Sunday, November 17, 2013

Defence Services: A New Approach Required for the Seventh Pay Commission

A fwd msg please spend sometime it is worth it

1. Two glaring news items of recent times are worth recounting: one: A statement by a minister of Bihar State Govt, in the aftermath of the slaying of a few Army personnel by Pakistan at the J&K LOC, to the effect that personnel of Security Forces Join the service only to lay down their lives and that there is nothing to despair about their death, and Two: that NFU (non functional up gradation) was not granted to Defence Officers because they are not from Central Group A Services (as are IAS and other allied services). Both the statements require a definite response from us before the Govt and the Pay Commission. Response to Ist statement should be to accept the statement at face value but for that implied condition demand grant of ‘Death Risk’ allowance, and in second case seek creation of Central Defence Service (CDS), or Indian Defence Service (IDS), at par with other Gp A AICS (all India civil services such as IAS etc) for all Commissioned Officers in conjunction with or replacement of the President’s Commission (which in any case does not give any exclusive privilege any more); then we would be at Par with AICS Gp A (All India Civil Services) with additional allowances as may be granted for curtailment of our fundamental rights and Death Risk (or War Risk?)- read below for detailed argument for that, and other special conditions of service.

2. Besides the above, for the past 60 odd years we have seen erosion of esteem and emoluments vis-à-vis AICS. We have been fretting and fuming to no end and blaming the civil services, particularly the IAS, Pay Commissions and Politicians but to no use. One can be sure that nothing of substance will ever come out of that. What we need to do is change of course; to that effect I am proposing an altogether new approach. It is based on our special conditions of service, as the Minister ibid mentioned above, in that we are governed by special laws such as ARMY ACT, NAVY ACT etc and not by the common laws of the land applicable to all other central services, be it IAS, IPS or any other service. Unlike them, that we do not have a right to resign, are denied to form associations, or resort to collective bargaining – even the three chiefs sitting together to discuss an issue, or an odd press statement not to their liking invites ire of IAS functionaries. Yet in all other matters of pay and allowances we have been downgraded to lower than AICS, and in other matters such as leave travel regulations etc there has been a concerted effort on the part of any Govt of the day to try to bring the services at par with civil services in all matters where the Defence services had special privileges.

3. Consider just a few examples. SP, police head of a district used to wear badges of a Captain and used to be colloquially called a ‘police kaptaan’ in 1950’s. Over time, it has been upgraded to equivalence of a Colonel. Likewise, a DC or a Collector, district administrator, used to be equivalent of a Major which has grown to equivalence of a Brig. Top most Police Head of a State used to be an IG, Inspector General of Police, only one to a state, with badges of rank of a Maj-Gen but otherwise equivalent to a brigadier- now there are scores of DGs and Commissioners of Police equivalent to Army Commanders, in all states. Similar is the proliferation in posts and up-gradations in civil appointments. This can never be replicated in Defence Services- you cannot have all or most of the officers reaching the rank of a Lt Gen (ratio of Lt Gen to total officer strength may be around 1:400?) in comparison to AICS where almost all IAS/IPS officers reaching equivalent of that rank even though their yearly intake at about 1000 is not so miniscule as compared to Defence Officers.


4. Unlike Defence Service Officers, everyone else in the country, probably the world, has a right to seek release by way of resignation- acceptance of which is only a formality; one can just resign, with mandated notice where necessary, and sit at home; it is only the civility that formal acceptance is sought in some high profile posts/appointments. Take the example of Mr Kejriwal, President of AAP, who resigned from his Central Govt job several years back and was at liberty even though his resignation was accepted only recently and he was never considered a criminal. In contrast, we have no such right- our resignation has first to be accepted, which is very seldom and takes a year or more even if it materialises, before we can stop attending to duties. We have no right to form associations and seek collective bargaining. Take just one example of the degree of restrictions: even a seriously sick person cannot send his casual or sick leave application but must report to a service doctor for evaluation of sickness- a certificate from a civil doctor, even from a Govt hospital is of no value- to be either declared SIQ (sick in quarters) or be admitted in hospital or to attend duty with medicine! Even casual leave is not a right for any eventuality like marriage, sickness or even death of a close family member (there are example galore for denial of leave in so many of such cases)- in contrast a civil servant would just abstain and submit a leave application or a medical certificate from even a private practitioner after rejoining duty.

5. To attend to the special requirements of a defence services personal, we need to do the following:

(a) Creation of CDS (or IDS): This could a replacement of or in conjunction of ‘President’s Commission’ which has today ceased to have any significance as it does not bestow any special or exclusive perk or privilege or an exalted place in society.

(b) Financial compensation for each ‘abridgement of right’: This can be calculated as a percentage of basic salary. The total of such allowances should be of the order of 200% to 250% of the basic salary. For example flying bounty alone at one time used to be 100% of basic salary. The matter of fixing such allowances can be referred to a commission consisting of eminent citizens from industry and judiciary aided by those from services, but none from IAS, who will know the value of those highly trained, motivated, and disciplined workers working as bonded employees denied many of the fundamental constitutional rights with stringent conditions of service and subjected to special acts such as Army/Navy/Airforce Act and such others besides being exposed to vagaries of wars and other war-like conflicts. As a sort of minor comparison, pay and perks of ONGC employees working on Bombay-High may be studied who work in somewhat difficult circumstances but without any enemy action or the element of ‘bondage’, the Army Act or their equivalents in Navy and Air Force. [Consider what an industrialist would be willing to pay a worker who is governed by equivalent of Army Act: cannot abstain under any circumstances except with prior sanction of leave, cannot agitate or form association, the factory manager (equivalent of CO in army) having powers of discipline to include dismissal from service and RI in civil jail up to three months, the GM (equivalent of a GOC) having powers of convening equivalent of a GCM with powers of even a death sentence, and the like]

(c) War and Death Risk: To seek “Death Risk or War Risk” allowance.

(d) To answer the question as to how can new allowance be of the order of 300% be granted, I draw attention to several cases where in salaries of higher judiciary, Governors of states and President of India were hiked even beyond 300% in 2010/2011. The chief Justice of India had recommended similar increase for lower judiciary also.

6. For fixing allowances in distress-prone and field areas, comparison must be drawn with those working in Antarctica as that is virtually the only place where there is some element of civilians working in hard conditions. Taking that as the base, allowances for Siachin-like and other high-altitude areas, field areas etc may be fixed, taking in consideration that there are further stress-inducing elements of High altitude effect and enemy action. Likewise, in the Navy, personnel posted on ships should draw allowances with merchant navy as base. In any case it must be mandated that any allowance for the defence services must not be lower than central services. To site an example, ‘remote area allowance’ of central services and AICS for posting to North East and other such areas, are far higher that field area allowances of defence services, and the latter have no such allowance for non-field areas where civilians may have remote area allowance. There are many other special allowances enjoyed by civilians that have no equivalent for persons in uniform.

7. As for the normal pay and allowances, we should accept total parity with civil services. We should not bring in the Rank Structure into discussion for this purpose. The Rank Structure ought to be followed solely for internal working of the services for matters of appointments and seniority. A special pay such as “Rank Pay” on the lines that was granted by 4th Pay Commission may be re-introduced. This will also resolve the multifarious problems of Pensions for different ranks as the Pension will also attain parity with civil services. If a running pay-band in introduced, rather than rank-based pay bands, another anomaly would be resolved: there is often large disparity in the length-of-service levels in different services, and indeed between different corps within the Army itself, for the same rank: Ist selection board in Navy as of now is at 19 years service in contrast to 15 or 16 years in some corps of the Army, like wise similar differential may exist within corps of the Army. That is unfair to the service/corps wherein the promotion is delayed- at least the emoluments may not suffer except for the element of rank pay.

8. To compensate the Defence personnel for their unusual life full of hardships and early retirement, and to make military service an attractive career, there is need to legislate that their pay would be guarded to have edge over their counterparts in Civil Services, for relative years in service, at EACH stage. The other countries of the world package their Defence personnel 15 -20 percent higher than their Civilian Counterparts.

9. The concept of “Batch” in AICS and “Date of Commission” in the Defence services also needs to be rationalised to bring them to a common denominator. The year following the year in which UPSC exam is held is the Batch year for AICS, where as Date of Commission is the reference date for Defence officers. It should be uniform for all, for which Defence services also need to adopt Batch system. The period of training is 2 years in AICS where as it differs for different types of entry if Defence services. I suggest that for NDA and equivalent entry, where the period of training is 4 years, the Batch year should be third year following the year in which UPSC exam is held. Likewise, for Direct entry Officers, where the period of training is less than two years, the Batch year following the year of UPSC exam be adopted. This will bring some sort of parity with AICS.

10. The CPC should become a standing body, first to consider and recommend Pay packages as it is done now, and then- post acceptance of their report by the Govt, to issue implementation orders as a single point of action in contrast to issue of orders separately by various agencies for different organisations. If the recommendations are made by a single agency, the CPC, their implementation must also be done by the same agency. It can also be the single point for resolution of anomalies as they arise rather than by various committees of secretaries constituted from time to time. Two facts are well known: One: that many provisions, whether arising from CPC, Court Orders or Govt action are deliberately tinkered with by the bureaucracy to the disadvantage of Defence Services at the implementation stage; Two: that central services, mainly the IAS, sanction many a allowance exclusively to themselves outside the CPC-all malpractices by bureaucracy would be reduced considerably by this. The composition and strength of the CPC may of course be adjusted downwards after the primary task of issue of CPC report is achieved.

11. There is need to have a running campaign to educate public opinion: that time to remember and honour defence services is not when there is a war on and they are engaged to fight enemy or immediately after that- that will automatically come- but in peace time when they are least visible so that they know that they have not been forgotten by their country-folk. There is also dire need to understand and highlight to one and all as to how many, if any, of our politicians, Industry bigwigs, Judiciary or Central service Officers have their wards in defence forces and that there needs to be a premium on that. Besides, will any Chief have the conviction to tell the Government, on record, that if the Defence Services continue to be neglected, both in respect of equipment and manpower shortages, particularly junior officers, not neglecting the role of morale and state of equipment, next war may not be winnable, though it may not be as bad as 1962 was? After all, it cannot be any body’s case that a grumbling force, 30% deficient in leadership (that will be 50% if strength of only junior officers is considered), not to talk of state and deficiency of equipment, can at any time be 100% battle ready with conviction to win it. And any amount of money, any which way, inducted at the last stage cannot contribute to improve immediate and short term results. In any case, no Chief ought to falsely paint a rosy picture about the battle readiness of a force.

I can think of two more ie we should also ask compensation for early discharge of defence personnel from age approx 35 to 53 whereas our counterparts in civil can serve till 60 years of age even if they get no promotion whatsoever. Also like in IPS, IAS, state services and even in PBOR cases defence officers should get full pay and perks during the training periods as well.

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