Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The brave freedom-fighter

“They fought for India's freedom, now they battle penury” says this report, narrating the plight of around 5000 surviving freedom-fighters in Karnataka.

"I actively took part in the Quit India movement in 1942. I was a student in Mysore's Maharaja College at that time. I was part of the non-violent brigade and a part of various protest marches against the British rule. I was also jailed for a few months.” a visibly proud 88-year-old freedom fighter, now settled in Bangalore says. "Today I sell newspapers and tea in a stall. I get only Rs.3,000 as a freedom fighter's pension from the state government. It's difficult for me and my wife to survive with a paltry sum of money. It is a hard life for us," he lamented. …..

Freedom fighters have given their blood and soul to get India's independence. Now, in their old age, freedom fighters deserve an increase in their pension and medical benefits", said Sreenivasaiah, 85……

One of their demands is “jobs and education for their children and grandchildren and continuation of their pension to family members in case of their death.”

"Why do we have to beg for our rights? It's the duty of the state to look after the needs of the freedom fighters," added an 89-year-old freedom fighter.

Now, any octogenarian living in penury or having to labour for his survival deserves our utmost sympathy. As a minimum welfare measure, the state must take care of its senior citizens – freedom fighters or otherwise - who do not have other means of support.

But, 62 years after Independence, we still have people demanding special rights, claiming that they had shed their blood and sweat for our freedom, (as if they did not have their own freedom in mind) when all they did as teenagers or 20-something kids was walk out of school/college and join the mass protest. They genuinely believe that this was a daring and selfless act (ok, a series of such acts, if you insist) that conferred on them the right to eternally enjoy the status of ‘freedom fighter’ with all its attendant benefits.

The bonafide persons who played longer and more meaningful roles in the freedom movement must be tossing in their graves. Bless their souls.


Nishant Dasgupta said...

Dear Raj,
Even though your opinion on most of the issues is usually spot on, I think you have got it wrong here. You can't deny the fact that these octogenarians did play a part (albeit minor) part in our freedom struggle. And I don't think we're even in a position to judge how important their role was. Even if it's 62 years later, they are the same people who fought for our freedom and deserve better treatment (I'm not even talking about special treatment here). Demanding "jobs and education for their children and grandchildren and continuation of their pension to family members in case of their death" would be taking it too far, but the taxpayers money would be better spent on increasing their pension if nothing else. Just a thought.

Raj said...

Nishant, I note that you are a student at BITS, Pilani. Suppose you were to join a student rally to protest against the building of a power plant in your area, you are even arrested for squatting on the road, and the power plant project is given up, would you expect to be rewarded for this act by the taxpayer for the rest of your life? Even after 62 years? You might argue that the so-called freedom fighters (when in their teens/twenties) were fighting for a larger national cause and the comparison is not correct. But, the effort involved in your protest and theirs is the same

Shalini said...

I agree with you Raj on this. When youth during their teens/twenties protested for Freedom they would not have had their children or grand-children in their minds. It was a spontaneous act.It should remain so.

Expecting a reward for the act almost a lifetime later and that too for their future generations who can very well look after themselves is stretching things a little bit.

How we love to live on the glory of our past!