- The Department of Pension & Pensioners’ Welfare works under the Ministry of Personnel, PG & Pensions with the vision of ensuring a life of dignity and respect for Central Government Pensioners. While, formulation of pension policy is the primary mission of the Department, promoting pensioners’ welfare through prompt redress of grievances, simplification of rules & procedures and timely & smooth payment of pension and other retirement benefits to Central Government Employees has been gaining focus for the Department. In the recent past the Department has been in news, both for undertaking pension reform to ensure Ease of Living for pensioners, as well as, for speedy redressal of grievances.
- The Department of Pension & Pensioners’ Welfare has successively being taking steps in the recent past date to make life easy for the Pensioners. A Department which has primarily been entrusted with the job Pension policy has been tweaking the policy with great impact and has been in news for all the right reasons with Pension Welfare as its prime objective.
- Pensioners’ grievance mechanism has been strengthened like never before. The Department runs a very effective online grievance portal entitled CPENGRAMS (Centralized Pension Grievance Redressal & Monitoring Mechanism) in which any Central Government Pensioner can register a complaint and the same is monitored by DoPPW till its final resolution and closure by the Pension settling Department/Ministry within a 60 days deadline. However, the average disposal time of the some 40,000 grievances received per annum has been brought down to 31 days. Though such grievances can be registered through the Department’s mobile App, as well as postally, DoPPW went a step further and started a Toll-free call centre on its number 1800-11-1960 which has become immensely popular since its launch in June 2019 and more than 4800 grievances have been lodged through this mode already. The Department also counsels senior citizens on their Pension related problems on this number. This has come as a huge relief especially to those elderly who live alone and are not digitally savvy. From 2017 onwards, the disposal rate of the grievances is more than 90% annually.
In its zeal for even doing better, the Department got a deep-dive/root-cause analysis conducted by an independent third party. It was seen that some Ministries/Departments often closed grievances routinely without qualitative resolution. It therefore evolved a model of on-the-spot resolution of grievances called the Pension Adalat. Chronic cases were culled out of the CPENGRAM system and also by giving advertisements in newspapers. The concept of Pension Adalat entails on-the-spot resolution of the grievances of pensioners. These grievances are short-listed in advance for taking up in the Adalat. This model has been evolved for speedy justice for the pensioner and avoiding court cases and undue harassment of the pensioner, who has failed to get the grievance resolved after approaching his department or/and various other stake-holders involved in the case. Therefore, after giving advance notice to all the stake-holders, which may involve the Head of Office (HOO), Pay and Account Office (PAO), Central Pension Accounting Office (CPAO), Pension Disbursing Bank/treasury etc. they are called on a common platform in the presence of the pensioner/family pensioner or his/her representative during the Adalat to give an on-the-spot resolution. Four such Adalats have been conducted by DoPPW till now, the last one being conducted in the Union Territory of Jammu the very first outside the National Capital. In the Adalat conducted all over India, in all Ministries on a single day, viz. September 18, 2018, out of 12,849 grievances 10,982 grievances were resolved in a single day; in the Adalat held on August 23, 2019, a total of 4000 grievances got resolved. In the latter, video conferencing was done with 50 live locations outside Delhi in which DoPPW interacted directly with the Pensioners. To overcome the problem of Pensioners and authorities in travelling, for the first time, the Department took the initiative to take the Adalat to the states where the grievance holders were located making a beginning with the Jammu Adalat held on February 29, 2020 which resulted in the disposal of 290 listed matters across the table. This has come as a relief to both the Pensioners as well as the Departments and will radically bring down the number of Pension related court cases.
- With respect to NPS *National Pension System), which falls within the jurisdiction of the Department of Financial Services, DoPPW decided to start Awareness workshops for Central Govt employees. It therefore conducted its first Awareness program at Jammu in order to educate the subscribers about the provisions of NPS and at the same time educate the different Departments on the Dos & Don’ts with respect to the system. This was followed by a detailed Q & A session in which several doubts of the employees as well as the staff of different Departments handling the NPS were clarified. The presentation was made by the team of NSDL, the Central Record Keeping Agency which works under the PFRDA (Pension Fund Regulatory Authority) which functions under the Department of Financial Services.
NPS cases pertaining to Central Government Employees, as well as those of the UT of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), whose accounts have certain irregularity were taken up and their respective Pr. AOs (Principal Accounts Officers) and DDOs (Drawing and Disbursing Officers) were advised corrective action, so that the subscribers do not suffer continuous loss, resulting in lower annuity value, post their retirement. It was informed that there were 5756 cases of NIL credit to the NPS accounts of the employees of the UT of J & K, 5936 cases in which there was no nomination available and 36% subscribers’ NPS accounts were not getting credited by the 7th of the subsequent month. The UT of J & K after being made aware of the status has now requested for a training session of their DDOs. W.r.t. Central Government employees in Jammu, only 5 cases were there which had NIL credit, 15 PRANS (Permanent Retirement Account Numbers) without nomination.
Keeping in view the representations/court cases filed by several Central Government officials covered under the NPS (National Pension Service) whose recruitment had been completed before 01.01.2004, but who for some reason, administrative or otherwise, could join service only on or after 01.01.2004, an option has been given vide circular issued on 17.02.2020 to join the old pension system, if they so desire by giving a one-time option up to 31.05.2020.
- One of the most noteworthy initiatives taken up by the Department was promotion of Digital Life Certificate. Keeping in view the difficulty faced by those seniors who are settled abroad with their children after retirement, the Department on 20.02.2020 brought out a circular on Consolidated Instructions on Life Certificate and Commencement of Family Pension for those living abroad, vide which the Bank branches abroad as well as the Indian Embassies/Consulates/High Commissions have been instructed to facilitate submission of Life Certificate and commencement of family pension.
Similarly, all Pension disbursing Banks have been instructed vide a circular issued on17.01.2020 to provide door-step Life Certificate facility to those pensioners who are unable to visit Banks in the month of November.
To provide comfort to Pensioners aged 80 and above, O.M dated 18.07.2019 enables them to submit their Life Certificate w.e.f. October 1st every year instead of 1st November. The Department promoted the concept of DLC through a documentary which received more than 2 lakh hits on YouTube. A pilot was done in 2018 in 8 cities in which Pensioners’ Associations were roped in to go door to door and in hospitals/ICUs with newly purchased Iris devices to collect DLCs. This was expanded in 2019 to 24 cities. With these efforts, the number of successful DLCs of Central Government Pensioners rose radically: 2015 (2,53,889), 2016 (8,00,056), 2017 (9,71,436), 2018 (12,44,957) and 2019 (13,23,861): which reflects the positive impact of this initiative.
- DoPPW also showed the sensitive side of the Government in power with several reforms which touched human lives immensely. To enumerate a few:
- Rule 54 of CCS (Pension) Rules was amended vide notification dated on 19.09.2019 to provide for payment of enhanced family pension (50% of last pay) to families of even those employees who die during service before completing service of 7 years. Earlier, the family of an employee who died during service before completing service of 7 years was not entitled to enhanced family pension.
- A minimum qualifying service of 10 years is required for eligibility for pension under the CCS (Pension) Rules. Rule 38 of CCS (Pension) Rules amended to provide for Invalid Pension @ 50% of last pay to those Government servants who retire due to bodily or mental infirmity even before completing qualifying service of 10 years. (Notification dated 4.1.2019 and OM dated 12.2.2019).
- The rules provide for payment of family pension to divorced daughters if the divorce took place during the life time of employee/pensioner or his/her spouse. Orders issued for allowing Family Pension to divorced daughter even in cases where divorce proceedings had been filed during the life time of employee/pensioner or his/her spouse but divorce took place after their death. (OM dated 19.7.2017).
- For those who are boarded out on grounds of disability the amount of constant attendant allowance being paid to disability pensioners revised from Rs.4,500/ per month to Rs.6,750/- per month. (OM dated 2.8.2017).
- For those living in non-CGHS areas, for OPD the amount of Fixed Medial Allowance (FMA) raised from Rs.500/- per month to Rs.1000/- per month (OM dated 19.7.2017).
- The Department also has started a real-time Dashboard for the CAPF (Central Armed Police Forces- BSF, CISF, CRPF, SSB, ITBP, Assam Rifles) martyrs’ families. This Dashboard is posted immediately on the occurrence of a death of a Martyr and the family pension is monitored through a daily dashboard by the Department to ensure timely payment so that the family does not have to run around for Pension. Within 2 months of the Dashboard, the pendency of Pension settlement of Family Pension cases by the CAPFs have been halved.
- Permission of CMO/CGHS dispensed with for sanctioning FMA to pensioners residing in cities/areas not covered under CGHS.(OM dated 31/01/2018).
- Co-authorization of pension for disabled children/siblings/dependent parents introduced in the PPO. This would avoid the delay and hassles of a fresh PPO by the office in favour of disabled children/siblings/dependent parents. (Notification dated 1.07.2013).
- Minimum pension raised from Rs.3500/- per month to Rs.9000/- per month. Minimum disability pension and family pension covered under CCS(EOP) Rules enhanced from Rs.7,000/- to Rs.18,000/-. (OM dated 4.8.2016)
- A new slab of death gratuity has been added. The family of a Government servant dying while in service with a qualifying service of 11-20 years would be entitled to death gratuity @ 20 times of monthly emoluments as against the existing entitlement of 12 times of emoluments. (OM dated 4.8.2016).
- The ceiling of gratuity raised from Rs.10 lakhs to Rs.20 lakhs. (OM dated 4.8.2016)
- The rates of ex-gratia lump-sum compensation being paid to the families of employees who die in performance of duty has been increased from existing 10-15 lakh to Rs.25-45 lakh, depending upon the circumstances in which the death occurs. (OM dated 4.8.2016).
- Orders issued on 23rd June, 2017 allowing restoration of full pension on completion of commutation period of 15 years to all absorbee pensioners who had taken 100% lump-sum amount in lieu of pension on absorption in PSUs/Autonomous bodies. (OM dated 23.6.2017)
- Orders issued for grant of family pension to a disabled child/sibling even in cases where disability certificate is produced after death of parents but disability occurred before their death. (OM dated 25/01/2016)
- Benefit of gratuity extended to NPS employees, on the same terms as applicable to employees appointed before 01.01.2004. (OM dated 26.8.2016)
- In the effort of DoPPW to make a shift from Newspaper and Electronic media publicity to targeted awareness of Pensioners/Family Pensioners through Social Media, the Hon’ble Minister launched the Twitter “DO YOU KNOW SERIES” on Family Pension. DoPPW will now take out a series of 30 info graphics ( 2 per week) to spread awareness about Family Pension. Through this the Pensioners/Family Pensioners/Departments & Ministry officials/Bank officials/Pensioners’ Associations who would be following DoPPW Twitter will become aware of the Family entitlements for which till now they had to run around offices. Two booklets on Family Pension, one in Hindi and another in English were also released by the Hon’ble MoS(PP). It is noteworthy that the Social Media publicity series was launched for the entire country from the Union Territory of Jammu.
- BHAVISHYA (The online Pension settling system with pre-fed Pension Rules & Calculator)
Pensioners’ Portal was immensely strengthened by adding the facility of online pension sanction process – ‘BHAVISHYA’ which is a software with a digitized end to end solution for Pension settlement. Bhavishya, has been made mandatory for all Civil Ministries/Departments w.e.f. 01-01-2017 which means that all cases have to be settled on this platform. The retiree fills the forms online and every file movement is marked with an SMS to the retiree. There are strict time-lines set for every stake-holder to deal with the Pension settlement. Integration of Bhavishya software with all stake holders viz. PFMS and PARAS and e-Awas which has enabled generation of e-PPO. This has made the concept of e-PPO possible and approximately 16500 e-PPO have already been generated. The e-PPO system is a landmark in digitization of pension processing and the Department is now tying up with Digi Locker so that the e-PPO goes directly to the Pensioners’ DigiLocker and remains a permanent record.
As of now more than 1 lakh cases have already been processed through BHAVISHYA software. In addition, more than 36,306 cases are at various stages of processing through 802 offices covering around 7109 DDOs of civil Ministries/ Departments on-board. Scope being expanded to cover Union Territories (UTs).
With a view to reorient pensioners towards an active post retired life and to gainfully utilize their skill and experience towards nation building activities and social work, a new initiative namely SANKALP undertaken. Under SANKALP Pre-Retirement Counselling (PRCs) are being organized for those employees who are about to retire in a year. In Pre-Retirement Counselling apart from their pension dues, information are also being shared about Active post retirement life. These sessions which are conducted all over the country have become immensely popular. Pre-Retirement Counselling Workshops (PRCs) were held for retirees, especially those Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) posted in far flung areas, deployed at the frontiers including Shillong, Jaisalmer, Jammu etc. 47 such sessions have been conducted by DoPPW so far. Training of Trainers (TOT) workshops conducted and a pool of 760 Master trainers created. These Master trainers are able to further conduct Pre-Retirement Counselling (PRC) for their employees within Departments.
The Pensioners were involved in 24 cities to obtain Life Certificate through digital devices from home and hospitals of those Pensioners who were unable to go and personally give LCs in Banks. 4100 such DLCs were collected from home and hospitals.
1224 pensioners engaged by the Staff Selection Commission (SSC) as inspecting officers/members of the flying squad during examinations in various cities etc.
The Department involved a number of identified Pensioners’ Associations for motivating pensioners/citizens to organize Swachh Bharat movement in various parts of the country. Several cleaning campaigns were organized by the Associations in Guwahati, Bengaluru, Allahabad, Vadodara, Assam and Bihar.