As a “model employer”, the government has to treat its employees fairly, which extends to their pay, benefits and working conditions. One wouldn’t, therefore, grudge the seventh Central Pay Commission (CPC) recommending an increase in the minimum monthly pay of government personnel from Rs 7,000 as on January 1, 2006 to Rs 18,000, with effect from next year.
Much of this is from merging the inflation-neutralising dearness allowance of 125 per cent (Rs 8,750) with the basic pay. Only the balance Rs 2,250 constitutes a “real” pay increase. At 14.3 per cent, it’s lower than past real increases that ranged from 20.6 per cent in the third to 54 per cent in the sixth CPC awards. Equally justifiable is the raising of pay more for those in the higher echelons of governance. Thus, the increase in basic pay for secretaries is 2.81 times (from Rs 80,000 to Rs 2,25,000), as against 2.57 times for the lowest level (from Rs 7,000 to Rs 18,000).
This is sensible, as lower-level salaries in government are mostly higher than in the private sector, whereas it’s the other way round in positions requiring more qualification, talent or experience. But there are also fiscal costs to implementing the CPC report that cannot be brushed aside. The additional outgo from the increased pay, allowances and pension is projected at Rs 1,02,100 crore for 2016-17, of which Rs 28,450 crore would be on the railway budget alone.
Finding the extra resources won’t be easy, amidst an economic slowdown and the desperate need to step up public investment — including by the railways — in the current scenario. Moreover, higher pay for Central staff will create similar demands from state government and other public-sector employees. While the previous pay revisions were accommodated by the revenue buoyancy accompanying a booming economy, neither the Centre nor the states are really in a position today to pick up the tab without cutting back on capital/ development expenditures. There is a case, then, for a staggered implementation of the new award, keeping in view the larger, more immediate, economic interests of the country.
But fairness and affordability apart, there is also the question of accountability that needs addressing. In today’s world, where technology and e-governance have made leaner administrations with more skilled personnel possible — and yet there is a requirement for more teachers, doctors, policemen, scientists and farmer extension or rural health workers — the public has reason to expect better delivery of services from those in government. Nobody would mind government employees drawing more remuneration, provided this is linked to performance and accountability to the people whom they serve. Unfortunately, successive pay commissions and governments have paid only lip service to issues of administrative reforms.
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