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Rights

Paramilitary Veterans Demand Restoration of Old Pension Scheme, Knock at PM Modi's Door

The government's move to introduce the National Pension Scheme in 2004, replacing the regular pension scheme and placing them in a contributory system, has been unfair to paramilitary jawans, they allege.

New Delhi: The Confederation of Ex-Paramilitary Forces Welfare Associations has sought the appointment of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to press for the restoration of the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) and appraise him of their longstanding grievances.

The demand for OPS has gained momentum in the last few years following several protests and widespread discontent among the 12 lakh serving and eight lakh retired paramilitary personnel across the country.

On Monday, November 6, the Confederation of Ex-Paramilitary Forces Welfare Associations’ national coordinator Ranbir Singh Singh said that the association had sent a memorandum to the Prime Minister’s Office, requesting an appointment with the PM. He highlighted the fact that paramilitary personnel often perform duties in hostile terrains and safeguard the nation’s borders alongside the armed forces. Despite their significant contributions, they have been clubbed with civilian counterparts under the National Pension Scheme (NPS), he said, calling the decision “discriminatory”.

“We want this discrimination to end and that’s why we have sought an appointment with PM Modi,” Singh told The Telegraph.

Paramilitary personnel, officially known as the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF), have long felt neglected and discriminated against in comparison to their counterparts in the armed forces. The government’s move to introduce the NPS in 2004 replaced the regular pension scheme for paramilitary jawans, placing them in a contributory system that many argue is unfair and inadequate.

Core demands: Pension restoration and pay parity

The primary demand put forth by the Confederation is the restoration of the OPS for paramilitary personnel, a benefit currently enjoyed by the army, navy, and air force. Additionally, the association is pressing for salaries equivalent to those in the armed forces for serving paramilitary personnel. This would address the stark contrast in pay scales, where paramilitary personnel receive significantly lower salaries for their risk-prone roles.

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Furthermore, the association is seeking an exemption from goods and services tax (GST) at central police canteens, aligning it with the privileges offered to the defense forces. These demands underscore the urgent need to bridge the existing gaps and treat paramilitary personnel with dignity.

Protests and frustration: The battle for recognition

Paramilitary veterans have been vocal about their grievances, staging protests and demonstrations to draw attention to their plight. Their past protests, including one at Jantar Mantar in September, have highlighted the urgent need for policy reforms and fair treatment.

Paramilitary veterans have highlighted the discriminatory practices that have persisted for years. They have been part of crucial battles, including the 1965, 1971, and 1999 Kargil wars, standing alongside the army as the first line of defence. Despite their sacrifices and contributions, they say, their pension benefits have been curtailed, leading to widespread discontent and frustration.

In a significant ruling by the Delhi high court in January, India’s paramilitary forces were deemed as ‘Armed Forces of the Union,’ making them eligible for pensions under OPS. The court directed the government to implement this decision within three weeks. However, the government chose to challenge the ruling, leading to an appeal in the Supreme Court. The resolution of this crucial matter has been deferred until 2024, raising concerns and questions about the reasons behind the delay.

The Confederation’s call for a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi signifies a tipping point in the struggle for recognition and equality. The veterans, along with the serving paramilitary personnel, are determined to make their voices heard, highlighting the urgent need for policy reforms that address their concerns comprehensively.