JAIPUR: Sepoy Balwant Singh, a 97-year-old World War II veteran from Jhunjhunu in Rajasthan, won a long personal battle on Tuesday when a military tribunal allowed him the government’s war disability pension that was denied to him for the past five decades. He lost his left leg in a landmine blast while fighting with the Indian contingent for the Allied forces in Italy on December 15, 1944, and was discharged two years later on a basic pension reserved for soldiers invalided out of service for war wounds.
Singh, enlisted in 3/1 Punjab Regiment in 1943 and transferred to Rajputana Rifles following his return from WWII, had applied for a pension that the government introduced in 1972, guaranteeing “100% of the last salary drawn” to Indian soldiers discharged from service because of wounds in various wars since Independence. However, soldiers who lost their limbs or were maimed for life fighting in the two World Wars were excluded from this retirement scheme. More than 2.5 million Indians fought in WWII alone.
A New Delhi bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal — taking over the case from its Jaipur unit that was hearing it since 2010 — ruled in favour of the nonagenarian soldier on Tuesday. An administrative member from Chennai said Singh would get 100% pension from 2008 along with arrears, which is prior to three years before he filed the case.
Singh’s counsel Col (retired) S B Singh said the WWII veteran and his family were delighted with the news. “Balwant Singh’s disability is 100% as he lost his left leg. We are happy that he got at least some of the dues denied to him.”
Singh served in the pre-Independence Indian Army for three years, two months and 16 days before he was retired prematurely for having lost a leg. His son Subhash Singh said he was happy with the tribunal’s decision, but the family could have done better had the state come forward to help it. “We live in a village and knew nothing about the pension for the battle-wounded. We came to know of it only after the Kargil War (summer 1999),” he said.




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