Defence Services

United against pay panel award

Print edition : October 14, 2016

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar with Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha and Army chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag meet the media in New Delhi in 2015. Photo: Atul Yadav/PTI

The ongoing civil-military disagreement over the Seventh Central Pay Commission (CPC) is threatening to boil over. This follows the decision of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force to hold in abeyance the implementation of the Pay Commission recommendations pending resolution of at least four key anomalies pointed out by them to the government.

This decision came after Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said on September 12 that they should first implement the recommendations (which were notified on September 6) and then the government would look into the anomalies. The services have refused to budge on their decision so far.

The service chiefs wrote to the government asking it to keep the implementation in abeyance, and, in an uncharacteristic move, they also wrote to the rank and file informing them of the development and instructing them to display maturity and not lose patience.

The three chiefs, who constitute the Chiefs of Staff Committee, met on September 7. The “signal” issued to the troops on September 9 was categorical. It said:

“In recent times there have been several speculative media reports and disinformation on the final outcome of the Seventh Pay Commission. Service headquarters have maintained continuous interaction with all authorities concerned and our concerns have been highlighted at all levels time and again.

“While a few of our concerns have been addressed, we have been constrained to request the government to hold implementation of 7th CPC award in abeyance in view of anomalies which need to be resolved.

“In the interim, personnel are expected to display maturity and patience and not be swayed by hearsay or speculative reports from any quarter.”

Once this letter became public, the Defence Minister, at a meeting with the services chiefs, instructed them to issue the 7th CPC notification and said that thereafter the government would look into the anomalies. Although Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, who heads the Chiefs of Staff Committee, said they were “satisfied” with the Defence Minister’s response, the three services have not issued the special instructions necessary for implementation of the award.

According to highly placed sources in the Army and the Indian Air Force (IAF), the service chiefs have categorically told the Defence Minister that unless four key anomalies pointed out by them were removed, there was no question of issuing the special instruction. Highly placed sources in the IAF told Frontline that despite their statement that the service chiefs were satisfied with the government’s response, Air Chief Marshal Raha made it clear to the rank and file that “there was no going back on what the signal told its personnel and the chiefs will ensure that at least the four key anomalies were removed before they issued the special instructions for the implementation of 7th CPC award”. He said as much categorically at an event organised by retired Air Force personnel shortly after meeting the Defence Minister. Informed sources told Frontline that the service chiefs had given the government one month to resolve these four anomalies.

The four anomalies are among 36 that the services want corrected. They include bringing the services into a higher pay matrix vis-a-vis the civilian services and paramilitary services, granting non-functional upgradation (NFU), enhancing disability pension, and increasing the military service pay (MSP) for Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs).

Defence personnel point out that because they have been brought into a different pay matrix vis-a-vis other civilian services and Central paramilitary services, they get far less than their civilian counterparts. Besides, promotion to higher ranks for defence personnel is based on vacancies, so only a minuscule percentage gets to reach the higher ranks, while the rest, for no fault of their own, are left behind. Since NFU is granted to all civilian services, there is no rationale to deny it to defence personnel.

Similarly, hardship allowance of defence personnel has been lowered vis-a-vis their civilian counterparts and their disability pension too has been reduced. The maximum hardship allowance for a soldier posted at Siachen is roughly Rs.37,000 a month, but a civilian posted outside his or her comfort zone, say in Guwahati, would get Rs.70,000 extra a month, they say.

Disability pension for defence personnel has been lowered following the government’s decision to “rationalise” it apparently because it thought that an unreasonably high number of defence personnel were drawing disability pension. The rationalisation was done by the introduction of a clause called “Neither Attributable Nor Aggravated” (NANA). This meant that if a soldier’s disability was certified NANA, he would not get disability pension, and if his length of service was less than 10 years he would get no pension at all. On the other hand, say the defence personnel, civilian government employees and paramilitary personnel were covered by the percentage-based criteria for deciding disability, and they got not only full pension but also an additional disability element in it.

Major General (retd) Satbir Singh, chairman of the Indian Ex Servicemen Movement (IESM), said the government should think why it was that in 90 per cent of the cases involving disputes about disability pension before the Armed Forces Tribunal the verdict goes against it. The last among the four grouses is the MSP for JCOs, which has been kept the same as that of soldiers. “This is highly demoralising for the JCOs because they are a rank above the soldiers and are effectively responsible for commanding and disciplining them. They are the bridge between the commanding officers and jawans and putting them on a par with jawans would demoralise them,” said Maj. Gen. Satbir Singh

Service personnel are unanimous in their support for the decision taken by the services headquarters. “If we accept the recommendations now, they will never resolve these anomalies. We are still waiting to get the anomalies in the Sixth Pay Commission sorted out, and that was 10 years ago. In fact, the rank pay anomaly which the bureaucracy inserted in the Fourth Pay Commission took 25 years to get resolved,” said a serving General.

In the matter of pension, it took many years of agitation for service personnel to be granted one rank, one pension (OROP), but even that has been diluted and the veterans have been on the road for more than 400 days now, sitting on dharna at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, demanding full OROP.

The government set up a committee (Justice (retd) L. Narasimha Reddy Committee) to look into the veterans’ grievances and asked it to submit its report in June this year, but it is still only halfway through the exercise. “We expect nothing from this committee, it is just an eyewash,” said Maj. Gen. Satbir Singh.

Efforts to get the Defence Ministry’s response proved futile. Senior officials in the Ministry only said it was “seized of the matter which will be sorted out soon”.

Purnima S. Tripathi