It took 71-year-old Hindurao Ingale, a driver who served the 216 Medium Regiment during the historic 1971 Indo-Pak war, ten long years to win a battle for a piece of agricultural and residential land against the state.
This war hero was left disabled 47 years ago after he sustained some grievous bullet injuries to his leg during the Indo-Pak war of 1971. However, despite his medical condition, he continued to serve the army until 1975, which worsened his injuries to the extent that resulted in his left leg becoming permanently disabled. He was discharged from the army on December 30, 1975.
Since then, Hindurao fought an arduous and extended battle for a share of land which was primarily his right under a government resolution dated December 30, 1971.
This resolution applies to members of the armed forces who were wounded and disabled in the 1971 war and makes it clear that whether the member in this context has received a gallantry award or not, they are entitled to agricultural as well as residential lands regardless.
The Times of India reported that when Hindurao was discharged from the army and wrote to the concerned authorities for the entitled land allotment, he did not receive any response.
He later wrote a letter in 2002 to the PMO requesting the same, and his plea was rejected on the grounds that the norms of the fund did not cover his request. However, Hindurao stood undeterred and decided to challenge the government. He wrote another letter in 2008 to the state social justice department who forwarded the plea to the collector’s office who accepted that the war hero’s allotment had been pending for over 47 years since 1971.
But acknowledgement is not a solution, is it? When Ingale realised he was still in the neverending circle of inaction, he moved to the high court in 2015.
Through his advocate Rajeshwar Panchal, he requested the enforcement of the 1971 government resolution.
The three-year-long legal battle saw the war hero running from pillar to post for his own rights.
When the concerned collector and Zilla Sainik welfare officer (ZSWO) appeared before the court, they made statements that Ingale seemed to appear ‘physically sound’ and had not received any gallantry medal.
According to the TOI report, the bench called the ZSWO’s stand “shocking” to say the least, and expected the man’s approach to have been at least “sympathetic and positive especially when dealing with ex-armymen.”
The irony was that the ZSWO had also blatantly ignored three letters of the regiment’s commanding officer (CO) recommending Ingale’s case.
The Bench further argued how “Obviously, when the officer (ZSWO) has no personal knowledge, he cannot dispute the correctness to show that the petitioner participated in 1971 war during which he sustained injuries” reported the publication.
After ten years of fighting against the state, the High Court Bench on Tuesday ruled in the war hero’s favour saying,
“We hold that petitioner is entitled to all benefits under the December 30, 1971, government resolution.”
As per the verdict, the agricultural and residential land allotment will be made in the next four months to Hindurao Ingale. Also, an amount of Rs 50,000, is to be paid to him within a month’s time.
The bench said that it was unfortunate that it took the war hero ten years to get relief from the state. It attributed the reason for the delay as the complete misreading of the government resolution by the officials as applicable only to army men who received a gallantry award mentioned the TOI report.
The state is now under pressure to follow the directions of the court, the failure of which will result in the court having to consider granting further monetary benefits and relief to the petitioner.
It is indeed a state of sad affairs that our men who sacrifice a considerable part of their lives to serve the country are tangled in bureaucratic red tape. Hindurao Ingale had the strength of will and tenacity to continue his battle for 47 years since the war, but how many army men would have the capacity and resources to do the same?
There is a chance there are hundreds of such other Hindurao’s are fighting a losing battle because they do not have the financial resources or strength in their bones to go to court. We can only hope Hindurao’s story increases sensitivity among officials for members of the defence forces.
Feature Image In-set credit: Indian Express