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When Defence Minister A K Antony informed the Rajya Sabha in May that the government was seriously considering increasing the cooling period for retired military officers who want to work in the private sector to five years from one, it was a statement borne out of rising concern over the exodus of retired officers to defence companies despite the apparent conflict of interest.
An investigation by The Sunday Express has found that dozens of retired officers from the Army, Navy and Air Force, as well as some bureaucrats who have worked in the Defence Ministry, have been employed by Indian and foreign companies dealing in arms, military equipment, aerospace and ship-building, among others.
Although most of these retired officials have served the mandatory one-year cooling period before taking up these jobs, government sources said that their understanding of the sensitive internal dynamics of the forces, as well as their clout within the defence establishment which gives them the potential to try and influence lucrative arms deals, makes their switch worrying. Some have circumvented the rules by joining private firms as 'consultants' even before the end of the cooling period.
Concern has also been expressed that some of these officers, while in service, may have dealt with the companies they ended up joining after retirement, indicating a possible quid pro quo. Moreover, some retired officers have ended up working for controversial arms dealers and equipment manufacturers such as Ravi Rishi, Abhishek Verma and Suresh Nanda.
For the record, R26 of the All India Services (Death cum Retirement Rules), says a pensioner shall not accept any commercial employment before the expiry of one year from the date of his retirement, except with the previous sanction of the government. The rules were amended in 2007 and the cooling period was reduced to one year from two.