Status of widows, jawans under scheme unclear, say veterans
Questions aplenty in one-rank-one-pension move
ASHWINI PHADNIS, The Hindu Business Line
NEW DELHI, FEBRUARY 23:
Was it vote-bank politics or genuine concern for the welfare of the over one million-strong Indian Armed Forces that saw the UPA II Government announce the one-rank-one pension scheme in the Interim Budget?
Finance Minister P Chidambaram had in his interim budget speech conceded that the scheme was an emotive issue; it had legal implications and it had to be handled with great sensitivity. He said the Government had put aside ₹500 crore for implementing the scheme, which would become operational with prospective effect from financial year 2014-15.
In a nutshell, one-rank-one-pension means Armed Forces personnel holding the same rank will get the same pension, regardless of the last drawn pay, years of service and the years served in a particular rank.
However, given the long-standing demand of the Armed Forces, responses from Armed Forces personnel have not been enthusiastic.
Major General (Retd) RK Arora points out that nowhere in the Interim Budget speech has Chidambaram said that the Government has accepted the one-rank-one-pension proposal. He adds that in the speech, the Finance Minister only said that the gap is being closed, which is not the same thing as one-rank-one-pension.
“We are not rejoicing over it. It is our entitlement and right,” he adds. According to Lt. Gen H S Bagga, former Adjutant General, who was involved in solving problems connected with anomalies during the 5th Pay Commission, implementing the proposal will be a “Herculean ” task.
According to defence analyst Uday Bhaskar, the difference between civilian and military life is that on an average, a jawan or a soldier retires after roughly 15-20 years of service, while an officer retires after 20-28 years of service.
“Take, for instance, a JCO in the Army, who may have retired at 35 in 1965. Today, he will about 82-84 years old. You have a fairly long period ahead of you when you retire from the Armed Forces and you are totally dependent on pension. These are the kind of people who will benefit if there is some clarity on how the Government proposes to implement it,” he points out.
Demand from others
Complicating the situation is also the fact that the pension rules are different for nearly six lakh widows, who are entitled to a pension depending on whether the soldier lost his life while in service or while fighting a war. “You cannot quantify what the difference in pension is going to be. And trying to fix the scheme for jawans will be another problem,” says Lt. Gen Bagga.
Questions are also being raised about the ₹500 crore set aside for the scheme . Lt. Gen Bagga and many others feel that ₹3,000 crore to ₹4,000 crore will be required to see the scheme through.
The scheme’s implementation could also spur such a demand from other quarters, including the police and paramilitary forces.
Accepting these demands will see Government expenditure increase and also lead to further problems of implementation.Read more on: http://www.thehindubusinessline.com