Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Diminished force

The armed forces have communicated to Defence Minister AK Antony that they are “unwilling to implement” the Sixth Central Pay Commission (CPC) report without “anomalies” being removed to restore their status and parity of pay scales.
“A high-level delegation from the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC) made a presentation to Mr Antony and top officials on anomalies, as introduced in the notified CPC report for officers, though it expressed satisfaction over the pay hikes for personnel below officer rank,” says a source in the defence ministry.
It was pointed out that the extant parities of lieutenant-colonels and their equivalents in the navy and air force were lowered by retaining them in pay band-3, while raising similarly placed civilian and paramilitary officers to pay band-4.
After witnessing the presentation, Mr Antony was quoted as assuring the CoSC that he would take up “the anomalies” with the government and get them addressed, sources said.
Raising objections to the sixth pay panel notification after the Cabinet cleared it on 14 August, the three chiefs of the armed forces, in an unprecedented move, had written to Mr Antony that implementation for officer ranks be “held in abeyance” until their objections are addressed. Earlier, they had raised two broad objections: higher salary for personnel below officer ranks and parity with civil servants for officer ranks. While thanking the government for hiking salaries of non-officer personnel, they claim the disparity has only increased between service officers and their civil service counterparts.
The main disparities pointed out are as under:
Disparity in Pay Bands: The chiefs claim the Committee of Secretaries (CoS) moved the director rank into pay band-4 but retained lieutenant-colonels and their equivalent in other services in pay band-3. Earlier, they claim, a lieutenant-colonel got the same pay as an IAS director and Rs 800 more than a non-IAS director. Now he will get Rs 14,000 less than an IAS director and Rs 11,000 less than a non-IAS director;
Disparity in grade pay: The CoS agreed to their demand to an increase in grade pay across middle-rank officers but also increased the grade pay of civil servants, thereby retaining disparity, the chiefs say. For example, the pay commission recommended Rs 6,600 for a civil servant equivalent to a major who was to get Rs 6,100. After review, a major will now get Rs 6,600 but his equivalent in the civil service will get Rs 7,600;
Restricting elite list: The new category of HAG-plus (higher administrative grade) includes all DGs and DGPs but only army commanders and their equivalents in other services, the chiefs complain. Their demand: all lieutenant-generals be included in this category.
The defence ministry is said to have replied that the objections are being looked into and a response will be given soon. 
Despite the reservations of defence personnel about the pay commission awards, the finance ministry dashed their hopes, denying any “injustice” to the armed forces in the new pay structure.
“In no way are the defence personnel getting any lesser pay than their civilian counterparts. In fact, they will carry home fatter pay packets than civilian services and paramilitary under the new salary structures of the CPC,” a senior finance ministry official has said.
Citing the new feature of the military service pay in the CPC, officials said armed forces officers would uniformly get Rs 6,000 more, whereas such a pay was not offered to the civilians and the paramilitary. “Under the 5th CPC there was no compensation provided for the risk factor involved in the defence personnel’s job profile. Military service pay has taken care of that lacuna in the 6th CPC,” the official said.
Also, the military service pay would be counted along with the basic pay of armed forces officers for calculating armed forces’ dearness allowance (DA). “That would provide them with Rs 960 DA and the amount will increase as the DA is hiked,” the official added.
Additionally, defence officers posted in Siachen will get an allowance of Rs 14,000 and a high-altitude allowance of Rs 8,000, which adds up to a total of Rs 22,000. Under the 5th CPC, defence personnel were getting only Rs 7,000 as Siachen allowance and R 4,000 as high-altitude allowance, adding up to Rs 11,000. 
Giving the example of entry-level officers in the rank of lieutenant and equivalent in navy and air force, officials said under the 5th pay commission in the pay scale of Rs 8,250-10,500, they received a salary totalling Rs 15,252 as of 31 December 2005. “On 1 January 2006, from when the 6th CPC will be effective, a lieutenant in pay band-3 will receive an additional grade pay of Rs 5,400 and military service pay of Rs 6,000, making his or her total emoluments Rs 27,000. As of September 1, 2008, when the 6th CPC was implemented, a lieutenant will get total emoluments of Rs 28,947,” an official said. Whereas, their civilian counterparts in the pay scale of Rs 8,000-13,500 under 5th CPC had received a pay of Rs 14,880. A lieutenant-colonel under the 5th CPC received a gross salary of Rs 28,086. But under the 6th CPC, he will receive a grade salary of Rs 7,600 and military service pay of Rs 6,000 under pay band-3. His pay as on 1 January 2006, from when 6th CPC is effective, will be Rs 41,690. From 1 September 2008, when the 6th CPC was implemented, this stands at Rs 45,000, officials said.
A day after the finance ministry virtually rejected the armed forces’ pay demands, the three services chiefs noted that issues raised by them should be addressed by the country’s political leadership instead of the anomalies committee.
Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta, in his capacity as chairman, CoSC, also made a forceful plea that the CPC notification be “kept in abeyance” till the Cabinet considered the “core issues” and issued a correction to the notification. “The CPC-created disparities are not just pay anomalies but core issues. Hence, these cannot be left to the anomalies committee. But the Cabinet must consider them and issue a corrigendum to the CPC notification,” Admiral Mehta said, on behalf of all the three services chiefs, in a letter to Mr Antony.
He said the issues such as “extant parities of pay” to lieutenant-colonels and equivalent officers vis-à-vis their civilian and paramilitary counterparts was not just related to the CPC, but could seriously jeopardise “operational” and “functional” harmony of the defence forces whenever and wherever they worked alongside the civilian and paramilitary forces officers.
These issues, Admiral Mehta said had also “badly demoralised” the armed forces and if the issues persisted, they could lead to “despondency” among the defence cadre.
The Union Cabinet is likely to take up for approval the recommendations of the Sixth Central Pay Commission immediately. The suggestions made by a committee of secretaries ~ set up following widespread resentment, especially among the armed forces, over the recommendations ~ have been incorporated in the commission report. It has been reported that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held a meeting on 4 September to discuss the report. It was attended by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Mr Antony, Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Home Minister Shivraj Patil, besides the cabinet secretary and secretaries of relevant ministries.
The credit goes to Mr Antony, who is fully convinced of the disparities, so he favoured a hike for the officers and soldiers, over and above what was recommended in the pay panel report.
Let us hope that the Cabinet Committee on Security removes these disparities so that the soldiers do not get demoralised because demoralised forces cannot protect the sovereignty, security and integrity of the country.
Courtsey : The Telegraph.

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