Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Armed forces take pay panel grievances to finance minister

Indian Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta has met Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) Prithviraj Chavan with the grievances of the armed forces over the pay panel's recommendations, an official said Wednesday.Unhappy with the lowering of parity in payscales in comparison with the bureaucracy and paramilitary forces, Admiral Mehta met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Sep 4 and drew his attention to the issue arising from the Sixth Pay Commission's recommendations.

"Admiral Mehta met Chidambaram and Chavan yesterday (Tuesday) on the core issues in the pay commission's report concerning the armed forces," the official said on condition of anonymity.

The armed forces earlier sought that the cabinet, rather than the anomalies committee of the finance ministry, should consider the matter. The cabinet, following the assurance of the prime minister, is likely to take up the "core issues" of the armed forces at its meeting Thursday.

The reviewed report of the Sixth Pay Commission has upgraded the civilian and paramilitary counterparts of officers of the rank of lieutenant colonel and equivalent to a higher pay band.

As a result, civilian officers who were in the lower pay bracket and were hitherto drawing lesser pay than lieutenant colonels and officers of equivalent rank would now draw a higher basic salary.

Following the revised report, even a short service commissioned officer in the paramilitary forces will get a higher pay than most permanent commissioned officers in the armed forces.

Besides drawing higher pay, the civilian and paramilitary officials have gained ascendancy in terms of ranks over their armed forces counterparts.

The armed forces have been contending that these "core issues" would affect the joint operations of the armed forces and paramilitary forces.

Admiral Mehta, in his position as the chairman of the chiefs of staff committee, wrote a letter to Defence Minister A.K. Antony Sep 1 urging that the parity between the armed forces and paramilitary and bureaucracy be "immediately restored".

Earlier, the Personnel Below Officer Rank (PBORs) used to draw a pension in proportion to their years of service, but according to the reviewed report, the PBORs will get pension half of their last pay drawn.

"The PBORs are put at a disadvantage as due to truncation of career they retire early and draw lesser pay relatively and hence end up getting lesser pension," Admiral Mehta said in the letter.

He has also sought inclusion of the officers of the rank of Lt. Gen. and equivalent in the Higher Administrative Grade Plus category, created in all services except the armed forces. The directors general have been placed in the HAG plus category.

The report of the Sixth Pay Commission, headed by Justice (retd) B.N. Srikrishna, was submitted to Finance Minister P. Chidambaram March 24.

It led to protests from both civilian and defence personnel, following which the government appointed a committee under Cabinet Secretary K. Chandrashekhar to study the various demands for financial corrections.