By John A Raju:
One of the important reasons you sleep peacefully and safely every night in your warm quilt is that a number of selfless souls are patrolling the skies or crawling through dust and dampness, keeping vigil through snow and shine to guard our motherland against our enemies. These enemies are present both within the family and out of it too. Countering them is no mean task and several lives of our protectors are sacrificed frequently. But what happens to the wives and families of these heroes? Do they receive the adulation, the praise and most importantly, the care and security they are entitled to?
When one of our jawans becomes a martyr, there is a host of dignitaries visiting the funeral and giving him/her a regal send off. Everyone knows that this attention is short lived (and understandably so). But what shouldn’t be short lived are the memories of the politicians who promise the families concessions and aid. A goose bump raising eulogy only serves to temporarily melt the hearts of listeners, it cannot change the lives of the widows if not accompanied by action. But apparently, this is the sad reality. Says Smita Damodar Maitam, who lost her husband to a Naxal attack, “After our men were killed they came and told us we are like family. But two years have passed since my husband’s death and no one has bothered about our plight”.
Many concessions and benefits are legally made available to family members, especially widows of jawans. But where the schemes fail, as in a myriad number of cases in India, is in the implementation. Bureaucratic roadblocks are sometimes the culprit. Vaishali Gyaneshwar Shep, who lost her husband in the 2009 Mungner encounter testifies, “Under an earlier government order, people who joined the force after 2005 were not eligible for pension. R R Patil got that changed but 6 months after that G R was issued and pension is yet to come through.” This sort of pathetic negligence from the part of the government is a real shame to the memory of those who give themselves up for the sake of the stability and protection of our land. A house, free schooling and a job for a family member are some basic benefits that are accorded to a martyr’s family, but in many cases these promises remain a mirage.
In some cases the in-laws turn out to be the villains. The recent predicament of Rekha of Lucknow is a case in point. Widow of CRPF jawan Babu Lal Patel, who died during clashes with Maoists, compensation was awarded to her in the form of a bank draft in her name. Irked at having missed out on the compensation and unable to use the draft as it was issued in Rekha’s name, the in-laws forced her out of the house and then lodged a complaint that she was missing along with Rs 5 lakh cash and jewellery. However, the story didn’t stand ground and justice was done to Rekha as a compromise was reached to leave the cash in Rekha’s account to be used for the welfare of the family. The tribulations faced by these widows are woeful, to say the least.
Every person, family, society and nation needs heroes and guardians. The manner in which we treat our heroes inspires or despairs the next generation that has to assume the mantle when the old guard hangs up their boots. As far as we are concerned, a jawan is just a strong built man in a green uniform, a faceless hero, whose death we treat as just another piece of news. But they are the ones holding our lives together, those toughies who don’t mind taking a few blows so that we do not have to take them. Their children are the children of our land; they are the flesh and blood of this nation. Their family is our family. We have a moral obligation to protect them, guide them and bring them to life, to hold their hands when the ones who fought for us and because of us, depart to the heavenly abode. Let the nation not fail its most beloved sons and daughters.