A former National Security Guard commando, who fought terrorists in the 26/11 attack and was invalidated from service after he became medically unfit, on Thursday claimed he has not got any financial benefits or pension and the money 'gifted' to him and his colleagues.
Flanked by activist-politician Arvind Kejriwal and his associates, 34-year-old former NSG commando Surender Singh told a press conference that he has so far received just Rs 4 lakh, including Rs 2.5 lakh from the government, as financial benefits.
However, the government rejected his claim with Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari saying that the commando has been paid Rs 31 lakh in the form of ex-gratia payment by the Governments of India and Maharashtra.
Interestingly, the government's rejection first came on the PIB's twitter handle even as the press conference was on. Narrating his story, Singh said he was severely injured in the operation to flush out terrorists from the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai and was invalidated from service in October, 2011.
Since last year, he alleged, he has not received 'even a single paisa' from the government.
Singh claimed that NSG commandos, who were injured in the 26/11 operation, received a 'number of gifts in the form of cheques' but the force had not dispersed them to the people concerned.
"I saw a file in which the photocopy of a cheque of Rs 2 lakh each from Rohan Motors Pvt Ltd and another firm were received in my name. I never got the money. Not just me but none of my colleagues got the money which came in their name. I want to know who en-cashed them and where are they now?" he asked.
"When I asked officials what happened to the money, they said the home ministry decided that no gifts or donations will be received by the NSG. But they did not show me the records to prove that those money have been returned," Singh said.
He also demanded that an enquiry be launched into the matter and the government clarify what it did with the money gifted by several firms and individuals. He also distributed copies of an RTI reply which said he received around Rs 2.5 lakh as financial benefits from the government.
Presenting an order from the government which said Singh was not eligible to get pension as he has put in only 14 years and three months of service as against the mandatory 15 years, Kejriwal claimed there are several clauses in the law under which a commando can be given concessions so that he gets his pension.
"Is this the way to treat our commandos who sacrifice their lives for the nation? Does he deserve just Rs 4 lakh? The government should say what happened to the cheques that were gifted to the NSG?" he asked.
The government was swift in rejecting the allegations when it took to twitter and said: "The government has given Nk (Naik) Surender Singh all his dues."
The Press Information Bureau's twitter handle said, "(The government has) informed Singh on November 16 through telephone that war injury pension has been sanctioned and bankers were also informed."
"Surender Singh is getting war injury pension of Rs 25,254 per month. Rs 31 lakh retirement emoluments is paid to Surender Singh," it said. Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said the commandos were drawn from different forces. "I will inquire into it," he told mediapersons when asked about the allegations.
Tewari said he has been paid Rs 31 lakh and that he also received Rs 25,000 which is not in the form of a war injury pension.
"If at all anything which needs to be done in order to preserve and protect the honour of those people who on daily basis risk their lives for the unity, integrity and sovereignty of the the country, this government will never be found wanting," Tewari said.
However, Singh rejected the claims and said he has not received any money from the government. "You can check my bank account. I have not got any money. The government is lying," he said.
Singh said he received roughly around Rs 4 lakh as rewards from various sources, including Rs 1 lakh each from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.
"From that money, I spent over Rs 1 lakh on medical expenses. I have a family to run," he said. Later, Kejriwal tweeted: "Govt shamelessly misleading the nation. 31 lakhs given to 11 injured, not to Surinder Singh. Out of 31 lakhs, surinder got jst 2.5 lakh."
"Can govt prove that surinder getting Rs 25 thousand per month? If it is not proved, who wud resign in govt for misleading nation?" he asked."Govt says that surinder informed of pension on 'phone' on 16 Nov. Interesting. Pensions informed on phone? Since when? No papers needed?" he asked.