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Can committee of secretaries do justice to the armed forces?
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Lt Gen Harwant Singh | Date:06 Aug , 2012 5 Comments
Lt Gen Harwant Singh
Former Deputy Chief of Army Staff. He also commanded a corps in J&K.

Often the political executive appears to find solutions to difficult problems with the help of a group of secretaries. In some cases, this group of secretaries may not have complete knowledge and grasp of the issues under examination. In the late eighties the Army evaluated a number of indigenously developed diesel engines for the Vijayanta tank. A committee of secretaries was constituted to select the best out of the engines thus evaluated. At the presentation of the trial results to this group, one was horrified to discover that not one amongst the secretaries knew even the difference between a “cam shaft” and “crank shaft” of an engine!

…one was horrified to discover that not one amongst the secretaries knew even the difference between a “cam shaft” and “crank shaft” of an engine!

Sometimes this group could be prejudiced against the case and is thus unable to conduct a fair examination and give unbiased recommendations. The more recent recommendations of the Naresh Chandra Committee (Naresh Chandra, former Cabinet Secretary, has been in one or the other government job since he retired some 20 years back) is known to have concluded that India does not need a Chief of Defence Staff. Thus, the Indian Army will continue to have no single authority to synergise the full potential of various components of the armed forces in the face of emerging complex security challenges.

During World War II, the unity of command had become imperative. When, before operation ‘Over Lord,’ (invasion of Europe by the allied forces), it was proposed to keep the Strategic Bomber Command outside Eisenhower’s control, he told the President that in that case he might find someone else to take charge of ‘Over Lord.’ Now some 68 years later Naresh Chandra does not find the need for a unified command for the Indian armed forces.

In the case of successive Central Pay Commissions (CPCs), bias against the military has prevailed all through, resulting in recommendations to the total disadvantage of the military. Much has already appeared, over the years, in the Press highlighting the anomalies in the recommendations of successive CPCs as these related to the military and, therefore, need no recalling. In the case of the 6th CPC, there are 39 anomalies relating to the military which are still to be addressed.

The issue of “one rank, one pension” (OROP) was considered by a committee of secretaries headed by the Cabinet Secretary and rejected. Not one among the present committee members has adequate knowledge of matters military, such as conditions under which troops and officers serve, the risk factor, casualties during operations, turbulence and the effect on children’s education, early retirement, extremely limited promotions, etc. Almost all of those on this committee, after they retire at 60/62 years of age, will be re-employed, and if they play their cards well, may, continue to work on one or the other job for another 20 years! So, how can this group possibly understand what it means to retire at age 35/37 years or even 54 years.

Every single central service officer will retire at age 60 with the pension of an Air Vice Marshal, whereas less than 1 per cent in the armed forces get to that scale of pension.

Consider the case of non-functional upgradation (NFU ) which is applicable to all Central services but not the military because, it is argued, that military is not a central service! If so, then why a common CPC? This NFU has created serious functional problems with the military in working with the MES, BRO, MEO, the central police, Defence Accounts, the Ordnance Factory Board, etc. It was pressure from the Group A services of the Central government that the Sixth Pay Commission gave them this largesse. A large number of people from these services were on the staff of the 6th CPC (though none from the military) and helped themselves to all manner of perks.

NFU implies that if the 1992 batch IAS officer climbs into the Joint Secretary’s grade in 2012, then every Group A central service officer of the 1990 batch would automatically get the pay and allowances equivalent to the 1992 IAS batch officers, irrespective of the post he may be occupying. This would happen at the approximate service of 20/22 years, whereas an Army officer will get to that level if he is among the top 1 per cent after 32 years of service. Every single central service officer will retire at age 60 with the pension of an Air Vice Marshal, whereas less than 1 per cent in the armed forces get to that scale of pension.

This has also led to lowering the status of armed forces officers vis-à-vis Group A central service officers. With over 97 per cent armed forces officers retiring in the grade pay of Rs 8700, their exclusion from the NFU is seen as grossly unfair. This differential disturbs financial parity and further lowers the status of defence services officers. Even directly recruited officers of Group B services attain a better pay and promotional avenue and manage to reach the level of Joint Secretary/ Maj-Gen before retiring. Even if NFU is granted to the military, it will not, unlike the civil services, come into full play due to early retirement for a vast majority.

The committee of secretaries, now formed under the chairmanship of the Cabinet Secretary, is required to look into only six of the 39 anomalies and submit recommendations by August 8 so that, if need be, the Prime Minister may throw some crumbs at the military from the ramparts of Red Fort on Aug 15.

Any attempt to downgrade the military in matters of pay, perks and status will surely have a long-term effect on the quality of intake into the military.

These may include the following: Fixing common pay scales for all JCOs and ORs; grant of NFU to commissioned officers; correcting the difference in the rank pay of commissioned officers; extending the HAG+ (Higher Administrative Grade Plus) scale to all three star officers in the armed forces and OROP to retired personnel.

During the Prime Minister’s visit to Chandigarh, I briefed him at Raj Bhavan on some of the anomalies such as brigadiers given more pension than Maj-Generals and the absurdity of equating military service with that in the civilian areas where living conditions and the risk factor apart, 82 per cent or so retire at the age of 35/37 years and another 12 to 17 per cent at 42 to 58 years of age. So, for anyone to contend that giving OROP to the military will result in a similar demand from all civilian employees who retire at 60 is illogical, repugnant and misleading. The PMO has now constituted this new committee of secretaries. The impression is gaining ground that the PM is poorly served by the PMO.

Many Prime Ministers and parliamentary committees have accepted the rationale for the grant of OROP to retired military personnel and recommended its implementation. So, now this committee of secretaries will re-examine those recommendations and pass judgment. This then is the Indian democracy for you!

Any attempt to downgrade the military in matters of pay, perks and status will surely have a long-term effect on the quality of intake into the military.

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5 thoughts on “Can committee of secretaries do justice to the armed forces?

  1. The Civiianl- Military relations deteriorated in the late 50′s & 60′s at the time Of Late Krishna Menon/H.C.Sarin of MOD & continue till today. WHY ? Any normal People/ Political party with a sense of patriotism & pride in their nation, its culture should be very Proud & affectionate towards the Armed forces Personnel-Because they are willing to fight & die for the Country. All big powers,Great countries treat their Armed Forces personnel with reverance & respect. It is the Congress party & the Communists / leftists in india that Denigrate & humiliate the Armed Forces of India. The Bureaucracy gets its cue from their masters. Therefore, the Armed forces & ex Servicemen should also fight the Politicians like a Politician ie in the Media, Forums & VOTES .. Realise your True strength in nos. & actively enter politics like our ex Army chief.The moment The Indian army & ex Servicemen realise their Voting Strength ,a Sleeping Giant wil awaken to its True Worth, Power & Rights. It will also augur well for national Security.

  2. Dear Sir, I being an ex JCO read your column with intrest . I wish some thing may happen ? Oncetheir was lot of noise and when I went to bank ,I was told I
    must have got good increment , but I got Rs. 2/ only and the bank officer was shocked . Lets cross fingers for 15th Aug.

  3. Yes, it is wonderful to see from the perspective of defense personnel to implement OROP. But is it economically viable and sustainable for an economy like India? What is the extent of burden on the exchequer when we are already facing a huge deficit? From my interaction with certain people in the army, navy and air force, I learnt that a large number of defense personnel opt to take premature retirement not because of pay and perks but due to living conditions and behavioral issues of superiors. At many places ethics of professionalism and camaraderie is not followed and scores of people are made to do household chores for superior officers. If they show resentment to do household chores, the 24 hour duty dictum is invoked without adequate reasons to teach such ‘ill disciplined’ soldiers a lesson. With this interactions I feel that there is something to be done on the HR front and the financial incentives are secondary. Further, the ‘all powerful’ stand of authorities must come to an end and the relation with men and executives must be streamlined. If we can avoid the huge employee turnover, a lot of money can be saved which can be made to flow towards employee benefits. But the defense authorities does not seem to part with the ‘free domestic servants’ conveniently known as ‘sahayaks’. I think the recent incidents in Jammu and Kashmir, where Officers and Men clashed, are warning bells and we must take it very very seriously.

    From the article I do not understand why men retire at 35 or 37 years of age. It is criminal to loose such experienced employees; whatever may be the reason. If such a high rate of employee turnover is the fact that defense witnesses, the managers are to be blamed; they lack HR skills. Just think – a man retiring at the age of 35 will continue to draw pension for about 30 years (considering the life expectancy of Indians at 65) and thereafter to the widow and now OROP!!

    • My dear Sir,

      Kindly do little bit of research on matters you are not familiar with before commenting. The OROP is gross injustice and nothing else. If you are talking abt fin burden, then study national security aspects carefully b4 deciding force structure required to secure our nation. Anyway the armed forces are but a few lakhs and the so called burden will not in anyway impair the deficit. Unfortunately you seem to have missed the point. Equity when it comes to a pay and perks with other civil and govt servants.
      Kindly read why nations maintain armed forces, what are our threats as a nation, and are we prepared for it. A defence force not feeling cared for and treated like second grade govt servants is a demoralised force- combine that with the threats looming to our nation both internally and externally and you have a heady cocktail of dangerous trends that could at the least be catastrophic! The choice is with the nation and common people like you – not the babus that rule the roost in North Block.
      I rest my case.

  4. Now-a-days, the majority of soldiers are better educated, and their feelings are injured when they see disparities in pension and perks compared to civilians and also old veterans being given lesser pension than future retirees, for the same rank and same length of service. This is really disgracing the seniors. Those in authority should not cause such wounds on the old ex-soldiers and atleast treat them equal if not better than future retirees. Luckily, the present Prime Minister is considered world acknowledged economist, and it is hoped he better understands the economic conditions of soldier pensioners, who are already having lower pensions than the civilian government employees.All veterans are looking forward to the speech of Hon’ble Prime Minister to be delivered from the ramparts of Red Fort on the historic day of Independence on 15th Auigust, 2012.

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