Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Any govt decision on pay issue will be good for country: Army

As the committee headed by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee is looking into the armed forces’ grievances over their new pay scales, the army on Wednesday said any decision by the government on the issue will be for the good of the country and the Services.

“The pay anomalies issues is currently with the Cabinet and I am sure it will take care of it. Whatever it decides, it will be for the good of the country and the armed forces,” Vice-Chief of the Army, Lieutenant-General M L Naidu, said on the sidelines of an Army Postal Service Awards ceremony ihn New Delhi.

“They (the committee members) are our national leaders and they will keep all issues in mind before taking a decision. It (pay issues) is not a matter of our expectations,” Naidu said, replying to a query on the course of action the armed forces would take if all their expectations are not met by the Mukherjee committee.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had late last month set up the Mukherjee committee with Defence Minister A K Antony and Finance Minister P Chidambaram as members to consider the four “core issues” raised by the armed forces on what they called a “discriminatory” 6th Central Pay Commission (CPC) report.

In fact, the issues had snowballed into a controversy over the armed forces’ reluctance to implement the Cabinet decision on the CPC taken last month.

Consequently, the 1.5 million armed forces personnel took home their old pay scales in October, while their 3.5 million civilian counterparts got their revised pay scales under the CPC.

To another query, Naidu said pointing out some discrepancies in the CPC was not “defiance”, but professional duty (of the armed forces).

The armed forces are demanding that the government place Lieutenant-Colonels and their equivalents in Pay Band-4, ensure parity in Grade Pay of officers from Captains to Brigadiers with their civilian counterparts, accord the Higher Administrative Grade Plus status in pay scales to Lieutenant Generals and restore 70 per cent pensionary benefits to jawans.

To another question over the misuse of army’s combat fatigues by paramilitary and police forces, Naidu said the army had already informed the Centre and the state governments about it.

“Now, the state governments have taken very strict action, because they have realized that by not insisting on this, it is causing some confusing. Now they have done it (enforce laws against misuse of army uniforms). And hopefully it will be sorted out,” Naidu said.

Asked about the uniforms and camouflages being freely available in the open market, the army vice-chief said as far as clothes, low-quality products are concerned, they were available (but not the Army’s).

“A solution is being worked out and the Home Ministry is doing what is necessary to curb such sales. By law, sale of military uniform in the open market is banned. It should not be available. If it is, there is a separate enforcement agency working on curbing the sale of military uniform. In J&K, they are very actively curbing the sale,” he added.