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Exodus From Armed Forces:REVISE SIXTH PAY COMMISSION,by Dr. P.K. Vasudeva,15 April 2008 Print E-mail

Defence Notes

New Delhi, 15 April 2008

Exodus From Armed Forces


By Dr. P.K. Vasudeva

A fresh and potentially crippling round of exodus has hit the Armed forces, already facing severe manpower crunch. There is a shortage of about 35,000 personnel in the Forces. In the Army alone there is a shortage of 11,153 officers, Navy 1,403 officers and the IAF is short of 1,368 officers.

The disappointment with the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission, has forced dozens of officers to seek premature release from service and a large number of them are planning to leave for greener pastures outside. The pay package of a Major to Brigadier has gone up by just 13-15 per cent. A horde of Lieutenant Colonels and Colonels are therefore queuing up to quit soon.

Defence Minister A K Antony has assured the Service chiefs that he will push for corrections in the pay panel report to meet the aspirations of the soldiers, who will be getting less than that of a peon of the civil services. But such a situation could have been avoided in the first place. For much before the decision to appoint a Sixth Pay Commission was taken by the Centre, the three Services’ chiefs had placed before it the need to appoint a separate Pay Commission for defence services. 

Their stance was that no member of the Armed forces was included in the Pay commissions even though the Forces comprised 40 per cent of the Central Government employees. Moreover, the civilians were unable to comprehend the tough service conditions, ground realities and military ethos which need to be taken into account while working out the pay and allowances. Worse, the panel couldn’t   appreciate the promotion structure, wherein a Brigadier was given more pension than a Major-General and scrapped the running pay board, which had partially compensated for limited promotions.  

It needs to be noted that all major democracies have a separate pay commission for the Armed forces. Even the UK, whose administrative pattern was followed by India post-Independence, has since then set up a separate pay commission for its soldiers. But in our case, it was the Third Pay Commission, which for the first time, was entrusted the task of determining the pay and allowances of defence services. The panel, like in the case of civilian employees, wanted to hear the case directly from the Armed forces. But, the Ministry of Defence turned down the offer on grounds that the requirements of discipline did not permit such an approach.

Further, the pay commission was not required to go into the issue of service conditions of defence personnel, but was to take them as "given". Unbelievable as it may appear, the "untenable and preposterous" stance of the ministry was accepted by the commission. The panel, perhaps on MoD’s projections of the case, found service in the military advantageous and remained oblivious of the travails of a career in the Armed forces.

Though the Armed forces constitute nearly 40 per cent of the Central government employees and its officers the largest officer cadre among the Central services, the Fifth Pay Commission’s report, which ran into 2168 pages, had  a mere 50 pages pertaining to the Armed forces. The commission had a staff of 145 officers to assist it, which included those from the postal services, Border Security Force, Indian Forest Service, etc, but it declined to include a member of the Armed forces. The committee of secretaries constituted to review the recommendations of the pay commission included an officer from the Indian Police Service, but none from defence forces.

In the Sixth Pay Commission, the Government rejected the plea to have a retired defence officer. The move clearly dismayed officers at the three Services’ HQ for they had, for the first time, put up a united front before the Government. However, the Union Finance Ministry and the Pay Commission were not convinced with the logic given.  

The Armed forces had also warned that a career in the Services had become unattractive. There were about 14,000 vacancies in the officers' cadre and an equal number in the technical cadre of the three Services. Since 2001, over 100 officers of the rank of Brigadier and above had left the Services for better careers elsewhere. But the Government and the pay panel were unmoved by this reasoning. Even a request by Antony to review its earlier stand was turned down.

The report submitted by the three Services jointly was based on a study carried out by the College of Defence Management (CDM), Secunderabad, at the behest of the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS). A group comprising 12 CDM officers from the three Services, headed by a brigadier made a presentation in May last about the model, which talks about a "military compensation" to Antony.

At the end, the Sixth Pay Commission has recommended up to a two-fold increase in the salaries of defence personnel that would include a military service pay of up to Rs 6,000 a month for officers and Rs 1,000 for other ranks and grade pay, apart from suggesting their direct entry into Central para-military forces on account of ‘rigours of military life’. As for the three Defence forces’ chiefs, they will be drawing Rs 90,000 per month, equivalent to the Cabinet Secretary post under the new pay structure.  

The report, to be implemented with retrospect effect from January 1, 2006, has recommended payment of arrears in two phases. However, the panel made it clear that the Government needn’t pay any arrears for the military service pay (MSP). In the officers’ category, it has recommended a pay scale of Rs 15,600-Rs 39,100 for Lieutenant, along with a grade pay of Rs 5,400 and MSP of Rs 6,000 a month. Accordingly, the total revised monthly pay of Lieutenant, Sub-Lieutenant or Flying Officer will be Rs 25,760 to Rs 28,890.Major-General/Rear Admiral/Air Vice Marshal have been put in the pay scale of Rs 39,200-Rs 67,000 besides a grade pay of Rs 9,000, but without any MSP. They will be getting a monthly salary of Rs 52,280-Rs 54,480 as per the revised pay scales.

Other perks like flying bounty, submarine allowance, field area, and counter insurgency allowances have been recommended to be doubled. However, the Pay Commission has rejected “hardship allowance, skill allowance, super specialist allowance, UAV crew allowance and service incentive allowance”. For personnel below officer rank, the commission has recommended as entry-level salary of Rs 10,670 (from Rs 5000-7000) up to a maximum of Rs 24,950, including the special allowances.

By introducing just two pay bands for officers, the Pay Commission has also attempted to de-link the salary drawn from the rank. The salary will now depend more on the years of service rather than the seniority of officers. While the exact salaries will depend on factors such as years of service, applicable allowances and technical skills, financial experts at the Ministry of Defence say that the in-hand salary would go up by 40 per cent in most of the cases.

However, the three Service chiefs in a meeting with Antony have sought a 40-60 per cent hike for Armed forces personnel over and above the Pay Commission's recommendations. Though there has been no official comment on the submissions made, it is understood that the Service chiefs suggested that a separate pay commission for the Armed forces should supplement the report.

Their argument: the forces were dismayed over the recommendations of Justice Srikrishna report and that it had come at a time when all the three Services were facing shortage of key middle-rung officers. Worse, the shortage has been compounded by Armed forces’ training institutions reporting shortfalls for the first time in getting recruits! Warning enough for amends.  ---INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)


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