A proposal to increase retirement age across all ranks below Lieutenant General level in the armed forces is in advanced stages and could get government sanction soon. The proposal also suggests a new mechanism to cut premature pension of service personnel.
Sources in the defence establishment indicated that there is resistance among some sections of the forces to the proposal, and that Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat, has been made aware of it.
The sources said that during a presentation given by the three services to the CDS in October, the displeasure of some service personnel to the proposed scheme was conveyed.
However, the Department of Military Affairs (DMA), headed by Gen Rawat as its secretary, mentioned in a letter on October 29 that it is proposing the new structure and sought a Government Sanction Letter (GSL) by November 10. The letter mentioned that as per the new proposal, retirement age of officers across services at Colonel-rank will be increased from present 54 years to 57 years, for Brigadier-level officers it will be raised to 58 years (from 56), and for Major General-level officers it will be 59 years (from the present 58).
Lieutenant General-level officers retire at the age of 60, and no change is suggested in that.
Service chiefs retire at the age of 62, or after serving three years in office, whichever is earlier.
The age for retirement of Junior Commissioned Officers and their equivalent ranks in Navy and Air Force, across all streams, will be 57 years, it is suggested.
Another proposal under consideration is revision of pension entitlements. At present, officers who have completed 20 years of service, and personnel below officer rank with 15 years of service, get 50 per cent of their last drawn emoluments as entitled pension.
The DMA letter has proposed that pension entitlements for premature retirement of personnel should be half of the entitled pension after 20 to 25 years of service, 60 per cent of entitled pension after 26 to 30 years of service. It proposed that personnel who have done 31 to 35 years of service should get 75 per cent of entitled pension, and those who have completed 35 years or more in service will get full pension.
The letter justified it by stating that “there are a large number of personnel who are boarded out in view of lesser vacancies and some service restrictions”. It said there are many specialists and super-specialists who leave the services to join other sectors, and “such loss of high-skilled manpower results in void in the services…and is counter-productive to the Forces”.
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The pension scheme, the letter said, has been reviewed for these reasons.
It mentions there will be no change in pension entitlements of battle casualties.
But sources in the services suggested that a sudden move like this is likely to be challenged in court, as it can impact a large number of serving personnel, especially those close to retirement.
A major concern among some of the officers is that the move can freeze the promotion boards for a period of two to three years, as the retirement age of senior officers will be extended, and no vacancies would be created – this, they contend, can have a cascading delayed effect on subsequent promotions. Another concern is that the armed forces will have to shift to the National Pension Scheme.
On the proposal to cut pensions, one view is that since other organisations give full pensions, it can cause loss of morale among service personnel.
But senior officials suggested that the intention behind the move is that many officers at the rank of Colonels and Brigadiers seek re-employment after retirement, and the trained manpower should be retained for longer.
Regarding the proposal to increase the age of JCOs and their equivalents, in streams such at engineering, service corps and ordnance corps, the rationale is based on the idea that the organisation invests time and resources on training technicians to make them capable of undertaking specialised tasks, but as per the current terms of engagement, they retire when their professional skills are at their peak.
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