Uttam Singh, 75, who remained in Chinese captivity for 28 days after getting injured with three bullets during the 1962 conflict, has finally got his war injury pension after 44 years.
The Chandigarh bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) granted pension benefits from 1971 onwards to Uttam, who hails from Chamba in Himachal Pradesh. Uttam joined the army in 1961 as non-combatant and after training was posted at North East Frontier Agency (NEFA), presently known as Arunachal Pradesh.
In the 1962 war, he suffered bullet injuries on his right hand and left thigh. He was made prisoner of war (POW) by the Chinese forces along with many other soldiers. Uttam claimed before the AFT that he was subjected to inhumane atrocities during the period of captivity — from November 21, 1962 to December 18, 1962.
After the cessation of hostilities, the soldiers taken as POWs were handed over to the Indian military. All soldiers with bullet injuries were immediately taken to nearby military hospitals, including Tezpur. But Uttam Singh, who was dangerously ill, was immediately airlifted to Command Hospital in Lucknow where three bullets were removed from his body and his life was saved.
His disability was declared to be 40 %. Uttam was classified as battle casualty and invalided out of the service on May 4, 1965.
The legal tussle
Defence authorities first rejected Uttam Singh’s case as per the then existing rules for any kind of pension on the ground that he was engaged for a short-term duration and on completion of the same he was discharged from service . However, under the War Injury Pension Rules, which came in 1972 after the 1971 Indo-Pak, he was granted disability element of pension.
The War Injury Pension Rules were made applicable to all soldiers who were injured in all wars prior to 1971. But he was not given the war injury pension for his 40 % disability despite repeated representations, as claimed in the petition.
Finally, All India Ex-servicemen Welfare Association (AIEWA) took up his case. Chairman, AIEWA, Bhim Sen Sehgal, said, “He was only getting disability element. But those who suffered war injury remained entitled to war injury pension consisting of both service war injury elements. Now, there will be a five-time hike in Uttam’s pension, said Sehgal.