ALMOST 27 years after her husband, a sepoy with the Indian Army, was declared a deserter and missing, 57-year-old Sushila Devi is still running from pillar to post to find out the truth.
Sushila has appealed to the Army Chief General J J Singh and Army Wives Welfare Association (AWWA) president Anupama Singh to get her justice and monetary benefits given to wives of ex-servicemen.
Talking to Hindustan Times, Sushila said that after knowing from some armymen that Gen Singh is a humanitarian officer and has taken a number of steps to benefit ex-servicemen and the families of the war dead, she approached him for help. She had also earlier written many letters to army chiefs and other officers but had not got a response. A mother of three daughters, she now lives in the outhouses of Bungalow no 76 situated on Mall Road of Mhow.
Sushila’s travails began when she got a letter from her husband’s unit on August 12, 1979 that he has been declared a deserter and missing. Sushila’s small world was shattered. Her daughter Pushpa was then five years old, Jaya three years and the youngest Sudha was only 10 months.
The letter signed by Headquarters 26 Sector staff Captain J Balachandran said that her husband Balchand, serving in 29 Medical Battalion of 303 Field Ambulance under 64 Sector, on July 24, 1979 shot at four men of his unit killing two. Balchand escaped in the darkness and was absconding and that a Court of Inquiry had established this terming him a deserter from the Army, the letter said.
Replying to this letter, Sushila wrote to the Commanding Officer of 29 Medical Battalion demanding a copy of the Court of Inquiry conducted by the Army and said that she was of the view that something wrong has happened to her husband. All officers kept writing to her that Balchand is a deserter and has neither surrendered nor been apprehended by the police.
Due to this, his family is not entitled to any service benefits except the amount in the credit balance until or unless he surrenders or gets apprehended.
She then contacted the Discipline and Vigilance Directorate of Army Headquarters for the belongings and the copy of the inquiry.
The Directorate in return asked the Central Command headquarters to provide the same to her. After getting no response, she moved the Supreme Court.
The apex court on August 16, 1985 directed the Chief of the Army Staff that any amount to the credit of Sep Balchand in the GPF A/C or any other account be paid to Sushila Devi. Sushila told HT that the reason for not giving a copy of the inquiry to her could be that the authorities had done something wrong to her husband.
Says her eldest daughter Pushpa, “There may be certain rules, according to which they have been denied any benefits from the Army but the Army authorities must think on humanitarian grounds looking at us. Am I or my sister Sudha culprits?” The three daughters are now working and taking care of their mother.
Mhow Station Headquarters Administrative Commandant Col Sudhendra Singh said, “Sushila has never contacted this headquarters, nor has she given us copies of the correspondence. As the case is very old, it is very difficult to analyze the case in detail.”
District Sainik Welfare Officer (DSWO) Lt Col R P S Khetrapal said the DSWO has written many letters to the AG branch of the army headquarters but have got no response.