Forty nine-year Aruna Devi sat in gloom in her house in Marura village (Shahtalai) in Bilaspur district of Himachal Pradesh, unmoved by the patriotic fervour across the country on Independence Day.
Widow of martyr Subedar Baldev Kumar Sharma of 29 Assam Rifles, who was killed in Manipur in May, 2016, had no reason to celebrate.
“What for? My husband served the paramilitary force for over 35 years, living away from his family all through. He died for the cause of the nation and we are proud of it. But none has bothered to look back at the plight of the family of the martyr?”said Aruna Devi.
Her grudge is that state government, especially Sainik Welfare minister, Dhani Ram Shandil, who visited the family in 2016, promised Rs five lakh relief and job for her educated 26-year-old son Vivek on compassionate grounds, but that turned out to be mere lip sympathy.
Five soldiers, including Subedar Baldev Kumar Sharma, were killed when an Assam Rifles convoy was attacked by militants in Joupi Hengshi area of Chandel in Manipur on 22 May, 2016.
Subedar Baldev Sharma, 56, father of two, was the only bread earner in the family, which is now dependent on ‘family pension’.
The family has so far received Rs 1.5 lakh against Rs five lakh promise. The state government did not name the Senior Secondary School in the area in the name of martyr as announced.
“That is not the issue of concern. We are not for money as it won’t secure family’s future. Our priority is livelihood,” said Vivek.
He has done Master of Commerce as well as Business Administration and has been continuously struggling for a job since his father’s death. He even appeared in the test for a clerical job in Assam Rifles in Shillong, but was ousted in ground test and was allegedly not given preference despite being in the category-I (dependents of martyrs).
“I have been running from pillar to post in the state government’s corridors for over one year. I even met the chief minister. Everyone just gave me re-assurance,” said Vivek.
After several requests, what really came a shock for family, however, was the letter from the Sainik Welfare Office, Bilaspur, which said that there is no provision for providing employment to dependants of paramilitary personnel in HP government.
“A martyr is a martyr—he may be in the Army or in paramilitary forces. Why this discrimination?” he said, adding that his mother had written to the Prime Minister over the ‘discriminatory rules’.
Sainik Welfare minister, HP, Dhani Ram Shandil, when contacted, said it was a genuine case. He, however, blamed it on the Centre and said the paramilitary forces don’t get equal benefits. “The state government is taking a view on this,” Shandil said.