Troops’ retirement age

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21 May, 20 02:48
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Troops’ retirement age

Pensions account for about 30 per cent of India’s defence budget. A proposal to raise the retirement age of troops of the three armed forces is aimed not only at reducing the burgeoning post-retiral bill, but also to ensure that trained manpower stays in service for a much longer duration. The move, which could benefit about 15 lakh personnel, makes sense in both military and economic terms. The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat, has rightly argued in favour of getting a jawan to serve for 30 years rather than only 15-17 years. In February, General Rawat had dubbed the rise in the budget outlay for pensions of armed forces personnel as ‘unsustainable’ and stated that the three services were exploring the feasibility of extending the retirement age of jawans till 58 years. The whole idea is to pay pension for about two decades instead of the current 30-32 years. For the record, the pension budget for 2020-21 is 

Rs 1.33 lakh crore, up from Rs 1.1 lakh crore in 2019-20.

As per another proposal, the Army is considering the ‘Tour of Duty’ (ToD) model to take in officers for only three years of service. With at least 90 per cent of the officers opting for permanent commission after doing 14 years’ service, the Short Service Commission (SSC) scheme’s purpose of keeping the Army lean is getting defeated. The cost incurred on an SSC officer — right from pre-commission training to the payment of gratuity — is as high as Rs 5-7 crore.

Unlike Israel’s mandatory conscription model, which dates back to 1948, ToD would be voluntary. Fighting-fit Israelis have been making the most of military service, lasting about three years, to subsequently excel in other professions. It’s a moot point to what extent unemployment and a ‘resurgence of nationalism and patriotism’, as cited by the Indian Army, can spur the youth to have a feel of military professionalism and then move on. Again, the focus is largely on reducing the payouts. The intended reforms would be worthwhile if they result in considerable savings that can facilitate much-needed modernisation of the forces.


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