Armed forces question order on pay anomaly


New Delhi : The pay woes of the men in uniform continue, with the armed forces questioning a government order depriving army lieutenant colonels and their navy and air force equivalents on deputation to the paramilitary forces of a higher pay scale they would have received had they stayed back.

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In its Dec 31, 2008 order, the government elevated lieutenant colonels to the pay band-4 created by the Sixth Pay Commission, at the same time saying that the scale will not be applicable to officers sent on deputation.

This had created a “man management problem”, says a Jan 14 letter from Vice Admiral D.K. Dewan, chairman of the Principal Personnel Officers Committee, to the defence ministry.

“Due to the government order, in one stroke, vacancies (at the lieutenant colonel and equivalents) available on deputation have become unavailable to the services. Retaining such officers in (parent) units will lead to man management problems and thus reduce their combat worthiness,” the letter adds.

Effectively, what the letter means that only officers of the rank of captain, major and colonel will now be sent on deputation.

Lieutenant colonels and their equivalents, who form the largest percentage of the officer cadre in the armed forces officers, spend from 13 to 26 years in service. Hence, posting them on deputation is an inescapable necessity, the letter says.

The letter says denying pay band-4 to lieutenant colonels on deputation will have “long term adverse implications on the cadre management of the services and combat worthiness of the units”.

Currently, nearly 2,100 lieutenant colonels and their equivalent ranks are on deputation. The armed forces already have a shortage of majors and colonels and their equivalents are needed to man key operational appointments.

The government, in its Dec 31, 2008 order, said that lieutenant colonels holding “combat or ready-to-combat jobs” in their parent service would be placed in pay band-4 (Rs.37,400-67,000) – one step higher than the Sixth Pay Commission had recommended in its report submitted in 2007.

Dewan’s letter questions the concept of “combat ready” or “ready-to-combat” jobs.

“Even ships, units and establishments located in peace stations are always in operational readiness. In an era of asymmetrical warfare, this aspect becomes more relevant as the recent Mumbai terror attacks have proved, when units of the army, navy and air force were pressed into action at the shortest notice possible,” the letter points out.

There had been considerably heartburn in the armed forces after the pay commission submitted its report over what was perceived as the downgrading of uniformed personnel vis-a-vis civilian government employees.

The three service chiefs had even submitted a joint memorandum and made a presentation to Defence Minister A.K. Antony, who in turn had taken up the issue with the then finance minister P. Chidambaram.