A paramilitary jawan, guarding borders or tackling Naxals in inhospitable conditions, is suffering a “colossal” loss of more than Rs five crore in his retirement funds since the government stopped regular pension to the troops in 2004 and brought them under the National Pension Scheme, a new study on the financial health of these personnel has said.
The research-based study, conducted by a senior paramilitary officer, finds that a soldier of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) – like the Border Security Force (BSF), the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the Indo- Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), and the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) – are at a “considerable disadvantage” under the NPS as these men and women in uniform have been clubbed with their civilian counterparts despite performing duties as challenging as that by the defence forces.
These forces and associations of ex-CAPFs personnel have been demanding the restoration of the old pension to these jawans for several years, citing their work life, which is arduous, disturbed and challenging.
“A constable of the BSF, CRPF, ITBP and SSB is at a loss of more than Rs 5 crore (Rs 5,18,36,567) in just three years of difference, by the time another central government employee or a constable of the CISF or Assam Rifles turns 60,” the mathematical comparison between the old pension scheme and the NPS, done as part of the study, said calling it “colossal”.
The study has been conducted by a BSF second-in-command- rank officer, Neeraj Lakhanpal, during his stint with his forces’ Institute for Border Management and Strategic Studies.
While jawans and certain officer ranks of all these forces retire at 57 years of age, only those in the CISF and the Assam Rifles retire at 60.
The study, commissioned to see if NPS was a bane or a boon and to assess the gaps between the two pension schemes, also found that there was an “abysmally low level of awareness amongst the troops about the intricacies of the NPS”.
“Around 55 per cent of the troops did not know it was a contributory scheme (NPS),” it said.
The government had stopped the regular pension scheme to those jawans of these four major paramilitary forces, working under the command home ministry, who joined from January 1, 2004, and had brought them under the NPS, which is contributory in nature and 10 per cent of the salary and dearness allowance is to be paid by the trooper and an equal percentage is put by the government.
“The intent of the government, therefore, was clearly to exclude the armed forces from the ambit of the NPS. But how at the time of implementation CAPFs were made part of the scheme is incomprehensible,” the study, accessed by PTI, said.
It said that some urgent measures should be taken to rectify this anomaly and genuine grievance of these troops – many of whom have poor family background and some are sole bread winners for their families – who are the “critical arm” of the nation’s security.
“When it comes to praising these men and women for their courage and devotion to duty, there is no dearth of words.
But, this study has brought to the fore that the jawan who gives all his life to the nation is actually suffering a huge loss in pension funds, what actually is their hard earned money.
“This is nothing short of disservice to the jawan whom you consider the most important entity in keeping India safe,” a senior paramilitary official said.
The study suggested some solutions to tide over this loss to the jawan: Either raise the age of retirement of all ranks of the CAPFs to 60 years at par with the CISF, Assam Rifles and other central government employees or compensate the loss on account of shortfall of 3 years in salary and pension.
It also recommended that the government should consider raising its share of contribution from 10 per cent to 20 per cent in the NPS of the jawans as the CAPFs are not governed by civilian rules and are bound by strict rules where sleeping on duty or absenting without leave is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years.
The government, it said, had formed a committee of secretaries to look into this issue.
It was also suggested that minimum returns could be proposed to be guaranteed at par with general provident fund (GPF) returns on contribution and the withdrawl from funds corpus should be totally exempt from tax as in case of GPF or other similar long term instruments.
The general-secretary of the confederation of retired paramilitary welfare association, Ranbir Singh, told PTI: “This is the biggest grievance and subject of discrimination that we are facing. To protest against the NPS, we are holding a dharna at Rajghat in Delhi on December 5 apart from our other demands.”
The study was conducted after talking to a “carefully selected sample” in the CAPFs and other central government employees, the author said.
The BSF guards Indian borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh, the ITBP with China, the SSB with Nepal and Bhutan and the CRPF is the lead internal security force of the country.