Amutha Kannan

Coimbatore has 6,548 registered ex-servicemen

Those who retired before April 2003 have the ‘choice’ to become members of the scheme

COIMBATORE: Ex-servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) that opened in April 2003 still remains to be poorly subscribed. Though this is a common trend in Tamil Nadu, figures in Coimbatore and Erode are rather disheartening.

Coimbatore has 6,548 registered ex-servicemen (ESM); but only about 2,300 of them are registered at the ECHS polyclinic at Redfields. Erode has nearly 2,500, but only 137 of them are members of ECHS.

The scheme is a tri-services project that caters to the medicare of ESM who are in receipt of pension and also extends to their spouse, children and wholly dependent parents. When the pensioner registers for the scheme he pays a ‘one-time contribution’ between Rs. 1,800 and Rs. 18,000 depending on his pension.

This ensures him of free treatment for all diseases. Those who retired before April 2003 have the ‘choice’ to become members of the scheme. Once they become members, the monthly medical allowance of Rs. 100 will cease.

The scheme closes April next. The immediate concern among most ESM, who are members and who enjoyed the benefits of the scheme, is that a large number of ESM continues to show resistance to become members.

“This is the best possible welfare measure authorised for the armed forces. For some reason it has failed to attract ESM in adequate numbers. They must realise that Rs. 100 a month is not enough to cure a heart, renal or cancer problem,” laments Air Commodore (Retd.) M. Vania.

The Kovai Ex-Servicemen and Widows Welfare Society has roped in philanthropists to help sponsor those who wish to become members and are unable to pay the one-time contribution because of poverty.

“But we cannot help those who have the additional problem of ‘why should we pay’”, says its general secretary, Sivarajan.

When this argument is on, a ruling of the Supreme Court on a Public Interest Litigation filed by the Confederation of Ex-Servicemen Associations and others, has said that “it is open to ESM who retired prior to January 1, 1996 to become members of ECHS and to claim benefits under the scheme without payment of contribution amount”.

Now the problem has further shrunk. ESM who retired after January 1, 1996, and before April 2003, only need to pay the ‘one-time contribution’ to become members. With just 10 months left for the scheme to close, those who are not yet members have to be convinced of the benefits to join.

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