A BRAVE man, a go-gettter, the first Dalit sarpanch of his panchayat in Haryana. On Wednesday evening, as family and friends described Ram Kishan Grewal, the ex-serviceman who committed suicide in Delhi, allegedly over the One Rank One Pension (OROP) issue, there was shock and disbelief at his village in Haryana’s Bhiwani that a “sensible man” could take such a drastic step.
According to his family and associates, all Grewal wanted was Rs 5,000 more as pension after having served the Territorial Army for about six years and the Defence Security Corps (DSC) for 24 years. His son Jaswant said that Grewal, a subedar, drew a pension of Rs 24,999 per month after retiring from the DSC in 2004. “He would have been entitled to Rs 30,000 a month had OROP been implemented in full,” he said in Delhi.
Grewal wanted his pension to be increased according to the sixth and seventh pay commissions along with arrears due with the overall implementation of OROP, said the family. Another ex-serviceman, Subedar Prithvi Singh, who also retired the same year as Grewal, said, “We would have all been paid the same pension of Rs 30,000 if it had been done correctly.”
Inside the Grewal residence at Bamla village, most of his 16-member joint family were huddled in a small room, watching news updates on TV. As a channel played an audio clip, purportedly of Grewal’s last conversation with one of his sons, the family broke down.
“We have been trying to contact our family members in Delhi but in vain. They are being beaten and put in lock-up, while my husband’s body lies somewhere,” said Kitaab Kaur, Grewal’s wife, huddled in the verandah, unable to comprehend that her husband was no more.
Grewal also left behind five sons — two of them studying in college — and two daughters. Mourners gathered at his residence said Grewal “was no ordinary man, who could commit suicide for a cause he so strongly fought for” and who changed the face of his village as a sarpanch when elected in 2005 shortly after his retirement.
Bamla, with a population of around 10,000 people, comes under two panchayats. And, Grewal is the only Dalit to have been elected as sarpanch in his panchayat, and that too with a record margin of 1,200 votes. “He was so popular that people lifted him on their shoulders and took him around the village when he won. Two sacks of sweets were distributed and everyone celebrated by bursting crackers. Now he’s no more. I hope the government considers him a martyr because he didn’t die for himself; he died for the cause,” said Kaur.
Time and again, she said, she feels guilty for not having been at home when Grewal called her on Tuesday night allegedly before consuming poison. “He called one of my sons and said ‘let me talk to your mother’. But I wasn’t at home,” she said.
Other residents said Grewal undertook development work for the entire village. “Every day, he would leave for work in the morning and come back only at night. He constructed schools for girls and boys, put up water pipelines when Bamla was going through a water crisis, improved roads and put streetlights in each lane,” says Balbir Singh Grewal, RLD MLA from Bhiwani.
According to his family, Grewal was awarded the ‘Nirmal Gram Puruskar’ by the then President Pratibha Patil in 2008 for his work. Bamla comprises many current and ex-servicemen from different ranks, according to the residents. “But it’s saddening that farmers and soldiers are being forced to commit suicide because there is no one to represent them or hear their voice in this government,” says Balbir Grewal.
Kaur says she has only one demand from the government now. “Ex-servicemen should be treated with respect; they should be considered martyrs. My husband has not sacrificed his life for himself but for the country and I want that to be recognised,” she says.
Grewal’s brother-in-law Jaibir said, “I was told that he was serious and I should reach the village. It was when I came here that I got to know that he had died. It was a shock. He was known to be a very courageous person. It is hard to imagine that he could take such a step.”