Pension pangs

All is well for 85-year-old Rajkunwar now. Frail and hard of hearing, Rajkunwar, a defence widow, is set to get her first pension from June this year after waiting for 64 years. Since she had no documents or proofs to prove that her late husband Chuni Singh was a World War veteran, she had make to do with a small land holding and two goats to eke out her living in Neem Ka Than in Sikar district. But thanks to former group captain S. S Dholiya, who made the impossible task possible. Rajasthan Post talks to the former Air force man and delves into his efforts to bring succour to the widow

How did you meet Rajkunwar?
I met her at a camp held in 2015 in Neem Ka Thana. She narrated her ordeal to me. I then decided to help her out.

But she has been going to the Sainik Boards and pursuing her case for a long time? Why do you think nobody helped her out?

Yes, Rajkunwar has been making the rounds of Zila Sainik Kalyan Boards for so many years. But nobody helped her as she has no documents to prove that her husband served in the forces or that he fought in the war. She does not even have her husband Chuni Singh’s service number. So I think nobody made the extra effort to find out more about her.

How did you manage to get things moving for her?
After I heard her, I made up my mind to help her out. No matter how much time or energy it needed. My wife and myself spoke to her a number of times. It was all the more difficult as she is hard of hearing, is not literate and does not understand the significance of preserving documents.

But then which of the clues helped you to find out more about the husband, Chuni Singh?

She mentioned one money order receipt of 1945 which her husband had sent her from Bikaner. She mentioned the Rs 50, which was quite a big amount back then. We traced the post office, talked to them but they could not provide any clue since it has been so long. But since the receipt came from Bikaner, we could trace that Chuni Singh worked for the Dungarpur Lancer Bikaner unit, a princely force of Bikaner, which later swore allegiance to the British. Since Rajkunwar’s father in-law also worked in Dungarpur Lancer Bikaner unit as a camel rider, we assumed that he must have followed in his father’s footsteps. Although he was a horse rider. Rajkunwar also mentioned a mess bowl which had some numbers inscribed on it. We wrote many letters to various zilla sainik boards, defence offices to find out more about Chuni Singh and his bowl.

What about the mess bowl? Was it an important clue?
We found out that the mess bowl that Rajkunwar had with her and used it daily, was not actually her husband Chuni Singh’s. He may have brought it home on one of his many visits but it actually belonged to one Hamir Singh. But we found out about another widow, whose husband also worked for the Dunagrapur Lancer Bikaner unit along with Chuni Singh. Both of them had fought in the World War II under the British. We found out that Dungarpur Lancer Bikaner unit was merged into Kachchawa unit. And after Independence, it was merged into Armoured Corps and later into 61st Cavalry. We knew about the service number of the person who worked with Chuni Singh, so we traced around his service number and could ultimately hit upon Chuni Singh’s number.

How much time did Chuni Singh spend in the forces and how did he die?
We presume Chuni Singh joined Dungarpur Lancer Bikaner Unit as a sepoy /horse rider in 1940 and was there till 1950. After the forces were disbanded by the Indian government and soldiers asked to disperse, Chuni Singh came home and died in 1951 due to some illness for lack of good medical facilities.

How much pension would Rjakunwar get? Is she entitled to arrears? Would you help out other such widows?
Rajkunawar’s sanctioned pension of Rs 4000 would be given by the state government from June this year. Since it is not given by Central government, there is no question of arrears. Various state governments recognize the contribution of soldiers who fought in the world wars. At least other 102 war widows in Neem Ka Thana also receive this amount of pension from Sainik Kalyan Board. We would certainly like to help any such widow, who is in dire need of the pension.

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