Defence budget hiked , government accepts ‘one rank, one pension’

pc-2NEW DELHI : The Centre today announced that it has accepted the “one rank, one pension” principle for the forces as part of a 10 per cent hike in the defence budget, a decision that the ruling Congress hopes will win it the support of lakhs of soldiers ahead of the national election, due by May.
In his interim budget speech, Finance Minister P Chidambaram announced that the defence budget was being raised to Rs.2,24,000 crore.Under the “one rank, one pension” rule, retired soldiers of the same rank and length of service will receive the same pension, regardless of when they retire. Currently, pensioners who retired before 2006 receive less pension than their counterparts as well as juniors.
The mega announcement comes three days after Rahul Gandhi endorsed it after meeting a delegation of ex-servicemen last Friday.“Rs. 500 crore will be transferred in 2014-15 for implementing the one rank one pension decision,” Mr Chidambaram said.Mr Gandhi is expected to address a rally of ex-servicemen in Uttarakhand on Saturday.
The Centre had earlier followed Mr Gandhi’s cue and raised the subsidy cap on cooking gas cylinders from nine to 12.The “one rank, one pension” demand has seen many protests by former soldiers. Decorated veterans have returned their medals and some have gone on hunger strikes to campaign for it.
The defence ministry had often said in the past that granting one rank, one pension across the board is not financially viable as it would mean an annual spending of Rs. 1,200-1,300 crore more, besides arrears of up to Rs. 4,000 crore.
There are 14 lakh serving and 24 lakh retired military personnel in the country, which translates into a vote-bank of around 1.5 crore people, along with their family members.

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