New Delhi. 14 August 2018.
“My dear Jawans, I congratulate you and your family members on the auspicious occasion of 72nd Independence Day. My best wishes to the officers and jawans of Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and other Defence establishments, posted in both, peace and conflict areas on the borders and in the remotest corners of the country.
As we celebrate this festival of freedom, my heart goes out to those brave martyrs of the soil and their families who gave the supreme sacrifice to protect our motherland. We remember them with gratitude and the nation will always remain indebted to them. They set an example to the society through their selfless sacrifice.
From the Ministry of Defence, our endeavour would be to provide all dues and facilities to our brave soldiers who guard the nation and ensure peace and thus, prosperity to the countrymen. Let me assure you that there shall be no shortcoming in this effort.
In line with the recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission, we have taken the decision to pay the uniform allowance and clarity has been brought in with respect to what is covered within the ambit of the allowance and what clothing items will be provided by the Government. As you are aware, a contract for procurement of nearly 2 lakh Bullet Proof Jackets with best of the class specifications is underway. Similarly, in order to ensure faster decision making, be for the day to day requirements of the troops or the ammunitions, greater powers have been delegated to the Force Headquarters and other lower functionaries. All available funds are being put to optimum utilisation, so that there is no shortage of essential items.
In a first ever exercise after Independence, the Ministry of Defence in consultation with the Indian Army has decided to reform the Indian Army in a planned manner. The first phase of the reforms involves redeployment and restructuring of approximately 57,000 posts of officers, JCOs, ORs and civilians. Major reforms include optimisation of Signals establishments, restructuring of repair echelons, redeployment of Ordnance echelons, better utilization of Supply and Transport echelons and Animal Transport units besides closure of Military Farms and Army postal establishments in peace locations. Steps are also being taken towards enhancement in standards for recruitment of clerical staff and drivers in the Army and improving the efficiency of the National Cadet Corps. This restructuring is aimed at enhancing the combat capability of the Army in a manner that the officers, JCOs and ORs will be used for improving the operational preparedness.
The Government had taken a historic decision to implement “One Rank, One Pension”, OROP for Defence personnel in November 2015 and had promised to pay arrears in four instalments. I can say that all OROP arrears have been cleared now with over 10,788 crore rupees spent. More than 65.81 lakh defence pensioners have benefited from this.
The Liberalised Family Pension which was available to army personnel working on Line of Control or International Border along Pakistan border, has now been extended to the personnel working along Line of Actual Control with China as well. This Liberalised Family Pension covers accidental death or injury sustained during natural calamities and provides for 100% of last reckonable emoluments.
The Government has enhanced the monetary allowances for the Gallantry Award winners. The enhancement is both for the recipients of post-independence as well as pre-independence Gallantry Awards. An online portal dedicated to the gallantry award winners since Independence, has also been launched.
Also, to recognise and honour the gallantry of our soldiers, the National War Memorial is under construction near India Gate at New Delhi. It will be inaugurated soon.
Conceding to the request of our Ministry, orders have been issued by the Department of Public Enterprises for recruitment of disabled Ex-Servicemen and the dependents of Servicemen killed in action in Group C and D posts in Public Sector Enterprises by giving them relaxed standards in selection. A Memorandum of Understanding has also been signed with the Confederation of Indian Industry and FICCI to provide employment to Ex-Servicemen.
In order to provide quality health care to all of you, a new Radio Frequency Identification enabled ECHS Smart Card project has been launched for better authentication and medical facilities. Earlier, there was only one Artificial Limb Centre at Pune but now, the facility is available at 53 ECHS empanelled Centres in different locations for its beneficiaries. The country now has an elaborate network of ECHS covering 374 out of 716 districts of the country.
The government is also committed to provide houses to the Army personnel and their widows on ‘‘No Profit, No Loss” basis. The Army Welfare Housing Organisation has completed 96 projects and handed over 29,891 houses to soldiers and families so far and will continue to do so.
Last year, we launched a special digital campaign to celebrate Armed Forces Flag Day and to encourage the public to contribute generously towards the welfare of Disabled Ex-Servicemen, War Widows and Children of Martyrs. As a result of these efforts, 73.82 crore rupees collected under the Armed Forces Flag Day Fund and the same has been distributed to 30,344 beneficiaries till July 2018 for their identified personal needs.
Moreover, a large number of philanthropic organisations and individuals have been making contributions to the bank account opened for the welfare of the bereaved families of Battle Casualties, named Army Battle Casualties Welfare Fund. More than 1.85 lakh contributions amounting to nearly 31 crore rupees have been received and grants have been released to 301 families of battle casualties so far.
With these words, I once again extend my heartiest greetings to all of you and your near and dear ones on the 72nd Independence Day. The country looks at you with great pride and you must keep on guarding the border-lines with all the might and be always prepared to reply to any aggression by the forces inimical to the nation. Let us give our very best in the service of Mother India!