Sunday, October 2, 2016
DISASTEROUS SEVENTH PAY COMMISSION - Military again taken for a Ride : By Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi, PVSM, AVSM, VSM (Retd)
I was requested to give what is called an e-mail interview by a Delhi-based magazine - 'INDIA LEGAL'. It has since been published by them in a truncated form. The link for accessing it is under:
What has been published has been truncated. While it has covered a few points, it has not published the much longer article that I had sent to them. I am enclosing a copy of my article too, as an attachment as well as in text below, in case you want to peruse it.
DISASTEROUS SEVENTH PAY COMMISSION - Military again taken for a Ride : By Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi, PVSM, AVSM, VSM (Retd)
Before I address major issues of the 7th Central Pay Commission (7 CPC), it is essential to know how the downgrading of emoluments of all military personnel started. The start point was the 3rd CPC, as prior to that the military was not part of Pay Commissions.
Prior to the 3rd CPC,all military personnel were paid their emoluments according to a military pay scale, which was different from what was being given to civilian government employees. The two major and logical reasons for this were: firstly, entirely different terms and conditions of service of the military; and secondly, the bulk of military personnel retired much earlier than all civil government employees. Consequently, pay and allowances of military personnel were higher and the veterans were paid a higher pension. This was correct, as most military personnel retired at younger ages and higher pension was compensation for this. This is in line with what most democracies do for their serving personnel and veterans.
The 3rd CPC’s recommendations reduced both pay and pension. While the reduction of pay and allowances was not across the board for all ranks, for the veterans, it was a big blow, as pension was reduced for Junior Commissioned Officers (JCO’s) and junior ranks drastically from 70 to 50%. At the same time, illogically, pension of civilian employees, who were getting 33% as pension, was boosted to 50%, for no cogent reason except greed, as retirement ages were 58 years for all civilian employees, as opposed to much younger ages of retirement, for 99% of military personnel. As an example, lower ranks retired after 15 to 21 years service, in the age groups of 30 to 35.
In addition, the draconian 33 year rule was promulgated, which stipulated that at the time of retirement full pension would be given only if a person had served for 33 years. This was the triple whammy for the military, as 90 % of lower ranks could not meet the criteria of the 33 year rule and hence received pension that was as low as 33 % for most. On the other hand, civilian employees were not affected, as all retired at 58 years age.
Successive CPC’s kept reducing emoluments of military personnel on baseless grounds. Now, with the recommendations of 7 CPC being forced on the military, we have reached a nadir, wherein from being at the top of pay and allowances at the time of Independence, we find the military at the bottom.
Yet, it is the military that is called all the time for doing jobs that lie in the domain of others! A perverse situation indeed!
QUESTION I - ANOMALIES
There are broadly two types of anomalies, those relating to 7 CPC and those that have been carried forward from earlier CPC’s. The total varies from about 30 to 50, depending on how different analysts have calculated them. Some, having remained unresolved over decades, cannot be resolved now. Perhaps that was the reason for the various committees set up to resolve them to postpone resolution on one pretext or the other and later directing that these anomalies would be passed over to the next CPC for resolution. Of course that never happened. It is only when the higher courts were moved that they were resolved favourably, despite the Ministry of Defence (MoD) fiercely fighting them and wasting huge amount of government funds, even when they knew that they were fighting a losing battle.
Prominent cases are those of Major Generals getting less pension than their junior brigadiers; and the Rank Pay case affecting all military officers. In both cases, the MoD lost, but they took so much time to resolve the issue that many veterans passed away in the process!
Another important but sad case is that of broad-banding of percentage of disabilities relating to war disabled and non-war disabled personnel, where even after bringing all the top lawyers of the country at hefty expense to the exchequer, the MoD lost when the Supreme Court not only came down heavily on the MoD for opposing such an obviously correct case, but passed its judgment in favour of nearly 900 disabled veterans who had gone through various subordinate courts at great expense. The irony is that the case is still unresolved for those who did not take the judicial route, because the egoistic MoD refuses to accept the inevitable, instead of issuing a fresh policy letter.
It is not possible to list and discuss the large number of anomalies that continue and on account of these the Service Chiefs have correctly not accepted the orders of the MoD. However, the important ones are discussed below.
An important anomaly that appears after every CPC is Pay Fixation, which is wrongly carried out, intentionally or due to wrong interpretation of rules, resulting in some seniors getting less pay than their juniors. This anomaly continues. JCOs and junior ranks suffer the most.
Risk & Hazard Allowance (RHA) vis-à-vis Special Duty Allowance (SDA)
The 7th CPC correctly termed Siachen as the riskiest and most hazardous area and recommended Risk & Hardship Allowance (RHA) for Siachen at Rs 31,500 for officers and Rs 21,000 for JCOs and lower ranks. Yet, for civilian employees it has recommended 30% of the basic pay (of the new pay matrix) as Special Duty Allowance (SDA) to all personnel of All India Services (AIS), in Guwahati or in the salubrious climate of Shillong or Aizawl, to name a few places. This works out to much higher amounts. The reason given is to “offset security environment and the difficult working and living conditions in the North East Region”!
Is it not mind-boggling that military personnel will only receive RHA for Siachen at much lower amounts of Rs 31,500 for officers and Rs 21,000 for JCOs and lower ranks, while civilian government employees will get SDA at 30 % of pay (Rs. 60,000) for in the north east?
Non-Functional Financial Upgrade (NFFU)
The case of non-functional financial upgrade for military officers has not been accepted by the government, although IAS and all Allied Services, as well as others have been drawing it for over a year.
Officers account for less than 5 per cent of defence personnel. It needs to be recognised that promotion avenues at senior levels are very few in the military. A large number of officers stagnate at different levels in the military and many of them get superseded, not because of incompetence but on account of insufficient vacancies; medical reasons arising from harsh border conditions; and no lowering of standards.
Therefore, compensation and allowances for stagnating soldiers and officers should factor in such extreme conditions to ensure that they stay motivated.
War Injured and Disabled Personnel
7CPC has done it again! 10 years back, 6CPC had recommended that while all civilian disabled employees will get disability portion of the pension as a percentage of pay, military disabled personnel, both war-disabled and others will get a lump sum. Besides disabled veterans getting lesser amounts, it was a clear case of being ‘bad in law’ as it was discriminatory that within a specific group of disabled persons there were two norms for compensation. I being war-disabled, having lost a leg in the 1965 India-Pakistan War, filed a case in the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) and won, but as usual the MoD appealed in the Supreme Court (SC). After many hearings and delays, the SC gave a judgment in my favour and then a new policy letter, bringing all government employees at par was issued. Now, the 7CPC has gone back to square one and again recommended lump sum for disabled military personnel and percentage for others. When will these idiots learn?
Extending the Edge to Civilian Officials
The pay matrix for civilian employees is much higher. The excuse stated is that as military personnel are paid Military Service Pay (MSP), their matrix is less. The same excuse is trotted out when the civilian employees are given double increments thrice. No one however mentions that MSP of Rs 15, 500 per month per officer (and Rs 5200 for JCO’s and lower ranks) is a fraction of the SDA and the six increments now authorised for civilian employees.
The CPC justified the edge for IAS officers, on the grounds that ‘it would neutralise the problems of small places, frequent transfers, and the pulls and pressures they have to withstand’. That military personnel face identical or worse problems of small places, transfers at least once, and the pulls and pressures of executing duties outside their primary task, because the civil administration, police, Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF’s) and others are ill-trained and reluctant to take risks.
7 CPC has justified giving extra increments to IAS & IFS, stating that these were necessary because ‘they were doing complex, difficult, or critical jobs’. Does it therefore mean that the army’s Platoon, Company, Battalion and even Brigade Commanders & equivalents are doing simple and non-critical jobs? I suppose facing bullets; shrapnel; and mortar rounds; being fired at and risking losing lives and limbs are simple, easy, and insignificant to deserve special increments!!
7 CPC has stated that one more reason for giving an edge to civilian officers was the difficult AIS Entrance Examination. The reality is however different.
A candidate for IAS has 6 chances or till the age of 32 years in the General category; 9 chances or 35 years of age for OBC candidates; and 37 years of age for SC/ST candidates; to appear for and pass and qualify for All India Services.
On the other hand, a candidate opting for joining the Air Force as a pilot gets only one chance in the Pilot Aptitude Battery Test (PABT) designed by Defence Institute of Psychological Research (DIPR) of DRDO. If he/she fails the PABT test, then he/she is permanently disqualified from joining the Flying branch of the Air Force!
Advancing the same argument about the AIS entrance examination, all officers of the Air Force’s Flying Branch (and Army Aviation Corps and Naval Aviators) should be entitled to pay advantage, or an ‘edge’ in the form of two additional increments, but that was conveniently ignored by 7 CPC.
In no CPC or empowered committees set up after CPC recommendations, a member from Defence forces, which comprise 30.9 % of Central Government employees, was ever included. Consequently, the defence forces continued to be at the mercy of bureaucrats and the political leadership was not bothered. 7CPC was no different.
QUESTION II – NEGLECT OF MILITARY FOR DECADES
The politico-bureaucratic nexus has been systematically lowering the status and remunerations of military personnel. It is an attack on the very institution that guarantees the security of all citizens of India. Motives need not be spelled out, but do include arrogance; inability to grasp what the military desires; personal agendas; and pure greed!
The armed forces have served the country loyally, both before and after Independence. However, the political establishment has neither supported nor rewarded the military. The governing elite seem to be suffering from a perpetual‘the man on horseback syndrome’, despite the sacrifices made by the military and defending the nation against heavy odds.
These actions of all governments, irrespective of political affiliations, have deliberately downgraded the military. We in the military do not understand such actions that have lowered the status and not given adequate compensation to us. This obviously has to end, for the consequences will inevitably be disastrous for the country.
QUESTION III - NAIVE RESPONSE OF RAKSHA MANTRI (RM)
The initial response of the RM to the three Chiefs informing the MoD that the recommendations of 7 CPC would not be implemented till all anomalies are resolved, was both bureaucratic and naïve. It indicated how little the Minister understands the ethos, pride and élan of the military.
Curtailment of salaries, pension, and allowances of military personnel can hardly be termed as a correct strategy or policy to balance the fiscal deficit, or whatever other excuse the bureaucrats and Mandarins of the Finance Ministry can come up with. The need is to ensure that soldiers are secure and satisfied, so that they can focus on safeguarding our borders.
Before Independence, Indian officers and soldiers were happily fighting for the British in alien lands. Besides various types of awards of land (Jagirs) and handsome pension, the veterans were looked after well. The civil administrators gave over-riding priority to settle the grievances of the veterans. This attracted the youth to a career in defence services.
This is in sharp contrast to the present situation where the military finds itself downgraded in both emoluments and status, when compared to their counterparts in government service. The local administrators too have no time or inclination to assist the veterans and their families in solving their many problems and grievances.
QUESTION IV – CHALLENGES FACED BY INDIAN MILITARY
DUE TO DIRTY POLITICS
In generalised terms, the underlying theme of 7 CPC recommendations and their approval by the government appears to be yet another attempt to downgrade the military. Even a cursory study of what the government has approved indicates that it is heavily loaded in favour of the bureaucracy, the police and other non-military government employees. This has been the methodology of all CPC’s since 3 CPC.
This is a potentially damaging scenario for the security of the nation. Morale of fighting men and women, as well as the equipment they fight with are two sides of the same coin. In both counts, all governments after Independence have been following a policy devoid of realism.
The real problem is not resolving the large number of anomalies that stretch back to over four decades, but the approach that is increasingly being adopted by the political leadership, at the behest of their bureaucratic advisers towards the one institution which has always performed, irrespective of the dangers and challenges.
In terms of recognition of the armed forces as the only institution that has delivered consistently, it is sad to state that all past and present governments have adopted an approach that borders on schizophrenia. Maybe their advisers have been indoctrinating them of a non-existent threat from the military!
There is high rhetoric on the regard in which the military is held by everyone; yet, no effort is spared to denigrate its leadership or to downgrade its stature. Some examples may elucidate the point further.
The early 1960s case of Army Chief Thimmaya protesting gross interference by the Defence Minister in promotion of senior army officers, and the sordid drama by PM Nehru is too well known to repeat it here. A year later, there was the well-documented retreat by a demoralised army.
In 1973, less than two years after the armed forces gave the nation the biggest victory ever against Pakistan, Indira Gandhi's government, reduced the pensions of retiring military men through 3 CPC, as already explained earlier!
In the middle 1980s, when the army chief made a perfectly valid comment that the armed forces were as interested in good governance as others, PM Rajiv Gandhi got Defence Minister Sharad Pawar to humiliate him in the Lok Sabha.
In 1998, the government of Prime Minister Vajpayee summarily dismissed Naval Chief Vishnu Bhagwat without any notice.
In other major democracies, there is respect for the military. There have been cases where senior military officers have been asked to resign on moral grounds, but the governments of these countries never downgraded the stature of the armed forces as an institution. The reason is that our political leaders have little knowledge of security and strategic affairs and they foolishly depend on the generalist bureaucracy for advice, a case of ‘the blind leading the blind’!
Sadly, the Seventh Pay Commission report falls well short of the standards expected of it. Therefore, if the three Service Chiefs have addressed the Defence Minister, it is for sound reasons.
Grievances of retired veterans are important as they are the representatives of the military for future generations. If they are vilified or made to run from pillar to post and their entitlements withheld or curtailed, it will have highly negative effect on youth who may want to join the military. Already, traditional military families are no longer enthused to send their children to the armed forces. The more important and pertinent issue, however is that the attitudes and actions are resulting in demoralisation setting in among serving personnel.
QUESTION V – PARRIKAR’S RESPONSE
The Raksha Mantri (RM) talks a lot and makes grandiose promises, but only implements simple and peripheral issues. Much was recently made by the ‘Sarkari’Media that the RM has carried out a reshuffle of the MoD, wherein he neither trimmed the burgeoning bureaucracy, nor inducted any military officers in it, as has been the mandate of the government since 2001, when a Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by the Deputy Prime Minister of his own party had directed the integration of the civil and military officials in the MoD.
QUESTION VI – WELFARE OF MILITARY
Over eight years back, the government created a Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare (ESW), by carving out three already existing entities of the MoD and placing them under yet more bureaucrats. They were also assigned the task of pensions of the veterans. The main objective of this new Department was to give focused attention to the welfare programmes for ex-servicemen and their dependants. Even after eight years of its existence, except for garnering additional vacancies for their cadre, the department is yet to come out with a single programme for the welfare of the veterans. The hash they have made of pensions is too well known to need any further elucidation.
Here is a department tailor made to make much of the sacrifices of the Indian Military by conceiving a comprehensive and long term plan to commemorate the valiant deeds of our military officers and jawans. Mere file pushing will not work. The need is for vision, empathy and dedication. All these require the staffing of this department by military personnel. They know what soldiers want and how best to meet their needs. The incongruity of welfare of soldiers by the bureaucracy needs immediate burial. Let us do so without delay.
At Independence, the Indian Military had firmly believed that the new dispensation would be as fair as the last one, if not better, and the ‘System’ would take care of their concerns and aspirations, without their kowtowing to the new political leadership. Sadly, the bureaucracy did just the opposite and ingratiated themselves with the new leaders. Even then they were not satisfied, for their thirst for power and the filthy lucre was unending and continues to be so.
Over the years and decades, on account of the naivety of the political leaders, the bureaucrats have made themselves indispensable to the political leaders. Without going into any detailed explanations, it is quite obvious that the elected representatives of the people have steadily abdicated their responsibilities to the bureaucrats.
Let the political leadership reflect on two truisms;
“No country ever became a great power by putting down its own military”;
and as advised by Chanakya to his King: “The day a soldier has to demand his dues, is truly a sad day in the history of the nation”.
(The writer is a former Vice Chief of Army Staff)
(Source- Via Gp E-mail from Chander Prakash, Vet)