The Ministry of Defence will re-examine its decision to limit the educational expenses of the children of soldiers who died in service and disabled personnel, News18 reported. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will chair a meeting on Wednesday to review the order.
Sitharaman told reporters in Ahmedabad that the Cabinet made the decision based on the recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission. “It is a sentimental issue and I respect martyrs and their families,” she said. “I know the order is hurting them. I will take a look at the issue again.”
The scheme, announced in 1971, provides the child of a dead soldier full tuition and hostel fees till they get their first degree. It covers around 3,400 children.
A government order, which came into effect in July, combined the tuition fees and hostel charges for one child and said the amount should not exceed Rs 10,000. This is expected to save the government exchequer only Rs 5 crore a year.
Sitharaman’s decision to reconsider the order follows protests from various quarters, including affected families, some representatives of the military and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
On November 24, Indian Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba wrote to Sitharaman, requesting her intervention. “These personnel have made the supreme sacrifice for the country, and the provision of educational concession to their wards is a small gesture to recognise their commitment,” Lanba wrote.
He said the service headquarters took up the matter with the Defence Ministry on October 10, but there was no action. Speaking on behalf of the Air Force, Navy and Army, Lanba said, “This is a small gesture that would assure the families of our brave men and women that the nation cares for them.”
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said the move was “immoral” and “unprincipled” and showed “shameful disregard” for security forces, according to PTI. He said the move “would make a mockery of the objective behind the scheme” and would undermine the sacrifices of defence personnel.