iconimg Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Lt-Gen Harwant Singh (retd), Hindustan Times
November 06, 2013
The Prime Minister has announced the formation of the 7th Central Pay Commission (CPC) and a separate pay commission for the defence services. So early an announcement of the pay commission, which is otherwise due to commence work in 2016, is being linked by some to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and being called a political move. Our focus should be on pay commissions as they relate to the defence forces.

For quite some time, there has been a demand from the defence forces, particularly by the retired fraternity, for a separate pay commission, essentially because all previous CPCs, dominated in their composition by the bureaucracy, have shown pronounced bias against the defence forces. The practice of forming a separate pay commission for the defence forces is followed in Britain. However, the defence forces are treated differently in the UK and the profession of arms is recognised as a special calling and treated above others in matters of pay and allowances, whereas in India the text and story of treatment of defence personnel pans out differently.

Large vote bank

Possibly, the government took into consideration the fact that defence personnel form a reasonably large vote bank, more so when they can now vote at the place of their posting, so a separate pay commission for them would work well politically. Unfortunately, there is a deep-seated suspicion among the defence services that the government (the bureaucracy which dominates CPCs) will not do justice. Possibly, the government may first constitute a pay commission for the defence forces and then a CPC, with the latter basing pay parameters etc. on those given to the former. Even if there is a common chairman for the two commissions, apprehension of mischief is born out of past experience.

'Certificate of fairness'

However, the Chiefs of Staff Committee has opted against a separate pay commission for the defence services and so informed the defence minister. In its communication to the minister, the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CCOSC) has expressed some manner of satisfaction with the dispensation, as it relates to defence services, by the previous CPCs. This 'certificate of fairness' to the previous CPCs by the CCOSC is at complete variance with the ground reality and has caused widespread disappointment and apprehension. These CPCs may have been generally fair to the service chiefs and the army commanders (and their equivalent in the navy and air force) but down the line they have repeatedly and consistently disadvantaged almost every one.

Life expectancy

A soldier is compulsorily retired at the age of 35-37 years and he forms nearly 75% of the military's manpower. No one seems to realise the stress and pain caused by retirement at such an early age. Overall, 95% retire in the age group of 35 to 54 years. A survey carried out by the Institute of Applied Research in Manpower Analysis (IARM) at the behest of the 5th CPC arrived at a life expectancy figure of 77 years in the case of civil servants and another study for the railways put the same figure for its employees at 78 years. Another study puts the age expectancy of a soldier at around 9.5 to 64 years, JCOs (junior commissioned officers), 67 years; and officers, 72.5 years. Is it the financial worry and increasing commitments when retired so early in life that send these brave soldiers to their funeral pyres so soon? Does this horrific information not prick the nation's conscience?

These details were placed in Parliament before then defence minister, who simply buried the case. He is now the supreme commander of the same army!

At the time of introducing the new pay code for the defence services soon after Independence, the government had bought the silence of the top hierarchy of the military by excluding the Kings Commissioned Indian Officers (KCIOs) from that draconian cut in the pay and allowances of all ranks.

That had created deep fissures in the espirit de corps in the officer cadre and disappointment in the rank and file. It was generally believed that the KCIOs lived in a different and rarified atmosphere and rarely identified themselves with the hoi polloi of the Indian brand. What prompted the CCOSC to give a 'certificate of fairness' to previous CPCs may remain a mystery, but the contours are discernable. At least the army chief, a member of the COSC, should have recalled the writings in the Chetwood Hall of the Indian Military Academy and opposed this distortion.