About 12,000 non-combatant IAF personnel, who are governed by Air Force laws for all service purposes but do not get paid on par, have been demanding a correction in their "status and salary" or be declared as civilians.
The non-combatants (NC), who were first recruited in 1970 to take care of IAF's jobs such as washermen, cooks, drivers and bar-tenders, have made several representations to the Air Force top brass and the Defence Ministry in this regard, but to no avail.
"Our services are governed by the Air Force Act and Rules that also applicable to combatants for court martial and disciplinary, leave and pension. We also get transfered to battle stations, including the inhospitable Siachen Glacier and to UN peacekeeping. But we do not get paid or recognised as airmen," said a NC, requesting anonymity, as he is not authorised to speak to the media under the Air Force laws.
"The IAF civilian staff, though, are not subjected to the strict military laws and do not fear transfers to forward bases. We come in between the airmen and civilians, but are actually nowhere. We face this discrimination and there is no respite," he said, highlighting his plight.
IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik had recently said that he favoured according the NCs better pay packages and that he was discussing granting their demand for "status" of airmen with the government.
The military laws and rules are quite strict in the sense the punishment meted out are severe and services harsh, in terms of terrain, duties and physical endurance.
Though the non-combatants do small jobs, they are subjected to the severity that comes with military duties and here is where they say they deserve better.
"In fact, non-combatants had sought military service pay (MSP) and it was recommended by the IAF, as granted to airmen under the sixth pay commission. But the Finance Ministry rejected the proposal of the IAF. A petition filed in the Armed Forces Tribunal in this regard too was dismissed accepting the government argument," said another NC.
The NCs said there were contradictions in the government stand on their MSP, as on one hand it does admit that they were governed by military service rules, but when it came to better pay, they were considered civilians by the Finance Ministry.
In the case of non-combatants in the Army and Navy, the men are paid MSP.