M A I N   N E W S

Punjab offers gallantry benefits to all
Also announces 40 pc allowance hike for awardees from state
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 6
Punjab, described as the sword arm of the nation, has offered to extend certain benefits to gallantry award winners across the nation regardless of their domicile.

Announcing this here today, Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal said Punjab would be willing to pay the same allowance being given to gallantry awardees belonging to Punjab to those from any other state where the local authorities are unable to do so.

Addressing members of the War Decorated India (WDI) at their triennial convention here today, Badal also announced a 40 per cent increase in the allowances being paid by the state government to gallantry awardees in Punjab.

The WDI is an association of recipients of the Param Vir Chakra (PVC), Maha Vir Chakra (MVC), Vir Chakra (VrC) and awards given for gallantry in war or in the face of the enemy. It does not include recipients of other awards for bravery. About 200 gallantry award winners, their family members or widows from al across the country attended the two-day event here.

Stating that his move does not have any political connotations, Badal said that Punjab has been in the centre of all wars and the state identifies itself very closely with the armed forces. It is not the question of money, but that of the izzat of the soldiers. It is the least that we can do, he said.

While some states like Punjab and Haryana have extended considerable benefits to gallantry award winners in the respective states, many other sates have neglected them or are doling out a pittance. In some states allowances have not been revised for decades and the allowance per month even for the highest award is still in two digit figures.

Punjab pays a monthly allowance of Rs 10,000 to PVC recipients and Rs 8,500 and Rs 5,500 to MVC and VrC recipients respectively. Punjab has a tally of four PVCs, 52 MVC and 250 VrCs, out of which only 17 MVC winners and 110 VrC winners are surviving.

At present, there are about 1,550 surviving soldiers who were decorated for gallantry in various wars fought since independence. The numbers are steadily decreasing. So far only 21 officers and men have been decorated with the PVC, the highest award for bravery in the face of the enemy. Out of these 14 were conferred posthumously. Only three recipients of the PVC - one pertaining to Siachen operations and the other two to the 1999 Kargil conflict, are surviving.

A major issue with decorated soldiers is that when it comes to recognition ro grant of benefits, they get a raw deal vis--vis freedom fighters or eminent sports persons. The ministries of home affairs or sports are able to have their way when it comes to the welfare of its beneficiaries, but the defence ministry on the contrary, is unable to effectively pursue the interests of the veterans.

Also, a large number of cases where land was promised to gallantry award winners or their widows are pending with various state governments even decades after the awards were announced. Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had ordered a review of all pending land grant cases a few months ago after some gallantry awardees had apprised him of the situation.



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