The Army is upset over the Government’s decision to reject a long-pending demand for enhanced Military Service Pay (MSP) for more than one lakh personnel and will seek a review.
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.
Many European countries have implemented MSP to boost the morale of its armed forces.
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 10,000 per month in MSP for Junior Commissioned Officers (JCO) and other low-ranking officers in Army, IAF and Navy. The proposal was turned down by the Finance Ministry thereby impacting 1.12 lakh personnel, including 87,646 JCOs and 25,434 of the same ranks in IAF and Navy, sources said here on Tuesday. If the proposal had gone through, the financial spending would have amounted to Rs 610 crore, they added.
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.
Elaborating upon the Army’s anguish over the rejection of hike in MSP for JCOs, sources said JCOs perform a crucial role in the overall command structure and are link between officers and men. Appreciating their relevance, the Government had granted JCOs the status of gazetted officers (Group B) last year. Officials said 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.
Pointing out that the Army had taken up the issue strongly with the Defence Minister, they said the matter was discussed also among the three services and the Defence Ministry were on the same page on the issue.
On the rationale for MSP, they said 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.
The MSP was introduced in India to provide special allowances keeping in view intangible aspects of military service.
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, they added.