LiveFist Column: Preamble, Gamble, Scramble

Sharad Y Savur (Retd)
Former AOC-in-C

Let’s start with the Preamble. Many of us have perused the following and most of the Armed Forces (serving, retired, wise, foolish, knowledgeable and ignorant) have got it engraved in their hearts and minds after the Committee of Secretaries (CoS) made a mockery of a Govt constituted 6th Central Pay Commission and a fool of the GoI. The website reads that “Government constituted the Sixth Central Pay Commission vide Resolution No. 5/2/2006-E.III (A) dated October 5, 2006”. Its Terms of Reference were:

A. To examine the principles, the date of effect thereof that should govern the structure of pay, allowances and other facilities/benefits whether in cash or in kind to the following categories of employees -- Central Government employees -– industrial and non-industrial; Personnel belonging to the All India Services; Personnel belonging to the Defence Forces; Personnel of the Union Territories; Officers and employees of the Indian Audit and Accounts Department; and Members of the regulatory bodies (excluding the RBI) set up under Acts of Parliament.

B. To transform the Central Government Organisations into modern, professional and citizen-friendly entities that is dedicated to the service of the people.

C. To work out a comprehensive pay package for the categories of Central Government employees mentioned at (A) above that is suitably linked to promoting efficiency, productivity and economy through rationalization of structures, organizations, systems and processes within the Government, with a view to leveraging economy, accountability, responsibility, transparency, assimilation of technology and discipline.

D. To harmonize the functioning of the Central Government Organisations with the demands of the emerging global economic scenario. This would also take in account, among other relevant factors, the totality of benefits available to the employees, need of rationalization and simplification, thereof, the prevailing pay structure and retirement benefits available under the Central Public Sector Undertakings, the economic conditions in the country, the need to observe fiscal prudence in the management of the economy, the resources of the Central Government and the demands thereon on account of economic and social development, defence, national security and the global economic scenario, and the impact upon the finances of the States if the recommendations are adopted by the States.

E. To examine the principles which should govern the structure of pension, death-cum-retirement gratuity, family pension and other terminal or recurring benefits having financial implications to the present and former Central Government employees appointed before January 1, 2004.

F. To make recommendations with respect to the general principles,financial parameters and conditions which should govern payment of bonus and the desirability and feasibility of introducing Productivity Linked Incentive Scheme in place of the existing ad hoc bonus scheme in various Departments and to recommend specific formulae for determining the productivity index and other related parameters.

G. To examine desirability and the need to sanction any interim relief till the time the recommendations of the Commission are made and accepted by the Government.

An Additional Terms of Reference through a subsequent Resolution No.5/2/2006-E.III.(A) dated 8th August, 2007, the terms of reference were to include the officers and employees of the Supreme Court.

Came March 2008 and the SCPC (or 6th CPC) published its recommendations. Two things happened – the 6th CPC wound up and its Secretary became the Secretary in the Min of Finance. Presumably, the Gamble.

It was known that the recommendations of the 6th CPC would be sent to the Cabinet Secretary for processing. Again two things happened – the Cab Secy, a busy man even otherwise, delegated the work to a Committee of Secretaries (CoS) and the Govt got busy ensuring its own longevity by seeking to push through the Indo-US nuclear deal, making political deals of its own. Presumably, the omnipresent Secretary in the avatar of the Secretary, Expenditure sensed her opportunity. The scene - she already knows what is in the 600 odd pages report of the 6th CPC. So, the CoS entrusts the entire work to her.

Presumably, she knew that most Secretaries have enough in their hands (no pun) and on their minds than to peruse those pages. She also must have presumed that as long as P4 ( power, pelf, prestige and position) of the IAS was enhanced, there would be no questions asked and all signatures would be appended on the dotted lines.

Presumably, the gamble is that those slighted/downgraded would either be too busy fighting the insurgents or the terrorists (on behalf of the Central Police Organisations (CPOs) or undoing the negligence of the IAS in that cutely worded expression ‘aid to civil power’ (please note the terms coined by the IAS).

Presumably but unfortunately, the CoS, even the Secretary Expenditure, forgot something important. It was only in the days of the British Raj that Commissions in the Armed Forces were sold to those who could pay or bestowed on those whom the British favoured. It was not some professional organization – trained, responsible and accountable. CoS also forgot that the soldiers, sailors and airmen today are signifiethercantly better educated than they were 50 years ago. CoS also forgot, presumably in their blinkered pursuit of power at any cost, that the Chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Force always cooperate with each other in times of war. And this was war – of principles, for fairplay, for justice.

The gamble back-fired. Now, the Scramble.

The Govt won its battle in Parliament and the PM needed to blow his trumpet. Someone might have told him that showing the victory sign to TV cameras outside Parliament House was not adequate (“Sir, more than half of India cannot and does not own a TV set”). So from the ramparts of the Red Fort, Dr Manmohan Singh announced, amongst other things, that the recommendations of the Pay Commission have been approved by the Govt.

Maybe his PS was not aware of the facts. Semantics or grammatical or factual error that remains uncorrected till date is that the Govt approved the recommendations of the CoS. Technically, the recommendations of the 6th CPC were not accepted because many were overturned by the CoS. Many out there in the ether world must be muttering to themselves – we knew that this guy was an idiot, now does he have to prove it? But today’s mountain waves in the cybersphere (that’s not Bushism) prove me right!

If the Govt wanted the amendments recommended by the CoS to be incorporated then it should have re-convened the 6th CPC and asked it to re-examine and amend the recommendations. But the 6th CPC was wound up. So the nation has something but it is a hybrid – some recommendations of the 6th CPC and the rest changes made by the CoS to benefit themselves at the cost of everyone else – IPS, CPOs, IDAS, MES, AFHQS et al.

Which brings me to two questions – how can the recommendations of a legally constituted and gazetted 6th CPC be overturned or amended by the CoS? Can you imagine the Supreme Court’s judgment being amended by prison authorities?

The Armed Forces protested, but they did not stage a coup. That had been already done by the IAS led bureaucracy when a Cabinet Secretary, a super-bureaucrat, was set up in the 1970s, (but that and other things in another blog post).

Some learned and erudite gentleman, made editorial observations that appeared to draw inspiration from these rumours. He used the example of setting up war memorials as his respect for the Armed Forces. How ironical that a living issue was compared to dead heroes! How much is being done for war widows, their children, even disabled veterans could have been a better example and even my cynical heart would have missed a beat.

In their true role as the guardians of the Sovereignty of India’s borders, seas and skies, the Armed Forces paid yet another tribute to the Father of the Nation (the supreme apostle of non-violence, non-cooperation and protestor on behalf of the oppressed) who lost his life for the Nation. The Chiefs of the Armed Forces (embodiment of violence?) took lessons from Mahatma Gandhi.

The Armed Forces Chiefs followed the chain of command and communications in expressing their opinions substantiated with proof backed by lucid and logical arguments. They informed the Raksha Mantri. He took up their case.

To believe that RM was either incompetent (as that editor made it out to be) or ignorant is to write the ridiculous. AK Antony is trusted enough to discipline errant Congressmen and women. So would he, as RM, have acquiesced to what the Chiefs were doing if they were wrong?

Temporarily blinded by their “brilliance” and bereft of that invincibility in the glare of TV cameras, the bureaucracy now scrambles to save itself in the way it knows how. It spreads rumours or inspired leaks that the Chiefs had disobeyed the Govt.

How and what did the Chiefs disobey? MoD had not released orders for implementing the recommendations of the CoS and not even the recommendations of the 6th CPC. So what were the Chiefs disobeying? Have they not read that there are sections in the Armed Forces Acts that one can represent against illegal orders? Did the IAS expect the Armed Forces to believe that the CoS recommendations are those of the 6th CPC?

Are the Central Police Organizations (CPOs) really casting their lines and fishing in troubled waters? Or is that another Nathism? The Armed Forces don’t say that the IAS got this, so give us the same. The Armed Forces say loudly, clearly “DON’T OVERTURN THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE 6th CPC AND SUPPLANT IT WITH Nathism”. Jai Hind.

(Air Marshal Savur retired in 2006 as AOC-in-C, Southern Air Command. A decorated transport pilot, Air Marshal Savur has flown several VIPs, including former PMs Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. He now lives and works near Bangalore.)

Labels: , , , , , ,