The plight of a Braveheart’s family! - a 37 year struggle for terminal benefits

Coovercolly Indresh meets a Kodagu Braveheart’s family and discovers that they had to brave many an obstacle to inherit his terminal benefits.

The tiny district of Kodagu has produced thousands of gallant sons of Mother India who have fought for her honour and every time a son of this soil goes on to become a solider, he leaves behind an equally brave family that prays for his safety and long life. But not all families are fortunate for many lose their beloved ones in many unfortunate ways. Some explainable and some that continue to haunt like a mystery unsolved.

For 67 year old Nanjamma, life has posed several challenges and today, the wrinkles on her face bear witness to the turmoils and predicaments that she has battled. Nanjamma, a simple young girl from Singathur near Bhagamandala was married to Tekkada U Balakrishna in 1977. Marrying a soldier was much a matter of pride, as fear, and after four years of marriage, fear and uncertainty overtook pride.

Balakrishna was attached to the Signal Corps Regiment in New Delhi and visited home once in a while and for Nanjamma, home coming celebrations always came with conditions attached. The fear of ‘what if this is the last time’ always overshadowed all other emotions. Nanjamma still recalls the morning of June 12, 1981, the last time she bid goodbye to her husband. Very little did she know that the tribulations of life for would begin soon thereafter. “He had his breakfast that morning and left to Bengaluru to board the train to New Delhi. He had to report for duty on June 16,” she says fighting back tears even to this day. “Only after three months, army officers contacted us to inform me that he never reported to duty and panic-stricken, I searched for him, but to this day, I cannot find him,” she says.

The difficult days were about to begin. Three years after Balakrishna went missing, Nanjamma was informed that he had been dismissed from the army as per rules as he had neither reported to duty on the required date nor did he extend his leave. Another jolt came after 11 years when she discovered that the army had withheld all his retirement benefits as he was ‘absconding’. All of Nanjamma’s pleas poured out in to letters to the army authorities went unanswered from the other end.

By this time life had changed a great deal for Nanjamma. She had started to live in her parental home in Singathur taking care of her aged parents and a disabled sister. Years passed and her parents died. But even after decades, Nanjamma’s problems remained the same. But she did not lose hope. In 2014 she contacted retired major O S Chingappa, who was working as an advocate in Madikeri. Chingappa took up the case and filed a petition before the JMFC court and managed to get an order in favour of Nanjamma.

The court held that if any person is missing for seven years, then he can be declared as dead. Encouraged by the verdict, Chingappa then took up the case with General Dalbir Singh, during latter’s visit in 2016 and explained the plight of Nanjamma, who should have rightfully inherited the retirement benefits of Balakrishna who served the army for 18 years. In the month of August, 2017, Chingappa sent the court verdict to army headquarters. In September army officers instructed to send all details of Balakrishna and on January 29, 2018, army remitted Rs 13 lakhs to Nanjamma’s account, ending a painful struggle of 37 years. Even as Nanjamma smiles, she says that she still wished her husband was with her.

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