Land of Generals and War Widows
By Mandetira N. Subramani, President, VeKare Ex-Servicemen Trust, Mysore
Most of the Ex-Servicemen of yore, who joined the British Indian Armed Forces during early 1940s, and participated in World War-II, are no more. However, there are still numerous widows of World War-II veterans, around 70 odd years of age, living in Mysore and Kodagu region, who narrate their helplessness and pathetic stories.
It was customary for men of yesteryears to marry a life partner who is younger to them by 10 to 15 years. It is quite but natural that most of such wives become widows and may live for 10 to 15 years, or even longer, after the demise of their husbands. Trends have changed. The present day men don’t mind marrying a life partner elder to him by 3-5 years and the educated ladies consider it as out of fashion and a mismatch to marry men who are 3 or 4 years elder to them.
Reverting to the subject of helplessness of widows of World War-II veterans, a gentleman barged into my office a few days ago with a complaint that his 76-year-old mother, living in a remote village called Kiggal, near Murnad, Kodagu (erstwhile Coorg), is not being granted defence family pension even after a lapse of 12 years after the demise of his father, due to some vague reasons projected by the Army’s EME Record Office, Secunderabad. The hapless widow happened to be one Mrs. Kaveriamma, widow of a World War-II veteran, Naib Subedar Ballachanda Nanjappa Ayyappa.
I, being not only an Ex-Serviceman myself but also a son of a World War-II veteran who served in the Corps of EME and died unsung and unheard 22 years ago, decided to help the Late Nb Sub Ballachanda N. Ayyappa’s widow Kaveri-amma with whatever little bit of knowledge and expertise I had gained during the course of taking up the cause of Ex-Servicemen and widows of Ex-Servicemen since the past 22 years after I quit the Armed Forces.
I believe in “seeing is believing.” Hence, I told late Naib Sub B.N. Ayyappa’s son, Ganapathy, that I wished to see his mother Kaveriamma personally, without doubting his (Ganapathy’s) version of the pathetic story of his mother. Without a second thought, Ganapathy informed me that his 76-year-old mother has been suffering from all sorts of old age ailments and that if I wished to see her, I would have to visit his ancestral Ballachanda House in Kiggal village in Coorg, which is well over 150 kms from Mysore. He also suggested that I could accompany him the following day itself to his village to see his mother. Though there was a clash of opinions between my mind and heart regarding his suggestion, I decided to listen to my heart, which is always weaker than the mind. The widow’s old age and ill health became a priority over my next day’s assignments and engagements all of which I had to abort.
It was indeed a huge expedition on the next day. It took almost nearly three-and-a-half- hours to reach the 100-year-old ancestral house of late Nb Sub Ayyappa in his village, which resembled a bit of British architecture. However, it took me waiting for nearly two hours to get the audience of the grand-old-lady, as she took time to wake up from her sleep, get ready and come out of her bedroom with the support of her son.
During the waiting period, in Kaveriamma’s house, I had to perforce spend my time speaking to an 87-year-grand-old gentleman, who was resting in his easy chair. I was amused when he kept showing extra attention and courtesies to me than what I really deserved. This grand-old-gentleman, however, kept firing some uncomfortable questions to me such as, when did I join the Armed Force? When did I quit? Why did I quit? What was the last rank held by me? What I have been doing after quitting the forces etc… etc… as if I were put in a witness box for some crime committed by joining the Armed Forces! If someone around my age had asked me those questions, I would have blown my trumpet about my life in the Armed Forces, my last rank held as equivalent to one of those one star or two stars rank etc. But, I held back, because, in my subconscious mind I saw something very special in him that made me to tell him only the truth, including the last rank held by me, that is, Sergeant in the Indian Air Force.
While answering all the questions fired at me by this grand-old-gentleman, I was also looking at the walls of the huge verandah to deter him from firing anymore questions. However, I found some old photographs of late Naib Sub Ayyappa’s father, who was a Sub-Inspector of Police during the British regime, hung on the wall. Among the numerable old photographs on the walls, I also noticed a certificate framed and hung in a remote corner, which I could not read because of the size of the certificate, and my failing eye sight. I was compelled to remove the framed certificate and read it just out of curiosity. To my surprise, it was a citation of a gallantry award, that is, “Mention in Dispatches” awarded to Flight Gunner Sgt. Ballachanda N. Medappa.
I became very curious and asked Ganapathy as to who this Flight Gunner was ? Ganapathy pointed out at the grand-old- gentleman who was sitting on the same easy chair busy reading a Kannada daily Mysooru Mitra and said, “he is my father Nb Sub Ayyappa’s younger brother Ex-Warrant Officer of the Indian Air Force.” I realised that he is really an ‘Ex-Air Warrior,’ a term commonly referred to all Ex-Air Force personnel of late. I too sometimes proudly call myself as an Ex-Air Warrior to my advantage but it proved to be otherwise all the time with my retired rank ‘Ex-Sergeant.’
In the meantime, the widow of Nb Sub Ayyappa managed to come up to the verandah with the support of her son. As per the customs of the Coorgs’, I touched her feet to seek her blessings, and took a few photographs of her from my worn camera. After speaking to her for a few minutes I casually told her that I would try to resolve her defence family pension issue, at which she nodded her head casually, without any anxiety or hope of receiving it in the near future. I understood that she was fed up of trying for her defence family pension for the past 12 years.
On our way back to Mysore from Coorg after having met the widow, my thoughts were more on the unassuming Ex-Air Warrior I met that day than the problem of the widow of World War- II veteran Ayyappa. I tried to make a guess as to how many such great war heroes were still living or dead, unheard and unsung, among the tiny Kodava Community besides the number of General Officers this tiny Coorg District has produced till date. I even started calling up all my fauji friends, as if there was an impending war.
All armed forces veterans who served three decades ago know that there was a separate Coorg regiment, which largely included people from non-Kodava backgrounds while the Kodavas themselves served in different other regiments; this is in keeping with the Army’s non-bias policy. Field Marshal Kodandera Cariappa of the Rajput regiment and General Kodandera Thimayya of the Kumaon regiment are the most distinguished Army men among the Kodavas. Other illustrious Kodavas from all ranks lead from the front in their own way, not only during wars but also in war-like situations and counter insurgencies.
Lt. Gen. Apparanda Aiyappa is best remembered for his contributions towards the Corps of Signals and towards Bharat Electronics Limited. There were several war heroes as well such as Nadikerianda Bheemaiah, a JCO who was the first among Coorgs to be awarded the Vir Chakra for conspicuous bravery in J&K Operations during 1947, and Air Marshal Cheppudira D. Subia, a daring fighter pilot, was awarded the Vir Chakra during 1950 for his courageous and relentless attacks on the enemy targets which has largely contributed to the successful capture of Garais in Jammu & Kashmir.
Squadron Leader Ajjamada B. Devayya (known as the ‘wings of fire’), a fighter pilot of rare acumen, was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra after the 1965 Indo-Pak War, posthumously. Lt. Col. Ganapathi Puttichanda Somaiah (then known as the ‘Major who kept his cool’) was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra for his conspicuous bravery of fighting against the militants under odd condition while deployed in Sri Lanka as part of Indian Peace Keeping Force.
Lt. Col. Anjaparavanda Ganapathy was decorated with Vir Chakra for his valour during the 1965 war. Maj. Gen. Kuppanda Nanjappa and Colonel Mandettira Ravi were decorated with Vir Chakra for their valiant display of courage and gallantry in the face of the enemy on land during the 1971 Indo-Pak war. Sqn. Ldr. Mandepanda Ganapathy was awarded Vir Chakra for shooting down one of the first Pakistani Sabre Jets, which intruded into Indian air space during the 1971 war.
Wg. Cdr. Ballachanda Karumbaya is another war hero to be decorated with the Vir Chakra for displaying his gallantry in the air during the 1971 war. The youngest among the above said war heroes is the then Capt. Baleyanda M. Cariappa to be decorated with Vir Chakra on 21st June 1999 for displaying repeated acts of valour, bold leadership, unparalleled courage, leading from the front and devotion beyond the call of duty in the face of the enemy.
Kodagu being one of the smallest districts across India, today boasts of the highest density of devoted, daring, dedicated, disciplined and duty-bound gentlemen soldier officers, with many adorning the highest echelons of the defence services in India.
At any given point of time, till 1980, the number of persons serving the forces far exceeded the proportion of any other set of people from any other region in India. The contribution of Coorg to the cause of the nation has been phenomenal and Armed Forces Martyrs from Kodagu District are innumerable.
The appended list of Army General Officers the tiny District of Kodagu [population 5 lakh and population of Kodavas is about 1.3 lakh] has produced over the last 65 years is testimony to the fact that the District is a cradle of mighty Generals:
1. Field Marshal Kodandera M. Cariappa, OBE; 2. General Kodandera S. Thimayya, DSO; 3. Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Apparanda C. Aiyappa PVSM, MBE; 4. Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Biddanda C. Nanda PVSM, AVSM, ADG; 5. Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Codanda N. Somanna PVSM; 6. Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Bittianda K. Bopanna PVSM, AVSM, VSM; 7. Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Ballachanda K. Chengappa; 8. Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Guddanda C. Somanna; 9. Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Kongetira M. Chengappa; 10. Maj. Gen. (Retd) Kotera C. Bheemaiah; 11. Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Codanda K. Karumbaya SM; 12. Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Cheppudira I. Jay Appachu AVSM; 13. Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Somaiyanda K. Kariappa AVSM, YSM; 14. Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Madaiyanda M. Belliappa AVSM, VSM; 15. Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Bovverianda M. Aiyanna; 16. Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Bachamanda A. Cariappa; 17. Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Moovera C. Nanjappa AVSM, VSM; 18. Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Kuppanda P. Nanjappa AVSM, VrC; 19. Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Kelapanda B. Swaraj; 20. Maj. Gen. Kodandera Arjun Muthanna; 21. Maj. Gen. Paruvangada M. Cariappa VSM.
Courtesy: Star of Mysore
Courtesy: The Hindu
At a time when scams are becoming common, the exemplary honesty and integrity of a retired Indian Air Force corporal is hard to ignore.
Charles Williams, 89, a World War II veteran from Mysore and who’s in poor health, wants to return the excess money credited to his pension account.
Mr. Williams joined the Royal Air Force in pre-Independent India. After being recruited, he was sent to Lahore for a six-week pre-induction training after which he was posted at Agra. Within days, Mr. Williams was sent to Burma where he saw action against the Japanese.
“Though in the RAF, our unit saw a lot of ground battle and we dug in and stayed put in the trenches. We were holed up for weeks without regular supply of food and water. The battle that raged was horrific with soldiers getting maimed and killed in the heavy exchange of fire. But ultimately we prevailed,” recalled Mr. Williams.
After retirement, he found certain anomaly in his pension and complained that he was being underpaid. “A visit to the local Sainik Welfare and Resettlement Board did not help me much as officials are apathetic to the grievances of ex-servicemen,” according to Mr. Williams, who then approached M.N. Subramani, president, VeKare Ex-Servicemen Trust in Mysore.
But calculations showed that the Centralised Pension Processing Centre of State Bank of Mysore, Mangalore, had credited Mr. Williams’ account with excess money.
Mr. Subramani said he was being credited with Rs. 300 towards fixed medical allowances to which he was not entitled. He was credited with Rs. 15,200 in excess with effect from July 2007.
“When this was brought to the notice of Mr. Williams, he asked me to inform the bank to recover the amount in 15 equal instalments so as not to put him in financial hardship,” said Mr. Subramani.
What is ironic is that Mr. Williams is returning the medical allowance when he needs it the most. He is visually impaired and desperately needs Rs. 1.5 lakh for a heart operation. “When I am not entitled for something, the national exchequer should not be made to bear the burden,” said Mr. Williams, whose only request was that the excess amount be deducted in instalments.
Meanwhile, Mr. Subramani has mailed a letter to SBM, Mangalore, drawing their attention to the anomaly.
By Bangalore Mirror
If you are among the lot facing problems with your pension despite years of service in the armed forces, you could try seeking help from M N Subramani. The Mysore-based retired senior non-commissioned officer (SNCO) of the Indian Air Force (IAF) solves such cases within 48 hours. He has solved over 25 cases in the last two years. The list of beneficiaries includes retired soldiers and widows of military veterans.
The amounts range from thousands to lakhs. Subramani, a law graduate, solves pension cases free of cost. Over time, he has become famous as the ex-servicemen’s fast court.One of the beneficiaries is his former commanding officer, retired air commodore S K Parelkar VSM. His pension and arrears had been withheld for three years. Subramani not only got it cleared in 2009, but also got him a revision that had been pending for over two years. Parelkar says, “Not knowing the procedure, I wasted my time and effort in trying to get various authorities to do the needful. His help came at the right time.”
Another beneficiary is group captain (retd) Deryck Fernandes who got his dues of over Rs five lakh, which had been pending for five years. He says, “He took two days to work out what I should have been paid and then compared these amounts with what I had actually been paid. The results were quite astounding, almost beyond belief. I was being paid almost Rs 10,000 less per month for the last five-and-a-half years. I got my dues within 24 hours.”
Subramani solves most of the cases through e-mail. He attributes the discrepancies to the negligence of banks, who disburse the pension. Irrespective of rank, ex-servicemen suffer due to shortcomings of the system. “Understanding rules and policies that change frequently, and a common sense approach help me to help the distressed,” says Subramani.
Veteran gets help
On Wednesday, Subramani added yet another feather to his cap by solving the problem of 90-year-old World War II veteran, subedar J S Anand Das. Tamil Nadu-based Das’s dues had been withheld since 2006. Subramani not only got it released but also ensured the amount went up by Rs 3,650 per month.
Click here for link to Bangalore Mirror.
Letter form Air Commodore (Retd.) S K Parelkar VSM
I must start with thanking you for your prompt help in getting my pension arrears as well as getting my pension amount corrected so fast. Not knowing the procedure I was wasting my time and effort in trying to get the DCDA, Air Force to do the needful. Your help came at the right time.
I am glad that my assessment of you when we were colleagues at the No. 2 Air Force Selection Board was absolutely correct. I always knew you to be a very efficient person. I was also aware of your good professional knowledge. More than any other thing I always found to be hard working keen to learn. Hence I never had any hesitation in loading you with additional responsibilities, one of which was as the Canteen Manager. During the period that you were the Manager the Canteen flourished and the sales shot up so did the profits. At no time did you recommend any unauthorized action or procedure. I always found you to be innovative and practical and scrupulously honest. Your concern for the deprived was always admired by me. Unfortunately because of service protocol I could not give you as much freedom as I desired. However you did an excellent job of whatever was entrusted to you.
It did not surprise me when you told me that you are the President of an Ex-Servicemen Trust and are doing an excellent job of taking care of them. You have also named the Trust very aptly “VeKare”. I was impressed by the work you are doing and am sure you will continue to do so in future. I am sure you will look after the interest of the Ex-Servicemen as well as be a well wisher of the three services.
Your desire to contact me and the effort to obtain my address and telephone number itself shows the respect you have for me. It was a pleasure talking to you after almost 20 years. Your immediate reaction to my problem of pension and the prompt action and the follow up with various agencies and the handling of the State Bank of India (C P P C) was amazing and displayed you professionalism, knowledge and above all you caring nature.
I wish to place on record my heartfelt thanks and wish that you continue to do the good work. May God give you good health, happiness and long life so that you can continue the good work. I also wish you family health and happiness. I wish all of you the very best in life. Wish you all a very happy and prosperous NEW YEAR.
Air Commodore (Retd.) S K Parelkar VSM
Photographs taken during the inauguration of VeKare Exserivemen Trust Office by Air Commodore (Retd) Parelkar on 15th August 1990.
Click here for the Letter from Group Captain (retd.) D.G.Fernandes