In our policy determining exercise for resettling the ex- servicemen, we have lost track of our compassion for providing for the widows. I notice several glaring anomalies which would perhaps highlight the inadequacies in the end result; in principally, demonstrating the lack of finances for the needy widows. The most poignant illustration comes to me from the woes narrated to me by Hony Captain Baldev Singh who lost his ex-serviceman father in 1989. His mother was left to fend for herself and her family of four which included three daughters when her ex Naib Subedar husband passed away to leave them on a measly family pension of `3500 per month. Baldev Singh still becomes sad when he recalls the harrowing memories of those days when they would be left without food for days. Those periods of torment and utter helplessness he says, have left a most indelible imprint in his psyche. It took me back to the memories of 1968 when my mother received a sum of `110 as family pension after my father had passed away.
This family of a Lt Col of the army would have been on the streets, begging, to survive and to bring up her two children but for the family resources which helped in seeing her through. An examination of how the sum of `3500 was arrived at, appears to be an exercise in phenomenal contradiction when we learn that it was some sort of a cut off , arbitrarily determined, quite simply to ensure that no next of kin would eventually receive less then that amount. It was devoid of any consideration of minimum needs under the economic conditions prevailing. What has happened since then is that this figure has been revised to about `8000 when a period of over two decades has elapsed and galloping inflation has slid down the purchasing power of Indian money and its realistic value. What is relevant is to note that the levels at which a PBOR pensioner subsists, it as it is, makes it quite difficult for him to survive only on his pension.
Most of them have to take up work to generate additional income largely to augment their money intake. Under these trying conditions, if the single bread earner, the pensioner passes away then cataclysmic conditions for the widow and the family are inevitable. May I logically point out that for determining the amount of money which needs to be provided to the widow as a pension, we should stick to the same yardstick as if the husband were alive. Because, it is the underlying principle which must be the kernel factor. In-fact, the term family pension itself is quite fallacious since it does not fulfill the larger objective. The argument is that a pension at the outset is provided to the ex-servicemen for his and his family’s needs in recognition of his qualifying service in the army. To which he adds some more by extra work or business ventures to meet his commitments to not only feed his family but also educate his children and perhaps support his parents.
But when misfortune strikes and the family is deprived of his financial shoulders then cutting down his pension is not merely illogical but insane. One can not escape a notion that whilst deliberating the type of support we ought to be providing to an exserviceman our objectives are full of paradoxes.They truly do not fulfill what is being professed. A large number of young people, aspiring to join the Indian Army and who I meet , seek encouragement from the belief that on retirement with a pension even when they would not be there than at least their family will be cared for. Under the circumstances, which I have described with some measure of anguish, how could anyone exhort them to pursue a career in the Army. These anomalies therefore, must be speedily resolved.
—The author an ex Army Major, was a member of the Haryana Legislative Assembly from the Congress party. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org