The Sixth Pay Commission has ensured that service chiefs and generals laugh all the way to the bank with their newly trebled salaries. Young 20-something lieutenants will also gleefully count their cash. But the “high hopes” of middle-rung officers, who constitute the backbone of the Army, from the Justice BN Srikrishna-headed panel have come crashing down.
There’s a growing sense of despondency among them and PBOR (personnel below officer rank) over not getting a “fair share” of the spoils. There is a shortage of 11,153 officers in the Army, primarily in the middle rung of its hierarchy. “Have our expectations been met? Not in the least. At the middle level, the increase in the take home package is barely 20 to 25 per cent. Technically it is a hike but it will not take an economist to tell that it’s measly,” said a colonel.
Expectations and exuberance were both running high until the Commission submitted its report to the government on Monday. The three services had in a joint memorandum to the Commission suggested a four-fold increase in the salaries of soldiers last year. For instance, it was proposed that colonels be put in a revised pay scale of Rs 45,000 to Rs 75,000, up from the existing pay band of Rs 15,100 to Rs 17,350. The armed forces, Srikrishna can argue, promised the moon to soldiers.
The Commission has recommended a revised scale of Rs 43,360 to Rs 47,270 for colonels. The total revised pay for lieutenant colonels has been pegged at Rs 38,880 to Rs 45,140. But the armed forces, battling an exodus of mid-level officers, had suggested a scale of Rs 42,000 to Rs 64,500.
An average of four middle-rung officers put in their papers everyday for premature release. It is not a secret within the army circles that several middle-level officers had deferred their plans to quit until the Commission submitted its report. “I think I will have another look at my options,” said a lieutenant colonel. In contrast, Army’s Signal Officer-in-Chief Lieutenant General SP Sree Kumar said on Tuesday the Army was quite happy with the recommendations.
No one’s whining at the entry level. A lieutenant will get a total revised monthly pay of Rs 25,760 to Rs 28,890 (plus around 20 per cent dearness allowance with effect from January 2006) compared to the existing pay band of Rs 8,250 to Rs 10,050 (DA excluded). With a proposed monthly package of Rs 90,000 (fixed), the Commission has equated the salaries of the three service chiefs to that of the Cabinet Secretary.
The pay panel has turned down the Army’s suggestion to give a monthly stipend of Rs 10,000 to NDA cadets to make service conditions attractive.