Minister of State for Defence Mallipudi Mangapati Pallam Raju tells Saubhadro Chatterji.
The first United Progressive Alliance government created a separate department for the welfare of ex-servicemen.
What are your plans on this front?
Rehabilitation and resettlement of ex-servicemen are priority areas for this government. We have already created a post of director general (resettlement). Every year, 50,000 to 60,000 soldiers retire. Most of these belong to the 'people below officer rank' (PBOR) segment. We believe that these ex-servicemen, who have received army training for so many years, are an asset to the nation. They pick up a number of skills during their stint with the armed forces. Age is also on their side when they leave the forces. They are in their late 30s or early 40s. The government can't do everything on its own. So, we have tied up with the private sector for their training, resettlement and placements.
What sort of a tie-up you are aiming at?
We have already entered into agreements with business bodies like the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Confederation of Indian Industry and Assocham for training and placements. We look forward to more such agreements in the coming days.
Which are the sectors where ex-servicemen are finding maximum employment?
Well, as you know, there is a huge demand for these trained personnel in private security services. Our ex-servicemen are doing a good job there. But we now find that there is demand from various industries for their mechanical skills. In the construction sector, the demand for skilled ex-servicemen is steadily rising. As the retail trade starts to boom, it is becoming a major employer of ex-servicemen. Reliance Retail, for example, has employed a large number of ex-servicemen. We declared 2007 the year of the ex-servicemen to boost our resettlement plans for them. We find the private sector showing increasing interest in employing ex-servicemen. Apart from Reliance Retail, Infosys is another big company that is employing a large number of ex-servicemen.
Jairam Ramesh, the minister in charge of environment, recently told us that he wanted to take the help of ex-servicemen for a large afforestation programme.
Yes, ex-servicemen can also contribute to the environment protection programme. Earlier, there was an eco-battalion in the Territorial Army. We can raise a similar group of ex-servicemen for environment. I think my senior colleague, Defence Minister A K Antony, held a meeting with Jairam Ramesh in this regard. Task forces will be raised for afforestation in places where we are building roads.
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Rehabilitation and resettlement of ex-servicemen are priority areas for this government
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