Honouring valour seems to be bound by states’ whims in India.
Hangpan Dada’s Ashok Chakra, the country’s highest peace-time gallantry award, will get his widow a cash grant of just Rs 20,000. The army man was from Arunachal Pradesh, one of India’s most frugal states when it comes to rewarding soldiers for their bravery.
Had he been from Haryana, his wife Chasen Lowang Dada would have received Rs 1 crore.
“Disparity in cash grants given to gallantry award winners by states is an issue that needs to be sorted out. It doesn’t make sense,” said a senior army officer on condition of anonymity.
Dada was honoured for killing three militants during a counter-terror operation in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kupwara sector on May 26 before falling to enemies’ bullets.
The award was announced by President Pranab Mukherjee on Independence Day. The 36-year-old soldier, who is also survived by a 10-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son, was the only Ashok Chakra winner in the annual awards list.
The army pays Ashok Chakra winners or their families Rs 6,000 per month.
Cash grants offered by states vary from Rs 5,000 to Rs 2 crore.
Arunachal, West Bengal, Gujarat, Odisha and Manipur are among the states that compensate soldiers poorly.
Meghalaya is the only state with no policy for cash rewards while Haryana is the most generous of the lot.
The “inequality” has been taken up by parliamentary panels but the issue remains unresolved. Parliament’s standing committee on defence has sought a minimum threshold for such grants, suggesting a “measure of evenness.”
The Gujarat government, like Arunachal, gives Rs 20,000 to the winner of an Ashok Chakra, the peacetime equivalent of the Param Vir Chakra (PVC). It rewards a PVC winner Rs 22,500. In contrast, Haryana, which has a martial tradition and has produced three army chiefs, gives a PVC winner Rs 2 crore.
The Centre has issued guidelines on the minimum cash grant to be given to gallantry awardees by the states. But states are free to fix their own ceiling. Some also offer cash in lieu of land and pension.
Had Dada been a Delhi resident, his widow would have received a cash grant of Rs 25 lakh. In Punjab and Rajasthan, the sum would be Rs 30 lakh and Rs 18 lakh.
“Valour has no price but the Centre needs to step in and address this issue,” said another army officer.