gfiles magazine

September 27, 2015

7th pay commission: How full are the coffers?

Over 40 years ago, a meeting of the central government employees was organised at the Boat Club in New Delhi. It was the time when the 3rd Pay Commission report was to be announced and Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister. People were enthusiastic and had gathered to hear an address by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In his inimitable style, Vajpayee narrated an interesting story. It went thus: “On pay day, a man took his salary and headed home.

India’s civil and military

The struggle for the One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme, that seeks equity in the payment of pensions to ex-servicemen, has been going on for years. At the fag end of its term, UPA II made a sleight of hand and granted this demand by making a token Budget allocation. The BJP, as a political party during elections, and Narendra Modi, as prime ministerial candidate and then as the Prime Minister, made voluminous promises of implementing OROP. But, when the veterans felt that Prime Minister Modi and the government he heads were reneging on this commitment, citing some difficulties in its ‘arithmetical translation’, they rose up as one man and went on the warpath with rallies and protests all over the country. Volunteers among them sat on a chain dharna at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar.

Bicameral incongruities

Parliament is in a crisis which is not likely to blow over soon. The crisis is formed of several intertwined strands—ideological, personal and institutional. The ideological divide between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the rest of the political parties, particularly the Congress, has been there since the very inception of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 1925 and that of the Jan Sangh in 1951. There is little chance that it will ever be bridged. Personal hatred between the leaders of the two sides has also been mutual from the very beginning but it seems a lot more visceral today than it ever did in the past. The institutional strand is the one that is going to be the most difficult to straighten out, for it is embedded in the very making of our Westminster-derived bicameral Parliament.

The question of the Question Hour

The most important postulate about parliamentary democracy is that Parliament is between the government and the people. The government is accountable to the people and this accountability is secured by the people through their representatives in Parliament. Accountability is an important adjunct of government, irrespective of the form of democracy. If the government is democratic then it has to be accountable, otherwise, in my view, it will not be democratic to the extent it eschews accountability. It is an old adage that ‘the government of the people, for the people and by the people—shall not perish from the earth’. In the Indian context, I have added two things to it—provided free and fair elections, free from muscle and money power, are conducted and a sense of accountability prevails continuously in the government. Otherwise the government will become autocratic and aristocratic like any other one.

Junk jargon, take action

I must confess that this piece has been triggered by a newspaper report. Smriti Zubin Irani, our intrepid Minister for Human Resource Development, is picking the brains of thousands of Indians right down to the panchayat level, in order to formulate a New National Education Policy for the country. Ergo, I thought, why not me too? Drafting a policy is a back-breaking task. So I am making do with some random thoughts and confining my suggestions to school education.

Take off time for Lohani

the 1980-batch IRSME officer, Ashwani Lohani, has been appointed new Chairman-cum-Managing Director of Air India Limited (AIR). He is known for his outstanding contribution to Indian tourism both at the national and state level that drew nationwide attention and appreciation and won him the tag of successful turnaround manager. He is now presented with the challenge of turning around the national carrier.