Modi Govt rejects Military’s pay hike demands, can’t spend ₹600 crore on Army; but spent ₹4300 crore on PM’s PR

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2020
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Indian Army at Siachen Border

The Military Service Pay (MSP) for the military personnel was introduced recognising their unique service conditions and hardships. The seventh Pay Commission had fixed Rs. 5,200 as MSP per month for Junior Commissioned Officer (JCOs) and jawans while the MSP for officers between Lieutenant-rank and Brigadier-rank was pegged at Rs. 15,500. 

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As per media sources that reported today, the government has rejected a long-standing demand of the armed forces for higher MSP for over 1.12 lakh military personnel including Junior Commissioned Officers of the Army.

Following the development, the Army headquarters is reportedly “very anguished” over the decision by the Finance Ministry, and will seek its immediate review. The count of 1.12 lakh military personnel could include 87,646 JCOs and 25,434 personnel of equivalent rank from the Navy and the Indian Air Force who will be affected by the decision.

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The long standing demand was to increase the monthly MSP from Rs. 5,500 to Rs. 10,000 and the total annual financial outgo would have been Rs. 610 crore if the government had accepted the demand, sources said. The Army had also been pressing for granting an higher MSP to the JCOs, arguing that they are gazetted officers (Group B) and play a very vital role in command and control structure of the force. A military officer who wished to remain unnamed, said,

“Since JCOs are Group B gazetted officers and also have considerable length of service, it is incorrect to grant them MSP on par with the jawans. It is very unfair.”

The Army had taken up the issue strongly with the Defence Minister and all the three services along with the Defence Ministry were on the same page on the issue, the sources said. Yet the demand has been now outrightly rejected by the Defence Ministry.

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The man who secures us while we sleep

Concept of MSP

  • The MSP was first introduced by the 6th Pay Commission, which accounted for compensation for intangible aspects of military service. It also accounts for a range of “hardships and disadvantages” which cannot be evaluated while assessing pay comparability

  • The armed forces have been pressing for a separate slab of MSP for JCOs and equivalent rank since a long time

  • In November last year, the Army clarified JCOs are gazetted officers and cancelled a seven-year-old note describing them as “non-gazetted” officers

  • The decision by the Army had come in the wake of growing resentment among a large section of its officers over the controversial issue of rank-parity between them and their civilian counterparts in the service headquarters

  • The concept of MSP for armed forces personnel is not unique and widely prevalent in European countries

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In a sharp contrast, an agency under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had said in reply to an Right to Information (RTI) query in May 2018, that the Narendra Modi government had spent ₹4,343 crore on publicity since it came to power in May 2014.

The Bureau of Outreach Communication under the Ministry had confirmed that the government spent ₹4,343.26 crore on advertising its programmes across media platforms.

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This included :

  • ₹1732.15 crore on advertisements in the print media (from June 1, 2014, to December 7 2017)

  • ₹2079.87 crore in the electronic media (from June 1, 2014, to March 31, 2018)

  • ₹531.24 crore was spent on outdoor publicity (June 2014 to January 2018)

Policemen stand guard as people walk past a hoarding advertising the Vibrant Gujarat Summit 2015 in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. File

Also as per a weekly BAARC report in November 2018, BJP was the top advertising brand, followed by Netflix with 12,951 insertions, Trivago with 12,795, Santoor Sandal with 11,222 and Dettol Liquid Soap with 9,487  insertions.

The ruling party was also on a spending spree before the recently concluded assembly election in Madhya Pradesh. Between August and November, BJP’s share of advertising in MP was 73% of the overall ad insertions across print, radio and television, while the Indian National Congress ad insertions stood at 27%, according to data from AdEx India, a division of TAM Media Research.

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