Pay Commission 007: Bond’s Spectre pales before India’s Spectre!

Dear Reader,

Here’s a spoof piece that I wrote for my column “Tweakonomics”, which appeared today in the Hindu Business Line. You can either read it at http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/columns/pay-commission-007/article7912977.ece or read it here directly. Enjoy!

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It’s back! In a richer, more generous, more fiery, more flashy avatar. With more goodies for everyone. No, not James Bond. Pay Commission 007. And it has left the Indian Administrative Services shaken as well as stirred.

Decadal corrections have come in, and how! “What took you so long, 007?” Even as the average salaries of central government employees go up by 23 per cent, this Desi 007 has created a storm by bringing the tricky question of pay parity between IAS and other services to the fore. IAS officers enjoy higher pay than their counterparts in other services by way of earning additional increments at 3 per cent of their basic pay.

The weeks prior to the release of the recommendations of Pay Commission 007 saw hectic activity and a flurry of letters from IAS officers to Secretary, department of personnel and training. It’s very difficult to understand what most IAS officers write in their letters. For the most part it does seem to be in English, but for mere mortals (read non-IAS) to understand what the brightest and the best are saying is to expect a child to fathom The Wasteland by TS Eliot.

Had we had the honour of hosting Sir Humphrey, the Permanent Secretary to Hon’ble Jim Hacker (of Yes, Minister! fame) in the IAS, he would have recorded his “profound opposition to the newly instituted practice which imposes severe and intolerable restrictions upon the ingress and egress of senior members of the hierarchy and which will, in all probability, should the current deplorable innovation be perpetuated, precipitate a constriction of the channels of communication, and culminate in a condition of organisational atrophy and administrative paralysis, which will render effectively impossible the coherent and co-ordinated discharge of the function of government within India”. Whew! That is Sarkari 007 to cut the Sanskaari Bond to size. To put it in English, “We are simply the best and hence deserve more”. It’s simply the “writing on the wall”, Bond would have claimed.

Bond heads to Mexico City with a lead from M and has his brush with Spectre, the organisation driven by IT intelligence systems, and exists simply everywhere. The Indian Pay Commission 007 is also headed by our own M, Justice AK Mathur, and now is up against the Indian Administrative Spectre, the organisation driven by Bureaucracy intelligence (?) systems and exists simply everywhere, or as an afterthought, at least in the highest levels of government.

Fathom this. Of the total 91 Secretary posts in the current system, there are 73 IAS officers and a sprinkling of other services just to keep the situation under control and maintain an atmosphere of bonhomie with the police, forests, scientists, etc. However, at the Joint Secretary level, they don’t even pretend to be interested in “What will the other Services think” . Joint Secretaries are IAS officers. Period. Having secured the joints, the IAS cadre then “adds on” muscle power. Additional Secretaries obviously have to be IAS officers; what with all these Secretaries and Joint Secretaries and Additional Secretaries, you have quite an adhesive Bond of the Indian Administrative Spectre.If Bond’s Spectre is autocratic, the Indian Spectre is bureaucratic. If Spectre works with sinister one-liners, the IAS works with meaningless realms of paper in different coloured ink filed meticulously since 1947. Pay Commission 007 is up against a formidable force. In the Indian version of Spectre, M has raised the Q. The real Q is, is there an A?

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