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7th pay panel: The silver edge

7th pay panel: The silver edge
By Dr Tuk Tuk Ghosh, IAS (R), New Delhi

The Report of the Seventh Central Pay Commission has received a mixed response, as expected. All eyes are now on the Government’s decisions regarding the acceptance, or otherwise, of its recommendations which will be taken after observing a due process.
Among the responses that have found traction are that Pay Commissions should be institutionalised and   they should submit their recommendations on a regular basis, in tandem with Administrative Reforms Commissions. The present practice of having two separate exercises, with no link between them, takes away, substantially, the potential of their improving governance in a truly meaningful sense. The experience of the Sixth Pay Commission and the Second Administrative Reforms Commission underscores the point. It is hoped that cognizance will be taken of this basic imperative. 

In  this context, the more widely discussed aspects of policy change   have   been  associated  with  restructuring and  rightsizing the administrative  apparatus,  building incentives for good performance, disincentives  for  under-performance and non-performance and ensuring top-notch service delivery to citizens imbued  with transparency, integrity and accountability. Their intrinsic importance cannot be gainsaid.  
Having said that, it may be useful to retrain the analytic lens for a bit and  move our attention to a  barely acknowledged resource embodied in pensioners and  how they can be taken on board as partners in the Government’s development and governance enhancement endeavours. Here it is  important  to  note  that  the resource cuts  across different Services and  different  levels  and  is  not  confined  to  the  creamy  layers, which have, over a period of  time, taken care of their interests reasonably well. In fact, this was alluded to recently in Parliament during discussions on amendment to the Prevention of Corruption Act. 
The silver edge, now in focus, which the Government can gainfully endow itself with has to do with the “aam” pensioner as distinct from the “khaas” pensioner alluded to above. 
To  fit  it  into an appropriate  framework , the  relevant Chapter 10 of the Seventh Pay Commission Report  may be referred to. According to the figures available, there were, on 1.1.2014, 51.96 lakh pensioners, including all categories of civil and defence pensioners. This figure is higher than that of serving employees. According to an age analysis, pensioners in the age group of 60-70 years are 37.21%. The percentage figures for 70-80 years, 80-90 years and 90-100 years pensioners are 25.48%, 8.88% and 2.25%, respectively. Among the defence pensioners 57% are below 60 years of age.
There are robust policies in place for the defence personnel, who may be discharged from service at a younger age , compared to their civilian counterparts. The existing structure we have is the Department of Pension and Pensioners Welfare   which was set up in 1985.   
It is this Department which is best placed to take the lead in initiating  policy  changes  for civilian  pensioners who are in the age bracket of 60-70 years, who  are deemed  fit and  who  may  be willing  to continue a meaningful association with the Government. To clarify,  the objective  would  be  to get the best from this group for the Government  itself  and  not  serve  as  a  mere   stepping  stone  or  placement  agency  to  cater  to  the  corporate  and  non- governmental  sectors.  
For  starters, a thorough needs and gap analysis may be taken up, Ministry-wise, to  delineate  the  areas  where it may  be  fruitful  to  tie up with pensioners. With so many  posts lying vacant  and the delays of fresh recruitment, it  makes eminent  sense  to  have  pensioners  do  some  hand  holding.
It  would be strategically  important,  at  this  juncture, to  take  up  the  task  of a significant   policy recast which may be time consuming but will pay rich dividends. 

Read at: bureaucracytoday

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