Take the instance of Squadron Leader (retired) Parvez Jamasji, who flew hundreds of sorties into East Pakistan during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War and received a bullet wound on his leg. After the war, his bravery was acknowledged with the Vir Chakra. The Maharashtra government feted him with the Gaurav Puraskar.
Two weeks ago, he made his way to the Sainik Board office in south Mumbai and gave a cheque for Rs 2,245 after the state finance department found he (and some others) was paid more than his due.
Rules stipulate 65-plus war veterans are entitled to only 50% of their allowance. So Jamasji’s paltry Rs 2,670 annual allowance was to be reduced to just Rs 1,335, but some clerk forgot to scale down the payment.
The 69-year-old brave heart said he had been collecting this pittance for the last 10 years not because he needed the money. "If I don’t take it, someone may misuse it," he said at his Dadar Parsi Colony apartment.
"In any other country, even in a banana republic, its war veterans are looked after well. Here, the government thinks that giving Rs 222 a month to a pilot who saw action is magnanimous," said Jamasji’s son Rustam. "And then to halve it for senior citizens of the armed forces is sheer mockery," he added.
Jamasji received his first cheque of Rs 1,400 a year in 2003. The amount subsequently increased to Rs 2,670. However, since the retired Indian Air Force helicopter pilot and a few others were overpaid over the past two years, the finance department ordered that the extra amount be recovered from them. "I returned Rs 2,245 by cheque early this month," said Jamasji.
The retired officer now walks on crutches after surgeries for spinal injuries sustained in a chopper crash and a subsequent road accident. He has logged 4,500-plus flying hours for IAF.
Jamasji is anguished at how ex-servicemen like him are treated by the bureaucracy. "The grant of one rank, one pension to defence veterans has still not been implemented by the government," he rued.
For those above 65, says a state finance department note, there’s a 50% concession while travelling on state transport buses as directed by the sainik welfare department in Pune in 2005.
In October 1971, Jamasji was stationed in Dimagiri on the border of Mizoram and then East Pakistan. The young wing commander transported hundreds of soldiers of the Special Frontier Forces into enemy territory in a MI-4 Russian helicopter. "These were covert operations three months before the war commenced," he said proudly.
He would fly low to evade Pakistani radars, and his chopper frequently came under mortar and anti-aircraft fire. Once on his way back after a mission, a hail of bullets hit the chopper’s rotor and fuselage. But Jamasji managed to pilot his chopper safely into India and land. It was only after he removed his flying suit that he discovered blood on his left leg — a bullet had passed through it. After the wound was cleaned, he was ready to fly the next day.
"During operations against Pakistan in December 1971, the helicopter flown by him (Jamasji) was attacked twice by mortar, but he fulfilled the assigned mission and brought back his aircraft to base safely," says a book on India’s gallantry award winners, describing his role in the war.