New Delhi: The armed forces have put forth a proposal to include in the services’ pension regulations officer trainees who are medically boarded out for disabilities suffered during their military training. The move will pave the way for the trainees to secure a disability pension.
The proposal is for officer trainees who undergo training at the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun, the National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla, the naval and air force academies. Sources told ThePrint that at least 8-10 trainees are medically boarded out every year.
The proposal, ThePrint has learnt, is under the active consideration of the defence ministry, which is currently assessing the overall financial implications of the move.
Defence sources told ThePrint that the proposal under consideration includes an amendment to the regulation concerning disability pension and family pension — covered under the pension regulations of the services — for these officer trainees.
It has also been proposed that the ex-servicemen contributory health scheme (ECHS) should be extended to these trainees and that they should be granted the benefits under the Army Group Insurance Fund (AGIF).
Once an in-principle approval is received from the government, the finer modalities will be worked out, the sources said.
A defence source told ThePrint that currently the trainees are only paid a stipend in the final year of training.
“The pension for these trainees is likely to be based on the starting salary entitled to a lieutenant or equivalent,” the source said.
The source added that it is proposed that even the contribution to ECHS would be made by the government based on starting salary entitled to a lieutenant or equivalent. The contribution to the AGIF will be deliberated upon after the in-principle approval is granted.
According to Major Navdeep Singh (retd), an advocate in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the issue should’ve been resolved long ago.
“In fact, Mr. Parrikar (former defence minister Manohar Parrikar) wanted this sorted out and had even referred it to the Committee of Experts. The unfortunate part, however, is that despite Mr Parrikar’s will, the committee’s observations and the positive approach of all stakeholders including the CDS, the defence services, higher bureaucracy and even the defence accounts department, the matter is still hanging fire because certain officers at the lower level manage to put up hyper-technical objections and send the file in a never-ending orbit,” he told ThePrint.
ThePrint tried reaching the Defence Ministry spokesperson through a call and a text message, but did not receive a response until the publishing of this report. The report will be updated when we receive one.
A long-standing demand
There has been a long-standing demand from the military community that officer trainees who are medically boarded out or die during their training should be provided with disability pension.
At present, they are not provided pensions, or other pay and allowances as their training is not equated with service.
The issue was put before the Sixth Pay Commission to count their last year of training as service, but was rejected.
A report submitted by a Committee of Experts in 2015 had recommended that the trainees should be given proper disability pension and that they should be supported through professional courses for resettlement in civil life, among others.
However, there was no further movement on the matter.
According to sources, a recent order by the Punjab and Haryana High Court has given fresh impetus to the matter.
In August last year, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had directed the government to consider granting disability benefits to defence officer trainees at par with civilian officers.
The court was hearing a petition by Jaya Madan, widow of a officer trainee who was boarded out of the Indian Military Academy for a disability suffered during training. He passed away in 2019.
The petition had stated that on a disability of 20 per cent, an civil officer trainee is paid Rs 36,465 per month, a recruit trainee (jawans) is paid Rs 18,000 per month, while an officer trainee is paid Rs 12,240 per month. Widows of officer trainees are not paid anything.
This is due to the fact recruits undergoing training are counted as being in service from the first day of training and as a result also get full disability pension and other facilities if they suffer a disability during training. What a disabled officer trainee gets is a monthly ex-gratia award, which is a fixed amount.
A regular disability pension is a factor of the last pay drawn. For 100 percent disability attributable to military service, it is 30 percent of the last pay drawn and scaled down proportionately.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)
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