Friday, August 19, 2016

RAW DEAL FOR FORCES: GOVT MUST SET RIGHT PAY PANEL FOLLIES - BY MAJOR NAVDEEP SINGH (RETD)

There can be no dispute with the fact that members of the military community have had some major misgivings with the recommendations of the Seventh Central Pay Commission. The incoherent report has added multiple anomalies to the pre-existing list of unresolved issues affecting pay, allowances and pensions of the defence services.
Raw deal for Forces: Govt must set right pay panel follies

While a debate on the subject is more than welcome, one needs to be cautious that the surrounding cacophony must not result into a schism or a feeling of ‘us’ and ‘they’ between various services since every government employee, uniformed or otherwise, serves the same flag and no cog of our large national wheel is more or less important than the other.

The Government must, therefore, ensure that before finally implementing the contentious recommendations, a participative decision-making process is initiated to ensure resolution to the satisfaction of all stakeholders so that decisions are not taken at the back of various sections of employees based on one-way inputs of only those who happen to have the ear of the higher echelons.

SHRILL VOICES AND THEIR DELETERIOUS EFFECT

Many members of different Government services, including those from the military, have taken tough positions in public overemphasising their importance and value over others. There was a time when mature public servants fully understood that all professions and services had their own roles to play in building India as a whole and irrespective of remuneration, there was no superior-inferior relationship between them.

It therefore appears quite unsettling when some retired officers of the military take on the debate on social media and other forums purely with emotions coupled with rhetoric and the plank of tough life while trying to prove that the sacrifice of other services is not as important or central to the national narrative, forgetting in the bargain that such broad arguments do little to ameliorate the situation and on the contrary widen the rift, a situation which is not in national interest.

For example, while a young Lieutenant of the Army manning a remote post has a tough job cut out for him, the life of his IAS counterpart who may be posted as a Sub-Divisional Magistrate would also not be entirely stress-free or easy since at a young age he would be performing executive, quasi-judicial, revenue and magisterial functions for an entire sub-division.


 
So also would be the case of a young Assistant Superintendent of Police from the IPS who would be looking after the law and order of his area as the sub-divisional police officer overlooking multiple police stations in his jurisdiction.

While all three jobs are important in their own ascribed roles and equally paid for at the beginning, it serves no good to pit one against the other or pass disparaging comments. Similar is the case at other levels, for example Constables of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) who face almost the same hardships as those joining as Sepoys in the Army. With this disclaimer, let me take the next step.

THE CHAIRPERSON’S STATEMENT

While various services are performing different duties, that of course does not mean that there could be a vast variation in how they are paid. It was therefore surprising and one was taken aback to hear the Chairperson of the Seventh Pay Commission state in a recorded interview on a TV debate that there could be no comparison between the defence and the civil services.

Surprising since in Para 6.1.3, the pay commission itself talks of historical and traditional parities between the two, in Para 6.1.4 it specifically lists out the parity of defence services with the IPS and other Class I (now known as Group A) services, in Para 7.2.52 again the report reiterates the parity with the police. And taken aback because the opinion of the Chairperson did not match the legal reality whereas the whole report is based on the premise and the fundamentals of parity.

While a high level committee of the Government formed after the Fifth Pay Commission laid down (and subsequently implemented) that the pay of an IPS officer in his 14th year of service should be equal to a military officer with similar service, the Seventh Pay Commission has placed even a military officer with 28 years of service at a disadvantage compared to an IPS officer with 14 years of service, an anomaly later rectified to an extent by the Government.

The situation therefore reflects a total mismatch and with the job of the pay commission now over, the ball therefore has rolled towards the court of the Government to address this chaos. While a little here and there does not make much of a difference, it is the net result that has been troubling a vast majority, in the backdrop of which comes my next point.

PRACTICAL ANOMALIES

While I stand by my disclaimer of due respect to each service, I also sincerely believe that allowances for hardship must not be so grossly off the mark that these create bitterness between various services. In the same vein, I do stand by the rationalisation of such allowances even if other Government employees need to be enhanced up to the level of the military in case it is felt that in similar circumstances or terrain, there is a wide difference between the two classes.

But more often than not, due to various reasons, what practically happens is that while the anomalies of other employees do get resolved and they are able to attain the ‘military level’, the allowances of the military stagnate resulting in a lower payout ultimately.

Here are a few examples from this Pay Commission. Officers of the All India Services (Indian Administrative, Police and Forest Services) of the cadres of the North Eastern States were eligible for 12.5% of Special Disturbed Area Allowance plus 25% AdditionalMonetary Incentive (a whopping 37.5% total over and above the basic pay in NE). This allowance has been rationalized at 30% in total by this pay commission and is applicable to all such officers posted in the said area and to Ladakh.

Let us ignore the labyrinth of the rules and figures for a moment and take a look at the hard facts — the net result is that a Brigadier posted at Leh would now be entitled to an allowance of about Rs 10,000 while his IPS counterpart in the same area would draw approximately Rs 55,000. Similar would be the case in Guwahati. While in Shillong the civil officer would continue to draw about Rs 55,000, the Army counterpart would get zero.

I am not suggesting for a moment that civilians do not deserve it, I am only saying that these figures need to be rationalised based on hardship and not just for officers of the All India Services vis-a-vis the Armed Forces but for all other Central Government employees who have been recommended an SDA at a total of dismal 10%.

Similarly, instead of showing sensitivity towards the deteriorating health profile of the military due to the inherent stress and strain of  service which decreases their life span by almost a decade as compared to civil employees, the pay commission has cast aspersions on the officer cadre of the defence services, stating that more percentage of officers are in receipt of disability pension than jawans, forgetting the very basic fact that while jawans start retiring in their 30s, officers retire in 50s and hence naturally the scope of health problems would increase at a higher age and with a longer length of service.

The recommendations of the Commission for disability pension were also quite bewildering, and the following table adequately reflects the same:

(100% Disability)
Rank
Current rates as on date under the 6th CPC
Rates now proposed by the 7th CPC
Lt Gen
Rs 52560 (100% disability)
Rs 27000 (100% disability)
Head of Central Armed Police Force
Rs 52560 (100% disability)
Rs 67500 (100% disability)

Can the above escape even an untrained eye? This brings me to the next level of thought as to what can be the solution!

WHAT SHOULD THE GOVERNMENT DO?

Thankfully, these were only recommendations by the Commission and are not binding upon the Government which has in fact not accepted many of the bizarre ones.

However, now that anomaly committees have been constituted, without, as always, any representation of the military, it is incumbent upon the Government to ensure that no injustice is caused to the uniformed or any other services merely because of lack of presence at the decision-making level.

The bane of decision-making process in our country is the propelling of incorrect inputs from below to the top which results in decisions being taken based on a one-way file noting method rather than a collegiate brainstorming manner enforced with the desired top-down approach.

The Govt &the committees must ensure that issues are discussed in a participative democratic manner wherein representatives of the defence services and even individual experts are confronted with the views and inputs being dis- cussed so that rebuttals, if any, or the correct positions can be put across there and then, in real time.

This is one sphere where the Pay Commission massively faltered. While it did provide adequate opportunity of interaction to the defence services and veterans, it merely relied upon (and recorded in the report) the data and perhaps personal opinions of an officer of the DAD attached to it without seeking clarifications or rebuttal from the defence services or even the Ministry of Defence.

One can only be more secure about justice being rendered to the subject in case a proper opportunity of hearing and rebuttal is provided to all stakeholders. And this is where the political executive has to take a call and impose its political will for a well-rounded outcome.

CHARITY (ALSO) BEGINS AT HOME

While I started this opinion piece with my disagreement with shrill voices directed towards other services by members of the military community who blame the bureaucracy and the political executive for the constant loss of sheen of the military rank in the society as a whole, I honestly feel that the problem is compounded by the fact that even the military is responsible for the degradation of military in the society and also accountable, paradoxically, that many benefits do not reach its own rank and file.

The defence establishment itself posts senior military officers in junior appoint-ments thereby not only affecting their self esteem but also sending a wrong message to civilian counterparts. While the defence establishment has been (rightly) crying hoarse over denial of the concept of Non-Functional Upgradation to its officers, they themselves blocked another scheme called the DACP Scheme for its uniformed doctors while all Government departments and even the CAPFs implemented it.

The DACP was sternly opposed by the military top brass even after a favourable judicial verdict on the strange and silly pretext that higher pay to doctors would upset its command and control, and by the time the military relented and realised its folly, the Ministry of Defence took a cue and stalled it on the ground that the military was against it.

So it seems that while the military was comfortable with junior civil doctors drawing higher pay but not its own doctors. I also chanced upon an angry mail directed towards the Government by a released Short Service Commissioned Officer who lamented the lack of pension or even a contributory pension scheme for such officers released with spells of service going up to 14 years whereas civil employees if released by the Government with 10 years of service were entitled to pension.

However, what the officer probably was not aware of was that despite being aware of this immense inconsistency, the military itself never projected such a case to the pay commission and perhaps even the need for contributory pension to such officers has not found favour with some chosen few within the military itself based on some vague reasons. Hence there remains no question of venting anger towards the Government or even the pay commission.

In the Military Engineering Service, senior Army officers are being posted to (and are hankering after) appointments which are held by civilian counterparts four rungs junior. Headquarters are overstaffed with senior ranks performing duties which could be performed by ranks other than officers and then we hear talk of the loss of status of the military when the military itself projects a wrong civil-military equivalence to the environment.

Without pointing fingers at others, the military hierarchy must instil some positivity and democratic processes within their own systems since charity, as they say, definitely begins at home. Senior officers of the Army must, under assumed identities, try engaging with various regimental record offices which deal with veterans and military widows and I am sure the results would not be so encouraging since far from the rosy picture being projected to the senior staff, it is difficult even to get a reply from such offices unless it is through a VIP reference or the RTI or through a legal notice or Court case.

Multiple decades into independence and we have not been able to put into place a simple system which makes it mandatory for every such office to at least reply to every single letter, mail or query received. Ask any person of lower ranks who is retiring from the Army and what he is made to go through in what is known as the ‘discharge drill’ at various regimental centres. Ask them about uniformed ‘babus’.

Though the current crop of officers in key appointments dealing with pay and allowances is well aware, hardworking and attuned to the reality, the military must overcome its own inter-service obstacles and display positivity and magnanimity when it comes to its own. It has a long way to go, unlike, for example, the CAPFs which despite being headed by non-cadre officers, are able to put up a joint front displaying no crab mentality and no peer jealously. And it gets them their dues, which is what matters in the end.

EPILOGUE 

Fully aware of the short attention span of readers, while I was not wanting to shun the virtue of brevity, there was no way but to place my thoughts on this subject in a detailed manner appended with some facts in order to transparently convey that the matter is not rudimentary but fairly complex since it arises out of an interplay of various agencies and events including this pay commission, past pay commissions,past mistakes, the government and the military itself.

That said, all services of the Government exist for the public and it would be the greatest disservice to our nation if these limbs do not work in tandem or if they remain deployed in inter-service hostility. It is time the political executive searches for and finds a solution in order to ensure that no service is burdened with the feeling of being the child of a lesser god.

Raw deal for Forces: Govt must set right pay panel follies
(The writer is a practicing Advocate at the Punjab & Haryana High Court. He was the founding President of the Armed Forces Tribunal Bar Association at Chandigarh. He is a Member of the International Society for Military Law and the Law of War at Brussels.)


(Source- ABP News) (Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs and views expressed by the various authors and forum participants on this website are personal and do not reflect the opinions, beliefs and views of ABP News Network Pvt Ltd.)

8 comments:

  1. Dear Sir

    Any information on Delinking 33 years service for pre-2006 veterans please.

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  2. An eye opener for all stake holders

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  3. karunakaran a ex havildarAugust 19, 2016 at 1:20 PM

    Sir

    I have been watching and reading your article carefully , you attempt to strike balance between two wings civil and military, neutrally ,not one sided, many officers should derive some common points from your column, as both wheel of train equivalent and symmetrical in running rolling stock. it is my humble suggestion to my mind and understanding I am writing, may be right or wrong, with regard to hardship allowances, jawans are exposing themselves to the horrible nature and facing them bravely, that hardship allowances should be rationalised, need not to be indexed basic pay or variables to different ranks, yet another think disability pension, loss of arm or amputated limbs soldier's body is not made of wood lowly paid, I underscore this core area should be at par

    this is my humble suggestion

    thank you major sahib

    ReplyDelete
  4. Everyone should listen, the real lion roar. Feeling Proud about Indian Army. THE WORDS OF A INDIAN COMMANDO. Please share if you respect our Brave Soldier. Jaihind
    Copy Paste and click
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XubpeihSXw

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  5. The terms of reference of the pay commission is well known, to recommend what can be given to the GS within the financial capability of the govt. So the commission worked. Now let us see what will be the addl benifit for the veterans apart from 2.57 MF when its final implementation takes place. The updated information regarding it, if anybody can give through the blogspot like this would be very useful to the veterans. Those strength is less (like officers) possibly get as per their part of anomalies. To do and to speak something for mass needs courage. It is the well known phenomenon.

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  6. Lets see and wait . What's and when it is happening. Govt is very clever to devide and delay to cool down the matter and put the ball in our court.

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  7. Lt Col Ankur (Retd)August 20, 2016 at 10:14 AM

    Dear Navdeep,
    Kudos for this detailed piece.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I follow the OROP debate closely on TV Shows. They are debates about Defence officers vs. IAS/IPS officers. There is no mention about JCOs/ORs, except "soldiers soldiers". You have aptly pointed out the mindset of officers. As you said, charity begins at home. Officers should emulate your thoughts. Thanks for highlighting the cause of below-officer ranks.

    ReplyDelete