New Delhi: The retiring age of defence services personnel, particularly below the rank of officers should be raised to 58, from the current 37-38, to optimise their services and to cut down on the increasing defence pension, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat said Tuesday.
The allocation for defence pension has shot up by a significant 13.6 per cent to Rs 1.33 lakh crore in the Union Budget 2020-21. Pensions constitute 28 per cent of the overall expenditure of the defence ministry.
In an interaction with a group of journalists, Rawat said Army officers usually retire between the age of 54-58 and are secure and well taken care of. But those below the officers’ rank are sent home at the age of 37-38 after they are recruited at the tender age of 18-19, the CDS said.
Rawat said after they retire at a young age, they are forced to look for a job, which may not be dignified for them, despite the pension. “The ratio should be reversed. Why make them go through that? Instead their (retirement) age should be increased to 58,” he said.
“Those who have served in difficult areas like Ladakh in their 40s may not have to do so in their later part of their service when they are retiring,” he said.
Rawat said he is in talks with the services over the feasibility of the move.
Even as the Army chief, Rawat had supported the move of increasing the retirement age of the Army jawans. He said even the Army Medical Corps (medical wing of the military) personnel should serve until the age of 58.
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Talking about the other ways to reduce cost of running the military, Rawat said: “TAisation of defence forces is another way forward.”
TA refers to the Territorial Army, which is the second line of defence after the regular Indian Army.
‘Management of budget more important’
On the Defence budget, the CDS said that more than the amount in the Budget, the management of the budget is more important.
“It should not be like you buy whatever is available… you have to be serious about what you really want and decide on your priorities,” he said.
The capital budget allocation for the armed forces for FY 2020-21 has seen a marginal increase of just 3 per cent, or Rs 3,400 crore.
Rawat said that alternate ways of raising funds for defence budget and modernisation should be explored.
The CDS further said that major acquisitions should depend on servicing facilities available and by keeping the maintenance cycle in mind. He was referring to the purchase of 114 fighter aircraft, a tender for which is underway, at one go.
Talking about other big-ticket military acquisitions, such as the third aircraft carrier for the Indian Navy, Rawat said it will depend on how the economy progresses and keeping in view the requirements of the other services. The Navy has been battling for a third indigenous aircraft carrier since long.
Speaking on stocking up of ammunition for the Indian Army, the CDS said: “You can keep stock of ammunition but does it have that amount of shelf life?” he asked. He then added that indigenous manufacturing of ammunition is the need of the hour.
The Army has bought ammunition worth over Rs 30,000 crore over the last three years to slowly fill a critical firepower shortage that was highlighted in the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri sector in 2016.
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