THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Defence Ministry has yet again said an emphatic ‘no’ to a plea by veterans of the India-China and India-Pak wars for pension on the grounds that they lack the requisite 15 years of service in the Indian Army.
Without a pension, these former soldiers - battling diseases and official apathy in their old age - are ineligible for medical benefits under the Ex-servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS).
‘’As per regulations 132 of PRA (Pension Regulations for the Army), minimum 15 years qualifying service is mandatory to become eligible for grant of service pension.
“It is observed that you had not rendered the minimum qualifying service to earn service pension and therefore you are not eligible for the pension,’’ the Additional Directorate General, Adjutant General’s Branch, Integrated HQ of MoD (Army), said in December 2017 in a reply to C Vimalanandan, a former Naik from Kazhakootam, who had seen action in the 1962, 1965 and 1971 wars.
Today, at 77, he is deprived of a pension and medical benefits because he had left the army after 11.5 years in service.
In April 2016, ‘Express’ had reported the plight of these former soldiers - now in their 70s, 80s and 90s - who left the Army after 11, 12 or 13 years of service but continue the battle for pension and medical care into their old age.
In Kerala alone, it is estimated that such veterans number roughly 500. Last November, the Department of Ex-servicemen Welfare, MoD, gave a similar reply to Vimalanandan’s plea, with an addition that there was no plan to change the existing pension policy.
He was also advised to approach the Zila Sainik Board for penury grant, which has now been raised to Rs 4,000 a month from Rs 1,000. ‘’It is true that the penury grant was raised to Rs 4,000, but we have not started getting it.
Moreover, you need to be a pensioner to be eligible for ECHS cover. Many of the former soldiers need constant medical care today and they are really in dire straits,’’ said Vimalanandan who has now written to the President.
“We understand the rules, but we are also soldiers who fought for the country in multiple wars. There should be some special consideration.
“People ask us why couldn’t we have stuck on for another two or three years? They don’t know what it is to be in a war,’’ he said.