NEW DELHI: The armed forces, amid guarding the frontiers, maintaining operational readiness and helping civil administrations combat the coronavirus pandemic, are facing a confounding new question: Should explicit orders be issued to ensure their personnel wear masks that match their uniforms?
Senior officers of the Army, Navy and IAF, fortunately, have not yet been seen in public wearing ‘stars’ on their masks, akin to the ones worn on their collar tabs, to denote their ranks like some of their police counterparts are doing. The director-general of police in a state, for instance, made quite a splash recently by wearing a mask with ‘three stars’.
The Southern Naval Command (SNC) in Kochi seems to have stolen a march in the spit and polish environs of the armed forces by sternly directing its personnel to wear colour-coordinated masks. White masks with white uniforms and navy blue or black masks with other ceremonial uniforms, the “internal instructions” issued by a unit there said.
The Defence Security Corps and fire services personnel have to don khaki masks to match their khaki uniforms. Moreover, in keeping with Kerala government directives, personnel found without masks will be fined Rs 200 for the first time, and Rs 2,000 for repeat defaults.
“There was this problem of personnel wearing all kinds of masks with different colours and weird patterns. The need was felt to ensure uniformity in uniforms and for personnel to wear comfortable cotton masks instead of nylon or synthetic ones in the hot muggy weather,” a source said.
But officers here stressed that it was not a pan-Navy order, even though some care is being taken to ensure a proper dress code in the absence of explicit orders. Many IAF officers in Air Headquarters in New Delhi, for instance, are donning blue masks to match their uniforms. In the Western Air Command, which also has its headquarters in the Capital, personnel are wearing white masks with blue borders. Army officers are generally wearing white or black masks, while some have been spotted wearing camouflage or ‘disruptive pattern’ masks. “No explicit orders have been issued yet because masks are not part of the traditional uniform. But yes, with wearing of masks likely to become permanent for the foreseeable future, some orders might be needed in the days ahead,” a senior officer said.
In the past, the armed forces have faced flak for the propensity of a few generals, admirals and air marshals to flaunt their rank and status even while playing golf or driving personal cars.