Congress decries Centre's bid to 'steal' defence pension

New Delhi: The Congress on Friday decried the Modi government that seeks votes on the sacrifices by India's brave soldiers trying to "steal" the pension of ex-servicemen and sabotage the alternate career choice of the officers after active service.

It cited a letter circulated on October 29 by the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) for making changes in the pension rules. An officer on getting the military commission has to compulsorily sign a 20-year mandatory service bond and he gets 50% of the last drawn salary as pension. Congress general secretary and chief spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala told reporters here that the said letter would reduce the pension to 25%.

He elaborated: "On an average 65% i.e. 65 of the 100 army officers admitted to the Army are confined to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Only 35% officers can aspire to reach to the position of Colonel or above. In such a situation, after serving for 20 years, those military officers find a second career option in life with full pension and effectively contribute to the nation building. Thereby, the Indian Army always remains young, which in military language is called 'Lean & Mean Fighting Force'. If the Modi Govt's devious proposal comes into force, then 65% of military officers will forever lose their second career option and their creative support in nation building in civilian areas outside the military."

Surjewala ridiculed the proposal offering full pension to only those officers who have spent more than 35 years in the Armed Forced, pointing out that in reality 90% of the officers retire before 35 years of service and thus they would be denied the full pension.

He asserted that the terms of service of the military officers cannot be modified from the "back date." When 20 years of compulsory service and full pension after 20 years has been prescribed for retirement, then how can the Modi Government revise all those conditions of service, he asked, noting that this will only lower the morale of our Armed Forces.

Asking the government to immediately withdraw the letter, Surjewala said this would make the Armed Forces less attractive to the youth to join them, particularly at a time when there is a shortage of 9,427 officers in all the three Armed Forces of India. The figures available for June 2019 show that there are 7,399 less officers in the Army, 1,545 are wanting in the Navy and 483 less in the Air Force.

The Congress leader said this fresh attack on the ex-servicemen has exposed the anti-Army face of the "fake nationalists," who are habitual offenders of insulting the Armed Forces with the back door cuts in defence spending. He cited half a dozen examples, including no implementation of "one rank, one pension", limits imposed on the purchases by the serving and retired personnel from the Army canteens, delayed procurement of winter gear, shoes and bullet proof jackets for jawans in Siachen and Ladakh, and shelving a special Mountain Strike Corps of 70,000 additional soldiers to be deployed along the China border.

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