If the Congress-led UPA government had thought it would be able to woo the large fraternity of faujis with the One Rank One Pension sop, announced in the interim budget by Finance minister P. Chidambaram, it is perhaps mistaken because a great deal of resentment still prevails among serving officers of the three armed forces over a glaring disparity that the government has failed to remove since 2008.
The disparity concerns status and pay scales of senior military officers in comparison to officers of organisations like the BSF, CRPF, ITBP, Defence Accounts, Ordnance Factory Board and civilians in the Military Engineering Service and General Reserve Engineering Force (GREF). All these organisations are clubbed under a cetegory called ‘Organised Group A Services.’ All of them work closely with the military on a day-to-day basis, building critical bordfer infrastructure, launching joint operations and maintaining accounts, to name just a few.
Till 2008, there was no problem in day-to-day functioning between the military and officers of these services.
Since 2008 however, a dissonance has set in. That year, the 6th Pay Commission allowed Organised Group A ervices Officers with 19 years of service to be treated equivalent to joint secretary level officers of the IAS. This ruling gave the Organised Group AServices Officers a head start over much senior military officers since the government determines seniorty by grade pay. The new ruling allowed these officers to get a grade pay of Rs 12,000 in 19 years. In the military the grade pay of Rs 12,000 is granted to major generals, who pick up the two-star rank after 29 years of service–a huge gap of a decade!
This has created huge functional problem of command and control in joint cadre or multi-cadre environment where military officers have to work with the officers of the Organised Group A Services. For instance, a Brigadier (with 27-28 years of service) working with engineers from MES or GREF in Kashmir, north-east or Rajasthan is considered junior to officers in these orgainsation who may have done just 20 years of service since their grade pay is higher than the brigadier!
The civilians, now as much conscious of their rank and status as their military counterparts have been refusing to obey orders from military officers senior to them in number of years of service but considered junior because of the lower grade pay.
All representations by the armed forces to the government since 2008–when the 6th Pay Commission was implemented–has fallen on deaf ears. Despite a united stand taken by by the three service chiefs and despite the Prime Minister setting up a high-powered committee of secretaries, this issue remains unresolved.
And what is the logic of not granting what is called in technical terms, non-functional ugrade or NFU? Because the government of India says Defence Officers are NOT part of Organised Group A Service.
So what are they: They are simply ‘Commissioned Officers’.
Senior officers in the military point out that they lose out on two counts: One, they don’t get higher grade pay until much later and two, they are now deemed junior to much younger (in service) officers.
On the contrary, granting NFU to defence services will remove the disparity and widespread resentment.
Why should Defence Officers get NFU?
Because of the following reasons :
None of the Org Gp A service faces as much stagnation as the Armed Forces officers because of its pyramidal structure. Almost 97 per cent of military officers retire at the levels below Joint Secretary / Maj Gen.
Traditionally, since independence, there has been a broad parity between the Class 1 / Gp A offrs of Civil Services and the Defence Services officers which has been acknowledged by different Pay Commissions in their reports.
In such a case,the differential behaviour of the 6th Pay Commission not only disturbs the financial parity, it pushes down the military in status. In fact, now Sub Inspectors of CRPF/BSF/ITBP too have have an edge over militry officers since they too will retire with the salary of Addl Secretary /Lt Gen, if they get promoted as Asstt Comdt / DSP in 8 yrs. All this has added to the frustartion and increased disgruntlement leading to demoralisation among military officers.