Woman of Steel Fights for Soldiers' Kin
By SANGEETA CAVALE RADHAKRISHNA | Published: 24th August 2014 06:00 AM |
Subhashini Vasanth, 42, is waging a lone battle to get what is rightfully hers. Her husband, the late Colonel Vasanth Venugopal, died fighting terrorists at the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir on July 31, 2007. He was posthumously awarded India’s highest award for gallantry, the Ashok Chakra. He was the first recipient of this award from Karnataka.
Yet ironically, while his wife has received compensation from the Army and Central government, even seven years later she has not received from the state government what the rule book says is due to her. A government order of 1971 decrees that the family of an Ashoka Chakra awardee is to get `1.25 lakh or two acres of wet land as compensation.
It is not just the painfully slow rigmarole of searching for a suitable piece of land on the outskirts of Bangalore, but the attitude of the officials concerned that hurts her. “It was as if they were silently thinking that I simply do not deserve something so valuable. It’s been quite humiliating too and I have given up many times. But, if I give up, the next generation will suffer so I keep at it,” she rues. She also set up the Vasantharatna Foundation for Art that seeks to create a support system for widows of jawans and other army personnel. For as little as a donation of `365, one rupee for each day of one year, you can sponsor a birthday gift for a family member of a martyr.
“The Parliament should debate and decide what kind of compensation needs to be given to families of armed forces martyrs and there should be a uniform norm and rules in all states. We need to work together to create a new policy. One of the issues is that this comes in the Concurrent List of the Indian Constitution. But all states must have one policy as we are one nation and our men fought for that one nation,” she says. The compensation of `1 .25 lakh that is offered is ridiculous, she points out. “With the growing inflation, two acres of land cannot be equated with a paltry `1.25 lakh. This state rule was made back in 1971 and needs to be amended,” she says.
Subhashini’s focus these days is to mobilize wives of martyred soldiers, first in Karnataka and then from other parts of the country and get feedback from them about their grievances and suggestions. She has an office and hired help who assists in research and ground work. She plans to present her report to the prime minister of India.
It’s been a tiring journey for Subhashini and she does not want all the tension and heartache to spill over to her two children—Rukmini (17) and Yeshodha (14). “These are crucial years for them and I need to give them all the time and attention they need,” she says.
A Bharatnatyam dancer, she has put her passion on the backburner for now as she has so much else on her mind. “Dance requires a single-minded focus which I do not have right now. I also have ageing parents and in-laws who have been a great source of support.” She runs a dance school, Natya Ratna and holds classes twice a week.
Subhashini is also preparing a petition for the prime minister and defence minister wherein a proposal to set up a committee where senior army officers, martyr’s families and all the relevant government departments work together to better the lot of the bereaved families and ensure they get their dues.
“In addition we need a body that oversees implementation of policies and laws and has powers to enforce the law. This has to be a time-bound process; maybe a six-month timeframe to constitute such a body would be suitable,” she believes.
“Losing my life partner has created a void which I have yet to come to terms with, the least the system can do is not to harass me emotionally,” she says. “The Army and many people in power have been most helpful and yet that is not enough,” she adds.
Her parents and in-laws have been pillars of strength. It’s time the nation stood behind her and all the families of our soldiers.