New Delhi: A note by the Department of Military Affairs (DMA), headed by Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, on a proposed new retirement and pension policy has caused serious heartburn in the military with indications that the three services are not on board.
The note, which is doing the rounds on social media, is dated 29 October and seeks for a draft Government Sanction Letter for changes in retirement profile and pension entitlements.
The proposed rules will be applicable to all equivalent ranks across the three services.
As proposed in the note, the retirement age of colonels (other than that of the Army Medical Corps and Military Nursing Service) will be increased to 57 years from the current 54.
The retirement age of brigadiers is proposed to be increased to 58 years from the current 56 years and that of the major generals to 59 from the current 58. No change has been proposed for the lieutenant general rank, which will continue to be 60 years.
The retirement of the Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) and Other Ranks (ORs) in the services (Logistics, Technical and Medical Branch, including EME, ASC and AOC) has been proposed to be 57 years. ORs currently retire after 17 years of service.
Tweaking of pensions for those seeking premature release
The main cause of heartburn, however, has been the changes proposed for pension entitlements of those seeking Premature Release (PMR).
In the services, an officer can seek PMR after having served the pensionable age, which is 20 years of service. If cleared, the officer gets a pension which is 50 per cent of his/her last drawn salary.
But according to the new changes proposed, those taking PMR with 20-25 years of service will now be entitled to only 50 per cent of the pension.
“What this means is that, let us say an officer gets Rs 1 lakh as salary right now. If he takes PMR, his pension would be Rs 50,000. However, under new rules, if he has served only 20-25 years, then he will get a pension of only Rs 25,000,” a source in the defence establishment said.
Those with 26-30 years of service will get 60 per cent of the pension and those with 31-35 years of service will get 75 per cent of the pension. Only those with above 35 years of service will get full pension if they take PMR, according to the proposed changes.
While both serving and retired officers expressed anguish over the proposal, sources in the security establishment said the move is aimed at cutting down the pension cost.
‘Pensions are sacred’
Serving officers said the changes have been proposed by the DMA and the services still have the opportunity to express their views against it.
“India is currently involved in a military confrontation with China. There would be many officers who would have completed their 20 years of service and might not have made it to the next rank. Also, (for) many officers who would be completing 20 years and knowing well they won’t make it to the next rank due to the pyramidal promotion structure that we have, this letter brings down morale,” the first source said.
A serving officer explained that such an order, if and when implemented, will have an impact on recruitments too.
“The whole idea is to keep the force young. With this, the average age of the force increases. Also, there is a huge stagnation of career in the armed forces, especially in the Army. Can’t understand why anyone would want to keep disgruntled elements within the force against their own will,” he said.
A retired officer, who did not wish to be named, told ThePrint: “The pensions are sacred and are governed by a lot of rules and intrinsically linked to the civilian pension also.”
“No one can tinker with them at their own whims. It is not a ‘Tughlaqi farmaan’,” he added.
Veterans, meanwhile, strongly opposed the proposal on social media.
It’s legally unsound It amounts to violation of right to equality Change is proposed by CDS Is this in his purview? The judicial pronouncements make it clear that pension is 50% of last pay so the proposal is false Timing is best #HarmFaujBrigade at work BiRa better than China?
— Wg Cdr M Mujeeb (@GandhianJumlas) November 4, 2020
Plenty of angst among serving & retired mil personnel over proposed changes to retirement ages & pension qualification criteria by Secy DMA, as mentioned in a photo of a letter from the CDS’ secretariat. Question that troubles me is how and why was a photo of this proposal taken?
— Birender Dhanoa (@bsdhanoa) November 4, 2020
‘Proposed changes has benefits’
On why such a move is being planned, a second source said the aim is to bring down the pension cost.
“The pension cost is just too high and overshadows the defence budget,” said the source.
“The idea is to cut down costs by increasing the retirement age so that better productivity happens and the pension cost is down. Right now, many officers take PMR after attaining 20 years of service, which is actually a loss for the services,” the source explained.
A third source ThePrint spoke to said that almost all colonels and most brigadiers seek re-employment after retirement, and so the proposal to increase the retirement age is beneficial to all parties.
“On grant of re-employment, highly qualified officers and experts in particular domains are employed in appointments held by the level of Captains and Majors. This adversely impacts both the organisation and the officer himself, whose job satisfaction takes a hit,” the source explained.
The source added that with regard to JCOs/ORs and their equivalents in the three services, the proposal affects only personnel from services and not the combat arms.
“The organisation invests time and resources in training technicians to make them capable of undertaking specialised tasks. However, due to the current terms of engagement, they come up for retirement while their professional skill is at its peak. Post-retirement, almost all of them seek employment in civil establishments. Effort is to retain expertise while giving benefits to the individual,” the source said.
The source also argued that life expectancy and health infrastructure have improved over time. “This gives the opportunity to retain trained manpower over an extended period. Individuals who complete their pensionable age as per terms of engagement are not affected,” the source added.