Thursday, November 27, 2008

Pay parity for armed forces a difficult task: Govt

With the armed forces insisting on a pay hike, the government has said it is “very difficult” to maintain a balance in salaries of government servants doing varied jobs.“It is a very difficult exercise. Because it is not just a question of ensuring that people get better salaries. It is also a question of parities…. balances,” Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar said in an interview.

He was responding to a question on what steps the government was contemplating in view of the armed forces’ demand for pay parity.

Chandrasekhar said issues become more complicated when people start feeling that they are being discriminated against by the Pay Commission recommendations.

“It is very difficult when people feel that this chap has got more than me…that feeling is there. So, to maintain that kind of balance…. it is very difficult,” he said.

The Cabinet Secretary said the ministerial committee headed by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who had held both Defence and Finance portfolios earlier, was working on to find out a solution to the demands of the defence forces.

The armed forces have recently strongly conveyed to the government that there should be “no dilution” on their demands for pay parity.

This comes in the wake of reports that the government was trying to find a “middle path” to break the deadlock over the armed forces’ demands that included placing Army Lieutenant Colonels and their equivalents in the Navy and Air Force in Pay Band-4.

The Cabinet Secretary said when the armed forces raised the issue of pay parity, the Committee of Secretaries took up it immediately and deliberated on how to find a solution to it for the satisfaction of the defence personnel.

“When the armed forces raised the issue, we sat together at the official level with Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister (P M Nair) and decided that the best thing would be to request the higher level.

So we requested the External Affairs Minister because he was both Defence and Finance Minister earlier and could consult Defence Minister and Finance Minister and give his views,” he said.

Chandrasekhar said a “large majority” of government officials, including the Group C and Group D employees, accepted the Pay Commission recommendations and were “more or less satisfied“.

“I do not have too many complaints and whatever complaints are there, we have created a mechanism. We got the anomaly committee, we got a fast track committee to look into those issues,” he said.

Highlighting the difficult task carried out by the 6th Pay Commission while framing the recommendations, Chandrasekhar said they had to make a huge change in the structure.

“See normally we used to get pay scales. Here we have gone away from pay scales to the Pay Band structure, which is entirely different structure. So, to maintain the parity was pretty difficult. But still I think we did a pretty good job,” he said.

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