Despite the disaster that the Seventh Central Pay Commission recommendation may be for the Armed Forces and national security, Justice Mathur, the Chairman, despite opposition from the other members, has been more than generous on one account. He has gone on to recommend that the Non-Functional Financial Upgradation (NFFU), applicable to the Organised Group ‘A’ Services, should be continued because it has ‘existed for the last 10 years’. This, I suppose, is as good a reason as any, though why he has not applied the same yardstick while recommending that free rations for the military be done away is anybody’s guess. He out did himself by going further and recommending that NFFU be “extended to all officers in the CAPFs, Indian Coast Guard and the Defence forces” to “ameliorate the difficulties faced by the officers owing to stagnation at various levels”.
Off course, it well may be that the recent decision of the Delhi High Court on the host of writ petitions filed by Mr. G J Singh and others, which impugned the decision of the Government not to grant NFFU to officers of the CAPF on the specious grounds that they cannot be considered an organised service, may have also been considered. It stands to reason that if the BSF and Coast Guard our to be given such benefit, the Armed Forces cannot be left out. The other members have dissented to the extent that NFFU should be withdrawn from the Organised Group ‘A’ Services as also not be given to officers of the Defence Forces.
While governments over the past three decades, including the present one, have refused to honour the promise of One Rank One Pension to our Military Veterans on the specious grounds of financial probity, the 6th Central Pay Commission and the Committee of Secretaries, headed by the Cabinet Secretary, had little hesitation in recommending NFFU for the All India and Group ‘A’ Services.The proposition, obviously conceived by bureaucrats, involved two simple tweaks to government rules. Firstly, the grant of a higher pay scale on nonfunctional (NFFU) basis to the All India and Organised Group ‘A’ Services till SAG and HAG level after a gap of two years compared to an IAS officer of the same batch who is posted at the Centre at the SAG or HAG level. This promotion was independent of organisational requirements, availability of vacancies and level of responsibility or span of control of a post. It was completely without precedent anywhere in the world, in either government or corporate governance.
Secondly, it created a new pay grade of HAG+ which along with the Apex Grade become, for all purposes, time scale, thereby ensuring benefits of OROP for life. Off course, by introducing HAG+ the bureaucracy ensures only Army Commanders and equivalent within the Armed Forces fall within its ambit while most other Lt. Generals and their equivalent are left out. Simultaneously large scale upgradation of ranks to HAG+ within the All India and Organised Group ‘A’ Services ensures that the vast majority now retire at the highest scale. Certainly Christmas came early for the civil servants in 2009, when orders for its implementation were passed.
This scandalous proposal was supposedly introduced in order to address the wide disparity in career progression across different Organised Group ‘A’ Services (Central Services) and to bring about some parity between them and the IAS. It was accepted by the Manmohan Singh government despite its “wide-ranging financial, organisational and governance implications” as the 7th CPC puts it, especially with regard to inter-se status between various services and their military counterparts, which had been sacrosanct till then since Independence. The irony of it was that the Armed Forces, the worst affected because of their pyramidal structure, were kept out. As was bound to happen it had a particularly disastrous impact on the “Armed Forces morale, status, cohesion, and national security”, to quote the 7th CPC, which off course was blithely ignored by Mr. A.K. Antony, the long serving former Defence Minister, and his former cabinet colleagues.
Now that Justice Mathur has attempted to give the same benefits to those left out, along with the sacrilege of recommending the doing away with the two year advantage enjoyed by the IAS, objections from the IAS representative on the Commission was not unexpected. Vivek Rae, the IAS member, recommends that NFFU be done away with on grounds that “To strive for uniform career progression across such a diverse set of services and cadres, with widely varying functions, violates fundamental management principles relating to organisational structures. Such a dispensation, with automatic career progression till HAG level, completely buries the concept of merit based career progression and undermines considerations of efficiency and accountability. In effect, the present policy dispensation converts already weak organisational pyramids in Organised Group ‘A’ Services into broad cylinders, when in fact, considerations of efficiency and accountability require that the existing cylinders be converted into steeper pyramids.”
Mr. Rathin Roy, the other Member, while agreeing with Mr. Rae, differs on his reasons and points out that the “broad parity was disturbed by granting NFU to IPS, IFoS and Organised Group ‘A’ Services after the VI CPC report, without a similar dispensation being extended to the Defence Forces. Consequently, the Defence Forces officers, who are in no way lower in status or responsibility than Group ‘A’ Central Services, though not classified as such, have fallen steeply behind IPS/IFoS and 49 Organised Group ‘A’ Services.” He cites another obvious fact that the pyramidal structure of the Armed Forces cannot be disturbed and therefore since they cannot be given this benefit, it must be done away in totality.
It should come as no surprise that neither Mr. Manmohan Singh’s Cabinet nor the Empowered Committee of Secretaries under Mr. K.M. Chandrasekhar, then Cabinet Secretary, could either visualise or comprehend the implications of their actions, a decade ago. As it did in other such matters, a thoroughly corrupt government probably bought off the bureaucracy to do its bidding. If merit has to be the over-riding facet of our governance structures, then overwhelming evidence suggests that NFFU must be completely done away with in toto along with the grade of HAG+. Finally, it is time that issues regarding compensation and service conditions are taken out of the hands of amateurs and those with vested interests. We need to do away with this once in a decade “tamasha” of a Pay Commission and instead establish a permanent independent specialised statutory “Pay and Anomalies” Commission to deal with compensation for our civil servants and legislators.
(The writer is a Military Veteran and Consultant with the Observer Research Foundation)