‘ Peanuts’ pension plan for armymen
By Jugal Purohit
THE CENTRAL government has set aside ` 2,300 crore to meet the demands of ex- servicemen, fighting for increment in their pension and other retirement benefits.
Of this sumptuous amount, however, the share of an ex- army havaldar with a service of 24 years ( and equivalents in the navy & air force) will be a measly ` 461 per month.
This arithmetic was revealed after this correspondent accessed the current internal working sheets of the ministry of defence. The government, without revealing the precise calculations in its announcement on September 24, 2012, had claimed that it was setting aside ` 2,300 crore to meet the demands of the ex- defence personnel.
The break- up of this big promise, however, has been a shocker for ex- servicemen who were hoping for remarkable improvement in their pension and other benefits. What’s more distressing is the fact that three months have passed since the announcement but the government is yet to pass an order to operationalise even this miniscule a rise.
The work sheets are divided between officers and those below, referred to as other ranks ( OR). The plan, when implemented, will allow a monthly hike of ` 1,500 to ` 4,105 in the pension of officers, depending on their ranks, who retired before 2006. The ORs who retired before 2006, meanwhile, would be entitled to a monthly hike between ` 377 and ` 461.
“ It is shameful. These men fought the LTTE in Sri Lanka in the 80s, militants in J& K in the 90s and the Kargil War,” said an officer aware of the internal workings. An announcement has no meaning unless a government order is issued. An insider said: “ There have been constant reminders on this but to no avail. We don’t know whether the government is nervous or there is a goof- up but this delay is inexplicable.” Veterans responded with outrage at the revelation of the government’s calculations.
Major ( retd) Navdeep Singh, an expert on pensionrelated issues, said: “ The government is only partially implementing what the courts have told it to do a long time ago and claiming credit for it.” Commander ( retd) R. W. Pathak, from the Indian Ex- Servicemen Movement, said: “ Till date, there was a lack of sincerity in the government’s approach. Now, there is also lack of accountability. The babus of the ministry are denying benefits to those who gave the best years of their lives to the nation.” Flying Officer ( retd) Rustom Patel, who participated in the 1971 war, said the government’s attitude will deter those who wish to make their career in the armed forces.
Defence minister A. K. Antony, however assured that the government remained committed and will soon issue the order.