Ex-paramilitary benefits: Promise or poll gimmick?

Semi Column

Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde had hit an emotional chord with more than 10 lakh serving and retired paramilitary personnel when he announced in October that they too would be given the status of "ex-central police personnel", at par with the "ex-servicemen" status of the armed forces.

However, the notification issued by the ministry on Friday grants the status but puts the onus on states to offer post-retirement benefits.

There is no clarity on the kind of post-retirement benefits the Central Armed Police Force jawans will be entitled to, nor how and to whom those benefits will apply.

If the entitlements are being carved out from the existing ones being given to the defence personnel, it is bound to face stiff opposition. There are several possibilities of conflict.

For example, a 10 per cent quota in government jobs is reserved for retired defence personnel. In an effort to keep the profile of the armed forces young, jawans forcibly retire between the ages of 38 and 42 years. It is debatable if the same status could apply to the CAPF personnel, given that they are up for retirement only at the age of 60 years.

Similarly, the status of "shaheed (martyr)" given to Army jawans who die fighting at the border attracts a slew of benefits. Allotment of petrol pumps to the next of kin is just one of them.

Senior officials in the Home Ministry said they had not been consulted on the fineprint of the new status that the minister chose to announce at the Raising Day function of CRPF jawans on October 3.

While Shinde did receive a thunderous applause, the homework was clearly not done. And now by passing the buck to states, North Block is open to the charge of sly backtracking.

Questions could also be raised about whether the announcement was a mere poll gimmick, coincide as it did with the Himachal Pradesh elections — a state that sends a substantial number to the paramilitary forces.

... contd.

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