The branch of military matters (DMA) – headed by the chief of defence staff – has proposed to increase the retirement age of officers by one to three years, with a service extension of up to 17 years for the non-officer cadre from choose branches, and may be considering a plan to chop pensions of officers opting for untimely release from service in an attempt to keep skilled manpower, according to an official communication reviewed by Hindustan Times.
The increased retirement age of officers will allow colonels, brigadiers and major generals to serve longer, with jawans and junior commissioned officers from some non-combat branches also getting service extension that will see them retire at the age of 57 instead of around 40 to 52.
The proposed cuts in pensions range from 25% to 50% of the entitled pension depending on an officer’s length of service at the time of leaving the job.
While the proposal for service extension has been hailed in military circles as a welcome step, the plan to review pensions has invited criticism from many in the serving and retired community.
The letter, dated October 29, has proposed that colonels would serve till the age of 57 (instead of the present 54), brigadiers up to 58 (up from 56) and major generals till 59 as against the current 58. No change has been proposed in the retirement age of lieutenant generals, it stays at 60.
This applies to equivalent ranks in the air force and the navy but does not cover officers from the medical and nursing wings.
Junior commissioned officers and other ranks from logistics, technical and medical branches will retire at the age of 57 instead of 40 to 52 (depending on the rank).
The proposed pension review is the most remarkable move under consideration, officials familiar with developments said. Officers who seek untimely release after 20-25 years of service will get only 50% of the entitled pension, those leaving after 26 to 30 years will get 60% and officers quitting after 31 to 35 years of service will draw 75% of the entitled pension, according to the letter. Only those with 35-plus years of service will get full pension.
The letter states there are several specialists/super specialists who are trained for highly skilled jobs in the products and services but quit to work in other sectors. “Such loss of high skilled manpower leads to a void in the products and services skill matrix and is counter-productive to the armed forces. In view of this, it has been determined to review the pension entitlements,” the letter adds.
The communication has set November 10 as the deadline for preparing a draft government sanction letter on increasing retirement age and reviewing pensions for perusal by CDS General Bipin Rawat.
Extension of service is a great step, both for the organisation in retaining quality and trained manpower as also in congruence with individual aspirations, said military matters expert Lieutenant General Vinod Bhatia (retd).
“The pension slabs could be an incentive for deadwood to continue which is neither good for the organisation nor does it optimise financial resources. The key issue is that because of Covid-19 and China’s aggressive behaviour along the Line of Actual Keep an eye on, the armed forces will be required to do increasingly more with less and no more. There is not any choice but to make sure optimal utilisation of the financial resources,” said Bhatia.
The DMA’s proposals will benefit the organisation and meet individual aspirations, said military officials asking not to be identified.
“Nearly all colonels and most brigadiers seek re-employment on retirement. On grant of re-employment, highly qualified officers and experts in specific domains are employed in appointments held by captains and majors. This adversely impacts both the organisation and the officer himself whose job satisfaction takes a hit,” the officials said, commenting on the service extension being proposed for officers in these ranks.
On the proposal regarding service extension for the non-officer cadre from non-combat arms, the officials said the military invests time and resources on training technicians to cause them to capable of undertaking specialised tasks but they come up for retirement when their professional skill is at its peak.
On the cut in pensions, the officials said, “Only officers taking untimely release will be affected. Individuals who total their pensionable age as per terms of engagement aren’t affected.”
They explained, “Whether someone becomes an officer at the age of 25 or even more (jawans can turn into officers even in their late 20s whether they lucid sure exams and an interview), it doesn’t intent they’ve to total 35 years of service for full pension. The cuts will only be relevant to officers to seek early release.”