Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Seventh time Disadvantaged
Lt-Gen Harwant Singh (Retd )
This Pay Commission brought down the pensions of defence services from 70 percent of last pay drawn to 50 percent and elevated from 30 percent to 50 percent in the case of civil servants. But nearly 80 percent of military men did not get even 50 percent and instead got only 37 percent because of shorter span of service. 50 percent pension being available after 20 years service. Thereafter, subsequent CPCs persistently disadvantaged the military vis-à-vis civil services. However 3rd CPC dangled OROP as an alternative to decrease in pensions from 70 percent to 50 percent.
Places where subsequent Pay Commissions tried to improve matters, MoD and Controller of Defence Accounts (CDA) stepped in to negate these. The 4thCPC, as a sort of consolation for OROP gave rank pay upto the rank of brigadiers. CDA conveniently deducted this amount from the basic pay, which in turn impacted whole range of allowances as well. Nearly three decades later this case is yet to be fully resolved. Supreme Court orders on payment of rank pay are yet to be fully implemented. Those who played this mischief on the defence services were never exposed and never held accountable.
The 6th CPC ruled that pension should be fixed at 50% of the, “the minimum of the rank in the pay band corresponding.”
The civil bureaucracy mischievously rephrased this sentence to read, “minimum of the pay band corresponding.” Those who played this trick were never pointed out and action initiated against them. This put four different ranks i.e. Lt-Col, Col, Brig and Maj-Gen in the same band (band -4) and the MoD placed all of them at the bottom of the pay band for the purpose of fixing pension. Thus a Brig (with rank pay as admissible to him) got more pension than a Maj-Gen. This too has not been fully resolved some ten years later, Supreme Court ruling notwithstanding. In addition more than two score anomalies created by the 6th CPC are still to be resolved.
Disabled civil employees of the government are retained till they reach the age of superannuation and given normal pension. Whereas for military personnel, for whom the chances of suffering disability is much higher due to professional hazards are sent out of service and often denied adequate disability pension. These disabled servicemen have been fighting their cases with the government for years and the Supreme Court was constrained to observe that government is treating army personnel like beggars. 7th CPC has further complicated the issue of disability and broad banding.
Early retirement, mounting family commitments and resultant financial worries to a soldier has brought down his life expectancy to 61-63 years while the life expectancy of his counterpart in the civil is 71-72 and those from the railways it is 73. This is so, though at the time of retirement a soldier is physically fit in every respect. Early demise of a soldier creates still wider gap in the sum total of pay and pension between him and his counterpart in the civil and police (state and central.) This sad and tragic state of our soldiers seems to be of no one's concern: least of all military's top brass.
While the pay and pension of military officers was being depressed in every possible way, the bureaucracy via the 6th CPC gifted to itself and all India Group A services (over four dozen of them) “Non-functional upgrade“(NFU) but made it a point to exclude military officers from this largesse. This grant of NFU gave these civil services one up on OROP. Under NFU every one from those over four dozen civil services retired in the minimum appointment equivalent to an additional secretary to the government of India (equal to 3 star general) while less that 0.01 percent vacancies of three star general exist in the military. Even if 7th CPC (subsequently government) gives NFU to defence forces, other would have gained ten years advantage over them.
The 7th CPC could do no better. As in the past there was no representation on the CPC from the defence service, even though they form the largest group of government service (other than railways) Even amongst 150 odd officers drawn from various services to assist the CPC in working out the nitty-gritty of the report, there is none from the military. So the perennial bias and prejudice of the Babu against the military plays out to the full and even those from the top judiciary (chairmen of CPCs) fail to notice this glaring shortfall. It would be too much to expect our service chiefs to take a stand, even on this very basic issue!.
In working out the “Defence Revenue Expenditure and % Share of Revenue Expenditure”: (Pg 119 6.1.20, 7th PC) the commission took into account only .01% of the Defence forces that reaches the Lt Gen Rank and paired it with that of 95% of civil servants who reach Addl Secretary Level post. This has been done to present the facade of satisfactory remunerations to the Defence Personnel and is an obviously palpable misrepresentation and a mischief?
This CPC’s terms of reference were to take into account the economic conditions of the country and the need for fiscal prudence, yet it has recommended grant of OROP to all government employees, while Ex Servicemen have been agitating for One Rank one Pension for over 160 days and the Govt has been haggling with them to reduce their demand with the plea that OROP is a huge fiscal burden. The demand for OROP by the military rested on the grounds of very early retirement and extremely limited promotions. No such basis exists in the case of civil servants. In comparative terms military will continue to remain in a disadvantaged state. In all this it is the police, state and central who have gained the maximum, while military continues to be the looser.
There are a number of other areas where facts have been misrepresented. As an example and the worst being is the selective presentation of facts concerning percentage of GDP as defence expenditure. Though in reality India figures at 32nd position in the world in terms of percentage of GDP being spent on defence .
An IAS or IPS officer when posted to Ladakh (height 10500 ft) or the North East and living in the comfort of his government bungalow would get an allowance at 30 percent of basic pay and if has 17 years or more service then the amount will be around Rs 54810 per month, but if unfortunately you are an officer from the Indian Army and posted at Siachen (height 18500 to 21500 ft) and living in a bunker you will get only Rs 31500. While civil official will get yearly increase of 3% in their pay, military personnel will not get this increase in the Military Service Pay and there lies yet another rub! Effectively IAS, IPS and IFOS officers will get six additional increments by the time they complete 13 years service. The military officers get nothing, apparently in continuing belief that their functions are not as complex and difficult as those of others. Never mind if government’s writ does not run in nearly 140 districts of the country due to poor administration by the first two of these worthies! When these gentlemen fail, military is called in to bail them out.
Pay Commission has gone horribly wrong in taking the retirement age of military personnel. For it a Sepoy retires at age 42-48 and a Naik at age 49 years and so on. The CPC does not seem to be aware that nearly 80 percent of army men retire at the ripe old age of 37 years and less! With this as the elementary knowledge about the army, what could one expect from this Pay Commission! There are many other areas of this report which works against military's interest and wellbeing. This report might still see some more downward slide for the military, as it is deliberated upon by a committee dominated by the babus.
Military service has become unattractive and there are very few indeed who join military service as a family tradition and fewer still are those who join for the love of the country. Wards of the politicians and babus do not join in any case. Those who join are the ones who fail to get any government service: even of a peon in a government office. This will, surely impact national security in the long run, because man behind the gun continues to be more important than the gun. Indian politicians have no military background whereas out of 44 Presidents of United States of America over thirty had served in the military. Winston Churchill served in the army and had taken part in the last cavalry charge in history. In India we appoint even defence ministers who are completely innocent of national security issues and matters military. So you find your defence minister inspecting a ceremonial guard of honour while wearing 'chappals' with hands in his trouser pockets.
The above article appeared in HT Chandigarh Edition on 7 Dec.