The Defence Accounts Department signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) today 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 MoU was signed in the presence of Defence Secretary Dr. Ajay Kumar, Financial Adviser (Defence Services) Smt. Rasika Chaube and Controller General of Defence Accounts (CGDA), Shri Avinash Dikshit, by Shri Sham Dev, Controller of Defence Accounts (CDA) Pensions, PCDA (Pensions) Prayagraj and senior executives of Bank of Baroda and HDFC bank.
Defence Secretary Dr 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.
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.
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.
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.
SPARSH is a web-based system for processing the pension claims and crediting the pension directly into the bank accounts of defence pensioners without any external intermediary. It has been designed to give Defence Pensioners a transparent view of their pension account, through an online portal (sparsh.defencepension.gov.in/) which captures and maintains a complete history of events and entitlements of the pensioner – right from the date of commencement of pension to the date of cessation of pension due to the last eligible beneficiary.
This system is administered by the Defence Accounts Department through the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (Pensions), Prayagraj and caters to all the three Services and allied organization. The system on roll-out is initially catering to the new retirees and subsequently is being extended to cover the existing defence pensioners.