The national government has previously undertaken a number of steps to improve the lives of retired military personnel. In order to include Bank of Baroda and HDFC Bank as Service Centers for the System for Pension Administration (Raksha) (SPARSH) project across more than 14,000 branches in India, the Defence Accounts Department has recently inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with each institution. This move will benefit approximately 32 lakh ex-servicemen moving forward.
According to Dr. Ajay Kumar, the secretary of defence, the goal is to enrol 17 lakh of the 32 lakh defence retirees in SPARSH by the end of September 2022, and the rest retirees would be enrolled in SPARSH as soon as possible. According to him, the typical period for pension payment has drastically decreased to only taking 16 days.
It should be emphasised that the SPARSH programme assists central government retirees by resolving their complaints since they frequently experience a variety of challenges relating to pension disbursement. In accordance with the MoU, more than 7,900 Bank of Baroda locations and 6,300 HDFC Bank locations will become Service Centers and provide last-mile connectivity to seniors, particularly those who reside in distant areas of the nation and lack the resources or technical know-how to access SPARSH.
These pensioners will be able to use the Service Centers as an interface to the SPARSH system and use them to update their profiles, register grievances, and seek redressal. They can also use the Service Centers to get information about their pensions, such as their digital annual identification, pensioner data verification, or detailed information about their monthly pension.
These new centres will help to augment the network of more than 161 DAD offices and nearly 800 Service Centres that are currently provided by State Bank of India and Punjab National Bank branches, as well as 14 branches of the Kotak Mahindra Bank. More than 4.5 lakh Village Level Entrepreneurs (VLEs) will work with Defence Pensioners, as part of the Common Service Centres (CSC) network. This would provide free access to Department service centres to pensioners, with minimal service charges being incurred by the Department.
According to government data, in the Financial Year 2021-22, around Rs 11.6 billion was disbursed through the SPARSH initiative. This figure was lower than the amount spent in the previous year, which was around Rs 57 crore. SPARSH has reached 1 million pensioners, and 11,000 of them are beneficiaries of the pension plan. This is about 33% of the total defence pensioners in India.
What is SPARSH?
SPARSH is a web-based system that allows pensioners to submit claims and have their pensions credited directly into their bank accounts. This avoids the need for an external intermediary. The online portal allows Defence Pensioners to view their pension account in a more transparent way, as well as preserve a history of events and entitlements.
All three Services and associated organisations are served by this system, which is managed by the Defence Accounts Department through the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (Pensions), Prayagraj.
SPARSH is a system that has been designed to improve the pension sanctioning and disbursement process. It is believed that this will address some of the current challenges, such as the existence of decentralized solutions that are isolated from one another, and the need for manual intervention. There is a need for centralized information to help address pensioner queries.
However, the switchover to the new system is encountering some operational issues, resulting in several veterans landing on the receiving end of errors and delays. Previously, you had to go to the bank to submit your personal details, such as your Aadhaar, and collect your pension. After SPARSH was launched we received a message to verify details but the year of birth was listed as 1901 [by default] in the system. It has been asked to debug it and submit it again, but we don’t have user privileges to make system changes on our side,” the source said.
Major Navdeep Singh, a lawyer and former Indian Territorial Army officer, agreed that many Army veterans have been facing delays due to the switchover to the SPARSH system. The less tech-savvy people will be most impacted by this change. Though there are helplines available to help with teething issues, Singh said.
Conclusion The MoU, which will serve as an interface for SPARSH, will add over 7,900 Bank of Baroda branches and 6,300 HDFC Bank Service Centers. It will help pensioners by processing profile update requests, registering complaints, and providing redress
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