The defense ministry decided upon a wide range of measures on Wednesday, in an attempt to streamline the existing pension system, especially for battle casualties and veterans boarded out for medical reasons.
In a meeting, Defense Minister A.K. Antony directed orders to be issued by the end of this month for the implementation of the decisions taken by the Cabinet Secretary’s committee on veterans pensions, which recommended an increase in the pensions to be paid to personnel who retired before 2006 at a cost of INR 2,300 crore. The payment of these enhanced pensions was directed to begin from March 31, 2013 and is expected to affected over two million veterans.
Ministry officials said, the Minister of State for Defense, Jitendra Singh will also be hold meetings with representatives of the various banks involved in the disbursal of pensions this month, to bring uniformity in the process and standardize the formulae followed by them.
Others attending the meeting included Secretary of Defense, Shashi Kant Sharma, Secretary of Defense (Finance), Priti Mohanty and Secretary for Ex-Serviceman Welfare, Vijay Chhibber.
Directions were also issued for the faster disposal of decisions by courts and the Armed Forces Tribunals (AFTs) relating to complaints about pensions, with decisions on accepting or contesting these decisions in appeal to be taken promptly, and within the court mandated period.
Officials in the ministry and three services would be instructed: ‘Don’t sit over it.’
The army and navy were directed to follow the example of the Indian Air Force (IAF) in the disbursal of pensions, especially for veterans who were medically boarded out and war casualties, to make the payment system more efficient and responsibility would be assigned to specified officers to effect personal intervention in cases of failure to meet prescribed timelines of disbursal.
The IAF has an e-tracking system called Single Window Information Forwarding Terminal (SWIFT) run by the Directorate of Air Veterans, set up last October, which is the nodal agency dealing with pensions, medical reimbursements, legal matters related to pensions, Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) and placements.
This system facilitates the efficient tracking and follow up of pension and related matters, preventing delay in the disbursal of monies to veterans. SWIFT is also expected to enable veterans to track their cases online on their own at a dedicated website.
In cases of personnel boarded out due to battle injury or other disability, where disbursal of pensions often gets delayed due to delays in filing of related medical papers, the ministry has decided to pay 50 percent of the pension, provisionally, immediately, and orders have been issued for necessary amendments of the relevant pension provisions.
These measures announced on Wednesday were preceded by allegations made by the National Security Guards (NSG) commando, Naik Surender Singh, last month, on non-payment of pensions and reimbursements of medical expenses to him after he was boarded out due to injuries sustained in the 26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008.
The ministry also decided that a checklist of all required medical and service papers and other formalities would be prepared by the three services to refine and evolve a process to avoid delays.