The government’s Defence Accounts Department (DAD) on Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding with Bank of Baroda and HDFC Bank, to onboard them as Service Centres under the System for Pension Administration (Raksha) (SPARSH) initiative, across more than 14,000 branches throughout India, the defence ministry said on Wednesday .
The MoU will onboard more than 7900 branches of Bank of Baroda and 6300 branches of HDFC Bank as Service Centres to provide last mile connectivity to pensioners, especially those who live in remote areas of the country and those who do not have the means or technical wherewithal to logon to SPARSH.
“For these pensioners, the Service Centers will become an interface for SPARSH and provide an effective medium for pensioners to perform profile update requests, register grievances and seek redressal, digital annual identification, pensioner data verification or also simply fetch detailed information regarding their monthly pension,” the ministry said.
These centres would further augment the existing network of more than 161 DAD offices and nearly 800 Service Centres provided by State Bank of India and Punjab National Bank branches, and 14 branches of the Kotak Mahindra Bank.
More than 4.5 lakh Village Level Entrepreneurs (VLEs) will also assist Defence Pensioners, as part of the Common Service Centres (CSC) network. The access to these service centers would be provided free of cost to the pensioners, with nominal service charges being borne by the Department.
Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar said that the objective is to bring 17 Lakh pensioners out of the total 32 lakh defence pensioners on SPARSH by the end of September, 2022 and the remaining pensioners will be brought to SPARSH at the earliest. He said that the average time in pension settlement has come down significantly to about 16 days.
Providing impetus to Digital India initiative, SPARSH has grown exponentially with more than Rs 11,600 Crores disbursed in the Financial Year 2021-22, from just about Rs 57 crores in FY 2020-21. The total number of pensioners onboard SPARSH has crossed over one million mark with 11 lakh beneficiaries, which is about 33% of the total defence pensioners in India.
The MoU was signed by Controller of Defence Accounts (CDA)-Pensions Sham Dev and senior executives of Bank of Baroda and HDFC bank in the presence of defence secretary Ajay Kumar, Financial Adviser (Defence Services) Rasika Chaube and Controller General of Defence Accounts (CGDA Avinash Dikshit.
SPARSH was implemented last year to ease different aspects of defence pensions including initiation, sanction, computation, revision and disbursement. The system involves crediting pensions directly into the accounts of former servicemen without relying on banks.