There are many commenters on this blog who assume that this blogger is running a campaign to stall a much-deserved raise for the service officers from the Sixth Pay Commission. Nothing could be farther from the truth. But there are a few facts that one can not ignore.
Amidst the hype and the hoopla, the most important thing is to maintain a sense of balance and perspective. This means tempering the “unrealistic” expectations from the pay commission. Notwithstanding the noise from the services top brass about the 4.5 times increase in salary, let us look at three objective indicators.
First and foremost is an interview by the Chairman of the Pay Commission of October 2007. The fancy expectations of Rs one lac per month can be safely discarded going by what Justice Sri Krishna states in no uncertain terms.
Q. Are government pay scales going to be made at par with private companies?
A. There is the general expectation that government pay scales be brought at par with salaries in the private sector. It will not possible to match private sector salaries. Boys coming out of school are getting salaries of over Rs one lakh per month and more. We have to look into this whole issue to see how much parity we can achieve.
Second indicator is the increase in the salaries of the President, Governors, Speaker and other constitutional functionaries. The basic salary of the Cabinet secretary, the highest paid government servant, would be at 75 to 80 percent of the President, which has been fixed at Rs one lac per month. The salary structure would accordingly move downwards from the Chief to the last trooper. This calculation leads to a figure of 2.15 to 2.25 times of the current basic salary after the pay revision. The current numbers for Basic + DP + DA are already matching that figure.
Third indicator is the Union Budget. No provisions have been made for the sixth pay commission recommendations in the budget. However, the Finance minister has spoken of the leeway available to him in the FRBM Act for his fiscal deficit — 0.5 % of GDP, i.e., around Rs 27,000 crore. This would include the pensions and the arrears as well. This amount is insufficient even to double the defence salaries and pensions, leave apart the other central government departments. The Railways have budgeted a mere Rs 5000 crore for the impact of the pay commission– 4000 crore for the salaries and 1000 crore for the pensions– for their 14.7 lakh employees. Their wage bill last year was Rs 27,145 crore, including Rs 18,985 crore on staff costs and Rs 8,160 crore on pension charges. This indicator thus hints at an even lesser figure for pay increase to that arrived at from the second indicator.
Let us not get too carried away by what one always hears from the service chiefs and the Raksha Mantri. They ran a sustained campaign to have a senior service officer as a member of the Pay Commission, but to no avail. The hype being created by the top brass in the media is actually leading to unreasonable expectations among the rank and file and will result in greater disappointments at a later stage.
Anyone is capable of these back of the envelope calculations, which do not portend a liberal grant. The only solace for the military officers could be the military service factor being counted in separately, and a major increase in the specific military allowances. The release of arrears would obfuscate the impact of lesser “actual” increase in the monthly emoluments.
Now, let me preempt certain comments. The honour, glory, duty, ungrateful nation, corporate salaries and so on, usually put forth by the service officers. That translates as– military is special, it is a tough life, everyone else is corrupt, so pay us more than the civilians. Let them remember that the military is an institution of the state and does not operate extra-constitutionally outside the domain of the state. The size of the cake is more or less fixed unless the finance minister can conjure up some magic. The government can not afford a step-motherly treatment for its civilian employees and has to distribute to everyone with an even hand. In any case, the paramilitary troopers serving in Naxal infested areas are also leading a tough life as do the foreign service professionals serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.
When the comparison is with the corporates, why not compare apples to apples. The service officers need to check out their CTCs. Or better still, they can go to the management institutes which run these six-month management programmes for service officers and take a look at the CVs of some of their colleagues for their current CTCs. Let us not forget that the outlandish corporate salaries are for the minuscule few, that too from the top engineering and management institutes. These salaries are not applicable even to a top central government service like the IAS, which has only 60 odd vacancies annually, compared to 2000 plus for the Army every year. This should place the whole thing about defence salaries in perspective, vis-a-vis corporates and other central government services.
Many suggest that a small hike in salaries would result in an exodus of service officers. It would only affect a few fence-sitters, who would have even otherwise quit a few years later. They would advance their outward movement. The bulk of the officer cadre will continue to stay. There hasn’t been any significant change in the number of applications received for premature retirement and resignations in 2006 and 2007. It seems likely that similar figures will remain irrespective of the sixth pay commission largesse.
Finally, to ward off those personal attacks on my integrity and patriotism, let me recount what George Orwell put in the suppressed preface to “Animal Farm”: “If liberty means anything, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear”.