The defence forces' reputation for opening its heart in gratitude for the sacrifices made by its heroes, is at stake.
The widow of Wing Commander Vikas Jetly, a top Indian Air Force stunt pilot, who died last week after being in coma for four years, has shockingly not received her dues from the Air Force for more than a year. Shalini Jetley, 40, has also been pleading with the IAF for a school job for more than three years.
Shalini wrote to defence minister AK Antony on Tuesday seeking his intervention to get her rightful dues (pension and gratuity) from the IAF and a school job on compassionate grounds. She has two children, Sukrit, 12, and Tanisha, 8.
She says, “I have written to the minister after exhausting all available avenues. Vikas is gone but my children have their lives ahead of them. I have to arrange for their school fees and bills have to be paid.”
The 42 year old pilot performed stunts for the IAF’s Sarang helicopter display team. His world shrank to a hospital bed after the Dhruv advanced light helicopter he was flying, crashed outside Bangalore on February 2, 2007. His co pilot, Squadron Leader Priye Sharma was killed.
Shalini’s father NN Sharma says, “Life has been a living hell for the family…Shalini and her children have suffered enough. She is taking care of her in-laws like a son, without any source of income. The government should take a sympathetic view and bail out the family.”
Jetly’s death on January 11 this year, snatched the crutches of hope away from Shalini and her children.
Will the Air Force lend them a shoulder?
IAF spokesperson Wing Commander TK Singha said, “Pension and gratuity dues will be paid at the earliest. We are also exploring other options to help out the family.”
Sanskrit for peacock, Sarang is rated as one of the best helicopter display teams in the world, alongside British Army Air Corps’ Blue Eagles and Royal Navy’s Black Cats. Sarang’s breathtaking maneouvres include high-speed reverse take-offs and criss-crosses at low altitudes.