Chairman IESM had a meeting with the Defence Minister today. The gist of points discussed follows. These were also handed over in the form of a written note.
1. OROP Vs Sanction of Rs 2300 Cr for Pension Enhancement. While stressing the fact that OROP has still not been given as such, and that for officers it is merely a correction of an anomaly, I thanked him for his support in getting the pension enhancement for which the government has sanctioned the amount. Notably, this is the second pension enhancement during the tenure of the present Defence Minister. He confirmed that he has already cleared the file and the case is in progress with the DOPT and efforts are being made to clear it soon.
2. Rank Pay. The Minister confirmed that the case is being pushed through to release the arrears at the earliest.
3. Family Pension Enhancement. We had been pushing this case for long and I expressed gratitude for his intervention in seeing it through. He remarked that he has told all in the Ministry that the credit for this goes entirely to me for my dogged pursuit of the issue. (It may be known that we had taken some widows to his office that made personal appeals; later in a social gathering last month he light-heartedly commented that I had brought families to his office and ‘gheraoed’ him). Thanking him I pointed out that I may be the visible face but it is the IESM that deserves credit for spearheading the case of family pension.
4. Family Pension for Widows of Sepoys. While on family pension I pointed out that as learnt the families of all widows of Naiks to Maj Gen were going to get enhancement. However, the widows of Sepoys are being denied the same. I mentioned my apprehension that since no one is retiring as a Sepoy after 1.1.2006, the Cabinet Secretary’s Committee may not have realised the omission. He promised to have the issue looked into.
5. OROP. The minister has been often saying that they cannot sanction OROP in one go but they will keep bridging the gap between old and new pensioners gradually. I asked him if there was any timeline when the final plank on this bridge would be put. There was no firm reply.
6. Court Cases. I underscored the point that many veterans have been compelled to seek and obtain redress through the courts. A strong feeling therefore is gaining ground where the veterans are having more faith in the courts vis-à-vis the govt, which is not a happy development. While acknowledging the point he also said happily the number of court cases is coming down.
7. ECHS. In view of the inordinate delay in clearance of bills some good hospitals are shying away from getting empanelled. There are reports of some hospitals inflating the bills. The MoD, therefore, rightly insists on scrutinizing the bills before clearing payment. On the other hand the hospitals complain that the Ministry is using this as a pretext to delay payment, including in some cases demanding a ‘cut’. In all this the veteran suffers. While some inflation of bills must inevitably be happening, its extent could not exceed 15-20% at a maximum. To ensure that the scheme does not suffer from default, it is suggested that 50% of the billed amount must be cleared immediately under the powers of the MD ECHS. Any over-billing then can be adjusted in the remaining 50% of the claimed amount. The minister agreed to have the proposal examined on file.
8. Veterans’ Course of Action. I emphasized that in view of OROP not having been sanctioned, we will continue with our struggle.
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