After the widow of a Kargil martyr died at a Sonipat hospital after the medical staff allegedly refused her treatment for being unable to procure her Aadhaar card, the Central government has raised health costs of ex-servicemen.A notification issued by the Ministry of Defence on December 29, has set new rates for the Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) increasing premiums by about 100 per cent. According to the new rates, a retired soldier and his equivalents in the Navy and Air Force will now have to shell out Rs 30,000 instead of Rs 15,000, earlier. The new rates of premium for junior commissioned officers (JCOs) have been notified as Rs 67,000, from Rs 30,000. For officers also the contribution has been increased from Rs 60,000 to Rs 1.20 lakh.On Sunday, Major General (rtd) Satibir Singh, Chairman of Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM),described the notification a double blow to soldiers, who are already angry with the government for not abiding by its commitments on one-rank-one-pension (OROP).He said, the step would add a burden on jawans and affect their morale. He has written a letter to all MPs asking them to raise the issue in the ongoing session of Parliament. Responding to their letter, main Opposition, Congress, said that they would raise the issue once Parliament reassembles on Tuesday.Party spokesperson Sushmita Dev said her party will question the government, whose leaders frequent forward areas to celebrate various festivals witht the soldiers, but, fail to attend to their basic needs.Launched in 2003, the ECHS enables ex-servicemen pensioners and their dependants to seek treatment, not only in service hospitals, but also in empanelled civil and private hospitals. The payment of the hospital bills is initially borne by the ex-servicemen, but, after the treatment, the amount is reimbursed once a claim is filed with the ECHS authorities.The scheme is currently providing healthcare to 52 lakhs beneficiaries.In a letter to the MPs, the IESM has also pointed out four anomalies arising out of the government’s OROP notification issued on November 2015. It also said that one man judicial committee report submitted to the government in October 2016 has been kept under wraps. General Singh further stated that out of 7.82 lakh vacancies reserved for ex-servicemen in the government, only 70,000 have been filled so far. He said the war veterans are drawing a paltry sum of Rs 3,500 per month, and asked the MPs to discuss the woes of the soldiers in Parliament. “We had brought the issue to the notice of the government through various communications and in-person through meetings, but there has been no redressal so far,” he said in his letter.‘PALTRY SUM’Out of the 7.82 lakh vacancies reserved for ex-servicemen in the government, only 70,000 have been filled so far. The war veterans are drawing a paltry sum of Rs 3,500 per month.
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