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Once again, pay panel disappoints armed forces

No country can afford to have armed forces with low morale, low self esteem and worst of all, a lower status in the society. A major issue affecting India’s armed forces today is economic disparity vis-a-vis other central services. Indian youth opting to join the armed forces as officers or men, are also looking for unquestioned respect, economic stability, assured career progression, good facilities of education and personality development for their families and above all “first among equals” status amongst various services in the country.

Lt Gen Harwant Singh (Retd), who has written extensively on the subject, recalls that the military has been persistently disadvantaged by successive Central Pay Commissions (CPC ). In the first and second CPC, the military’s case was fielded by the ministry of defence (MoD). The third CPC wanted to hear the case directly from the military, butthe MoD ruled against this on the grounds of discipline, a “patently absurd stance”, which the then top brass accepted. Further, the third CPC slashed the pensions of defence services from 70 per cent of last pay drawn to 50 per cent and elevated the civil servants’ pensions from 30 per cent to 50 per cent. But nearly 80 per cent of military men did not get even 50 per cent and instead got only 37 per cent because of shorter span of service and 50 per cent pension payable only after 20 years service. Thereafter, subsequent CPCs persistently disadvantaged the military vis-a-vis civil services. However, the third CPC dangled one rank, one pension (OROP) as an alternative to decrease in pensions from 70 per cent to 50 per cent. When subsequent CPCs tried to improve matters, MoD, the controller of defence accounts (CDA) stepped in to negate these. When the fourth CPC, as a sort of consolation for no OROP, gave rank pay up to the rank of brigadiers, the CDA conveniently deducted this amount from the basicpay, which in turn impacted a whole range of allowances as well. Nearly three decades later this case is yet to be fully resolved. The Supreme Court’s orders on payment of rank pay are yet to be fully implemented. Those who played this mischief on the defence services were neither exposed, nor held accountable.

The sixth CPC ruled that pension should be fixed at 50 per cent of the “ minimum of the rank in the pay band corresponding”, the civil bureaucracy mischievously rephrased this sentence to read, “minimum of the pay band corresponding”. This put four different ranks i.e. lieutenant colonel, colonel, brigadier and major general in the same band (band 4) and the MoD placed all of them at the bottom of the pay band for the purpose of fixing pension. Thus a brigadier (with rank pay as admissible to him) got more pension than a major-general. Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, this too has not been fully resolved ten years later. In addition, the sixth CPC created over 40 anomalies, which CPC are still to be resolved. The 7th CPC report has yet again greatly disappointed the defence services.

Military service pay (MSP), granted in most countries for the unique and difficult conditions under which defence forces serve, is a substantial amount.

In India, MSP for defence forces amounts to less that 10 per cent of the pay, contrary to recommendations in the sixth CPC of 52 per cent of basic pay for officers and 62 per cent for soldiers. MSP has now also been removed for purposes of calculating house rent allowance (HRA) and transfer grants.

The glaring disparity in disability disposal is best illustrated by the case of two brothers Raj, the older brother who joined the Army and Rish, the younger brother, who joined the Border Security Force (BSF). In 2010 both Raj, with 7 years of service, and Rishi, with 5 years of service, were home on leave. They had gone to the market on a motor-cycle when they met with an accident, which resulted in both having their leg amputated. Sepoy Raj, whose injury was declared “neither attributable nor aggravated by service condition”, as he was on leave and not on duty, got invalided out of service. And that too without pension as he had not completed 10 years of service. On the other hand his younger brother Constable Rishi, who enjoyed the protection under the provisions of Persons With Disability Act, 1995, continues to serve till he completes his prescribed length of service up to 57 years of age, after which he will earn all in service promotional benefits, annual increments etc and a staggering monthly projected disability pension of `3,58,909 and that too, income tax free.

There are many more intangibles, which are not known outside the services. To mention one, many families of soldiers serving in forward/field areas, who are residing in their villages/small towns, have to depend on local medical resources as military hospitals are too far away.

Despite past feedback and strong representation, Non Functional Upgradation (NFU) has not been granted to the defence and central armed police forces (CAPFs), whereas central civil cervices are assured NFU for up to additional secretary. However there was one bureaucrat member, who recommended NFU fully for defence services. This is one major compensation which if granted, will motivate armed forces officers to stay on in service and not opt for premature retirement owing to not being promoted to beyond colonel/equivalent rank, owing to the pyramidal promotion structure. Over the years, has the pyramid become an Eiffel Tower?

There are numerous attempts to falsely present a façade of satisfactory remuneration to defence personnel. The reality is that the pay disparity between armed forces personnel, particularly officers, and civil services, which government has compounded over the years, is bizarre. It is no wonder that the lure of the defence services has been withering over time. It was recently revealed in Parliament that as on July 1, 2015, the shortage of Army officers (excluding medical, dental and nursing officers) is 9106.

The Pay Commission graphs titled “Defence revenue expenditure and per cent share of revenue expenditure” (page 1196.1.20, 7th CPC) are a misrepresentation of facts, because only 0.01 per cent of defence officers reach Lt Gen rank are compared with 95 per cent of civil servants who reach additional secretary level. For 99 per cent of defence officers the civilian Group A officers overtake their military counterpart by the 15th year of service and by the 18th year of service a defence officer remains a colonel when an IAS officer would have become a joint secretary, equated to a major general. It should also be known that military officers’ qualifying service commences on commissioning whereas the civilian commences his fully paid service from the training establishment itself. These are just some of the anomalies and disparities. While the recent tragedy of 19 Madras avalanche victims evoked countrywide concern, it is ironically not shared by babu log.

SOURCE - asian age

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