Military & Aerospace

Military Service Pay
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Issue Vol 22.4 Oct-Dec2007 | Date : 24 Nov , 2010

The sixth pay commission is now about midway in their task of preparing their recommendations for the revision of wages of more than 33 lakh central government employees, including the personnel of the defence forces.

The latter constitute the biggest chunk of employees, at nearly 40 per cent, yet they have no representation in the commission. This is despite a long standing demand of the defence forces for military representation in the commission and its reiteration at the highest military levels before the commission was appointed.

On an average, the number of army personnel killed in active operations is nearly 415 annually; a very high figure indeed, when there is no war being waged.

This not only indicates the lack of concern of the government for the welfare of the defence forces, but also the disdain with which legitimate demands of the military are treated, even when they are articulated at the highest military levels.

This article is meant to focus on the justified demands of the defence forces, with the hope that these would be taken note of, both by the pay commission as well as the government. Although the expectations of the defence forces are in many spheres, I will confine myself to discussing only a few inter-related but major issues, which I feel form the core of the expectations of the defence forces.

Let me start with the contentious issue of ‘relativities’, which rankles everyone in the defence forces. Despite the absolutely different conditions of service of the defence forces and no similarity with their civilian counterparts, the defence forces have always been clubbed with civilians by all past pay commissions. Despite repeatedly raising the issue, the sixth pay commission is also mandated to follow this oft-travelled path! Military life bears no comparison to any other category of government employees. Yet, each successive pay commission has made comparisons artificially.

In the bargain, defence personnel have suffered. The dissatisfaction is clearly reflected in the huge shortages in the officer’s cadre, as the current emoluments are not at all attractive to young aspirants. As far as personnel below officer rank (PBOR) are concerned, although there are no shortages, more and more personnel are refusing promotions as they want to leave as soon as they earn their pension. In addition, the services no longer get the best and the brightest, both in the officers ranks, as well as the PBOR. The adverse effect on the professionalism and efficiency of the defence forces and as a consequence on the security of the nation needs no elaboration.

Most advanced countries recognize that military life bears no comparison to any other employment. Accordingly, suitable compensation and enhanced emoluments are built-in while fixing the pay and allowances of the military. Table I shows details of special provisions made for the defence forces by a cross-section of countries the world over.

The defence forces had projected the need for an ‘X’ Factor, on the lines of the UK military, for their pay and allowance in earlier pay commissions, but it was not considered. It is hoped that this lacuna will be set right in the recommendations of the sixth pay commission. The defence forces are believed to have projected it as ‘military service pay’. This is the second important issue that needs to be understood; an elaboration is being attempted in the succeeding paragraphs.

 Despite the absolutely different conditions of service of the defence forces and no similarity with their civilian counterparts, the defence forces have always been clubbed with civilians by all past pay commissions.

The defence forces are unique as they view service in the different wings of the military as a commitment, not a job. They are also aware that they are the last bastion of hope and hence have neither the liberty nor the luxury to fail. Whether in peace stations or in field areas, a soldier is ready twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. There are no defined working hours for them. In addition, they are the only citizens of the nation who have restrictions on their fundamental rights.

Two other aspects need to be highlighted here. Firstly, the defence forces are constantly and continuously exposed to hazardous situations and there is always a threat to their lives and limbs. On an average, the number of army personnel killed in active operations is nearly 415 annually; a very high figure indeed, when there is no war being waged. Secondly, throughout their careers, they have to maintain stringent physical standards. This is as much applicable to a jawan as to those holding the highest ranks in the service. On account of the stringent physical standards the services demand, a large number of personnel are invalidated out on medical grounds; the average is over 5000 personnel every year. Here again, there are no comparisons with any other service, including the central police forces.

There are many drawbacks in family related and professional aspects as well. Military personnel have regular transfers and consequently frequent dislocations to family life, children’s education, as well as additional expenditure. Over half the service of defence personnel, particularly those from the army, is spent in field areas, where families are not permitted, resulting in long separation of soldiers and officers from their wives, children, parents and other kin. Even in peace stations, family life is disrupted on account of lack of married accommodation.

The Indian Army has heavy commitments in counter insurgency and counter terrorism operations. Average length of service of soldiers in such operations amounts to 10.87 years, when compared to soldiers of most Western nations, where it is not more than one year.

Statistically, the average separations endured during their army careers work out to nearly 78% for jawans and nearly 68% for officers. Another way of putting it is that army personnel suffer separation of nearly 18 years in a career span of 24 years. An extremely turbulent life by any standards! It is a miracle that our officers and soldiers, as well as their families ‘soldier on’ regardless. What is worse is that there is no monetary compensation for this dismal quality of life.

The impact of separation, non-participation in social and family events and inadequate upbringing of children in their formative years, leading to psychological problems, hardly needs any elaboration. Well documented data relating to stress caused by separation and a low quality of life makes startling reading indeed.

The Indian Army has heavy commitments in counter insurgency and counter terrorism operations. Average length of service of soldiers in such operations amounts to 10.87 years, when compared to soldiers of most Western nations, where it is not more than one year. Even those who volunteer for additional duties in some western countries, do so for a maximum of two to three years throughout their career.

A look at how military personnel meet their personal responsibilities is revealing. Although personal responsibilities of both military and civilian personnel are similar, but unlike the civilians, the bulk of military personnel have to retire when their responsibilities relating to their children, as well as aging parents are at their peak. Our PBOR generally retire between the ages of 35 and 40 years and the bulk of officers around 50 years of age, while their civilian counterparts continue to serve, get extra emoluments and promotions and retire at the age of 60 years. Thereafter, because of their longer service, they also earn higher pensionary benefits. Thus, defence forces personnel lose out both in pay as well as pension.

Let us briefly focus on the career prospects of defence personnel. All defence personnel undergo a most rigorous selection process, in an organisation that is so pyramidal that large numbers keep falling out at every rank. The reason is not that they are professionally inadequate, or are found wanting in personal qualities, but because of the acutely declining number of vacancies as they progress in their careers. The result, for a very large number of personnel is bleak in career prospects.

Authorised_ranksThe pyramidal structure of the army can be gauged from Table II. From a total cadre of 46,615 officers, only 4239 make it to the rank of colonel, i.e., a mere 10 per cent. For the next rank, only 20 per cent are selected. Thereafter too, the attrition rate is extremely high. Out of a total of 866 brigadiers, as many as 650 are weeded out. Such statistics bear no comparison to persons serving is any other service, government or private. This state of affairs continues at each successive rank, till only one out of 67 lieutenant generals attains the rank of General. Need one convert it into a percentage!?!

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi

The author is a former Vice Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS).

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12 thoughts on “Military Service Pay

  1. इस लेख में जेसीओ एंड ओ आर की जगह पी बी ओ आर लिखना अदालत की तोहीन है । पी बी ओ आर शब्द जेसीओ रैंक की अवहेलना और कोर्ट के आदेश की अवमानना है। मैं इन लेफ्टिनेंट जनरल साहब कि इस अज्ञानता के लिए निंदा करता हूं।

  2. You, the officer cadre only represent your problems in front of Govt. Anybody who thinks rationally can understand that MSP should be equal to all ranks. But officers ,by leveraging the hardships of ordinary soldiers, wants to bargain more and more from the govt. They want equal pay as an IAS officer. Anybody who knows about the responsibilities of both cadres knows that the demand is totally absurd and therefore should not be accepted by the govt .

  3. It is a fact that the officer is still behave like the separate identity as it was the pre independence era of British officers. When they open the discussion they project only the problems pertain to them and completely forget their other ranks. They never want to accept Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) as junior officers and still consider an personnels below officer rank(PBOR) Why this sharp detachment. JCOs do the officers duty during the absence of the officers in the unit area. They take the complete command and control of the unit while the officers are out to their residential are normally far away from the barracks. The officer need to fight for the Jawaans first and then fight for their own benefits. Never forget the pyramid is built on ORs. A weak base may collapse if it is not properly kept and maintained so that they can serve the country without any tension in their mind. Never compare a soldier with civilians. apple remain as apple and orange as orange and comparing apple with orange is not a good idea. If the officer project their problem please project the problem of you subordinate first. Officers problem will be solved automatically.

  4. this time i was thinking that stupid type calculation of MSP will be resolve in this pay commission as it isfull of hardship and harrased life for PBORs more compare to officers but no it seems things are being pick up from surface not from reality. even nursing staff is getting more MSP than a soldier what kind of joke is going on man, i m not able to understand. MSP should be all for every militery man no matter officer or soldier. how can a soldier and officer can be differentiate in this regard. if government dont have enough money to give everybody then dont give 10000 or 12000 . but please dont divide or create diparity more in soldiers, if u have 2000 then keep it 2000 but keep it same for everybody.

  5. Fact remains that nobody wants to write about the real problems.The real problem with defense forces is that the officers themselves are acting selfishly.
    1.There is no problem related to salary,promotion etc for officers cadre but it will always be projected as if they are getting nothing.
    2.Officers cadre should not be a part of OROP as they are guaranteed job till retirement.When you retire earlier its your choice.
    3.There is never a dearth of talented people who wants to join def. forces,it is falsely projected.Reality is that there are more officers than is required.
    4.It is difficult to understand what is the use of short service commission.

    Will it ever be explained
    1.Why a soldier is used as a personal servant of commissioned officer?
    2.Why a soldier is not getting equal MSP despite the fact that it was meant for PBORs only?
    3.Why a soldier is not getting time based promotions as an officer gets?
    4.Why a soldiers salary is not increased in the same proportion as that of officers cadre?
    5.Why a soldier is stopped from acquiring higher education on the name of service exigency?
    6.Why a soldiers pension proportion is reduced in subsequent pay panels as it is a soldier who is discharged when his services are no longer required(An officer is never discharged in this manner at the age of say 34 yrs or afterwards)?

    An officer in defense force is practically living like a king.The apathy of a soldier is being used by the officers cadre in various forums for their advantage and betterment.All this despite the so called OLQs present in them.Anyone who is offended may please go through the code of ethics(for ex: Air Warriors Code) and introspect.

  6. commission offrs think only abt them they never represent airmen sailorsand jawans .why are they not asking 4 equil msp 4 men and offrs where as da risk involve is same . why they want to stop men going into higher civil job bcoz they they don’t want 2 see a men sitting at higher post.never they shouldn’t b allowed 2 represent in pay commission



    COMMISSIONED OFFICER MUST BE THE LAST PERSON ON THIS EARTH WHO CAN SAY TRUTH IN FAVOUR OF SAILORS / JAWANS / AIRMEN 0.000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001 %



    • Shame on such officers for harboring such thoughts. Just because they became officer, the PBOR should be non-represented – This cannot be tolerated. Our Jawans deserve the best. I saw on youtube that mostly US personnel deployed to Middle-east theater also for only 6 mths – 1 year not like out jawans who soldier on for 3-4 years in Siachen. This has to do with political will. As per another article on this forum by Dr. Amarjit Singh, Pakistan should be invaded and taken over permanently for long-lasting peace of Indian subcontinent, no matter how much the collateral. USA should be made party to this before hand to dismantle its nukes first. Or else, it will keep bleeding India forever. Then, that money should be used to build a bigger India without so much battle and war. Only restraining activities of China will be remaining then. think over it.

    • U r right 10000000000000000000000000000000000% dear in armed forces officers life like heaven & pbors like hell mostly pbors wants to leave the force immediate but due to existing policy of services they r not able to do. But how about officer not more than 5% wants to leave the armed force. Why all officer now that well. There no rule for officer all for pbor.

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