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Army cap on premature retirement to continue as Covid has hit recruitment since last year

Currently, only 0.05 per cent (or 1 out of 2,000) retirement requests are being processed, only on compassionate grounds. This is likely to continue until 2022.

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New Delhi: The Army has decided to continue with its policy of restricting premature retirements for soldiers this year too, in view of less recruitment last year because of the pandemic, ThePrint has learnt.

Last year, the Army had promulgated the policy of capping premature retirements for its personnel after the pandemic hit the force’s recruitment drives.

Sources in Army headquarters said only 0.05 per cent (or 1 out of 2000) retirement requests are currently being processed, only on compassionate grounds. This is likely to continue until 2022.

In August 2020, ThePrint had reported that the Regiment of Artillery was among the Army branches that stopped all premature retirements of its personnel from 1 September. The move came due to the pandemic that had delayed planned fresh recruitment, training and induction of recruits.

Sources said there were limited recruitment rallies last year because of which the intake of recruits was low, while those proceeding on superannuation remained the same.

“Approximately 50,000-60,000 Army personnel proceed on superannuation every year, of which premature retirements could range from 6-8 per cent. The move to curtail premature retirements for sometime will go a long way in increasing the gap between the recruits coming in and those retiring,” said a source.

A second source explained that the annual recruitment rallies held across the country by the Army aim for these figures and the intake and outflow are balanced.

“Due to the pandemic, many of the rallies had to be postponed or cancelled, thereby leading to a reduction in recruitment, while the number of personnel superannuating remains more or less constant,” the source said. “This creates a deficiency in the forces. Controlling premature retirements helps in reducing this deficit partially.”

Earlier this week, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and told him that all armed forces medical personnel who had retired or taken premature retirement in the last two years are being recalled to serve in Covid facilities near their residence.

Other medical officers who retired earlier had also been requested to make their services available for consultation through medical emergency helplines, Gen Rawat told the PM.

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Other steps taken by Army to manage pandemic

In the wake of the massive Covid wave, among other offices, the Army headquarters had earlier this month issued orders stating that physical attendance in command and formation headquarters should be 15 per cent at most till further orders, while those on essential duties will continue with existing Covid protocols.

The Army had also cancelled major physical meetings until 5 May, promoting use of video and telephonic conferences.

The orders also said ongoing training courses will continue, but no new courses will start before 10 May. All collective training and field firing were cancelled till 10 May. The dates could be extended depending on the pandemic situation.

The Army also ordered cancellation of temporary duties and leave. The orders said in military bases, all non-essential stores in shopping complexes, parks and cinemas would be shut down while all welfare, social and religious gatherings would be cancelled. Regulated entry in essential stores and canteens would continue.

ThePrint reported earlier that 99 per cent of the 13-lakh strong Army had received the first vaccine dose while only 18 per cent of all personnel are left to receive the second vaccine dose.

On Thursday, Army chief General M.M. Naravane met PM Modi to discuss various initiatives taken by the Army to help in the pandemic management.

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