What central government employees can expect from the 7th Pay Commission
Sounds odd, but the highest paid Indian bureaucrat till 1959 was the railway board chairman and not the cabinet secretary. The top rail bureaucrat, who was earlier called chief commissioner of railways, drew a basic salary of Rs 3,250 per month, a smart 8.3% more than that of the cabinet secretary, the senior-most bureaucrat in India. But as the fortunes of Indian Railways dwindled over the years — its market share in freight movement has shrunk from 90% in 1950 to 30% now — the clout of the rail bosses and their corresponding rank and pay have also slipped.
Today, the railway board chairman and eight other top rail babus receive a salary equivalent to a government of India secretary, a scale which as many as 230 Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and 40 Indian Police Service (IPS) officers also draw. For good measure, the cabinet secretary now not only draws a higher salary than the railway board chairman, his superior rank comes with better perks including a bungalow at Prithviraj Road located in the heart of Lutyens’ Delhi.
Meanwhile, the Indian Revenue Service (IRS), a 5,541 officers-strong cadre responsible for collecting direct taxes in India, now claims that IRS should get better pay and perks than IAS. The entry-level salary for all Group A Central services is the same now, but thanks to two more increments and faster promotions, IAS maintains an edge over others. The basis for this claim? “Today, IRS — not IAS — is the revenue collector for the government. So, it’s logical that that the edge given to IAS should be given to us,” says Jayant Misra, Income-Tax commissioner and general secretary of IRS Association. In a 58-page-long memorandum to the 7th Central Pay Commission (CPC), which is now examining a pay hike for Central government employees, the IRS Association argued that the primary reason for higher pay to the Indian Civil Service (ICS) of the British era and its successor service, IAS, was that they were revenue collectors. But now, the dynamics have changed, they claim.
IRS has argued that the net direct tax collection has grown 9.35 times between 2000-01 and 2013-14, an impressive piece of statistics in the backdrop of only 5.4 times expansion of GDP during the corresponding period. Also, the cost of revenue collection in India is one of the lowest in the world, which according to IRS officers is yet another reason for demanding a good deal from the CPC. For every Rs 100 they collect, the tax department spends merely 57 paisa. In percentage terms, the cost of revenue collection in India is 0.57% as against 1.58% in Japan, 1.35% in France, 1.17% in Canada and 1.05% in Australia.
Welcome to the behind-the-scenes manoeuvring before the Big Sarkari Pay Hike. With a new pay scale for 36 lakh Central government employees, and also pensioners, likely to come into effect from January 1, 2016, the officers and non-gazetted staff of various services have been lobbying hard to get a good deal from the 7th CPC. Unlike in the private sector, the pay hike in government is a once-in-10-years-affair, making every CPC, right from the first that submitted its report in 1947, a hugely powerful agency. No doubt, government employees have to undergo an annual appraisal process called Annual Performance Appraisal Report (APAR), but that exercise is important only for promotion, and not for any pay hike. Government employees do get a regular hike in dearness allowance, a measure meant for offsetting inflationary pressure on their earnings, but at the end of the day it is the CPC that fixes the bureaucrats’ pay for 10 long years.
That’s precisely why officers and staff of every service can’t afford to ignore the CPC. Constituted in February 2014 under the chairmanship of retired Supreme Court judge Ashok Kumar Mathur, the 7th CPC has an economist and two bureaucrats as its members. Most of the employees’ associations have already had at least one round of talks with the Commission. And some are waiting for Round II.