Just think what can you buy for a rupee. The mind’s gone blank? But the Sixth Pay Commission believes a daily allowance of Re 1 is sufficient for personnel below officer rank (PBOR) to swig down their quota of rum.
The ‘generosity of spirit’ shown by the commission in raising the rum allowance from a paltry 50 paise per day to Re 1 in peace areas has left soldiers wondering if the panel has played some kind of a cruel joke on them. The Justice B.N. Srikrishna headed panel also, bizarrely, believes that our soldiers can make do with a grant of Rs 20 per month each for haircutting, maintaining clothing and buying toiletries, as part of their composite personal maintenance allowance.
The armed forces had recommended a ten-fold increase in the allowance to ease the financial burden on poorly paid PBORs, who have been given a measly salary hike. A senior officer said: “The ad hoc approach of the pay commission has demoralised soldiers. The rum allowance of Re 1 is akin to giving them bhiksha. It would have been better had they scrapped the allowance.” The rum allowance is slightly higher in field areas.
The commission, which has been stingy on pay hike for PBOR, has recommended a revised pay of Rs 10,670 to Rs 12,500 for a sepoy, who is at the bottom of army hierarchy. In real terms, it would translate into an increase of barely Rs 1,000. The army had proposed a scale of Rs 16,600 to Rs 24,100 for soldiers, the backbone of the army’s fighting strength.
Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor, Air Chief Fali Homi Major and Chief of Naval staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta met Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Thursday and it is learnt that they broached the issues arising from the pay panel’s report during the 90-minute meeting. The three service chiefs, whose salaries have been trebled, are concerned because the morale of soldiers and middle-rung officers has crashed after the pay panel’s report.
It is learnt that the services have proposed a 40 to 60 per cent increase over and above the hike suggested by the pay panel. They are also demanding that military service pay (MSP) for PBOR be raised from Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000/Rs 3,000 depending on rank, aside from seeking six pay bands for armed forces personnel.
The meeting took place in the backdrop of reports of forces being dismayed over the recommendations of Justice Srikrishna. The report has came at a time when all the three services are facing shortage of key middle rung officers.
The shortage has been compounded by armed forces training institutions reporting shortfalls for the first time in getting recruits and this was the high point of arguments put forth by the three service chiefs.
Expectations of salaries in the armed forces becoming higher than proposed by the pay panel rose since the defence ministry in its joint submission to the Commission had proposed a four-fold rise in the salaries arguing that they were not attracting the qualified manpower as the forces induct hi-tech weapons systems.
According to indications, the main grouse of the soldiers and personnel below officer rank seems to be the meagre amount of Rs 1,000 recommended for the them as part of New Military Service pay as compared to it being six times higher for officers upto the rank of Brigadiers. A jump in this special pay is expected after today's deliberations.
Sources said that submission made by the three services would be taken up with the Finance Ministry officials by Defence Secretary Vijay Singh.
In written submissions made to the Minister, the Services have asked the government to consider “three pay bands” each for soldiers and PBOR and for officers from rank of Lieutenant to Brigadiers.
(With inputs from PTI)