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Saturday, April 5, 2008

Government Assures Service Chiefs

Yielding to sustained pressure from the Armed Forces, the government on Friday assured the service chiefs that it was ready to look into their genuine grievances on pay scales recommended by the Sixth Pay Commission.

Following a meeting of the three service chiefs with the members of the Sixth Pay Commission on Friday, Defence Minister AK Antony asked the Army, Navy, and the Air Force to submit a list of their anomalies which can then be discussed with the Finance Ministry.

Antony was also present at the hour-long meeting, which was attended by Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major and Vice Chiefs of Army and Navy, besides Defence Secretary Vijay Singh.

The meeting, held at Antony's insistence, was the result of two rounds of presentations made by the armed forces before the Defence Minister pointing out anomalies in the pay commission report and demanding more salaries for soldiers and increase in allowances.

At the meeting, Air Chief Marshal Major, speaking on behalf of all three wings of armed forces, made a strong plea for increasing the special pay for soldiers below officer ranks to Rs 3,000 from Rs 1,000 as recommended by the pay commission.

Pay commission officials said the ‘‘existing edge’’ of armed forces personnel over their civilian counterparts had ‘‘not only been maintained, but also suitably enhanced’’. The concept of ‘‘military service pay’’ (MSP), under which Rs 6,000 per month will be given to officers up to Brigadiers and Rs 1,000 to jawans, NCOs and JCOs, for instance, will help in enhancing the edge. In fact, said the commission officials, 61% of the expenditure of the new recommendations will accrue to armed forces, which constitute 40% of the total number of central government employees, apart from the Railways.

Nonsense, say the armed forces. ‘‘We are not looking for an ‘edge’ over our civilian counterparts. We want compensation for the hardships of our service lives. Moreover, there should be parity of pay for the length of service between IAS and armed forces officers,’’ said an officer.

Added another, ‘‘We owe it to the soldiers we command that they be given at least Rs 3,000 as MSP. It’s actually unfair that officers will get Rs 6,000, while all the other ranks will get only Rs 1,000. The MSP should be graded.’’

Overall, the armed forces want at least a 40% hike over what has been proposed by the pay commission to ‘‘attract and retain talent’’ in their fold.

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