DOPPW reforms & initiatives in the year 2021 - review
The Department of Pension and Pensioner's Welfare has compiled and published major reforms and other initiatives and welfare measures implemented during the calendar year 2021. The Department of Pensions and Pensioners' Welfare has taken a number of efforts to improve the quality of life for Central Government Pensioners, who are senior citizens. This department is largely responsible for pension policy and has as its primary goal the welfare of pensioners.
1. JEEVAN PRAMAAN (Digital Life Certificate) related reforms
In November 2014, an online system for submission of life certificate “Jeevan Pramaan” was launched by the Hon'ble Prime Minister.
Through Jeevan Pramaan, a pensioner can give an online Life Certificate, anytime and from anywhere, by attaching a biometric device to his PC/Mobile or using services of a Common Service Centre (CSC) or any nearest bank branch.
DoPPW roped in the India Posts and Payment Bank (IPPB) under the Department of Posts for Digital Life Certificate. The IPPB is now fulfilling the major initiative of DoPPW, viz. DLC from Home by roping in 1,89,000 Postmen & Gramin Dak Sevaks. Approximately 2,99,816 Central Government Pensioners have already availed this facility till now.
DoPPW also roped in an Alliance comprising 12 Public Sector Banks which does “Doorstep Banking” for its customers in 100 major cities of the country under Ease of banking reforms for including the collection of Life Certificate also under this service.
As on date total number of DLCs submitted by the Central Government Pensioners is around 1,06,51,196 /- since 2014. In 2021 total DLCs submitted till date is 19, 45,013.
DoPPW has advised all the Pension Disbursing Banks to adopt the Video based Customer Identification Process (V-CIP) as an additional facility for obtaining a Life Certificate from the pensioners, within permissible RBI guide-lines. Most major Banks Pension Disbursing Banks have implemented it in this year.
To further ensuring ease of living for all the Pensioners/Family Pensioners, the Department of Pension and Pensioners’ Welfare has engaged with NIC, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity) and UIDAI to develop a face-authentication technology-based system based on UIDAI Aadhaar software for submission of digital life certificate by the Pensioners/Family Pensioners. As per this facility, the identity of a person will be established through face authentication technique and it is possible to submit Life Certificate from any Android based smart phone. The Hon’ble MoS (PP) launched this facility on 29.11.2021.The DLC through face authentication technique is a breakthrough technology which will reduce Pensioners’ dependence on external bio-metric devices and make the process more accessible and affordable thus ensuring ease of living for all the Pensioners/Family Pensioners.
2. Review and Rationalisation of Pension Rules - Release of Book on Central Civil Services (CCS) (Pension) Rules, 2021
The pension, family pension and gratuity in respect of Civil Government servants appointed before 1.1.2004 are regulated by the Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules.
The earlier Pension Rules were notified 50 years ago in 1972. Since then, a large number of amendments to the CCS (Pension) Rules, 1972 have taken place.
Several Office Memoranda, etc. have also been issued from time to time, interpreting and clarifying different provisions of these Rules. Since such instructions and clarifications did not form part of the statutory rules, there was a need to incorporate them in the Rules itself to bring about uniformity in their implementation by Ministries/Departments.
The Sectoral Group of Secretaries-9 (SGoS-9) included the task of review and rationalisation of the Pension Rules in the strategic initiatives to be undertaken by Department of Pension & Pensioners’ Welfare. These strategic initiatives are being monitored by the Cabinet Secretariat/PMO. Accordingly, the Department has brought out a revised and updated version of the Rules i.e. Civil Services (CCS) (Pension) Rules, 2021.
The Department has developed ‘Bhavishya’, an online pension sanctioning and tracking system. This system has brought about speed, accuracy and accountability in processing of the pension cases. One of the notable features of the new Rules is that they make processing of pension cases through Bhavishya mandatory.
Other important policy and procedural improvements made in the CCS(Pension) Rules, 2021 over CCS (Pension) Rules, 1972 are as under:
Increment earned during leave, though not actually drawn, will count as emoluments for pension/ family pension /gratuity, irrespective of the duration and kind of leave.
Benefit of retrospective notional increase in pay after retirement (on account of court orders, Review DPCs, etc.) will be available for pension/ gratuity.
A time limit of three months has been fixed for deciding on the question of grant of compassionate allowance, on imposition of penalty of dismissal/removal. Decisionon compassionate allowance in past cases of dismissal/removal will also have to be taken within 6 months.
The provision for voluntary retirement after thirty years of qualifying service has been omitted, being redundant.
Request for withdrawal of notice for voluntary retirement will have to be made at least 15 days before intended date of retirement, so as to give sufficient time to competent authority to take a decision on the request.
Provision has been made for payment of interest and fixing of responsibility in case of delayed payment of pension/family pension/gratuity.
A Government servant deputed to UN Bodies, etc. will have option to pay or not to pay pension contributions. Service will be counted for pension and gratuity only if contributions are paid.
Children/ siblings suffering from a disability will be considered dependent on the Government servant/pensioner and shall accordingly be eligible for family pension, if their income is less than the entitled family pension plus dearness relief.
A divorced daughter, in whose case a decree of divorce was issued after the death of her parents, will be eligible for family pension if the divorce petition was filed before death of the parents.
In cases where a Government servant dies during the currency of a penalty which has the effect of reducing his pay only during the currency of that penalty, family pension will be calculated based on notional pay ignoring the effect of such penalty.
If a person (e.g. Spouse) eligible to receive family pension is charged with offence of murdering Government servant /pensioner, family pension shall not be paid to that person till the conclusion of the criminal proceedings but shall be paid to other eligible member of the family (e.g. Child).
On death of a Government servant during service, the family members will not be required to pay any outstanding licence fee as also licence fee for a period of next three months, in respect of the Government accommodation.
It will be mandatory to process pension cases through ‘Bhavishya’, an online pension sanctioning and tracking system.
Timelines for processing of pension/family pension cases by HOO and PAO have been streamlined/ rationalised to ensure expeditious issue of PPO on retirement/death of Government servant.
The roles of CPAO and Pension Disbursing Authorities/Banks in the pension sanction/ payment process have been indicated in the rules and timelines for them have been provided.
In case a Government servant is not able to fill up forms due to any physical or mental infirmity or the Government servant dies after retirement but before filing pension papers, spouse/family member of the family will be allowed to submit pension papers.
Provisional family pension will be sanctioned immediately on submission of claim for family pension along with death certificate without waiting for forwarding of pension case to the PAO.
Detailed provisions have been included in the rules for sanction and payment of family pension and other benefits to the family of a Government servant/ pensioner who goes missing.
So far, the Ministries/Departments were dependent on the Swamy’s Publications for referring to the Rules notified by the Government. For the first time, the Department has brought out its own Booklet on the Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 2021.
3. Bhavishya (an online tracking system for pension sanction and payment developed by DOPPW) related reforms
The ‘Bhavishya’ platform, an integrated online pension processing system was made mandatory for all central government departments w.e.f. 01.01.2017.
This system is at present being successfully implemented in the main Secretariat of 96 Ministries/ Departments including 812 Attached Offices. As on date at total number of 1,34,856 cases have been processed ie. PPOs issued which includes more than 55,000 ePPOs.
The ‘Bhavishya’ system has now been made available on a Mobile App, thereby making it simples especially for those Para Military Forces who are out in the fields to keep track of their pension cases.
Bhavishya 8.0 was released in August, 2020 with this new feature to PUSH the ePPO in Digilocker. Bhavishya’ is the first application to use the Digilocker Id based PUSH Technology of Digilocker.
Bhavishya provides an option to retiring employees for linking their Digilocker account with “Bhavishya” to get e-PPO. This initiative has created a permanent record safe from destruction of pensioners’s PPO in Digilocker and eliminates delays in forwarding PPO to new Pensioners, as well as the necessity of handing over a physical copy.
4. Achievements regarding Enabling Divyangs
A child suffering from a disability was earlier eligible for family pension only if his/her income, from sources other than family pension, was less than the minimum family pension (i.e. Rs. 9000/- p.m.) and the dearness relief admissible thereon. This was causing hardship to children suffering from a disability. Keeping in view special needs of a child suffering from a disability, orders were issued on 8.2.2021 that the child of a deceased Government servant/pensioner, suffering from a mental or physical disability, shall be eligible for family pension for life, if his/her overall income from sources other than family pension is less than the entitled family pension at ordinary rate and the dearness relief admissible thereon, payable on death of the Government servant/pensioner concerned. This provision has also been incorporated in the Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 2021.
If an employee suffered a disability due to an injury or disease in the performance of duty and is retained in Government service in spite of such disablement, a lump sum compensation is paid to him in lieu of the disability element of the disability pension. This benefit was, however, not available to NPS employees. Orders have been issued vide O.M. 1.1.2021 to extend the benefit of lump sum compensation to the NPS employees also, if they suffer a disability in the performance of duty and are retained in Government service in spite of such disablement.
5. CPENGRAMS(Centralised Pension Grievance Redress And Monitoring System) related achievements:
An Integrated Grievance Cell & Call Centre was inaugurated on 20th June, 2019 for pensioners so that they could register their grievances by calling on the toll-free number 1800-11-1960.
This Department has issued an advisory to all Ministries/Departments to put an accountability mechanism in place and make the concerned answerable for summarily disposing of grievances without proper qualitative action vide OM dt. 6.08.2021. Detailed guidelines in this regard have been re-emphasised vide OM dt 6.08.2021.
From January 2021 till December 2021, 7 VC meetings have been held with around 35 departments regarding long pending grievances. The year-wise Status of long pending grievance is as under:
6. Digital Pension Adalat related reforms
The first Pension Adalat of the Department was held on September 20, 2017. Out of 29 grievances raised in Adalat, 26 were resolved.
The 2nd Pension Adalat on February 9, 2018. Out of 34 grievances raised in Adalat, 30 were resolved.
All India Pension Adalat – 2018: An All-India Pension Adalat on September 18, 2018, wherein Pension Adalats were conducted across Ministries/ Departments throughout the country including all the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) as well as non-Civil Ministries viz. Defence, Railways, Telecom and Posts. The Chief Secretaries of States were also asked to conduct Adalats for the All-India Service Pensioners who fall within the jurisdiction of this Ministry. From the reports received, 12,849 cases were taken up for redressal in these Pension Adalats. 9,368 (73%) grievances relating to Central Govt. Ministries/Departments/ Organizations were resolved. In addition to this, States/UTs, also conducted Pension Adalat for All India Service retired officers, during which 1614 grievances were settled on the same day. This was one of the largest Pensioner Grievance resolution exercises ever undertaken in the country.
All India Pension Adalat was organized on 23.08.2019 by DoPPW by roping in various Ministries and Departments all over the country. Around 4,000 Pensioners’ cases were resolved in a single day.
The Department of Pension & Pensioners’ Welfare conducted a regional Pension Adalat for the first time, outside Delhi, at Jammu on February 29, 2020. Out of 342 shortlisted cases, pertaining to Central government pensioners of various departments, including the CAPFs, 320 cases were settled as per extant rules.
First ever on-line All India Pension Adalat held in December 2020/January 2021 by leveraging technology through Video Conferencing. Out of 3643 cases taken up, 2540 cases were resolved on the spotby the different Ministries/Departments which participated in this initiative.
7. Achievements relating to Procedural Reforms :
In order to ensure timely payment of retirement dues in all cases, instructions have been issued on 09.03.2021 for strictly adhering to the timelines prescribed under the CCS (Pension) Rules, for processing of pension cases and for handing over the copy of PPO to the pensioner at the time of retirement along with other retirement dues.
Further instructions have been issued on 03.06.2021 for taking simultaneous action on priority basis for disbursement of regular family pension through the Bank, for payment of other entitlements of the family on death of the Government servant and for ensuring that the PPO for family pension is issued and disbursement of regular family pension is commenced by the Bank not later than one month of the receipt of the claim for family pension.
Instructions have been issued on 16.06.2021 bringing out the documents/ details which are required to be submitted to the Bank by the spouse/family member, whose name is included in the PPO issued to the deceased pensioner. CMDs/CPPCs of the Pension Disbursing Banks have been advised to obtain only the minimum essential details/documents from the applicants for family pension and to ensure that they are not subjected to any harassment by seeking unnecessary details and documents such as details of family members (other than the Applicant) which are not relevant for commencement of family pension by the bank.
8. National Pension System (NPS)
The National Pension System (NPS), a Contribution based Pension Scheme, was introduced through a notification dated 22.12.2003 of Department of Economic Affairs. Government servants joining on or after 1.1.2004 are mandatorily covered by the new Scheme. However, the rules relating to service matters of NPS employees were not in place. Based on the recommendations of a Committee under the Chairmanship of Secretary Pension, the CCS (Implementation of National Pension System) Rules, 2021 have been notified on 30.3.2021. These rules provide for the procedure and timelines for registration of employees under NPS, rates of contribution, payment of interest on delayed credit of contributions, action on retirement/exit of employees, action in disciplinary cases, option for applicability of Old Pension Scheme in case of death or disability, etc.
DoPPW has notified Central Civil Services (Payment of gratuity under NPS) Rules, 2021 to regulate retirement gratuity and death gratuity to Central Government employees covered under NPS on 24.09.2021.