Regular readers would be aware of BeeCee’s earlier posts on the blog. Well, he seems pretty disturbed by certain issues which he has tried to address through the below reproduced communication to me. Though these are his own personal views and I may not subscribe to all his observations regarding the Services HQ, still his write-up may be an eye-opener about the damage already done. I do however agree that we, in uniform, have been sending conflicting signals to the establishment and have not been magnanimous while placing our demands before the govt or the CPCs. To take an example, when the VI CPC downgraded the ranks of Col & Brig and equated a Brig with a DIG by granting them an equal Grade Pay of Rs 8900, instead of a seeking a Grade Pay of more than 8900 for a Col for retaining the earlier edge (Col had a start of Rs 17100 while a DIG started at 16400 during the V CPC) we as a corrective measure sought a Grade Pay of Rs 8800 for a Col and accepted the Grade Pay of Rs 8900 for a Brig thereby tacitly and incorrectly sending out a signal that we had agreed that a DIG was senior to a Col and was equal to a Brig. Whereas the correct way out would have been to seek a minimum Grade Pay of Rs 9000 for a Col. Only if we ask for it would there be a chance of getting it !. Another example – in many mixed organizations, Lt Cols (V CPC start of Rs 15100) were and are functionally equated with Director level officers (Rs 14300 in V CPC) and at places were even writing ACRs of such civilian officers but our very own office of DGAFMS still has an Army Order in vogue that states that Deputy Secretaries (V CPC start of Rs 12000) can write the ACRs of Lt Cols !!! So whom to blame ? the bureaucracy or our own lack of deeper understanding and reluctance to keep on board people with expertise and rather being satisfied with GD officers who run the show with ‘minute sheet’ culture in all such issues including CPCs.
Anyway, here is BeeCee’s mail and I may again reiterate that these are his own views :
I happened to speak to some long retired Major/ eqvts fighting for an improvement in their pensions, and to some other officers regarding OROP recently. I was surprised by the extent of damage and it is quite clear that this is not going to be resolved till officers (serving/retired) understand what the real problem is, and find a permanent solution. I am once again reminded of our friend Pragmatic's quote from Chesterton, "It is not that they don't know what the solution is, what they don't know is the problem".
I have been generally following such issues since '95 but am not aware of any occasion between 1987 (IV CPC) and 2007 (VI CPC) except the High Level Committee post V CPC (3 Vice-Chiefs, Def Sec & Secy (Def Fin)) when the Services HQ put up a reasoned case for the arrest of the downslide that started at the IV CPC. Ironically, implementation of this was undermined by another Committee comprising of the Chiefs and the Cabinet Secy. Therefore the most important issue is for Services HQ and retired senior officers to come clean and connect the gap between their public posturing and what has been actually sought from the Govt, CPCs etc. Officers react or offer comments based on the 'public posturing' of such worthies while GOI/ MOD/ CPCs respond to what has actually been asked for by the Service HQ. As long as this gap is not bridged, replays alternating between tragedy and farce will go on. Karl Marx may be out of fashion now, but his remark on history is apt for our pay/personnel issues.
OROP and Major's Pension
Despite a reasonable understanding of pay/personnel issues, I cannot comprehend the on-going OROP theatrics. I may be wrong, but Pension rules providing past pensioners 50% of the minimum of the relevant ‘replacement pay’ in the new pay band actually provide something very close to OROP for all. In any case, the argument that you are progressively getting ‘downgraded in pay' and a demand for old pensioners to get the same pension as new ones do not exactly compliment each other. I hope I am wrong, but I suspect OROP is another red herring and an effort to cover up somebody's monumental incompetence at CPCs and of course at the Bagga/ AVS report. This is starkly evident in the Major's predicament on pensions.
I have seen some blog commentaries, approach papers etc on OROP. Most of them state that the Lt Col is getting too much as compared to the Major, Lt General gets too much over Maj Gen or arguments in a similar vein, by comparing the pensions of different military ranks after Vth and VIth CPCs. I have not seen any discussion that compares the pensions with similarly placed Civilian, CG or CAPF officers. While I too haven't done a full calculation yet for lack of access to specifics, I am confident that such a comparison will not only show where the problem lies, but also expose the dismal complicity of Services HQ in the denial of dues to their own officers.
Take a look at the pension orders for pre-2006 pensioners. In principle, it is the same for both military and civilian officers. 40% increase above 'existing pension,' subject to 50% of the minimum on the 'replacement pay'. Sounds fair and just. But gets absolutely unjust when you look at the actual figures.
A long retired Major and a Director/Comdt(SG) had similar pension and would have similar increase in pension when you do a 40% addition to 'existing pension'. But when you take 50% of the minimum of 'replacement pay', the Major gets 14,100/- and the Director/Comdt gets about 23,050. The civilian effectively gets almost twice the pension of his pre-VI CPC military counterpart. Any surprise that the ‘Civilian’ scoffs at OROP and is laughing all the way to the bank. The Major doesn't know (and doesn't bother to find out) what hit him and as a matter of habit gets in line behind a bunch of guys shouting OROP, OROP making a spectacle of themselves and the veterans community in general. But how did we come to this pass?
It is the Services HQ through Bagga/AVS report that sought the degradation of the Major to 'minor'(from NFSG/Above JAG pay to STS level). This was implemented by the VI CPC. Did they not have the wit to realise that OROP will ensure that retired Majors also would have their pensions reduced to the STS level even though it was earned at a much higher scale?
It is not only Majors, even after the Bagga/AVS instigated downfall, the Lt Col was at par with Director/Comdt(SG), but for some inexplicable reason, Service HQs sought equation of the Col (who was above DIG by pay, service, protocol & pension till the VI CPC) with Director/ Comdt and of the Brig with DIG. This has led to a fall in the pension for all such pre-2006 pensioners and pay/status of officers post VI CPC.
To an observer, the whole situation would be comical. You first have a bunch of guys asking for and obtaining a reduction in pay, status and well earned pension. Then you have them again surrendering their hard won medals in protest because the GOI generally agreed to their own demand of reduction in pay and pension through Services HQ. No wonder the political class is confused and others are sniggering at such displays of incompetence laced with threats of emotional blackmail. Are retired officers so semantically and arithmetically challenged that they cannot see matters for themselves and call those responsible to account?
What the pre-2006 Maj/Lt Col/Col/ Brig should seek is not OROP, but Restoration of pre-2006 pension with the same improvement (in percentage terms) over existing pension as has been given (by the VI CPC) to similarly placed civilians. Do this simple extrapolation (which will exclude the AVS/VI CPC interventions from Services HQ) and see the results. Services HQ in any case do not have the mandate to propose a reduction in the pension of those already retired. I would also suggest seeking some penal compensation from those who brought officers to this sorry state.
I used to call these as self-inflicted damages. But that is not really true. These are damages inflicted by selected individuals against their own colleagues. CPCs, MOD, bureaucracy et al may be complicit in the crime. After retirement, they compound matters by calling for OROP, return medals, hold jamborees at Jantar Mantar and so on to continue leading the credulous up the garden path. But if they claim to speak for all ESM it is an insult to my (and many other veterans') intelligence.
In retrospect, I feel really relieved that the scope of the CPCs and Cadre Reviews did not cover uniforms. Or else, our 'experts' would have proposed 'the Emperor's new clothes' for those serving. May sound funny, but past experience is depressing and indicates that our guys would have not only worn them happily, but strutted about in them like the Emperor in all his glory.
I know these are harsh words. But it is time somebody blew the whistle on these shenanigans that have taken away the financial security and dignity of officers and reduced them to the level of supplicants. Nor does it speak well of the officer corps that the individuals responsible are not shown up for what they have done.
Above all, I do not understand the compulsion of Services HQ to be less than forthright with serving and retired officers. This fudging of the factual situation leads to delusional behavior by some officers, abusing all and sundry and generally making a laughing stock of themselves. What is worse, it is symptomatic of the lack of 'downward accountability' that seems to have become the norm at Service HQs. Services HQ need to merely publish the following data in respect of the VI CPC(include IV & V CPC too if you want to see the full extent of perfidy) to start an informed discussion.
A. Pre VI CPC pay of officers vs corresponding/ nearest civil pay scales
B. Services proposals to the CPC regarding pay grades and equivalence of officers
C. Post VI CPC pay of Service officers and the corresponding civil scales/grade.
D. Pre and post VI CPC pensions of the above officers.
No one needs to take my word on this and I am willing to have a public conversation on the subject and apologise if I am wrong. Hence I am posting it to many who may have an interest in resolving the matter. You may also post it on your blog if you think it's appropriate.
All the best