Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said on Monday that the fund allocation for one rank, one pension in the interim budget presented by him was in keeping with the estimate given by the Defence Ministry. This was not final and the government would provide more if needed, he added.
Asked if he had agreed to the one rank, one pension demand after Rahul Gandhi pushed for it, Mr. Chidambaram said: “The Budget speech was written many days ago; if the Congress vice-president anticipated very cannily what was going to be in budget, then I congratulate him.”
“We need a young fighting force, we need young jawans and we need young officers. We also need to take care of those who served in the defence forces only for a limited numbers of years. The government has, therefore, decided to walk the last mile and closed the gap for all retirees in all ranks,” he said.
Welcoming the government’s intent, members of the armed forces and retired defence personnel felt the fund required would be nearly five times the allocation of Rs. 500 crore.
They said the Expenditure Secretary had informed the Rajya Sabha committee in 2012 that to fully implement the scheme, nearly Rs. 1,800 crore would be required annually and would entail a 10 per cent hike every year.
But, for the moment, the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM) welcomed the announcement. Lieutenant-General (Retd) Raj Kadyan of the IESM, who was among those who met Mr. Gandhi, said: “We are very happy at this development. Ex-servicemen are not concerned whether it is politics or impending elections that has motivated the Centre to implement this.”
In the past three years, the government tried to address the issue twice, in 2010 and in January 2013. But each time, parity in pension of defence personnel proved elusive.