Overview of System for Pensions Administration – RAKSHA (SPARSH)
The System for Pension Administration – Raksha (SPARSH) is an integrated system for automating the sanction and disbursement of defence pensions. SPARSH was implemented by the Ministry of Defence in July 2021. Without relying on a third-party intermediary, this web-based system handles pension claims, and deposits pension payments into the bank accounts of defence pensioners. Pensioners have access to the Pensioner Portal, where they can check information about their pensions; access services; and file complaints to resolve grievances about their pension affairs. The vision of SPARSH is to provide a secure and dependable digital platform for all pension-related activities to the armed forces personnel.
Under SPARSH, a complete history of events and entitlements of the pensioner from the start of the pension to the date of the cessation of pension will be given with complete transparency. All pension cycle activities, including initiation and sanction, disbursement, revision, service and grievance request management, would be covered by SPARSH.
The SPARSH initiative is being executed by the Defence Accounts Department (DAD) through the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (Pensions), Prayagraj, which has integrated over 3,000 pension initiating, sanctioning and disbursement agencies to date. Veterans can access pension services at their doorstep, including the real-time tracking of grievance redressals and digital authentication of pensioners.
How does the SPARSH portal work?
The purpose of the SPARSH portal is to provide defence pensioners control over their pension account. This is a step in the direction of disintermediation of services. The SPARSH portal aims to be a fully automated portal that offer pensioners seamless services. SPARSH operates systematically and within a defined framework as outlined below.
Recent reforms in SPARSH
SPARSH achieved a milestone by integrating approximately 5,000 defence pensioners into the platform in FY 2021-22. When the Government of India (GoI) recognized the need to enlarge the scope of SPARSH further, the scheme underwent significant revisions in March 2022, with the aim of achieving the goal of a Digital India.
SPARSH is one of the government's most crucial initiatives in line with the goal of Digital India. Continuous efforts have been made to promote and boost SPARSH's effectiveness since it was introduced in July 2021.
Since its launch, the Ministry of Defence inked several MoUs to boost the working of the SPARSH portal. In February 2022, an MoU was inked with Kotak Mahindra Bank, under which SPARSH will have service centres across 14 branches in areas with a high density of veterans. These centres would add to the network of almost 800 State Bank of India (SBI) and Punjab National Bank (PNB) branches and more than 161 DAD offices acting as service centres to assist and facilitate pensioners to use SPARSH. Furthermore, to integrate Bank of Baroda and HDFC Bank across more than 14,000 branches in India as service centres for SPARSH, DAD signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with both banks on September 21, 2022. According to Dr. Ajay Kumar, Secretary of Defence, the goal is to bring 17 lakh of the 32 lakh defence pensioners to SPARSH by the end of September 2022, and the remaining pensioners will be enrolled in SPARSH at the earliest.
SPARSH has digitally disbursed more than Rs. 3,090 crore (US$ 378.73 million) to defence pensioners in August 2022, strengthening the Digital India mission. Another significant achievement was the seamless migration of 562,946 defence pensioners to SPARSH's digital platform in August 2022. With 11 lakh beneficiaries or approximately 33% of all Indian defence pensioners, the number of pensioners onboarded to SPARSH exceeded 1 million. SPARSH has grown exponentially since its inception, with more than Rs. 11,600 crore (US$ 1.42 billion) disbursed in FY 2021-22, from just about Rs. 57 crore (US$ 6.99 million) in FY 2020-21. All of these accomplishments suggest that the SPARSH initiative of the Ministry of Defence will continue to grow rapidly in the future, helping all defence pensioners.