After suffering serious blowback last year, for limiting educational expenses paid to martyrs’ children at Rs 10,000 per month, the Ministry of Defence has decided that it would lift this cap.
In an announcement yesterday, the ministry has said that it will now fully fund the education of martyrs’ children. The previous cap on the “educational concession” the government grants to martyrs’ children had come into force on July 1, 2017.
Only the children of those armed forces personnel below officer rank missing in action, disabled or killed are eligible for this educational concession. In 2016-17, 3,265 students availed the concession. At present, the current scheme entails an expenditure of Rs 5 crore. In its announcement on March 22, the ministry did not specify how much money it will allocate for fully funding the education of these children.
“The educational concession will be admissible only for undertaking studies in government/government-aided schools/educational institutes/military /Sainik schools and other schools or colleges recognised by the central or state governments, including autonomous organisations financed entirely by the central/state governments,” said a statement posted by the Defence Minister on Twitter. No further details were forthcoming from the MoD.
Another question that remains unaddressed is the quality of education. Many column inches have been dedicated to the poor state of many of our government schools, especially in the villages from where many of our jawans come from. Infrastructure is poor, and they do not even possess the necessary technological amenities required to enable better learning outcomes.
Nonetheless, the government’s decision to lift the cap is a welcome one. However, it was only after vigorous protests by the affected families, and collective pressure from the top brass of the Army, Navy and Air Force that the Centre relented.
“This small gesture would assure the families of our brave women and men that the nation cares for them and their sacrifices are truly appreciated by the government,” said Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba in a letter.
“These personnel have made the supreme sacrifice for the country, and the provision of educational concessions to their wards is a small gesture to recognise their commitment to the defence of the country,” he added. Even Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh shot off a letter to the MoD stating that the government’s earlier decision was both “immoral” and “unprincipled.”
It was days after India’s stunning victory in the 1971 war against Pakistan, arguably Independent India’s greatest military highlight, when the then Indira Gandhi government had announced a scheme to reimburse the educational expenses of martyrs’ children killed in action.
With the steady escalation in violence along the Line of Control, many jawans are losing their lives defending India’s sovereignty. The media is quick to highlight the loss of a jawan’s life, but what happens after all the noise dies down and their families are left to deal with the loss? Their children deserve the best education our government institutions can afford to deliver.