A 78-year-old retired army man, who stirred the conscience of a country reeling under a cash crunch after being photographed crying in a bank queue, refused all assistance despite offers pouring in on Friday.
Instead, Nand Lal – a veteran of the 1971 India-Pakistan war -- wanted bank authorities to let him withdraw his legitimate pension without further hassle.
“I get pension. I do not want anyone else’s money,” he said. “I don’t want alms, let me withdraw my money.”
A photograph of Lal sobbing after losing his spot outside a Gurgaon bank was published in HT on Wednesday and went viral, with thousands sympathising with the ex-soldier who stood in a line for three days without success.
Shortly afterwards, people from all cross sections of society -- including his relatives -- started visiting his rented room in Bhim Nagar to lend him money.
“I don’t want alms, let me withdraw my money.”
Among the first visitors was Col (retd) Ajit Singh Rana, the president of Delhi and Haryana chapter of Tri Services Ex-Servicemen Welfare Association (TSEWA), a pan India body helping ex-servicemen, widows and their children.
“I came to know about the plight of a soldier after getting an email from a friend in England. I am glad to find that the bank has given him the money,” Rana said.
Rana confirmed that Nand Lal had joined army as a ‘naik’ during 1971 war and retired in 1991 after a two-decade long service.
Lal was among millions of people who have lined up outside banks to withdraw money after the government’s shock recall of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes a month ago. But a widespread cash crunch has ensured that many people have returned home without money, fuelling anger and distress.
Among his relatives, Lal’s nephew Fakir Chand, who lives in Gurgaon, also came down to check on his uncle. “He gets pension and his daughter sends him enough money. He is not short of money. We are here to take good care of him,” he said.
While refusing the offers, Nand Lal kept on asking why he couldn’t withdraw his pension.
Raghuveer Singh Meena, the manager of the State Bank of India (SBI) branch in New Colony where the picture was clicked, said that they have already given him Rs 10,000 and Rs 5000.
“We will help him in whatever way possible,” he said.
Many asked him to provide his bank account details for online transfer of money, only to be turned down.
Lal who became the face of demonetisation blues, lives alone in a dingy 10x10-foot room, blocks away from the home that he once owned. His adopted daughter, Manju lives in Faridabad after he married her off about 15 years ago.
“I have been asking him to stay with us. But he wants to stay there only,” she said.
Lal shifted to Gurgaon from Pakistan during Partition. His wife, neighbours said, died three decades ago after which he adopted a daughter.