I am a defence pensioner and I have asked many of my acquaintances across the military rank structure about the efficacy of the old system of disbursing pension. I am yet to receive any negative feedback on that score. On the other hand, pension grievances mostly pertain to the Department of Ex-Servicemen’s Welfare, CGDA, and their interpretations of rules and their manner of dealing with court rulings. SPARSH does not in any way appear to rectify such problems, at least not in any reasonable timeframe, because inadequacies of human agencies cannot be possibly compensated by a centralised digital system like SPARSH.
Whatever be the eventual result, there is no denying the fact that the CGDA would have expanded its empire – whether personnel, infrastructure or control. Most grievances of pensioners are likely to continue facing indifferent inaction from the bureaucracy. The only beneficiary would be the CGDA in terms of its vastly increased power and attendant benefit thereof. At the same time, cyber vulnerability would also have expanded in scope. Mere publicity drives cannot solve these issues.
However, SPARSH can be halted in its tracks, if the provision that is available on its website regarding migration from the old system to new requiring individual consent is activated. It won’t be surprising if an overwhelming majority of the remaining pensioners—who are still a significant majority—opt out. If, however, it is accompanied by a provision that in the event of failing to exercise their option for migration their assent will be assumed, the system could incorrectly show sizeable bloated numbers opting for it. In fact, if most pensioners are allowed to voice their opinion, they would broadcast the fact that their spouses (many of whom are barely educated) still live in a world that is distanced from the Digital India that SPARSH seems to take for granted and wishes to leverage.
Taken together, the failure of the CGDA to implement the revised OROP scales and the decision to go for SPARSH should loudly ring alarm bells for the defence minister. He needs to realise that he has, in all probability, been sold a plot that is based more on hot air than fact.
Lt Gen (Dr) Prakash Menon (retd) is Director, Strategic Studies Programme, Takshashila Institution; former military adviser, National Security Council Secretariat. He tweets @prakashmenon51. Views are personal.
(Source : The Mint)