In service of Veer Naris, widows & veterans
Ever since independence, Indian Army is a saga of having always risen to nation’s call; whether to preserve its territorial integrity or to maintain internal security in face of ever growing threats, both from outside and from within. Freedom never comes free and its perseverance is paid for in blood by the valiant officers and men of the Indian Army. After making supreme sacrifices, these bravest of the brave soldiers leave behind legends about their valour to motivate future generations to emulate their deeds. Such sacrifices are made unmindful of their families’ fates thereafter. Soldiers trust their governments to look after their brave mothers, proud wives or their children in event of their martyrdom. Unfortunately, this trust has mostly been betrayed by the very establishment on whose call soldiers put their lives in line of fire.
Sadly, families of these braves, especially those from rural and semi-urban areas, are often neglected to suffer their miserable lot. Due to governmental apathy and indifferent attitude of bureaucracy coupled with ignorance and illiteracy of such families much has been left to be desired. Instances abound wherein these brave families have been reduced to penury. Even Supreme Court was moved on hearing about instances of callous indifference by the government so as to berate the Ministry of Defence and shake it out of deep slumber. But, who cares?
Besides governmental apathy, these brave families, especially the Veer Naris and widows, are subjected to financial and societal abuse by the very society for whose protection their loved ones lay down their lives. Army is trying its best to bridge this void in financial, educational and social wellbeing of these families. In this direction, an army formation, based at Jalandhar, has taken a unique initiative by appointing an officer, who himself is a battle causality, as a single point interface between Veer Naris, widows and veterans and various governmental/non-governmental organisations. Who better than Lt. Col. Jagdeep Singh to hold this pivotal post? A daring officer who, during early 1990s, fought militants in the Kashmir and thereafter in North East with distinction. Unfortunately, he sustained 100% disability during counter terrorism operations in North East and is now a wheel chair ambulatory. A determined soldier who fought bravely with his disability too to done the uniform again after two long and trying years of hospitalisation. His service for betterment of Veer Naris and the widows often makes headlines in the newspapers, a salute to his unflinching commitment to a sacred cause.
Lt. Col. Jagdeep Singh has taken his new role as a challenge to change the status quo. He is devoted to the cause and his tenacity is exemplary. It was only in 2005 that Veer Naris were allowed pension post their remarriage. A case came to his notice wherein a Veer Nari, upon the martyrdom of her husband in 1962, had remarried and her pension had been stopped and was paid to her mother-in-law instead. Even this pension was stopped after the death of her mother-in-law. Her second husband too is a disabled person and the couple could not earn any livelihood. Since they did not have any children, the couple was at the mercy of neighbours and some philanthropists for their basic needs, a pitiable condition indeed. As a result of sustained efforts of Lt. Col. Jagdeep Singh and by cutting through an intricate web of red-tape, this 85-year-old Veer Nari was sanctioned monthly pension of Rs. 19,500 and was paid arrears amounting to about Rupees nine lakhs. Alas! She would have not lived a life of impoverishment all through had bureaucracy at various levels shown some sensitivity to the entitlements of martyrs’ families; dereliction of a sacred duty.
Sapper Jarnail Singh attained martyrdom in Kashmir in 1999 leaving behind his wife, daughter and a son. Unfortunately, Baljit Kaur, the Veer Nari, and her son died in a tragic road accident in Bhogpur, Punjab, leaving behind her daughter Sandeep Kaur to fend for herself. Lt. Col. Jagdeep Singh’s tireless efforts and his continuous liaison with PCDA (P), Allahabad, Zila Sanik Board and Records Office achieved the desired results. Liberalized family pension was transferred in Sandeep’s name in 2011. Besides release of pension arrears of Rs.1,89,000 to her, she is now in receipt of a monthly family pension of Rupees sixteen thousand. Lt. Col. Jagdeep Singh’s assistance did not stop here. He helped her in settling the claims of three insurance policies of her mother. Sandeep got an amount of Rs.4.5 lakhs and she readily agreed to a suggestion from the officer for long term investment of this amount. Indeed, a laudatory effort beyond the call of routine duty.
Efforts of Lt. Col. Jagdeep Singh have been noteworthy. He has been instrumental in release of financial assistance to the tune of Rs 1.25 crores to Veer Naris, widows & veterans in form of various grants like computer and education grant, various self-employment schemes, reimbursement of medical treatment, marriage grant and redressal of pension anomalies to name a few. Succor has also been provided to various non-pensioner widows and their wards by way of penury grant, orphan grant, financial assistance and also by providing jobs in government and private sectors. He has not spared any effort to ensure a life of dignity for the proud Veer Naris, widows and veterans of Hoshiarpur and Jalandhar Districts. He has achieved all this while being wheelchair-borne requiring physical assistance even for his daily routine. How one wishes there were more like him to lead the way in resolving oft lamented plight of the families of our martyrs and comrades.
Doff my hat off to the indomitable spirit of this soldier.
(The author is a retired army officer)