Defence Minister looking into education fund cap issue

New Delhi, Dec 6 : The Defence Ministry is looking into the issue of a cap of Rs 10,000 on educational expenses paid to the children of armed forces martyrs, and Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has assured that the issue will be addressed on priority, Army chief General Bipin Rawat said here on Wednesday.

According to Ministry sources, Sitharaman also held a meeting on Wednesday over the issue, after all three forces approached her requesting a rollback of the order.

Talking to reporters on the sidelines of an event, General Bipin Rawat said Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba, has written to the Defence Minister of the issue.

“For our martyrs, children are entitled (to) free education. It is a very good thing that the government has done.

“What has happened is possibly because of some misunderstanding they have now capped it at Rs 10,000 because somebody must have calculated as to how much a person spends per month on a child’s education.

“In our case, we have written to the government. I think the Defence Minister is completely seized of the problem. She is aware of it, and after we explained the reason to her… she said she is certainly concerned about it and will address the issue on priority,” General Rawat said.

As per estimates, around 3,400 children of armed forces personnel have been impacted by the decision.

According to informed sources, Admiral Lanba, the senior most among the three service chiefs, in his letter to the minister requested the order be withdrawn.

“…this small gesture would assure the families of our brave women and men that the nation cares for them and their sacrifices are truly appreciated by the government,” the Navy chief said in his letter.

“These personnel have made the supreme sacrifice for the country and the provision of educational concessions to their wards is a small gesture to recognise their commitment to the defence of the country.”

An order dated September 13 by the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare of the Defence Ministry said the fee for tuition and hostel expenses for children of martyrs would be capped at Rs 10,000 per month, as per the recommendations by the 7th Pay Commission. The order came into effect from July 1.

The demand for a rollback on the decision was also raised by Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and Union Minister of State for External Affairs General V.K. Singh, who is himself an Army ex-chief.

On Tuesday, Sitharaman had said that the matter was under consideration.

“I know it is a very sentimental issue I am fully seized of it. I respect martyrs, their families, and the sentiments that is tied to it, we all respect that,” Sitharaman told reporters in Ahmedabad on Tuesday.

She said the decision came out of the 7th Pay Commission recommendations.

“I am not trying to give you (an) excuse, 7th Pay Commission made some recommendations, recommendation was accepted, the Cabinet took a call on it… Therefore there is some process that has taken place. It is hurting us, we will go back to consider it.”


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