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After Protests, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to Relook Cap on Educational Expenses of Martyrs’ Children

Speaking to reporters in Ahmedabad, Nirmala Sitharaman said that the decision was taken by the Cabinet going by the recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission and that she would have a 'relook' at it.

Shreya Dhoundial | CNN-News18

Updated:December 6, 2017, 1:49 PM IST
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After Protests, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to Relook Cap on Educational Expenses of Martyrs’ Children
Union Minister for Defence, Nirmala Sitharaman and the Chief of Army Staff, General Bipin Rawat an Army event. (File photo: PTI)
New Delhi: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will be chairing a meeting on Wednesday to take a call on the controversial order to put a cap on educational expenses paid to the children of martyrs and disabled personnel.

The controversial order is expected to save the government a mere Rs 5 crore and is being seen as a move that is penny wise, pound foolish.

Speaking to reporters in Ahmedabad, Sitharaman said that the decision was taken by the Cabinet going by the recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission and that she would have a 'relook' at it.

"It is a sentimental issue and I respect martyrs and their families and I know that the order is hurting them. I will take a relook at the issue."

As the armed forces and 3,200 families of martyrs still await the Ministry of Defence’s decision, the forces already have a plan B in the works.

According to Army sources, if the MoD refuses to scrap the Rs 10,000 cap or delays it, the forces will take it upon themselves to fund the education of the wards of these officers and soldiers.

"We are very clear. We will not let the martyrs' children suffer. They are our responsibility," said a senior Army officer.

The armed forces have written not once but twice to Raksha Mantri Nirmala Sitharaman, requesting her to reverse the cap decision.

On November 24, Chairman Chief of Staff, Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba wrote to the RM requesting her to personally intervene in the issue.

"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. The service HQ had taken up the matter with the MoD on October 10, 2017. However, the ministry is yet to accept the services proposal citing recommendations of the 7th CPC," Lanba said.

Lanba also spoke on behalf of the Air Force, Navy and Army, requesting Sitharaman’s personal intervention in the matter.

“I would request your personal intervention for the removal of the ceiling. This is a small gesture that would assure the families of our brave men and women that the nation cares for them.”

The scheme under which the government bears the educational expenses of children of martyrs and disabled soldiers was announced in the Lok Sabha on December 18, 1971— two days after Pakistani forces surrendered to India at Dhaka.

Meanwhile, far away from the political corridors of the South Block, an officer serving in the hills say the old adage of a nation “forgetting soldiers in times of peace is heartbreaking”.

“I don't understand politics. I am a soldier. But first they took away the rations then there are restrictions on canteen facilities and now a cap on the fee for martyrs’ children. If I am hit by a bullet today, will my family be taken care of? I am not sure anymore."
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