With surging prices and inflation putting the employees’ real income under severe stress, the absence of a word from the government on the fate of the 6th pay commission’s recommendations has caused concern to the mammoth officialdom.
However the news is that there isn’t much to cheer for millions of central government employees, as the empowered committee examining the 6th pay commission’s proposals is unlikely to modify much the original report in any big way.
At best, it would make minor upward revisions since the government holds the pay report to be pro-employee and prepared with a view to maximize benefits for the bulk of the officialdom. However, the one thing that is certain is that, the committee, headed by cabinet secretary K M Chandrasekhar, has progressed well in its work and is expected to submit its much awaited report by July first week. The pay panel’s recommendations, effective from January 2006, are likely to be accepted and implemented very soon after that.
The committee has held over two dozen meetings with employee associations and ministries by now and it is fast veering round to the view that its larger objective is to rationalise parts of the report to benefit the maximum numbers. Ensuring uniformity of remuneration and scales across millions of government employees, sources said, was a gigantic task and it was felt that the pay commission had done a good job.
"The committee will definitely not go into the nitty-gritty of the entire report but may recommend very minor changes here and there," sources added. Open as well as subdued protests marked the submission of the pay panel’s report on March 24 and, for the first time, the message did not go down well even with the armed forces, forcing the defence minister and the service chiefs to approach the government for a better deal.
The pay commission recommended a minimum entry-level salary of Rs 6,660 and a maximum of Rs 80,000 for secretaries, amounting to a minimum-maximum ratio of . The cabinet secretary’s pay was fixed at Rs 90,000. The total number of grades were reduced to 20 (from the earlier 35) spread across four distinct pay bands. It also proposed annual increment at the rate of 2.5% of the total pay with high-performers (not more than 20% of the total strength) getting a higher 3.5%.
The recommendations would also have a bearing on lakhs of pensioners across the country as their remuneration would be revised accordingly. The commission also favoured a revision of the Consumer Price Index for computation of dearness allowance as frequently as feasible and it even suggested a separate price index for government employees by the National Statistical Commission. In general, the impact of inflation is mitigated by the half-yearly revision of government employees’ dearness allowance (DA) which is linked to the consumer price index. This index, although generally in tandem with price rise, does not essentially go up as rapidly as the inflation rate.
The pay panel had submitted its report on March 24, which triggered open and subdued protests from almost all quarters of the government, including the defence forces. With elections approaching and inflation causing much harm to the ruling Congress in the Karnataka polls, the government appears to be in a panic mode. It cannot afford to annoy the entire officialdom at one go.
Government employees in various states are also waiting for what the Centre has to finally say on the pay commission’s recommendations because these proposals, sooner or later, are adopted by the states. Sources said the government is being extra cautious in taking a final decision on the pay report proposals and this is believed to be the cause for the delay.
The consumer price index for April 2008 is expected to be announced by June 20. The pay commission, however, has proposed a new and exclusive price index for government employees, which would be based on a different basket of goods and services.
The recent recommendations of a wage commission for public sector officers and employees, however, has come as good news for government servants, even if indirectly. This panel has proposed good pay hikes for PSU officers and employees with the monthly compensation of CMDs pegged up to Rs 1 lakh (plus allowances) — Rs 10,000 more than the highest salary (of cabinet secretary) proposed by the 6th pay commission.