Much has been written about the constant downfall of military ranks vis-a-vis civilian counterparts over the years. Of course, the anomalies of the 7th Central Pay Commission are topical and central to every discussion.
Many of us however do not realize that the root cause of the lost of sheen in this regard has been a concept that was sold as a victory for the forces after the 4th CPC- the Rank Pay. The hit has been so bad that multiple litigation and tumult later, the position has not been redeemed.
The genesis of the problem also lies in the clamour of the defence services to show that they are different or superior than others, and then trying to look for the applicability of amusing concepts which ultimately ship them afar from reality. Rank Pay was one such concept.
Prior to the 4th CPC, the pay scales of the defence and civil services followed a similar pattern. This changed with the 4th CPC when an integrated running pay scale was introduced for all ranks from Second Lieutenant till Brigadier with an additional element of Rank Pay. The civil services of course remained in fixed scales as earlier.
The concept of Rank Pay blurred the comparison between the defence and civil officers and also created a problem in fixation of pay and pension that continues till day even three decades later, notwithstanding a Supreme Court verdict.
So much so, that the 6th CPC, on Pages 73 and 74 of its Report, presented a twisted comparison of civil and military scales wherein the Senior Time Scale (STS/Under Secretary to Govt of India) which was reflected with a Captain till the 3th CPC was suddenly shown at par with a Major after the introduction of the Rank Pay. It is yet another story that the 6th CPC created this imaginary comparison without the support or reference to any executive order which lowered the status of a Captain from the STS to below the STS, but with time this incorrect comparison was solidified. The after effect of the Rank Pay was also that while the 3rd CPC Civil Selection Grade Scale of 1650-1800 got placed in Pay Band-4 with Grade Pay 8700 by the 6th CPC, our Lt Col with the 3rd CPC Scale of 1750-1950 got placed in Pay Band-3 with Grade Pay 7600 (Later upgraded to Pay Band-4 with Grade Pay 8000). The same incorrect comparison has continued with the 7th CPC without removal of the earlier anomalies. More on this can be discerned from my following blogposts in the aftermath of the 6th CPC:
And it is not always the civil establishment that is to blame for the mess. Even we have continued to send mixed signals to the environment at large without sitting back and taking corrective measures. While we claim that Lt Cols are equivalent to Superintending Engineers, we at times post even Time Scale Full Colonels as Garrison Engineers which is a post tenable by Major-equivalent Executive Engineers from the civil side. While the appointment of Assistant Garrison Engineer is tenable by civil officers with Grade Pay of 4600 and 5400 (which is a Grade Pay enjoyed by a Subedar and Lieutenant respectively), we continue posting senior offices of the rank of Major to the same appointments. We have allowed officers of the Armed Forces HQ Civil Service of Joint Director rank (Grade Pay 7600) to be granted the “local” designation of Director while posted in the Services HQ while we post our own senior Lt Cols with Grade Pay 8000 as Joint Directors within the same Services HQ. This despite the fact that a Group of Ministers headed by the then Finance Minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee had recorded that a Lt Col outranked a Deputy Secretary to Govt of India/Joint Director and therefore was to be paid more than the said grades after which the Pay Band for Lt Col was upgraded to Pay Band-4. Hence, over the years, we have ourselves solidified or accepted wrong equivalence and even an incorrect pay parity which continues to haunt us.
But while there is a requirement to strongly stand up for our rights without being servile and subservient, at another level, there is also a requirement to remain humble and not project ourselves as some holy superior beings who need to be treated differently by the society as if the world at large owes us something. Had the defence services continued with the normal scales as applicable to other civil services officers, things would not have come to such a pass. It is always better to remain considerably close to the system of pay and allowances of other Government services rather than clamour for special dispensation. I also feel that at times there is any element of disrespect shown towards other professions by the serving and retired community which is counter-productive and which must be curtailed. Chain mails regarding the pay and allowances of the men and women in khaki is just one example of it. There has to be mutual trust, respect and understanding between various services and the military staff must also carry the civilian staff with them and treat them with due regard and attempt to resolve their genuine grievances wherever they are serving under defence officers. After all, everybody is serving the same flag and the same country!