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Monday, June 25, 2018

War for rights: ’62 widows look for peace on home front

Broken fencing,no water supply,nullah spreading stench ‘not the way to pay tribute to families of war heroes’

Written by Pranav Kulkarni | Published: October 24, 2012 2:20:39 am

Broken fencing,no water supply,nullah spreading stench ‘not the way to pay tribute to families of war heroes’

Talking to 80-year-old Malti Jagtap,one cannot miss the big bindi on her forehead. She sports it with the firm belief that her husband Subedar Major Madhavrao Jagtap,missing since the 1962 action,will return one day. Like her,two others —the rest of the wives of the seven 1962 martyrs’ widows allotted homes in a specially created colony called Virsmriti have passed away — keep their hopes afloat defying all odds.

What they seem to have failed to fight are the odds heaped against them in the colony they live.

Created in 1968,Virsmriti with its 24 tenements of 500 sq ft each was handed over to 24 widows of the 1962 and 1965 wars on gift deeds. The colony had a collapsible gate and a garden. The residents had sewing machines,educational books and magazines,a watchman,a sweeper,and 24X7 water and electricity.

Fifty years since the Sino-Indian conflict,the colony wears a neglected look,the fencing is broken and pigs loiter inside. A nullah enters the colony spreading stench and making life miserable for its residents. There is neither watchman nor sweeper. Drinking water taps are next to the nullah. The cantonment board waterline no longer supplies water. The residents depend on borewell water.

“The drainage line has been laid down 50 years ago. There has been no repairs since. It smells and creates unhygienic conditions. We have repeatedly approached the Pune Cantonment Board (PCB) and the Zilla Sainik Welfare Board (ZSWB) for basic living facilities,a watchman and a decent fence given the residents are old and vulnerable to robberies and theft,besides a sweeper. The PCB says they do not have a role to play as the land belongs to the Ministry of Defence. What they do not forget is to come asking for votes during elections. This is not how a nation pays tribute to its martyrs,” said Kamal Patil,73,whose husband Naik Clerk Vitthalrao Patil went missing from Tawang in 1962. She single-handedly brought up three daughters who are now married and settled.

Since 1993,the members have been demanding that their tenements be converted into ownership flats. While the legitimacy of the demand is a matter of debate,what adds to the confusion is the lack of clarity in ‘Rules of Allotment and Occupation of Flats in Virsmriti’. It sets no guidelines for allotment of the flat after the death of the beneficiary. Despite this,the ZSWB has been sending notices to families of war widows who have passed away to vacate the flats since the beneficiary is no more. The residents have not been able to form a society given that they do not own the flats.

“We have written right up to the MoD to allot us the houses as we have been staying here for over 45 years. This will help us form a society and we will be able to take collective decisions. The matter will be resolved only if the Central government looks into it,” said Laxmi Jadhav,daughter-in-law of Rakhmabai Sakharam Jadhav,a 1962 war widow.

Arti Mahajan,vice-president of the PCB said,“Given that they are on the PCB voter list,they have the right to liveable conditions. We have done so in case of servant quarters of Rajendra Sinhji Institute (RSI). I will look into the matter if they approach me.”

Col (retd) Suhas Jatkar,director,Department of Sainik Welfare,Maharashtra,said,“The decision of allotment of flats and converting them into ownership tenements has to be taken collectively by the MoD and the collector who is the president of ZSWB. As far as hygiene and basic facilities are concerned,we will look into the matter.”

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