Puran Singh Gill
14th Punjab Regiment
Received the Indian Distinguished Service Medal - 1942
Bar to the Indian Distinguished Service Medal - 1944
A Long Struggle for Elusive Pension
Chander Suta Dogra - Chandigarh
EARNING medals for distinguished bravery in the battlefields of World War II, was as easy as picking apples for this gallant soldier of Punjab. For long years, he caressed with pride the yellowing letters of congratulations he had received from such luminaries as Field Marshal W. J. Slim, and happily accepted a paltry sum of Rs 9 as monetary allowance for his medals.
But, 50 years down s the road, Havaldar Puran Singh, a distinguished World War II veteran, woke up to the fact that he was not getting the allowance due to him, which had been hiked over the years.
Though the government finally sanctioned his dues after endless rounds of government offices and umpteen letters across the length and bredth of the country, Puran Singh has still not received the full amount he is entitled to. For as he points out, to get the minions of the local pension disbursing office to actually hand him the amounts was another story of struggle.
"It is unfortunate that retired soldiers like us are not even informed by the government departments about regular monetary enhancements leave alone being paid these amounts," he says.
Puran served in the 14 Punjab Regiment which is now in the Pakistan Army. For his acts of braveiy he was awarded the Indian Distinguished Service Medal (IDSA) in 1942 and a bar to the lDSA in 1944. For the former he was getting Rs 5 and Rs 4 for the latter award.
Quite oblivious of the fact that the allowance for these awards had been increased by the government, Puran continued to draw the same meagre amount till 1989, when a darbar was held by a voluntary Organisation, the Ex- Services League of Chandigarh and Punjab in his village. Sahaura in Ropar district. He learnt from the officers there that he was now entitled to Rs 20 per month for each of his medals due to numerous revisions enhancing allowances' for bravery medals.
That was the beginning of a five-year-long struggle by the League to convince the government machinery of the injustice that had been done to Punan. During correspondences it transpired that the records branch of the Punjab Regiment Centre at Ramgarh had not even furnished a list of pre-Independence gallantry decorations to the office of the Chief Controller Defence Accounts (Pension).
Finally, when armed with the final letter authorising the District Pension Disbursing Officer to pay the arrears, Puran went to this office he was rudely brushed off by the staff. But with so much behind him, Puran is determined to breach this wall too.