers since then have been assessed for their performance by the Medical Officer.  Whereas as per the Nursing Advisor, Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), Government of India, New Delhi “the nursing experts assess the performance appraisal of the nursing personnel”

(xvi) 18.10.2005: The Chief of the Army Staff without stating the reason disallowed the display of star plates and flying of flags by the officers in the MNS of the rank of Brigadier and Major general on their official vehicles. This again is grossly discriminatory

(xvii) 20.06.2008: The Chief of the Army Staff wrote to the Cabinet Secretary against granting the same pay band and grade pay to officers in the MNS as for the other service officers as recommended by the 6th Central Pay Commission. This is a grave discrimination based on profession of the officers in the MNS

(xviii) 30.03.2010: Armed Force Tribunal (AFT) Decision - By its verdict dated 30 March 2010, an AFT bench of Justice A.K. Mathur and Lt Gen ML Naidu (retired) quashed the April 30, 2004 letter issued by the Adjutant General's branch and directed the government to treat 'all the commissioned officers of Military Nursing Service as a part of the regular force of Indian armed forces and extend all entitlements which are commensurate with the rank as equal to commissioned officers of Indian Army to Major General Usha Sikdar (Retd)

(xix) 03.09.2010: The Supreme Court stayed Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) verdict directing the Central Government to treat all the Commissioned Officers of the Military Nursing Service (MNS) on par with the regular army. An apex court bench of Justice Aftab Alam and Justice RM Lodha passed the order on a petition by the Central Government challenging the March 30 verdict of the principal bench of the AFT

(xx) Oct 2010-Cadre Restructuring: Cadre Restructuring for MNS was brought into effect indicating 16 years of service for MNS Officers to become Lt Col (TS) as against 13 years for other service officers, Inserting Lt Col (Select) for MNS Officers whereas it was removed from all three services

(xxi) 2013: The Officers of MNS were deliberately begun to be addressed as “members” of Military Nursing Service (MNS) in all the official correspondence

(xxii) 13.10.2014: The Law Commission of India in its Report No. 249 recommended for specific repeal of the Indian Military Nursing Service Ordinance, Ordinance 30 of 1943 with amendments to the existing law in the form of suitable amendments to the Army Act, 1950 to incorporate provisions pertaining to members of the IMNS

(xxiii) 20.01.2015- Directives Issued for Separate Accommodation Pool for MNS Officers: it was recommended by the Quartermaster General’s (QMG) Branch that a separate pool of accommodation be constituted for MNS Officers since no parallel could be drawn between the status of commissioned officers and officers of MNS

(xxiv) 2015:  The Army authorities sets up/refers to various Committee reports for amendments to Army Rules, 1954, Regulations for the Army, 1987, Army Orders 353/73 and 11/82 etc and also re-designate the ranks in the MNS, disallowing army officer rank insignias and segregation of family accommodation etc. to discriminate the officers in the MNS from other officers of the Regular Army to mete out invidious discrimination to the officers in the MNS from other officers serving in other branches/services of the Regular Army in gross violation of Article 14 and Article 15 (1) of the Constitution

(xxv) 2016- Acceptance of Separate Pay Matrix for MNS Officers As Recommended by VII CPC:  The Government announced the Acceptance of a separate Pay Matrix for MNS Officers has been recommended and calculations made as per implementation of VI CPC. Thus For the first time MNS Officers have been different identity and kept out of Defence Forces in Pay Commission Report

o   Nature Of Discrimination: The various manner in which discrimination has been done against  the officers of MNS is explained below:

·         MNS Made A Separate Entity Distinct From Armed Forces Post Acceptance Of VII CPC Recommendation: The Union Government for the first time after the acceptance of recommendations of VII CPC has made MNS as a third entity separate from Civilian and Armed Forces as a Third Pay Matrix has been announced for them. This is very disturbing and disheartening for the officers of MNS

·         Withdrawal of Flying Of Car Flag And  Display Of Star Plates  on the official vehicles in accordance with the rank of the officer (for Brig and above) have been withdrawn since 2004 for MNS Officers

·         Duplicity/ Ambiguous Stand On Provision Of Army Act for Disciplinary Matters Vis- A- Vis Status As a Commissioned Officer: While for all disciplinary matters including provision of dismissal from service the MNS officers are considered to be under Army Act, 1950 and action taken accordingly, but for status standpoint it is arbitrarily argued that the Military Nursing Service (MNS) officers are not covered under the definition of officer as given in the Army Act, 1950

·         Change Of Olive Green Uniform For MNS Officers To Dark Beige Uniform:  to give a distinct dress code then other Commissioned Officers the uniform of MNS officers was changed from Olive Green to dark beige uniform in 2004. There is a possible move/attempt to further change it to western style white color frock. This discriminatory arrangement also poses risk to life of MNS officers as no combat uniform has been designated for the MNS officers who are posted in the field/modified field areas where other defence personnel wear battle fatigue different from their normal uniform

·         Refusal To Grant Membership Of Defence Service Officers  Institutes /Clubs To MNS Officers: The major Defense Officers Clubs in Delhi such as DSOI, Taurus Officers Institute (TOI) etc in Delhi have made rules and regulations which do not allow Nursing Officers to become a member and therefore bars them and their family members to avail its facilities. This is happening all over the country where ever Defense Officers Clubs exist. This is discrimination not only against the Officers of MNS but also against the Children of MNS Officers as they are barred using the various facilities of clubs/Institutes unlike children of other commissioned officers living in the same accommodation areas/buildings

·         Refusal To Grant Admission to Various Courses Sponsored by Defence Forces To The Children of MNS Officers: There have been various incidents reported where children of MNS officers have been denied admission to courses like Horse Riding sponsored/conducted by the Indian Army. Whereas children of other commissioned officers are given entry to such course which is again highly discriminatory.

·         Making Passing Out/Commission Parade For MNS Officers A Low Key Affair:- Previously it used to be a full fledged parade, Adjutant General from AHQ,  a Senior Administrative Officer from HQ/Command HQ or Corps HQ being the Chief Guest.  Now it is relegated to a function in the auditorium being commissioned by either a commandant or the MG Medical

·         Reduction in Course Duration and Training for MNS Officers:- The course duration of Basic Nursing Officers Course (BNOC) /SNOC have been reduced. This has a negative impact on professional growth and opportunities.  Weapon training has been discontinued

·         Discontinuation of Arms/Weapons Training to MNS officers: This has been done deliberately in order to reduce the Military bearing of MNS officers

·         Proper Respect/Courtesy Not Paid To Additional Director General Military Nursing Service (ADGMNS) As Per Protocol:- Many reported incidents of not according due respect/courtesy to Additional Director General Military Nursing Service (ADGMNS) as warranted by protocol during various official functions/Seminars/events

·         Non Inclusion Of Additional Director General Military Nursing Service (ADGMNS) In The Promotion Board Member:- Additional Director General Military Nursing Service (ADGMNS) is not included as a member in the Promotion Board for the promotion to the rank of Major General and Brigadiers of MNS. They are allowed to be a member of Board of Promotion for the promotion to the rank of Colonel only. This effectively diminishes the functioning of ADGMNS within MNS Corps

·         Writing of Annual Confidential Report of MNS Officers: The ACR’s of MNS officers is now being written by Medical Officers instead of Senior Nursing Officers

·         Suspension of issue of certificate of commission for MNS Officers by the President of India

·         Reduction In Pay Grade and Pay Band and Disparity in Pay & Allowances and Travel Entitlements: The MNS officers have been treated unfairly with respect to entitlements of pay and allowances and also Travel entitlements. This has been done in the following manner:

(i) The MNS officers were previously entitled for G Form as a part of their travel entitlement. But this was arbitrarily changed and MNS officers were given Concession Voucher (CV) in lieu of G form / D Form,  just like Personnel Below Officers Rank (PBOR’s).This decision was a huge let down for MNS officers

(ii) The  following recommendations of VI Central Pay commission duly accepted by Government of India has not been implemented till date and no notification issued

(a) That the pay band and grade pay of similarly designated regular service officer’s cadre and MNS cadre should be same

(b) That the time bound promotion up to Lt Col of MNS Officers should also be available as applicable to other regular service officers i.e. promotion to Lt Col on completion of 13 years of service

·         Taking Over of MNS Mess Premises:  At many places the Nursing Officers Mess have been taken over by the Unit authorities and there is also a discrimination in allotment of fund for the upkeep and maintenance of the mess

·         No Management Courses Sponsored In The Premier Management Institutes Of The Country: such as IIM’s for post retirement settlement of MNS Officers by Director General Resettlement, unlike other commissioned officers

·         No MNS Corps: Formation of MNS Corps has eluded the MNS Officers, whereas our neighbouring countries and the third world nations have already formed own Army Nursing Corps

·         Refusal To Extend Administrative Support To MNS Officers From The Unit Administration: The MNS officers are not provided with administrative support in the performance of their duty such as provision of unit transport for shifting of luggage at the time of Transfer In/Out to/ from the  Unit which is not the case with the other commissioned officers who are not only given transport facility but also given adequate manpower

·         False Propaganda Against MNS Officers Status: The current generation of the Army officer have been led to believe that the MNS is an auxiliary force under the IMNS Ordinance. There is deliberate and sustained propaganda or misinformation being propagated within the Army against the women officers in the MNS which is part of the official curriculum of many training courses for officers and personnel below officer ranks. In such courses the trainees are being taught outright lies about the MNS and are being supplied with books containing Army’s bogus version of the IMNS Ordinance, 1943. The false version of the Ordinance being taught to the trainees is titled Military Nursing Service Ordinance, 1943. They are able to change the majority opinion against the officers in the MNS that now almost everyone in the Army looks down upon them. The institutional apartheid encourages even the personnel below officer rank to ill treat the women officers in the MNS. Because of the sustained propaganda campaign over the years  other officers now feels belittled over the fact that the Nurses are also are been given Commissioned Ranks

o   Failure of Grievance Redressal Mechanism - The Redressal of Grievance Mechanism has failed miserably in respect of MNS officers or in other words it does not exist at all. In recent times, lack of recognition and numerous changes being forced upon them, to degrade their status as armed forces officers has demoralized the ranks of over 4500 highly motivated and dedicated Nursing Officers. The unprecedented incidences of Nursing Officers going to Court, over issues like uniform change  to denial of right to fly formation’s flag on official vehicles were only as a last resort when everything else have failed. All rules have been subverted to make life like physical and mental hazard for 4500 odd Military Nursing Service Officers. Subsequently, failure of grievance redressal system and denial of Justice by successive Chiefs of Indian Army, have forced them to run from pillar to post for want of justice. That’s how today they have to approach AFT/Courts on matters of trivial day to day administration & welfare. There is plethora of cases won /pending against Army at various tiers of Indian Justice System. Some of them even relates to denial of what has already been granted by expert body like pay commission (and after Govt having accepted its recommendations), way back in 2008 and further   which was held valid by Armed Forces Tribunal on 28 Mar 2010

   



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