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7th CPC: What’s at Stake for the Army

Profession to Arms has always been considered a noble profession as most of the young men, and now women as well, volunteer to serve their country in a selfless manner. The single major factor that sets them apart from other professions is the ‘Oath of Honour’ wherein they pledge to sacrifice their life for the nation they commit to serve.

The first line of the Chetwode Motto ‘The Safety, Honour and Welfare of your country comes first, always and every time’ is ingrained in every officer as he takes the Final Step from the hallowed portals of the training academies. Similarly, every soldier stepping out after completing his gruelling training commits upon himself to protect the honour ofthe nation at all costs. All officers and men therefore swear an oath to sacrifice their lives to fulfill the task, should the situation demand.

Herein lies the importance of ‘Honour’ which a soldier is committing to protect at all costs. In return  a soldier expects that his ‘honour’ and ‘dignity’ too would be protected and he would be precluded  from thinking about the uncertainties that come to pass in day to day life while he commits himself to serve in inhospitable and unfriendly situations far away from his own near and dear ones.

The nation owes to the soldiers not only a decent standard of living by looking after their physiological and financial necessities but also a compassion and acknowledgement of the hardships faced by them working in a hostile environment day in and day out.

One of the most important factors that propel a soldier to perform is the standing that the nation and society grants him by placing him at a pedestal which enhances his élan and status amongst his peers in the civil society prior to joining the armed forces.

Unfortunately on this score our record as a nation has not been too encouraging. The pride of wearing a uniform has withered away with time as successive governments have failed to address this important facet of Soldiering allowing the situation to stagnate. Multiple factors have contributed to the present state of affairs, prominent among them are:-

  • Declining status in comparison to bureaucracy in Order of Precedence.
  • Comparing soldiers with the lowest rung of civil counterparts and equating them with unskilled workers. Similar disparities in relation to JCO rank have also impacted their status.
  • Cumulative effect of non resolution of anomalies passed down through successive Pay Commissions.
  • Non implementation of the recommendations of the Kargil Review Committee and Group of Ministers on National Security Reforms to integrate MoD.
  • Inability of Ministry of Defence, totally staffed by civilian bureaucracy, to function in harmony with services due to lack of in depth knowledge relating to day to day affairs of the armed forces.
  • Exponential expansion of civilian defence bureaucracy which has anointed all powers with itself without responsibility,seriously impacting day to day functioning of services.The uncontrolled growth in their hierarchy through creation of higher posts to subsume time bound promotions has also impacted the smooth functioning of services and created friction. This has specially impacted in areas where traditionally the system had functioned smoothly until the Sixth Pay Commission warped the rank equations based on criteria of Non Functional Upgrade, enhancing the pay band of civilian bureaucrats and denying the same to services.
  • Failure to bridge growing Civil Military divide due to increasing disparity in rank and status. This singular factor has been the major reason for lack of trust between civil and military hierarchies leading to deteriorating state of affairs in defence planning, which primarily results from the bureaucratic urge to control armed forces in the name of political control.

The armed forces had reposed their faith in the 7th Pay Central Pay Commission (7th CPC) to correct the anomalies of earlier Pay Commissions and restore the dignity and honour of services by addressing the issues, especially those relating to status and rank & pay.In turn the recommendations of the 7th CPC came quite as a rude shock to the services. The Report has not only failed to address any of the major anomalies, which it was fully aware of, but has  generated a sense of disbelief amongst rank and file. The Pay Commission has compared grant of pay with civil bureaucracy. This has again put the defence services at a disadvantage as comparatively the civil services move ahead much faster in hierarchy due to short span of time required to reach middle and higher levels of comparative ranks whereas services stagnate after middle ranks. While granting allowances the Commission has ignored the similarities to deny comparable allowances to defence services personnel. A fixed risk allowance matrix has been recommended for defence services while allowances for civil services the allowanceshave been fixed as a percentage of their basic pay which works out to be substantially higher.The same is the case for determining disability benefits post retirement. Resultantly, armed forces personnel will be at a financial disadvantage as this will widen the financial disparity and impinge on the dignity and honour of the soldier due to denial of his rightful dues.

The service headquarters took up the matter with Raksha Mantri who promised a fair resolution of the issues but the final outcome of the 7th CPC Report as approved by the union cabinet did not address major issues raised by the services.

The defence services have been at the fore front upholding the safety and honour of the nation.The lowering of their status and corresponding financial compensation impacts their dignity. The issue needs serious introspection to ensure a fair package for their services. 

Brig N K Bhatia,SM(Retd) was the Chief Instructor of Military Intelligence School. Views expresssed are personal.

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Brig NK Bhatia

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