"I don't want to make it political. I am a soldier of this country who did what he was asked to do," former National Security Guards Commando Surender Singh says. Singh was a part of the NSG team which tackled the Pakistani gunmen during the 26/11 terrors attacks. Sadly, he is now fighting against the government to get what is rightfully his due -- he claims he has not received any pension since the past 13 months.
"I can fight with people from outside, but I need your help to fight against the inside people," he says, while addressing the media alongside activist-turned politician Arvind Kejriwal in New Delhi on Thursday.
Singh, 33, was at the iconic Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai on November 29, 2008, when he was hit by a grenade explosion. He suffered complete hearing loss in both his ears and was hit by several splinters.
Singh was discharged from the hospital on December 20, 2008.
He was discharged from services later after a medical board ruled him unfit for service, which Singh isn't contesting.
He complains that he and several of his colleagues have not received proper recognition and appreciation from the government of India and the President.
He further states that he has not received service pension, or a War Injury Pension fund.
Eleven NSG commandos were injured during the 26/11 terror attacks. Of these, Surender is the only one who has been discharged from his service, while another took voluntary retirement. Singh clarifies that there was no history of disciplinary action against him while he was in service, and his termination was purely on medical grounds.
Singh was let off after he had completed 14 years, 3 months and 10 days in service. As per government rule, one is entitled to a service pension fund only if an employee completes 15 years in service.
Kejriwal targeted the government and said, "The government could have deemed it a full year (since Surender was short of the 15 year period), or they could have made an exception for somebody who fought the terrorists during the attack."
But Singh has not received any service pension or money from the war injury pension fund. The government, on their part, had claimed that it has given Surender a monthly compensation of about Rs 25,000. But Singh says none of this is true.
"I have just been hearing for many months that I will get some compensation, but till date I have not received anything," he says, adding, "The government is lying if it says that it has given any pension money to me. It should be investigated"
Singh was denied service pension in a letter dated June 6, 2012, which said he was not entitled for service pension. "And from the last 13 months I have not received any pension," he reiterates.
Of the 11 injured NSG personnel, seven including Surender were given a total compensation of Rs. 228, 318 (which included Rs 50,000 from the Maharashtra government, Rs 78,318 from the NSG, Rs 1 lakh each from the prime minister's relief fund. The remaining four received a total compensation of Rs 478,318)
Lawyer Virender Kadyah, who has helped Surender to draft RTI applications to the check the outcome of his claim over war injury pension, opines that he, ideally, should be compensated with an amount of about Rs 25,000 to 30,000 per month.
"This is just not about me, but about my colleagues also. We should get our due recognition from the President," he says,
Kadyah further reveales that another colleague has been paralysed, and there is another who has been branded as a deserter. All of them are fighting to get proper dues.
Singh also emphasises that none of them have been given letters of recognition and appreciation from the government of India.
"It was given to me only, but when I saw it was not signed, I asked them to give it to me after it has been duly signed. It never came back to me," Singh says.
'Forced to live on borrowed money'
Rediff.com's Onkar Singh also interviewed Surender Singh. Excerpts:
The government says that you have got Rs 31 lakh?
This is not true. Unless if they have transferred the said amount to my account yesterday or this morning.
Is it true that you are living on borrowed money to run your household?
When you are not paid what is due to you then you have no other option but to borrow money from your friends and relatives. I have a son and a daughter, both are studying in school. Besides this you got to look after household expenses.
Did you get injured in the battle while fighting the terrorists?
I have received a number of injuries during 26/11 attacks. My hearing ability was hit. I had to get my ear drums repaired and use hearing aid on both sides so that I can hear.
Are you upset that you have not been honoured by the President of India?
It is not just my case. All the NSG persons who got injured during the 26/11 battle with the terrorists should have been honoured. I wish it had not just remained a bad patch for all of us.
Did you get any money?
I got about Rs 1 lakh from PM's relief fund, some money for my act of bravery by the Mumbai Police and some by deputy commissioner of Haryana. The chief minister of Haryana also honoured me. Some private companies also gave cheques, but nothing reached me.
For thirteen months I have neither received the cash due to me nor my pension. I am told that since I did not complete 15 years in service, I cannot get the same benefits.
In the meanwhile, the government was quick to deny Surender Singh's claims. In a press statement released later on Thursday it said, "Surender Singh came to the NSG on 9 May 2007. He suffered acoustic trauma during the Mumbai operations and became a permanent low medical category on account of sensory neural deafness of the left ear. In the normal course, he would have been reverted to his parent unit 2 GRENADIERS on completion of his three year tenure on 8 May 2010. However, on compassionate grounds, he was retained in the NSG till 15 October 2011, when he was boarded out by a medical board at Army Base Hospital Delhi under the aegis of HQ Delhi Area."
"Nk Surender Singh has been sanctioned pensionary and terminal benefits viz-a-viz retirement gratuity Rs.2,11,458/-, commutation of pension Rs.11,35,809/-, Armed Forces PF Rs.6,48,195/-, Army Group Insurance Rs.1,13,849/- and Army Group Disability Cover Rs.10 lakhs, Final settlement of accounts Rs.89,705/- and ex-gratia from welfare fund Rs.10,000/-. He is also entitled to an ex-gratia compensation of Rs.9 lakhs for 100% disability which will be processed separately. He has been sanctioned a pension of Rs.25,254/- per month which includes service elements and war injury elements," the statement added.
"His ex servicemen Health Scheme Card has also been dispatched to the Zila Sainik Board, Jhajjar District on 5 October 2012 for handing over to the individual," it added.