Set up in 1962, the National Defence Fund or NDF is used for the welfare of the members of the Armed Forces and their defendants. The Fund decides on utilisation of the voluntary donations received for the promotion of national defence effort.
Apart from the Armed Forces, the fund is also used for the welfare of the Para Military Forces, Railway Protection Force and their dependents.
The Fund is administered by the Prime Minister as its chairperson and Home Minister, Defence Minister and Finance Minister as its members. The Finance Minister also acts as the treasurer of the fund. Accounts of the fund are kept with the Reserve Bank of India. Much like the PM National Relief Fund, this fund also completely runs on voluntary donations and does not get any budgetary allocations. In 2016, the government decided to exempt all donations towards NDF from Income Tax under Section 80(G). The NDF accepts donations from individuals, organisations, trusts, companies and institutions etc.
Schemes under NDF
Under NDF, the Prime Minister's Scholarship Scheme (PMSS) through monetary support encourages technical and post-graduate education for widows and wards of the deceased or former service personnel of armed forces and paramilitary forces and Railway Protection Force. PM Narendra Modi in his second tenure decided to enhance the rates of scholarship from Rs 2,000 per month to Rs 2,500 per month for boys and from Rs 2,500 per month to Rs 3,000 per girls. Modi also increased the ambit of the scholarship scheme to wards of state police personnel who died during terror/naxal attacks.
Scholarships can be availed to take admission in technical institutions (medical, dental, veterinary, engineering, MBA, MCA, and other equivalent technical professions with suitable AICTE/UGC approval). The PM scholarship scheme is given to 5,500 wards of armed forces, 2,000 wards of paramilitary forces and 150 wards of forces under the Railways Ministry each year. Currently, after the revision of the scheme, 500 wards of state police personnel have been added to it.
The scheme is handled by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Railways respectively as far as personnel of paramilitary forces and Railway Protection Force are concerned.
Separately, Rs 15 lakh from the Fund is released annually to the SPG Family Welfare Fund to undertake various welfare activities for the benefit of its personnel and their families. NDF grants are also released every year to the Ministry of Defence to purchase books for the Defence services (Army, Navy, Air Force) and the Coast Guard as well.