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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Guest Post : How Majors became Minors and more....

BeeCee is a senior retired naval officer who in the past has remained closely associated with pay and status issues. He has earlier contributed through his guest posts on this blog which can be viewed by clicking here and here. Here is another one in the aftermath of the ruling of the Hon’ble SC in the rank pay case. These are his personal views. Enjoy !

As a ‘not really affected anymore’ party I had thought it prudent to stay out of the debate on pay, pensions, promotions etc. But the general reaction to the Supreme Court ruling on Maj Dhanapalan's plea, and lack of it from Service HQrs, PE's poser to RM on ‘Too many at the Top’, Ajai Shukla's piece on the army's internal health and the continuing narrative of hurt and victimhood by ESM has brought back to focus the tragic ‘comedy of errors’ that the Armed Forces enact periodically on personnel issues. But what has surprised me is the failure of those who follow these matters, to connect the dots. I am willing to be corrected if someone can explain otherwise, but essentially, the underlying cause for all the narratives seems to be the same.

A visit to the post ‘Not so Pragmatic’ will show how the Service HQrs had triggered the general downward spiral for officers at the IV CPC. Dhanapalan's case highlighted a part of its fall-out. But the general reaction seems to have missed the crux of the issue. I must confess that I have only read the Supreme Court verdict as posted by Navdeep on his blog, not the original Kerala High Court order. But it is enough to make the point.

The contention was that pay fixation by the GOI was contrary to the IV CPC award. The courts upheld his view and ordered a correction. He had not challenged the award, only the mode of implementation. Evidently, it will restore some of the loss of pay suffered by officers at the time. But, wasn’t this precisely the job of the Service HQrs, and in particular of the ‘Pay Cells’ formed to deal with the IV CPC? As a matter of normal practice, pay fixation after every CPC is done through mutual consultations between Service HQrs, MOD and CDA. What Maj Dhanapalan has done therefore, is what was left undone by the Service HQrs. Also since it was ‘Major’ Dhanapalan who decided to take a close look at what was done to those of his rank, he may have corrected the damage to Majors who were in service at the time.

But had a Lt Col, Col and Brigadier bothered to take a similar look, they would have been aghast to find that their pay scales had disappeared altogether. But they may have had less luck at the courts because unlike Dhanapalan’s contention, this was not an implementation issue but was awarded as such by the CPC. It would also have been rather embarrassing to highlight it because the CPC merely gave in to what the Service HQrs asked for (who deemed it an achievement at the time).

As in the past, in the excitement over the possibility of getting some arrears, nobody seems to be looking at the pay scales even now. It would be seen that the Major’s pay (with rank pay post IV CPC) or Major (Selection Grade) pay (pre IV CPC without rank pay), was comparable with the NFSG pay scale (now of Director) in the civil services at the time. Fast forward 20 years. The pay that Maj Dhanapalan argued for (or to be precise, its replacement scale) is the same pay that was sought for the Colonel by Service HQrs when Mr. Antony rounded up the VI CPC at MOD to give another hearing to the Services. Of course our interlocutors at the VI CPC alone can’t be blamed for the double demotion of the Colonel. 'AVS-I' had already demoted the Lt Col to Major’s level a few years earlier. And an earlier request (at the V CPC) for reduced pay all round had misfired. They merely took the next step in the path set by their illustrious predecessors. As a positive, one can’t fault officers dealing with the issue for lack of perseverance.

‘Too many at the top’ as PE says is actually a misnomer. If our own people (not CPC or bureaucracy or the RM for that matter) feel that Colonels need to be paid only what was earlier paid to Majors, then the only way to have a reasonable pay progression is to have as many Colonels as you had Majors before the pay reduction. From a pay point of view, a more honest description than ‘too many at the top’ would be to say that ‘Majors would now be called Colonels’, with related fallout for those above and below.

Coming to OROP, the argument may have some merit, but I think it wouldn’t be such a burning issue if the long retired Major gets the pension he had earned the hard way rather than what is prescribed for him now after they made the Major into a ‘minor’. Senior ESM may be missing the point when they try to compare pensions with recently retired ESM. I don’t have the data on this, but I suspect a comparison between the pensions drawn then by a Major (SG) and a civilian NFSG officer/ Comdt (SG) of CPOs who all retired around 1984-85 (just prior to IV CPC), and the pensions they draw now, could hold some clue. It may require another Major to go to court and plead that while the authorities are welcome to reduce the pay/ pensions of their officers, it cannot do so with retrospective effect.

A penchant also seems to be developing in the blogosphere to give unsolicited advice to the Chiefs. Let me also give in to the temptation. Instead of having officers/ ESM go on with their victimhood narrative and blaming all and sundry for their predicament, can somebody do an honest internal review of how Service HQrs have handled pay / pension / personnel matters since the Q&M paper of the 80s. If nothing else, it could put a break on the downward slide and perennial pay discussions.

Ajai Shukla is right that this endless discussion on pay/ promotions is an indicator of low morale. But it may be a chicken and egg situation. The low morale itself may be caused by perceptions of being treated badly in pay matters, irrespective of who is at fault. But unlike promotions and transfers, changes in pay structure can be examined objectively. On the bright side, I think his blog actually highlights an issue that gives credit to Service HQrs. The pay of jawans / JCOs have always been handled with better care than that of officers.

Bernard Shaw’s ‘Arms and the Man’ was taught at the NDA to caricature the officer who says, 'I never withdraw'. But many in Service seem to be emulating it as a desirable trait. Instead of admitting and correcting the errors at CPCs, we have devised means to cover it up and further compound the errors. It may not be accidental that the first major cadre review (1986) proposal followed the disastrous IV CPC ‘achievements’.


mbsg said...

A well written piece by BeeCee again , and it certainly is the "Chicken and Egg" story and the low Morale is also here to stay unless the feeling of being put down by cucessive Pay Commissions and comparison with All India Services is addressed

Harry said...

Well.. the sad saga of unpalatable facts brings forth the realisation that NOT only are we helpless but ALSO quite BRAINLESS, institutionally, when it comes to matters of pay, status and allowances. I just SHUDDER to think what is going to happen in 7th Pay Commmission which is now supposed to be in-house affair for the Services!!

BeeCee Sir, God.. definitely CANNOT save us from ourselves EVERYTIME!

Anonymous said...

BeeCee Sir,
You have put accross a strong case for delinking "PAY" Ranks and consequently "Rank" pensions.
May be sir, if we ESM employ some of the IDAS officers, and then this problem may find a practical, non-"COURT"eos solution.

Kaps said...

Lucid and well written sir! IMHO, at the top level, there is a severe disconnect regarding the relationship between pay/pension/allowances and izzat-o-iqbal and how it is perceived by today's generation. The same gents who are ready to willfully compete with and against their own brethren for higher ranks, seem to be lost in the web of official speak when it comes to competing with and against their civilian counter parts. We are happy to accept that till the time we have our shoulder tabs, we needn't worry about anything else.

Like the chicken and egg, it is also the story of feeling abandoned by the very polity and leadership that we defend. The time lost in official corrections due the slow pace and secrecy with which babudom works, adds
to further slide. Here I feel, transparency as well as dissemination of information to everyone regarding steps being taken for corrective measures can stem the slide.

One can argue that during the period of IV CPC and even V CPC, awareness levels amongst rank and file were not very high regarding degradation or for that matter modus operandi of pay fixation. Thanks to Maj Navdeep's blog and other efforts on internet, awareness levels have increased. More number of people are now aware how they have been cheated successively over decades, unlike the case where only Maj Dhanpalan seemed to be aware of the injustice meted out.

If we have to compete at the level of civil counterparts with regards to pay/pension etc, we have to understand the way they work. If next PC is going to be in-house, it better be an effort that nobody in FM or MOD has the wherewithal to refuse.

Anonymous said...

When would the next Pay Commission come into effect? Is it confirmed to be 10 years from 01 Jan 2006 or will it be a whimsical affair.

I need to plan my retirement accordingly. Would it not make sense to retire after 01 Jan 2016? Please give me some information on this.

Anonymous said...

The essence is decocted.
The decline has taken place and continues only because the Service HQs take a head-in-the-sand stance.Is it that people in uniform are unaware.Nay! Its just a case. I'm OK - as of now - will see later. Sanoo Ki? thsi si what is exploited and the services are given raw deal. In the 4th PC fiasco if the service HQ people were worth their salt their would have had sleepless nights getting it rectified. But alas Sanoo Ki? When I retire and I face the big bad world then I shall rebel.

Anonymous said...

Dear All,
I think what Bee Cee just talked about is very valid.I have read the articles that he wrote on various pay commissions.In spite of his being a memeber of these cells that deal with CPCs,he was probably unable to push through with his ideas then.Also,on small unrelated doubt,is there an issue with retired Officers expressing their views openly?never saw Bee Cee reveal his real name,or is it a case of my showing an unneccesary interest in a trivial issue????either ways,the man talks sense almost every time.

Rajababu said...

A very well written article indeed. how many enemies do we have within?? with so many enemies within its credible that our forces are still having the combat spirit. hats off to them.

this also a major reason for services to succumb to minor/major vices

Just Defence said...

That one went right over my head - and here I was conceited enough to think I was intelligent.

We found the faults, we identified what and how to set it right but we forgot the most important element - who will set things right and ensure they remain right?

We may have to await another article from BeeCee unless there are some others who are erudite and intelligent.


An excellent article.The diagnosis of the ailment has been done very nicely .Who will do the treatment ?

Anonymous said...

Jai Hind to one and all,

Nicely constructed post "HOW MAJORS BECAME MINORS". This is the first time I have visited this blog(am I too late?) Never mind... Better Late than Never!
I too share the anguish in the expression of Lt Col Mathur (Retd) But, I got the answer to his question. Yes...WE SHALL DO THE TREATMENT!
As someone else had mentioned, the awareness is there amongst the uniformed personnel. But, what we lack is the vision (not the vision 2020!) to build an EFFECTIVE ORGANISATION(includes OG,White&Blue uniforms-all three services)
Every arm of our illustrious defence forces is striving to achieve excellence through modernisation, acquisition, training,indigenisation blah... blah! But.....
Do we ever stop to INTROSPECT? Why do we always point a finger at somebody else-mostly at the Babus and sometimes at our own top brass! Are we not the part of these organisations? WE BECOME WHAT WE THINK WE ARE!!
Major has come down the ladder because of our own doing.(No..not because of mere reduction of qualifying years!) I am not only referring to the disparity in pay and allowances but in real sense of status. It has been a gradual degradation. Gone are the days when Major Sahib (Mr.Bachhan to excuse me) was to be considered as a prominent person in a Zilla or Taluk. But what now? How did he vanish into the thin air of government hirearchy?

Whether we admit or not it has always been the game of parity with our civilian counter parts. Why did we reach this precarious situation of fighting for parity? The excuse that an officer becomes Major in just six years after VI CPC will not suffice. If that be the analogy a SP of a district takes how many years to reach that position. Haven't the number of IPS officers in the country has increased manifold? Despite that their status is mainatined rather at a scale higher than before. How?

There is an argument based on the area of jurisdiciton and the financial power involved with the status. If that is a criteria, we have an edge over them because of the vastness of our nation which we safeguard. Every officer can be assigned an area of responsibility of course not in true geographical sense. The aircraft, ships and other modern equipment maintained at the disposal and custody of our officers nothing but their financial powers(all of them may not sign a cheque for the expenditure) For example, even a Fg Offr who flies an aircraft across the country is authorised by the Govt of India, to incur expenditure towards operation (refuelling,handling charges etc) without any prescribed limit. Is he not having financial responsibility. He goes for air maintenance in the North East, while he also may be launched for rescue mission during natural calamity-then what is his area of responsibility or jurisdiction?

The question is WHAT WE DESERVE (R) DESERVE and NOT WHAT WE WANT.For this we must treat ourself as equals not as followers. The change of outlook has to be top-down. We must market our potentials and project our importance when and where it matters. We should not wait for the pay commission to come for discussing this. The inter and intra services differences should be ironed out initially before we set to take on others.

We all must realise and understand the vitality and significance of our jobs (flying, sailing, guarding the border)which has direct impact on the national security and economic growth. Without a strong defence no foreigner would come to invest in our country then why should we buy the nonsense that the economic strength will only decide a countries standing in the international arena. Let us remove this veil from the eyes.
Let us educate ourselves and enlighten the policy makers before seeking our rightful status....
Finally, ONLY WE CAN DO all these and WE SHALL DO IT.....

Jai Hind.


B P SINGH said...

Dear All,
It is not that scales of AF officers are moved lower but scales of CPOs are now placed correctly.
Please try to look on with even angle and horizon will be clear.

naresh said...

You are right Mr. B P Singh...... Tomorrow if the pay scale of a UDC is made equal to a commandant of CPO then it will not be a case of scale of CPO moved lower but UDCs placed correctly.

JK said...

WELL SAID Mr. Naresh,
With due respect to you Mr. BP Singh, I would like to clarify the follwoing:-

(a) In my comment on the subject I have not mentioned anything about your elevation in status,the whole issue is about lowering the status of the defence officers which is not merely about the salary, because for a soldier the IZZAT is SUPREME.

(b) Going by your analogy, why should we have the rank structure and status symbol at all? While we all understand "Dignity of Labour", the hierarchy in any organisation and certain unquantifiable intangibles must be respected.

(c) If jursidiction is the criteria for status-then the proliferation of the number of administrative blocks have in effect reduced the area of jurisdiction in the civil society. Then how can anyone justify the status = jurisdiction & responsibilities?

(d) Further, we the soldiers have neither been trained to toy with words nor ever inclined to resort to lobbying. Ofcourse, I must admit that it is seen as a weakness rather than a positive trait.

I would like to sum it by saying that WE, as responsible public servants MUST GET RID of CUT OTHERS DOWN to ensure OWN GROWTH. It will do more harm to the system rather than one's ownself.

Jai Hind,


sanjiv grover said...

Well 'said'. Generally, the fauji has been fed 'izzat over all else' and he has willingly gulped it with eyes closed. The benefits of this 'eyes closed syndrome' has been effectively harnessed by the babus who have systematically downgraded the status/pay parity of faujis. While all and sundry would strike work after every pay commission and demand (and get) 'justice', the fauji has been hampered by the lack of this option. Then there has been this issue of 'safe driving' by the (much of the) seniors when they are in any position where they could change things. After all, the benefits of fighting the babus would not garner them any financial benefits - the generations to come would - so why bother!
I remember distinctly some of the benefits of 5CPC took some time to get 'approved' by the Service HQ; as a result the section cdr was traveling in a lower class than his junior from the civil services. Why? Even now the higher rates for the doctors in the civil have not found parity with the service doctors of the same seniority. The moral of the story is that 'the enemy lies within'!!
First we must defeat the enemy within, then assist the civilian babus (juniors with higher pay/perks/status) in tackling the law and order situation for them, then dig holes to pull out children fallen inside unused borewells abandoned by some brainless civilian contractors who have not been supervised adequately by the same civilian babus, and then maybe tackle the enemy beyond the borders, if there is some juice left. Amen!!