When Vishram Singh Rajput speaks about his life,half of which has been spent fighting for his pension in courts and dharnas,he breaks down often; its hard to not notice the hurt and anger in his voice.
Rajput has been doing the rounds of courts since 1979. For this 58-year-old resident of Raupur in Uttar Pradesh,life has been a haze of applications,petitions and court summons,and he is losing patience with the system,he says.
On his third dharna at the famous protest street at Jantar Mantar,he hopes the authorities will reverse the court orders keeping him from claiming a pension he hasnt been paid since being discharged from service in the Indian Air Force.
Rajput says he feels betrayed and has nowhere to go. He shares a tent with other protesters. His knees are bandaged tightly; he has gout but he cannot afford treatment or medication. With no money,he eats his lunch at the langar at a nearby gurudwara and often goes hungry at night. The fight has cost him almost everything,he says.
I dont know what to do anymore. My family is struggling. I wasnt able to marry off my daughter and my sons couldnt get an education. We have no money, he says.
Now,he has written to the President saying that if his woes are not addressed,he has no option but to commit suicide. A man is driven to such extremes only when he has failed everywhere,Singh says.
For Singh,its also a blow to his dignity. When he joined the IAF at the age of 18 as an aircraftsman,he had felt proud to be able to serve his country,he says. He was,however,discharged in 1979 after only 9 years of service and was never given a pension.
Singh says he is entitled to a pension because he was discharged by the IAF and didnt leave on his own will. It wouldnt have been much probably around Rs 400 but it would have made a difference. He wouldat least have his pride as an earning member of the family.
In 2008,when Rajput sat on dharna at Jantar Mantar,he was given assurances that his case would be reopened,but nothing ever happened.
A judgment quashed his claim citing a ruling in 1979,which makes only people with 20 years of service eligible for pension. But Rajput said the ruling was not applicable because it was implemented after his case.
This is injustice, he said. To do this to a serviceman is unthinkable. He has been on dharna for almost a month now. And this time,he says,he wont go back until his pension is cleared. I cant go back to my family and see them in their pathetic state, he says. Either they will hear my case or I will die.