1/3RD FAUJI RETIREMENT AT 58 by Lt Gen P R Shankar( r)

India Today says that as per General Bipin Rawat , the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), the rise in budget outlay for pensions of armed forces personnel is “unsustainable” and three Services are conducting a study to analyse the feasibility of extending the retirement age of jawans till 58. The CDS is quoted to have said “I think one-third of the Indian Army can go till 58. Today, you are sending a chap home at 38, and he lives till around 70. So, for 17 years of service, you give 30-32 years of pension. Why not give him 38 years of service and then give him 20 years of pension? We are reversing the trend[1]“. I am sure he made a very considered statement.

There have been many reactions from veterans and experts of high standing. The focus has been on the dangers of greying and ageing Armed Forces. Well they have a huge point and cannot be wished away. However, let us discount this factor for the present. Even then, if one were to adopt the proposal of the CDS, there are a lot of wrinkles which need ironing.  It should not so happen that the CDS solves one problem to land us in a bevy of others. I am sure that the Services will take a holistic look at this proposal and then come to a sensible decision. This analysis only highlights the wrinkles which are appearing ahead in this proposal.

At the outset it is presumed that the honourable intention of the CDS is to reduce the outgo on defense pensions to increase the availability of budgets for infrastructure and capital expenditure. That is perfectly valid and I respect it. However, the first question to answer is that has the Government committed itself to do so? Unless the government comes across in black and white, there is no point in going this route. Otherwise we will have an ageing Armed Forces with lesser budgets. Then we will be worse off. 
The second issue which needs clarification is that – is this proposal for all the Services or for the Indian Army alone? The statement of the CDS is dichotomous. He has explicitly stated that 1/3rd of the Army can go on till 58. What about the Navy and Air Force? Are they on board? Let us assume that the 1/3rd rule applies to the Air Force and Navy also and move ahead with the analysis.

The basic issue is that if the proposal of 1/3rdretirement at 58 is applied, approximately 5 lakhs jobs will be lost to the Government in the next 20 years at the minimum. Unemployment, Unemployment and Unemployment. What will the social acceptability be and what will it do the vote banks of any political party? As it is lack of jobs is a political issue. My guess is the Government and political party which imposes this rule will be voted out of power on a permanent basis in India. the political class will never back this proposal. 

If 1/3rd of the Armed Forces retire at 58, what will be the effect on promotions? Way back in 1997, retirement ages were increased by two years for officers across the board. I was on the verge of being promoted to the rank of Col and take over command of my unit. I had to wait two years to pick up my rank. It was one of the most frustrating periods of my life.  This proposal sets the clock back by 20 years! Even if 1/3rd only go on to 58, all the available promotion will be taken up by the seniors who will go on to 58! The Assured Career Progression Model for PBOR will be turned on its head. What about Morale? Just imagine a PBOR in service till 58 without any promotion and stagnating wherever he is. What will be his mental makeup when he watches an officer smoothly climbing his ladder of success and becoming a General! Just imagine a JCO with 10 years’ service continuing for the next 20 years in that rank! Clogged pipelines! What will be the internal fall out?  I shudder to think of the consequences.

One might save on defence pensions for now. However, this step is only a post-dated IOU for doubling defence pensions at the minimum. Look, in the eventuality of not reducing numbers, all those who are in the pipeline will have to be paid pension at some stage. For 1/3rd of the Armed Forces we will pay pension at the highest scale at the highest possible rank / pay. I will be dead and gone, the future will bear the burden. So be it? Let us not forget that we are talking of a 10 Trillion Dollar Plus economy with high growth rates. Hence salaries will also grow equally. It is beyond my imagination. I do hope some financial whiz will put down numbers and prove my mental math wrong.

What will be the effect on infrastructure? A disproportionate lot of senior JCOs and NCOs who cannot be posted to field areas will be in service for two decades. This means they will be in peace stations. This will also be the time when they must settle families and other commitments. They will need a bigger set of facilities and infrastructure to cater to their requirements. Have we thought of that?  
Then there is an issue of inequity. Who are best suited to go on till 58? People in Logistics and Medical Services. They do not require supreme fitness. Who will continue to go out in the thirties like they do now? Riflemen, Gunners, Drivers, Sappers and others who are required to be fit. Who are best suited for civil employment? People in logistics! Who are most unsuited for civil employment?   Gunners, Drivers, Sappers and others! The nonfighting people who are skilled during service and can easily get re-employed outside will continue merrily in service with assured careers and huge pensions. The cutting edge will be cast aside. What will it do to the fabric of the Armed Forces? This is a major issue of induced inequity and needs serious consideration.

There is no doubt that we must reduce the Pay and Pension bill so that our Armed Forces become more affordable and modern. It is something which the government must consider very seriously. I would be very happy if the Government constitutes a bipartisan committee to reduce the overall strength holistically. There are many issues involved in this. It can not be based on preconceived ideas or protecting holy cows or on firing on a fixed line. I have already written about this in two articles (   and ). One might ignore it. To do so would be folly. One might not agree with all my views. That’s ok. However, come forth with cogent views. I had also stated that we have a wider national problem beyond the Pinaka in my article ( I am now convinced of it.       


8 responses to “1/3RD FAUJI RETIREMENT AT 58 by Lt Gen P R Shankar( r)”

  1. Does not the iaf already follow this 58 y retirement structure? If I am correct effects of an ageing workforce is already there to see. Better to keep the force young. When one looks at the IN we have some unique structures such as in our artificer cadre. A highly trained workforce who serve upto 15 y (are rapidly promoted to senior supervisory high tech positions) at sea and exit providing for growth, promotions and motivations. In my understanding the technical calibre and hands on experience is so good that they are the first choice for many merchant companies and Gulf Militaries incl air forces. A model for other services to emulate. We seem to be looking at issue too narrowly. What’s needed is a deeper study engaging sociologists than these arbitrary pronouncements.

  2. The presumption that personnel of services branches can serve upto 58 years age is incorrect. They too are required to serve in tough areas. Imagine an ASC driver in high altitude and the risks that he poses to others. Not only will it be an ageing army but an unfit one too.

  3. Very aptly put Sir. We need the CDS to put it through a good HR Company or CDM to look at the cost-benefit analysis holistically across all domains of HR and administration and not just a limited focus on pension bill

  4. It's the government's call to have an army, air force and navy. If it wants, it must find the money too. It's not for the army to self finance it's modernisation by monetising army land or cost cutting by some arbitrary age amendments. If one goes by the pension data of the MoD, more money is spent in financing pension of a small number of highly paid mod civilian retirees than the large number of lowly paid military veterans. If the govt. cannot afford the armed forces, shut it down or reduce the strength. Decisions must be based on study of need, pitfalls, history and affordability.

  5. Dear Friends, before we start increasing the retirement ages of even one thirds of the Armed Forces, we must keep in mind that almost 50 % or more of Def Budget including hefty pensions go to our Def Civilian employees incl Babu's of Def Ministry, CDAs, CDA(O)'s,Auditors, all ordanace factory employees, DRDO etc who also enjoy full OROP, NFU, & old age retirements resulting in max pensions. All these civilian employees need to be streamlined & if possible taken to/ put under a different ministry like Home Ministry etc. We as a strong & young Armed force will then not need any pruning of manpower & will even spare cash for modernising. My advice to the able CDS is to put his foot down & demand higher allocations for the Def Budgets in keeping with those of our combined adversaries. Let's not cut our vital organs & limbs lest the Babu's demand our very souls! Disbandment of the all-mighty arrogant & self appeasing IAS lobby is long over due. This reduction should come first besides the un earned & undeserved pension & perks of our MPs MLAs etc before touching the Armed Forces. Unfortunately very few of our senior generals Stand upright & prefer to be broken but succumb to bending at every whim & fancy of our politicians & cunning Babu's.

  6. CORRECT to the core of the issue . The tech Artificers are afept in picking up higher aptitude & this they do with alacrity . In Royal Omani Navy & Saudi Navy a large percentage of the core competencies in second-level of maintenance of all platforms at sea are undertaken by our erstwhile boys . Additionally these countries know the USP's of our training modus operandi & have been Very datisfied for the last 3 decades

  7. CDS has taken a myopic view. A lion's share of the defence expenditure on salaries and pension goes to the bloody civilians who work against us and that is known to all but kept under the carpet.

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