By Lt Col JS Sodhi (Retd)
The Sixth Pay Commission in its report submitted to the Government of India on March 24, 2008 recommended that on completion of the tenure in the Indian Armed Forces comprising the Indian Army, Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force, it’s personnel should be laterally shifted to an analogous position in any of the Central Police Organisations or in the defence civilian organisations. The Sixth Pay Commission was implemented on August 29, 2008. Since then, the lateral induction of the armed forces personnel has been dismal and many Veterans (personnel of the Indian Armed Forces who superannuate/prematurely retire) are struggling on the civil streets trying to make a decent living.
Personnel of the Indian Armed Forces retire at a relatively younger age compared with their counterparts in the other central and state governments and the corporate sector. The main reason for early retirement is to keep the younger age profile in the armed forces which is essential in having a decisive combat potential.
A soldier retires around 36 years of age and an officer at 54 years of age unless they are stepping up the pyramidical promotional ladder of the armed forces.
It is at this age when a person’s social and financial obligations are at its peak as children are growing up and hence, he needs a job to fulfil these obligations.
At the officer level a Veteran rarely finds a job financially comparable to the one he did whilst in service except the few who fly fixed wing aircrafts in commercial airlines. A quick google search will reveal that no big corporate house has any Veteran as its CEO. Veterans are only placed in Administration and Security jobs which are far less paying than jobs in Operations and Marketing.
Except for Capt GR Gopinath of Deccan Airways and Major KP who founded the real estate agency DLF, no other Veteran has made a worthwhile name as entrepreneurs.
Veterans not succeeding in corporate or in business post retirement, is not due to the fact that they are not capable, but they have been trained and have led a different life within the armed forces and hence when they come on the civil street, they find things totally different and end up in low paying administration and security jobs as they lack any special skill that is required to succeed in the corporate or in the field of business.
A Veteran maybe physically fit on retirement but the immense mental and psychological effects on him by virtue of serving in inhospitable climates, treacherous terrains and seeing peers and seniors die in operations, leave a ever lasting impact which grossly impacts his working in the corporate sector which has a different role and charter altogether.
Cognizant of all these factors of the hardships that a Veteran faces post retirement were the recommendations made by the Sixth Pay Commission which have been enumerated above.
However, a look at the Veterans resettled as on June 30, 2021 are dismal and disheartening.
In the Para Military Forces in Group A, just 1687 were resettled against the sanctioned strength of 76,681 which is a mere 2.2% while in Group B only 539 were resettled against a strength of 61,650 which is a shocking 0.87% and in Group C only 4146 got resettled against a sanctioned strength of 8,81,397 which is just 0.47%.
The figures of the Veterans resettled in the PSUs are not encouraging too. In Group B just 31 were resettled against a sanctioned strength of 664 which is only 4.67% while for Group C only 3138 were resettled against 2,72,848.
The Directorate General Resettlement abbreviated as DGR is the nodal agency for the Indian Armed Forces which looks after the resettling of the Veterans post retirement.
The past experience of DGR in settling Veterans has not been encouraging as various resettlement schemes have virtually collapsed due to PSUs pulling out, despite being mandated to do so, thus leaving many Veterans in the lurch and struggling post retirement, apart from the fact that only a miniscule Veterans have been laterally absorbed in various government organisations post retirement.
DGR will now play a pivotal role in ensuring that the Agniveers not retained after the 4-year period is absorbed in various governmental organisations where vacancies have been announced by various Union Ministries and State Governments. No Agniveer can be left high and dry, else the rural youth’s first preference will be the Para Military Forces and other Government jobs where there is an assured long duration service till the age of 60 years and Armed Forces will become a second option for them. Till now a job in the military is the first option for the rural youth of the country, who comprise about 70% of the Indian armed forces soldiers.
DGR will play a pivotal role in the success of the Agnipath scheme as after 4 years i.e. 2027 onwards, when the first batch of Agniveers move on to the civil streets their placements will decide the quality of youth applying for the Agnipath scheme.
DGR along with the Secretary of Ex-Servicemen Welfare (ESW) in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) should now aggressively pursue the PSUs and other governmental organisations who withdrew from the various resettlement schemes. They should now ensure that they strictly adhere to the earlier mandates even if the issue has to be brought to the notice of the highest offices in the country.
Like the crème-de-la crème of the Indian Army officers is posted in the Directorate General Military Operations (DGMO) and in the Military Secretary’s Branch (MS Br), the best and the brightest officers should be posted to DGR too, if the Agnipath scheme has to succeed.
The Nation owes it to the Veterans and to the Agniveers too, 75% of whom would not be retained beyond the 4-year service period as enumerated in the Agnipath scheme.
Senator Bernie Sanders of the USA aptly quoted “If you think it’s too expensive to take care of Veterans, then don’t send them to war”.
(Author is an Indian Army Veteran from the Corps of Engineers. He is an alumnus of NDA, Khadakwasla and IIT Kanpur. He is a M.Tech in Structures and has also done MBA and LLB. He Tweets and Koos at @JassiSodhi24. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. Reproducing this content without permission is prohibited).