Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Forces delay pay panel award in protest

Angry over what they describe as a deliberate attempt by the bureaucracy to erode the parity of the crucial middle-rung officers — army lieutenant colonels and their equivalents in the air force and the navy — with the civil servants, the three defence services have not implemented the new central pay rules, notified on August 30, till date.

The three services want the implementation of the armed forces pay resolution to be held in abeyance till the issues raised by them are addressed. The key demand is to move these officers to pay band ‘four’ (Rs 37,400-67,000) from the lower pay band ‘three’ (Rs 15,600-39,100). They also want the grade pay, which has been pegged at Rs 7,600, to be hiked in line with the higher pay band.

Serving defence staffers, say lieutenant colonels and their equivalents, account for around 14,000 officers, or 25 per cent of the officer strength of the defence services. They have pointed out that the additional cost of placing such officers in the higher pay band will work out to Rs 230 crore annually. According to the Union Cabinet’s decision on August 14, the annualised impact of the new pay structure on the Centre (excluding the railways) is estimated at Rs 17,798 crore, an increase of over Rs 5,237 crore over the original Sixth Pay Commission award.

The defence services have pointed out that four successive pay commissions, including the recent one, had placed lieutenant colonels on a par with directors from the Indian Administrative Service. Expressing surprise at the decision of the committee of secretaries, which reviewed the Sixth Pay Commission report to change the award, the services have said that the civil officers of ‘group A’ services and the central paramilitary forces have also been placed in the higher pay band.

The armed forces fear that unless the anomalies are addressed, the trend of officers opting out of service will not end. They contend that the existing parities between the armed forces and the paramilitary forces have also been reversed, leading to conflict. They also fear that the officers’ morale will flag and the operational effectiveness of the forces in internal security will be adversely affected.

Last week, finance ministry officials had said that the services’ claim of functional relativities at all levels being altered to the detriment of the armed forces officers who worked along their civilian counterparts was incorrect. They added that the defence officers had been granted a military service pay of Rs 6,000, which when added to facilities like subsidised goods from the Canteen Stores Department and rations should be taken into account to consider the overall compensation.

Soon after the new pay rules were notified late on August 30, the chairman of the chiefs of staff committee, Navy Admiral Sureesh Mehta, briefed Defence Minister AK Antony about the matter. He is also learnt to have briefed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on September 5.

Source : Business Standard

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