Anger over Defence Ministry cap on tuition benefits for martyr’s children

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has capped educational expenses it pays to children of martyrs or those disabled in action at Rs 10,000 per month, impacting some 3,200 students in schools, colleges and professional institutions.This will result in a meager saving of less than Rs 4 crore per annum.

The orders came into force on July 1 this year. Since then, the ministry has received several requests for continuing with the old system, which had no such ceiling. The MoD had on November 2 clarified to an Agra-based petitioner, wife of a Lt Colonel, that a letter to cap fee had been drafted as per the recommendations of the 7th Central Pay Commission (CPC).

The scheme to bear the cost of education of children of martyrs was announced in the Lok Sabha on December 18, 1971, two days after the Pakistani forces surrendered to the Indian forces at Dacca (now know as Dhaka). The scheme, introduced in the 1972 session, allowed complete exemption of tuition and ‘other fee’ school onwards.

In 1990, the MoD extended the scheme to children of officers and jawans killed or disabled in Operation Meghdoot (Siachen) and Operation Pawan (Sri Lanka). Another amendment in 2003 included children of those killed or disabled in counter-insurgency operations. The dilution began in 1983 when a ceiling was imposed on expenses for the uniform. In 2010, the clause ‘other fee’ was removed. The forces protested but to no avail. The ceiling introduced this year will hit students in the midst of their degree courses.

Meanwhile Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has written to Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, seeking reversal of the ministry’s decision to cap educational expenses paid to children of martyrs of those disabled in action.

Perturbed by the decision, which would reportedly impact around 32000 students in various institutions while saving the central government a mere Rs 4 crore per annum, the Chief Minister has called for an immediate review and revocation of the decision, which he said was “immoral” and “unprincipled”.

“The move to cap the expenses at Rs 10000 per month would make a mockery of the objective behind the scheme, announced in the Lok Sabha in 1971 and introduced next year,” said Captain Amarinder, adding that this would amount to undermining the sacrifice of the defence personnel.

“The fee being paid to the children of martyrs and disabled soldiers was a small price in exchange for what they had given, and continued to give, to the nation,” said the Chief Minister, dubbing the cap on the expenses as a “shameful disregard’ for the contribution of the armed personnel to the country and its citizens.

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