New Delhi: A day after Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab was hanged at Pune's Yerwada Jail, a former Army soldier and National Security Guard (NSG) commando Naik Surender Singh, who had fought to eliminate the terrorists in the 2008 Mumbai carnage, has hit out claiming he has not paid his dues by the government and the Indian Army. Naik Surender Singh on Thursday addressed a press conference with Arvind Kejriwal and claimed that he received no pension since his retirement from the force in October 2011.
But the Army countered Singh's allegation by saying that his pension was deposited in his account with retrospective effect on November 16. But the question remains as to why did it take 13 months to release his pension? Was the pension released because the Ministry of Defence knew that Singh was going public with his grievances?
While Singh said that he hadn't received Rs 31 lakh as claimed by the government, the Army claimed that Rs 18 lakh out of the Rs 31 lakh have already been paid as insurance, Provident Fund and disability pension. The rest of the money will be paid in a month, according to the Ministry of Defence.
"I was removed from duty after being declared medically unfit. For the past 13 months haven't received my pension," said Singh, a 26/11 hero, while demanding justice just a day after the nation marked closure in the 26/11 case.
The NSG commando who fought to save Mumbai from Kasab's associates from Pakistan exposed the alleged government apathy towards the 26/11 heroes. Naik Singh lost his hearing after fighting off terrorist at Mumbai's Oberoi Trident Hotel in November 2008. The Army later declared him medically unfit and Singh alleged that he was forced to retire without pension or monetary help.
While justifying Kasab's hanging, he added that the government needs to do a lot more for the soldiers who fought the terrorists. "I think justice has been served. Those who soldiers their lives in the attack have been granted justice. But how will their souls rest if their comrades are treated so poorly by the government," he said.
But the NSG and the Army rebutted his allegations. The NSG said that Rs 2,30,000 was paid to Singh while the Army claimed that his monthly pension of over 25,000 plus a war heroes pension of Rs 31 lakh has been paid off. Singh denied receiving any and a closer scrutiny of Army records revealed that his pension was released as late as Nov 2012, almost a year after he retired.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari also refuted Singh's charges. "Suffice to say that this averment has been made that compensation was not paid, I most respectfully would like to submit that this does not seem to be correct," said Tewari.
But it is not just Singh as CNN-IBN has learnt that another 26/11 hero PV Manesh, who was awarded Shaurya Chakra for his bravery in eliminating terrorists, is also fighting the government for non payment of dues. Manesh, injured and paralysed during the 26/11 battle, wants the government to foot his ayurveda medical bill since it is the only hope he has. But Army says rules allow only reimbursement for allopathic treatment and not ayurveda.
Both North and South Block rebut Kejriwal's allegations but Singh and Manesh raise a more important question. In the face of red tapism and government apathy, is it better to be dead than disabled?