Now that the issues tagged with the 7th Central Pay Commission are gaining momentum, it is very important to again bring to light the matters related to the scheme of Short Service Commission, which arguably is being thought of as the backbone of the officer cadre of the defence services for the future.
A few years ago, the Short Service Commission Scheme of the Army was regressively tweaked from the earlier 5+5+4 system to the 10+4 system making service of 10 years compulsory in the Army for such officers. This was ostensibly done to make the scheme more ‘attractive’, but ironically, this is the greatest disservice that could ever be rendered and has had just the opposite effect. The reasons why I say so can be fathomed from this old post of mine:
A. There is no seniority protection in the civil services for former SS officers anymore, which means that an ex-SSCO starts his/her civil career alongwith civil direct recruits 10 years younger to him/her and atleast two ranks junior to his/her former status in the Army.
B. If joining the corporate world, the ex-SS officer again starts at a point of the ladder where he/she competes with youngsters who already have had a head-start which the former SS officer missed out due to his/her joining the Army.
C. Ex-Servicemen benefits are entitled only on completion of terms of engagement which means that the said benefits which were earlier available after 5 years, are now available after serving for 10.
D. 10% of appointments at Assistant Commandant (Lieutenant equivalent) level in the CAPFs are reserved for SSCOs. There is no protection of seniority. Hence, ex-SSCOs of Major and Lt Col level are expected to join at Lieut level (GP 5400) in the CAPFs which makes the entire reservation redundant.
E. After completing 10 years of service, an SSCO is in his/her 30s and to expect him/her to then look around for a fruitful career, in my opinion, is otiose.
It may be important to point out that in the civil services, in accordance with Rule 49 (2) (b) of the Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 1972, civil employees become eligible for pension after serving the govt for 10 years, whereas our SSCOs are released without a pension and are only granted a gratuity even after serving 14 years. After the 6th CPC, civil employees are now entitled to full pension after serving 10 years under the ibid rule (it was 33 years for full pension prior to 6th CPC). Of course the 10 year rule on the civil side only applies to those who are released or retired after completing 10 years and not to voluntary retirees. The above applies to pre-2004 recruited employees and the ones who joined service after the said date are eligible for benefits under the New Pension Scheme.
On learning that the defence services had made no recommendation of a proper pension scheme for SSCOs to the 7th CPC, I had duly pointed out its very pertinent requirement if we were to ensure retention of talent in this very important cadre of the military.
In short, the top brass of the Ministry of Defence and also the defence services, without being unduly guided by personal opinions of their staff, must take a holistic view and address the following issues to retain talent in the Short Service Commission and to maintain the izzat and sheen of the military rank in the civil society in general:
(1) Reverting back to the system of 5+5+4 years terms of engagement rather than the 10+4 years which leaves our officers neither here nor there.
(2) Introduction of pension after 10 years for those who opt to continue beyond 5 years on the lines of Rule 49 (2)(b) on the civil side, or a suitable contributory pension scheme.
(3) Ensuring retention and protection of seniority and status in the civil services for SSCOs.
(4) Restoration of outpatient medical facilities to released SSCOs and ECOs which were illegally withdrawn by the Director General of Armed Forces Medical Services.
Though the above steps are not exhaustive, it is only now that putting our brains together could make any positive dent, otherwise, the matter would further be postponed for another 10 years to the next pay commission. The Services HQ should stand up and take a call!