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A General's letter in anguish to the PM

By Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi
April 27, 2008 22:22 IST
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Retired officers of the Indian armed forces took out a rally in Gurgaon, Haryana, on Sunday to protest against the sixth Pay Commission report. The rally was held in Gurgaon as the Central government refused to allow it to be held in New Delhi and didn't even allow them to lay a wreath on India Gate to pay homage to soldiers who gave their lives for the country.

Commodore Uday Bhaskar told, "The Sixth pay commission's recommendation, if implemented, will not help raise the morale of the armed forces. The Indian fauj (forces), once the noble 'profession of arms', will be reduced to a ignoble 'profession of alms' by a callous politico-bureaucratic elite."

General Nirmal Chander Vij, former Chief of Army Staff, wrote a letter in anguish to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh against the adverse implications of the sixth pay commission on the armed forces.

The army's foremost strategist and a Kargil war-decorated soldier, General Vij was country's 21st Chief of Army Staff. The letter written on April 17, 2008, speaks volumes about the armed forces' dissatisfaction, which no government can ignore.

The copy of the letter written by N C Vij to Dr Singh is reproduced below.

Adverse implications of sixth Pay Commission report on the armed forces

Last week I had gone to Amritsar to attend a regimental function. I was surprised to note the intense disappointment and despondency in all the jawans, officers and their families as they spoke vociferously about how let down they felt with the sixth Pay Commission report. The services chiefs have already met the Hon'ble Raksha Mantri (defence minister) and expressed their deep concern.

As a former chief, I feel morally duty-bound to bring this fact to the notice of the Hon'ble Prime Minister in my personal capacity. I take heart from the fact, that it is under your leadership, that, in my tenure, the government went for a major improvement in the 'operational posture by sanctioning South Western Command and 9 Corps HQs with full complements and also for some restoration of self esteem of the young officers through addressing their delayed promotions-cum-service conditions, by approving Part 1 of Ajay Vikram Singh Committee report'. 

If this had been followed up, through a balanced PCR and implementation of Part II of the 'AVS Report', things would have reasonably improved, but unfortunately the very opposite has happened. 

The PCR has hurt the Armed Forces on the following major accounts:

  • Military Service Pay - (X Factor): The Military Service Pay, which has now been introduced, is intended to compensate service personnel for intangible difficulties and risks, which they experience during their service careers. While this is a welcome step, the jawans who face the greatest privations, have been given a paltry amount of Rs 1000/-. 

    As recommended by the three services to the Ministry of  Defence, this compensation be fixed in the following manner; (i) for jawans and Junior Commissioned Officers (below Lt rank), MSP should be 62.5 per cent of their basic pay (ii) for officers, MSP be fixed at 56.5 per cent of basic pay (iii) since there is no justification for excluding Maj Generals and Lt Generals from this pay (just 300 in number), they should also be included. (iv)Lastly, as these difficult service conditions have been existing all along, the arrears must be paid wef Jan 1, 2006, as in the case of other recommendations of the Pay Commission. All these recommendations have already been made by the Defence Services.
  • Depressed Pay Scales and Lowering of Status of Officers: (i) In determining the grade pay of officers of the rank of Brigadiers and below, the Pay Commission has excluded the rank pay, from the scale of officers, on the ground that rank pay is an element of Military Service Pay now proposed.  The exclusion of the rank pay from the pay scale has led to depressed grades of pay and lowering 'Services' status in different ranks by one rung below the extant position. This will cause immense functional problems not only for inter-se functioning vis-a-vis the civilian/police counterparts etc but also within the Armed Forces, wherein a large number of civilians are working.

    The Pay Commission has upgraded the DsG of certain police forces and certain specific posts in other civil services. It is important to note that (i) Lt Generals and equivalent comprise just 0.13% of the Services Officer Cadre as against at least fifteen-twenty times more posts at that level in civil/police services and more than a hundred times in the IAS. Furthermore, the creation of posts of Special Secretaries like the earlier Additional DGP will further upset the entire status equation. The promotions in the Services are achieved (if one escapes the most extraordinary degree of supercessions) with much longer service. For example at the lower level, a Brigadier is promoted after 28 years service and a Major General with 33 years service, whereas their counterparts (in non-military services) get these promotions with 14-16 and 20 years service resulting in huge disparities. The service officers thus suffer both on account of status and total take home salary to the tune of 30-40 lakh and more.

    In order to restore parity, I, therefore, strongly recommend that:- (i) ideally, the rank pay should be restored or in the very least, grade pay be linked to the length of service equivalent to that of the IAS, since the promotions in services are much slower and;(ii) For protecting the status equation of 'Lieutenant Generals' it is recommended that they must remain above DsG of Police forces and equivalent to five DsG of the PMF.  It may be mentioned that in the Warrant of Precedence, all 'Lt Generals' have been placed in Article 24, whereas, DsGP are in Article 25. Hence, any disparity in pay structure will lead to an anomalous situation.  Similarly, the status equations finalized in the Fifth Pay Commission for all levels must be maintained. Any further erosion of status will undermine the military leadership in the eyes of their own subordinates.
  • Introduction of Running Pay Band and Adverse Impact on Junior and Middle Piece (Majors to Colonels) and Brigadiers level Officers: The new scales now introduced have hurt officers of these levels very badly and are resulting in virtually negligible benefits amounting to just 10 percent or so. This aberration is likely to start a trend of resignations of large number of officers, in these ranks soon on completion of the mandatory minimum 20 years service. I gather that already more than approx 650 officers have been waitlisted for premature release. The Services, which are already heavily undersubscribed, cannot sustain this exodus. One additional pay band is required to be introduced here to ensure suitable benefits to officers at all levels. There is, thus, a need to have two pay bands, one between Lt to Lt Colonels and the other between Colonels to Brigadiers with suitable raise linked to the length of service.
  • Lateral Shift and Assured Second Career for Men-'A Myth':  The Pay Commission recommendations for the Services hinge, largely, on the successful implementation of the lateral transfer of the service personnel, into the PMFs/Central Police Organizations (CPOs).  Thus, these recommendations have been 'based on and got eroded' in the garb of a possible future lateral shift and assured second career. The scheme of lateral transfer, if not implemented or delayed, would negate the most core underlying concept/assumption of these recommendations. I may submit here, that this particular recommendation has been attempted for implementation for decades (included in the Fifth Pay Commission Report also) but with no success earlier. Nor will it succeed in future for the obvious reasons. All Pay Commission recommendations thus need to be re-examined in the absence of this basic assumption of lateral transfer. The lateral transfer was also considered earlier actively and dropped, when I was the Vice Chief.
  • Safeguarding of Interest of the Pensioners: Over the past two decades, the government has been able to achieve some parity in the pensions of the current and past retirees. 'One rank one pension' was more or less achieved for the men, and in the case of officers, some minimum parity was brought in by grant of pension at the bottom of scale of the rank in which they retired. However, with introduction of running pay bands and the absence of top and bottom of the scales for any rank, the parity with specific bands, achieved over some time now, will be lost. There is, thus, a need to protect the interests of the past retirees by suitable modifications and thereby ensuring enhanced pensionary benefits to the tune of minimum 30%.
  • 'Anomalies Committee' is Unlikely to Succeed in Addressing the Grievances of the Armed Forces: I have read in the media that an Anomalies Committee has been set up to look into the issues raised by everyone.  This will not solve the problems of the Armed Forces for two reasons: (a) The Lack of Sensitivity/ Understanding -- This committee, which does not even have representatives of the armed forces as their members, will never be able to achieve a deep understanding or be sensitive enough to their problems. It is for this reason of lack of sensitivity, that the status of the Indian Armed Forces has undergone constant erosion with every Pay Commission Report. (b) Problems are of Basic Principles and Not Mere Technicalities -- The anomalies committees can address the technicalities but our problems are on account of the core concepts and approach and not merely of technicalities. The problems of the Services can be solved, only with the involvement of the leadership of the country. Therefore, a 'Group of Ministers' alone will be able to address these issues.
  •  Summary of Recommendations:
    (a) Lateral Shift and Assured Second Careers for Men: Since all recommendations for the men are based on an assured second career, which is likely to be a non starter, a time limit of one year be fixed for implementation of the proposal of 'lateral shift'.  In the interim, all related recommendations for men be reviewed and made applicable as suggested in this paper based on the existing scenario.
    (b) Military Service Pay: As recommended by the three services to the Ministry of Defence, this compensation be fixed in the following manner (i) for jawans and Junior Commissioned Officers, MSP should be 62.5 per cent of their basic pay (ii) for officers at all levels, it should be fixed at 56.5 per cent of their basic pay (iii) since, there is no justification for excluding Major Generals and Lt Generals from this pay (just 300 in number), they should also be included for benefits as all other officers. (iv)Lastly, as these difficult service conditions have been existing all along, the arrears must be paid wef January 1 2006, as in case of other recommendations of the Pay Commission.
    (c) Depressed Pay Scales and Restoration of Status of Officers:  In order to restore parity, the recommendations are (i) ideally, the rank pay should be restored or alternatively the grade pay be linked to the length of service equivalent to that of the IAS, since the promotions in the services are much slower and fewer. (ii) with a view to protect the status equations of Lt Generals, they should be above DsG of Police forces and be equivalent to that of the five DsG of the PMFs and remain in Article 24 of the Warrant of Precedence and lastly (iii) the status equations finalized in the Fifth Pay Commission report must be maintained in all the ranks.
    (d) Introduction of Running Pay Band and Adverse Impact on Junior and Middle Piece Officers: To offset the disadvantages of virtually no benefits to junior and middle level officers and also the factor of much delayed-cum-fewer promotions, an additional pay band be introduced. There should, thus, be two pay bands; one for Lt to Lt Cols and second for Colonels to Brigadiers with suitable raise linked to the length of service.
    (e) Protection of Pension for Past Retirees: Fixation of pension scale for the past retirees be done in a manner that their interests are protected and they get raise in their pensions to the tune of minimum 30 percent.
    (f) Group of Ministers: It is recommended that a GOM be appointed to examine the grievances of the Services. Till the time, their recommendations are finalized, the Pay Commission Report for the Services be held up.

Sir, you yourself hail from a state, which has traditionally produced soldiers. You would have often wondered, as to why a supremely fit jawan/JCO who retires at the young age of 42-48, ages and grows old so fast. It is because he has no resources to fall back upon to ensure a decent living for his family after his early retirement. This problem gets further accentuated with the constraints of even poor farming conditions. Why should a soldier retire at this early age (other services serve upto 60 years) and why this man who has served the Nation so valiantly not be given a second career by way of 'lateral transfer', which alas will never come about.

The service conditions have become even tougher and more risk prone today than what they were when we joined the service in 1962, because of the pressures of 'insurgency'.  Insurgency poses nearly as much physical danger as a war. A soldier is thus exposed to constant risks and yet he retains the motivation to build a 'fence of 650 km length at varying altitudes upto 14000 ft' in six to nine months flat, to successfully defeat the infiltration. The foreign armies are studying the underlying reasons of such a high level of motivation and dedication. 

In the Indian Armed Forces, a jawan/officer serves almost every alternate tenure of three years in the insurgency environment, whereas all other armies in the world are not being able to sustain even one 'nine months' tenure. Officers and their jawans do it for the izzat (honour) but this raison d'etre is now getting deflated with such Pay Commission reports, and all their expectations are being shattered.

I strongly urge you Sir, to appoint a 'GOM' for the armed forces and withhold the implementation of this report, for the defence services, till the justice is given to them.  The armed forces cannot sustain any continuation of poor intake of officers and also current wave of resignation requests. Already, the Indian Military Academy and OTA, Chennai are reporting a drop in the intake by over 70 per cent. In case of jawans, this recruitment trend will continue yet for a few more years, but their level of motivation will drop. The country cannot afford either of these situations.
N C Vij

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