Soldiers' morale would be affected if disability pension is cut: Ex-servicemen

Army personnel in action inside the Army Brigade camp during a terror attack in Uri, Jammu and Kashmir.
With defence ministry uploading a draft notification on the 7th Pay Commission recommendation, which when it comes into effect, will significantly reduce the disability pension for soldiers, ex-servicemen say this would affect the morale of soldiers, coming at a time when tensions continue on the border with Pakistan.

Defence ministry officials were unwilling to officially comment on the matter, with one saying the matter was being taken up with the anomalies committee.

Maj Gen Satbir Singh (retd), chairman of Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement, questioned the need to publish such a notification which "downgrades the institution of armed forces".

The notification mentions changing the present percentage-based disability pension system to a slab based system, which will significantly reduce the amount of pension.

According to the pay panel's recommendation, for 100 per cent disability, an officer would get Rs 27,000 per month, those in the ranks of Subedar Major to Naib Subedar would receive Rs 17,000, while havildar and below would get Rs 12,000.

At present a soldier who gets 100 per cent disability is entitled to a pension equal to the last drawn salary plus 50 per cent as 'service component'.

Refuting the decrease in disability pension, sources later said, the increase in disability pension ranges from around 14 per cent to 30 per cent among the people below officer ranks. In fact the disability pension of almost 90 per cent of the armed forces personnel have been significantly increased.

The disability pension for sepoy has increased from Rs 9,282 to Rs 12,000. The disability pension for havildar has increased from Rs 10,542 to Rs 12,000. The disability pension for Naik has increased from Rs 9,680 to Rs 12,000, army sources added.

Defence ministry officials said the notification had not yet been published in the Gazette of India, which would have brought the decision into effect.

The changes, if notified in their current form, would come into effect retrospectively, from January 1, 2016.

The draft notification shows the government's response to the pay commission's recommendation as "accepted". A defence ministry official, unwilling to be named, said this reflected only the status of cabinet approval.

"It is a draft notification, not a final order," he said. Any anomaly can be corrected after a draft is published, he added.

No time frame for the notification becoming official has been given.

Satbir Singh who has been spearheading the movement for One Rank One Pension questioned the government's acceptance of the recommendations.

"It is downgrading the institution of armed forces. Why are there slabs for soldiers and percentage for civil employees?" he questioned.

"Why should a civil employee of same level get more salary than an armed force personnel?" he asked. An Additional Secretary, he said, got more salary with some 22 years of service, while a Lieutenant General got almost half after 33 years.

He said if civil servants decide about salaries of armed forces "this is what you would get". He suggested that a separate committee should decide salaries of armed forces.

"These mistakes can cost the nation. It will bring down the morale of the soldiers," he said.

The armed forces have raised the issue of several 'anomalies' in the recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission which Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has promised to resolve.

The defence ministry has already made a presentation to the chairman of the anomalies committee, according to officials.

Retired Brigadier S K Chatterji meanwhile said that the notification was not a final order.

"It is a draft notification, not an executive order. That may not be government's stand in the end," he said.

Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee and Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha had last week said that the defence minister had assured the armed forces that their interest would be taken care of, adding that the forces were satisfied with the assurance.

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