How to differentiate between the Indian Army ranks in 2021

Army men marching

The Indian Army is the largest ground force in the world, have an estimated 13,00,000 people actively serving in the army, with reserved strength of 9,60,000 people. It must be noted that the Indian army is a voluntary service, no-one had ever been forcefully conscripted in the Indian Army Ranks.

Each year lakhs of candidates apply to join the Indian army rally for various posts to serve as jawans and thousands go through the prestigious SSB interview technique for entry and begin their career as Lieutenant, a Class Gazetted (Group-A) Commissioned officer in the army.

RANK STRUCTURE

The Indian Army Ranks in 2021 can be classified into three categories:

  1. Commissioned Officers
  2. Junior Commissioned Officers(JCOs)
  3. Other Ranks(ORs)

Commissioned Officers

Commissioned Officers are the leaders of the army and hold command in units from platoon to corps and above. All Army officers join the army as cadets having no insignia at the time of their training. After completion of training, cadets will then be enlisted in the army at the rank of Lieutenant.

Officers are continuously put through different courses and being assessed on merit throughout their career, for promotions and appointments.

I have discussed Indian army ranks below from lowest to highest order so that it would easy for you to understand. Let’s have a look.

indian-army-ranks-in-2021
This image shows army commissioned officers’ rank as well as their insignia in order. (Image Source-Google | Image by- Wikipedia)

For commissioned officers, ranks are classified in two categories:

1) Time Grade Ranks

Time Grade Ranks are those ranks that are attainable by a commissioned officer of Lieutenant Rank after spending a certain period of time in service. These Indian army ranks are discussed below for you:

1) Lieutenant

Lieutenant is beginning commissioned rank in the army. Cadets after passing out from IMA and OTA become Lieutenants in the Indian Army. A Lieutenant is a Class Gazetted (Group-A) Commissioned officer in the Indian army. He gets appointed as the company’s 2nd-in-command. He reports to the captain who is his immediate superior in the Indian army ranks.

OF-1 in the above image means Lieutenant or First Lieutenant.

A Lieutenant wears two five-pointed stars insignia on his/her shoulders as you can see in the picture below:

Lieutenant-Garima-Yadav
Lieutenant Garima Yadav in her uniform and wearing two Five-pointed stars on her shoulders. (Image Source)

A Lieutenant tenure is very short-lived because a Lieutenant after 2 years, gets promoted to captain. A lieutenant is also known as a Young officer (YO) in the army. In the unit, he/she develops his leadership abilities and learns how to lead the troop.

A Lieutenant is the 9th Highest Commissioned Rank in the Indian Army.

Salary– Joining the Indian army at Pay Matrix Level-10 and get paid between Rs 56,100- Rs 1,77,500 pm.

 

2) Captain

A Captain is also a Class Gazetted (Group-A) Commissioned officer in the Indian army. He is a Lieutenant’s immediate superior. A Captain leads a company of battalion or the battery of some unit. He commands almost 120 soldiers on the battlefield. In order to become a captain, a commissioned officer must have a minimum service of 2 years in the army.

If needs be, he can perform a duty of:

a) Adjutant

Adjutant is military personnel whose role is to assist the commanding officer with unit administration, mostly with the management of troops in an army unit.

b) Quartermaster

A Quartermaster is a senior soldier who supervises stores or barracks and distributes supplies and provisions to the army and also makes sure that equipment, materials and systems are available for missions.

c) Operations officer(OP)

Operations officers in the army are those officers who work on the frontline during combat situations and provide troops with the direction and leadership that is needed to succeed in the missions.

d) Gun Position Officer(GPO)

A captain can act as a Gun Position Officer in a Battery unit, where his primary role is administration which includes ammunition supply and ensuring the security of the support and logistic vehicles that are concealed on the Wagon Lines.

Wagon lines is the area located within a battery’s position where the majority of battery’s vehicles are deployed but not in use eg. the gun tractors (the vehicles which tow the guns.

A Captain wears three five-pointed stars insignia on his/her shoulders as you can see in the picture below:

captain-Tania-Shergill
Captain Tania Shergill donning three 5 -pointed star insignia on her shoulders. (Image Source)

A Lieutenant is the 8th Highest Commissioned Rank in the Indian Army.

Salary:  Pay Level 10B, Rs. 61,300 – 193,900 pm.

 

3) Major

As a Class Gazetted (Group-A) Commissioned officer in the Indian army, A Major is a Captain’s immediate superior. Like Captain, Majors also lead a company of infantry and other arms or a battery in artillery units. In order to become a major, a commissioned officer must have a minimum service of 6 years and he must clear the Part-B exam.

If needs be, he can perform a duty of:

a)Adjutant

b)Quartermaster

c)Operations officer

d)Gun Position Officer

I have discussed these terms in the rank of captain, you can check them out above.

A Major wears one national emblem insignia on his/her shoulders as you can see in the picture below:

Major-Mohit-Sharma
Immortal Martyr Major Mohit Sharma. (Image Source)

A Major is the 7th Highest Commissioned Rank in the Indian Army.

Salary: – Pay Level 11, Rs. 69,400 – 207,200 pm.

 

4) Lieutenant Colonel

Being a Class Gazetted (Group-A) Commissioned officer in the Indian army. A Lieutenant Colonel is a Major’s immediate superior. He is a Second in command(2IC) in a battalion or unit and can be a leading officer in place of a leader. He is also responsible to provide quality training to the battalion and management of troops and battalion accountability is on him.

In order to become a Lieutenant Colonel, a commissioned officer must have a minimum service of 13 years and he must clear the Part-D exam.

A Lieutenant Colonel wears one national emblem and one 5 pointed-star on his shoulders insignia on his/her shoulders as you can see in the picture below:

Lieutenant-Colonel-Rajesh-singh
Lieutenant Colonel Rajesh Singh. (Image Source)

A Lieutenant Colonel is the 6th Highest Commissioned Rank in the Indian Army.

Salary: – Pay Level 12A, Rs. 121,200 -212,400 pm.

 

2) Selection Grade Ranks

In Selection Grade Ranks, commissioned officers of Colonel grade ranks and above are considered and they get promoted on the basis of grading in different courses, on merit in service, and on the basis of officer annual confidential report(ACR). These Indian army ranks are discussed below for you:

1) Colonel

Being a Class Gazetted (Group-A) Commissioned officer in the Indian army. A Colonel is a Lieutenant Colonel’s immediate superior. A Colonel is also known as a commanding officer.  An officer of Colonel Grade Rank commands battalion and unit, a battalion has 4 rifle companies that have almost 900 combat troops.

A Colonel command battalion or unit for 2-3 years and can do staff duty in higher formations. Mostly, it is seen that an officer commissioned through NDA entry gets approved for colonel rank in his first chance.

A Lieutenant Colonel wears one national emblem and two 5 pointed stars as insignia on his/her shoulders and gorget patches on his uniform collar as you can see in the picture below:

Paratrooper Manchu with Doctor Colonel Sanjay Mishra
Paratrooper Manchu(left) with Doctor Colonel Sanjay Mishra(right), see the insignia on the colonel’s shoulders along with gorget patches on his collar. (Image Source)

In order to become a Colonel, a commissioned officer must have a minimum service of 15 years

Note: If some Lieutenant Colonel is not able to become colonel, whatever the reason may be,  he/she automatically becomes a Colonel after 26 years of service in the army but they don’t receive the right to command a battalion.

A Colonel is the 5th Highest Commissioned Rank in the Indian Army and his retirement age is 54 years.

Salary: –  Pay Level 13, Rs. 130,600 – 215,900 pm.

 

2) Brigadier

Being a Class Gazetted (Group-A) Commissioned officer in the Indian army. A Brigadier is superior to Colonel and typically commands a brigade of several thousand soldiers. In other countries, this rank is also known as Brigadier General.

In order to become a Brigadier, a commissioned officer must have a minimum service of 25 years.

A Brigadier wears one national emblem and three 5 pointed stars in a triangular formation as insignia on his/her shoulders and wears one 5 pointed star on his/her uniform collar as you can see in the picture below:

Brigadier Dhiraj Mohan
Brigadier Dhiraj Mohan(Image source)

A Brigadier is the 4th Highest Commissioned Rank in the Indian Army and his retirement age is 56 years.

Salary: – Pay Level 13A, Rs.1,39,600 – 2,17,600 pm.

 

3) Major General

Being a Class Gazetted (Group-A) Commissioned officer in the Indian army. He is superior to a Brigadier and typically commands a division comprising of 15000 combat troops and 8000 supporting elements. After commanding division, major general may be assigned to work in higher field formations like corps command and the Indian army HQs on various posts.

In order to become a Major General, a commissioned officer must have a minimum service of 32 years.

A Major General wears one 5 five-pointed-star and crossed baton and saber as insignia on his/her shoulders and two 5-pointed stars on his/her uniform collar as you can see in the picture below:

Major General Madhuri Kantikar
Major General Madhuri Kantikar currently Lieutenant General in the Indian army. (Image Source)

A Major General is the 3rd Highest Commissioned Rank in the Indian Army and his retirement age is 58 years.

Salary: – Pay Level 14, Rs. 144,200 – 218,200 pm.

 

4) Lieutenant General

Being a Class Gazetted (Group-A) Commissioned officer in the Indian army.  A lieutenant General is the 2nd highest post anyone can reach in the Indian army. He is superior to a Major-General and takes command of field formations like a command or a corps in the Indian Army.

A lieutenant General can also be appointed as Vice Chief of Army Staff( VCOAS).

In order to become a Major General, a commissioned officer must have a minimum service of 36 years.

A lieutenant General wears a national emblem and crossed baton and saber as insignia on his/her shoulders and three 5 pointed stars on his/her uniform collar as you can see in the picture below:

Punita-Arora-First-Woman-Lieutenant-General
Punita Arora First Woman Lieutenant General of Indian Army. (Image Source)

A Lieutenant General is the 2nd Highest Commissioned Rank in the Indian Army and his retirement age is 60 years.

Salary:

The Lieutenant general is appointed as Vice Chief of Army Staff(VCOAS) at Pay Level 17, Lieutenant-general salary is Rs.225,000.

On Higher Administrative Grade(HAG) + Scale: Admissible to 1/3rd of the total strength of Lt Generals Pay Level 16, Lieutenant-general salary is Rs.205,400 – 224,400

On Higher Administrative Grade(HAG) Scale: Pay Level 15, Lieutenant-general salary is Rs. 182,200 – 224,100 pm.

 

5) General

A General is the highest position a commissioned officer in the army can reach up to. A General held, the Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army and Chief of Defence Staff, if from the army (but with slightly different insignia). Equivalent to Cabinet Secretary of India.

A commissioned officer of General rank can work on this post for 3 years as General(COAS)or at the age of 62, whichever is earlier. and 3 years as Chief of Defense Staff or at age of 65, whichever is earlier.

A General wears a national emblem, a 5 pointed-star and crossed baton and saber as insignia on his/her shoulders and four 5 pointed stars and a golden wreath on a crimson patch(COAS)/ four 5 pointed stars and a golden wreath on a maroon patch(CDS)on his/her uniform collar as you can see in the picture below:

 

General of Indian Army in 2021-Manoj Mukund Naravane
General of Indian Army or COAS in 2021- Manoj Mukund Naravane (Image Source)

Salary: Pay Level 18, Rs. 250,000 pm

Note: Information about the salaries of all commissioned officers is taken from Wikipedia.

 

6) WHO IS FIELD MARSHALL

Field Marshall is a Ceremonial rank in the Indian Army Ranks. He is a Rank-5 commissioned officer. This rank is given as an honor in the army and to those officers who performed extraordinarily well in a war or a mission.

So far, only 2 people were given this post since the inception of the army, first, was Sam Manekshaw, who was conferred this rank on January 1, 1973, and second, was Kodandera M. Cariappa was conferred this rank on January 15, 1986. At present, this rank is not given to anyone.

Sam-Manekshaw
Sam Manekshaw (Image Source)

Junior Commissioned Officer(JCO) And Other Ranks(ORs)

Junior Commissioned Officers is a military officer whose rank is lower than Lieutenant and higher than a Havildar and ORs are Other ranks and they include non-commissioned officers and soldiers. They are shown in the image below:

Junior-commissioned-officers
This image shows army commissioned officers’ rank as well as their insignia in order. (Image Source-Google | Image by- Wikipedia)

I will start with the lowest one in the hierarchy which is Sepoy as shown in the image above and will move up in order according to the image:

1) Soldiers

Infantry and other arms

Cavalry and Armour
Sepoy

Sowar

Note-1:

Infantry is the frontier force of the army that leads the army on the battlefield and its soldiers are skilled in close combat battles.

Cavalry and Armor are known as “Tankman” in the army and follow infantry forces on their tanks on the battlefield.

Other arms include artillery which supports the unit marching forward by staying at the backlines and destroys enemies with their guns, mortars, howitzers, missiles, etc. after artillery other arms also include army aviation units, army air defense, engineers, intelligence, signals and communication.

All three join together to form Combat Arms of The Indian Army.

Note-2:

Sowar, Daffadar, and Risaldar in cavalry and armor have the same duties and responsibilities as the Sepoy, Havildar, Naik and Subedar in Infantry and other arms.

 

(a) Sepoy

Sepoy(Siphai) is the lowest rank in the Indian army ranks. All Sepoy comes under the direct supervision of Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, the Ministry of Defense, The Union Government of India.

A sepoy can join the Indian Army in 2021 through the  Indian Army Rally but he must have a minimum education of 10th pass and minimum age of 17.5 years.

A sepoy can become a Lance Naik, a sepoy’s immediate superior, and Naik, a Lance Naik’s immediate superior in 6-8 years and 10-12 years respectively. At least all sepoys can become a Naik.

A sepoy wears no insignia or star on his shoulders but a Plain shoulder badge only which is shown below:

sepoy-plain-badge
A plain badge with no insignia wore by sepoy.

Retirement Age = After 15 years 56 Days service or at the age of 42, whichever is sooner.

if A sepoy is not promoted to Naik in 10 years then he gets the salary of Naik Grade in NCOs under MACP.

Salary: On Level-3 pay-matrix,

Net Salary = Gross Salary – Deductions[Gross Salary includes allowances and differs according to posting and deductions includes AFPP FUND, AGIF, PLI]

Net Salary = 33,000 – 5,500=  Rs 27,500 pm.

 

2) Non-Commissioned Officers(NCOs)

Non-Commissioned Officers(NCOs) are promoted from Sepoys. Let’s discuss these ranks now.

Infantry and other arms

Cavalry and Armour

Havildar

Daffadar

Naik

Lance Daffadar
Lance Naik

Acting Lance Daffadar

(a) Lance Naik and Naik

Lance Naiks and Naiks are promoted from Sepoys. Once a soldier joins as a sepoy, he can be promoted to the position of Lance Naiks (Note: Lance Naiks is not a designation in the army and they have no different salary structure, this post is just given on a seniority basis.) and then to Naiks. There is no difference between the Salary structure of a Sepoy and a Lance Naiks but Naik is an NCOs Rank grade in the army.

All Lance Naiks and Naiks comes under the direct supervision of Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, the Ministry of Defense, The Union Government of India.

Apart from duty at borders, they can also be placed in General Duties like security officials or drivers for a commissioned officer. Every Naik can be promoted to Havildar Rank in at least 4-6 years. But due to some reason, a Naik is not promoted after the service of 10 years then Government starts paying a Naik, a salary of Havildar which is also known as MACP.

A Lance Naik wears Rank-1 chevrons on their Front Shoulders as shown in the image below and For Naik, a Rank- 2 chevron(2 Vs) will come in the same place in the image.

Lance-Naik(Left)
Lance Naik (Left), notice Rank-1 Chevron like V on his Front Shoulders. (Image source)

Retirement age=

For Naik: After 23 years of service or at the age of 49, whichever is sooner.

For Lance Naik: After 19 years of service or at the age of 48, whichever is sooner.

Salary: On Level-4 pay matrix,

Net Salary = Gross Salary – Deductions[Gross Salary includes allowances and differs according to posting and deductions includes AFPP FUND, AGIF, PLI]

Net Salary = 40,000 – 5,500=  Rs 34,500 pm.

(b) Havildar

Havildars are promoted from Naiks or they can get recruitment in the Indian army ranks NCOs as Education Havildar. Like Sepoys and Naiks, All Havildars comes under the direct supervision of Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, the Ministry of Defense, The Union Government of India.

Apart from duty at borders, they can also be placed in General Duties like security officials or drivers for a commissioned officer but their designation remains as Havildar. In the army, almost 80% of Sepoys can reach the position of a Havildar and the rest get promoted to Naib Subedars in 4-8 years.

Havildars wears Three rank chevrons on their Front-Shoulders as shown below:

Havildar-extreme-left
Havildar extreme left, notice Rank-3 Chevrons on his front shoulders.

Retirement age = After 26 years of service or at the age of 49, whichever is sooner.

Salary:

Net Salary = Gross Salary- Deductions [Gross Salary includes allowances and differs according to posting and deductions includes AFPP FUND, AGIF, PLI]

Net Salary = 55000-5500=  Rs 49,500 pm.

3) Junior Commissioned Officers(JCOs)

Junior Commissioned Officers is a military officer whose rank is lower than Lieutenant and higher than a Havildar. They are promoted from non-commissioned officers. They are:

Infantry and other arms

Cavalry and Armour

Subedar Major

Risaldar Major

Subedar

Risaldar

Naib Subedar

Naib Risaldar

(a) Naib Subedar 

Naib Subedar is a Class Gazetted (Group-B) Junior Commissioned officer in the Indian army ranks and at the lowest position in the ranks of JCOs and one can become a Naib Subedar in this order (Sepoy >Lance Naik> Naik > Naib Subedar) in the Indian Army Ranks or You can become Naib Subedar on the post of:

1) Catering JCO(ASC):

Age – 21 – 27 Years
Qualifications – 12th pass plus Diploma in Hotel Management & Catering Technology.

2) Religious Teacher (JCO)
Age – 27-34 Years
Qualifications – Graduate and He must be well qualified in the religion he practices.

They also came under the supervision of the Ministry of Defense, The Government of India. Naib Subedars often work as the platoon commanders, and they can be placed on the border, army cantonments, or training centers. Only 20-25% of NCO soldiers can become naib subedar and the rest can reach to havildar and get retired there.

A Naib Subedar wears one 5 pointed-golden star with a red-yellow stripe as his insignia on his shoulders as shown in the image below:

Naib Subedar Jitu Rai
Naib Subedar Jitu Rai. (Image Source)

It takes around 4-6 years for Naib subedar to get promoted to Subedar

Retirement = After 28 years of service or at the age of 52, whichever is sooner.

Salary:

Net Salary = Gross Salary- Deductions [Gross Salary includes allowances and differs according to posting and deductions includes AFPP FUND, AGIF, PLI]

Net Salary = 66000-5500=  Rs 60,500 pm.

(b) Subedar 

Subedar is 2nd Class Gazetted (Group-B) Junior Commissioned officer in the Indian army ranks and at the middle position in the ranks of JCOs and one can become a Subedar in this order (Sepoy >Lance Naik> Naik > Naib Subedar>Subedar) in the Indian Army Ranks. It takes around 18-20 years for sepoy to reach the level of Subedars and that too on the basis of merit, seniority, qualification, vacancy and his attitude.

Subedars often serve as platoon commanders in an infantry company in place of lieutenants, with a major as the company commander and a captain as second-in-command.

Subedar wears two 5 pointed-golden star with red-yellow stripe as his insignia on his shoulders as shown in the image below:

subedar-vijay-kumar-sharma
Subedar Vijay Kumar Sharma. (Image Source)

Retirement:- A Subedar retires after 30 years of service or at the age of 52, whichever is sooner.

(c) Subedar Major

Subedar Major is a Class Gazetted (Group-B) Junior Commissioned officer in the Indian army ranks.  A Subedar Major is the highest post in the ranks of JCOs. Subedar major has various duties and roles in the army : (Credit: Quora Answer by RS Najwa)

1)Subedar major is a confidential advisor to the commanding officer on all matters affecting the unit especially morale, sports, security and welfare of personnel of the unit.

2) He assists the 2nd-in-command in security, welfare and recreational duties and he is responsible for putting up sales reports of the Canteen Stores Department, the non-canteen stores’ department and any other shop being run in the battalion to the 2nd-in-command.

3) He is responsible for the regimental financial fund and he briefs the commanding officer and 2nd-in-command daily in the morning and evening and also gives feedback on any other task being carried out by junior commissioned officers. Also, if any misfortunate incident which is affecting the unit administration, security, or morale of troops is reported by him to the commanding officer.

4) Subedar Major is responsible for the security of troops, posted civilians, soldiers of other corps and services posted in unit and troops who have come on outstation assignment to his unit and he also runs the family welfare center and he looks after the families of soldiers who are staying in the station and is responsible for the health and hygiene of troops and family accommodations.

5) He employs the junior commissioned officer and non-commissioned officers for security aspects of messes and the living accommodation of troops and also ensures the upkeep and maintenance of religious places in the Battalion area of responsibility.

A subedar major wears a Golden national emblem with a red-yellow stripe below on his shoulders as you can see in the image below:

Subedar Major
Param Vir Chakra Subedar Major Yogendra Singh Yadav.

Retirement = After 34 years of service or at the age of 54, whichever is sooner.

Conclusion

To sum up, the Indian army has laid out well thought out rank structure, where duties and responsibilities, authority, insignia, salaries and retirement ages of each rank officer in the army is clearly defined, whether that officer comes in the category of commissioned officers or Junior commissioned officers(JCOs) or Other rank officers which include a Non Commissioned officer or a soldier.

 

 

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