Increase in retirement age and pensions: What are the shortcomings?

November 6, 2020 11:46 AM

The social media has been flooded with comments on the letter by the office of the Secretary DMA regarding the proposed increase in retirement age and the new pension proposal for premature release (PMR).

Such steps, in the long run, are expected to bring down the pay and pensions expenses as well as free funds for the modernisations of the armed forces.Such steps, in the long run, are expected to bring down the pay and pensions expenses as well as free funds for the modernisations of the armed forces.

By Maj Gen Jagatbir Singh (Retd)

The social media has been flooded with comments on the letter by the office of the Secretary DMA regarding the proposed increase in retirement age and the new pension proposal for premature release (PMR). Apparently, it has been issued after taking feedback from the environment and after due deliberation. On the face of it; it seems to be a case of one step forward and many steps backwards.

There are two parts to this proposal, the first part is logical given the fact that officers up to the rank of Brigadiers and equivalent serve up to the age of 58 years on re-employment. In fact, Colonels on re-employment also serve till this age and with an increase in life expectancy and better fitness and health as compared to their counterparts in other Services in the Government an increase is to be welcomed. In any case at higher ranks, it is not physical fitness but decision-making ability and capability as well as professional competence and integrity that is of paramount importance. However, every increase has a cascading effect as was witnessed in the past as promotion boards will be held up due to lack of vacancies. Hence the personnel branches of all three Services will need to ensure that there is no drastic increase in the age of Commanding Officers of battalions and their equivalents as they are the cutting edge of the system.

The second proposal is where there are major reservations and these need to be deliberated in detail. It actually represents a change in terms and conditions, which unfortunately are not for the better.

Some of these are the differential in ages in the type of entry into the Services, the Short Service Officers who are commissioned at a later age. As per the proposal, only an officer serving 33 years will get a full pension, which is 50 per cent of the salary, hence you need to be commissioned before 22 years to earn that as it is proposed that colonels will retire at 57 years. So in effect, there will only be a negligible percentage of PMR optees getting full pension if any at all. A lot of Officers opt for PMR due to lack of avenues for promotion. In case you do not increase the vacancies for promotion which incidentally also vary for various arms and services within the Army, there will be a large number of dissatisfied officers who continue to serve in spite of being non empanelled for promotion. These officers could utilize their enormous talents and skills acquired in the Services by seeking other employment.

Further, there are very few jobs available for people over 50 years in the market. The willingness to seek these jobs by officers on a drastically reduced pension may therefore reduce. Apart from this, PBOR retires with far fewer years of service and ages are there going to be corresponding rules applied to them. There can also be cases where officers superannuate with less than 33 years service will they also suffer a loss of pension? There are many issues that need to be thought through which will be done at Service Headquarters before this proposal is finally accepted.

The step in its present avatar is clearly regressive instead of being progressive and the aim seems to be mainly to reduce the increasing pension outflow. Economics seems to have dictated this proposal rather than human resource considerations which are unfortunate. We should be guided by the words of Chetwode, which don’t need to be reiterated in a conference as they are part of the DNA of most service officers and that is “The safety, honour and welfare of the men you command come first always and every time”. I am positive that there are enough officers who have the courage of conviction to point out the shortcomings in this proposal and will place Service before self.

(The author is an Indian Army Veteran. Views are personal.)

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