In a move that will be watched with great interest within the armed forces and outside, the top brass of a pay panel will Friday meet India's military chiefs who are dissatisfied with its recommendations on salary hikes.
"The meeting is being held at the instance of the Sixth Pay Commission. Some of its members will visit (the) South Block (defence headquarters) to meet the Service chiefs," an official said Thursday.
"The meeting is meant to assuage the feeling among the armed forces that they have received a raw deal from the pay commission," the official added.
The meeting comes after the Service chiefs on April 1 submitted a memorandum to Defence Minister AK Antony complaining of being short changed in the pay panel's recommendations. The chiefs contended that more than the officers, the soldiers deserved to be better compensated.
With the pay panel's report covering 1.2 million armed forces personnel and another three million civilian employees, the South Block meeting will serve to indicate whether the commission is open to amendments, given the widespread demand for this from several quarters.
Led by the Indian Navy chief, Admiral Sureesh Mehta, who is chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, the Indian Army chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor and the Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major met Antony in his South Block office April 1.
This was the second such meeting in a week, with the Service chiefs having met the minister March 27 - three days after the commission presented its report.
"The Service chiefs emphasised that PBORs (personnel below officer rank) had been given a raw deal and deserved a better compensation package," an official said after the meeting.
"The defence ministry will now examine the memorandum and take it up with the Anomalies Committee of the finance ministry," the official added.
The pay commission, headed by former Supreme Court Justice BN Srikrishna, has recommended a 40 per cent across-the-board pay hike for armed forces personnel, doubling their allowances and military service pay (MSP) for officers up to the rank of brigadier and equivalent, as also for PBORs.
The Service chiefs' petition, sources said, focuses on four key areas.
Apart from pushing the case for PBORs, it points out that after taking into account taxes and other deductions, the wage hike in real terms would amount to only 20 per cent.
Then, the demand for parity of armed forces personnel with civilian employees has not been addressed, the memorandum says.
It also expresses unhappiness with the military service pay that has been recommended in a bid to reduce this disparity, the sources said.
The wage increases recommended by the pay panel could see the top generals getting as much as Rs.90,000 a month.
The recommendations translate into a take-home package - before tax - of Rs 25,760 for officers at the entry level of lieutenants and equivalent and rising to a maximum of Rs 65,090 for lieutenant generals and their equivalents.
The vice chiefs of the three Services and army commanders and equivalents - also three-star officers - will get a fixed salary of Rs 80,000 per month.
In the case of PBORs, the commission has recommended that at the entry level, sepoys (privates) and their equivalents receive a minimum of Rs 7,860, rising to a maximum of Rs 40,600 for subedar majors and their equivalents.
The commission has also recommended military service pay of Rs 6,000 for officers up to the level of brigadier and equivalent and of Rs 1,000 for PBORs.
Antony has been guarded in his reaction to the commission's report.
"I will not comment now. Let me first study the report and discuss it with all concerned. I will react after that," Antony has said.
The recommendations will entail additional annual expenditure of Rs 63.86 billion ($1.5 billion) in the defence sector, the commission said in its report. It also said the exchequer would stand to save Rs 18 billion if its other recommendations are implemented.
The report will now go to the cabinet for its consideration.