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'Equity At The Top Is Fake Socialism'

Inducted into the core group of the three-member body which finalised the fifth Pay Commission, Prof. Suresh Tendulkar, director, Delhi School of Economics, has a rationale for the lopsided Pay Commission recommendations. He spoke to Outlook:

'Equity At The Top Is Fake Socialism'
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Has the government been fair in implementing the report?

The government has "improved" upon the recommendations of the Pay Commission by increasing the financial outlay. Our figure of Rs 8,300 crore has gone up to Rs 10,300 crore. They have given a separate deal to scientists, armed forces and those at the lower rung. They have also changed the formula for placement. For instance, our recommendation was that for every four increments, one increment should be given in the new grade. They have changed it to the ratio of 3:1.

The unions have come out very strongly. Do you think the salary-structure is equitable?

Equity can be seen from my narrow perspective or from the point of view of society. When government employees account for 4 per cent of the country’s work-force and 96 per cent are outside, what kind of equity are you talking about? The government machinery has to work according to norms of efficiency and if a secretary is performing his job well—not that he does—I don’t mind paying him more. Government employment is not the place for serving the equity objective.

We are a welfare state.

It’s fake socialism if you worry about equity at the top 2 per cent of the workforce.

Some say the report has been prepared by the IAS for the IAS?

See, the member secretary of the Pay Commission has traditionally been a serving IAS officer, this Commission was no exception. By its very nature the IAS gets exposure to different levels of administration which people from other central services do not. While on the one hand, professionals might provide a technical edge in a job, on the other, they do develop vested interests. So given all this, we decided to retain the edge that the IAS has over the other services.

Apart from the salary structure, what do you feel about the government’s response?

The accountability and transparency that needs to be brought into government transactions is lacking. While I did succeed in getting my colleagues to propose a 30 per cent reduction in workforce over the next 10 years, the government has put the need for downsizing on the back-burner. Similarly, to other suggestions about abolition of posts, the government has provided several riders. On the whole, it is quite dissatisfactory because you have to start downsizing by curtailing at the top. There are so many secretary-level posts which are totally redundant.

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