Armed forces finally get their own pay panel (Lead)

January 1st, 2009 - 7:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew Delhi, Jan 1 (IANS) Giving in to the armed forces’ clamour for a separate pay commission, the government has agreed to delink the pay revision of defence personnel from the civilian employees - when the exercise is undertaken some five years hence, a senior official said Thursday. However, a formal notification on this is yet to be issued.

While agreeing to give more pay to lieutenant-colonels in the Indian Army and their equivalents in the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force, the Prime Minister’s Office Wednesday sent a letter to the cabinet secretary informing him about the decision on a separate pay commission.

“The government has agreed that in future, pay revision of the armed forces should be de-linked from that of civilians. A separate board or commission will be set up for pay revision of the armed forces,” the official told IANS.

The government has also decided that lieutenant-colonels deployed on “combat or ready-to-combat” duties in their parent service may be placed in pay band four (Rs.37,400-67,000) - one step higher than the Sixth Pay Commission recommended in its report last year.

“Lieutenant-colonels on deputation will get the scale when they return to their parent service,” the official said.

The armed forces had sought upgradation of the lieutenant-colonels - nearly 12,000 in number - to the higher pay band in the interest of synergy between the armed forces, the paramilitary forces and the civilian bureaucracy. Lieutenant-colonels will now be senior to deputy secretaries but junior to directors to the government.

However, the armed forces have greeted the decision with skepticism.

“The Service headquarters are yet to receive any formal information of the decision. Moreover, the terms ‘combat’ and ‘ready-to-combat’ have yet to be defined,” a senior army officer said, requesting not to be named.

“Lieutenant-colonels are being posted to field and peace areas on a rotation basis. So it is not clear whether the personnel posted in peace areas will receive the benefits or not,” the officer added.

The government has also decided to set up a high-powered committee to resolve issues relating to command and control functions and the status of the armed forces vis-à-vis the paramilitary and civilian government employees, the defence official added.

With this the government has accepted two of the “core issues” of the armed forces, including upgrading of the lieutenant-colonels to a higher pay band and enhancing of pension to personnel below officer rank (PBOR).

However, the PMO letter is silent on one other issue: including officers of the rank of lieutenant-general and equivalent in the Higher Administrative Grade (HAG) Plus category that has been created in all government departments except the armed forces.

Directors-general of police, whose rank is equivalent to that of a lieutenant-general, have been placed in the HAG Plus category.

The report of the Sixth Pay Commission, headed by Justice (retd) B.N. Srikrishna, was submitted to then finance minister P. Chidambaram March 24. Chidambaram is now the home minister, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh holds the finance portfolio.

The Six Pay Commission report led to protests from both civilian and defence personnel, with the Service chiefs submitting a joint memorandum and making a presentation to Defence Minister A.K. Antony.

Following this, the government appointed a committee under Cabinet Secretary K. Chandrashekhar to study the various demands for financial corrections. The PMO letter is based on the recommendations of this committee.

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