Armed forces at a disadvantage | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Armed forces at a disadvantage

chandigarh Updated: Feb 19, 2014 10:28 IST
Lt Gen Harwant Singh (retd)

The Government of India has announced the formation of 7th Central Pay Commission (CPC) and spelled out its composition, which is no different than what has been the practice in the past. It may be recalled that the Prime Minister had earlier announced that there would be a separate pay commission for the defence services.

In response, the chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee, reposing good faith in the government, wrote to it saying the services did not want a separate pay commission and instead the government’s CPC must have a member from the defence services.

Perhaps in deciding the composition of this commission, the PM’s approval was not sought. In the previous CPCs, defence forces have been kept out even from the staff assembled for working out the details related to the Commission’s reports.

Pay commissions are headed by an eminent jurist, but defence forces projections, seeking of clarifications and other issues specific to them have never been heard by him in person and these proceedings have been carried out behind closed doors and at the whims of the bureaucrats in the commission.

Armed forces pay cells that field services’ case before the CPCs are seldom informed of the devious methodologies being adopted and do not get to know the final recommendations till the report is made public, thus giving no time to contest the anomalies at their very inception.

Neglecting defence forces

Of the central services, defence personnel form the largest group and among the officer cadres, they outnumber all others, and yet the government has been deliberately excluding them from being part of the Central Pay Commissions. Pay commissions have been dealing an unfair hand to the defence services, creating serious anomalies leading to palpable discontent and large-scale litigation.

The 6th Central Pay Commission alone has over two dozen anomalies awaiting their resolution. Finally, anomalies do not get resolved because of the negative attitude of the ministry of defence and those in the pay commission are often shifted to the ministry of finance where they continue to pursue the same policies and stall resolution of anomalies and distortions introduced earlier.

Take the case of grant of non-functional up-gradation (NFU) which entitles all those in the All India Services and Organised Group A Services (nearly 50 in number), without performing duties relevant to that appointment, to draw pay and allowances of such appointments and the whole lot of them end up drawing pay and pension of HAG and HAG+ grade, whereas less than 1% in the defence services attain that grade of pay.

This provision has been denied to the defence services officers on the absurd plea that theirs is not Group A Central Service but military service, though in theory CPCs and almost all of them have ruled that there should be pay parity between the officers of armed forces and the Group A services in general and the Indian Police in particular.

In response to defence services’ strong protest on being excluded from the grant of the NFU provision, the government has stated that this anomaly will be placed before the 7th CPC for its resolution, when defence services would have already lost 10 years of benefits from this provision. In another case, consequent to the 5th CPC dispensation, major-generals ended up with lesser pension than brigadiers, and this issue, 18 years later, is yet to be satisfactorily resolved.

The point simply is that starting from 3rd to 6th CPC, the defence services have been disadvantaged in every possible way. Every pay commission has been elevating civil services in pay and status vis-à-vis defence services. Leave alone hard and risk-filled life, even early retirement of military personnel is not compensated. The government had continued to deny compensation for early retirement in the form of One Rank One Pension.

But now with elections around the corner, Rahul Gandhi has finally come to the rescue of veterans. Pay commissions have come to be an instrument of the bureaucracy and for the bureaucracy. The political class remains none the wiser. While the age of retirement of civil servants was increased to 60, the age to be a senior citizen was brought down from 65 to 60. Even the dim-witted can discern the self-interest in this machination. Bureaucracy is now bent on increasing its age of retirement to 62.

No support

Unfortunately, the defence services chiefs have never stood up for the interest of troops and their officers, else the government, nay bureaucracy, could not have so systematically and in such a sustained manner, downgraded the military. A stage has been reached when suitable candidates are not coming forward to join the defence services.

The disturbing incidents of trouble in a number of military units are sure indication that sub-standard material is finding its way into the military’s officer cadre.
Finally, nations that do not send their better material into the officer cadre will find its troops badly led during war.

The writer, formerly chief of the army staff, is a commentator on security and defence issues. Views expressed are personal.