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MHA intervenes as pension eludes freedom fighter�s widow

By Rituraj Borthakur

GUWAHATI, Jan 30 - That treacherous journey six decades back from Nalbari to Namche in the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal � sometimes on a train, sometimes on her armyman husband�s back across rivers and streams � and a year-and-half-long stay at a security camp there with their one-year-old daughter was perhaps less enduring than the struggle for the freedom fighter�s pension she had been pursuing since more than a decade now.

Now 87, Sarada Devi, wife of late freedom fighter Sonapati Sarma, had been moving from pillar to post for a freedom fighter�s family pension but only response from the State officials since over five years now had been that her case was being �processed�.

The cold response from the State officials prompted her to write a letter to the Prime Minister�s Office stating her grievance. Taking note of the letter, the Ministry of Home Affairs has directed the Chief Minister�s secretariat to expedite the redressal of her grievance. �It is requested to liaise with the applicant for early redressal her grievance,� the recent letter from the Union Home Ministry to the joint secretary in Chief Minister�s secretariat stated.

In reply to an RTI application, the Chief Minister�s secretariat in 2012 had stated that the name of Sarada Devi�s husband Sonapati Sarma has been enlisted in the Report of Enquiry Committee for Freedom Fighters, 1979 at serial No. 681 in the page 1041 under Nalbari district. �The petition has been placed before the State Advisory Board for Freedom Fighters. The matter is under process for consideration,� the CM�s secretariat had stated six years back.

�Since then, we have visited the officials concerned a number of times. Every time they say, it is being looked into. Sometimes we were told that the advisory board has not been constituted, sometimes we learnt that the CM could not give time to attend the board�s meeting. She (Sarada Devi) often asks us what happened to the matter... we don�t know what to tell her,� her son Arup Sarma told The Assam Tribune.

Freedom fighter Sonapati Sarma, an original resident of Dakshin Bezera of Nalbari, had died in 1984.

The additional deputy commissioner of Nalbari had forwarded Sarada Devi�s petition for pension to the CM�s secretariat way back in 2002. The proposal was placed before a scrutiny committee in 2005, but it was rejected on the ground of �inadequate documents to justify the claim�. This is despite the fact that her husband was drawing the freedom fighter�s pension.

According to the Nalbari Zila Mukti Jujaru Sanmilan, Sonapati Sarma had participated in the freedom movement in 1942. As a class VIII schoolboy, he was arrested for taking part in the Bahjani camp. He is survived by his wife, three sons and a daughter.

Sarma had joined the Indian Army after Independence.

Sarma had taken his wife Sarada Devi, now a resident of Jalukbari, and their one-year-old daughter to Namche during one of his assignments as an armyman. They had stayed there for one and half years, leaving their four-year-old son with his grandmother.

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