The following is another guest post by BeeCee, a retired senior flag rank officer of the Indian Navy who has in the past been associated with cadre management and pay issues in the services. Take a look at his earlier posts here & here
Having been goaded into reading the IE editorial and Shiv Aroor’s defence of it, I am willing to concede lack of malice. Shekhar Gupta may even have got it right on some bureaucratic -military implications, but I think he has entirely missed the point on what’s going on.
I also agree with him that Mr. Antony has not exactly covered himself with glory, but for quite the opposite reasons. Instead of drawing attention to, and seeking accountability from the SCPC and the Committee of Secretaries who have brought this situation to pass, he seems to have let attention drift to the Chiefs who have highlighted the problem. But this is also precisely the problem with the IE editorial. It shifts both the focus and the responsibility from those responsible for the mess, to those who cried foul.
The Profession of Arms is nothing if not about standing up for a ‘Just Cause’. And I suspect the Service Chiefs have done just that – Stand up for a cause they believe to be Just. The Service Hqs have made too many mistakes in the past on their approach to pay related issues. Now if they have managed to draw attention to the charade that takes place every decade in the name of Pay commissions, they have done signal service not just to the armed forces, but the country as a whole. I don’t think trivializing it, is in the larger national interest.
The article in the Observer on what the bureaucrats apportion to themselves around every CPC is merely an indicator of what goes on without public or political scrutiny.
Some of the best recommendations of the last CPC came in the ‘note of dissent’ of Mr. Suresh Tendulkar, then Member FCPC and now Economic Adviser to the PM. Would somebody ask him to have a look at what is going on and see what has happened to V CPC reccos on reigning in the bureaucracy.
I am no fan of the V CPC (report is on the net, on the same site as the VI CPC), but even where there was no dissent, there were recommendations to bring some sense into babudom. This included re-iteration of the IV CPC norm of uniform pay progression up to 13th year (for organized Gp A services) and establishment of a model cadre structure ie a fixed percentage of the officers’ strength in each pay grade. The former was implemented for Civil and Armed Forces officers but the latter wasn’t implemented though accepted for civil services, by the Committee of Secretaries. Therein lies the crux of the whole issue now brought into the open by the Service Chiefs.
If implemented for the civil services, a break will be applied on the practice of a handful of civil services promoting every entrant, good, bad, indifferent or however disjointed, to a joint-secretary’s pay in a relatively short time.
More importantly, other more professional/technical civil services will realize how they have been done in by the 'elite services' and could find a well-deserved place in decision making. If implemented for the armed forces, all Cols would move to the joint-secretary’s pay giving them compensation comparable to civil services. But it would alter the civil servant’s perception of his own importance.
The lack of home-work in the SCPC report may be over-looked, but it is the attempt at quiet burial of some fair, transparent norms attempted by two previous CPCs, by both the SCPC and the current lot of Secretaries, that is at the root of the present imbroglio. Some accountability is in order, but definitely not from those who blew the whistle.
Nor is this happening for the first time as IE says. It was the firm stand taken by a former CNS on pay issues that set the bureaucracy against him. What is probably different now is that the other two Chiefs have also stood firm. Public memory may be short, but newspapers should be having archives. IE may however have another point there. Dereliction of duty may be too strong a phrase, but inaction in the past has definitely added to the burden of present incumbents.
As to what is going on, I am not in uniform, but what can be seen from the media, blogs etc is that there has been a loss of innocence at the middle and lower levels of the Officer corps. With the loss of innocence has also come a loss of trust of the bureaucracy and the political class. In the past, even while deriding each other, there was still an implicit trust (often misplaced) that if one were to lose life and limb in the line of duty, it was for a worthy cause or that his family would be taken care of. Now they seem to be wondering.
Regaining that trust is going to be a much more up-hill battle for the government (and the media) than any perceived kinks in civil military relations. That may in fact be the curse of this CPC, not what the Chiefs did.