Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman steps in to get soldier’s widow pension benefits

The Defence Minister took note of The Indian Express report of November 29 in which the ordeal of the widow, Sukhwinder Kaur, was highlighted.

Written by Man Aman Singh Chhina | Chandigarh | Published: December 8, 2017 12:36 am
Defence minister steps in to get soldier’s widow pension benefits Union Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman. (Express photo by Ravi Kanojia/File)

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, has intervened to get relief to the Patiala-based widow of a Shaurya Chakra awardee who was forced to move the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) in Chandigarh to get pensionary benefits due to her.

The Defence Minister took note of The Indian Express report of November 29 in which the ordeal of the widow, Sukhwinder Kaur, was highlighted. Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar had also raised the issue with Sitharaman on Twitter and she responded saying she would lookinto the matter.

Sukhwinder Kaur’s advocate said Thursday that after the news report was brought to the notice of the Defence Minister, prompt action was taken and her dues were immediately sanctioned.

Kaur had earlier approached the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) for “liberalised family pension” which had been denied by the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts since 2007.

Her husband, Naib Subedar Kulwant Singh, was serving with Defence Security Corps (DSC) and was killed in 2007 in an explosion which took place in an ammunition depot located in the counter-insurgency area in the Kashmir valley under Operation Rakshak. Kulwant Singh died while saving the lives of several of his colleagues but his body could not recovered due to the massive fire which broke out after the explosions. He was posthumously decorated with the “Shaurya Chakra”, the third highest peacetime gallantry award, by the President of India for displaying conspicuous bravery and was declared a “Battle Casualty”.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Kaur expressed her gratitude to Nirmala Sitharaman. “I am deeply indebted to the Defence Minister for taking up my case. I had been getting less pension since 2007 and though I sent representations to all authorities, no one took note of my pleadings,” she said.

Jashandeep Singh, son of Naib Subedar Kulwant Singh, also thanked the Defence Minister for coming to his mother’s aid. “We received a phone call today informing us that my mother would be getting her revised pensionary benefits from this month onwards. Our family feels reassured that the Defence Minister immediately acted when the matter was brought to her notice,” he said.

Officials of the office of Principal Controller of Defence Accounts in Allahabad had refused to release the applicable “Liberalised Family Pension” to her despite orders of the competent authority. Requests by the Army also did not get any response and the case was rejected on the pretext that the soldier had not died in a ‘terrorist action’ though as per rules all deaths in notified operational areas were eligible for liberalised benefits.

Finally, the widow filed a petition in the Chandigarh Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal where Justice Mohammad Tahir and Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra (retd) had issued a notice to the government seeking their reply.

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