Government rejects ex-soldiers’ ‘one rank one pension’ plea

February 18th, 2009 - 11:24 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 18 (IANS) Unmoved by India’s ex-soldiers’ highly emotive plea of for “one rank one pension”, which even saw some of them returning their medals, the government has finally nixed the demand, pointing to the logistical and financial problems it would create.
“The demand for one-rank one-pension stands already examined in detail and was not found acceptable due to administrative, financial and legal reasons,” Minister of State for Defence M.M. Pallam Raju said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha Wednesday.

“However, the government is also examining whether certain improvements can be made in the pension being given to the old pensioners,” Raju added.

He pointed out that pension benefits of personnel below officer rank (PBOR), particularly of the three ranks of sepoy, naik and havildar, were significantly increased Jan 1, 2006, by increasing weightage from 5 years to 10, 8 and 6 years respectively.

This apart the pension of pre-Jan 1, 1996, retirees is being computed with reference to the maximum of the payscale introduced on that date, Raju added.

“In consultation with the Ministry of Finance, the benefits thus accrued to PBORs have been allowed to be retained while revisiting their pension,” Raju said.

On Feb 8, more than 300 retired soldiers of varying ranks marched to Rashtrapati Bhavan and returned medals won in combat and for distinguished service as they sought equal pension for each rank.

The veterans were among the thousands who had gathered earlier in the day at the Jantar Mantar observatory in the heart of the capital for a protest that some said marked a black day for the Indian armed forces.

President Pratibha Patil, the supreme commander of the armed forces, did not personally receive the medals, which were collected by her officials.

The soldiers, who also included three-star generals, marched under the banner of the Indian Ex-servicemen’s Movement (IEM).

The main demand of the protesters was that irrespective of the date on which a soldier retires, he or she should get the same pension.

IEM officials explained that a sepoy who retired before 1996 gets a monthly pension of Rs.3,670, but one who retired between 1996 and December 2005 gets Rs.4,680. A sepoy who retired after January 2006 gets Rs.8,700.

Effectively then, an army havildar, who retired earlier, gets pension money that is less than what a sepoy retiring after January 2006 gets though the havildar enjoys a higher rank. The mismatch applies to all ranks.

“Most IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officers, judges, governors, MPs and even the president enjoy this right (of one rank one pension),” pointed out one retired soldier.

On Feb 9, a retired Indian Navy officer filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, asking the government on what basis was their demand rejected.

“Through RTI Act, I want to get the details as to how the government reached the decision,” Commodore (retired) Lokesh K. Batra said.

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