New Delhi: After a brief period of silence, another round of war of words has erupted between the government and activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal. Ahead of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks anniversary and just a day after Ajmal Kasab was executed, Kejriwal has taken up the cause of NSG commandos who fought terrorists during the 26/11 operation. Kejriwal claimed that commandos who risked their lives to counter the terrorists are victims of government's apathy and did not get their dues. He presented a NSG commando, Lance Naik Surender Singh, who lost his hearing during 26/11, at a press conference.
In its response, the government claimed it has paid Rs 31 lakh in retirement benefits to Surender. The government also said that a war injury pension of Rs 25,000 per month was cleared last week. But Surender denied receiving any funds. Kejriwal said Surender had only got a fraction as the sum was distributed between 11 commandos injured during the operation.
Claiming that the Kejriwal's allegations are false, Congress leader Manish Tewari said that the government has highest respect for people who risk their lives for the country. "Ministry of Defence will be putting a detailed statement later. As I've been given to understand, Surender Singh has been paid Rs 31 lakh. Finer details of compensation will be put up by the MoD," he said.
Surender suffered injuries in the 26/11 operations and had to leave the forces. Surender claims he has not got the war injury pension even once over the past 4 years. He also said that the Indian Army denied post-retirement benefits saying he has not completed 15 years of service.
However, the government says Surender's war injury pension has been cleared last week. It also claimed paying Surender Rs 31 lakh, but the ex-army man says the sum was distributed among 11 people and he got a little more than Rs 2 lakh.
Kejriwal further slammed the government over Surendra's claims, saying the government is shamelessly misleading the nation. He said on Twitter, "31 lakhs given to 11 injured, not to Surinder Singh. Out of 31 lakhs, surinder got jst 2.5 lakh. Can govt prove that surinder getting Rs 25 thousand per month? If it is not proved, who wud resign in govt for misleading nation? (sic)".
Interestingly, the Government's rejection first came on PIB's twitter handle even as the press conference was on. Narating his story, Singh said he was severely injured in the operation to flush out terrorists from the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai and was invalidated from service in October, 2011. Since last year, he alleged, he has not received "even a single paise" from the government.
Singh claimed that NSG commandos, who were injured in the 26/11 operation, received a "number of gifts in the form of cheques" but the force had not dispersed them to the people
concerned. "I saw a file in which the photocopy of a cheque of Rs 2 lakh each from Rohan Motors Pvt Ltd and another firm were received in my name. I never got the money. Not just me but none of my colleagues got the money which came in their name. I want to know who en-cashed them and where are they now?" he asked.
"When I asked officials what happened to the money, they said the Home Ministry decided that no gifts or donations will be received by the NSG. But they did not show me the records to prove that those money have been returned," Singh said.
He also demanded that an enquiry be launched into the matter and the government clarify what it did with the money gifted by several firms and individuals. He also distributed copies of an RTI reply which said he received around Rs 2.5 lakh as financial benefits from the Government of India.
Presenting an order from the Government which said Singh was not eligible to get pension as he has put in only 14 years and three months of service as against the mandatory 15 years, Kejriwal claimed there are several clauses in the law under which a commando can be given concessions so that he gets his pension.
"Is this the way to treat our commandos who sacrifice their lives for the nation? Does he deserve just Rs 4 lakh? The government should say what happened to the cheques that were gifted to the NSG?" he asked.
The Government was swift in rejecting the allegations when it took to twitter and said: "The government has given Nk (Naik) Surender Singh all his dues." Press Information Bureau's twitter handle said: "(The government has) informed Singh on November 16 through telephone that war injury pension has been sanctioned and bankers were also informed."
"Surender Singh is getting war injury pension of Rs 25,254 per month. Rs 31 lakh retirement emoluments is paid to Surender Singh," it said. Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said the commandos were drawn from different forces. "I will inquire into it," he told reporters when asked about the allegations.
However, Singh rejected the claims and said he has not received any money from the government. "You can check my bank account. I have not got any money. The government is lying," he said. Singh said he received roughly around Rs 4 lakh as rewards from various sources, including Rs 1 lakh each from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. "In that money, I spent over Rs 1 lakh on medical expenses. I have a family to run," he said.
(With addiitonal inputs from PTI)