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Thursday, August 18, 2016

My opinion piece: The political executive must now rise to the occasion on the Pay Commission

My opinion piece for ABP:

THE SEVENTH PAY COMMISSION DEBATE: A BAD AFTERTASTE

Raw deal for the forces: Govt must set right pay panel follies

Navdeep Singh

There can be no dispute with the fact that members of the military community have had some major misgivings with the recommendations of the Seventh Central Pay Commission. The incoherent report has added multiple anomalies to the pre-existing list of unresolved issues affecting pay, allowances and pensions of the defence services. While a debate on the subject is more than welcome, one needs to be cautious that the surrounding cacophony must not result into a schism or a feeling of ‘us’ and ‘they’ between various services since every government employee, uniformed or otherwise, serves the same flag and no cog of our large national wheel is more or less important than the other. The Government must therefore ensure that before finally implementing the contentious recommendations, a participative decision-making process is initiated to ensure resolution to the satisfaction of all stakeholders so that decisions are not taken at the back of various sections of employees based on one-way inputs of only those who happen to have the ear of the higher echelons.

SHRILL VOICES AND THEIR DELETERIOUS EFFECT
Many members of different government services, including those from the military, have taken tough positions in public overemphasizing their importance and value over others. There was a time when mature public servants fully understood that all professions and services had their own roles to play in building India as a whole and irrespective of remuneration, there was no superior-inferior relationship between them. It therefore appears quite unsettling when some retired officers of the military take on the debate on social media and other forums purely with emotions coupled with rhetoric and the plank of tough life while trying to prove that the sacrifice of other services is not as important or central to the national narrative, forgetting in the bargain that such broad arguments do little to ameliorate the situation and on the contrary widen the rift, a situation which is not in national interest. For example, while a young Lieutenant of the Army manning a remote post has a tough job cut out for him, the life of his IAS counterpart who may be posted as a Sub Divisional Magistrate would also not be entirely stress-free or easy since at a young age he would be performing executive, quasi-judicial, revenue and magisterial functions for an entire sub-division, and so would be the case of a young Assistant Superintendent of Police from the IPS who would be looking after the law and order of his area as the sub-divisional police officer overlooking multiple police stations in his jurisdiction. While all three jobs are important in their own ascribed roles and equally paid for at the beginning, it serves no good to pit one against the other or pass disparaging comments. Similar is the case at other levels, for example Constables of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) who face almost the same hardships as those joining as Sepoys in the Army. With this disclaimer, let me take the next step.

THE CHAIRPERSON’S STATEMENT
As I say above, various services are performing different duties, but that of course does not mean that there could be a vast variation in how they are paid. I was therefore surprised and also taken aback when I heard the Chairperson of the Seventh Pay Commission state in a recorded interview on a TV debate that there could be no comparison between the defence and the civil services. Surprised since in Para 6.1.3, the pay commission itself talks of historical and traditional parities between the two, in Para 6.1.4 it specifically lists out the parity of defence services with the IPS and other Class I (now known as Group A) services, in Para 7.2.52 again the report reiterates the parity with the police. And taken aback because the opinion of the Chairperson did not match the legal reality whereas the whole report is based on the premise and the fundamentals of parity. While a high level committee of the Government formed after the Fifth Pay Commission laid down (and subsequently implemented) that the pay of an IPS officer in his 14th year of service should be equal to a military officer with similar service, the Seventh Pay Commission has placed even a military officer with 28 years of service at a disadvantage compared to an IPS officer with 14 years of service, an anomaly later rectified to an extent by the government. The situation therefore reflects a total mismatch and with the job of the pay commission now over, the ball therefore has rolled towards the court of the government to address this chaos. While a little here and there does not make much of a difference, it is the net result that has been troubling a vast majority, in the backdrop of which I spill over to my next point.

PRACTICAL ANOMALIES
While I stand by my disclaimer of due respect to each service, I also sincerely believe that allowances for hardship must not be so grossly off the mark that these create bitterness between various services. In the same vein, I do stand by the rationalization of such allowances even if other government employees need to be enhanced up to the level of the military in case it is felt that in similar circumstances or terrain, there is a wide difference between the two classes. But more often than not, due to various reasons, what practically happens is that while the anomalies of other employees do get resolved and they are able to attain the ‘military level’, the allowances of the military stagnate resulting in a lower payout ultimately. Let us take a few examples from this Pay Commission. Officers of the All India Services (Indian Administrative, Police and Forest Services) of the cadres of the North Eastern States were eligible for 12.5% of Special Disturbed Area Allowance plus 25% Additional Monetary Incentive (a whopping 37.5% total over and above the basic pay in NE). This allowance has been rationalized at 30% in total by this pay commission and is applicable to all such officers posted in the said area and to Ladakh. Let us ignore the labyrinth of the rules and figures for a moment and take a look at the hard facts- the net result is that a Brigadier posted at Leh would now be entitled to an allowance of about Rs 10,000 while his IPS counterpart in the same area would draw approximately Rs 55,000. Similar would be the case in Gauhati. While in Shillong the civil officer would continue to draw about Rs 55,000 while the Army counterpart would get zero. I am not suggesting for a moment that civilians do not deserve it, I am only saying that these figures need to be rationalized based on hardship and not just for officers of the All India Services vis-a-vis the Armed Forces but for all other central government employees who have been recommended an SDA at a total of dismal 10%. Similarly, instead of showing sensitivity towards the deteriorating health profile of the military due to the inherent stress and strain of  service which decreases their life span by almost a decade as compared to civil employees, the pay commission has cast aspersions on the officer cadre of the defence services stating that more percentage of officers are in receipt of disability pension than jawans, forgetting the very basic fact that while jawans start retiring in their 30s, officers retire in 50s and hence naturally the scope of health problems would increase at a higher age and with a longer length of service. The recommendations of the Commission for disability pension were also quite bewildering, and the following table adequately reflects the same:

(100% Disability)
Rank
Current rates as on date under the 6th CPC 
Rates now proposed by the 7th CPC
Lt Gen
Rs 52560 (100% disability)
Rs 27000 (100% disability)
Head of Central Armed Police Force
Rs 52560 (100% disability)
Rs 67500 (100% disability)

Can the above escape even an untrained eye? This brings me to the next level of thought as to what can be the solution!

WHAT SHOULD THE GOVERNMENT DO?
Thankfully, these were only recommendations by the Commission and are not binding upon the government which has in fact not accepted many of the bizarre ones. However, now that anomaly committees have been constituted, without, as always, any representation of the military, it is incumbent upon the government to ensure that no injustice is caused to the uniformed or any other services merely because of lack of presence at the decision-making level. The bane of decision-making process in our country is the propelling of incorrect inputs from below to the top which results in decisions being taken based on a one-way file noting method rather than a collegiate brainstorming manner enforced with the desired top-down approach. The government and the committees must ensure that issues are discussed in a participative democratic manner wherein representatives of the defence services and even individual experts are confronted with the views and inputs being discussed so that rebuttals, if any, or the correct positions can be put across there and then, in real time. This is one sphere where the Pay Commission massively faltered. While it did provide adequate opportunity of interaction to the defence services and veterans, it merely relied upon (and recorded in the report) the data and perhaps personal opinions of an officer of the Defence Accounts Department attached to it without seeking clarifications or rebuttal from the defence services or even the Ministry of Defence. One can only be more secure about justice being rendered to the subject in case a proper opportunity of hearing and rebuttal is provided to all stakeholders. And this is where the political executive has to take a call and impose its political will for a well-rounded outcome.

CHARITY (ALSO) BEGINS AT HOME
While I started this opinion piece with my disagreement with shrill voices directed towards other services by members of the military community who blame the bureaucracy and the political executive for the constant loss of sheen of the military rank in the society as a whole, I honestly feel that the problem is compounded by the fact that even the military is responsible for the degradation of military in the society and also accountable, paradoxically, that many benefits do not reach its own rank and file. The defence establishment itself posts senior military officers in junior appointments thereby not only affecting their self esteem but also sending a wrong message to civilian counterparts. While the defence establishment has been (rightly) crying hoarse over denial of the concept of Non-Functional Upgradation to its officers, they themselves blocked another scheme called the Dynamic Assured Career Progression Scheme (DACP) for its uniformed doctors while all government departments and even the CAPFs implemented it. The DACP was sternly opposed by the military top brass even after a favourable judicial verdict on the strange and silly pretext that higher pay to doctors would upset its command and control and by the time the military relented and realised its folly, the Ministry of Defence took a cue and stalled it on the ground that the military was against it. So it seems that while the military was comfortable with junior civil doctors drawing higher pay but not its own doctors. I also chanced upon an angry mail directed towards the government by a released Short Service Commissioned Officer who lamented the lack of pension or even a contributory pension scheme for such officers released with spells of service going upto 14 years whereas civil employees if released by the government with 10 years of service were entitled to pension. However, what the officer probably was not aware of was that despite being aware of this immense inconsistency, the military itself never projected such a case to the pay commission and perhaps even the need for contributory pension to such officers has not found favour with some chosen few within the military itself based on some vague reasons and hence there remains no question of venting anger towards the government or even the pay commission. In the Military Engineering Service, senior Army officers are being posted to (and are hankering after) appointments which are held by civilian counterparts four rungs junior. Headquarters are overstaffed with senior ranks performing duties which could be performed by ranks other than officers and then we hear talk of the loss of status of the military when the military itself projects a wrong civil-military equivalence to the environment. Without pointing fingers at others, the military hierarchy must instil some positivity and democratic processes within their own systems since charity, as they say, definitely begins at home. Senior officers of the Army must, under assumed identities, try engaging with various regimental record offices which deal with veterans and military widows and I am sure the results would not be so encouraging since far from the rosy picture being projected to the senior staff, it is difficult even to get a reply from such offices unless it is through a VIP reference or the RTI or through a legal notice or Court case. Multiple decades into independence and we have not been able to put into place a simple system which makes it mandatory for every such office to at least reply to every single letter, mail or query received. Ask any person of lower ranks who is retiring from the Army and what he is made to go through in what is known the ‘discharge drill’ at various regimental centres. Ask them about uniformed ‘babus’. Though the current crop of officers in key appointments dealing with pay and allowances is well aware, hardworking and attuned to the reality, the military must overcome its own inter-service obstacles and display positivity and magnanimity when it comes to its own. It has a long way to go, unlike, for example, the CAPFs which despite being headed by non-cadre officers, are able to put up a joint front displaying no crab mentality and no peer jealously. And it gets them their dues, which is what matters in the end.

EPILOGUE
Fully aware of the short attention span of readers, while I was not wanting to shun the virtue of brevity, there was no way but to place my thoughts on this subject in a detailed manner appended with some facts in order to transparently convey that the matter is not rudimentary but fairly complex since it arises out of an interplay of various agencies and events including this pay commission, past pay commissions, past mistakes, the government and the military itself. That said, all services of the government exist for the public and it would be the greatest disservice to our nation if these limbs do not work in tandem or if they remain deployed in inter-service hostility. It is time the political executive searches for and finds a solution in order to ensure that no service is burdened with the feeling of being the child of a lesser god.

----
Major Navdeep Singh is a practicing Advocate at the Punjab & Haryana High Court. He was the founding President of the Armed Forces Tribunal Bar Association at Chandigarh. He is a Member of the International Society for Military Law and the Law of War at Brussels. 

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very well said.i hope the powers that be are listening.

B Singh said...

Dear sir,
The Def Offrs always comparing with IAS/IPS for Pay & Allowance during service and even after retirement . Why they do not tried to become IAS/IPS and give up Def Service for good.

Def offrs even not preparing their kids for IAS/IPS they believe in tradition of father and son in Def for three generations.

How you will get comparison with IAS/IPS more over offrs never talks about JCO's/OR's and EQV ranks . There is no support from PBOR if any retired officer hold the flag of protest for the Def people . All these things damaged by our own military leadership.If you put stong Sepoy till the time you will reach Brigs /Generals will be more powerful but it is vise versa . Offrs fight for himself only . In this situation Govt should not consider any demand of Offrs for NFU , Allowance etc.

Bhupinder Rai said...

Very well said.....issues need to be seen in the right perspective. Both govt and military itself need an urgent house cleaning.
Rai

nigam ranjan said...

Well said major navdeep.Military top brace first respect their own men & women.They are on self destruction mode. No point stopping dacp for doctors.

kvg said...

Dear Sir,
Well said. I hope the "TOP BRASS" understand the real issues at least now!!!

Anonymous said...

An auditor told me there is a racket on disability pensions by senior officers. They apply for disability pension only few months before retirement and the doctors of Armed Forces help them. They don't apply before because this may hamper their promotions. Due to this attitude, the juniors suffered in 7 CPC. Please investigate.

Lt Col Ankur (Retd) said...

Dear Navdeep,
Kudos to you. A will written piece indeed.

NAUDY LAMBA said...

DEAR MAJ NAVDEEP SINGH.
AS ALWAYS U HAVE PUTFORTH FAIR,JUST AND FACTUAL PERSPECTIVE ON THE 7TH PAY COMMISSION.I LOVE TO READ UR WRITEUPS AS THEY R ALWAYS FORTHRIGHT AND HAVE NO MALICE TOWARDS ANYONE.
HAVE BEEN READING UR BLOGS FOR SEVERAL YEARS BUT NEVER DID POST A COMMENT.

WITH REGARDS
COL NAVDEEP SINGH LAMBA,RETIRED.

chitraagupta said...

Points very aptly conveyed Maj Navdeep sir, i preempt that if this inconsistency in Pay parity continues many of the middle rung officers will certainly revisit their options to continue in this organization, especially the specialist pool of doctors & technical branch officers. It is a high time that pay parity is reinstated

Anonymous said...

Charity begins at home. What about the discrimination against the nursing officers? The defense establishment had a prominent role to play.

Maj Shyam S Sharma said...

Major Navdeep,

Your thought analysis is absolutely logical, rational and unbiased for the good of all stake holders- servicemen, ex-servicemen, police forces and civil cadres.
Hope, matters get understood by all services and political authorities for the good of the country.

Thank you for your mature thoughts and arguments.

Ravi Singh said...

The anomalies of pay for the services viz a viz their civilian counter parts has been discussed in detail in various TV programs. What I fail to understand, being infatuated and obsessed with the (my) Army (services) and being an employee of a Public Sector Bank, is why does the Army hanker all the time with the parity with IAS and IPS at the lower levels. The erosion of status of the officers of the services may be due to the cunning moves by the IAS and the civilian establishment but it is also due to the Army which has failed to keep its own house in order. Pay scales of the fauj and IPS cannot be compared hence there cannot be any parity. The bogey of problems in the field like in J&K etc where the Army is operating along with the civilian police, CPMFs is due to ignorant and stupid politicians who have not sense of strategic culture and do not insist on civilian police being subservient to the Army in such conditions. The Army (services) should have its own pay commission keeping in mind the manpower it deploys.Banking (PSBs) have their own wage revisions every 5 years irrespective of the pay commission, never mind that even then they are poorly paid but just to make a point that a separate pay commission may go into the specifics. As far as DGP of J&K (as rumored) not attending the meeting of the unified Command in Srinagar because he thinks his pay grade is more than that of a Corps Commander heading that command he should be told in clear terms that the meeting being officiated as such is because of the professional competencies rather its short comings of the police force that the Army has to step in. The Army should contain proliferation of posts. Till about 3 years ago GOC of Delhi area used to be a Maj Gen now the post is upgraded to a Lt Gen, what exactly is the functionality is not known to me but in my rookie opinion it was not required, it meant a downgrade of the status. The Army should not fall into the IPS trap of promoting everybody even if that means having redundant positions. In UP for example a few (4-5)years ago the state had about 48 people in the rank of DGP and ADG, special DG was not introduced till then, but what difference did it make on the ground to normal policing - NIL difference.

Ravi Singh said...

There were at least 3 officers who were Full rank DGPs but were transferred due to some reason or the other and junior officer was brought in , the moot point is that the strength of the IPS and the IAS individually is not more than 4800-5000 officers. The services have more than 60000 at any given time. The officer of the Army cannot be compared to the IPS. The absolute powers of the Army Commander and Corps Commander is not comparable to the ADGs and DGPs over their organisations. They cannot even transfer a SP without political sanction. So the Army needs to protect its turf ensure that the Brigs, Maj Gens, Lt Gens command higher parity than the officers in the Police (IPS)owing to the limited number of posts and steepo pyramidical structure and whoe\ever makes it to a certain level is a notch higher that the civilian equivalent like a Col = DIG, Brig = IG, MajGen = ADGs, Lt Gen (all)= DGPs and service chiefs = Cabinet Secretary and overall everyone gets paid reasonably along the way from ORs,to JCO to junior Officers. If the government finds that money and pension are a concern TA should be promoted to do internal security duties and strength of the Army should be reduced with infusion of better weapons and technologies. Instead of having 1 Defence Secretary the MoD should have secretary each for the Army, Navy and IAF and these officers should be made to report to the respective service chief for speedy and harmonious decision making. I think over a period of time freebies as in the IAS and IPS shall also cease if the Administrative Reforms commissions see the light of the day. Till then keep fighting and ensure that no Brigadier or Maj Gen or their equivalent rank in Navy and IAF visiting Delhi is transported in a Tata Indica with a yellow number plate with a red star, haven't seen any one from the Police with a flag and star riding a taxi. The Transport company (ASC) should make adequate arrangements, for the officers have earned it! At least this much !

Alok Asthana said...

Your most important para is the second last one - Charity begins at home. Am convinced that army is own worst enemy. Despite the IAS not being an organisation (it is just a cadre, with no chief), it manages to behave like a good organisation looking after its primary stakeholders. And despite the army being a solid organisation with a Chief, it manages to behave like a cadre. A shame indeed. At every level, we are out to please the civilian and trouble the fauzi. All for what - personal gain, what else!

karunakaran a ex havildar said...

respected sir,

firstly all IAS officers are not our enemy, this point to be borne in mind, they are also compatriot. our army is having disciplined forces only to obey, army officers find no difficulty in commanding whereas IAS officers have to act as executives, magistrates and officers carrying out the orders of politicians. They are more vulnerable than our army officers, I spent 20 years in army, maximum work was completed by havildar below rank successfully. once in absence of company commander and senior JCOs, I alongwith MT JCO conducted the major event peacefully and we won prizes even official records were maintained superbly

major sahib very good enlightnment

thank you sir

Bharat Chevur said...

Dear Maj Navdeep,

As always, an incisive and excellent analysis.
Hope it is read by the Top Brass in Military and otherwise.
In the NDTV show, the Chairperson of the 7th Pay Commission came across like a person who didn't know his facts....Maybe it was just a post-retirement junket for him.
But for those who are affected by the Pay Commission Report, his attitude reeked of a superiority complex that springs out of ignorance rather than knowledge, in tandem with the Babus who helped him compile it.
Your views on 'Babus in Uniform' are also bang on. Time we cleaned our own stables, before crying hoarse about others.
We in the Military also need to understand that we are just another cog in a huge machine.

Prakash Chandra said...

well said,

Anonymous said...

Major navdeep,
It is heard that Group A officers directors who had been getting NFU grade pay of 10000/- have got themselves fixed in 7cpc in index of 10000/- rather than 8700/- grade pay in the name of pay protection. So they are getting double bonanza, first NFU increment and increased grade pay also gets multiplied by 2.57 and then they get fixed in the pay scale index of 10,000/-. Then what is the difference between pay fixation of a director and joint secretary. Even audit people seems to be with them as they themselves are also affected. Can anyone check this? i doubt, as they are the authority themselves.

moreover, still not seen any instructions where on grant of NFU, grade pay is to be increased and shown as increased. it was supposed to be added in the basic pay. however group A officers are showing increased grade pay and claiming all the benefits of increased grade pay such as travel in AC taxis, travel by business class in air etc etc. and of course claiming to be senior on the basis of NFU. This is going unchecked...

vidushi100 said...

Dear Major Navdeep.

Aug has come and gone and we all in armed forces brethren are still without any of 7th pay commission award and no clarity on what is happening. Can you update us on services demands, their status and how early we can expect salaries as per 7th CPC

thank you

regards

vidushi100 said...

Dear Major Navdeep.

Aug has come and gone and we all in armed forces brethren are still without any of 7th pay commission award and no clarity on what is happening. Can you update us on services demands, their status and how early we can expect salaries as per 7th CPC

thank you

regards

Anonymous said...

Army top senior officers are responsible for lowering the status of Army in terms of pay and promotion.
One simple obvious reason is blocking DACP for army doctors!

Shiv Bahadur Singh Bhadouria said...

Sir,

My recommendation is that allow me to serve the nation in any form atleast till the age of 60 as is the case with any other Govt servant. At least all our OR will have living and some respect.

regards,