The newly conceived Department of Military Affairs (DMA) has come under intense fire following a letter on ‘pension’ and ‘retirement age’ related policy considerations. The DMA, which is headed by Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat is yet another addition in nations long line of Higher Defence Organisation (HDO). This new department is tasked to 'look after HR and coordination issues'.
The DMA letter proposes to increase that the age of retirement for senior defence service officers…as follows; Colonels (57 yrs), Brigadier (58 yrs), Major General (59 yrs). The same is applicable to officers of equivalent ranks in the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force.
The letter recommends to ‘review’ (read slash) the pension of commissioned officers looking to take premature retirement. This move by the DMA has irked several in both the veteran and serving fraternities, with Fauji WhatsApp groups and Twitter set ablaze with ex-servicemen and serving officers alike fuming!
The Tribune’s Ajay Banerjee broke the story, and the most relevant extracts from his piece have reproduced for the purpose of a military discourse on this sour issue yet poignant issue.
Extracts from Ajay Banerjee's Story
- A letter sent out by the DMA office on October 29 says a draft of the Government Sanction Letter (GSL) is being readied by November 10 for review by General Rawat.
- A senior lawyer, who deals in the subject of military law, said “the DMA has no locus standi to alter pension formula and it will be challenged in court”.
- This letter proposes to increase the retirement age of Colonels, Brigadiers and Maj Generals to 57 years, 58 years and 59 years, respectively. The existing retirement age for Colonels, Brigadiers and Maj Generals is 54 years, 56 years, and 58 years, respectively.
- The core issue is the pension formula which is now suggested to be in a format that increases the emoluments with years of service. As per the proposal, an officer with 20-25 years of service will get 50 per cent of ‘entitled pension’. The existing entitled pension is 50 per cent of the last pay drawn. In other words, the pension will be halved.
- An officer serving for 26-30 years would get 60 per cent of entitled pension; those doing 30-35 years of service will get 75 per cent of entitled pension. Only those who do more than 35 years of service will be entitled for full pension, that is 50 per cent of the last pay drawn.
- A functionary pointed out that only those who get commissioned by 22 years of age will be eligible for full pension after serving for 35 years as they could retire at Colonel’s at 57 years of age. There has been an ongoing debate on the rising pension bill of the MoD since the ‘One rank, one pension’ was implemented.
Responses from Veterans and Serving Officers
A serving Brigadier
“While other government establishments secure their cadre, we for a few political brownie points, will surely let down our own as always!”
It is sad that we are axing ourselves in the foot constantly with poorly thought out policies and futuristic plans. We are our own worst enemy! While the retirement age is certainly a factor we can debate, I personally welcome it. The misnomer that we will have an old army is a statement open to the house to ponder over. Because the fitness levels are much higher today. A brigadier with 31 years of service and 51 years old is as fit as any other officer.
But at that rank and age, it is not physical fitness but mental mobility, decision making capability, indomitable spirit, risk taking ability, calling a spade a spade, intellectual honesty and the tolerance for ambiguity that is required. Age therefore is not the ruling factor for retirement.
However, what this letter is trying to do is create an enigma of insecurity. Deny you alternate careers, you in your wisdom of Annual Confidential Reports (ACR) being the main and only factor for promotion have already dug your grave, the manipulators, the managers, and the yes men are many, yes a few good men exist. But the minority are not even worth making a change in our system.
The manipulators, the managers, and the yes men are many, yes a few good men exist. But the minority are not even worth making a change in our system!"
The degree of non-empanelment due to a pyramidal structure is a reality that we are not even addressing. What we have done by giving them opportunities in staff and the United Nations is like a laugh riot
Employment without promotion prospects is a dead horse, yet we still want to flog it. We have mediocrity in senior leadership which surprisingly addresses itself as the privileged class, because they have climbed the ladder while some of the unlucky ones who just happened to have a whimsical Initiating Officer (IO) have been left behind. Our own officers constantly beat the system.
Take a breather out of the recently conducted National Defence College (NDC) list. None of the guys decorated for gallantry or serving in field formations as young officers and company commanders have made it. Maybe a minuscule but hardly worth the reckoning. The guys with two to three tenures in Army Headquarter (AHQ) are surely embedded there. We are just chanting our queens English to a Bermudas Triangle of in-retractable catastrophe. An Armageddon of the mediocre.
While other government establishments secure their cadre, we for a few political brownie points, will surely let down our own as always!
Brigadier Pradeep Sharma (Retd) ex NSG (SAG), DS AWC, Analyst
"How will this affect the morale of our soldiers deployed in Ladakh when his counterparts in the ITBP deployed alongside him will smile with contempt at him? Why does the India Army seem hurt this nation so much?"
The implications of this proposal to increase retirement ages are:
- No re-employment!
- All promotions and promotion boards will freeze for the next two or three years since no vacancies will be generated and a cascading delayed effect will fall on the subsequent promotion boards.
- Ageing of the Armed Forces, how will we be different from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) or Border Security Force (BSF) then?
- The Armed Forces will have to shift to the National Pension Scheme (NPS) too.
- Increase in revenue expenditure since salaries will have to be paid for senior ranks for additional years.
- Any savings in lump sum retirement benefits will just be deferred to the next two three years.
- Proposal to cut pensions is highly retrograde when all other organisations are getting full pensions. How will this affect the morale of our soldiers deployed in Ladakh when his counterparts in the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) deployed alongside him will smile with contempt at him?
"What troubles my mind is why the government is gunning for the Armed Forces alone? The CAPF are getting everything and expanding, the IAS/IPS do not seem to be a burden on the budget."
This further indicates two things
- Only some ex National Defence Academies (NDA) and Technical Entry Scheme (TES) entries will be eligible for 100% pension as maximum Direct Entries (DE) and Short Service Commission (SSC) Officers join at the age of more than 22-23 years of age.
- (35 years of service + 22 years of age = 57 years which is also the retirement age of a Colonel)
The same may not be applicable for jawans in fighting arms, their pensionable service is being slightly increased. I think 20 years if recollect accurately and they will hence be eligible for 50% of their salary is normal pension after 20 years of service ..whereas a Lieutenant Colonel with 20 yrs of service will only get 25% of his last salary (basic + msp) (0% of present pension as per the letter)
So, a matriculate passed 'Bhoop Singh' with 20 years after having done good working and duty will get almost the same pension as a Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) competitive graduate Lt Col!
What troubles my mind is why is the government gunning for the Armed Forces alone? The Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) are getting everything and expanding, the Indian Administrative Service (IAS)/Indian Police Service (IPS) do not seem to be a burden on the budget, Members of Parliament (MP)/Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) too. Why does the India Army seem hurt this nation so much?
Brigadier Surinder Kakar (Retd), EME
“The MoD is ensuring, that the morale of the forces plummets all the way down into their boots... If you pay peanuts, you will get monkeys for sure!”
This is the latest, ‘Money Saving Scheme’ (MSS) formulated by our Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat! This (development) is not at all, in the interest of the Indian Armed Forces! Neither in the short term nor in the long run!
When the security scenario is going to be critical and tense in the future with both our eastern and western neighbours, the MoD is ensuring, that the morale of the services, falls into their boots!
No wonder, a study showed that 75% of children of Defence Services Officers, do not opt to join the Armed Forces! The reason is simply obvious. Will anyone join an organisation, if they keep changing, terms of reference at whims and fancies of individuals? Remember this, If you pay peanuts, you will get monkeys for sure!
Colonel Rajinder Singh Kushwaha (Retd), Author & Analyst
“This is the reason bright talents are not opting for a career in the Armed Forces. You promise something and then change the rules midway!”
This is in the offing —result of a survey. Gen Rawat is going to push through, watch out! It Must be debated to check the PMR pension issue. Changes in terms of engagement and employment cannot simply be modified at whims and fancies of one person.
As per earlier policy, full pension was to be given after 20 years of service — why should it be tinkered with now? This is the reason bright talents are not opting for a career in the Armed Forces. You promise something and then change rules midway.
This policy of increasing the retirement age of officers and soldiers, along with a new pension policy, is fraught with rising discontent and friction within the Tri-services. The gross discontent is due to the arbitrary tinkering of the terms of employment.
Even if the decision were for new entries to the Armed Forces, it would, in effect create separate categories of soldiers. Some new entrants might take it as discrimination and a violation of the fundamental right of equality! Courts may overflow with petitions of this nature!
Another point is that all the three services might not be on the same page as far as the proposed new pension rules are concerned. The Indian Army and the CDS cannot and should impose its will on the other two services.
Furthermore, what to even say of seeking Jointmanship by creating Theatre Commands? It will lead to insurmountable walls of differences between the tri-services. This would be anti-thesis of integration and jointmanship.
"Even if the decision were for new entries to the Armed Forces, it would, in effect create separate categories of soldiers. Some new entrants might take it as discrimination and a violation of the fundamental right of equality!
In any case, even the idea of age enhancement might not be appreciated because of rising ‘dead -wood liabilities’ after supersession of officers. Let us say an officer becomes a full Colonel after 15-16 years of service then 85-90% will get superseded for next rank by 20-21 years’ service. Army would have to suffer them for other 14-15 years of service against 10-11 years now.
The disadvantage of age enhancement, besides leading to ageing Colonels/Commanding Officers (CO), would also create a huge flock of disgruntled officers. What more, it would also block vacancies in the rank of Colonels for five more years and thus the age of COs would go up by five years.
Furthermore, by implementing the policy of age enhancement, the armed forces would be violating the cardinal principle of ‘Younger the leader; More risks he would take in combat decision making’. At the executional level of Command, a more aged a CO is more cautious he becomes and thus may let go of the fleeting opportunities presented at crucial times.
"Do Indian Generals of the day have the spunk to tell the Government of the day: "Pay the national insurance premium for national security now or face disintegration. Do not expect the Armed Forces to starve by tightening it belt."
The question comes to mind as to what is forcing this policy change of age enhancement and pension rules. Is it to save money? What an irony? Lakhs of crores of rupees loans of farmers are being written off by the Government at various times, then why is this crunch for national security and integrity? What about the subsidies and grants being given to certain communities and states? Are they above national security?
It must be noted that any expenditure on national defence and security was a national premium for the national insurance of its security. It is indispensable and cannot become an onus of the Armed Forces by squeezing and tightening their belts. This premium must be found by the national government of the day to ensure the survival of the national integrity. The arrangements of requisite funds for defence and security is not the responsibility of armed forces. It is a dangerous precedent being set by the CDS to please his political bosses.
On this, one is reminded of General Douglas McArthur of US Army, when he was the Chief of the Army in 1931 before the Second World War. Franklin D Roosevelt was the president of USA then. The European economy had suffered a major slump and USA was helping its revival by Marshall Plans. Thus, there was an urgent need of funds and President Roosevelt decided to make cut in Defence Budget.
Upon learning about it Gen. Douglas Mc Arthur went to the president to dissuade him from making a cut in defence budget. All his arguments were rejected by the President. General Mc Arthur decided to leave president’s office. As he reached the door, he turned on his heels and said to the president:—
“Mr. President , when in the next war, an American Soldier lay on the battlefield, with an enemy bayonet piercing his abdomen and he spat out his last curse, I do not want the bane to be McArthur but Roosevelt!”
It is no gain saying the fact that President Roosevelt changed his mind immediately and allowed full defence budget with enhanced allotment too. And history bears testimony that it was the US army that turned the tabled-on Hitler’s Germany in the Second World War.
Do Indian Generals of the day have the spunk to tell the Government of the day: "Pay the national insurance premium for national security now or face disintegration. Do not expect the Armed Forces to starve by tightening it belt. Aged leadership and starved armed forces would crumble before the first bullet was fired".
"The Maintenance of Morale is Crucial at this Juncture"
The above responses are not isolated voices. Indian Armed veterans and officers have have been extremely vocal on social media and course Whatsapp groups about the DMA letter. This development, at a time when the nation in the middle of an ongoing standoff with its eastern neighbour, and when the shortage of Defence Services Officers is at an all time low, is concerning.
The maintenance of morale amongst the rank and file of the Armed Forces is crucial at this juncture; The voice of veterans cannot and should not be taken lightly. The establishment has an obligation to take care of those it sends to fight its wars. In the words of Calvin Coolidge. "A nation which forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten." Perhaps this is something the bureaucracy should ponder over.
(Additional Responses from Veterans & Serving Officers in Part 2 of this Debate)
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