There will soon be a pension for the disabled cadets of Army, Navy and Airforce. The Indian armed forces have put forth a proposal to include in the services’ pension regulations officer trainees who are medically boarded out for disabilities suffered during their military training. The move will pave the way for the trainees to secure a disability pension.
The proposal is for officer trainees who undergo training at the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun, the National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla, the naval and air force academies. On an approximation, at least 8-10 trainees are medically boarded out every year. It is therefore necessary to provide them with pension as they are now physically disable or handicapped.
“The pension for these trainees is likely to be based on the starting salary entitled to a lieutenant or equivalent,” is the statement been released to us. The proposal,is under the active consideration of the defence ministry, which is currently assessing the overall financial implications of the move. Defence sources claim that the proposal under consideration includes an amendment to the regulation concerning disability pension and family pension — covered under the pension regulations of the services — for these officer trainees. It has also been proposed that the ex-servicemen contributory health scheme (ECHS) should be extended to these trainees and that they should be granted the benefits under the Army Group Insurance Fund (AGIF).
Once an in-principle approval is received from the government, the finer modalities will be worked out, the sources said. A defence source also claims that currently the trainees are only paid a stipend in the final year of training. In fact, Mr. Parrikar (former defence minister Manohar Parrikar) wanted this sorted out and had even referred it to the Committee of Experts. The unfortunate part, however, is that despite Mr Parrikar’s will, the committee’s observations and the positive approach of all stakeholders including the CDS, the defence services, higher bureaucracy and even the defence accounts department, the matter is still hanging fire because certain officers at the lower level manage to put up hyper-technical objections and send the file in a never-ending orbit.
There has been a long-standing demand from the military community that officer trainees who are medically boarded out or die during their training should be provided with disability pension. At present, they are not provided pensions, or other pay and allowances as their training is not equated with service. The issue was put before the Sixth Pay Commission to count their last year of training as service, but was rejected. A report submitted by a Committee of Experts in 2015 had recommended that the trainees should be given proper disability pension and that they should be supported through professional courses for resettlement in civil life, among others. However, there was no further movement on the matter. According to sources, a recent order by the Punjab and Haryana High Court has given fresh impetus to the matter. This is due to the fact recruits undergoing training are counted as being in service from the first day of training and as a result also get full disability pension and other facilities if they suffer a disability during training. What a disabled officer trainee gets is a monthly ex-gratia award, which is a fixed amount. A regular disability pension is a factor of the last pay drawn. For 100 percent disability attributable to military service, it is 30 percent of the last pay drawn and scaled down proportionately.