New Delhi, March 28
Away from the media spotlight, the three armed forces — the Army, the Navy and the IAF — are fighting a tough “battle” to get their personnel’s status and pay structure restored that were wrongly lowered in 2008.
The paramilitary forces and civilian officers were pegged at a higher perch than armed forces’ men. This, in government parlance, translates into lower status for the armed forces, lower allowances and a direct impact on the hierarchy with other services.
The “battle” to correct the status for the entire officer cadre, around 70,000 in the three forces, is being “fought” in files amidst mountains of paperwork that moves back and forth between the Finance Ministry, the Defence Ministry, the Cabinet Secretariat and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). There have been no tangible results over the past three years.
The Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC), who is the senior-most among the three Chiefs, has been sporadically reminding the government how the Prime Minister had, in December 2008, approved that the matter needed to be addressed by setting up a high-powered committee. No committee has been set up so far. The three Chiefs, who jointly command more than 15 lakh troops and officers, have been reduced to sending “reminders” to the government. The latest reminder was sent by Admiral Nirmal Verma on February 21 “requesting intervention” of Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth.
Documents accessed by The Tribune show how it all started when the Sixth Central Pay Commission (CPC) recommendations were out in October 2008. The sequence panned out this way: The IAS in the post of Joint Secretary (JS) to the Government of India was made eligible for a grade pay of Rs 10,000 a month on completing 22 years of service. The same was extended to IPS and the Indian Foreign Services.
There was a protest from other group “A” services - paramilitary and other civilian services. The government said it could not have so many posts of Joint Secretary but allowed “non-functional scale upgradation” and placed the protesters on same scale as a Joint Secretary, but after 24 years of service. The grade pay is crucial when matters of status are to be decided. Apart from the money, it sets the status of an officer in the government.
Strangely, the Armed forces are neither classified as group “A” services nor are they termed as “central services” like the IAS or the IPS. In case of the armed forces, Colonels languish at Rs 8,700 grade pay and Brigadiers at Rs 8,900. Only Major-Generals or their equivalent in the IAF and the Navy get the grade pay of Rs 10,000. Only 3 per cent of officers reach that rank and that too after 33-34 years of service.
Status and pay structure were ‘wrongly’ lowered in 2008
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