A cap on the education reimbursement of children of martyrs is unfair and cruel | editorials | Hindustan Times
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A cap on the education reimbursement of children of martyrs is unfair and cruel

A gesture to convey the country’s gratitude and support towards the children and widows of soldiers who have laid down their lives for the nation, may cost the exchequer a few crores, but discontinuing it sends out the wrong message

editorials Updated: Dec 07, 2017 11:08 IST
Indian army soldiers conduct a patrol during an operation against suspected rebels near Srinagar.  Apart from action on the nation’s frontiers, counter-insurgency operations across states hit by separatist movements and social unrest often leave many a soldier’s family without a breadwinner.
Indian army soldiers conduct a patrol during an operation against suspected rebels near Srinagar. Apart from action on the nation’s frontiers, counter-insurgency operations across states hit by separatist movements and social unrest often leave many a soldier’s family without a breadwinner. (AFP)

More than 10,000 armed forces personnel died in India between 1994 and 2017, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal. Jawans across the country face threats at many levels. Apart from action on the nation’s frontiers, counter-insurgency operations across states hit by separatist movements and social unrest often leave a soldier’s family without a breadwinner. When an unknown jawan dies in action, donations flood in, memorials are planned, and fundraisers held to commemorate the martyr’s bravery. But soon the nation moves on, leaving loved ones to fight life’s everyday battles. Which is why putting a ceiling on the education expenses of the children of soldiers who are missing, disabled, or killed in action is unfair.

Naval Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba has written to defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, requesting the government to withdraw the cap of Rs 10,000 that was imposed following the recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission report. Previously, the children of soldiers killed in action, missing, or disabled were given a full reimbursement of tuition fees, hostel charges, and the cost of books, uniforms and clothing. The perk was introduced after the armed forces won the 1971 war which led to the creation of Bangladesh. From July 1, a cap has been imposed, which will affect 3,400-odd children of the armed forces personnel.

Mr Lanba isn’t the only high-ranking soldier voicing concern. In a letter to the defence secretary, Sanjay Mitra, army vice-chief Lieutenant General Sarath Chand has also sought the removal of this ceiling. Even outside the armed forces, concerned individuals have pitched in to express solidarity with the families of martyrs. In April, cricketer Gautam Gambhir pledged to fund the education of children of 25 CRPF men martyred in Chhattisgarh after an ambush by Maoist rebels. The ministry should seriously consider the naval chief’s appeal. The gesture will go a long way towards boosting the morale of the armed forces. A gesture to convey the country’s gratitude and support towards the children and widows of soldiers killed in the war may cost the exchequer a few crores, but discontinuing it sends out a wrong and demoralising message.