Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Who really governs India? Part II

(From my Memoirs)

Who really governs India? Part II

It is lower bureaucracy when higher bureaucracy and politicians have no stakes

A case study: One rank One Pension 

There are several centres of power and influence in India. The strongest centres are ministers and IAS bureaucracy. The two work in close collaboration to benefit each other. Despite denial of OROP to civil services, exception has been made in the case of IAS IPS and IFS without any formal order and without any fuss. Of course, these services would strongly deny and would argue that exception has been made only for Secretary level officers, not for any particular service. Technically the objection is correct. The privilege has been given to those who retire at the level of Secretary to the Government of India or equivalent. The beneficiaries are IAS, IPS IFS officers because barring the rarest of the rare, all officers of these services retire at the level of Secretary and, therefore, get the same pension irrespective of the date of retirement, whether it was in 1985 or 2015. 

On the other hand most officers of other Group ‘A’ Services do not go beyond the level of Additional Secretary (AS), the level up to which OROP is not granted. For example, post-6th CPC, the basic pension of an AS who has put in 33 years of service and retires after 1.1.2006 is Rs. 39000. Including dearness allowance (DA), his gross pension as on 1.1.2015 comes to Rs. 84,135. As against that, the basic pension of an AS who retired before 1.1.2006 is Rs. 33,500. Inclusive of DA his gross pension as on 1.1. 2015 comes to Rs. 71,355. The difference is Rs. 12,800. Originally the basic pension of pre-1.1.2006 AS level retirees who had put in 33 years of service was fixed at Rs. 27,684. Later it was revised to Rs. 33,500. Had it not been revised, the difference would have been Rs. 25,168 as on 1.1. 2015.

Almost all IAS, IPS and IFS officers are able to retire in the highest pay scale not because there are regular posts at that level for them but because like two sets of power centres at the top there are two sets of rules, one for them and the other for lesser mortals.

In each state cadre of IAS and IPS, there is a ‘Deputation Reserve’. It was created in 1954 on the ground of making provisions for creation of temporary senior posts in the IPS to meet emergency situations such as law and order problem. In actual practice, it has been blatantly misused to create ex-cadre posts (temporary, on paper) to ensure time-bound promotion up to the level of Chief Secretary which is equivalent to Secretary to the Central Government. By the same method, the IPS officers are also promoted to ex-cadre posts up to the level of Director General of Police (DGP). For example, in this state of Bihar, as against only 3 Chief Secretary level posts and only 2 DGP level posts, the actual number of officers is 8 and 10 respectively. Similar is the situation in all the states.

Due to full political backing, IAS officers are able to occupy most of the Secretary level posts in the Central Government, again in violation of prescribed rules. The Central Staffing Scheme (framed by the Department of Personnel, Government of India) governing the Central deputation requires that for appointment to AS or Secretary level post, officer must have ‘specific suitability’ for the post. Almost all appointments are made in flagrant violation of this rule. No Prime Minister, no Home Minister has questioned it. Perhaps, they are not even aware of this rule. The promotions are made batch-wise. If an IAS officer has been empanelled by virtue of completing the prescribed length of service but is considered unfit for any key Department, he is posted in one of the least important departments. If that is also not possible, his post is upgraded to the level of Secretary. As a result, even those who should otherwise be thrown out of the service because of their incompetence or suspicion about their integrity (such incompetent characters are in all services) retire at the level of Secretary and get benefit of OROP. I had the misfortune of working under as well as interacting with quite a few duds. There are also numerous examples of creation of superfluous posts just for the sake of promotion up IAS officers. 

The IFS being a Central Service does not have the flexibility available to IAS and IPS in the states. For creation of new posts in the Central Services, the government has prescribed a system of cadre review once in five years. In actual practice, for most of the services even this is not done. The rules require that there must be functional justification for creation of new posts at any level. Additional posts cannot be created merely to ease stagnation. This is exactly the reason the Sixth CPC gave to reject the demand of the Military Engineering Service (in which there is intense stagnation) for creation of new posts. Without any written rule for exception, new senior level posts are created in the IFS just to ensure time bound promotion. Whenever IFS officers fall behind their IAS counterpart, a one paragraph note is prepared: ‘The IAS officers of a particular batch have got secretary level posts. The IFS needs so many posts at this and this level to establish parity.’ Everybody approves the proposal and posts are created.

For the lesser mortals, for those who do not have backing of powerful politicians or bureaucrats or do not have friends at right places, the most powerful officer in the administrative matters is the Desk Officer. I call him as the third centre of power (TCP). Whatever he writes regarding administrative issues involving common folks in the government, is approved without any question up to the highest level. During my long career in Government of India I have seen many examples and have paid heavy price for challenging the authority of the TCP. In the year 2000 when I requested the government to rectify a serious legal mistake in the pay scale I was given as member of a national tribunal, the TCP decided to assert its authority. The result was that I had to fight a legal battle for 15 years on which I spent about Rs. 3 lakh, besides hundreds of hour on preparing material for litigation and running to courts and lawyers. Ultimately I won the legal battle in January this year but the TCP has refused to implement the court order on one pretext or the other.

It is this TPC that is delaying the implementation of the government’s ‘in principle’ decision to grant OROP to ex-servicemen. The fellows in the Defence Ministry and Department of Expenditure must be scrutinising every word with a microscope and demonstrating their knowledge and authority. As 10 retired service chiefs have rightly pointed out to the Prime Minister in their recent letter, “The often quoted technical difficulties without ever being specified and discussed are thus bewildering. This is simple arithmetic based on the Standard Pension Tables of the government...These delays are construed to be only with a view to bring in changes in the parameters and dilute the entitlements, which will be grossly unjust and unacceptable.”

Had the government left it to the TPC, there would have been no National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme, no Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, no Jan Dhan Yojna. In fact, there would have been no welfare scheme.

The country is facing serious threats from hostile neighbours, terrorists, extremists, etc.   The military and paramilitary forces are fighting a 24-hour battle to defend the national integrity and to protect the people of India. It is absolutely necessary to keep their morale high. It is as important as arms and munitions, tanks and fighter planes and aircraft carriers. We should not expect dissatisfied persons to make the best use of arms and munitions. No government can function without the support of these forces. The revolt in army in 1857 was triggered by dissatisfaction in army. The revolt in the Royal Indian Navy in early 1946 forced the British rulers to advance the date of their departure from India. Is the Government of India waiting for another mutiny?

Due to inordinate delay, we have come to a stage when the retired chiefs of the armed forces have openly come out in support of the agitating ex-servicemen. Ten ex-chiefs have warned the government of serious consequences of delay. Without mincing any word they have written to the Prime Minister: “Our silence so far was due to the need to observe propriety... We would strongly urge the government to settle this issue expeditiously and in an urgent time frame. Any further delays, in our considered view, will be at the cost of damaging the pride of the veterans and lowering the morale of the armed forces. The nation can ill afford such an imbroglio.”  

We have not heard of financial constraint when it comes to providing personal armed security guards to protect politicians and their families, even those facing criminal charges, round-the-clock.

No cost is high for the defence of the country. The financial burden on account of OROP is a very small part of the defence budget Rs. 2,46,727 crore for 2015-16. The country can certainly afford to pay OROP not only to ex-servicemen but also to ex-paramilitary servicemen. Every year the corporate sector is given concessions worth several billions of rupees. The government is spending thousands of crores of rupees on different types of subsidies. If there is political will it should not be difficult to mobilise resources for OROP. For example, the government can earmark savings from surrender of subsidies on LPG for the purpose. The people would be ready to make some sacrifices when it comes to the safety of the country.

 The government should implement the suggestions given by the CPCs and the Koshiyari Committee regarding lateral transfer of servicemen, after a certain length of service, to the paramilitary forces to minimise the financial burden in the long run.

The 7th CPC which is finalising its report can also render a helping hand by making some cuts here and there in the pay scales of the serving employees to provide scope for grant of OROP.

Instead of saying that ‘even I have not been able to solve it’, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, known for his administrative skill and decisiveness, should act like a leader that he is and announce implementation of OROP, as he has been announcing welfare schemes, without waiting for clearance from the TPC and just ask the concerned departments to issue revised pension orders. He may set up a committee or a number of committees to look into anomalies and grievances of individual retirees.

Time is running out for such a bold step by our leader.

Devendra Narain

(This article was originally written in August 2015. The issue raised is perennial. Please also read Part I of the article. Link: