(Editor’s Note: The views are that of the author’s. For the writer’s other interests, read the credit line at the end of the article.)
By Lieutenant General Shokin Chauhan
Indian Army‘s Record Office Indian Embassy (ROIE) in Kathmandu is a unique organisation, and is the only Indian Army Record Office located in a foreign country. The Indian Army’s Record Office in Kathmandu functions under the Defence Attache posted in the Embassy of India there.
Prior to 1947, cases of non-effective Nepal Domiciled Gorkha (NDG) soldiers of the British Army in India were dealt with by British Legation at Kathmandu. After Indian Independence, service documents of approximately 30,000 non-effective NDG soldiers were handed over to the Chancery of Indian Embassy in Kathmandu and then to Military Wing in 1955.
Considering the colossal work involved, an Army Record Officer was sanctioned in 1959. At present, ROIE is holding and maintaining 89,323 non-effective service documents.
Besides an Assistant Military Attache (Record) under the Defence Attache, the ROIE has two Junior Commissioned Officers and 24 clerks to handle the work. Two clerks each are based at PPO Pokhara and PPO Dharan for ROlE tasks.
Functions of ROlE
The main functions of ROlE are as under:
(a) Investigation of family/dual family pension/EFP claims.
(b) Payment of death and pensionary benefits to Next of Kin (NOK).
(c) Payment of all post discharge claims, that is, arrears of pay and allowances and Armed Forces Personnel Provident Fund of NDG pensioners.
(d) Payment of Army Group Insurance money.
(e) Revision of all types of pensions.
(f) Attending to all correspondence, appeals and representation concerning pension, gratuity and other matters.
(g) Verification of all documents relating to re-employment and various grants of NDG soldiers.
(h) Verification of Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) applications in respect of pensioners and their dependents.
(i) Verification of applications for issue of ESM identity cards.
(j) Issue of relationship certificates to the wards of ESM for enrollment purpose and re-verification of the same when asked by enrolling agencies.
(k) Issue of educational entitlement cards to the wards of Battle Casualties.
(l) Distribution of PPOs to include service pension, family pension, EFP, restoration and revisions.
(m) Documentation and publication of Part II orders In respect of pensioners pertaining to their personal occurrences.
(n) Preparation of Descriptive Roll for identification of pensioners in case any discrepancies noticed by Pension Distributing Authority (PDA) during distribution of first pension.
On an average, the ROlE receives and attends to 60 pensioners and their relatives for various claims, every work day.
Functions of ROlE, which is the only one of its type in a foreign country, are more varied and complex than those of other non-effective Record Offices located in India.
The recommendation of AMA (R) on pension related matter is taken as the final input for sanctioning various pensions and other pensionary benefits, as applicable to them.
Therefore, the onus to establish the genuineness of the NOK after having done thorough investigation lies with AMA (R).
Ex-servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) is a flagship welfare scheme of the Government of India, launched on Apr. 1, 2003. The scheme aims to provide quality healthcare to Ex-Servicemen (ESM) and their dependents through a network of ECHS Polyclinics, Service Medical Facilities and Civil Empanelled or Government hospitals spread across India.
The scheme has been structured to provide cashless treatment, as far as possible, to its beneficiaries. Treatment provided under ECHS is as per the Allopathic Medical System and is a government-funded scheme.
It was extended to Nepal NDG ESM with effect from Feb. 7, 2012. The Government of India sanctioned upgradation of three existing Medical Inspection (MI) Rooms to the level of ECHS Polyclinics and three mobile clinics.
The government also authorised an ECHS Branch, functioning under the Defence Attache, consisting of one Assistant Military Attache (ECHS) and two India-based clerks to monitor all ECHS related activities in Nepal.
The role of ECHS Branch in the Embassy of India, Kathmandu encompasses the following:
(a) Processing of ECHS applications.
(b) Empanelment of hospitals.
(c) Hiring of local staff, payments and forwarding all details of accounts to Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (Central Command) for audit.
(d) Fund management.
(e) Release of payment for hospital bills alongwith documents for audit to PCDA (CC).
(f) Collection of medicines and medical equipment for the polyclinics from Armed Forces Medical Stores Department (AFMSD), Lucknow, Command Hospital (Central Command), 158 Base Hospital and 38 AMSD, Bengdubi.
(g) Nodal agency for all ECHS related activities.
ECHS Polyclinics at Kathmandu, Pokhara and Dharan have been operationalised for treatment of NDG ESM (Armed Forces) and their dependents. For providing cashless specialised medical treatment, following hospitals in Nepal have been empanelled by ECHS Branch:-
(a) Manipal Teaching Hospital, Pokhara.
(b) College of Medical Sciences, Bharatpur.
(c) Lumbini Medical College, Palpa.
(d) Nepalgunj Medical College, Nepalgunj.
(e) BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences, Dharan.
(f) Universal College of Medical Sciences, Bhairawaha.
(g) Gandaki Medical College, Pokhara.
(h) QCllnsp of NCH, Lalitpur conducted on Mar. 19, 2017.
The hospital bill processing in Nepal is presently manual and will be online for which instructions are awaited from Central Organization ECHS.
The responsibility of Senior Executive Medical Officer (SEMO) for supply of medicines has been vested upon Command Hospital (Central Command), Lucknow for Kathmandu and Pokhara and upon Commandant, 158 Base Hospital, Bengdubi, for Dharan Polyclinic.
The ECHS Nepal budget for the Financial Year 2017-18 is Indian Rupees 10.98 crore.
The scheme is compulsory for all the fresh retirees and their contribution is being deducted from the Pension Paying Orders at the time of retirement.
The contribution for the old retirees, which was earlier deposited by means of Military Receivable Order for which our NDG ESM had to go to India, can now be deposited within Nepal through Bank Drafts.
(The writer is a retired senior Indian Army officer. He is a former Chairman of the Ceasefire Monitoring Group in Nagaland and a former Director General of Assam Rifles. He has previously served as a Strike Corps Commander of the Indian Army and as a Defence Attache in the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu)