Contrary to expectations, Col Dhani Ram Shandil (retd), Himachal Pradesh minister who looks after the state's defence services welfare department, did not dole out anything on the second-day of convention of The War Decorated India (TWDI) on Sunday. On the other hand, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal announced more than was demanded.
TWDI president Brig NS Sandhu (retd) had demanded an increase in the annuity of gallantry awards in HP, at par with Punjab and Haryana. On Saturday, GL Batra, father of a Param Vir Chakra awardee, had also pointed out that it was way low in the state.
For gallantry awardees, Brig Sandhu also demanded reservation in flats on the lines of Punjab. He also raised the issue of non-Himachalis having been barred from buying land in the state. "We do not belong to any state. We fought for the whole country…In this age some of us want to have a house in a peaceful area. There will be only few such cases. You are allowing private universities in the state, whereas we want only a small piece for a 'kutiya' (hut)," said Sandhu.
In response, Shandil's accepted that allowance in the state was less than Punjab and Haryana, but instead of giving out something substantive just promised to take up all the issues with chief minister Virbhadra Singh.
Badal, on the other hand, hiked the allowances on gallantry awards by 20%, when only a 10% hike was demanded. Brig Sandhu had put forth the proposal to bring up a rest house or hostel for gallantry awardees for which he just demanded a waiver of CLU fee, but Badal pledged financial help in construction also. He also instructed officials to look for land for the purpose in SAS Nagar. Besides, office space would also be provided to TWDI, he added.
Badal informed that the government was planning to construct a grand war memorial at Amritsar. "We have formed a concept committee and are taking guidance from all the three heads of defence forces in this regard," he said. "In the next two years, we would finish the construction," he announced.
While leaving, he handed over a cheque of Rs 40 lakh to the ex-servicemen's body. "You always ask less and I am ready to give more," he said. "Your office shall remain in touch with me. I want to help you all," Badal added.