NEW DELHI: Soldiers who defended the nation are now fighting another battle post-retirement. The government’s Ex-servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS), which looks after former soldiers, sailors and airmen, is beset with a major crisis.
According to a source, “The money earmarked to treat soldiers and their families is being eaten up by hospitals by producing false and inflated bills and keeping them in hospital for no reason. And, pressure was allegedly applied by some officials from the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare and some politicians to interfere with the investigations and the dis-empanelment proceedings against those hospitals.”
From the budget of Rs 3,800 crore earmarked for the year 2018-19, fake and inflated bills amounted to more than Rs 500 crore. Cases of similar malpractices were found by the ECHS in some hospitals in Meerut, Noida and Panipat. The details of the bills and the relevant recommendations are with this newspaper.
The matter became further complicated once the investigations started and the recommendations were made.
“A hospital in Meerut was inspected in 2018 and the Board recommended the hospital “unfit to be empanelled. Headquarter Meerut also approved the recommendation. Case was processed in November 2018, the letter from empanelment section sent to MoD, but it has not moved beyond that,” revealed the source.
Similarly, 24 per cent of the bills of a corporate hospital in Gurugram were found to be inflated and returned. Another hospital in Delhi is said to have sent 17 per cent inflated bills.
“The Ministry of Defence and the Army are aware of the hospitals which were found involved and the consequent decisions taken thereafter,” added a source.
“Sixty-one per cent of these cases are concentrated in Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Chandigarh,” the source added.
The ECHS is the last resort for most retired servicemen who belong to rural and far-flung areas.
According to sources, despite having all the evidence, when dis-empanelment proceedings were launched against them, political pressure and officials from the Department of Ex-Servicemen interfered and action was allegedly slowed down.
What is ECHS?
The ECHS serves 52 lakh individuals, including soldiers and their dependents, after their retirement.
It was due to the demand of the service headquarters (Army, Navy and Air Force) that ECHS was created to look after the expanding population of ex-servicemen and widows and their dependents.
The department was created in the Ministry of Defence in 2004.