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80-yr-old Orissa war hero still awaits pension

BHUBANESWAR, JULY 23: Now 80 years old, Sukumar Chakravorty, with cataracts in both eyes and memory failing him, who is a war hero of the...

Written by Debabrata Mohanty |
July 24, 1999

BHUBANESWAR, JULY 23: Now 80 years old, Sukumar Chakravorty, with cataracts in both eyes and memory failing him, who is a war hero of the 1948 and 1962 wars, clutches his old transistor radio and chuckles every time the government announces grants for the families of soldiers killed in Kargil.

The government did not give him a paisa as pension, though it promised him 20 per cent pension after his retirement from the Army on grounds of ill-health. Though proud of being an ex-Armyman, he is bitter.

“They promised 20 per cent of my salary as pension when I retired in 1958 from the Rajput Regiment as I suffered from high blood pressure. The adjutant-general of the Army in New Delhi discharged me and assured that I would be given my pension after the Army Medical Board conducts an examination. They betrayed me after I fought two wars,” says Chakravorty in impeccable English.

The 84-year-old man fondly talks of how he was posted at the Sialkot joint checkpost as platoon commander of his regiment during thefirst war with Pakistan in 1948, when the dispute over the Line Of Control (LoC) started. “Our company was led by Major J S Rawat, a Garhwali. There was this Subedar B C Roy, who later went on to win Vir Chakra. He saved two or three Sikh soldiers. But I couldn’t kill a Pakistani during the first war. That’s my ill-luck,” he says.

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Chakravorty joined the Army in the 25th Battalion of Bihar Regiment in September 1941, where he served for seven years. Then he was shifted to 31 Bengal Defence Battalion for two years and finally to Rajput Regiment for eight years between 1950 and 1958. He was finally discharged after 16 years and 300-odd days of service on health grounds.

However, he was recalled to the Rajput Regiment during the 1962 war with China. But this is the war Chakravorty remembers very little, except for the fact that the Chinese defeated India.

At this point, his 75-year-old wife Uma Chakravorty interjects. “He used to write to me about war and how the bodies of his fellow soldiers were beingretrieved. With memory failing him, it is she who has details of his heroics.

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Chakravorty wrote to the Rajya Sainik Board, the Cuttack Zilla Sainik Board, the Rajput Regiment Abhilekha Karyalaya in Fatehgarh (UP), but was stonewalled by the bureaucracy. His wilfe also wrote to the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, requesting her intervention over the pension issue. Indira replied, but nothing happened.

The only help came last week when the Army authorities sent him a draft of Rs 500 from the Soldiers’ Relief Fund. But I’ve spent more than that in sending letters to the Army authorities,” he says bitterly.

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First published on: 24-07-1999 at 12:00:00 am

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