PMO gives hope to freedom fighter battling for pension

There is good news for 85-year-old freedom fighter Manohar Dattatray who has been waging a lonely battle for the last six decades to get his pension. The Prime Minister's Office has asked the Home department to look into the matter.

Dattatray, also known as Bal Pulee, got help from an unlikely source a city-based RTI activist Vihar Durve who had written to the PMO of his case as well as attached his RTI reply from the central home department from where he had sought information of pensions disbursed to freedom fighters over the last 25 years. He had attached the case of Pulee and even the recent High Court orders to the state government which saw them disbursing pension to seven freedom fighters in the state. The office has asked the home department to take "appropriate action".

"Pulee has lost both his sons. His daughter-in-law does not have a permanent job. It's time the government looks into the matter,'' Durve said. Pulee was sent to prison at the tender age of 16 for participating in an anti-British protests in 1943. He was let off soon as he was a minor.

A Bombay High Court ruling in 2000 stated that minors jailed during the freedom movement are eligible for pension. They had dismissed Pulee's claim, but after freedom fighters Haribhau Limaye and Rambhau Telang submitted an affidavit certifying that Pulee was eligible for the freedom fighters' pension, the administration recognised his claim. However, the government is yet to respond positively which made Durve write to the highest authority. Pulee's daughter-in-law Alaka says that they are living in the hope that someday the government will respond positively. "We hope the government intervenes as my father-in-law is living in the hope that the pension would bring about some respite for us," she adds.

Durve is not the only one who has taken up the issue of freedom fighters. Veteran freedom fighter Haribhau Limaye, who has taken up several cases of freedom fighters' families not getting pension said it is sad that Pulee has to battle it out at his age. He explains that as per government procedure, two kinds of pension are disbursed, one for freedom fighters who were jailed for more than six months and the other for those who spent less than six months in jail."The amounts are different and the freedom fighters association have been arguing that the pension amount disbursed be the same considering the cost of living,'' states Limaye.

He adds that for minors (persons jailed less than six months) the verification is done on the basis of jail records which itself are not updated and there are many persons who have had to give up on the pension as records were not maintained. Limaye too had to fight for his pension which was disbursed only after political intervention. He hopes Pulee gets his due. "PMO's response is indeed a positive sign."

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