In a path-breaking reform of the military, the Department of Military Affairs (DMA), headed by Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen. Bipin Rawat, has initiated proposals to increase the retirement age of officers and also cut down the pension of officers opting for Pre Mature Retirement (PMR).
The DMA has proposed increasing the age of retirement of Colonels from the existing 54 to 57, for Brigadiers from 56 to 58 and for Major Generals from 58 to 59. The same is applicable to equivalent ranks in other Services. The process is expected to take another 5-6 months.
“It is proposed that a draft Government sanction Letter (GSL) may be kindly processed for perusal by Secretary DMA by November 10,” says a letter issued by Office of Secretary DMA dated October 29. The age of retirement of Junior Commissioned Officers (JCO) and Other Ranks (OR) in Logistics, Technical and Medical branches is also proposed to be increased to 57 years. For the Army, this includes the Electronics and Mechanical Engineers (EME), the Army Service Corps (ASC) and the Army Ordnance Corps (AOC).
The DMA noted that a large number of personnel were boarded out due to lesser vacancies and some service restrictions. It said that at the same time, there were several specialists and super specialists who were trained for high skill jobs in the services who left the Services to work in other sectors. “Such loss of high-skilled manpower results in void in the Services skill matrix and is counter productive to the armed forces,” the letter said. In view of this, it had been decided to review the pension entitlements.
The pension is proposed to be reviewed in four slabs for PMR of personnel. For 20-25 years of service - 50% of entitled pension; for 26-30 years of service - 60% of entitled pension, for 31-35 years of service - 75% of entitled pension and full pension for 35 years and above service. “There will be no change of pension entitlements of battle casualties,” the letter said.
Individuals who completed their pensionable age as per terms of engagement were not affected, said an official. The proposal with regard to JCOs and ORs in the three Services, affected only personnel from Services and not the combat arms.
Of late, there has been concern over the increasing pension bill after the grant of One Rank One Pension (OROP). Of the total allocation for defence of ₹4.71 lakh crore in 2020-21, defence pensions account for ₹1.34 lakh crore. In view of this, Gen. Rawat had ordered studies to increase the retirement age of officers and specialist cadres. The proposed measures drew sharp responses from the veteran community on social media.
Tour of Duty
In May, in a first of the kind proposal, the Army put out a proposal to take civilians on a three year ‘Tour of Duty’ (ToD) or ‘three years short service’ on a trial basis to serve in the force as both officers and ORs initially for a limited number of vacancies and then expanded later. This proposal was in advanced stages, an official source said. A higher duration was also being considered.
Together these proposals are expected bring significant reduction in pay and pensions and free up funds for modernisation of the Army.