NEW DELHI: The Indian Air Force (IAF)—instead of doing a course correction after a recent Delhi High Court rap for its discriminatory study leave policy—has come out with much more rigid rules for its air warriors. In March, the high court had slammed the force, calling its study leave norms a violation of fundamental rights. As per the Air Headquarters’ latest order, air warriors are not allowed to pursue higher education from civil institutions.
It all started in February 2017, when an air warrior sought leave to study MTech in IIT-Dhanbad after topping the entrance exams. But IAF authorities—citing British-era rules—denied him permission.
They said there was no provision for sending jawans on study leave, and only officers are entitled to the ‘privilege’.
Taking strong note of it, the high court gave its verdict in favour of the airman and reprimanded the IAF authorities by saying, “The discrimination between airmen and officers for grant of study leave is totally discriminatory and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.”
But ironically, IAF authorities released another order with more stringent rules for acquiring higher education for its over one lakh air warriors.
Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal O P Tiwari in its July 16 order said for seeking permission to pursue higher civil qualification, air warriors should have exceptional grade in their trades.
“Analysis of qualification of the air warriors reveals that there is an increasing trend amongst the young airmen towards pursuing higher qualifications which are not directly in line with their professional trade. As a result, their efforts and focus towards primary profession get diluted,” Air Vice Marshal Tiwari’s order stated.
It further said, “IAF has to strike a balance between individuals’ aspirations and of the organisational interests.
”But in contrast, IAF grants leave of maximum 28 months to its officers who have completed 15 years of service for pursuing higher studies.When contacted for a response, an IAF official said the matter is sub-judice.
“For entry level of airmen, 12th standard is the minimum educational qualification and these airmen are permitted to purse graduation from in-house mechanism through Project Akashdeep,” said an IAF officer, explaining their position.The latest order from higher authorities is further going to deepen the divide between the officers and jawans, especially when the armed forces are facing issues of strained relations between them.