The Armed Forces Flag Day Fund (AFFDF) reflects the Nation’s commitment to its soldiers, even after they retire from Service. While in Service the soldiers serve the country with unflinching commitment, courage, and they are prepared even to lay down their lives for the sake of the Nation. And indeed sometimes in the line of duty they lay down their lives or get critically disabled leaving behind young children and family to be cared for. The AFFD Fund has been set up to cater for the needs of such dependents of Ex-Servicemen.
Many people may not be aware that that the requirement of keeping the Armed Forces young and fighting fit necessitates the release of service personnel often at 35-40 years of age. Every year about 60,000 Armed Forces personnel are compulsorily retired. Presently, there are more than 32 lakh Ex Servicemen in the country. Caring for these ex-soldiers and their families is therefore a national responsibility.
Armed Forces Flag Day, which is observed on 07th December every year, since 1949, is an occasion to honour the sacrifices and valour of our soldiers on borders and in the hinterland. This year the entire month of December is being celebrated as ‘Gaurav Maah’. It gives an opportunity to the nation to contribute generously to the Armed Forces Flag Day Fund. People and Companies can contribute to this fund this month and throughout the year as well. The fund is used for the rehabilitation and welfare of Ex Servicemen (ESM) and their dependents, the next of kin of those soldiers who laid down their lives in the line of duty, or were rendered disabled, old, non-pensioners, widows and orphaned children. They are given financial assistance through various schemes. Under the Raksha Mantri Ex-Servicemen Welfare Fund (RMEWF) financial assistance is provided through penury grant, education grant, widow/daughter marriage grant, disabled children grant, medical grant, house repair grant, funeral grant, orphan grant and some other grants.
Financial assistance for treatment of serious diseases is provided to a non-pensioner ESM of all ranks and widows to meet medical expenses related to treatment of approved/listed serious diseases like cancer, renal failure, knee replacement and heart surgery, etc. Assistance is provided for procurement of mobility equipment to those ESM, who are disabled after their retirement from service if the disability is 50% or more.
Reimbursement of interest on loan taken from banks for construction of house to War Bereaved, War Disabled and Attributable Peace time casualties is provided out of AFFD Fund. Besides taking care of the requirements of needy individuals, financial support is provided out of the AFFD fund to certain institutions providing services to ESM or their dependants. Under this category, grants are provided to Paraplegic Rehabilitation Centres (PRCs) located at Kirkee and Mohali which are being run for rehabilitation of Paraplegic and Tetraplegia Ex-Servicemen. In 2019-20 final assistance of Rs 1.59 Crores was given to the two PRCs.
Recurring grants are provided to War Memorial Hostels for its construction and furnishing and non-recurring grants to the wards of Defence personnel. Cheshire Homes at Delhi and Lucknow and Raphael Ryder International Cheshire Home, Dehradun look after leprosy patients, mentally handicapped patients, and chronic spastic / paraplegic and TB patients. KSB provides maintenance grant of Rs 9,000 per inmate for the ESM and their dependents admitted in these Cheshire Homes.
Under AFFD, a total of Rs. 81.23 Crore was disbursed to 28,215 Ex-Servicemen and their dependents in 2019-20. Of which the share of penury grant was the highest at Rs. 34.99 Crore. Penury grant is provided to Non-Pensioner Ex Serviceman up to the rank of Havaldar (equivalent) or his widow above 65 years of age.
This was followed by Rs. 30.85 Crore which was provided as Education grant to widows for Post-graduation degree course and also for dependent children of ESM, up to the ranks of Havaldar and equivalent for upto Graduation. Rs. 14.99 Crore as Marriage grant was extended for widow remarriage and for marriage of daughters of the ESM up to the rank of Havaldar and equivalent. An amount of Rs. 38.45 Lakhs was disbursed as other grants.
The ‘Armed forces Flag Day Fund’ (AFFDF) has been constituted by the Government of India as a Trust. It is administratively controlled by Kendriya Sainik Board, the apex body of the Government of India, which formulates policies for Resettlement and Welfare of Ex-Servicemen and their dependents (www.ksb.gov.in). The Board has Raksha Mantri as its President and other members in the Board, which include Chief-Ministers/Governors of the States, the three Services Chiefs, Senior Government Officials, retired officers and retired JCOs.
Contributions to Armed forces Flag Day Fund can be remitted through the following bank accounts: i) Punjab National Bank ( A/c No. 3083000100179875 IFSC Code PUNB308300, Branch Sewa Bhawan, RK Puram); ii) State Bank of India ( A/c No. 34420400623, IFSC Code SBIN0001076 Branch RK Puram) and iii) ICICI Bank A/c No. 182401001380, IFSC Code ICIC0001824 Branch RK Puram).
Contributions to Armed Forces Flag Day Fund are exempted from Income Tax vide Government of India Notification No. 78/2007 dated 26 Mar 07 and under section 80 G (5) (vi) of Income Tax Act 1961.
Corporate contributions to Armed Forces Flag Day Fund are also eligible for fulfilling the CSR obligation under section 135 of Companies Act, 2013.
The contributions received from people over the years were highly appreciated. In 2019-20, a sum of over 47 crore rupees was raised through voluntary contributions for the AFFD Fund. This year it is hoped that people and corporates would donate even more generously for this noble cause.
By A. Bharat Bhushan Babu, Spokesperson, Ministry of Defence