Wednesday, January 7, 2015
VII CPC: DO NOT YOKE TOGETHER DISSIMILAR ENTITIES
by Brigadier PT Gangadharan,
The VII Central Pay Commission (CPC) under the Chairmanship of Justice Shri Ashok Kumar Mathur is deeply involved in preparing the report based on the terms and references set out by Govt of India. While all the stake holders may find their representation in the commission, the representation of the Defence Forces directly, is missing against the promise made by the UPA Govt earlier. In a predominantly civil servants dominated commission, the perception of the Civil Servants will have direct influence on the final award to the Armed Forces personnel. One may recall that the previous finance minister once made a statement that there is no provision for a separate pay commission for Armed Forces, but available facts indicated otherwise, as till 1973 (III CPC) Defence Forces had it's own pay commissions. As in all the previous Pay commissions, the unresolved anomalies, presumably numbering 30 or so, created by the VI CPC in respect of Armed Forces have been forwarded to the VII CPC for resolution. In addition, it is learnt that it also includes NFU (Non Functional Up-gradation),which was granted to all Group A services, but denied to Armed Forces Officers. This is certainly a departure from the stand existed till VI CPC. While remaining optimistic, it would be worthwhile to put across certain known issues, but ignored otherwise when coming to decisions on the emoluments and status of Defence Forces Personnel. We hope someone in authority takes cognisance of the issues stated in succeeding paragraphs.
The Civil servants from Group C to Group A are covered more or less under the same rules, which include IAS, IPS and IFS also. All civilian employees can serve till 60 years of age, they have an assured career progression, cylindrical grade/promotional structure, serve in stations more or less on a permanent basis, stay with families in all stations, spouses can take up job if qualified, children get education in the same schools and settled before retirement, fixed hours of work and in case it exceeds eight hours in a day then overtime allowance, can avail of all holidays and authorised leave, LTC facilities every four years, pension at the maximum scale at the time of retirement with maximum length of service, CGHS facilities, no risk to life and limbs, facilities for career enhancements including study leave and a congenial atmosphere to live a dignified life after retirement. They live in well constructed accommodation with abundant supply of water and electricity and fresh food even in the remote areas. The job contents of white collar employees are generally administration and office management. They enjoy guaranteed fundamental rights like freedom of speech, movement and right to form unions and associations.
The central police organisations (CPOs) have a slightly varied career profile in certain respects. They undertake operations against Naxals and insurgents and are deployed in the J&K and NE states for internal security duties, alongside Army. The BSF, Assam Rifles and ITBP are also deployed on borders. Though they are not Jawans but constables in literal sense, but our omniscient media and public at large have made them Jawans, with its detrimental affects to the image of Armed Forces. The wearing of smoke denim dress in different shades by them have further compounded the identity issue. What is not understood by most of the civilians which includes the bureaucracy and politicians is that, their employment on the borders is only during peace time. On the commencement of hostility they are withdrawn to the rear areas to be deployed in less threatened localities under army units / formations, which get deployed during war. Their employment is for defensive purposes only. They are neither trained nor are employed for offensive operations against enemy, across the border. They are a second line force in all it's manifestations. They have no representations in high altitude, snowbound and uncongenial areas. All other terms and conditions of their service are like other civil employees. They have no similarities with the Armed Forces personnel, though many perceive that there is no difference between the two. Certainly they have a higher degree of difficulty and risk as compared to other white collar jobs. All their duties outside their permanent locations are treated as temporary duty with consequential financial benefits.
The bureaucracy, public, media, politicians and even educated citizens perceive the Armed Forces personnel (Army, Navy and Air Force) in a totally different way, unless they have very close friends or relatives in the forces. Their perception is based mostly on what they see outside in villages while on leave, journeys, peace stations and other common venues like aid to civil authorities, disaster relief, Republic day parade or other ceremonial activities and Services Headquarters in Delhi.
The distinction of Armed Forces are:-
(a) They ensure the sovereignty of the country against external aggression and internal disturbances.
(b) They undertake all operations to include external, internal, aid to civil authorities and miscellaneous activities efficiently under all circumstances and hold the country together.
(c) They are the only reliable and last bastion of the state to restore all adverse situations, generally caused due to failure of civil administration.
(d) The Army cantonments/Military stations are well laid out and maintained in keeping with the conservation of nature and environmental protection.
(e) All establishments are a class by itself as compared to such civilian establishments.
(f) They never failed the country except in 1962, when the country failed them.
(g) They are a symbol of national unity and integrity.
The erroneous perceptions are:-
(a) Defence personnel have reservations for jobs on retirement.
(b) They enjoy free medical facilities, ration including liquor, unlimited free travel with reservations against quota, highly paid as compared to civil employees, enjoy additional financial benefits like high altitude allowance, separation pay, military service pay, fast promotion, and a high standard of living. Many opine that soldiers have no work during peace time and in peace stations and some even suggest that they must be employed for civil works like construction, afforestation, environmental conservation, swatchh bharat abhayan etc as otherwise they are wasting the tax payers money. Some of our colleagues do boast while on leave or meeting friends about the perks and privileges of servicemen, as a camouflage to conceal the actual life conditions and the exacting service requirements, which sways opinion. The smart uniform, rows of medals on chest, deportment, level of confidence and efficient management of personal affairs adds further to the envy of their civilian brethren.
It is essential to understand the psyche and role of soldiers as compared to civilian employees to make a reasonable comparison particularly while deciding on pay and allowance and consequently their status in society. At present it is akin to yoking together two in-equal entities merely based on perception, which is far away from truth. The accepted general principles one can perceive in this regard are :-
(a) The length of service.
(b) The job content including risk to life and limb.
(c) Promotional prospects.
(d) Existing precedence.
(e) The requirement to attract suitable material for service in the forces.
(f) Deficiency in man power particularly in the officers cadre.
The other considerations could be:-
(a) The existing state of morale.
(b) Security and strategic environment prevailing in the country.
(c) Employment of defence forces in the present context.
(d) Effectiveness and efficiency of the present organisation to deal with external and internal security threats and natural and manmade calamities.
It is also important to look across our neighbours and other world democracies and how they are treating their military personnel and veterans. Our soldiers are looking for Izzat, and recognition for their selfless service to the Nation at all times and not during calamities or war only.
Military service is unique in it's nature and contents. It is a recognised fact that there is no profession in the world as exacting as the military service. Nearly two thirds of our military personnel are always deployed on active military service at any point of time. This includes deployment in NE states and the J&K for counter insurgency / counter terrorism operations, deployment on the Indo-Tibetan border and LAC with China, deployment on IB & LoC along our western border with Pakistan and in Siachen Glaciers. We also have sizable force from all three Service deployed in Andaman & Nicobar Islands. The Naval personnel are similarly deployed in coastal areas along with the Coast Guard for maritime security. The Indian Air Force is always on call to support the Army and Navy, besides carrying out strategic reconnaissance. The Forces are withdrawn to peace stations of varying class after a hard field tenure, for recuperation and refit. The emphasis in peace stations is on training to hone their war fighting capability. Units and formations remain on training upto three months to four months in a year away from their peace stations at a stretch. Life at times gets tougher than field stations because of multifarious duties like internal security, disaster management, ceremonial parades, guards and ceremonial duties etc. Even in peace stations there is limited time to a soldier (Includes all ranks) to stay with the families.
Military service is a 24 hours duty without any break. There is no overtime allowance or temporary duty allowance as in civil jobs. The soldiers are conscious of their responsibility towards security and their role in Nation building. Their eternal vigil on the border and during internal threat ensures security of the citizens and the Country. At every stage, both in field and peace stations there is risk to life and limbs, more so in field stations. With every fatal casualty there are a minimum of five to six more casualties with varying degrees of disability. In our country the disabled are the "Living Dead". There is strict disciplinary code for conduct and all orders from superiors have to be obeyed, unless the orders are unlawful. The punishment for indiscipline is severe and prompt. Their fundamental rights are restricted, like freedom of speech, movement and formation of unions and associations. The authorised leave is not a right but a privilege, implying that it can be curtailed based on exigencies of service. A person can be recalled from leave any time if services are essential. Due to acute shortage of officers which is now almost 12500?, at the cutting edge level, the pressure of work is more in Units. The fighting units are operating at 50% strength of officers. The officers seldom get their entitled leave. The youth of the Nation are not interested in joining the forces, without attractive remuneration, status, pride, respect, job security and an assurance that the country will take care of them and their dependents. As per the study carried out at the behest of Govt on life expectancy of employees it was found that the length of life expectancy of soldiers is 10 plus years less than civilian employees. The life in the field stations are difficult to visualise by any stretch of imagination. Besides the enemy bullets and shelling, the vagaries of weather and altitude adds further to the woes of soldiers. A soldier who is facing enemy bullets and shelling every day, is not sure if he will see the next day. The life of a soldier spending his field tenure in a six by six bunker where he does everything is unimaginable. The visiting members of CPC, will never be able to empathize with the plight of our soldiers deployed in high intense operational areas, in it's true sense, though they are making an effort in this regard.
The erroneous view that a soldier gets everything free is unfounded. He incurs expenditure out of his carry home pay for many things of day to day life like any civil servant. Officers and men also incur heavy expenditure in maintaining varying types of dresses and accouterments
in peace stations as per the dress code for various occasions. though such expenditure is less in field stations. Soldiers are often compelled to maintain three establishments during field tenures parents in village, wife and children in selected place of residence/separated quarters necessitated for education of children and self at the duty stations, incurring additional expenditure. Even in peace stations married accommodation is not readily available, hence many continue to maintain same establishments as in field. In stations like Delhi, it takes 11/2 years to get an entitled accommodation. The soldiers keep shifting from one location to other in make shift accommodation, before he finally gets entitled accommodation. By then half the tenure is over. The expenditure in such things are never visualised, by our civilian counterparts. Children shift schools every two years on an average and their spouses cannot work even if qualified as they have to manage the house hold affairs and children. Besides there is no continuity of service due to frequent move, which is generally between 11/2 to two years.
Military rank structure is pyramidal and any upward move by promotion results in large number of super-cessions at every stage. To illustrate: we cannot have three Havildars in a section which is commanded by one Havildar. Likewise a company can have only one commander and a Battalion cannot have two commanding officers .The Rank structure cannot be diluted to accommodate all eligible people. The Armed Forces are already suffering due to increased ranks based on the recommendations of AV Singh Committee appointed by MoD. On the contrary, in civil any promotion can be made at free will to accommodate career progression. In any case where promotion is not feasible the the NFU takes care of the individual needs of officers. In military it is not promotion boards but rejection boards as the deep selection caters only for filling the existing vacancies. Those rejected by the promotion boards are not unfit but they cannot be accommodated in a highly pyramidal organisation.
Advancement in technology and terrain necessitates changes in warfare and to add to it, troops are now deployed virtually for every duty where the civilian organisations have failed. Military restores all adverse situations under trying circumstances with minimum of resources and time. Military leaders from section commander to the highest are leaders of men (Though not called for Leadership conclaves), managers ,excellent administrators, technocrats, staff officers and virtually jack of all trades and profession. Every soldier to officer has to appear in various promotion examinations unlike in most civil jobs. They have to face competitive exams, even after initial enrollment. De-facto for every ladder, one has to be qualified in various professional courses in Armed Forces Schools of excellence and have to be graded fit for promotion under the watchful eyes of his superior commanders upto three ladders. Even after all these stringent selection process one may not make it because of lack of vacancies.99% of the personnel retire from 35 to 54 years of age ,leaving the service when responsibilities increase. A soldier sees a very dark future for him as there is no assured employment on retirement and he cannot serve till 60 years of age like his civilian brethren. His life time earnings are almost half of his civilian counterparts.
The reserved vacancies in states are a farce as most states fail to comply with the directions of the Central Govt. Lack of avenues for future, forces the soldiers to stand as security guards ,in various hotels and offices saluting all and sundry affecting their pride and morale. This can only happen in our country, as the soldiers have no voice and hence no choice.
It is again an incorrect perception that the soldiers are uneducated and not qualified for any other job in civil. He operates sophisticated and state of the art weapon systems, computers, handles ships, air crafts, missiles, bombs, constructs bridges and undertakes every job known in civil under adverse conditions efficiently. Every soldier is trained in at least two trades. They are the best asset for Nation building but their expertise and talents, where Govt has invested heavily go waste. A lateral shift will add to the Nations might with no extra cost and at the same time saving on the heavy pension bill. This is the best tonic for boosting the sagging morale, of armed forces.
Till III CPC Defence services had separate pay commissions. The Defence Pension was 70% of the last pay drawn and the civil pension was only 33%,which has now become 50% for all. The warrant of precedence and status have been gradually eroded with every CPC .A DIG of police with 15 years of service who was placed below a Colonel in the Army till V CPC ,is now equated with a Brigadier with 26-28 years of service, merely because he wears the same badges of rank on his shoulders. The argument that the warrant of precedence is only for ceremonial purpose is a farce, as common man do not understand this logic, especially when the post is supported by pay scale and grade pay. The introduction of Grade pay and NFU have virtually ensured an assured career progression for civilian employees. Even a Group B officer equates with a Brigadier in about 16 years of Service. In combined organisations like MES, Ordinance Factories / Depots, GREF, DRDO, AFHQ Cadre, BSF, CRPF, ASSAM RIFLES etc, Military officer becomes junior to his ONCE subordinate in a matter of time in pay and status. It is a humiliation to a service officer to be treated like this at the hands of bureaucracy which frames rules without consulting all stake holders. Virtually every direct entry Group A officer retires at the highest grade and all others generally at Joint Secretary level, as compared to only 1% service officers attaining the status of a Joint Secretary and point 018% of officers attaining Lt General/Additional /Secretary level status. IAS and IPS officers become Director with 12 years of service, joint Secretary at 18 years and secretary at 28-30 years of service. In between are posts like additional secretary, special secretary etc. A Colonel/equivalent is promoted at 16-17 years, Brigadier 25-26 years and Major General at 32 years of Service. Promotion being pyramidal 94% of officers retire at 54 as Colonel/Time scale colonel. The percentage of Brigadiers, Major General, and Lt General is 5, 1 and .018% respectively. With the denial of NFU only to Services, what is the standing of a Service officer?
The case of Other Ranks (NCOs & JCOs) is still worse as they retire between the ages of 35 to 45 years of age. Due to reduced length of service they cannot attain the assured career progression and maximum of the scale of pay, at the time of retirement as in civil. A Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) is a Class B Gazetted rank but he is now equated with an Upper Division Clerk (UDC).Can there be more injustice than these? Is it the reward for serving the Country, pledging one's life? Who has brought us into this pitiable state? All damages have been done by subsequent CPCs dominated by Civil Servants, who feed incorrect statistics, manipulated by junior bureaucracy, and prevail on the Chairman. During the V CPC justice Shri Pandian as the chairman was learnt to be sympathetic towards the services, but when the final report was released it was no better. It was revealed that all false data concerning the services were submitted by the MoD, fed by a section of junior officers, the very organisation entrusted with the welfare of soldiers without seeking any inputs from the Services. Till IV CPC, Services, trusted, the MoD staff to take care of their welfare. The case of Rank pay (Granted by IV CPC) decided in favour of Service Officers by the SC exposed the deceit and intent of MoD into forefront. The trust deficit between the two entities has widened now. The VII CPC now gives an opportunity to the MoD staff to realize their sacred duty towards the soldiers and take appropriate steps to repair the damages, by projecting their case truthfully. Soldiers are not greedy as being stated by a section of MoD junior staff, but we expect a fair deal in all respects, in keeping with the nature of service. The Defence services have no enmity with the bureaucracy as being perceived by a section of the MoD junior bureaucracy.
An argument may now be developed that with the approval of OROP (One Rank One Pension) all the disparities will be fully addressed. OROP relates to pension only. It equates pension of the past and present retirees based on length of service and Rank held. It benefits all service pensioners of all Ranks. The NFU is applicable to all officers of Group A service.It is a paper promotion in a way and an indirect way of OROP for civilian officers.It allows Group A officers to come at par with IAS/IPS/IFS in grade and pay within a gap of two years of an IAS officer getting promoted.Even if no vacancy for promotion exists, they get the grade and pay based on length of service. OROP in no way caters for early retirement of officers at 54 and lack of avenues for promotion based on pyramidal structure, the peculiarities of Service Officers only.Excluding Defence services officers from NFU is a total justice to an entity which serves the country selflessly under trying conditions.
All judges of the SC serve upto 65 years of age and most of them including High Court judges are appointed for various commissions and tribunals after retirement. Similarly most of the bureaucrats manage to serve till 65 years after retirement in many statutory bodies and some of them even get into public and private corporate establishments based on contacts established during service. In the case of defence service officers demonstrated with professional competence and administrative ability, they do not find place in any of the statutory bodies or public sector undertakings. Their talent and expertise are wasted. A minuscule number of senior officers is offered gubernatorial posts, generally based on political contacts. This in any case is not digested well by their peers and subordinates for various reasons.
To summarize, the expectations of the Armed Forces are:-
(a) Restoration of eroding status.
(b) Compensation for short tenure necessitated by service, consequently reduction in life time earnings and pension
(c) Compensation for lack of career progression due to short tenure and pyramidal structure of Service Ranks by lateral placement, enabling service till 60 years of age as in civil.
(d) Grant of NFU to Armed Forces Officers. The Military Service Pay is in no where a compensation for NFU, as minuted by MoD staff while denying the same for Service officers.
The exclusive issues for preferential treatment are:-
(a) Restriction on fundamental rights.
(b) Risk to life and limb.
(c) Separation from families.
(d) Exacting service conditions.
(e) Adoption of Disability Act with suitable modifications suiting service conditions and compensation to live a dignified life for the living dead.
It is time that the Bureaucracy (Junior officers in MoD) shed their ego, superiority and envy in the interest of the Nation and look after the Services, treating it as their solemn duty. They must reverse their priorities as in the Services ie Nation first, men second and lastly their own interest. Political masters will come and go but the services and bureaucracy are there to stay as permanent echelons of the Govt. They must restore the status of Armed Forces, grant them NFU like all others, abolish grade pay for all employees since it indicates status, increase Military Service Pay substantially as a percentage of pay to attract the best talent for Defence Forces and ensure lateral placement in defence related establishments and Central police organisations on retirement/voluntary basis and if required institute statutory provisions / Parliamentary Acts for fulfillment of the same. Special provisions must exist for war widows, martyred families of soldiers and the Disabled particularly the war disabled who are yet to be covered by the Disability Act of 1995.Since the Veterans have an umbilical cord with the serving and also as a recognition and gratitude for their services to the Nation in more trying condition, they need to be taken care of, like the soldiers in other democracies across the world. It is not the weapon but the man behind the weapon which will ensure a strong India!
(Veteran PT Gangadharan from Guards is a war casualty with paraplegia. He suffered spinal cord injury while commanding an Infantry Brigade on the LoC in the J&K in 2000. His movement is confined to wheel chair. He stays at Calicut (Kozhikode) and can be contacted at E Mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Brigadier PTGangadharan, Guards,E Mail ID- email@example.com