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Fighting a battle for pension

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Nagarathnamma with the portrait of Maj. Koneri Gowda
Nagarathnamma with the portrait of Maj. Koneri Gowda

Special Correspondent

85-year-old Nagaratna-mma, wife of a World War II veteran, has not been receiving pension for two years

MYSORE: The wife of a World War II veteran who fought against the Axis forces in Burma and was imprisoned by the Japanese, is running from pillar to post for her pension. Nagaratnamma (85), wife of Major Koneri Gowda who retired from the Indian Army (Mysore Infantry Training centre), is worried that her pension was rescinded by the office of the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (Pension), Allahabad, saying that it was “not in order”.Ms. Nagaratnamma has not been receiving pension for the past two years. But it has been ascertained that the pension that was fixed for her was the minimum rate of Rs. 1,275 a month, which is applicable to the lowest cadre in the armed forces. She is entitled to a pension rate of Rs. 3,840 a month, which is applicable to a Major.

Koneri Gowda was born at Nagatahalli in Mandya district and joined the Mysore State forces as a Junior Commissioned Office in August 1931, and he was based at Mysore/ Srirangapatna. In July 1939, he was commissioned in the British Indian Army and was sent to Rangoon in Burma following the outbreak of Second World War. He was taken as Prisoner of War by the Japanese, kept at Malaya for well over two-and-a-half years and released.

After the Second World War, Koneri Gowda served in the Indian Army and took voluntary retirement on December 31, 1951. He died on September 9, 1997.

Though Ms. Nagarathnamma was sanctioned pension, it was a procedural lapse committed by the State Bank of Mysore, local pension disbursement authority. Instead of forwarding the pension papers to the office of the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (PCDA) in Allahabad, it inadvertently sanctioned the amount. It was far below the rate fixed for a Major, which came into effect from September 15, 1997.

The issue came to light in December 2006 when ex-sergeant Subramani, president of the VeKare Ex-Servicemen Trust (VKET), Mysore, during an interaction with Ms. Nagaratnamma, came to know about her pension rate. The organisation took up the issue with the bank’s main branch, which in turn forwarded the details to the PCDA after calculating the pension arrears that were due to Ms. Nagaratnamma.

The office of the PCDA woke up to the mistake committed by the bank after nearly 10 years, and said that the family pension paid to Ms. Nagaratnamma since September 1997 was not in order and was highly objectionable from the audit point of view. It also advised the bank’s pension department to recover the amount from her, and stop payments.It also said that the Army Headquarters was the nodal agency for initiating family pension claims and not the bank. Following this, Ms. Nagaratnamma has been denied pension for the past two years. Also, there is a threat of the pension paid to her being recovered.For Ms. Nagaratna-mma, the amount is not consequential. “I am taking up this case as a matter of principle,” she said.

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