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CDS Bipin Rawat on military retirement age at 58: Is greying army a good or dangerous idea?

CDS Bipin Rawat said Tuesday that the retiring age of armed forces personnel, those below the rank of officers, should be extended to 58, from the current 37-38.

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Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat said Tuesday that the retiring age of armed forces personnel, those below the rank of officers, should be extended to 58, from the current 37-38, to reduce the defence pension bill and enhance services. Pensions account for 28 per cent of the overall expenditure of India’s defence ministry.

ThePrint asks: CDS Bipin Rawat on military retirement age at 58: Is greying army a good or dangerous idea?

Modi govt pays a lot of lip-service and symbolism to national security, but fails to put money where the mouth is

Maj Gen Ashok MehtaMaj Gen. Ashok Kumar Mehta (Retd)
Defence analyst

Increasing military retirement age to 58 years is an utterly bad idea, especially as a solution for raising funds for modernisation on account of soaring pension bills. Further, you cannot have a greying Army and expect it to meet counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency missions within our country’s borders.

More importantly, there is no guarantee that the money saved by these measures will be provided for defence modernisation programmes. We have a precedent for this. In the late ’90s, when General Ved Prakash Malik was the army chief, he cut the size of the army by 50,000 personnel to save on Rs. 500 crore at the end of the year. This amount was meant to be added on to the capital expenditure, but that did not happen. Governments excel in false promises.

The CDS should tell the central government in no uncertain terms that the modernisation budget over the last 5 years has been as flat as a chapatti at a time when India faces a two-front threat from Pakistan and China. There are huge voids in defence capability vis-a-vis the threat from China and those cannot be made good unless additional funds are provided to the Army.

This government pays a lot of lip-service and symbolism to national security but fails to put money where the mouth is. Winning elections, singing surgical strikes is now ad nauseam. Monies are needed in the short term before institutional surgery.

Extending retirement age of combat soldiers unacceptable, but can be selectively applied depending on functional needs

Lt Gen. (Dr) Prakash Menon
Director, Strategic Studies Programme, Takshashila Institution

The idea of keeping the military young is rooted in the nature of war. Danger, fear, risk and uncertainty are constant characteristics that are applicable to soldiers in combat. So, whether it is wars of the future or wars fought in any other age of the distant past, the ambience of combat will remain unchanged. It is axiomatic that a young military is the natural preference. However, there are many functions within the military that are performed by personnel who are not expected to be subjected to similar rigours of combat conditions. These functions are primarily in the domain of logistics and administration, whose primary purpose is to provide support for sharpening the lethality of the military’s combat elements.

So, while increasing the retirement age of combat soldiers is unacceptable, it can to some extent be selectively applied depending on functional requirements, including migrating combat soldiers after they have passed their prime into logistics and administrative tasks. But this would not solve in any significant manner the problem of the burgeoning defence pension. The solution, perhaps, lies in establishing a flow between the armed forces and the police forces. Takshashila Institution’s Discussion Document provides a way forward.

CDS Rawat’s comments should not be seen as casting doubts on resilience of Army when it comes to combat

Lt Gen. Satish Dua (Retd)
Former chief of Integrated Defence Staff, Indian Army

The question is an oversimplification and it implies an ushering in of a greying, fatigued Army. I believe Chief of Defence Staff Gen Rawat’s comments were in reference to the technical manpower of the Army, which is not in front-line combat, such as paramedics, electrical and mechanical engineers. As a fringe-benefit, this would lead to delayed pensions that would save the exchequer a lot of pain and money and provide a temporary reprieve to the revenue expenditure of the defence budget.

Advancements in technology call for an even greater need for technical manpower to serve longer in the Army and sharpen their skill sets. After all, 35 or 37 years of age is no time to retire after being inducted at 18 years or so.

Take for example an engineer who deals with missile systems. When such an engineer retires in their 30s, the only close-to-appropriate job for him/her would be in software. The engineer’s choices are limited. If he/she were to stay on, the person would have more opportunities to become grey with wisdom.

I don’t think CDS Bipin Rawat’s comments should be seen as casting doubts on the resilience of the Indian Army when it comes to combat, in fact, it is moving with the times because better healthcare allows for some soldiers to serve longer than the current retirement age.

India always had jawans retiring at 30-35 yrs. It would be better to transfer them to CRPF or state police

Lt Gen. S.R. GhoshLt Gen. S.R. Ghosh (Retd)
Former General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOC-in-C), Western Command

The need to reduce the military pension bill is critical. However, doing so by increasing the retirement age of soldiers carries the inherent danger of India being saddled with a greying army. It will not be able to cope with the rigours and challenges of serving in difficult terrains or being in combat, especially when pitted against a younger enemy army. If at all, a limited number of soldiers could be given extended service, but only in non-combat and non-combat support units.

Moreover, retirement age extension will only reduce the pension bill temporarily till the cycle restarts again. When the soldier retires after finishing two times the service that he/she is doing now, he/she will also expect his/her pension to be doubled.

Finally, cutting down on fresh recruitment will deny employment to a large segment of India’s youth.

There has always been an issue of jawans retiring at the age of 30-35, at their prime. It would be much better to transfer this group of young, highly-trained and disciplined men and women to the Central Armed Police Forces (CRPF) or the state police forces.

This would ensure an annual transfer of 50,000 personnel to the police forces, thus, making savings on the Army’s pension bill as also cutting down the cost of training fresh recruits in the police forces.

Also read: Has CAG Siachen report exposed Modi govt’s muscular national security pitch as hollow?

By Pia Krishnankutty, journalist at ThePrint

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  1. This is not good decision taken by cds…. He never think infentry who face in boder challenge. Our border area is getting difficult to serve on that Hialtude area…. So another think to compare a young. And old soldier…. Never expected to both same…..

  2. Don’t compare jawan with officer..
    1. It should be optional as per individual choice only. Not by order.

  3. One important point that every one ignoring. By increasing of age it causes to hamper hectic task in older age and secondly reducing chance to younger that increase unemployment ratio .

  4. Army ke andar bhi Navy or airforce ki tarah 58 sal Tak service karne ka pravdhan hona chahie,Jo Jawan 58 sal Tak service nahin karna chahta hai ,vah premature pension ja sakta hai, kyunki Sana mein bahut kam umra mein Jawan ko pension Jana padta hai,use samay uske bacche badi class mein padhne layak Ho jaati Hain, ab uska kharcha badh jata hai aur aamdani aadi Ho jaati hai, majburan use private naukari karni padati hai ya FIR koi security guard ki naukari karni padati hai, isase to achcha ye hoga ki vah apni Puri service 58 sal Tak yah Karen, ya FIR koi aisa niyam Ho ki army ki colour service Puri hone ke bad use Desh ke ardh Sainik Bal CRPF /CISF state police main naukari for Rakha jaaye aur vahan uski age Puri hone ke bad use retirement kiya jaaye,

  5. Cds giveß very very bad ideas…also he is. Such a doing chaplusi for modi. Noone stand at 58 yrs in combact dty…u r comparing jawan n officers. Age. Bledy cds u have to compare. Services. ..of officer..

    • I think this one is a better idea bcz every soldier who retired up to 37 face lage no of challenges like as his children are up to 13 to 16 year old so they have required money for their study and family challenges are also. So if this idea implimetented for non combat devision this would be better one.

      • 1. Facilities in between PBOR and Officers is a wide range of difference in any point of view.
        So Officer can do upto 58 years.

        2. It is applicable only for willing persons.

        3. Some people conditions are not suitable for stay with their family continuously.

        (a) Because of their children higher

        (b). Own property lying unattended and
        the Govt give leave 3 months only in a year.
        Which cause of major financial loss.

        (c). Family frequently health problems.

        4. Individual health conditions are also not supported after 45 years. Almost above 60%

        5. Money is not everything in our life. Relations are also important. Half of life sacrifice for our country. Remaining a little bit of life want to stay with family members is a Genuine Point.

        6. Everybody live upto 70 years. Is there any guarantee.

        7. In my point of view decision making give for individual only. Not by order

        8. What about not interested persons. If you ordered but he disagree or not show any interest in his job. Finally frustration occured.

        9. This is 100% true. Anybody want to know direct meet persons then automatically clear.

    • I think this one is a better idea bcz every soldier who retired up to 37 face lage no of challenges like as his children are up to 13 to 16 year old so they have reqiured money for their study and family challenges are also. So if this idea implimetented for non combat devision this would be better one.

  6. Retirement age not to be increased. It’s toughest time soldier has to be away from their families . Not feasible

  7. Army duty or capf police ki duty me bahut different h
    जन सुविधाओं को बढ़ावा दिया जाए पेंशन को कमकिया जाए

  8. There has always been debate between young profile cum pension budget, vs modernization.
    Huge chunk of pension funds goes to civilian paid from defence.
    However army must look at technical & logistics services ages being enhanced gradually. Armoured, mech infantry, AD arty & others predominantly deployed in plains, could be subjected to higher ages. But don’t touch infantry

  9. आज के समय 15 साल आर्मी मे सर्विष करने के बाद जवान की हालत नही रहती कि वो और अधिक आर्मी मे सेवा दे सके, क़योकि आज हर आदमी 35 साल बाद बिमार रहता है।

    • Ye proposal jo CDS ne liya hai Sabse 100% bad proposal. Kiu Ki 35yrs ke baad jawan K Sarir me kamjori or bimari aah jati hai. Jawan Ki service 15yrs 3mnth tak Sarir Thik rahta hai uske baad hatiyar duty nhi kar pata hai or high altitude duty nhi kar pata hai and physicaly unfit hona suru ho jata hai. Jo Karna chahte hai wo Kare lekin jo nhi karna chahte hai uska jo Rulling hai usko na change Kare. Kiu Ki jawan thora pension K liye h 15 yr 3mnth service karna chahte uske baad apna paribar or bacche K pass Baki jindegi bitane chahte hai. us pension me v CDS katauti kar raha hai to Jo jawan ka already bond paper me 15 yrs 3 month ka Rulling likha hai usko badlna Nhi chahiye. Naya jo recruitment ho raha uske liye soch sakte hai? But bad proposal CDS ka Isme jawan ka moral down ho gaya hai. Ladai Kaise ladega. Rulling na change Kare jo chal raha hai 15yrs 3month wo h Thik hai ek jawan K liye. Jawan pure jindegi bacche or paribar Ko cchor kar nhi rah sakta hai. Or uske baad pension me v katauti. 100% bad proposal.

  10. Taking into consideration the training & works the military Soldiers given, the duties they have to do during Emergency conditions, the suggestion of CDS Bipin Rawat has given should be seriously paid attention due. Because after retirement the lives of the ex soldiers require to be into account. They should be given BSRF, police, & where ever necessary .

  11. It is evident the good general is not actually expecting a two front war to be fought for the next twenty years.

    • It is not a good idea for defence because serve in defence is challenging . Javans are not capable for 60 years service. In navy it may be very challenging to survive in ship.

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