Of salary hikes and serious change

While presenting the Sixth Pay Commission report to the finance minister, Justice Srikrishna is reported to have remarked that his recommendations would make everyone equally unhappy. This is almost like when Henry Kissinger described the criteria of a successful international negotiation to be one which left all negotiating parties equally unhappy with the outcome.

The mandate of the Sixth Pay Commission was seeking recommendations beyond financial issues on "transforming central government organisation into modern, professional and citizen friendly entities that are dedicated to the service of the people."

As expected, the recommendations have evoked contradictory responses — on whether it would make government jobs more attractive, lure better talent, reduce corruption, create incentives for improved productivity, retain the delicate equilibrium between different categories of employees, say the police and the armed forces.

Let me comment on four issues.

First, on creating a competitive environment to attract talent. Is this really a losing game and somewhat like Alice in Wonderland in seeking to run faster and faster to be in the same place? The recommendations giving significantly higher emoluments to regulators, encouraging contractual appointment and delinking professionals with domain knowledge from the prescribed pay scale have multiple positives. No doubt, transparency and adhering to the prescribed recruitment process alter existing paradigms for such appointments and a lot would depend on how truthfully they are implemented. Based on current trends, the Indian economy is likely to grow at eight per cent in the medium term and salaries in the private sector will always outpace what government can seek to match. However, all over the world public service and participation in the decision making process which impacts our lives is compensation enough for the large differential between pubic and private emoluments. That may not therefore be a losing game.

... contd.

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