- This year, Rs 1.19 lakh crore will be spent on pension; Agneepath is expected to reduce pension expenditure in 20 years, 85% of soldiers retire at the age of 38
Two years ago in November 2020, the Department of Defense Affairs made a suggestion to the Ministry of Defense. This department comes under the Ministry of Defense. The suggestion was how the Ministry of Defense can reduce its expenditure on pension? When this suggestion was made, it was only 11 months since the late General Bipin Rawat became the Chief of Defense Staff. He had emphasized on the modernization of the army and this initiative of his was also seen as an effort.
At that time, the Department of Defense Affairs, along with increasing the age of retirement, had also suggested that the pension should be given to the person who has served in the army for the amount of time. It was suggested that the retirement age of the colonel be increased from 54 to 57 years. Also, the retirement age of Brigadier should be reduced from 56 to 58 years and that of Major General from 58 to 59. The same suggestion was for the Navy and the Air Force as well.
Similarly, it was also suggested that those who serve in the army for 26 to 30 years should get 60% pension. At the same time, 75% pension should be given to those who have served 31 to 35 years and 100% pension should be given to those who have served for more than 35 years. However, these suggestions were not accepted.
These suggestions of the Department of Defense were not made public, but were leaked on social media. After this, some ex-servicemen and defense experts praised this move, while many called it an absurd move.
Two years after this suggestion, the central government has come up with ‘Agneepath Yojana’. Under this scheme, youth will be inducted in the army for four years. They will be called ‘Agniveer’. After four years, 75 percent of the Agniveers will be released from service, while the remaining 25 percent of the Agniveers will be retained in the army. Those 75 percent Agniveers who will be free from service after four years, they will neither get pension nor gratuity. This is also one of the reasons for the opposition to the Agneepath scheme. The youth say that after four years they will be homeless and they will not even get a pension. However, the government says that these Agniveers will be given a service fund package of more than Rs 11 lakh.
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Pension expenditure will be reduced by 75% in 20 years
More than 20 percent of the Defense Ministry’s expenditure is on pension only. A budget of Rs 5.25 lakh crore has been kept for the Defense Ministry in 2022-23, out of which Rs 1.20 lakh crore will be spent on pension. That is, 23% of the total budget of defense will be spent only on pension.
It can also be understood that as much as the budget for defense is kept for the purchase of weapons, almost the same budget is kept for pension. This is the reason why it has often been said to reduce the pension expenditure.
Now that the government has come up with the Agneepath scheme, it is also being linked to the reduction in pension expenditure. If all goes well and the scheme is implemented well, then the pension expenditure is expected to be cut by up to 75% in the next 20 years.
In March 2020, it was told in the report of the Parliamentary Committee of the Ministry of Defense that there are more than 32.35 lakh pensioners related to defense in the country, out of which 26.34 lakh pensioners are from the armed forces i.e. Army, Navy or Air Force personnel and officers. According to this report, every year more than 55 thousand employees, soldiers and officers associated with defense retire.
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Did One Rank, One Pension increase the expenditure on pension?
In November 2015, the government issued a notification to implement One Rank-One Pension. This scheme was implemented from 1st July 2014. In the 2014 general elections, the BJP had promised to implement One Rank One Pension, but after the formation of the government, when the scheme was not implemented, the ex-servicemen came out on the road. After this the government implemented this scheme.
Under this, there was a provision of equal pension to the retired officers of the same rank. That is, if someone had retired at the rank of colonel 10 years ago, then he would also get the same pension as the one who retires at the rank of colonel today.
Defense experts believe that the defense budget has suffered the most due to this plan. It can be understood that in 2015, about 60 thousand crore rupees were spent on pension, while this year Rs 1.20 lakh crore has been kept for pension. That is, the expenditure on pension has almost doubled in 7 years.
But why is pension necessary for soldiers?
According to government policies, soldiers serving in the army have to retire soon. The report of the Parliamentary Committee of the Ministry of Defense in 2011 states that 85% of soldiers retire at the age of 38. At the same time, there are 10% who retire at the age of 46, while only 5% retire at the age of 56 to 58 years. That is, most soldiers retire at a time when they have the responsibility of the family. That’s why they need a pension.
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