Some of the Sixth Pay Commission’s recommendations, such as productivity-linked wages for government employees, have met with expected resistance. The more populist 35-50% salary hikes, too, have come in for criticism. Professor Ravindra Dholakia, a member of the four-person commission headed by justice B.N. Srikrishna, says government employees will have to face insecurity and pressures if they want private sector salaries and perks.
A professor of economics at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, Dholakia says the panel’s suggestions aim at administrative reforms and no one really has a reason to complain. Edited excerpts:
Are you satisfied with the report?
Given the constraints and challenges in terms of reference, I think we are satisfied with what we have done. We have been able to suggest what is possible. We have several firsts to our credit. For instance, we have suggested abolition of grade D for employees. That does not mean we do away with grade D staff. It means we upgrade all of them to be part of grade C with some kind of skill to help them multitask.
The big criticism is about merger of pay scales and turning them into pay bands. This has created some kind of resentment among government employees.
One needs to understand that band refers to a category. If you belong to grade C, it does not mean everyone will have the same salary. You have up to nine different grades for grade C employees. This way you can maintain status within a particular pay band, depending on seniority or position.
We have been complaining that we do not get the right talent as the pay scales are way below those in the private sector. Here is an opportunity to use the pay band to attract talent, even from the private sector. So, why complain?
Some say different pay scales within a band would lead to favouritism in recruitment.
People working in the government must change their mindset. What is wrong in giving different salaries to different recruits? Each recruit has a different skill set and understanding. I think this will trigger the beginning of a new era of governance in the country. We have tried to provide opportunity, flexibility and create an environment for innovation, so you are not confined by set rules and structures that existed during the British Raj.
What about promotions in the mid and higher level? Do the recommendations on performance-based promotions mean doing away with the current system?
There are many jobs in the government that require domain knowledge and should not be merely based on promotions for a particular cadre. Anybody with the right qualification, within or outside the government, must get an opportunity to work in these positions. Even those from the private sector should be considered. We can have a contract, negotiated salary, fixed tenure and fixed goals.
The problem with government officials appears to be that they want the best of everything—job security, tenure security and the salary of a private sector employee. If you want private sector salaries, be ready to face insecurity and the pressures of private sector as well. The choice is yours.
It does not mean the existing system of accelerated promotions will not continue. It only means you now have one more choice.
There is also criticism that the Sixth Pay Commission is tilted in favour of high-ranking officials.
It is not right. One becomes a secretary at the age of 57 years or so. These people have a window of only two years and have little scope for further growth in salary. If you are the cabinet secretary, you hardly have a year or two. You cannot compare them with a new recruit who is 20 years old. You cannot discount 40 years of experience.
The ratio of salary of a grade C employee and that of the cabinet secretary is not more than 1:7. I think it is fair, especially if you consider the perks of mid- and junior-level government employees. We have not taken away anything, but only given more options.
Even defence personnel have expressed some reservations.
They have nothing to complain. Till now, we used to retire and place them on pension after 15 years. Doing that is an insult to their skill. So, we have suggested that instead of hiring more in paramilitary, have lateral movement of defence personnel to paramilitary forces.
The other heartburn among them was that they always got a raw deal when compared with the administrative wing of the government. We have removed most of these anomalies.
What about the financial impact on states? Will they be able to implement the commission’s recommendation?
Absolutely. I think implementing the report is a small cost to pay for this kind of administrative reforms. Barring one or two states, I see no problem for the others in implementing the recommendations. I am now working out the exact implication of the commission (report) on state finances — whether they have the fiscal space available to absorb the recommendations.