Indian WWII veteran, 97, wins pension battle

By: AFP      Published: 07:40 PM, 11 Nov, 2021
Indian veteran Sepoy Balwant Singh
Indian WWII veteran, 97, wins pension battle

A 97-year-old Indian veteran whose leg was blown off in Italy in World War II has won a battle for a bigger pension that was previously denied to soldiers injured before independence in 1947.

Sepoy Balwant Singh was one of more than 2.5 million soldiers from British India who took part in the six-year war, fighting for the Allied forces across Europe, Africa and Asia.

Nearly 90,000 were killed -- among them Singh's older brother Jaswant who died in Italy -- and around 35,000 others were injured.

Singh, from the northern state of Rajasthan, was drafted into the British Indian Army's Punjab Regiment in 1943 and nearly killed by a landmine in Italy the following year.

After two months in a military hospital he was sent back to India.

He was discharged from military service in 1946 on a general disability pension of 20 rupees that gradually increased to 7,000 rupees ($94) over the subsequent seven decades.

The Indian government in 1972 decided to grant an additional war injury pension to soldiers hurt or disabled during battles since 1947 when India gained independence, but not before.

Singh filed a plea with the Armed Forces Tribunal in 2010 under the Indian Army's War Injury Pension scheme to increase his annuity and have his services in World War II recognised.

The tribunal in New Delhi this week ruled in his favour, more than doubling his monthly payout and awarding him back payments, although only back to 2008.

"I am extremely happy," Singh, with a weak voice and hearing problems, told AFP over the phone from his village.

Singh's 64-year-old son Subash said the recognition of his father's military service and contribution in the war were more important than the increased payout.

"My father was unhappy for being denied the war injury pension. His sacrifice remained unacknowledged for nearly 77 years but he is now jubilant," he told AFP.