Military needs a separate pay commission
Tuesday, October 15, 2013, The Tribune
Though there is no equation between the roles of the military and their civilian counterparts or commonality of service conditions, the armed forces are clubbed with civilian officials in the various pay commissions. In the bargain, defence personnel have suffered.
Troops on parade during Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi. Till now, military personnel have reluctantly accepted their gradual downgrading and lowering of status, but if this state of affairs continues, the nation may find itself in dire straits without an outstanding military.
Troops on parade during Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi. Till now, military personnel have reluctantly accepted their gradual downgrading and lowering of status, but if this state of affairs continues, the nation may find itself in dire straits without an outstanding military. — PTI
THE government has made the announcement for the setting up of the Seventh Pay Commission that will look at and revise the emoluments of all central government employees and the pensions of retired personnel, including families of deceased personnel. Pay commissions are periodically constituted to look into issues such as pay and allowances, retirement benefits, service conditions, and promotion policies of central government employees. It is an administrative mechanism that the government had started in 1956 and since then, every decade has seen the birth of a commission that decides the wages of government employees for a block of ten years. The last pay commission, the Sixth, which is still current, is covering the period from 2006 to 2016.
The concept of constituting pay commissions after every ten years is in actuality archaic. Most countries have done away with such systems, but we seem to be either happy with the status quo or our bureaucrats who advise the political leadership on such matters lack imagination and are unable to think of a new and more acceptable system. So, at least for now we are stuck with yet another pay commission.
The announcement for setting up the Seventh Pay Commission is different in two respects to previous such announcements. First, the announcement has been made at least one year earlier than usual. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to understand the reason for this. The ruling party seems to think that it is likely to get more traction in their quest for votes as the next general elections are only months away and votes of government functionaries are important. Secondly, the government has also announced that there would be a separate pay commission for the defence forces. This is the more important of these two points, as it is a major departure from the government’s policy. I aim to focus on this aspect.
Pay Commissions are expected to settle a reasonable wage, affordable to the government and fair to employees. However, over the decades, the pay commissions have become commissions of the IAS, for the IAS. This has especially affected the military, as over the past nearly six decades the omissions, aberrations and self-serving reports of the bureaucrats have inflicted incalculable damage to the military. That is the reason for the demand of a separate dispensation for the military. There are other valid reasons too. There is nothing in common between the military and the other government services, including the IAS, IFS, IPS, other civil services and the subordinate civil services. It needs to be noted that while the civil services deal with the citizens of the nation on a daily basis, the military interacts with them only when requisitioned to come to the aid of the civil authority. This is usually for short periods.
A vexed question relates to the fixation of emoluments of all central and All India Services, as well as the military. The IAS inexplicably has always been treated as a special case. The bureaucrats belonging to this service try to explain this by emphasising their being part of the government, but such arguments are hollow. The real reason is that they occupy the powerful slots in the pay commissions, including that of ‘member secretary’ and also rely on that much abused word ‘precedent’. This is particularly galling to the armed forces, as they have been deliberately kept out of the government as well as the pay commissions. It needs to be appreciated that the military and the civil administrative services are two equal pillars of the government and need to be treated as such.
Till now, military personnel have reluctantly accepted their gradual down grading and lowering of status because of obeying the orders of their hierarchy, but if this state of affairs continues, the nation may find itself in dire straits without an outstanding military, as exists today. The greed and self-serving attitude that the bureaucracy displayed in the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission and the biased committees formed to eliminate the large number of anomalies have not just accentuated the anger of the military, but any more such actions would amount to the proverbial breaking of the camels’ back. The government needs to take note of this and ensure that this state of affairs ends now. The government cannot and must not pay military personnel lower salaries, merely to keep the IAS in good humour.
Despite there being no equation between the roles of the military and their civilian counterparts, the armed forces were clubbed with civilian officials in the various pay commissions. The terms and conditions of service of defence personnel cannot be compared to any other category of government employees. Yet, each successive pay commission has made comparisons artificially. In the bargain, defence personnel have suffered. The dissatisfaction is clearly reflected in the huge shortage in the officer’s cadre, as both the status and the emoluments are not proving attractive to young aspirants. The same is the case with the large number of other ranks of the military, who are also unhappy with the equations and comparisons that have resulted in the downgrading of their status in the society. The government needs to understand that soldier’s having pledged even their lives to the country set great store to ‘izzat’, which if diluted affects morale adversely.
Calls for a separate pay commission for the military started when the repeated requests to the government for adequate representation of military personnel in the pay commissions were ignored. Despite these requests being made at the highest levels of the armed forces, no action was taken. From the third to the sixth pay commissions, there was not a single military person included in them, although 40 per cent of the government employees, whose pay was being revised, comprised the military.
After the major fiasco of the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission, where the greed and ego of the bureaucrats and their attempt to further downgrade the status of the military were palpably visible, there was uproar by the military, especially the veterans. The political leadership did intervene but the bureaucrats still got away with only cosmetic changes through committees, again comprising the same dramatis personae, who were responsible for the damage! After prolonged efforts of the military, more so by the veterans, the Prime Minster finally conceded the demand for a separate pay commission. This has now fructified by the recent announcement of the Prime Minister. However, till the composition of the proposed pay commission, as well as the related modalities are announced, it will be premature to accept or reject the offer of the Prime Minister. It is perhaps one of the reasons that the Chiefs of Staff Committee has conveyed their reluctance to accept the proposal at this stage.
There are pros and cons of having a separate pay commission for the armed forces, which need to be considered before a final decision is taken. A separate pay commission would obviously be a non-starter if one or more bureaucrats again call the shots and the representation of the military is in a token fashion or in those slots which are of lesser importance. A pay commission for the armed forces, which is only manned by military personnel, would again be incorrect.
Other important points are the need to have a common chair person for the two pay commissions; the need for a senior officer from the Finance Ministry as an adviser; the timings of the two pay commissions – civil and military — which must coincide; the harmonising of the recommendations for both the commissions; the need for continuing with the Military Service Pay (MSP); a reversion to the earlier status of the armed forces that has become askew by earlier acts of omission and commission; the grant of the nearly 30 years old issue of one rank--one pension, which has in the past been cleared and recommended by all sections of the political spectrum; and the removal of various sub-categories that have been imposed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) arbitrarily. Two examples of the latter, both relating to disability pension will clarify this aspect.
Broad-banding of percentages for disability and war injury for those disabled in war or warlike situations has been sub-categorised in three categories, despite orders by courts to the contrary. Another issue relates to military personnel, who become disabled on account of non-service reasons. They are discharged without any ‘invalid pension’ if their service is less than 10 years at the time of discharge. On the other hand, civilian employees cannot be discharged at all and can enjoy their full tenure with full pay and allowances till the age of superannuation and pension thereafter.
Before I conclude, let me again revisit the need for a separate pay commission for the military, notwithstanding the recommendations conveyed to the Defence Minister by the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee recently. The main reason is the stark differences in employment between the armed forces personnel and civil government employees, some of which have been enumerated earlier. The manner of selection of armed forces personnel; their initial and subsequent training; their unique job profiles; the sacrifices that they have to make; the slow career progression; steep promotion pyramid; the large number of steps in the rank structure; early retirement; long separation from families; and lack of skills for a second career; have no parallel in any of the civil services. This being the reality, there could not be a stronger case for a separate pay commission for the military. The caveat is that the points enumerated earlier and perhaps some more, while setting up the separate pay commission must be duly incorporated in the terms of reference of the commission.
Appointing of one or two pay commissions will work only if there is a major change of attitude of the government, especially of the bureaucracy. If the government is unable or unwilling to understand the legitimate demands of the military personnel in relation to their emoluments and more importantly their status, then even ten pay commissions will be of no avail.
The writer is a former Vice Chief of the Army Staff
From: Colonelrajan Srinivas [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: 14 October 2013 21:29
To: Brig Chander Kamboj; Exservicemen Joint Action Front Sanjha Morcha
Subject: Fwd: Fw: Discontent in armed forces
Discontent in armed forces
Monday, September 10, 2012, Chandigarh, India
Pushing them too much not in national interest
by Air Marshal R. S. Bedi (retd)
A FEW decades ago a senior former bureaucrat wrote in his book that it was not possible for the armed forces to stage a coup in India. The argument was simply based on the fact that Indian society was a complex body comprising different castes, religions, languages and ethnicities. No General, however popular, could be sure of total loyalty and backing of so diverse a force as the Indian armed forces. He was perhaps right. Despite this, the fear in the corridors of power continued to persist, for many a fledgling democracy was falling prey to ambitions of men in uniform. There lay the genesis of the process of downsizing and subordinating the Indian armed forces.
At present, the state of affairs in the armed forces is somewhat disturbing. The cumulative effect of years of neglect of the forces has begun to manifest. Today’s soldier is educated, conscious of his status and standing. His aspirations are growing with the fast-changing environment around him. This, perhaps, is the main reason for repeated incidents of indiscipline in the Army. The men were never so verbose and openly daring as they are now in expressing their dissatisfaction. The palpable resentment of the mass of the forces against the government doesn’t augur well for the future.
Year after year, the armed forces have been given a raw deal. They are downgraded with regular periodicity and denuded of power due to them. Enough has been said about their dwindling status. Even the para-military forces seem to be overtaking them in many respects.
The bureaucracy has tightened its grip to the extent that orders from the highest in the government establishment are either diluted or not implemented in proper spirit. Realising deep discontent in the armed forces in regard to the Sixth Pay Commission award, the Prime Minister ordered a high-powered committee to look into the armed forces’ grievances. The bureaucracy got away with impunity without delivering. The problem continues to simmer. There is mounting discontentment over the government’s inability to set things right. The political leadership that should, in fact, be the epicentre of power is gradually becoming ineffective.
The retired community, less shackled with rules and regulations, is far more verbose and has even resorted to rallies and dharnas to express their dissatisfaction. They surrendered their hard-earned medals to their Commander-in-Chief to protest against the step-motherly treatment meted out to them. The President showed scant regard for this desperate act of the soldiers.
Surprisingly, even the para-military forces are better placed and better looked after by their Home Ministry than the armed forces by their Defence Ministry. In the case of the latter, the Services first struggle with their own ministry to get past it to secure government approval for anything that it needs. The reason not generally known for the para-military forces to be under the Home Ministry instead of the Defence Ministry in itself assures them somewhat better treatment. They don’t have to fight with their own ministry as do the armed forces.
The armed forces are not in any major decision-making loop, not even in regard to national security. This is when the country is on the verge of completing its nuclear triad and acquiring strategic weapons. Presently, no uniformed personnel serve in the Ministry of Defence despite the recommendations made by various committees in the past to make decision-making more informed and rational. Many a committee, including the one on Kargil, has made such recommendations but none has been implemented by the all-powerful bureaucracy. It’s a pity that despite the highly specialised staff available at the Services headquarters, the political establishment relies totally on the Ministry of Defence civil servants drawn from diverse backgrounds. Since the Services have a limited access to the political establishment, they are unable to make any worthwhile contribution to matters of national importance. The Chiefs can hardly meet the Prime Minister. Meeting the Defence Minister is not a routine affair either.
The plight of the soldier has not moved the conscience of the government. He is taken for granted and tasked to perform what his civilian compatriots prefer not to do or perhaps consider it too dangerous to stake their lives. He is killed almost every day which is just a matter of statistics for the government. Only his family sheds tears for they will have to struggle for the rest of their lives; first with the bureaucracy to get what is due to them and then try to subsist with growing responsibilities and scarce resources. His status and emoluments are perhaps among the lowest in the government hierarchy. Yet he does not come out in the streets to protest. But now the discontentment is no more confined to whispers. It is getting louder by the day. Questions are asked but unfortunately the answers are not forthcoming. How long will the mandarins in the North and South Blocks ignore the writing on the wall?
The military leadership has been sounding the government at various levels but to no avail. In a rare display of political magnanimity, the Defence Minister wrote to the Prime Minister a couple of months ago with an implicit warning in regard to the deteriorating state of affairs in the armed forces. The Prime Minister acted ‘promptly’ and asked the bureaucracy, the same people who are largely responsible for creating the mess, to look into it. The bureaucrats, as is their wont, refused to include representatives from the armed forces whose problems they are supposed to resolve. Obviously, one doesn’t expect much from them in the absence of their voice being heard directly. In the end, some cosmetic changes will be brought about, but the problem will linger on.
Today’s Indian Army is no more the same as it was a decade ago. To take them for granted without responding to their genuine needs would be a serious mistake. They are no more reticent and subdued. At least, three cases have been reported in the recent past of revolts against officers. It may be the tip of the iceberg. In any case, it is a reflection of deteriorating standards and morale of men in uniform. Whatever be the reasons for dissatisfaction — pay, pension, food, facilities or status — once the intensity of feelings reaches the critical stage, the consequences may be serious.
The naval mutiny in 1946 was led by signalman M.S. Khan and Telegraphist Madan Singh as a strike in protest against the general conditions of service, inadequate facilities and poor quality of food. The revolt spread fast throughout the British India from Karachi to Calcutta and ultimately came to involve nearly 20,000 sailors on 78 ships and 20 shore establishments. So was the 1857 mutiny inspired by an ordinary soldier called Pandey in Meerut that soon escalated into other mutinies and civilian rebellions?
The Indian Air Force too was gradually sucked in the naval strike. And so was the Indian Army. The NCOs defied the orders from their British superiors. In Madras and Poona, the British garrison faced a revolt in the ranks of Indian Army. In fact, widespread rioting took place from Calcutta to Karachi.
Even the British Air Force revolted against the conditions of service in January, 1946. The mutiny began in Karachi and spread to sixty RAF stations in India, Ceylon and Singapore. Lord Wavel, then Viceroy of India, stated that the action of the British airmen inspired both Indian Navy and Air Force mutinies. Revolts and rebellions are not necessarily led by the officer class; in fact, often by men whose only concern is their conditions of service and welfare.
Today the discontent is far more pronounced than ever before. Whether it is the lackadaisical attitude of the government or a wilful decision is hard to say. But it would be a gross mistake to ignore the writing on the wall and the lessons of history so soon.
The writer is a former Director- General, Defence Planning Staff.
Sent: 15 October 2013 10:28
To-day's Indian Express, on its front page, speaks of yet another case of an NCC unit where six to seven men assaulted their CO. You must have read about the recent incident at Meerut in a Sikh LI unit. The below noted article appeared this morning. Hope it touches the main issue and have avoided washing dirty linen in the press. article that appeared in HT this morning is noted below.. With very best wishes.
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh, Oct 15, 2013
Military discipline: recast officer cadre.
Lt-Gen Harwant Singh ( Retd )
Of late a number of units have experienced trouble between officers and their men. The disturbing aspect is that there have been scuffles between officers and men, which was quite unheard of in the Indian army. So what has gone wrong! Some may put to the outcome of an overstressed army and yet some others may point it to changed environments, where men are educated, well informed and observant and therefore, their handling requires an altogether different style and quality of leadership, which by implication is lacking.
It is A well established dictum in the military, that there are no bad units, only bad officers make them so. Therefore, has the quality of intake into the officer cadre deteriorated or there are more involved and compelling reasons for this fall in the conduct of officers and their leadership skills. Are these incidents mere aberrations, in a very large army and are of not much consequence. Therefore, there is no need for serious introspection and initiation of corrective steps. Else if not set right could become endemic!
In the military a unit, be it of infantry, armour etc, is the cutting edge of the whole organization. Its standard of discipline, training, camaraderie depends on the quality of leadership it has and the combination of all these attributes determines a unit’s potential to deliver, both during peace and war. Unfortunately it is in the units where trouble has surfaced.
Indian army is successor to the British Indian Army and much of the customs, traditions and value system have been carried forward. Of the two hundred years of record of the British Indian Army, no incident of troops raising hand against an officer came to light except during the 1957 mutiny: reasons for which were altogether different. So how has this change come about!
During the British period army officers enjoyed status, position and consequently respect that compared well with those in the government. They stood well in the eyes of their troops. After independence, political class being totally ignorant of matters military and bureaucracy deeply resentful of the military, the down-gradation of the latter was initiated in a sustained manner. Gradually and surely military’s status has been lowered which in turn has led to drop in intake standards. Even well after independence a brigadier ranked with the chief secretary of a state and DIG of police between Lt-Col and Col, these equations have been drastically disturbed and the down-gradation has had a deleterious effect on the military system.
Higher command instead of standing up to the government for sabotaging of the very structure of military’s officer cadre and its consequent adverse impact on the organization, accepted it without appropriate protests. It is the very syndrome, “ we will fight with whatever we have,” rather than fight to ensure that troops are adequately equipped, which has continued to this day. This recasting has led to a state where lt-cols command companies etc. Besides this a whole range of other disadvantages have come about, resulting in army becoming the least preferred career option for the youth of the country. Consequently in-intake standards for officer cadre have fallen: even so deficiencies are alarming.
SHORT SERVICE COMMISSION
Recasting officer cadre is a compelling requirement. The possible structure of such a recast could be forty percent regular officers and sixty percent short service commissioned officers, with the latter group given assured absorption for all, into various Central Police Organizations, civil services etc, with some percentage given reserved seats on management and other professional courses with full pay during the period of training. Only then can short service commission attract suitable material.
Officer cadre is the very soul of an army and mainspring of the whole mechanism. Troops are exceedingly accurate judge of an officer’s worth and character. Therefore, there is a compelling reason to maintain intake standards. The regular cadre in the army has to be of very high caliber and therefore, the need to pay particular attention to its intake standards. Status of the military officers must be restored and once that happens the whole rank structure will revert back to the earlier system, command tenures at all levels, which are far too short at present and one of the main contributing factor to the existing malaise, will stretch to required periods of minimum of two years.
Finally to quote from Anatomy of Courage by Lord Moran, “ If we persuade intelligent youth to hold aloof from the Army in peace; we ought not to complain if we are not properly led during war.” Over two thousand years of history of military defeats, no country knows this better than India.