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Saturday, September 18, 1999
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Treat all army widows alike

ARMY widows consist of various categories depending on the type of husband’s death. Accordingly, they get different kinds of pensions, monetary help and other privileges. Widows of battle casualties are the most privileged. All kinds of monetary grants, full pay pension, job reservation etc are heaped on them. No qualms about that. But then a question arises. A widow is a widow. Whatever her category, she faces the same problems i.e. financial and social security, home, children’s education, job, re-marriage (if any), medical treatment and canteen facilities.

All defence personnel are on duty always whether in the unit or on annual leave. Almost all deaths are while on active duty. Then why so much of discrimination? What is a widow’s fault if her husband dies in a rail/air crash on way to battle front, or in a battle accident or whether he dies due to a bullet fired by the enemy or an insurgent? The damage done is the same. Some widows live in utter penury, rejected by society and neglected by the government. Some others live in luxury, owning a gas/petrol pump agency, job and reserved vacancies for higher education. They are admittedly in minority. They benefited due to influence and favouritism. If there is a concession available, it should be for everyone or none at all.

Educated and city-based widows are better placed to claim all the authorised concessions than the rural-based widows. These are the army widows who being ignorant of their rights get exploited, neglected and some of them ruined for life.

Even within war widows there is extreme discrimination between old widows of 1948 vintage and new widows. Some of the old widows are in real misery due to miserly pensions and added responsibilities. This problem was faced in the UK also after the Faulkland War. But British are real socialists and traditionalist people. The matter was brought up before Parliament in 1989. The government was supported by all parties to bring the old widows (some more than 80 years old) on a par with new ones. All widows were exempted from income tax liability. The pre-1973 war widows were given a special 40 per week allowance (tax free). Here it will not be out of place to quote the last para of the speech made by Mr Tom King, Secretary for Defence in the British House of Commons on December 11, 1989:

“The Government recognises the very special place that these widows hold in affection of this country and the particular debt that we all owe to them; and the strong feelings of many members of both Houses and the public throughout the country that they should be treated as quite exceptional and distinctive one. I believe that the proposals that I have announced today are a proper and fair response to that public interest and concern, and a genuine recognition to those whose husbands gave their lives for our country”.

Due to India’s border commitment and ongoing insurgency in J and K and NE States, army widows occupy a special place as far as their future is concerned. The government needs to take a considered pragmatic view to ensure a permanent, just and equitable view to bring all widows on a uniform package of financial and other privileges so that they lead a dignified life in Indian society. The minimum package should include:

Pension — as last pay drawn till the age of superannuation of the deceased and retirement pension thereafter.

In case last pay drawn cannot be given as pension then an assured job near the place of residence.

A residential accommodation in a cantonment of the choice of the widow.

Free education up to 10+2 in Central/Army Schools.

Reserved seats for higher education.

Uniform insurance, ex-gratia grant, death gratuity and other benefits.

Free medical facilities for self and dependent children.

Unrestricted canteen facilities.

No restriction on re-marriage.


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Plight of teachers

The Governor and the Chief Minister of Haryana have flashed out their valuable messages on the eve of Teachers Day exhorting the teachers to perform their academic and moral duties diligently. No doubt, everyone of us will follow these worthy messages and would pledge, without hesitation, to create among students a keen sense of patriotism for the country.

But “An Empty Stomach Never Communes With God for prayer.” And this is the unfortunate story of the aided private college teachers and the office staff who have not been paid their salaries since May, 1999.

The Chief Minister might have the knowledge of the present serious and difficult financial conditions of teachers due to the non-payment of their salaries for four months. Besides, there are also some aided private colleges whose teachers have not been paid their arrears of senior/selection grades.

In view of the present financial crisis of teachers, it is requested that Mr O.P. Chautala, who has given relief to the people of Haryana since he has taken over as the Chief Minister, and who, fortunately, has the Education portfolio, may order the Finance Ministry of Haryana to release sufficient grant-in-aid to the Director of Higher Education with the instructions to issue the salary drafts immediately from May to August, as well as to release the grant for the arrears of the teachers, so that we could get our dues. Moreover, the salary may be ordered to be paid to us regularly since September

R.K.SINGH and others

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East Timor

Apropos of Inder Malhotra’s article, “East Timor and Outside world: Grim and bizarre realities” (Sept 15), the population of East Timor is about eight lakh and not 80,000 as mentioned inadvertently.

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