At 99, Army tells war widow to get husband’s record from ‘Rangoon’

  • Bhartesh Singh Thakur, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Mar 20, 2016 12:04 IST
Gurdial Kaur, 99 (HT Photo)

More than two years after Army authorities asked Gurdial Kaur, 99, the widow of a World War II veteran, to go to ‘Rangoon’ to get the records of her husband’s service before she could be paid pension after his death, the woman has finally petitioned the Punjab and Haryana high court and the Army authorities have been issued notice for April 12.

Gurdial, the widow of Naik Harnam Singh of the Myanmar (earlier Burma) Army, is entitled to family pension on the death of her husband in 2012, but has not been paid a penny since, with her application lost in the maze of the army’s maze of legalese and bureaucracy.

An instance of this is the army letter to her on October 8, 2013, that asked her to fetch her husband’s service record from Rangoon (the erstwhile capital of Myanmar), even as that country shifted its capital to a new city, Naypyidaw, in 2006.

As things stand now, even the Adjutant General Branch of the Army is not clear on which record office has to process her case.

Even the President was approached

When pension was first delayed to her after the death of her husband, she wrote to President Pranab Mukherjee for help who marked her letter to the ministry of defence. The letter then reached the army headquarters. The record offices of Artillery, Punjab Regiment, Bihar Regiment, Parachute and Army Air Defence claimed that they did not have any record pertaining to Naik Harnam Singh.

Finally, the office of Artillery Records who asked her to approach ‘Rangoon’ in Myanmar.

Gurdial then approached the high court in March this year claiming that her case was being kept in abeyance by the army even as there had been extensive correspondence between her and the army. In the petition, she claimed that the army officials had been totally devoid of any empathic approach towards her and had been merely engaged in internal discourse all the time.

She also claimed that her case was languishing from one table to another, from one record office to another, at the behest of the army authorities.

“I have not got anything so far. I can’t go from one office to another at this age,” she said. The last pension her husband got was of around Rs 8,400.

After the British annexed Myanmar to the Indian province during their rule, a uniform system of administration throughout the colonial government was established. The system remained even after Myanmar’s separation from British India in 1937; whereby, many Indian nationals continued serving in Myanmar, as in the case of Harnam. He even served with the Myanmar Army during World War II.

As per the Myanmar government, in the event of death of the military personal concerned after retirement, the family pension was restricted to the period remaining up to 10 years from the date of retirement or up to the date on which the concerned personal would have attained the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.

In 2009, the Indian government brought out a policy for paying pension to such employees. Harnam gained from the policy and continued to get pension till his death in 2012.

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