Six widows of gallantry award winners have written to Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal seeking change in the allegedly biased Honour and Gratitude Policy of the Punjab government that does not provide benefits to families of those who got peacetime gallantry awards before January 1, 1999.
The government introduced the policy on August 19, 1999, offering appointments to widows or dependants of all categories of war heroes who achieved martyrdom on or after January 1, 1999, in any battle or operation across India. Peacetime award winners’ were covered then.
Later, the benefit was extended to families of the soldiers who laid down lives in wars and operations before January 1, 1999, vide an amendment dated June 27, 2000. But this circular mentioned only Paramvir Chakra, Mahavir Chakra and Vir Chakra and did not mention its respective equivalent peacetime awards.
Ashok Chakra is the highest peacetime gallantry award, Kirti Chakra the second highest and Shaurya Chakra the third.
The letter reads, “In the current ‘no war and no peace’ environment on the Line of Control in J&K, our soldiers remain engaged with Pakistan in a proxy war. They lay down their lives often, and after Kargil war 1999 onwards, as on date, these martyred soldiers are being decorated with highest peacetime gallantry awards … for their sacrifice. It is an irony that after the Kargil war, martyrs awarded these three topmost peacetime gallantry award even one day before January 1, 1999, have been completely ignored and kept out of the policy. On the contrary, the flawed amendment policy dated June 27, 2000, includes wartime equivalent Vir Chakra series gallantry awardee families which got the award as back as 1972 and jobs were offered to them after almost 30 years.”
There are 37 posthumous peacetime gallantry awardees that have been left out thus, say the widows.
The women who have signed the letter are Joginder Kaur of Jalandhar, widow of Lt Joga Singh; Jaspreet Kaur Sandhu, also of Jalandhar, widow of Maj HPS Sandhu; Palwinder Kaur of Gurdaspur, widow of Naik Dhian Singh; Kamla Rani of Pathankot, widow of Naib Subedar Baldev Raj; Parkash Kaur, Moga, widow of Sepoy Harbans Singh; and Manjeet Kaur, als of Moga, widow of Sepoy Nirbhay Singh.
The widows have also sought time to meet the chief minister.