Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, March 6
His tale of courage is as old as the history of Independent India. While it is rare for a civilian to be decorated for gallantry in war, it is not so rare for the government to forget such tales and leave them in the lurch.
The Punjab government is yet to fulfil its promise of allotting 10 acres to Ram Chander, a washerman hailing from Jalandhar, who was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra (MVC) in the 1947 operations against Pakistani intruders. He is one of the only two civilians to have been awarded the MVC.
Ram Chander unsuccessfully struggled for the next 50 years to get his due from the government. After he died in 1998, his widow, Tara Devi (75) made several representations to the state government and even met the Jalandhar DC but to no avail.
A civilian washerman attached with an Engineers company of Madras Sappers, Chander was part of a convoy proceeding to Jammu under the command of Lt FDW Fallon on 18 December, 1947. When the convoy reached Bhambla, it was ambushed by the enemy who had created a roadblock by removing the decking on a bridge. Chander helped the convoy commander to replace the decking while the bridge was under continuous fire.
The officer was wounded and Ram Chander took the officer’s rifle and helped in holding the enemy at bay and was responsible for inflicting five to six casualties on the enemy.
The convoy commander was forced to abandon his vehicle due to heavy enemy firing and in the process both he and the convoy commander got separated from the rest of the convoy. He helped the officer, who was in a state of collapse due to loss of blood, to the nearest post which was eight miles away.
Ram Chander’s wife Tara Devi, who was here along with her son Mukesh to attend the ongoing Triennial convention of the War Decorated India, an association of gallantry award winners, is living in penury and manages her affairs with a monthly financial assistance of just Rs 5,000 that is given to spouses of MVC awardees.
“My husband could not get what was promised to him and now I am also in the twilight of my life. I have three sons and a daughter and my only wish is that they should get the land promised to their father for his courage and devotion to duty. It will ensure a good future for my children who doing small-time jobs,” Tara Devi said.
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