Saturday, January 26, 2013
Afterthoughts - Pay Commissions & Omissions
The debate on the Civil vs Military aspects of the VI CPC report, it seems, will continue to simmer, but, to me, the most interesting development on the debate this time around has been the Cabinet Secretary’s public admission that the Military will not be paid at the same levels as the Civil Services (parity was the term used). Some years ago, when it was suggested that India was probably the only democracy in the world that paid less to its military than the civil services, there were many denials, even in the military. The tragedy of the Indian Armed Forces has been that they seem to pick up these very nay-sayers to project their pay proposals to the government/ CPCs. Little wonder then, that military has a relative reduction in pay/ status with every CPC.
The bureaucracy of course had found a simple, ingenuous way of showing that the armed forces were paid more. Unilaterally declare equivalence between the military and the civil services personnel by issuing a memo elevating the junior civil service guy two steps above his logical military counterpart and ergo, the claim that level for level, the military is paid higher seems right. This was the argument followed so far, but when the debate turned nasty this time, the Cab Sec has let the cat out of the bag.
While completely disagreeing with the logic of the Cabinet Secretary, I must appreciate this rare honesty (I think for the first time on the subject) on the part of the bureaucracy. Shorn of the niceties, he has merely reiterated the factual position that the armed forces in India will continue to be discriminated against, in matters of pay and allowances. I hope the armed forces take this candidness forward and highlight it in their advertisements asking youngsters to don uniform. As important, allow those who are not happy with their situation, to leave when they choose. Thereafter, it becomes an informed choice by those joining and they would have little reason to complain.
But the disconcerting development in the lead up to this admission was that a straightforward case of discriminatory (or non-discriminatory) pay-determination was being made out as some civil-military confrontation by some in the media and also bloggers who have little or no idea of compensation packages available either to the civilians or the military personnel, or of military service conditions for that matter. They also seem to have forgotten that the debate was about central pay scales and not about the military or its personnel.
If only the media had sought out the logic applied for pay determination, by the CPC or the Committee of Secretaries, this debate would have been more meaningful and the Cabinet Secretary’s admission would have been self-evident. Actually you don’t need a debate; a simple graphical presentation will make it obvious even to the densest observer that the career/ pension earnings of the average military officer in India are much less than that of the average Gp A civil service officer.
We are not the only country in the world with civil and military services. A comparison with any other democratic country could be revealing. I think the very fact that it was blown up into this confrontation revealed that the GOI had no defence for what the CPC and the Committee of Secretaries did. The injection of civil-military relations into the discussion was a crude attempt to side-track the core issue. The Service Hqs also do not appear to have highlighted the contradiction between what the CPC said (we have given parity), dishonest though it was, and what the Cabinet Secretary admitted (parity is difficult) later.
An interesting sidelight was also an attempt to pitch the officers of the Central Police Organisations against the Armed Forces and some of the poor guys (who are victims of even worse discrimination) bought the bait; hook, line and sinker. The irony that the CPOs’ delegation which went to apprise the political class of their problems did not have even a single member from the CPOs seems to have been lost on the media. How on earth can the lot of the CPOs improve, if their problems become their very spokesmen?
I also found the application of CTC concept for the military amusing. Extending the logic, is the individual also expected to do a CTH/F (Cost to himself/herself/family) analysis when faced with a life-threatening situation? In any case, it is good to remember that for the Tommy on ground, CTC is like the defence budget to Sad Sack, the 60s cartoon character. The bigger the budget, the bigger the gun he gets to clean. Those not familiar with the subject will do well to remember that.
Colin Wilson, in his classic, ‘A criminal History of Mankind’, comments thus about the Roman rule in Britain. The incompetent resident procurator imposed impossible demands on the locals. Queen Boudica, who protested was stripped and flogged and her daughters raped, by order. She in turn, rallied the locals in protest and ransacked the Roman garrison. A bout of murderous attacks and counterattacks followed. After days of fighting, massacre and destruction, including the burning down of London, Boudica and her daughters committed suicide to avoid capture. The scale of Roman retribution shocked even Nero, the emperor, who replaced the Governor and military commander. Pax Romana was reestablished and the unbearable demands withdrawn.
“It is not clear”, he writes, “what became of Catus Decianus, the man who caused the whole thing by ordering the floggings and rapes; no doubt he continued to rise in the Roman Civil Service” ( unaffected by all that transpired around him)
I cannot find a closer analogy than this, to the imbroglio visited on the nation and the armed forces in particular, by the VI CPC and the Committee of Secretaries, in recent times. The pay anomaly may or may not be resolved, but it has done great harm to inter-departmental cooperation, and what is certain is that those responsible for the entire sorry episode will continue to inflict their incompetence on the country and retire (if at all) with a comfortable pension.
These are the musings of a deprived soldier!
Isn't it a great pity that this is a fact of life and Indian soldiers are the deprived lot and victims of this criminal discrimination