New Delhi: The Ministry of Defence has retracted on its promise to issue post-retirement medical benefits to retired Short-Service Commission(SSC) officers citing “stressed” resource as the reason, as per reports. The development is being seen as a setback to the Army’s aim to keep a “lean” force. For a long time, the Army has been focussing on SSC officers to attract candidates, while reducing Permanent Commissioned Officers, in an attempt to make the military a lean force as also to reduce its expenditure.
Experts said it was not clear what this move was aimed at as on the one hand, the Defence Ministry is gearing to attract candidates for SSC, while on the other, they are cutting down their benefits.
SSC officers in Indian Army have a limited tenure of up to 10+4 years to compensate the shortage faced by the services. The initial terms of engagement are mandatory of 10 years. After the completion of the tenure, SSC officers are given three options: they can opt for Permanent Commission, opt out, or have the option of four years of extension. However, they are given the luxury to resign at any time during this extension. The SSC policy also gives officers the opportunity to adopt alternate careers after opting out.
“Recently, they announced the downsizing of the Army which was for the regular officers. It was aimed at downsizing regular officers and increase the recruitment of SSC officers, as less expenditure is involved in maintenance of SSC officers. A large chunk of the Army’s budget allocation goes into salary and pension. But cutting down all the benefits has the possibility to affect SSC recruitments as it would leave many young and woman with no benefits and no jobs,” said an observer.
According to The Economic Times, a letter from the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare under the Defence Ministry has “made it clear that the government has no intention to help SSC officers with medical facilities.” The letter reads, “short service officers are not pensioners, they are not eligible for the scheme and any change would raise a demand to include other non-pensioners in ECHS. Any substantial increase in the number of beneficiaries will require augmentation of the already stressed resources (budget, manpower, polyclinic and allied infrastructure) of ECHS.”