Tarun Reflex

September 18, 2008

Prior to the appointment of a Sixth Central Pay Commission (CPC) for better pay scales for Central Government employees including the defence services, the three Services chiefs had asked the Government for a separate Pay Commission for defence services. The reason: there are different service conditions, which have not been appreciated by the previous pay commissions.

The Service chiefs have been proved right. They are “unwilling to implement” the Sixth CPC report as it is. Recent media reports state that the three Chiefs have apprised Defence Minister AK Antony and want the “anomalies” removed and the status and parity of payscales to be restored.

After sensing the mood, Antony is learnt to have assured the Chiefs that he would take up the matter with the Government. Till then, the three Chiefs have sought that implementation for officer ranks be “held in abeyance.” They have, however, thanked the Government for hiking salaries of Personnel Below Officer Ranks (PBORs) as desired. But, their grievance that the disparity between service officers and their civil service counterparts not only remains, but has increased. Basically they point out:

* Disparity in Pay Bands: The chiefs claim the Committee of Secretaries (CoS) moved the Director rank into Pay Band 4 but retained Lt. Col and its equivalent in other services in Pay Band 3. Earlier, they claim, a Lt Col got the same pay as an IAS Director and Rs 800 more than a non-IAS Director. Now he gets Rs 14000 less than an IAS director and Rs 11000 less than a non-IAS director.

* Disparity in Grade Pay: The CoS agreed to their demand to an increase in grade pay across middle-rank officers but also increased the grade pay of civil servants, thereby retaining disparity, the chiefs say. For example, he Pay Commission recommended Rs 6600 for a civil servant equivalent to a Major who was to get Rs 6100. After review, a Major will now get Rs 6600 but his equivalent in the civil service will get Rs 7600.

* Restricting elite list: The new category of HAG-plus (Higher Administrative Grade) includes all DGs and DGPs but only Army Commanders and their equivalents in other services, the chiefs complain. Their demand: all Lt. Gen officers be included in this category. The Defence Ministry is said to have conveyed that the objections are being looked into and a response will be given soon.

While Antony appears to be sympathetic, the Finance Ministry has strongly denied any “injustice” to the Armed forces in this new pay structure. Its officials are emphatic: “In no way are the defence personnel getting any lesser pay than their civilian counterparts. In fact, they will carry home fatter pay packets than civilian services and paramilitary under the new salary structures of the CPC.”

Quoting the new feature of Military Service Pay (MSP) in the CPC, officials say the Armed forces officers would uniformly get Rs 6,000 more, whereas such a pay was not offered to the civilians and the paramilitary. “Under the 5th CPC there was no compensation provided for the risk factor involved in the defence personnel’s job profile. MSP has taken care of that lacuna in the 6th CPC.”

Also, the MSP would be counted along with the Basic Pay of Armed Forces officers for calculating the Dearness Allowance (DA). “That would provide them with Rs 960 DA and the amount would increase as the DA is hiked,” is another argument. In addition, defence officers posted in Siachen would get an allowance of Rs 14,000 and an High Altitude Allowance of Rs 8,000, which adds up to a total of Rs 22,000. Earlier, the personnel were getting only Rs 7,000 as Siachen Allowance and Rs 4,000 as High Altitude Allowance, adding up to Rs 11,000.

Citing an example of the entry-level defence officers in the rank of Lieutenants and equivalent in Navy and Air Force, the officials explain that under the 5th CPC under the pay scale of Rs 8,250-10,500, they received a salary totalling Rs 15,252 as on December 31, 2005 . “On January 1, 2006 , from when the 6th CPC would be effective, a Lieutenant under the Pay Band-3 will receive an additional Grade Pay of Rs 5,400 and MSP of Rs 6,000, making his or her total emoluments Rs 27,000. As on September 1, 2008 , when the 6th CPC was implemented, a Lieutenant would get total emoluments of Rs 28, 947,” the officials add. As against this, their civilian counterparts in the pay scale of Rs 8,000-13,500 under 5th CPC had received a pay of Rs 14,880.

Another argument put forth is: A Lt Colonel under the 5th CPC received a Gross Pay of Rs 28,086. But under the 6th CPC, he would receive a Grade Pay of Rs 7,600 and MSP of Rs 6,000 under Pay Band-3. His pay as on January 1, 2006 , would be Rs 41,690. From September 1, 2008 , when 6th CPC was implemented, Lt Colonel’s emoluments stood at Rs 45,000.

With the Finance Ministry virtually rejecting their demands, the Armed Forces’ chiefs rightly have asked that the issues raised by them should be addressed by the country’s political leadership and not Anomalies Committee. “The CPC created disparities are not just pay anomalies, but core issues. Hence, these cannot be left to the Anomalies Committee. But the Cabinet must consider them and issue a corrigendum to the CPC notification,” Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta, in his capacity as the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, insists.

Clearly, the issues such as “extant parities of pay” to Lieutenant Colonels and equivalent officers vis-à-vis their civilian and paramilitary counterparts, is not just related to the CPC, but could seriously jeopardise “operational” and “functional” harmony of the defence forces, whenever and wherever they worked alongside the civilian and paramilitary forces officers. .

Let us face the facts that the disparity “badly demoralise” the officers of the Armed Forces and if these persist, it could lead to “despondency” among the defence cadre. Admiral Mehta has even met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to press for the removal of anomalies, explaining that it has serious implications of the command and control element during Unified Command Operations if not addressed. Singh is learnt to have promised that he will personally look into the issues raised.

Let us hope that the Cabinet Committee on Security removes these disparities so that the soldiers do not get demoralised and save the nation from a serious catastrophe. A demoralised force cannot save the sovereignty, security and integrity of the country.

Author : Col (Dr) PK Vasudeva (Retd) -INFA

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