Thursday, February 4, 2016

10 Military Habits That Make Soldiers Awesome

“No soldier outlives a thousand chances. But every soldier believes in Chance and trusts his luck.” – Erich Maria Remarque
Serving in the military is a life changing experience. We can easily spot a military service member when we see one. Their habits, that they come to inculcate upon their commission in the military, are so distinct and while they may try to remain subtle in a crowd, their habits and body language make it easy for us to tell them apart from the crowd.

Here are some of the common military habits that make the soldiers awesome.

1.    They are extremely polite.
You can easily pick out service members by their over usage of “sir” and “ma’am.” The soldiers never discriminate among people when it comes to politeness. A shopkeeper would get the same amount of respect that a Colonel would. All thanks to the military discipline.

2.  Their haircut!
I have never come across any defence personnel how doesn’t have a smart haircut. The crew cut is the signature haircut that most of the service members have. Years will pass by and the soldiers will never get tired of sporting their smartly- cut hair.

3.  Sunglasses!
Wearing sunglasses has become like an unwritten norm for the military personnel. The military personnel wear sunglasses even when its’ not sunny outside! So much for a habit!

4.  They walk fast.
Military personnel walk with a purpose, as if their trip to the grocery store is actually a Ministry of Defence briefing! Their walk defines another parameter of confidence.

5.  The power stance.
Habits are hard to kick. The posture of the military personnel literally makes you feel that they own the place!

6.  Use of jargons
The military personnel have the habit of using jargons ( example- Roger, etc.) in their normal daily way of speaking. If a non-defence background individual is to hear them speak, I’m pretty sure they would be awestruck!

7.  They have the tendency to scan the crowd and are very observant.
If you are in a room full of people and you spot someone who’s been scanning and observing the crowd, you are most probably looking at a soldier. They can easily sense if something is suspicious and act accordingly.

8.  They can sleep anywhere
Military personnel can sleep probably anywhere, in any weather, on anything. They also come out of it rapidly and coherently and it’s no big deal for them.

9.  They are unbelievably punctual.
So they have this really unbelievable punctuality. 1800 hours, for them, can become 1755 hours but not 1805 hours. They will always be on time, irrespective of the event, etc. 

10.  Their determination and courage is unmatched.

The military personnel have so much determination for whatever they do. No task is big or small; they put their 100% in everything that they do. Their courage is something that inspires other people to be like them.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

India's civil-military dissonance: Road To Perdition?

by Admiral Arun Prakash 
India's Republic Day on Tuesday (January 26) will be celebrated with traditional pageantry and the citizen gets a panoramic view of the country's military capability. Intelligence inputs warn that it will be yet another test for the national security apparatus. However, it provides an opportune occasion to objectively review how India has dealt with its complex security challenges. Regrettably in India's National Security 'Hall of Shame' we can now add, 'Pathankot 2016' after 'Kandahar 1999', 'Parakram 2002' and 'Mumbai 2008.'
Given that India is a nuclear weapon state, which fields one of the world's largest armed forces and spends upwards of USD40 billion annually on defence, one cringes at accounts of our seemingly inept handling of yet another terrorist attack. Equally disheartening is the fact that, eight years after 26/11, we lack the ability to deter the architects of this attack, and the will to punish its perpetrators.

It is a matter of sheer good fortune that the cross-border terrorists who managed to enter the Pathankot air base failed to target aircraft, helicopters and missiles as well as the huge bomb-dump and fuel-storage facilities. We overlook the fact that some of our air bases, adjuncts to the nuclear deterrent, may also house nuclear warhead components. So, while cautioning the world about the dangers of Pakistani warheads falling into jihadist hands, we need to ensure that a similar fate does not befall our own.
The calibre of a nation's leadership is tested by a crisis. Whether it is floods, an aircraft hijacking or a terror strike, India's response to any crisis has followed a depressingly familiar sequence. Regardless of intelligence inputs, the onset of a crisis finds multiple agencies pulling in different directions, lacking unitary leadership, coordination and, above all, a cohesive strategy. Ad-hoc and sequential damage-control measures eventually bring the situation under control, with loss of life and national self-esteem. After a free-wheeling blame-game, the state apparatus relapses into its comatose state - till the next disaster.
From the media discourse, it appears that this template was faithfully followed in the Pathankot episode. While the military has due processes for learning from its mistakes and dealing with incompetence, one is not sure about the rest of our security system.
Whether or not India-Pakistan peace talks are resumed, the Pakistani 'deep state' has many more 'Pathankots' in store for India. For Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), cross-border terrorism is an inexpensive method of keeping India off-balance. The strategy of plausible deniability and threat of nuclear 'first-use' assures them of impunity from retribution. Such situations call for all components of India's national security, military, intelligence, bureaucracy, central and state police forces to work in the closest synergy and coordination. Regrettably, civil-military relations have, of late, been deeply vitiated and the resultant dissonance could have adverse consequences for the nation's security.
What is worse; civil-military recriminations, so far, confined within the walls of South Block, seem to be proliferating. Post-Pathankot, the constabulary has jumped into the fray and, if an intemperately-worded newspaper article (Indian Express, January 13) by a serving Indian Police Service (IPS) officer is an indicator, civil-military relations may be entering a downward spiral. This outburst should compel the political leadership to undertake a re-appraisal of the prevailing civil-military equation which contains many anomalies; one of them being the role of the police forces.

Worldwide, an unmistakable distinction is maintained between the appearance and functions of the military and civilian police, the latter being charged with the maintenance of law and order, crime prevention/investigation and traffic regulation et al. India's unique security compulsions have seen the Indian Police Service (IPS) not only retaining the colonial legacy of sporting army rank badges and star plates but also garnering unusual influence in national security matters over the years.

Many of our Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) have blurred the distinction between police and military; terming themselves 'para-militaries', with constables wearing military style combat fatigues and being addressed as 'jawans'. There are only three, duly constituted, para-military forces in India: the Coast Guard, Assam Rifles and the Special Frontier Force; all headed by armed forces officers. The five CAPFs, namely BSF, CRPF, ITBP, CISF and SSB - cumulatively over a million strong - are headed by IPS officers.
The deployment of CAPFs in border-guarding as well as counter-insurgency roles calls for military (read infantry) skills; for which neither the police constables nor officers receive adequate training. This lack of training and motivation as well as a leadership deficit has manifested itself in: (a) these forces repeatedly suffering heavy casualties (confined only to constables) in Maoist ambushes; and (b) recurring instances of infiltration taking place across borders guarded by CAPFs.
In the case of the anti-terrorist National Security Guard (NSG), its combat capability comes from the army; yet, by government mandate, it is headed by a police officer. The fact that this elite force has seen 28 directors general in 31 years makes one wonder if round holes are being filled by square pegs.
A second anomaly in the civil-military matrix pertains to the fact that the Government of India Rules of Business have designated the civilian secretary heading the defence ministry as the functionary responsible "for the defence of India and for the armed forces". Since no military officer, including the three chiefs, finds mention in the Business Rules, the Service HQs are subaltern to a 100 percent civilian ministry. Every major decision - whether it pertains to finance, acquisition, manpower or organization - requires a ministry nod which can take decades.
A false and dangerous belief prevails on Raisina Hill that civil-military relations constitute a zero-sum game in which 'civilian control' is best retained by boosting the bureaucracy and police at the expense of the military. Post-independence, the civil-military balance has been steadily skewed by pushing the military officer well below his civilian counterparts with the same years of service. This has caused deep resentment in the military, and the resultant hierarchical distortion could lead to a civil-military logjam - the last thing the nation needs at this juncture.
It is high time the Indian politician shed his traditional indifference to national security issues and took tangible measures to ensure a stable and equitable civil-military paradigm - one which ensures a say for the military in matters impinging on the nation's safety and security. Until that happens, the Republic Day parade will remain a vainglorious display of hardware and pageantry - and the nation's security in parlous straits.

Admiral Prakash is a former Indain Navy chief and Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at arunp2810@yahoo.com) 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Maj Gen Ian Cardozo –An Example of Courage and indomitable Spirit of an Army officer

Major General Ian Cardozo was a young major in the 5 Gorkha Rifles in the 1971 war with Pakistan. In a swift military offensive, India defeated Pakistan within 13 days, liberated a region and led to the creation of Bangladesh.

In the war, the then Major Cardozo stepped on a landmine and had to cut off his badly wounded leg with his own khukri.

Yet, through sheer will power and determination, he did not let his disability come in the way of his duty as a soldier and went on to become the first disabled officer in the Indian Army to command an infantry battalion and a brigade.

A brief interview with him.

Tell us about your wound.

At that time, I was still not wounded.

There was a BSF commander who got panicky when he saw all these fellows (prisoners) and asked: “Please send someone here.’ I told the CO that I would go. I did not know that I was walking on a minefield. I stepped on a mine and my leg blew off.

A Bangladeshi saw this happening, he picked me up and took me to the battalion headquarters. They were feeling bad. I told the doctor, ‘Give me some morphine.’ They had no#8800 it had been destroyed during the operations. ‘Do you have any Pethidine?’ ‘No’

I told him: ‘Could you cut this off?’

He said: ‘I don’t have any instrument.’

I asked my batman: ‘Where is my khukri?’

He said: ‘Here it is, Sir.’

I told him: ‘Cut it off.’

He answered in Gorkhali: ‘Sir, I can’t do it.’

I told him: ‘Give it to me.’ I cut my leg off and ordered: ‘Now go and bury it.’

You tell people that you are embarrassed to tell the story because it was nothing at all. What was your first thought?

My first thought was for her (pointing to his wife, Priscilla). I thought, ‘What a stupid thing happened to me. It was beyond my control, it just happened.’

Then the doctor came and tied it up. My CO also came: ‘Ian, you are very lucky, we have captured a Pakistani surgeon. He will operate on you.’

‘Nothing doing, Sir, I don’t want to be operated by a Pakistani doctor. Just get me back to India,’ I answered.

By that time Dhaka had fallen and there was no chopper available.

I then told the CO: ‘Two conditions.’ He immediately said: ‘You are not in position to put conditions.’

I told him: ‘OK, two requests. One, I don’t want Pakistani blood.’

He retorted: ‘You are a fool.’ I said: ‘I am prepared to die a fool. My second request, Sir, I want you to be present when they operate on me.’ The CO asked: ‘Why?’ I answered: ‘You know why.’ (There had been cases of torture). So, he agreed.

Anyway, the Pakistani surgeon did a good job. His name was Major Mohamed Basheer. I have never been able to say, ‘Thank you.’ I owe him a thank you, but it is not easy (to find someone in Pakistan].

What did you feel when you cut your own leg?

People are giving more credit than I do. Actually I just felt deeply embarrassed because my leg was in a terrible state. I did not want to look at it and others to look at it. I wanted to get rid of it. Nobody wanted to do it, so I did it.

You have said that you always dream that you have two legs.

Yes, in my dreams, I have two legs, no artificial leg.

How did you manage to get a promotion after being disabled?

One has to accept that the army puts a great amount of emphasis on physical fitness. One has to be fit to be a commander at any level.

From my side, I felt that the doctors were unfair to me to say that I could not perform as well as anybody else.

With my wooden leg, I was determined to prove to the army as well as to the world in general, that a person with a wooden leg could do as well, if not better, than a two-legged person. I resolved to keep myself physically fit.

I woke early morning, did some exercises and went for a run. I did the battle physical test. I had a problem with the officer in charge of the test who refused to allow me to pass the test. He said he would not let me go through that test because a year earlier someone physically unfit had gone through the test and died.

I told him I was fit, but he answered that he would arrest me if I do the test. I told him: ‘You can put me under arrest only after I commit the offense. So let me do the test and you can arrest me after.’

So I did the test and left seven officers with two legs behind me. The officer was a good man, he said, putting his arm around my shoulder: ‘Well done, Sir, good job.’

I later went to the vice-chief and asked him, what else should I do? He said: ‘Come with me to J&K.’

He came by helicopter to a place at 6,000 feet. I climbed from the road to the helipad. When he arrived, he asked me: ‘How did you come here?’ thinking I had used my contacts to fly with a chopper. I told him: ‘Sir, I climbed from the road.’

He was surprised: ‘You can climb!’ I told him: ‘What I can or can’t do is the minds of my senior officers.’

He said ‘Alright’ and put up my case to the army chief (General T N Raina) who asked me to accompany him to Ladakh. I walked in mountains in snow and ice. General Raina saw this and when he returned to Delhi, he asked for my file and wrote: ‘Yes, give him a battalion and to all other officers who are not taking shelter behind their wounds.’

For me, it only meant that one has to do what is required by one’s job. I was the first disabled officer to be approved to command a battalion.

The same thing happened when I was to take command of a brigade. The bureaucracy said: ‘No, you can’t command a brigade.’ I wrote to the army chief that I had proven that I could command a battalion; there was no reason why I should be demoted in a staff job.

The chief said: ‘Why do you harass this man, give him the command of a brigade.’

Later three disabled officers became army commanders. One even became vice-chief: he had earlier had both his legs amputated.

What would you tell the youth of this country?

I have many things to say: You have only one life to live, live it to the full.

You have 24 hours in a day: Pack it up.

The other thing is ‘Never give up.’

If you believe in something, do it in a right way at the right time.

I must say I had always the support of my wife for whatever I did in my life.

He lost his leg in a landmine blast, but conquered his disability and went on to became the first disabled officer in the Indian Army to command an infantry battalion and then a brigade.
Awarded a Sena Medal for gallantry, General Cardozo is presently Chairman of the Rehabilitation Council of India and has authored The Sinking of INS Khukri -- Survivors Stories and Param Vir -- Our Heroes In Battle.

Source : Rediff

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Aligning the moral compass - Glimpses of Life at The National Defence Academy (NDA)

Entrance to NDA

by Maj Gen (retd) G G Dwivedi

IT took barely an hour by the army truck from Pune railway station to Kharkvasla. Driving through the Pashan Gate, the bird’s eye view of National Defence Academy (NDA) literally catapulted us to cloud nine. For most us in the mid-teens, NDA was not the first but only choice. It was dream come true and what a great start for the New Year -1968!

We were offloaded in front of the mess and allotted an Academy number. Under the hawk eye of a Cadet Sergeant, with boxes on the heads, we hot-footed to our Squadrons. Within an hour, the ‘green horns’ were adept at the skill of front-rolling, the only form of commuting for a fresher. After the mass crew cut, we were lined up in the community toilet for the maiden shave, only to end up as battle scared soldiers from the razor cuts.

The day invariably started with a morning prayer. One of the key sentence was “oh God, give us strength to choose harder right instead of easier wrong”. Thereafter, with cycles on our heads, we went through galore of activities. The classrooms were a replica of modern art; cadets in different poses, varying from head stand to push-up position, depending upon the subject: physics, military history or Burmese. Late night when back in the cabin, one could experience live the earth in its full rotation.

We were ever ready to do and die for our Squadrons. Be it the boxing ring, athletics stadium or obstacle course: the ultimate mission was to keep the Squadron flag flying high. The cheer leaders often went overboard and had to be pulled out from the field of play. Victory treats at the Café, with free flowing mango drinks and hotdogs were the most sought-after reward. While passing out of NDA, leaving our Squadron champion was the finest hour of the three years stint, far surpassing every individual achievement.

At the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, for the final year of training, the initiation was with the welcome address in the Chetwode Hall. “The Safety, Honour and Welfare of Country always comes first ….., the Honour, Comfort and Welfare of the men comes next, your own ease, comfort and safety comes last …” was the gist of the eternal quote inscribed in golden letters on the centre wall. While taking the final step marking culmination of our training, one stood transformed, cast into mould, distinct from a civilian counterpart. At midnight, on the auspicious occasion of our commissioning, with one pip on the shoulder, we could sense the onus of responsibility that had been bestowed up on us by the nation. “This burden will increase, as you go up the ladder. However, only those will stand their ground whose moral compass always remained aligned to the ‘True North’,” quipped a distinguished soldier.

Recently, at a Veterans’ get-together, the discussion veered around the 

subject of propriety; and aberration wherein some of the top brass 

happen to be in the news for wrong reasons. Most of us were silent till 

someone wryly remarked, “Possibly, it is the consequence of aligning the 

moral compass with ‘Magnetic North’; transition from ‘rank and file’ to the 

lucrative mainstream!” 

An extremely nostalgic description of life at the 

National Defence Academy at Khadakwasla

The Crest and the photographs have been added by 

the host of this blog

The Indian Soldier is a Role Model for the Nation: An Army Day Tribute

By Gurmeet Kanwal

The Idea of India

The Indian soldier is a role model for the people of India. Scrupulously honest, positively secular, completely apolitical, with an ethos of working hard, simple needs and frugal habits, he is the epitome of courage and unflinching devotion to duty. More than any other group or community in the country, the Indian soldier embodies and represents the idea of India.

In hail, sleet and snow, in icy blizzards and pouring rain, he stands sentinel over the nation’s borders in the high Himalayas. He maintains a silent and lonely vigil along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). He has held the Saltoro Ridgeline west of the Siachen Glacier, the highest battlefield in the world, for almost 30 years and denied the adversary the opportunity to alter the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL). He has repeatedly shown his mettle while meeting the Chinese challenge along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with Tibet.

From the snow-clad and wind-swept mountains of the Himalayas in the north, to the steaming hot and humid jungles of the seven sisters in the north-east and the shimmering sands of the burning Thar Desert in the west, he never lowers his guard. Along the LoC, he braves daily spells of intermittent small arms and mortar fire from a wily enemy. Sometimes he lives through many days of heavy artillery shelling when the very earth around him shakes ominously. Despite the omnipresent danger, hardships and privations of life on the nation’s troubled frontiers, he stands tall and firm. Stoic and resolute, his courage never wavers, his spirit never flags.

Guardian of the Frontiers

He stopped the rape of Baramulla by Pakistani Razakars in 1947 and saved Srinagar from a similar fate. He took tanks to the 12,000 feet high Zoji La pass in 1948 to push back Pakistani invaders. In a battle that has gone down in military history as the ultimate example of courage under fire, he fought to the last man and last round at Rezang La, near Chushul in Ladakh, in 1962. He stood fast against the Chinese at Walong. He fought off the Chinese despite being ill-clad for a winter in the high Himalayas and being armed with World War II vintage .303 rifles.

He smashed Pakistan’s Patton tanks at Asal Uttar in 1965. He stormed the invincible Haji Pir citadel. At Nathu La in 1967 and at Wangdung in 1986, the glint of his bayonet made the Chinese blink. In 1971, he raced across the Sunderbans to liberate Bangladesh and gave back to the oppressed Bengali people their freedom and their dreams. His naval counterparts sank the Gazi and left Karachi burning. The tiny Gnats of his air force colleagues flew rings around Pakistan’s Sabres and Starfighters that had been gifted by America.

In 1999, his indomitable courage in the face of daunting odds and steadfast devotion to duty triumphed over Pakistan’s regular soldiers entrenched on the mountain tops on the Indian side of the LoC in Kargil district of J&K. As the world watched in awe, he manned his guns unflinchingly under the very nose of the enemy and, firing in the pistol-gun ‘direct fire’ role, he blew every bunker on Tiger Hill and half a dozen other mountain tops to smithereens. He took back every mountain inch-by-bloody-inch. His unparalleled valour inflicted another crushing defeat on the perfidious enemy.

Role in Nation Building

His role in nation building has been outstanding. He spearheaded the effort to integrate Junagadh (1947), Hyderabad (Operation Polo, 1948), Goa (Operation Vijay, 1961) and Sikkim (1975) with the Indian Union. He participated in the interventions in the Maldives and Sri Lanka at the behest of the governments of these countries and was ready to do so in Mauritius. He evacuated beleaguered Indian citizens from some of the world’s most dangerous war zones: Iraq (2003), Lebanon (2006), Egypt, Libya and Yemen (2011), Ukraine and Syria-Iraq (2014) and Yemen (2015).

For many decades in the northeast and since 1989-90 in J&K, he has fought insurgents and mercenary terrorists unleashed by the country’s enemies to de-stabilise India. He has been ambushed, fired upon with machine guns, made the target of land-mines and has been tortured and killed in cold blood by ruthless Islamist fundamentalists sent to wage a war through terror on India, but has never wilted. He has quelled communal and political riots and police revolts. In all the internal security challenges confronting India, he has never struck back in anger even in the face of the gravest provocations. In fact, while fighting with one hand tied behind his back, he has given a new meaning to the term ‘use of minimum force’.

He is called out regularly for flood relief all over the country. He has removed bodies buried under the rubble of earthquakes at Latur and Dharchula and landslides at Kedar Nath and other places in the Kumaon Hills. He coped with determination in the aftermath of the South East Asian Tsunami in December 2004. He has risked his life in cyclonic storms in Orissa and Andhra Pradesh to bring succour to his suffering countrymen. He has often provided essential services during strikes. He has taken medical aid to remote corners of the country. He has braved epidemics and plagues. He has quelled communal disturbances and riots. He has participated in peace-keeping operations and earned the gratitude of beleaguered people from Korea to the Congo, from Kampuchea to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Flag Bearer

Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian and belonging to many other faiths, he prays, eats, lives, plays and fights for India together with his brothers in uniform. He is positively secular in that he not only tolerates other religions, but also participates in their rituals and observes their customs and gets immense joy from celebrating their festivals. He has evolved the concept of adharmasthal where the idols of Hindu Gods and Goddesses are installed side by side with the Guru Granth Sahib and soldiers of all religions pray together. On Dussehra all soldiers participate with folded hands and bowed heads in Shastra Poojaregardless of their religion.

In many remote corners of the country, he is the flag bearer. He represents the government of India. Whenever he goes on leave to his village and when he finally retires, he spreads the message of nationhood and a disciplined way of life in all corners of the country. He has done more to knit India together than all the pompous politicians with their pseudo national integration programmes and high-sounding slogans.

Often reviled, mostly ignored, sometimes venerated, he has taken it all in his stride. He has never complained. He has stood by the nation through thick and thin. He has held the nation together for 68 turbulent years. In the cesspool of filth, squalor and corruption in public life, he alone stands apart like is a shining lotus. His life is one of honour, glory and sacrifice – of life and limb. His blood has hallowed the nation’s battlefields.

For our tomorrow, he willingly, selflessly, unpretentiously, gives his today, but asks for nothing in return. Apolitical by nature, he knows he will get nothing from uncaring politicians and scheming civil servants. If he frets about anything at all, it is about the national leadership’s callousness in failing to erect a befitting war memorial to commemorate the supreme sacrifice made by his fallen comrades. He is troubled that his brothers-in-arms who laid down their lives have remained “unwept, unhonoured and unsung”. But, even here he draws comfort from the famous poem ‘The Bivouac of the Dead’: “On fame’s eternal camping ground, their silent tents are spread; and, glory guards with solemn round, the bivouac of the dead.”

He has truly lived up to Lord Krishna’s exhortation: “Reward is not thy concern.” For him, duty is the most supreme religion – the only one he professes (Seva Parmo Dharma).

He gives so much, gets so little in return, and yet serves with a smile. He is the quintessential Indian who has knit India together. If there is some truth in the phrase “kuchh baat hai jo hasti mit-ti nahin hamari” (there is something about us that we cannot be destroyed), it is because of his indomitable courage and his immeasurable sacrifices.

(The writer is former Director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), New Delhi.)

Implementation of pay panel award likely to be deferred

The announcement of a deferral is expected to be part of Jaitley's Budget speech on February 29

Subhomoy Bhattacharjee 

With a massive financial resource crunch estimated for 2016-17, the government is planning to defer the implementation of the 7th Pay Commission award.

Last week, the Union Cabinet approved the formation of an empowered committee of secretaries to work out ways for staggering the award through more than one financial year, instead of letting the Rs 1,02,100-crore bill from the implementation of the award come up at one go.

A top-ranked official said one of the options for the empowered committee was to defer the increase in allowances for central government employees, while letting the rise in pay for all scales to go through. According to finance ministry figures, the ratio of allowances to pay for these 4.7 million employees is 1:1.4. For instance, the Budget estimates in 2015-16 pegged the salary bill for all central government employees at Rs 60,731 crore, whereas the tab for allowances is Rs 84,437.4 crore.

The step would allow Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to keep the Budget numbers for this financial year and the next close to the targeted 3.9 per cent and 3.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) that he has committed himself to. For instance, even if the annual expenditure for 2016-17 were kept at about Rs 18 lakh crore (almost unchanged from Rs 17,77,477 crore in 2015-16), the Pay Commission recommendations would add another 5.5 per cent to it.

Given the sluggish pace of GDP growth and the almost negative deflator, the aggregate Budget numbers would otherwise be impossible to sustain on the back of the current trend in growth of tax receipts - just 50 per cent of the Budget estimates after the first eight months of the year, according to Controller General of Accounts data. The assumptions being worked on in North Block are that these might not change dramatically in the next financial year, too.

The announcement of a deferral is expected to be part of Jaitley's Budget speech on February 29. The formation of an empowered committee for the pay panel recommendations, again a first for the central government, is meant to bring all stakeholders on board in the exercise.

The official explained ministry-wise consultations with the department of expenditure in the finance ministry, in the run up to the Budget, were mostly over. Those discussions had proceeded on the assumptions that the Pay Commission recommendations would be implemented. It was now necessary to bring the secretaries of key departments on board about the need for a drastic cut-back on those estimates.

The status quo on allowances would also allow the government to ignore the demand made by various staff associations to raise the minimum level of salary for employees. The Pay Commission has suggested that the minimum should be Rs 18,000 per month; the unions have demanded that it should be raised to a band of Rs 19,000 to Rs 21,000 a month. Such a change would have created a ripple effect. About 70 per cent of the government employees are bunched in the non-executive ranks; the starting salary for them tops about Rs 42,000 a month, show calculations by the Commission. Even a modest increase in pay for them would cascade the bill for the government by another Rs 50,000 crore annually. The award of the Commission is slated to take effect from January 1 this year.

A key element in the plan to defer some elements of the 7th Pay Commission recommendations will be the railway ministry. Government managers reckon the powerful unions of the Indian Railways need to be brought on board for this plan to be successful. The higher wage bill for the Suresh Prabhu-led ministry works out to Rs 28,450 crore a year, only a shade less than the yearly loss it makes on its passenger services at present. No formal communications have been sent out to the railway unions by the committee. "It will follow once the empowered committee has decided to take a call on which allowances to clip," said the official.

In a recent television interview, Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha had said the Pay Commission recommendations were the biggest headache for his ministry, struggling to keep the aggregate expenditure of the Union government under control.

By the kind courtesy of