Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Military’s unhappiness over pay is justified - By Harsha Kakar
Posted at: Jul 12 2016 3:51AM
The military was justifiably unhappy when the initial recommendations of the pay commission panel was released in November 2015. However being a disciplined force the bickering remained in-house and on social media. It was the veterans’ community and well-wishers who raised their voice in defence of the serving, who are bound by silence. The grievances and anomalies were such that it compelled the service chiefs to jointly meet the defence minister. Subsequently, a committee of secretaries under the cabinet secretary was nominated to study the report and forward recommendations. As before there was no military representative on the committee. The military was given an opportunity to present its views to the committee. However, most anomalies remain even to this day. The fight is not about a higher pay packet for the military, but about equality in status and allowances, being a central government organization.
The statement in the initial pay commission about higher allowances for Guwahati than Siachen was absurd. The logic that if allowances are low no bureaucrat would be willing to serve is laughable. Till date no bureaucrat has faced a bullet in the region. He is secure while the military battles on. They also form a part of the government and therefore should be willing to serve where ordered. If the military is bound by law to serve anywhere on land, sea or air, why not other services. If they cannot serve, they should resign. I wonder if the pay commission was aiming to prove that Guwahati or the North East is not a part of India?
The government has logically maintained status quo on allowances for the present, while having them reassessed by a committee under the finance secretary. One major anomaly has been the pay matrix, where the military has twenty-four pay bands as compared to the rest, which have forty. Therefore the military loses out in both pay and pensions. Further, the status of a government employee would now be determined by his pay matrix. This lowers the standing of the military versus others.
The military serves alongside members of other central services in many locations, most being trouble spots or in aid to civil authority. When the military’s pay matrix is lowered, the working environment fails and egos rise to the fore. Even central service officer of a lower rank would refuse to function under military directions as his pay matrix is higher. This results in each service functioning separately and independently. The end result - Pampore type incidents or disjointed efforts in aid to civil authorities. Difficulties also arise in semi-military organizations. Military personnel are on deputation with Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), Quality Assurance, Ordnance factories etc. Similarly, civilian members of the Military Engineering Service (MES), Defence Estates and Military Farms work alongside the military. Their pay matrix is not governed by military conditions but by their own service, which creates an imbalance in seniority. In simple terms, while civil services gain in seniority, the military comes down.
Functioning at every level becomes difficult and nobody seems to care. The battle for OROP was based on a simple logic. All organizations retire their staff at sixty. Therefore, the longer you serve, the more increments you obtain, hence more pension you draw. Maximum responsibilities of an individual are between the age of thirty-five to fifty. Responsibilities include growing children and ageing parents. In the military, 92 per cent retire between the ages of 35 and 45, at the peak of their financial responsibilities. They have served for a period of only 17 to 25 years as compared to 30 to 40 years prior to retirement in other services, thus earn lesser pension. With no second career option, they only have their pension to survive on.
Therefore, logically, till the third pay commission, military pensions were 70 per cent and when reduced to 50 per cent, OROP was promised. For those retiring at 60, there is genuinely no requirement of OROP. This is why only the military was affected. Ideally the government should reconsider this additional expenditure of granting it to other central services also. The military has the steepest pyramid. Only .01 per cent rise to the senior level, while it is almost 100 per cent for the IAS and fairly high in others. Thus the military was fighting for the Non Functional Upgradation (NFU), already given to every other service. It would benefit over 99 per cent who cannot proceed up the ladder due to steepness of the pyramid. It was rejected. It may be under re-consideration at present, however unless voices are raised, it would as usual be denied.
The battle for supremacy between the bureaucracy and the military has been going on since independence. At every opportunity, the status of the military has been systematically eroded. The seventh pay commission has taken the cake, relegating it to the level of the Central Armed Police Force (CAPF). This affects joint functioning, when forces operate together as in J and K and the North East. The defence minister also admitted his failure when he stated, “Some of their demands have been accepted, some haven’t”. In times of crises while other government services have failed, the military has been the saviour. The recent Jat agitation and subsequent Prakash Singh committee report bear testimony. It is the bureaucracy which has fuelled the fear of a coup into the minds of politicians hence delayed and diluted the possible appointment of a much needed Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). There is always a tinge of jealousy which a non-uniformed civil servant has towards a uniformed one. The military earns more respect from the public than a bureaucrat or the police.
A military man stands out by his behaviour and gait and is easily distinguished. Hence, jealousy has reason and creates a desire to downgrade. It is for the national leadership to understand this shortcoming and set issues right, before it boils over and becomes an embarrassment. Therefore, military resentment is justified and should be expressed in every forum, by veterans and its wellwishers, till the government rectifies its follies.
(Source- The Statesman article via e-mnail from Col A Sunder Rajan (Retd)