7th Pay Commission: While the government is a great employer, its employees are disappointing role models – Prabir Jha

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Industry leaders share their perspectives on the 7th Pay Commission exclusively with HRKatha readers. Prabir Jha candidly dissects the recommendations and dwells on its flip side. 

The Seventh Pay Commission’s recommendations will predictably not please everyone. Some will criticise it for a less than expected increase, others for being overly liberal, especially to the extent of widening the ratio between the lowest paid and the highest paid.

I believe it is not a path-breaking recommendation. It has shied away from some very strong options that it could have looked at. Just revising pay and allowances across the board is not enough. There is just no recommendation on accountability, productivity and affordability. No government will shy away from printing more currency notes to buy peace with a very important political constituency. But, it is another case of a missed opportunity to tie rewards with improved efficiency.

Government servants can keep complaining about not getting corporate salaries. You cannot have the cake and eat it too! Job security is excessive in the government. Many people in premier services get promoted to higher levels without a commensurate change in expectations. Proliferation of senior level jobs is not in tandem with improved governance. I still strongly support higher compensation for senior-level jobs, provided they are not based on en masse batch elevations and misplaced upgradation of jobs, possibly even mandatory exits for those not making the threshold levels at different stages or ranks.

The government, yet, has always been a great employer, even if its employees are not all great role models. Special child-care leave even for men is a great step forward. However, the payment in full for such leave is not understood. You can pay 50 per cent of the salary and allow lien on employment, but why this blind largesse when even the earlier offer for women for two years was most generous.

Elimination of many allowances and subsidies may hurt union interests but this simplification and rationalisation was most needed as was the hike in gratuity limits (something that will have improved tax exemption limits even for non-governmental citizens eventually!)

The lack of a clear recommendation to abolish the completely anachronistic IAS supremacy is disappointing. A single-digit difference in marks, once in a lifetime, cannot entitle anyone to a lifelong sinecure. Civil servants have to deliver or perish. Rewards can no longer be a matter of right. ‘One Rank, One Pension’ is a sensible call. But all the rewards and rising fiscal deficit ( to be made worse if state governments were to follow suit, as is expected) without any recommendations on reducing headcount or enforcing a higher performance standard, has been a tardy and toothless recommendation. There can be no expectation for better service but surely plenty of worries for the rest of us to pay higher taxes.

Finally, it is surprising to see the ‘cut paste’ composition of the Pay Commission continue. A judge, a civil servant and an economist juggle as always in a world where so much contemporary HR advice is available. The lack of breakthrough thinking is then not surprising. As always, the recent Pay Commission has yet again appeased more, than written a new philosophy for government employees.

(The author is a senior HR leader and a former civil servant. He is currently the global chief people officer at Cipla. The views expressed in the article are in personal capacity.)