Will the Prime Minister bite the bullet and grant a long-standing and just demand of 21 lakh ex-servicemen to implement the principle of one rank one pension?
Developments in recent days have raised their hopes as never before.
On Wednesday, the three service chiefs, led by Admiral Nirmal Verma, Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC) met with a high-powered Committee of Secretaries constituted by the Prime Minister to resolve anomalies in the implementation of the 6th Pay Commission award for the Armed Forces.
Although a total of 39 anomalies have been identified by the three services since 2008, they have decided to concentrate on some core issues that directly affect both serving and retired armed forces personnel. The issues are:
- Fixing common pay scales for all JCOs and ORs
- Grant of NFU (non-functional upgardation) status to commissioned officers
- Correcting difference in rank pay of commissioned officers
- Extending the HAG+ (Higher administrative Grade Plus) scale to all 3 star officers
- Granting One Rank One Pension to retired personnel
There have been strong demands from ex-servicemen and from acting servicemen for One Rank One Pay. And to push for their demands further, the three Service chiefs, led by Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, Naval chief Admiral Nirmal Verma, along with his colleagues, Chief of Air Staff ACM, NAK Browne and Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh gave a detailed presentation to the Committee of Secretaries on Wednesday
The six-member committee, comprising the Cabinet Secretary with the Defence Secretary, Secretary Ex-Servicemen Welfare, Secretary DoPT, Expenditure Secretary and Principal Secretary to PM, as members was set up by the Prime Minister after a Rajya Sabha panel last year recommended granting One Rank One Pension to the retired defence personnel. The government has asked the committee to submit its report by August 8.
There is a buzz in the corridors of power that the Prime Minister wants to make a grand announcement from the ramparts of the Red Fort on 15th August and therefore the deadline of 8 August!
For the uninitiated, the One Rank One Pay scheme implies that uniform pension be paid to the armed forces personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service irrespective of their date of retirement, and any future enhancement in the rates of pension be automatically passed on to past pensioners.
But the issue that has upset and angered serving defence personnel is NFU.
For those not in uniform it needs a bit of an explanation.
Buckling under pressure from Group A organised Services under the Central Government like Border Roads Organisation, Military Engineering Services, Postal Services, the 6th Pay Commission gave them a special concession.
It allowed the officers in these services to be placed in a grade pay scale equivalent to an IAS officer two years behind that particular IAS batch. For example if the 1992 batch of the IAS officer got placed in the Joint Secretary grade in 2012, all Group A organised officers of the 1990 batch would automatically get the pay and allowance equivalent to the 1992 IAS batch, irrespective of the post and place they are serving in. That is the upgradation will be done on a ‘non-functional’ basis.
This has brought in huge functional problems in day to day affair when military officers have to work in close coordination with MES Civil Officers, BRO Civil Officers, IPS Officers in BSF, CRPF, ITBP, Defence Accts (IDAS), Test Audit (IA&AS), Ordnance Factory Board etc, with whom Defence forces officers interact regularly, will now get the salary and grade pay of Joint Secretary/Major General (Grade Pay Rs 10000/-) after 22 years of service, and will draw the pay of Additional Secretary to Government of India which is equal to a Lieutenant General (HAG scale) in 32 years of service whereas military officers senior to them in rank and service will get less grade pay at the same level of service thereby creating a functional disparity giving rise to insubordination and subtle non-compliance.