Per Capita Soldiers in India

Has the Armed Forces pension bill become unaffordable?

In 1984, a High Level Committee headed by the then Rajya Raksha Mantri Shri K.P. Singh Deo was set up which conducted thorough study of the problems of ex-defence personnel for the first time. It made more than sixty recommendations. All except two were accepted by the government. And these two were: ‘One Rank One Pension’ and assured employment to the veterans. It is more than a coincidence that these were the two issues which hurt us the most. Since then, during the last 31 years, successive generations of ex-servicemen have been knocking at the doors of the government for a favourable verdict. When faced with the polls, all parties vow to implement OROP, but they put it on the back burner as soon as they settle down in their coveted chairs. The reason which they give is the same: the government can not bear the financial implication. Recently, a few of my friends decided to make a dispassionate analysis of this with the figures that are available on the Internet. The result of our analysis is given below. As of now, the government is committed to implement OROP, but the process of going through the arithmetic is causing the veterans to become restive, and even entertain misgivings.

We, the people of India gave unto ourselves, a constitution on 26 Jan 1950. But at the same time, we had inherited a strong bureaucracy, which has been described as the ‘steel frame’ by no less a person than Sardar Patel, the first Home Minister of India. These descendants of the ‘Heaven Born’ members of the Indian Civil Services (ICS) are obsessed with status. It has been said that our civil servants will “continue to try to maintain status-quo even if status becomes irrelevant” Way back in 1986, they ruled that no Brig could draw even a paisa more than the starting pay of a Joint Secretary, who was functionally equivalent to Major General. This led to much heart burning and some court cases.

The current impasse on OROP reminds me of a Tamil proverb which reads : 

Kaṭavuḷ koṭukkum pūcāri nāṉ atai eṉ ceyvēṉ eṉkiṟār   (God gives but priest says, I will not let you have it!)

And so, the veterans will have to wait until the ‘Priest’ condescends. Ever so often, we see light at the end of the tunnel, but it turns out to be the headlight of an approaching vehicle!!! 

I sent a draft of this paper to a few friends and colleagues. The comments received from them are given at the end of the post. I would like to invite your attention to two of them. One has come from Dr Prakarsh Singh. He holds a PhD from the London School of Economics and is now on the Faculty of a prestigious university in the US. The other is from Mr JN Amrolia, who headed the HR in Ashok Leyland for a record period of well over two decades.



The lead story in a national daily has made a fervent plea for a debate on military pensions. The plethora of figures given in the editorial published in the Indian Express on 09 March 2015 has obviously been ‘planted’ by someone in the ministry, since they are not available in the public domain. The subject must indeed be discussed, since it affects a large section of people, but the statistics must be seen holistically and viewed in the right perspective.

Per Capita Soldiers in India

As per the Internet, the population of our country in March 2015 has been estimated at 1278 million. The total number of soldiers, sailors and airmen on active list is reported to be 1.3 million. These two figures reveal that the number of combatant personnel for every 10,000 Indians is 10.17. This ratio is a lot higher, in other countries. The figures are: India 10.17; Pakistan 37.1; USA 47; Russia 59; China 17; Sri Lanka 75; Iran 65 and Israel lead the pack with a figure of 214! These statistics reveal that a tax payer in our country has to support the least number of soldiers.

Let us now compare this proportion with the situation as it obtained in our own country 35 years ago. Our armed forces were comprehensively re-structured and expanded after the 1962 debacle, but their strength levelled off at a figure of around 1.25 million by 1981. Our population at that time was 683 million. The resultant per capita ratio works out to 18.3 military personnel for every Indian. Thus, in the last three decades, the number of soldiers for every 10,000 Indians has dropped to 55% of this figure..

For those who have an aversion to statistics let us put it in words.  Our country has a very large population. But the size of our military is not as big. Therefore, our people have to pay less to pay the soldiers. Further, during the last forty years, the population has more than doubled. But the size of the military has not been increased. Consequently, our defence spending on a pro-rata basis has been reducing slowly, but surely.  

The ratio of pensioners to serving personnel in India is, indeed, a matter of great concern. This truth had been comprehended as early as 1983, and a series of studies were ordered by the Army Headquarters to arrest the trend. To maintain a youthful age profile, combat soldiers have to be retired in the prime of their lives, and that bloats up the number of pensioners. The service headquarters have written innumerable papers on this subject. In fact if all the files that were created on this issue had not been destroyed, there would be no place left for anyone to sit in concerned sections of the Ministry of Defence. Almost all the thinkers came to the conclusion that the only solution to this problem was lateral shift of soldiers to police and Para-military forces. Unfortunately, this impinges on the cadre structure and promotion prospects of the worthy officers currently heading these forces. Consequently, all these meticulously conducted studies were first shelved and later consigned to flames. The incinerators in South Block are so effective that even the ashes are destroyed, so that posterity does not get a wind of these prickly suggestions. The military top brass are not alone in suggesting lateral absorption of soldiers into other departments of the government. Successive Pay Commissions have recommended that ex-servicemen be absorbed into police and Para-military forces. My friend, J Thomas feels that ex-servicemen be given the necessary skills for them to be laterally shifted to Defence establishments like the DGOF, MES, and defence PSUs. As a rule, five years military service should be a pre-requisite for a job in all defence establishments.

 The Sixth Central Pay Commission devoted a full chapter (Number 2.4 of their Report) in which they gave details of how lateral absorption should be carried out. Towards this end they even went to the extent of abolishing the pay group structure of the armed forces, so that lateral shift would not lead to a loss of pay. During implementation of the report of the 6th CPC, the government is believed to have stated that ‘this issue will be examined at a later date’.  And of course, that ‘later date’ never came, and as of now, the problem continues to stare at us, and show its ugly face whenever we look at the pension bill.

how we changedLet me mention here that the loss of job in the prime of life leads to loss of earning potential. In addition, it results in a person denied the opportunity to work, and therefore feel ‘needed’. Even the family does not value a man who is idle, and seen hanging around the house all day long. There is no punishment greater than being unemployed, with no skill to sell! The pension is small consolation and a poor substitute for work.

We now turn to another issue which is related with this subject. Between 1991 and now, a great deal has happened to our economy. When we were children, food was the main concern. The Second Pay Commission (1957-59) devoted a considerable part of their report in devising a ‘need based’ pay as the minimum wage to ensure that the humblest paid government servant could afford to provide 2700 calories of food recommended by Dr Aykroyd to his family of three. This factor became the corner stone of their report.

The economic situation has undergone a sea change since then. Our GDP has been rising at healthy pace especially after 1991, and goods and services which were the exclusive preserve of the rich and the mighty are now in the reach of even the lower middle class in India. Merely thirty odd years ago, a residential telephone was a luxury. In the army only officers above the rank of Colonel were entitled to a phone in their residence, and that too, without the ‘trunk dialling’ facility. Today, even an unskilled daily wage earner owns a mobile phone.

The improvement in the quality and supply of these creature comforts by way of ‘white goods’ is similar. The soldier is an integral part of the society. Therefore, if a neighbour has fancy smart phone, and our man cannot afford it for his child, he feels belittled. There is enough evidence to suggest that the size of the national cake has increased. The basket of goods and services which constitute the shopping list of the householder has undergone a sea change. The compensation package has to cater for this fact of life. Or, as my friend K Aggarwal puts it, ‘If the size of the national cake has increased, then the soldier and also the veterans are justified in seeking a larger slice. In all fairness, this should not be denied to them’

Philosophically, I observe that life was a lot simpler when we were children. Our needs were limited to ‘roti, kapda aur makaan’. Today, if a person does not have a cell phone for a few hours, he might die of asphyxiation!

To sum up, let me state with full conviction that compared to other countries, our per capita soldiers are much less in number. To help them give of their best, it is our bounden duty to provide them the means to buy all that they need to live with grace and dignity. There is a crying need to review the terms of engagement of the soldiers to bring the number of pensioners down. I am convinced that it is possible to do so, if the government has the will. The ground work for this has already been done by the 6th Pay Commission. The MHA and the MoD have to shed some of their unfounded reservations to implement this highly overdue reform.


An Addendum

I was about to send this piece out when I discovered some interesting facts. I found that soon after our independence, defence received a much larger share of the national budget than now. In Feb 1951, Shri CD Deshmukh presented a budget in which the total expenditure was estimated at Rs 375.43 crores, of which defence was allocated 180.2 crores. This works out to about 48% of the government spending. It is interesting to see how the parliament looked in those formative years of our fledgling nation.

 Parliament 1947 ed

 This year, in 2015 Shri Arun Jaitley has granted 2,46,727 crores to defence out of the total expenditure of Rs 17,77,477 crores. That is 13.8% of the total outflow. Therefore, those who believe that defence was neglected during the early days of our republic are mistaken. Defence is, in fact, receiving a raw deal now!  Simultaneously, have a look at how the parliament looks now. Notice the all round improvement in the standards of everything in the picture: the furniture, the tapestry, the attire of the Members of Parliament and their demeanour. Sixty years ago, one could not hear what they spoke in the ‘House’. Today, one can see them live on the Television! 

 parliament ed now

From these statistics, I also derived some more inferences. Assuming that the budgetary figures have a direct relationship with the GDP, it can be seen that during the last 64 years, our national income has increased by a factor of about 4740 times. Now, since prices of essential items such as food grains, sugar, milk, cloth and building materials have risen by a factor of 100 during this period, the actual increase in the size of the national cake at fixed prices is of the order of 47.4. Since the population of the country has gone up from 36 crores in 1951 to 127 crores now, it is evident that the average Indian today has at least 13.4 times more money to spend than his grandfather, six decades ago. And this fact does not really need all this statistical analysis. Just take a good look at all the vehicles you see on the road and then go into a shopping mall. Compare the goods and services you see there and then recall what we possessed when we were children.

Now, take a look at the defence budget. View it in the light of the revenue of some of our major corporate houses. You will find that the annual turnover of several companies exceeds our defence spending. If you add the net worth of just two Indians, Mukesh Ambani and Azim Premji, you will discover that it exceeds the budget of our army, navy and the air force! Notwithstanding all these inequities and anomalies,  I am sanguine that our men in uniform will discharge their duties with utmost commitment, always and every time. They abide by the oath administered to them at the time of their entry into the service.


Life has a funny way of springing surprises on us. I have just received the following signboard, which may come as a shock!









  1. Lt Gen Kapil Aggarwal says:

    Dear Sir,

    It was a pleasure reading the article (again), written in your light, inimitable style. The concept of per capita soldier is innovative and on checking the calculations today, the figures are not very different. The addendum tracing defence expenditure from independence is a gem!!
    With your permission, I would like to add this per capita concept to my analysis in the paper I have written.
    And Yes, I have attempted alternative solutions to the ToD concept. I am of course bracing for criticism because at least a couple of them are somewhat radical and will raise heckles of some of those who read it.
    Warm regards

    Kapil Aggarwal
    New Delhi
    # 8130366900

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Thanks for the kind words. There is no shortage of ‘gems’ around. But you need a sharp eye to spot them!
      Go right ahead, and use whatever portion of the article for your work. Everything that is posted on our blog is in the public domain. As long as you mention the source you are at complete liberty to quote extracts.
      God bless

  2. Col NN Pasupathy says:

    Dear Sir,
    I read your excellent article on the above subject fwd through WhatsApp group Veteran Eagles of Secunderabad.
    This started a healthy discussion. Since you are not listed in the group, you will not be able to read the views of others on this subject.
    I am copying and pasting my comments on the connected subject of Pension below. I wish to recollect that I was Director Equipment under you as ADG ( RM)
    My comments on your article

    An excellent article. Unfortunately, an impression has been deliberately created by the civilian beurocracy that the powers in the higher echelons of uniformed service must find a solution for this which is blatantly wrong. No one in the ministry of Finance is made responsible for the burgeoning NPAs of the banking sector. No one in any ministry is cc tasked as to how to stop the waiver of farmers loans year after year . No one questions when the Chief Minister guarentees Rs. 7000 per month for every unemployed graduate in his state( No one will even apply for a job if he gets this kind of sop is another thing) But what we in the Army do? Bend over backwards to solve this issue which is not basically our problem. Does any one questions the life time pension granted to every village Panchayat member, MLAs, MPs as to what is the total outlay to meet this. In fact the Pension outlay of the Armed Forces personnel must be taken over by the Ministry of Human resources and not by Ministry of Defence. The second important point to note why the Naval or Air Force Headquarters are reacting on this issue like the Army Head quarters. In my opinion the Army must confine his agenda only for the role they are called on to execute. How the pension bills are to be tackled must be left to the Government of the day. Proposing to raise the retirement of Jawans to 58 years etc. are quixotic or in other words Thuglagian ( in our context) solutions to say the least.
    My further comments on a post saying the proposed idea of increasing service age to 58 would solve the issue by another member :
    Very well said. But the remedy getting suggested and proposed is to increase the service age of all soldiers, JCOs and of course 99% of officer Corps of the Army to 58 years! There is a study ordered for this and obliging Presiding officers and members might even recommend the same. The fouj will reduce recruitment in a phased manner over the next ten years by which the present strength of soldiers of the age of 48 would have gone home on attaining the age of 58. Then what, there will be a more or less gap of almost near zero intake for a few years. But while the pension bill may reduce progressively, the salary bills will increase as these soldiers will go through two more Pay Commissions during their service life! But there will be no work for any training centres as most of the soldiers would have completed their mandatory cadre courses. But what is most striking is will you put a company of 45 plus year old soldiers for an attack to capture a feature like Tiger Hill? Will a sailor of 45 be able to survive in a submarine? Will an Air Force corporal able to haul the arrestor for the landed aircraft in a carrier. But the bigger question is do Indian Navy and IAF are in agreement for this proposal. If the Government wants to keep a fighting fit Armed Forces, it is its problem to find the funds for it. Does a Five Trillion economy have to depend on Army HQ to find a solution for meeting the pension bill. Ridiculous!
    With warm regards,
    NN Pasupathy
    Col (Retd)

  3. Thomas Lenity says:

    Many days back I read Brig. Mahalingam write up on same subject. This piece is more justified. We may have to remain more time with tunnel vision due to our Fatigue awaiting OROP and other benefita from the steel frame and at the end of the day they will understand the truth, the reality that this mighty frame was held and supported by the Armed Forces.

  4. Vice Admiral Barin Ghose says:

    Surjit was an old colleague from the days of the 4th Pay Commission. He, then Wing Commander Bhatt and self worked on officers pay scale. We had our difficult times including the late evening meeting in CNS/Chairman COSC office.

    After retirement he has been writing on defense matters. In his latest article attached it is indeed to difficult to imagine the percentage of the defense budget in the very first budget presented in Independent India as compared today. If only the percentage was any where close to this we would have no problem with the pension bill

    Vice Admiral Barin Ghose (Retired) AVSM VSM

    A 23 Trinity Towers DLF Phase 5

    Gurgaon 10023


    Phone 0124 4044069

    Mobile 9871381469

    E Mail baringhose@yahoo.com

  5. Maj Gen Vijay Krishna says:

    I entirely agree with you , at this rate we should not expect it even June ,

  6. Brig BD Mishra says:

    Dear Surjit,
    I think your ratiocination of the OROP issue is germane and cogent. Lest the concept of “Per ca pita” be misunderstood in the context of maintaining the standing armed forces in our country, it implies :”moving with the time”.

    There is no gainsaying the fact that the YOUNG armed forces are the compelling necessity of a sovereign country and not the vice versa. Prudent nations never let the trust of their soldiers attenuate in theESTABLISHMENT.

    Unfortunately in India there is only lip service, “Jai Jawan” to hail the service men.This strangely seems to be an ongoing trend.

    Nehru found the concept of standing armed forces an anachronism.He did not alter his views even after 20 October 1962 when you and me manned our defences and lost many brave comrades-in-arms next to our trench.

    We have not learnt our lessons despite 326 BC,712 AD,1025 AD, 1192 AD,1526 AD, 1757 AD and Op Gibralter.

    Perhaps you are right ! Taking care of our combatants, retiring in their late thirties, after their ( in our time) 7+8 years Colour + reserve service, India can not afford !!.

    It beats all sane comprehensions as to why our economists cannot differentiate between the high cost factor and a defeat by keeping the low cost armed forces!!!

    You have raised a nationalist issue.


    Brig Dr. BD Mishra

    Course Mate

  7. Lajpat Sachdev says:

    Our congrats, What a wonderful analysis. We are grateful.

    How is Surinder and how are the young men and what are they doing.

    Love & regards.

    .Krishna – Lajpat

  8. Zal Kabraji says:

    Very interesting read. One can draw individual conclusions…..


    Per Capita Soldiers in India

  9. Dear Gen, well written article, covered up all aspect. The article basically started on cost of defence forces to the nation. You analysed the cost well n it is the cheapest in ratio to our population n threat perception n also in relation to our neighbours. Lastly security to the nation does not come cheap. Look at the threats we have internal as well as external n every time there is a serious problem Govt want Army to short it out n that’s the last resort. If we want the best mil we have to pay them the best n also look after their future or say old age which is very frightening when one look few yrs ahead. While in service we have all kind of restrictions n can’t look beyond our pay n pension to better our finances, even to the extant a soldier get nothing out of his land holding while in service. So a soldier has to face a multi pronged problems to live a respectable post retirement life in today’s word. If we want the best materials to join the Mil than we have to pay him the best n not only while in service but also when he is retired. finally we have no dearth of wealth if corruption is controlled, few people have hoards of money so are our temples n their societies which may go to enemy hands as in the past, if we do not have strong Army. Better pay it to Mil instead of enemy.

  10. Lalit Dutta says:

    So Surjit the question is ” How long are we, the retired and serving personnel of the Armed Forces going to suffer in silence “. Have we all collectively lost our voice and balls as well? The arms of the serving generals and their equivalents in AF & Navy may be tied by the Govt. or baboos but surely their legs are free to kick a hundred butts?

    Isn’t it time for us to cry ” FOUL “.

  11. JK Bajaj says:

    Great Quotes- Admire you Chief, always n every time!


  12. J Thomas says:

    Throughout the world, military service is for a short duration, generally five years. Only a few soldiers, sailors and airmen make it a lifetime career. In India we have colour service of 15 years for the soldiers and indefinite for the officers. The majority hanker for time scale promotions. As a result we are in danger of becoming a babu military.

    We have already reached a situation where the pension bill is about equal to the pay bill. While it may be affordable, it is not desirable. There are far too many pensioners.

    We do have to keep in mind that most people do want an assured job till about 60 years. So the best arrangement is to have lateral transfer, as you have indeed highlighted. But, before we bang on the doors of the police and the para military forces, we need to look in-house. The Army already has a system whereby officers of all arms and services have a compulsory tenure in Rashtriya Rifles. The principle should be extended to soldiers also.

    In brief, there should be no direct recruitment to the services. Only those soldiers who have completed five years in one of the arms should be eligible to join any of the services.

    The next step should be to stop direct recruitment to the five lakh civilian jobs in the defence sector. Five years uniformed service in the armed forces should be the eligibility criterion for entry to any of these civilian jobs.

    Unfortunately, after 1947, the armed forces stayed aloof from national life. Over time we have become a separate caste. Today we have Fauji colonies, Fauji magazines, Fauji canteens, Fauji clubs and even Fauji matrimony websites. This separate caste mentality is what prevents us from straying into civil territory.

    You are well aware that it is easier to change technology than to change culture. Hence, in this matter I am not optimistic.

  13. In 1957 while eliminating emergency commissioned cadres from service, EC officers were being tested for regular cadre of ICs.
    One infantry office was asked what would you do in civil life if not made regular officer.
    His classical reply was “Since I am trained only to fight and kill, and have no other qualification or training, the only thing on my mind is which gang of dacoit I should join”
    Of course he was selected for regular cadre

  14. Manjit Singh AVM ( Retd) says:

    A very well researched paper giving original information.
    We are proud of you, dear brother!

  15. virender kapoor says:

    Sir, a very well researched piece.
    I am only concerned about one factor- your last sentence which says that despite this ill treatment the armed forces personnel will continue to serve the nation and make all sacrifice as expected from them.
    Probably, this has been the root of the problem and this treatment to the uniformed fraternity.
    POLITICIANS and Bureaucrats both know that come what may, these guys will deliver- so why worry.
    They have taken us for granted for being loyal- for which one pays the price.
    Virender Kapoor

  16. Dave Sood says:

    Partly reread and enjoyed it even the second time around.

    Instaed of dying of asphyxiation you should have used cellphyxiation.

    Coining new words is in vogue. Loved V K Singh’s Presstiuition !

    No body commended him for coining a new word.

    Dave Sood

  17. Bharat Bhushan Ghai says:

    A very interesting read. One can draw individual conclusions.

    Bharat Bhushan Ghai

  18. Prabal C Sen says:


    Thanks for sharing

    A well researched piece (as usual) but we may consider to add few lines to make it palatable to babus and also to ensure that the babu brigade do not join the cry for similar OROP model by suggesting a model by us that the babus just can not emulate.

    I was shocked to see that five day week has been adopted by nationalised banks – following the Central Government rules. The babus are watching OROP model keenly and within few years, it would be adopted for their service too.That would eventually kill the goose.

    Is it possible to wait for one / two days?

    warm regards

    P Sen

  19. R K Gaur says:

    Good job Sir. Please go ahead.


    Dear Surjit,

    Thank you for your email.

    Sorry but I have not been able to open the attachments. Like me, my laptop is getting old. And unlike me, it has started creating troubles. However, I’m sure that what you have written is logical and sensible, as always.

    I wish to add a couple of points. I too have been thinking and observing that Army strength has been more or less static. Ever since 1947, it has just one General — the Army Chief. On the other hand, the civilians whose jobs exist only because of the army, have increased their ranks and strength. CDA has become PCDA and the number is more than one. I’m sure the pay scales too have jumped up. Then we have a prolification of departments and high ranking officials in the Defence Ministry. There is not a single serving or retired Army officer in them. Army has never been consulted in this matter. Sitting here in Canada, I do not have access to facts and figures. I’m sure you can investigate and point out. How and why did Army accept this situation.

    There was a time when the seniormost police officer of a province was known as IG (Inspector General). 5 or 6 IGs of major Indian provinces were equal to Brigs and the rest were of lower equation. The IG of Punjab, which ranged from Palwal to Kulu Manali Kinnaur and beyond, and to Rawalpindi and Multan, was equivalent to a Brig. Today the small states of Pb, Hy, HP and many others have dozens of IGs. They have created a higher rank called DGP or Director Gen of Police. This rank too is held by more than one official in a state. In Haryana, they have 4 DGPs including one who looks after rules and regulations !!!! I don’t know their equation with army ranks and their pay scales.

    I remember that the incharge of district police was SP (Supdt of Police). At times he was an army captain on deputation, he wore Captain’s badges of rank, and in Hindustani he was referred to as ‘ Janaab Kaptaan Sahib Bahadur, — Zilla Police’. Today, he wears a colonel’s badges of rank as if it is a fancy dress, and he looks at a major with disdain. And yes, he is now called SSP. He must be having a couple of SPs under him. Rank equation?, I do not know.

    With a deliberate and continued downgrading of the status of army ranks, army service has become most unpopular. This has taken its toll. The standard of the army officers has plummeted. During our times, integrity and honesty was valued. Cases of lack of moral turpitude were very rare. Today, it appears that they have become common. Can we depend on these officers to enjoy the respect and confidence of their men and lead them in battle? Of late, there have been cases where the troops have bashed up their officers — something unheard of during our days.

    So, dear Surjit, I just thought I’ll share some thoughts with you. This needs to be faced and a course correction applied before the nation is let down by an inept officer cadre.

    I have cionfined myself to Army only, but the observations apply to Navy and Army also, in varying degrees though.

    Ab lag jaoo Munna Bhai !!!!

    Regards and best wishes……………

    krishan K Punchhi

    • Bidyut Chatterjee says:

      This kind of acrobatics by the Babus and the netas is bound to take its toll. I fear it may severely affect the morale of the Combatants sometime which may not too far. The Armed forces members have been reduced to second rate citizens by the order of the SC. Can the Forces take all this lying down, and if they do, then for how long?

  21. Col RP Chaturvedi says:

    Kudos for this extremely well written riposte’ which I came across on the rebound. I am not sure where it was sent or wheter it got published. Is it OK for me to circulate this to veterans and civilians?

    With Warm Regards,
    Col RP Chaturvedi,

  22. yoginder sharma says:

    You have argued the Per Capita case cogently and supported it with impressive statistical logic. It is a valuable contribution to the current discourse on the subject.
    My experience says that macro-economic/fiscal decisions incl national security allocations are political in nature. And politics is rarely logic-based-rather it has its own paradigm and dynamics!
    Go ahead and publish-it is readable and persuasive- will add value to a worthy cause.

    Best wishes and regards.

  23. ABS Sidhu says:

    Hi Surjit ,
    Very good rejoinder to the news in the media .
    You may like to include that though defence pensioners
    receive pension for longer period , but , they receive at
    half the rates of civs who serve for longer period and get
    advantage of two or three Pay Commissions and also get
    annual increments .Thus their total carry home package is
    much more during their service than defence pension .
    Answer therefore is to ensure def pers are given same length
    of service as civ counterparts by lateral transfer .

    With regards .

    ABS Sidhu

  24. Brig. Bhatti says:

    A great deal of hard work has gone into this paper which by all means is true in all respects.i am thankful to you for this.may good sense prevail and the govt realise the ground reality early.this letter must be sent and pursued.

    Brig. Bhatti

  25. Brig Behl says:

    Dear Surjit,
    It is a very well written article giving everything factual.This low per capita soldiers in India is due to a few facts which are,
    a. Our habit of having very short memory about Armys performance,be it flood relief,natural calamities relief or a short scurmishis with our neighbours.Army is paid to do this is the normal feeling.It is for this reason that none of our actions are appreciated .
    b.Our founder PM had taken up a case for disbanding the Indian Army.Thanks to the Razakars action in J&K in 1948.The board was cancelled.Imagine India without Army,what will happen to our defences?This feeling has got translated into the current low per capita in India.

    c.Our nation believes in only one thing,in modern day some one always come to our rescue so why spend on soldiers.

    This is my feeling.
    Well done,
    Amar jit.

  26. Rakesh Sachdeva says:

    Dear Sir,
    As usual you have put together a number of good points which will make people understand the Fauj in a more mature perspective.
    There is one point, in my opinion, which merits inclusion. The military by the virtue of its very role needs to be treated with more respect vis-a-vis other (civil/paramilitary) services. The down gradation of the military by each Pay Commission is baffling. I am more than certain, that if there was to be a National Referendum on the issue, the Indian People would like the soldiers standing to be moved back on top of the Precedence Tables, just like it used to be sixty years ago before the (systematic) cutting down to size of the noblest profession of arms.
    Hope you will consider cranking in this aspect in your befitting response.

    Best regards.
    Col Rakesh Sachdeva (Retired)

  27. Samay Ram says:

    Dear Surjit,
    A good analyses. However I would suggest that you also take the figures of the veterans. This is where where the problem may lie. While the figures of serving defence personnel may not have increased, the picture may be different if we carry out an analyses of the increase in the number of Veterans and consequently the per capita Veterans in India. This may reveal an entirely new picture.
    2. This analyses will highlight the fact that there is greater need for lateral induction so as to keep the combined per capita figure of serving and retired still low.

    Maj Gen Samay Ram

  28. Colonel Randhir Singh says:

    great a real eye opener thanks 4 sharing


  29. Ashu Kumar Sharma says:


    Let me complement you for this labour of love.

    I wish to add that per capita expenditure on soldier should also be linked to the threat perception.

    A country surrounded by two aggressively hostile neighbors’ have little option but to spend more on its Armed Forces and per capita expenditure is only one integral part of the money that a nation has to incur. If, with all-round improvement in the average age of an Indian is any indication then its time the establishment looked at increasing substantially the colour service of PBORs. It will, to a very limited extent, for a short period of time bring down the per capita cost of pensioners but that really is not the issue-the important point is why look at pensioners in isolation-though I would whole whole heartedly vote for a reserve force of superannuated soldiers upto a maximum prescribed age.

    I would urge you to go ahead with your article please.

    Gen Sharma

  30. Dave Sood says:

    Well debated article.

    You have varied knowledge and the Army should have used your experience in this pay commission.

    Dave Sood

  31. Maj Gen Mohandas says:

    Dear General
    As usual you have surpassed all expectations. The detailed exposition of facts and the knowledge you have have been succinctly incorporated in the article.
    In addition to getting this into the print media you may like to send it to anchors like Arnab and Sardesai to start a healthy debate and make our country people aware of facts.
    I also understand that the PM has a team going through all inputs in his website provided it is not more than 1000 words and gets his views and communicates it to the writer including action planned with some time lines. You may want to use this route also.
    Kudos to you Sir
    Warm regards
    Gen Mohandas

  32. Sriram says:

    Dear General.

    It is interesting that India and China, with large populations (and hence large denominators), have the lowest per capita servicemen. It may be worthwhile to list the defence expenditure by GDP (rather than budget) ratios for various countries and rank order them.

    There is probably a causal linkage between GDP and military spending (there is much written on this subject) and perhaps also on infrastructure spending.

    I do know that the private sector and housing developments is spending a lot more on security services these days (many of them being managed by ex-defence or ex-paramilitaries). My apartment complex has a fairly large (at least 50) security personnel and 4-5 dogs (of a most pleasant-tempered variety)!

    Also does the size of the forces you mention include paramilitary forces (including VIP bodyguards)?

    Do we have estimates for all security forces – defence, internal security (including police), industrial and private security?

    Warm regards.


  33. Aridaman Jit Singh says:

    Police forces have proliferated on rate much faster than the population of India. In 1975 population of India was around 55 crore and total strength of Police and alleged Central Police organizations combined was appx-6 lakh but today if population is at 130 crore police is around 26 Lakh.
    in 1949 CRPF had meager strength of 2 battalions but today it has 230 plus, similarly, in 1965 BSF had only 25 Battalions and today it has almost similar strength. all these central forces are nothing but used as (contract labour) just show of force and kill public. Contract labour for lack of training, tactics, motivation. They always move and deploy in “M” Formation(“M” stands for Mob and for better disciplined ones it stands for Marriage Party procession.
    Unfortunate part is we train our alleged police as Infantry combatants and they fail. so we need to deploy our Infantry for policing and it fails. because it is not trained for policing.

    Aridaman Jit Singh
    For Team Nishan

  34. AVM RP Mishra says:

    Dear General Surjit, well written article. One correction. Where you have mentioned 18.3 military personnel for every Indian, it should be for every 10000 Indians.

    Veteran AVM RP Mishra


    The article is well written, ​Actually over the years the buying value of a rupee has gone down considerably, population has increased, progress/ advancement of scientific technology calls for sophisticated weapon systems calling for enhanced budgetary requirements , tax payers base is being widened, but the soldiers precedence over civil services over the years has been brought down. Today besides considering “Per Capita Soldiers in India” the motivating factors for executives in corporates needs to be analysed compared with men in uniform. Armed forces are spending & not earning organizations. Ex- servicemen quantum will increase with improved facilities & longevity calling increased budget year to year.

  36. Amrolia J.N says:


    I completely agree with you as far as spend on our Armed Forces is concerned.

    What however does bother me is the teeth to tail ratio. You will recollect that we have had this discussion some years ago. I wonder if there has been any change since. The other concern is piling up of obsolete equipment and material which is not usable. Maybe you can throw some light on these two issue.

    The biggest concern of course remains—our inability to provide productive roles for a vast majority of relatively young retirees from the Armed Forces. More on that later.

    Coming back to your article– please go ahead.



  37. Prakarsh Singh says:

    Dear Surjit Uncle,

    Thanks for sharing this interesting piece! I enjoyed reading it and agree with you that armed personnel in India are not valued to the same extent as those in other countries. The wages and pensions should be high enough to make the very best apply for defending our country. I have three other ideas that you may want to consider when thinking about per capita military size.

    1. In recent years, a greater share of the output has been devoted to technology across the world (missiles, nuclear devices, night-vision goggles, etc.) so per capita military size may be falling in all countries even though the levels may be higher in some as pointed out by you.
    2. Military size also depends in part on what is the credible threat for an enemy to not attack. Will increasing the size of the military stop substantially more attacks than with the present size?
    3. A couple of things to look at: how have real wages for armed personnel grown relative to wages in other professions (banking/doctors/politicians) over these years? I suspect they have lagged behind. This data would be very interesting.
    Finally, how much a country values its soldier is shown in the compensation by the government to the family after death of a soldier (in the battle or barracks). In US, a civilian life is valued at $6 million (this number may be slightly lower for armed personnel). A rule of thumb is it should be at least 100 times the GDP per capita of the country (PPP). In India’s case, the compensation should be at least $500,000 as GDP per capita at PPP is about $5,000. This translates to roughly 3 crore rupees. But I think the compensation should be higher than this as India is expected to grow at 6-7 % per year which would mean a doubling of output in about 10 years.


  38. Mirza Yawar Baig says:

    Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Singapore are all good examples of nations without large standing armies living in harmony with their neighbors. The key is the willingness to live in harmony with neighbors. Our policy of playing power games comes with a price tag. Others also play those games and so we need an army. We can argue endlessly about who goes first but someone has to break this cycle of negativity. Siachen is a classic example where good men die for nothing.

    The reality is that Pakistan is at best a pain the backside for us. It is no threat. China on the other hand is so superior that if they decide on an all-out invasion there is nothing that we can do to stop them militarily. Politically and diplomatically there is much we can do but none of that will be necessary if we don’t play political games and become other people’s (read America) pawn in the game. America wants to fight its war with China on Indian soil. Those who can’t see that are truly blind. Our policy of non-alignment was the best thing that Nehru did for us. We abandoned it to our own detriment. Now we are friends with Israel, a failed state that has failed in its attempt at annexing even a little piece of land like Gaza and we think they can teach us lessons. Lesson in how to become a global pariah? Lessons in how to fail? Lessons in how to make life a living hell for yourself?

    Such is life General sahib. For us to bear witness.

    Salaams to you.


  39. Mirza Yawar Baig says:

    Dear General Sahib

    In today’s world, a large standing army makes no sense. Wars are not of the kind that were fought in olden times. And in any case the super powers of the world are such that a standing army of any size will not make a difference if they actually want to invade and occupy. On the other hand it is a drain on the exchequer. What makes eminent sense is compulsory military service to create a nation of reserve soldiers who are ready to fight for their nation if need be. What we must do is to create a world without war. All war is evil. And all war must be prevented. The term ‘Holy War’ is a Christian Crusade related term and is the most false of all terms that was every invented. Is it like Halaal Pork. An oxymoron. There is nothing holy about any war. Much less about wars fought for annexation of other’s resources – which is the main reason for all our wars. Religion is a convenient tool to justify our completely illegal actions. But as they say, ‘As long as the lions have historians, history will glorify the hunt.’

    I have always liked the story of the Indian sages, some of whom Alexander chanced to come upon out of doors in a meadow, where they used to meet to discuss philosophy. On the appearance of Alexander and his army, these venerable men stamped with their feet and gave no other sign of interest.

    Alexander asked them through interpreters what they meant by this odd behavior, and they replied: ‘King Alexander, every man can possess only so much of the earth’ surface as this we are standing on. You are but human like the rest of us, save that you are always busy and up to no good, traveling so many miles from your home, a nuisance to yourself and to others. Ah well! You will soon be dead, and then you will own just as much of this earth as will suffice to bury you.’

    You are a military man. I am a man of peace. Between us we have the world covered.

    Peace and blessings on you Sir.


  40. Kujad Jani says:

    Read your edit/article on the subject with avowed interest.
    The addendum is all the more informative (48% Defense allocation in the good old days). Please mention that prominently and the article is more than good to go !!

  41. Ravindra Joshi says:

    Dear General,

    I just read the draft of your article.

    It makes eminent sense. It reads well. It makes your – and entire defence services family’s – case most cogently and succinctly.

    More important, this is exactly the kind of rejoinder that the baboodom-inspired Indian Express article deserved. Hope you send your article to the Indian Express first. Let us see if they have the journalistic integrity to publish it.

    That said, may I make bold to compliment you on your ‘labour of love’. Love is yours alone to experience , but labour is something that I can easily sense.

    With fraternal regards,
    Colonel Ravindra Joshi (Retired)

  42. VRK Prasad says:

    Dear Sir,

    I read you subject article and am starved for words in expressing my feelings about
    the way you logically and statistically presented the views to shame the authors of
    the piece in Indian Express of 9/3.You made me feel proud of the uniform I wore for 27 plus years.I am preserving your write up to quote with confidence where

    warm regards
    col prasad

  43. Paramjit Singh says:

    Dear General,
    i recommend a paper be also written on how the burden of bureaucracy( IAS,IPS etc) has bloated over the decades.
    we would have come across papers citing number of policemen Vs population, judges vs population.Increase in number of states and districts and consequently administrative back up that has increased astronomically.
    Our generals are to be squarely blamed for the neglect of defence services.Except for a few-all were self centered and self seeking.
    I hope atleast now they will rise to the occasion.

  44. Lalit Mohan Malhotra says:


    Really a pleasure to read your article after quite a gap.

    Excellent analysis and its amplification.

    I really enjoyed reading it as always



  45. Ernest Rozario says:

    Thank u Surjit!. U have done us proud, single-handedly!. Bless u & ur fam!….


  46. Yogesh Chander Mehra says:

    Dear Gen,
    An expected excellent approach to a sort of rejoinder to a planted loaded art.While it is ok to fight such attempts but in my humble view, it needs an out of box counter which syncs well with present day Govt priorities.
    Governance is a challenge & implementation the cause. The current dispensation thro’ rejigging can give some results but not the intended ones. This area of choices needs to be exploited by SERVICES if projection is robust & expectations flawless for Hon’ble PM to experiment despite resistance from all quarters.
    His pet projects can be chosen & all those expensive leaking schemes like MNERGA etc & a solution for quick delivery proposed thro’ structured org at least of cost & make mends to bureaucrats designs on pension of Def personnel.
    Schemes suggested so far hv inherrent fault lines & so suggest based upon ur strengths.
    We need a Min of implementation which is tasked by the Govt of the Day to get onto failures of all Min run schemes/ Projects over the years. RM has already latched onto DRDO etc & with such thinking, a Min manned by retirees of SERVICES with persons posted to their home towns in every nook & corner of country, working with skills of forces in time bound manner would deliver.
    Disaster mgt etc could also fall in their domain to arrest damage immediately.
    In one stroke, we get employment for our trained personnel which would throw challenges & thus job satisfaction. Rank & file would get placement like every bureaucrat which i encounter in every created position in Govt control schemes incl in CVC monitored experiments on TRASPARENCY where even secy level & eqv in IPS are accomodated.
    Earlier, Gen Satish Bahri & Gen Radhakrishnan liked the idea & promised to dwell on this but may be due to constraints of other priorities, acted like bureaucrats. Since i find ur flavour with subject & knowing u a little, i am taking the initiative to bring it at ur footsteps. Let EME lead in developing the proposal & put for acceptance of the mighty few.

    With Regards,

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