The Meeting of the Standing Committee on Voluntary Agencies is a regular feature under the aegis of the Department of Pension & Pensioners’ Welfare (DoPPW). The positive outlook of the DoPPW has been discussed on this blog earlier, here and here.
This time, the meeting was chaired by Minister of State, Dr Jitendra Singh. It is quite heartening to note that there were some very positive vibes from the Minister and the overall set-up regarding welfare of military veterans. Amongst others, the meeting was also attended by Col HN Handa, the President of DIWAVE (Disabled War Veterans, India) and Gp Capt Sethi of the AFA.
When brought to the knowledge of the Minister that unlike DoPPW, the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare (DESW) did not hold any consultations with stakeholders and decided most issues unilaterally, the Minister directed the DESW representative to inform the Secretary DESW to hold regular consultative meetings with veterans and be more proactive.
When the Defence Accounts Department informed that according to them, out of 18.5 lac pre-2006 defence pensioners, fresh PPOs had been issued for 14.11 pensioners, the Minister was apprised that the figures seemed incorrect.
The Defence Accounts Department was also advised to increase the frequency of Lok Adalats in smaller cities.
The DESW representative was also questioned about the non-issuance of orders for some pending pensionary matters wherein disability pensionary anomalies of civilian pensioners emanating out of the 5th Pay Commission that had been resolved in early 2000s for them have still not been resolved for military pensioners. And this despite the fact that the DoPPW had written way back in 2010 to the DESW asking them to rectify the anomalies. On this, the representative of the DESW said that the draft letter had already been sent to the competent authority for approval and the orders were expected soon.
Most departments have a dedicated day for resolving grievances of pensioners and also have a dedicated officer dealing with such issues. On a request for the same, the DESW had replied to the DoPPW that PCDA(P) was the nodal authority for defence pensioners and they could visit the said office in Allahabad. The DESW expressed its inability to fix a day and time in the DESW for this purpose and stated that the Secretary DESW had been meeting representatives of veterans quite frequently to redress grievances. On this the veterans informed the Minister that it was not acceptable for veterans to visit Allahabad for resolution of their issues and that neither the Secretary calls veterans for any meetings nor was the Department proactive in resolving issues or communicating the progress of the same.
It was also informed that the proposal for enhancement of disability and war injury benefits based on fitment tables rather than minimum of pay bands was also under consideration.
On being informed that the DESW had closed the case concerning the demand of enhanced family pensionary benefits to widows of war disabled soldiers, the Minister directed that the file would not be closed. DIWAVE also demanded that they be consulted before taking decisions on such matters.
Thanks to Col Handa, Gp Capt Sethi and all other veterans for putting across the points concerning military veterans to the Minister of State.