The Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM) which was started to fight for One Rank One Pension (OROP) has termed Modi Government’s proposal to cut down the pension of those opting for premature retirement as irrational & illegal. The Chairman of IESM, Advisor United Front of ESM,(JM) and a veteran of 1971 War, Maj Gen Satbir Singh SM (Retd) wrote on the microblogging site Twitter ” IESM will fight tooth & nail within the norms of the constitution in case govt goes ahead to implement irrational & illegal proposal.”
The Department of Military Affairs (DMA) has proposed to cut down the pension of those opting for premature retirement and hike the retirement age of certain categories by up to three years. The DMA headed by Indian Army General Bipin Rawat is a newly created entity under the Ministry of Defence and is tasked for Human Resource (HR) and coordination issues between the Army, Navy and the Air Force. As per October 29 communication by the DMA, a draft of the government sanction letter is being readied by November 10 for review by Gen Rawat, the DMA Secretary and also the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).
The pension cut would affect senior officers in the Indian armed forces. The letter proposes to increase the retirement age of the Colonels, Brigadiers and Major Generals to 57, 58 and 59 years from 54, 56 and 58 years currently. The same would apply for the equivalent ranks in the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy. The ballooning of the pension bill has been an issue of intense debate since the unsatisfactory implementation of OROP which was a poll plank of Narendra Modi led Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) in 2014. In the ongoing fiscal ending 31 st March 2021, the pension bill stands at Rs 1,33,819 crore, which is 28 per cent of the ministry’s overall budget of Rs 4,71,372 crore. The Armed Forces budget has also seen reduction and cuts for many years since the Modi Government came to power. The Armed Forces veterans feel shortchanged by the Modi Government’s OROP implementation.
“The last bastion of the country, the Defence Forces have been downgraded & degraded to unacceptable levels. Severe discrepancies have been created in the Military profession viz other Central Govt Services. The latest proposal of the Govt to reduce pensions for premature retirees has caused anguish to soldiers, both serving and retired. The proposal is illegal, demotivating & demoralising,” wrote tweeted Maj Gen Satbir Singh.
IESM argues that the monetary conditions of the youth volunteers in the services should be improved instead of being taken away. “JCOs and Other Ranks are entitled to proceed on retirement with full pension duly sanctioned at the discretion of the Competent Authority after 15 years of service and officers after 20 years of service. The Competent Authority can refuse to retire a soldier, how then there can be any reduction in pensions? Such a dictatorial proposal needs to be rejected. Our military structure is well time tested. It should be qualitatively improved so that the suitable youth volunteers for the profession and not take away what is already part of the terms and conditions of service,” writes Maj Gen Satbir Singh.
The Armed Forces are facing a shortage in the officer level category and there is an increasing trend in the serving officers to retire prematurely as better monetary opportunities are available in the private sector. As per the official government release, the armed forces are facing a shortage of 9,427 officers. Overall 78,291 jobs are lying vacant in the armed forces including officers and Personnel Below Officers Rank (PBOR).
In the past week, the Modi Government is on overdrive promoting its version of OROP including releasing testimonials of right-wing leaning ex-servicemen. The opposition party the Indian National Congress (INC) has asked the Modi government to implement the version of United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA, of which it is a lead party) OROP proposal which is close to what the Armed Forces are demanding. The Ex-Servicemen argue that Modi Government has not even fulfilled its own version of the OROP. “OROP revision as per Modi Govt Policy letter of Nov 2015 which became Due in July 2019 NOT yet given,” tweeted Col Tekpal Singh on November 8.