While commenting on the norms for governance, the Chairman, Seventh Central Pay commission quotes Gita–“Yatho Dharmah,Tatho Jayah” meaning “where there is Dharma, there is victory” or, in other words, success goes hand in hand with righteousness. This article intends to put forth just two arguments, based on the strength of the data and facts contained in the report submitted by the Commission. Both arguments suggesting no small manner that the high principles of righteousness,quoted in the Foreword of the report, have evidently been ignored while the Commission structured the pay and allowances for the defence forces. Interestingly, the Commissions report has many contradictions which have helped in building of the aforesaid arguments and therefore the Commission’s report is the only document that has been referred to, in writing of this piece.
The first argument is that the Commission was inadequately composed to handle the challenges of developing the future pay structure for the defence forces, and yet it continued with the task at hand. The Commission’s report states that, “Of the total Central Government manpower of around 47 lakh, personnel belonging to the defence forces form a significant proportion of nearly 29.49 percent. In fact, as on 01 Jan 2014 the defence service personnel, numbering 13.86 lakh, formed the single largest group of Central Government employees”. In other words, almost one out of every three central government employees, that are affected by the report, is a combatant soldier. While, the rest of the Central Government has 91,510 Group A officers, Defence forces alone account for 66,690 officers. Apart from the above challenges on account of sheer magnitude, the Commission also acknowledges the uniqueness of the cadre. It states in its report that, “The Commission, after careful consideration of the matter, notes that there are exclusive elements that distinguish the Defence forces personnel from all other government employees. The intangible aspects linked to the special conditions of service experienced by them, set them apart from civilian employees. Defence forces personnel are expected to conduct full spectrum operations in operational environments which are characterised by extreme complexity and ….”
So the moot question is how did the Commission handle this huge magnitude, the largest component of central government employees, which is blessed with intangible aspects linked to special conditions of service and the extreme complexity of their operating environment. A reading of Para 6.1.6 of the report will tell you that, they read the Joint Services Memorandum in 2014 and benefitted from the views, exchanges, and interactions with several key stake holders. But, here, the key question is whose advice and wisdom mattered the most while the report was written and the future pay structure evolved. They say that an author is absolutely candid while scripting the acknowledgements and its reading is the key to knowledge sourcing. The Chairman of the Commission, in his acknowledgement states that, “Shri D.K. Rai, a young officer from Accounts and Finance stream who had a deep insight into the financial matters especially, the defence. His knowledge about defence finance has been of great help to this Commission in determining the pay structure for the defence forces.”
Isn’t it perplexing and absolutely against the high principles of righteousness, that the future pay structure of 13.86 lakh combatants was decided largely by an officer from Account and Finance stream, who was considered as an expert with deep insight in matters relating to defence services. Isn’t it strange, that while the successive pay commissions acknowledge the sheer magnitude of our armed forces, the uniqueness of its service conditions, and complexity of the operating environment and yet, while they decide their fate, they rely on officers with accounts and finance background? Why couldn’t the Chairman, not have at his disposal, just one out of the 66,690 officers that serve the Defence forces, to help him determine the future pay structure of defence forces? More so, when the word “defence” occurs on 255 pages of the report? And if officers of the account services have indeed such insights, then why can’t they do the needful for all other central government services, and the members from the Indian Administrative Services be spared such onerous responsibilities? Why is it that the Commission’s organization, as stated on Page (i) of the report, which details 45 honourable members, starting from Justice Shri Ashok Kumar Mathur, Chairman, to ShriInder Lal Singh, SCD, does not include a single military mind? Is it about keeping the military at a distance from the process of decision making? Or is it that the military’s understanding of its own pay structures is suspect and others know better about military’s requirements?
The second argument that needs debate is that the Commission has utterly failed in its task of identifying the real frustrations that lie heavy on a common military mind and has therefore been unable to deliver a fair pay and allowance package that the Indian defence forces so richly deserve. Like in case of the first argument, the Commission was apparently aware of the issues at stake. In Para 1.19 of the report the Commission states that “person should not stagnate but should have fair opportunity to progress by dint of merit and secure better emoluments so that frustration does not set in.”But sadly, as it went on with the process of evolving the military pay structure, it apparently ignored it.
The anomalous understanding of the situation is apparent from the reading of the Para 6.2.19 of the report which states that:
“The post VI CPC pay structure marks a complete departure from the earlier Pay Commissions as far as the pay parity between civilian and defence service officers is concerned. Not only has the starting pay of a defence officers been placed substantially higher at 29 percent more than his/her civilian counterpart, this gap continues to remain wide at over 20 percent for the first nine years of service. In fact the pay of defence service officers remains uninterruptedly higher for a thirty-two year period. Thereafter pay of defence and civil service officers are at par.”
The last part of the aforesaid contention is very easily contestable, and is in fact the core issue which frustrates the defence community. The fact of the matter is that the civil servant rises to be a Joint Secretary in about 17-18 years of service while the military man may still be a Lieutenant Colonel or equivalent. So the whole equation changes rather dramatically in the seventeenth year of service. Moreover, the military officer in all majority of cases, starts receiving pensions in about thirty years of service, or sometimes even less. So howhas this “uninterrupted edge for thirty-two years” been worked out? Many can play with figures and facts, but what is required is to give the military the right compensation, both on account of their service conditions and the pyramidal nature of their organization.While each of the successive pay commissions have promised to deliver this, but facts on ground have always been otherwise. Two brief illustrations, from many available in the current recommendations, are appended below in support of the argument.
The first illustration relates to risk. The Commission, in Para 8.10.67 of the Report, itself acknowledges that “no government employee faces more Risk/Hardship in his work than our Defence officers and jawans posted in Siachen Glacier. Hence, no RHA can have a value higher than this allowance.” The rate recommended is Rs 31,500 pm for Level 9 and above and Rs 21,000 pm for levels below. However, while discussing Special Duty Allowance (SDA)in Para 8.17.115, the Report states that the SDA is “granted to attract civilian employees to seek posting in North Eastern and Ladakh regions, in view of the risk and hardship prevailing in these areas.” The allowance has been recommended to be be paid at the rate of 30 percent of Basic Pay to the All India Services officers. What it implies is that if an defence forces officer with say 19 years of service, serves in Siachen Glacier, he will be receiving a risk allowance of Rs 31,500 pm, while his colleagues from the All India Services with equal length of service, and serving in North Eastern or Ladhakh region will draw an allowance of more than Rs 54,000 pm. Is this dispensation aligned to the high principles of righteousness talked about earlier in the report?An officer of the All India Service will certainly never be posted within the North East or Ladakh in places of hardship and risk akin to where the defence forces are deployed. But he/she will be compensated at a much higher rate!Two other clear anomalies emerge with this allowance – one, the SDA is not listed underAllowances related to Risk andHardship (Chapter 8.10), rather under Other Allowances (Chapter 8.17) ; two- the SDA is linked to basic pay, ensuring uninterrupted growth, while its step-brotherly Risk & Hardship Allowances are rather constant, growing at 25 % upon increase of DA to 50%?Is this dispensation of allowances to the brave men who risk their lives in the most inhospitable terrain obtaining in the world, aligned to the high principles of righteousness?
The second illustration also relates to the oft quoted but never given parity between the civil and defence pay structure. A simple comparision of Pay Matrix for civilian and defence employees for Level 13A can prove very helpful. Both levels deal with the erstwhile grade pay of Rs 8900 pm. However, in the new pay matrix the civilian officers in Level 13A have been given a rationalization index of 2.67, but their military counterparts have been given a rationalization index of 2.57 only. Which simply implies lower pay fixation for military officers in comparision to their civilian equivalents in Grade Pay. The report attempts to justify this disparity in the most unacceptable manner in Para 5.2.8 and Para 5.2.9 of the report.
Whatthe justification implies is that - since the Lieutenant Colonels were well compensated by the VI Pay Commission, arationalisation index of 2.57 was applied for them (Level 12 A). The Major Generals in Level 14 have been equated with their civilian counterparts and a higher rationalization index of 2.72 has been applied to them, in recognition of significant higher degree responsibility and accountability. And then, realizing that the Colonels and Brigadiers, were also to be dealt with, the commission felt appropriate that they be kept at a distance from the SAG and therefore fixed them at parity with the Lieutenant Colonels at 2.57 only. Do Colonels and Brigadiers not have higher degree of responsibility and accountability, just because there are no All India Services equivalents for their ranks? Doesn’t this reflect a total gap in understanding of the command and staff assignments that the Colonels and Brigadiers hold?
Grant of a fair pay and allowance package to the defence forces, which takes into account of their service conditions, operational environment, pyramidal structure, early retirement ages, is something which a democratic government should earnestly strive for and is a mandatory prerequisite for building a strong and resilient nation. The Central Pay Commission needsto be conscious of this fact but also needs to ensure that this requirement translates into actuals, at all costs. And, this can happen only when the military participates in the exercise.
Views expressed by the author by the Author are personal. Author is a commentator on human resource related issues in the corporate sector and also has interest in the man-management dimension of the military.