The rise in budget outlay for pensions of armed forces personnel is “unsustainable” and the three services are conducting a study to analyse the feasibility of extending the retirement age of jawans till 58, said India’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Bipin Rawat on Tuesday (February 4).
The army consists of two categories — officers and jawans — and the former can retire between 54-58 years of age.
“He (officer) is quite secure till the age of 58. At that age, his children are generally settled or are about to settle. Problem is not there. The problem is with men (jawans),” the CDS told the reporters.
Having recruited jawans at the age of 18-19, the army sends them out on retirement at the age of 37-38, he said. “At that age, he suddenly realises that his salary has been cut by half and his free housing, and affordable health care and education is gone,” he added.
“I think one-third of the Indian Army can go till 58. Today, you are sending a chap home at 38, and he lives till around 70. So, for 17 years of service, you give 30-32 years of pension. Why not give him 38 years of service and then give him 20 years of pension? We are reversing the trend,” he mentioned.
The defence budget was increased to ₹3.37 lakh crore for 2020-21 against last year’s ₹3.18 lakh crore, belying expectations of a significantly enhanced allocation to fast-track long-pending military modernisation.
The CDS said, “Are you doing the right thing by sending a jawan home at the age of 37-38, saying ‘I don’t need you buddy’, but I am giving you some pension as you are going away? … He has joined the Army, he has given 15-16 years… I feel, where is the problem in the jawan also serving till 58 years.”
“Let me look at Army Medical Corps (AMC). I feel that 100 per cent of the AMC personnel can serve till 58 year of age…People ask me if you let them serve till 58, how will they serve in Ladakh? But you can do your tours of Ladakh and Srinagar and such places and other places till the age of 45, and then do your remaining postings at other places,” he explained.
The CDS said that the pension budget for 2020-21 is ₹1.33 lakh crore, which has gone up from ₹1.1 lakh crore of 2019-20. “Look at the jump that is taking place. If this is the way the jump keeps happening, it is not sustainable,” Rawat added.
The size of defence budget for 2020-21 stands at ₹4.71 lakh crore if a separate allocation of ₹1.33 lakh crore set aside for payment of pensions is taken into account.
When asked what is the status of the proposal to extend the age of retirement for all armed forces personnel to 58, Rawat told reporters, “All services have been told to give me a communication. A study has been started by them, and by the end of the year, we will get the results.”
In a landmark decision, the government on December 24 last year approved the creation of a CDS in the rank of a four-star general who acts as the principal military adviser to the defence minister on all matters relating to the tri-services.
The government also decided to create a new Department of Military Affairs (DMA) under the Defence Ministry, which is headed by the CDS as its secretary.