The government’s rejection of a long-standing demand of the armed forces for higher Military Service Pay (MSP) for around one lakh personnel, including Junior Commissioned Officers (JCO's), has left many upset in the Armed Forces.
The MSP is given besides salary in recognition of the condition and hardship faced by the armed forces while performing their duties. This concept was introduced in India in the Sixth Pay Commission.
Around 1.12 lakh military personnel, including 87,646 JCOs and 25,434 personnel of equivalent rank from the Navy and the Indian Air Force will be impacted by the decision. The armed forces this time round had sought a hike from Rs 5,500, as recommended by the Seventh Pay Commission in 2016, to Rs 10,800 per month in MSP for JCOs and other low-ranking officers in Army, Indian Air Force and Navy. Had the proposal gone through, the financial spending would have amounted to Rs 610 crore.
The MSP has two categories, including one for officers and another for JCOs and jawans. The Seventh Pay Commission had fixed Rs 5,200 as MSP per month for JCOs and jawans. This special allowance was fixed at Rs 15,500 for officers between Lieutenant-rank and Brigadier-rank.
The Army has been pressing for granting an MSP of Rs 10,800 for the JCOs, arguing that they are gazetted officers (Group B) and play a very vital role in command and control structure of the force. “JCOs perform a crucial role in the overall command structure and are the link between officers and men. It was not the right thing to treat the JCOs on a par with the jawans as regards granting MSP since JCOs are gazetted officers with long years of service” a source serving in the Indian Army told Newsclick who did not wish to be named.
Sources also claim that the Army Headquarters is anguished over the rejection of higher MSP to JCOs and the Defence Ministry is also miffed. In 2016, the three service chiefs had taken up salary-related issues including the "anomalies" in MSP with the 7th Pay Commission as well as with the top echelon of the government.
Subsequently, the Army had taken up the issue strongly with the Defence Minister and the three services as well as the Defence Ministry were on the same page on the issue.
“On the rationale for MSP, soldiers and their civilian counterparts in Central Government services cannot be compared given the fact the nature of duties performed by jawans and JCOs are more difficult. It is in this context that the armed forces for long were demanding a separate MSP for JCOs,” another military serviceman told Newsclick.
Retired Major Priyadarshi told Newsclick, “Legally, military nurses are paid an MSP Rs 10,800 as proposed in the 7th Pay Commission. Military nurses and JCOs are both Grade B officers, therefore JCOs are also entitled to a similar MSP. It is a very disappointing decision by the Government which has time and again claimed to be “for the army” and defence personnel.”
The Army operates in all kinds of terrain and weather conditions ranging from Siachen where temperatures range from minus 10 to minus 30, hot deserts of Rajasthan, inaccessible areas along the 750-km long Line of Control with Pakistan and 4,000-km Line of Actual Control facing China from Ladakh in the north to Arunachal Pradesh in the east. Similarly, Navy and IAF perform operational duties in tough conditions.
Priyadarshi further said that “the attitude of the Indian Government highlights the sad state of civilians towards the military servicemen.JCOs must be given due importance in recognition of their key role and to keep their morale high.”
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