CHANDIGARH: All Pay Commissions had former judges as presiding officers, so one expected them to judge for themselves and not just accept what the secretaries, who are IAS officers, fed them.

These presiding officers have been visiting military formations and units in field areas to see for themselves, the environments and conditions under which troops live and the nature of their work. Unfortunately, the military as a good host, has been laying out the red carpet for them and putting them up in well appointed guest rooms, which are quite apart from the accommodation and facilities available to the majority of the officers. So they carried a completely wrong impression of our living conditions in field areas and working environments therein.

In economic life, happiness is relative and not absolute. How could anyone, if blessed with an unbiased mind, fail to take note of the issues of early retirement, extremely limited scope for career advancement, disturbed family life, the element of risk to life and limb etc so palpably evident in the case of defence personnel.

Factors taken into account in every democracy, the world over is termed as 'the X factor' and appropriately compensated. How is it that all the chairmen of the Central Pay Commissions,( CPCs) starting with the 3rd CPC, (which dropped the pension of defence personnel from 70 to 50 % and increased the civilian pension from 30 to 50%t of the last pay drawn), so completely failed to exercise their own judgment. And in the process overlook such visible issues.

Does all this reflect on the quality of our judicial cadres or is it that only those were selected who would accept what is fed to them by the secretaries of these commissions. As for themselves ( these secretaries from the IAS ) the case can best be summed up with the Punjabi saying, ‘anna whanday raorian mur mur apneyan nu deh’ ( one blinded by family affinity distributes goodies to only his own ilk). These secretaries cornered maximum benefits for their own cadre,s with the chairmen being none the wiser.

Take the case of grant of Non Function Financial Upgradation (NFFU). If any service deserved to be granted the NFFU, it is the militarybecause of the very early retirement and extremely limited scope for advancement in career, even if one overlooks hard living conditions and risk to life and limb etc. Yet it is only the military that was denied NFFU while it was granted to over four dozen central services: something even the dim witted cannot miss. And yet our worthy judge of the 6th CPC remained oblivious of this fundamental flaw in his final judgement.

Mishandling of this one issue of NFFU makes a complete nonsense of the Sixth CPC report, even if one is to overlook over two dozen anomalies relating to the pay and allowances for the military.

Did these justices ever looked into the composition of the team of over 100 officers assembled each time, to work out the nitty gritty of the report and notice that there has never been a defence services officer in these teams, though the defence services form the largest group after the Indian railways: an overall 30% of the total strength being considered.

While much of the forests in the country have disappeared, wild life greatly depleted and well forested hills in the Himalayas a rare sight, yet being part of the lot assembled to work out the details in the report, they positioned themselves alongside the top bracket, with the chairmen remaining oblivious of these manipulations. How could these representatives of the judiciary on whose wisdom and fair play the nation places so much of its faith, allow the committees, whose chairmen they were,to act with repeated bias and hand out such an unfair deal to the military.

The chairman of 7th CPC informs us that the job of an IAS officer is difficult as he has to deal with 'Sarpanches' and others in public. If only these worthies had done their job with dedication and honesty, there would have been no Red Corridor, running right through the centre of their country, consisting of over 200 districts, where the Indian governments writ does not fully run.

The 7thCPC has given even higher allowances to civil officials for the hardship of living in comfortable bungalows, and much less to the military soldiers living in the comfort of a bunker or a tent at some remote high altitude location that has life threatening high altitude sickness built into the situation.

These judges are selected by the bureaucracy and there lies the catch. Carrots are always part of the establishment. How is it that not one amongst them has been able to judge for himself, display fairness, go into the details placed before him and do justice to the military!

At the other end the top brass of the army has completely failed to abide by the advise given to them as they marched through Chetwode Hall.("The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time. The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time." ) They repeatedly let down the rank and file. At last this attitude appears to be changing! Hopefully persistently!

The present assignment of Justice Reddy, concerning One Rank One Pension (OROP), does not require months and months to complete the work, where there are only four main issues which are simple and straightforward. These are easy to resolve, and require no specific skills and certainly not much time. Nor does it call for touring the whole country to get the same views from every one. These issues are so simple, so why this façade of inter-acting with ex-servicemen all over the country and seeking presentation after presentation from endless ex-servicemen associations and individuals.

No one need expect much from Justice Reddy. It is a mere repeat of the same old charade of constituting committees of secretaries where the outcome is pre-determined.

(Lt General Harwant Singh (Retired) is a former Vice Chief of Army Staff)