Tuesday, June 8, 2010

RTI exposes Government apathy towards ESM and their dependants

The Tribune Jalandhar, June 7, 2010
If facts are any indication, as many as 528 war widows in the state, including those who lost their husbands in counter-insurgency operations from January 1, 1962, to December 1, 1998, have not received any jobs or other benefits from the government so far.

Out of a total of 537 Army casualties during this period, only nine war widows received jobs and allied benefits. These shocking facts have come to light in information procured by Gulshan Sandhu of Jalandhar under the RTI Act.

He had sought information on how many soldiers had died during counter-insurgency operations and wars during this period, how many war widows received jobs and other benefits and their present status. The data was procured from Amritsar; Bathinda; Faridkot; Fatehgarh Sahib; Ferozepur; Gurdaspur; Hoshiarpur; Jalandhar; Kapurthala; Ludhiana; Mansa; Moga; Muktsar; Patiala; Rupnagar; Sangrur and Shahid Bhagat Singh Nagar.

In its reply, the Sainik Welfare Office at Hoshiarpur, which had maximum casualties of 386 soldiers, maintained that they were not aware of the job status of war widows. “Not known”, was the reply from Hoshiarpur.

At Bathinda, three soldiers had died and none of the widows was given a job. Among other districts where none of the widows could get a job include Faridkot, Gurdaspur and Kapurthala.

In Fatehgarh Sahib too, there was one casualty but again no job for the widow. At Ludhiana, 10 soldiers lost their lives but none of the families received any jobs.

Similarly, of the four widows at Mansa, none got any job while at Moga, seven soldiers lost their lives but again no jobs. The districts, which provided benefits to war widows, include Amritsar, where nine soldiers were killed during this period, of which two were given jobs while one was given a gas agency.

In Jalandhar, 13 soldiers were killed and only two were given jobs and two were given gas agencies. While at Rupnagar, nine soldiers were killed and only two war widows were given jobs.

However, the lone exception was Ferozepur where only one soldier was killed and his widow was given a job. Even at Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar only one martyr’s family was able to get a job out of the total 24.

Senior officials at the Sainik Welfare Boards maintained that the state government had issued a notification, which stated that jobs could be given to next of kin of only those soldiers who died after January 1, 1999, as the Kargil War took place this year.

It is pertinent to mention here that from January 1, 1962, to December 31, 1998, two major wars took place apart from other concurrent operations. This includes the 1965 Indo-Pak war, 1971 Indo-Pak war, Operation Pawan, Operation Meghdoot, Operation Rakshak, Operation Hifazat and Operation Rhino.

Director, Sainik Welfare, Brig Inderjit Singh Gakhal (retd) said the state government had provided benefits to all war widows apart from the mandatory gratuity benefits. “The state government has been providing due benefits to all war widows as per the state policy. At the Rajya Sainik Board, we ensure that war widows avail the maximum benefit out of various welfare policies,” he added.
528 war widows still await benefits by Kusum Arora: Tribune News Service

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