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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Six-decade-long struggle ends, WWII veteran gets pension arrears


Vijay Mohan Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 21A six-decade struggle by a wounded war veteran to get disability pension has finally yielded dividends. After having restored pension benefits to him, the government has now sanctioned him arrears for the past 59 years.
Former gunner Bachan Singh, now aged about 95 years, received the letter announcing the payment of arrears from the Controller of Defence Accounts (CDA) two days ago. Noticeably, despite a long period of intense struggle, his benefits came through without him moving court.
A resident of Khokhran village, near Ropar, he had served with the Second Field Artillery in Libya during the Second World War, where he was wounded in battle by a German shell. He was ultimately discharged from the Army in November 1947 with a disability pension of Rs 15 per month. He was enrolled into the Royal Indian Artillery in January 1941.
In November 1949, his pension, however, was abruptly stopped by the Controller of Defence Accounts (CDA) and thereafter began a protracted battle for getting his dues. The CDA held that his disability had reduced below 20 per cent despite the fact that a duly constituted medical board by the Army had confirmed a disability of 30 per cent. His pleas for a resurvey medical board fell on deaf ears.
It was only in 2005 that the case came to the knowledge of the then Vice-Chief of Army Staff, Lieut-Gen S. Pattabhiraman, who took up the case with the artillery records as well as the Controller of Defence Accounts (Pensions). Things then started moving and a resurvey medical board was held at the Western Command Hospital, Chandimandir. His pension was restored in 2005.
Though being illiterate and unaware of provisions, he had kept trying to get his pension restarted, but to no avail. Repeated appeals for resurvey medical boards, accompanied by certificates from doctors were not acceded to. Even the service element of his pension was denied and he was forced to live a life of poverty without any support for the government.
Finally in 2001, he came to know about a similar case where a World War-II veteran, whose pension was discontinued in 1951, had been granted compensation and his disability pension restarted. Thereafter, he renewed his efforts, but was again denied his pension or a resurvey medical board on the grounds that his papers had been destroyed and there was no documentary proof of his disability.
Though he had written several letters to the authorities concerned, copies of which were attached to his latest representation submitted last year, a communiqué from the records instead questioned him as to why he had remained silent for the past so many years.
His appeal for justice and assistance to the defence minister, the Director General Artillery, the Director General Ceremonials, Welfare and Discipline, at the Army Headquarters as well as the artillery records did not elicit any action till the case came to the notice of the Vice-Chief

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