Will the PM bite the bullet on 15th Aug?

The deadline set by the Prime Minister for the Committee of Secretaries (CoS) to resolve the six main anomalies in the implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission award for the armed forces passed today. 

In the usual secretive way in which the government functions, there is no clarity on what the committee may or may not recommend.

Although the Prime Minister will take the final call, the recommendations of the CoS will have a major bearing on what he decides.

As it is, the government had rejected the demand put forward by the three service chiefs last month that a military representative should be part of the committee that will decide matters military. Perhaps to make amends, the CoS once again held a detailed meeting with the three service chiefs on August 7.

During the prolonged meeting, the three service chiefs are reported to have once again forcefully argued on why the 5 basic issues need to be resolved forthwith. They are, as is well known by now:

  • 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
The Service Chiefs–Adm Nirmal Verma, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne and Gen Bikram Singh–pointed out during the discussion on 7th August that a lot of critical infrastructure development work is being affected in various commands because of functional problems brought about by disparities between officers in uniform and their civilian counterparts.

The Army Chief pointed out that recently, two Army Commanders have written to him specifically on this particular issue, conveying great concern at the adverse affect the unresolved pay issue was having under their charge.

Defence Minister AK Antony, it will be recalled, had told the Prime Minister, about the restlessness among the armed forces and had warned about the possibility of “things turning bad.”

As a result of these strong inputs, the Cabinet Secretary-led CoS is now reported to have decided to recommend granting at least three main demands–NFU, OROP and common pay scales for JCOs and ORs–in the next couple of days in their report to the Prime Minister.

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.

Military officials have pointed out that this has adversely affected organizational command and control in multi cadre environment.  It also led to lowering the status of Armed Forces Officials vis-à-vis organized Group A officers and IPS Officers.  Organised Group A and IPS Officers reach HAG(Higher Administrative Grade) Scale at 32 years while only 0.2 per cent of Armed Forces Officers can ever reach that level.
With over 97 per cent Armed Forces Officers retiring in the Grade Pay of 8700, their exclusion from the NFU is seen as grossly unfair.  This differential not only disturbs financial parity, it pushes down the Defence services in status as even direct recruit officers of Group B services attain a better pay and promotional avenue and manage to reach the level of Joint Secretary/Major General before retiring.
Both the OROP and granting the NFU status to Armed Forces officials is not going to be expensive either. 
According to calculations done by the military, the annual outgo for granting One Rank One Pension to the approximately 21 lakh ex-servicemen would not be more than Rs 1300 crore. Similarly the NFU status, if granted, will cost the exchequer a mere Rs 70 crore annually but will go a long way in restoring the pride and status of the armed forces’ officers.
The other core issues are minor in comparison but important nevertheless.
A week from today, the Prime Minister  will have a chance to assuage the hurt within the military by granting what straight away look like legitimate demands of the armed forces. Many Prime Ministers in the past have made significant announcement from the ramparts of the Red Fort during their Independence Day speeches. Rajiv Gandhi for instance announced the the signing of the Assam accord on 15th August 1985.

Will Manmohan Singh grasp the nettle and show  some sagacity?  

  1. August 9, 2012 -

    NFU status is affecting within the uniformed community itself. Coast Guard offrs who are part of Armed Forces are getting NFU status already.How can we have such a disparity within the uniformed class???

  2. August 9, 2012 -

    Equating pensions merely on the basis of Rank may not really address the issue. In view of shortened time-spans now required for attaining equivalent ranks, the past retirees would still be at a dis-advantage compared to current retirees. For implementing OROP, the length of service of a retiree too needs to be considered.

  3. August 9, 2012 -

    The training period of Army officers should be counted for NFFU, as it is counted in case of Group A officers, at least to begin with for parity.