Degradation of the Armed Forces: Who does it? And Why?
When we were in school two and half plus decades back, we were told then that a Second Lieutenant (2Lt) in the Army was equal to an IAS officer. When the 4th Central Pay Commission (CPC) was announced, I was probably training at the National Defence Academy. Even after commissioning, none of us knew the implications of 4th CPC or for that matter 5th CPC till many many years later.
In the Army, discussing of Pay (Money), Women and Politics are forbidden. It had good reasons too. These were the three things that could easily create a divide within the forces. We in the Forces, had to be strong and united so that nothing distracts us from our aim when we fight the enemy, and we shall fight till we die – The Last Man – Last Bullet.
Most of us therefore grew up ignorant and isolated to the happenings in the corridors of power. We trusted our seniors at the Army/ Navy/Air Force HQ or the Services HQ and believed the Govt would look after the Armed Forces. After all we were the only Govt Arm that is directly placed under the command of the President of India. How wrong we were!
In those days, the pay was meager. Having been brought up in an environment where there was paucity of equipment, vehicles, ammunition, and austerity measures etc., a life filled with shortages was taken as normal. We were happy with food on the table, kids in school and a roof over our heads. The lower pay was taken in our stride too.
4th & 5th CPC. India’s liberalisation, economic growth and progress in communications gave us the much needed information that showed us that Armed Forces have been short changed right from 1973. It is only many years later when Maj Dhanapalan took the Govt to court over the “Rank Pay” case we realised that introduction of Rank Pay in 4th CPC, was cunningly done which reduced the rank pay from the Basic pay, and it reduced the status of the Armed Force Officers with respect to the Police and other civilian officers of the same grade. The 5th CPC did not bring in any major changes.
6th CPC. The 6th CPC increased everyone’s salary, but quietly degraded the Armed Forces by fixing comparatively lower Grade Pays as compared to the rest. The Grade Pay became symbol of status equivalence amongst Central Govt employees. A civilian Director who was earlier in lower pay scales than a Lt Colonel, was given the higher Grade Pay equivalent to a Colonel. In fact Armed Forces officers who worked alongside civilians in organisations like DRDO, Service HQ, MES, DGQA etc., suddenly found themselves demoted. In addition, the complete bureaucracy, despite having much faster promotions, awarded themselves the benefit of still higher pay by means of Non Functional Upgradation (NFU), yet kept the military out of it partly due to poorly informed senior lot in the Armed Forces itself.
7th CPC. The 7th CPC further deteriorated things as bureaucrats transited to comparative higher Pay Levels by including NFU to their pay scales, besides downgrading the allowances of military personnel, especially with respect to Disability Pensions.
There are a whole lot of issues like OROP, NFU that Armed forces have been affected since 1973. You must have noticed old veterans sitting in Jantar Mantar for over 500 days now asking for their dues. The Govt has only given a partial OROP and the anomalies are being looked into by a One Man committee which submitted a report in the last week of Oct 2016.
Recently while the Nation was rejoicing on the success of the Surgical Strikes, a letter from Ministry of Defence (MoD) on 18 Oct 16, further gave a body blow lowering the status of officers as compared to their civilian counter parts. That got me thinking. Why and who is responsible? Let us find out.
Degradation. Who is Responsible? In the Armed Forces HQ, a Civil Services Officers cadre was introduced in 1968 at Group B level to help man bureaucratic posts in the lower and middle levels. They provided the required continuity because Armed Forces Officers were posted out every 2-3 years. The issue arose when the civilian officers realising that the military officers serve only for short tenures and have NO SAY in decision making in Ministry of Defence (MoD) started positioning themselves in key posts and ensured their cadre progression by disproportionately increasing the higher posts on their own, without involving the three military Services HQ in the process.
On promotion from Group B post by a Civilian Officer, the normal equation of ranks initially were as given in the table:-
|Serial No||Armed Forces Officers||AFHQ Civilian officers|
|Rank||Service in Years||Designation||Service in Years|
|1.||Lt/ Capt||2-3||Deputy Director||On promotion to Gp A|
However slowly the AFHQ Civilian officers started equating Deputy Director with a Major and Jt Director with Lt Colonel, by issuing letters through their own officers posted in the office of Chief Administrative Officer (CAO). The CAO further promoted themselves twice up the chain by issuing letter on 18 October 2016 wherein it sought to equate Jt Director with a Colonel, Director with Brigadier and Principal Director with a Major General (who is supposedly equal to a Joint Secretary).
These acts were in gross violation of the Warrant of Precedence (WoP) issued by Presidents Secretariat. The applicability of WoP for Brigs and below has been clarified by Ministry of Home Affairs in their letter dated 26 Dec 1966 and again in 14 August 2007 as as shown below
|Serial No||Defence Rank||Civilian Equivalent|
|1.||Lt Colonels||Supdt Engineers/ IAS of 18 years’ service|
|2.||Colonels||Chief Engineers/ IAS of 23 years’ service|
The MHA in their letter dated 24 Jul 2007 have also confirmed that no other Govt document exists for establishing equivalence between Defence Forces officers and civil or para-military officers.
Action by Forces. Post 6th CPC, the issue lower Grade Pays to Defence personnel was brought to the forefront by the Services. A Group of Ministers set up through Prime Minister’s Office Note of 27 Sep 2008, headed by the present President Shri Pranab Mukherjee, clearly stated that Lt Colonels were placed higher than Deputy Secretary/ Joint Director. Various court judgement from Supreme Court and Central Administrative Tribunal, too are very clear on the status of Lt Colonels being equivalent to Supdt Engineer/ Director.
Despite all these clear policies, the Babu’s of the MoD issued that letter on 18 Oct 2016, lowering the status. They even had the temerity to issue press statement that the letter was justified as it was an internal arrangement. It also stated that the letter had the approval of the Defence Minister. This clearly shows that the Defence Minister was misled, which is why he has now referred the issue to an anomalies committee. A similar case has snowballed in the Military Engineering Service where the civilian Engineers have placed themselves above the serving military officers. A clear case of the Tail wagging the Dog.
So, How does it happen? One is left wondering as to how such things could happen repeatedly. It is a combination of various factors, the constant posting in /out of Officers in the Service HQ with no continuity, vested interests overriding the decision making process, Civilian Officers Association mounting pressure on the political bosses etc. No military personnel are presently being involved in decision making in the MoD, despite recommendations by numerous committees. Politicians depend heavily on the bureaucrats who are doing the damage quietly. This is adequately amplified in an article in TOI by Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (Retd).
Is it about money? No! For people in the Armed Forces it is not about money. If it was, then many would have joined the corporate world where there were lucrative pay packages. Then what is it? It is about honour/ izzat. That is where it hurts most when you see a civilian officer much lower in service being upgraded just because they have an association and can push their way through the political bosses while the Armed Force guy, being politically neutral, suffers without any association or a group that he could join.
What should be Done? It is high time, the decision making process in MoD is set right wherein the Chiefs and the Defence Minister should rectify the anomalies to stop this degradation. This would give the much needed morale boost. A soldier should never be short changed. Because if he returns the favour in kind, then the borders would be unguarded. The enemy within has to be identified and stopped before they damage the Armed Forces further.
The Armed Forces as a profession has to be made more attractive. Status, Pay and Perks are the issues that should be set right. After all Armed Forces are the only Govt service which, when demanded, are ready to sacrifice their own Life.
I pray that good sense prevails to Support the Soldier and Give him his rightful place and dues.
Do stand with them!