Over 58k veterans to get pension after defence ministry steps in
HT on Wednesday reported that veterans, including several three-star officers, had not received their April pension
NEW DELHI: As many as 58,275 former servicemen, who were facing financial hardships as they had not received their pension for April 2022, will have the retirement benefit credited into their bank accounts by Wednesday night after the defence ministry swiftly intervened in the matter and granted them a “one-time special waiver” to complete their documentation to draw pensions, a key requirement that the veterans were in the dark about.
The defence ministry announced its decision to process the pension cases within hours on the day HT reported that veterans, including several three-star officers, had not received their April pension, and the government’s pension disbursing authority had not told them why.
“In order to avoid hardship to such pensioners, a one-time special waiver has been accorded to these 58,275 pensioners to get their identification done by May 25. The pension for April has now been processed and it is due to be credited by end of day on May 4,” the ministry said in a statement.
The pensioners are now being informed about the pending annual identification (submission of life certificate) through SMS and email.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday asked the government to disburse pensions to the ex-servicemen at the earliest.
“After the deception of ‘One Rank, One Pension’, now the Modi government is adopting the policy of ‘All Rank, No Pension’. Insulting soldiers is an insult to the country. The government should give the pension of ex-servicemen at the earliest,” Gandhi wrote on Twitter, citing the HT report.
Pensioners are required to complete annual identification in November every year to continue to draw the monthly pension. The affected veterans had completed the mandatory identification process last year. However, they were required to submit the life certificate again (by March 31, and now extended to May 25) after the government switched to a new online pension disbursing system called SPARSH, controlled by the Allahabad-based Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (Pensions), or PCDA-P, to ease different aspects of pensions.
The veterans HT spoke to said that the pension disbursing authority did not inform them about the requirement to carry out the documentation again.
SPARSH, or System for Pension Administration (Raksha), involves crediting pensions directly into the accounts of former servicemen without relying on any external intermediary (banks).
SPARSH has been disbursing monthly pensions to over 500,000 pensioners for almost a year. However, during the processing of the pensions for April, it emerged that the annual identification of around 330,000 pensioners was not updated, officials said.
“A list was shared with all pension disbursing banks to share updated identification data if any and as a result, the identification status of more than 2.65 lakh [265,000] pensioners was updated on SPARSH by April 25, leading to successful processing of pension for all these pensioners,” the ministry said.
It said banks (the previous pension disbursing agency) could not confirm the identification for 58,275 pensioners and neither was their identification received directly on SPARSH by the time of monthly closing, and hence, these pensioners were not paid their April pension.
The latest pension glitch came on the back of a series of issues faced by the pensioners after the government switched to SPARSH. The previous issues were also fixed swiftly after HT highlighted the problems faced by the veterans.
In February, initial glitches in SPARSH resulted in hundreds of former servicemen not getting dearness relief along with their January pension, and several women officers not being paid pension for almost a year till that month.
India has more than 3.3 million defence pensioners. About 500,000 of them have been moved to the new system and the migration will be complete by the year-end. The officers affected by the pension delay are the ones who retired after 2016 as pensioners are being moved to the new system in phases.
The ministry has asked veterans to visit their nearest common service centre (CSC) to complete the identification process. They are required to generate a digital life certificate (or Jeevan Pramaan) using a software application and a secure Aadhaar-based biometric authentication system.
In February, the government’s Defence Accounts Department signed a memorandum of understanding with CSC e-Governance Services India Limited to make pension-related online services accessible to former servicemen settled in remote parts of the country.
CSC e-Governance Services India Limited is a special purpose vehicle under the electronics and information technology ministry. The tie-up allows former servicemen to access SPARSH services at CSCs across India.