Friday, April 11, 2008

Ex-servicemen plan to take to the streets

Upset at the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations, former senior Army officers have decided to take to the streets. They have approached United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking redress of their grievances, said sources who did not wish to be identified.

If permission is granted, the former officers and soldiers, under the banner of an ex-servicemen league, will hold vigil in front of the flame of the unknown soldier at India Gate on April 27.
Review panel

To “add insult to injury,” the government has appointed a review committee comprising three officers from the IAS cadre, the former officers said, pointing out that one of their main complaints was the upsetting of the relative parity with this cadre that had been in place since 1986.

“To resolve the differences among the three principal services, a committee has been instituted comprising the Home Secretary, the Defence Secretary and the Finance Secretary. All three members are from the same cadre which has drafted the report. No prizes for guessing the outcome! You can play against a strong team, provided the umpire is neutral,” said a former Army officer.
Positive aspects

While appreciating the positive aspects of the Pay Commission report, the armed forces have whittled down their 27-point grievances to half a dozen glaring anomalies. Apart from the upsetting of the relative parity with the IAS cadre, which affects middle-level armed forces officers comprising 72 per cent of the cadre — Major, Lt. Colonel, Colonel and some brigadiers — the switchover to the ‘running pay band’ is a “can of worms.” When it was done in 1987, it led to several anomalies, some of which are still sub judice, according to the sources.

Though the net gain at the start is good, the benefit dwindles to a low level for middle-level officers, backbone of the armed forces. A young Lieutenant who now gets Rs. 8,250 will receive Rs. 25,760 while his commanding officer, whose current basic including rank pay is Rs. 17,550, will take home only Rs. 44,140. But, in proportionate terms, he should get Rs. 54,790. This depression continues all the way to the Lt. Gen. rank. The gap between what the corps commanders get and the fixed pay of the Army commanders too has become disproportionately large.
Short service

The solution to management of the officers cadre lies in making short service more attractive but there is nothing in this report to address this burning issue. The revision of the commutation value (CV) table was long overdue. But the new dispensation will hit hard personnel below the officer rank. At the age of 35, when many of the other ranks are retired, the CV has been brought down from 16.92 to 9.14. At 60, when civilians retire, the old and the new rates are 10.13 and 8.2 and so the reduction is less significant.

A recommendation was made to grant pay to the cadets at the service academies. This has been rejected without assigning any cogent reason. “It needs to be remembered that a recruit who joins the ranks is treated as a soldier from the very first day in the training centre, while the officer cadet is a civilian for all practical purposes and is economically dependent on his parents,” the sources said.

“We wish to emphasise that Colonel and equivalent ranks are the backbone of the armed forces. They command battalions, captain ships and lead squadrons. If their interests are not protected merely to perpetuate the inequitable functional relativities in South Block, we will be doing gross injustice to the armed forces and the nation which they serve,” the sources cautioned.

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