When Paruli Devi’s husband Gagan Singh died by suicide in 1952, she was only 12. Singh, who had joined the Indian Army in 1946 as a soldier, was with the Kumaon Regiment at the time. Now, 70 years after his death, 82-year-old Devi has been declared eligible to receive pension as a war widow.
Devi was too young to understand the reason behind his husband’s demise. Widowed as a child, she had returned to her maternal home in Lunthura village in Uttarakhand. In 1985, by a government order, Devi became eligible for the family pension scheme, but the family was not made aware of it. A conversation with a woman from her village who was also a soldier’s widow sparked hope around receiving pension. It was the intervention of former deputy treasurer DS Bhandari that helped the family complete the process.
According to a media report, Bhandari learned that Devi was eligible for the family pension scheme as her husband had died while still in service; he had to work through multiple obstacles to ensure that she availed the benefits. "After I came to know about Paruli Devi who lives with her brothers at Lunthura village ever since becoming a widow on May 14, 1952, I could not stop myself from helping her out," Bhandari, who took up social work after his retirement seven years ago as a treasury officer, said.
Bhandari said that the office of the chief comptroller and auditor general of defences services in Allahabad has finally sanctioned her family pension with retrospective effect from September 22, 1977. As a result, the senior citizen will receive an amount of Rs 20 lakh as pension remnant.
“It is not just about money. It is about recognition of my loss,” says Devi, who has been deemed eligible after a seven-year-long battle for her right.
(Edited by Amrita Ghosh)