Man behind the machine must also be well oiled. This has been the mission of the NDA government since last three years. When weapon systems and equipments worth millions of dollars are acquired, Jawans and Officers taking care of them for their effective use during combat, must also be hale and hearty. Ever since the NDA government assumed power, Government not only announced steep hike in pay and allowances and pensions but also took various measures to make their life easier. The nation cannot win a war if the fighting men are not assured of their welfare. A disgruntled soldier cannot be expected to sacrifice his life for the nation. Hence the NDA government has been talking and taking huge significant steps to keep their morale high.
The biggest decision of accepting, for which the soldiers were agitating for the last four decades, one rank one pension (OROP) was announced by the government on 7 November, 2015 which will cost the government exchequer around Rs 8000 crores every year. This has ensured that pension anomaly that existed among defence services personnel of the same rank, having the same number of years in service is rectified. Till 30 November last year, under first installment and lump sum payments 19,64,350 personnel were paid Rs 3,985.65 crores. In the second installment 15,46,857 personnel were disbursed Rs 2281.63 crores.
Further the government notified the acceptance of the recommendations of the 7Th Central Pay Commission recommendation on 3rd May, 2017. This will result in hefty hike in pay and allowances of the service personnel .For the first time the commission has substantially hiked the Military Service Pay (MSP) of all service personnel and special allowances given to Naval and Air force personnel deployed in high risk duties.
For the good health of millions of serving and retired ex-servicemen, the government expanded the scope of Employees Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) by opening more polyclinics and referral hospitals in different parts of the country. Several measures were taken to provide quality and affordable medicare to ex-servicemen and their dependents. As part of health care reforms, the Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) has been completely digitized. A total of approximately 50 lakh beneficiaries have been covered under the scheme. As of now the scheme is being run through 28 regional centres and 426 polyclinics. A total of 1445 civil hospitals have been empanelled to provide cashless treatment to ECHS beneficiaries.
In order to empower the women and look after their welfare, the government approved the induction of women in the fighter stream, thereby making them eligible for induction in all branches and streams of the IAF. Under this plan women are being selected as per uniform Qualitative Requirements at par with male counterparts. Besides, uniform QRs were also applied to both women and short service commission officers for grant of permanent commission irrespective of gender. 18 June, 2016 was the historic day for the Indian women, when three women fighter pilots of the IAF were commissioned at Dundigal. With this, India joined a select band of nations that have women fighter pilots.
As part of the PM’s ‘Digital India’ initiative, digitization of the recruitment process of Army personnel and Communication Networks have been undertaken in full earnest. A special software system –Army Record Officers Process Automation (ARPAN) 2.0, was launched. This has enabled more than 12 lakh junior commissioned officer and jawans to access their service records and employment details online.
From July 01, 2015, Army recruitment has also gone online. A new website of the Directorate General of Recruitment has been launched for selection of officers, JCOs and Other Ranks. Candidates from all over India can now have access to information about career options in the Army, make suitable choices and apply online.
To provide better and comprehensive care to the army veterans the Army set up the Directorate of Indian Army Veterans (DIAV) on 14 Jan, 2016 at Delhi Cantt. The Directorate will provide a wide range of veteran care and support services and will act as a single point of contact for redressal of complaints of veterans, widows and their wards. The inauguration of the new Directorate coincided with the first ever celebration of Veterans Day.
For the benefit of millions of ex-servicemen and their family members the Defence ministry also set up a Pilot Project of the Army Skill Training Center on 22nd August, 2016. With the inauguration of this Center, the Indian Army has embarked on a new mission by bringing Army spouses and wards into the folds of the skilling landscape. Army personnel and their spouse and wards who attend training at ASTC will receive skill certificate from NSDC and will become eligible for employment or entrepreneurship under Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojna scheme.
In view of the hardships and long separation of Jawans from their families while serving in forward and high altitude areas, the Ministry took steps to expedite the Married Accommodation Project (MAP) for Armed Forces personnel on priority basis. This will provide nearly 2 lakh dwelling units for the married personnel near their places of posting. The third and final phase of MAP is under implementation for 71,000 more dwelling units.
*Author is a senior journalist.
Views expressed in the article are author’s own.