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Lt Col Pritam Singh Jauhal World War II Veteran- Vancouver, BC, Canada

Second World War Veteran's Widow On Deathbed Denied Cheque Book By Her Banker

Vancouver, Canada, March 08, 2010

By Lieut Colonel Pritam Singh Jauhal (Retd) Second World War Veteran Ex JC-23212 Subedar Sohan Singh (Signals) put his life on the line during Second World War in North Africa, leaving his aged parents, young wife and a tiny kid behind at the mercy of his relatives. He fought to defend the Commonwealth and protect the Democracy in which different people could live together and enjoy freedom in peace. Whereas hundreds of thousands of Allied Forces men and women sacrificed their valuable lives, he was lucky to survive while fighting against the Germans and Italians, in most dangerous and trying conditions.

Years after his retirement, Subedar Sohan Singh and his wife Smt Swarn kaur, being in their advanced ages, migrated to Canada to spend final parts of their lives under the care of their children. Unfortunately, Subedar Sohan Singh died on November 27,1993. Intimation to this effect was forwarded by his wife Smt Swarn Kaur to all concerned authorities. On receipt of numerous forms from Signals Records, the Widow returned them duly completed in all respects. After three years of up and down correspondence, Smt Swarn kaur’s family pension was sanctioned vide CCDA (P) Allahabad P P O No. F/NA/5413/96. The Widow was asked to report to the Defence Pension Disbursing Officer (DPDO) Hoshiarpur, with her Pension Book to draw her first pension.

As luck would have it, 79 years old Smt Swarn Kaur was admitted in Burnaby Hospital in Canada on 19.2.1997 due to sudden attack of paralysis, leaving her Left side paralyzed. Medical report issued on her by Doctor Thakor Lal on 13.3.1997, declared her “unfit to travel” until and unless she makes some recovery, which was highly unlikely. A copy of her Medical Report was forwarded to the Defence Pension Disbursing Officer (D P D O) Hoshiarpur who transferred the widow’s pension file to the State Bank of India, Jalandhar as the widow had opened an N R O Saving Bank account in the State Bank of India, Banga which falls under the jurisdiction of State Bank of India Jalandhar.

A copy of the Medical Report on Smt Swarn Kaur was forwarded to the State bank of India, Jalandhar with a request to credit her pension in her Saving Bank account with Banga Branch without her personal appearance, as she was ’unfit to travel’ on medical grounds to come to India.

Unfortunately, Smt Swarn Kaur’s condition took a turn for the worst. She was bed and wheelchair bound and unable to eat herself. She was therefore, fed through a tube inserted in her stomach. She was told clearly and unequivocally by her doctor that she would never leave the hospital. While she was lying in a precarious condition in hospital, all activities on her family pension case were brought to a grinding halt by officials dealing with it.

I had personally dealt with the family pension case of Smt Swarn Kaur from the very beginning. After many years of my in vein efforts, I got disappointed and decided to write personal letters to a great many serving and retired friends, asking them to help the bedridden poor widow on grounds of extreme compassion. I also wrote letters to the Army Headquarters requesting them to intervene in the matter. Since the Banking Industry comes under the Ministry of Finance, I also wrote a letter to the Finance Minister giving complete details of the case and requesting his intervention. Sitting thousands of kilometers away from India, there was precious little else, I could do in the matter.

I was pleased that the CCDA (P), State Bank of India, and other officials dealing with Smt Swarn Kaur’s pension case, buckled under the intensive pressure from the Army Headquarters and the Finance Minister. As a result, the widow’s family pension file started moving and picking up speed. Ultimately, on August 12, 2003, the State Bank of India Banga informed the that her family pension from November 28,1993 has been credited to her Bank account and her family pension effective 1.8.2002 onwards, is being regularly credited.

With a view to operate her bank account from Canada, Smt Swarn kaur requested her banker viz State Bank of India Banga, to supply her a Cheque Book. Reply received by her denying her request was as follows:-

“ We advise that as per Bank’s Rules, Cheque Book is issued to a person who can sign on cheques. Thumb impression is not accepted on cheques.”

It was pointed out to the State bank of India Banga that the widow being an illiterate, used her thumb impression on all documents /forms submitted by her in connection with her family pension. Her thumb impression was accepted by all authorities including her Bank officials. I view of this, the refusal by bank officials to accept her thumb impression on cheques is not understood. Apparently, the bank officials had a cavalier attitude to accept this particular case. They did not care a hoot, nor bothered to reply to the above reasoning.

All pleas from Smt Swarn Kaur and myself to State Bank of India, Banga, requesting for issue of a cheque book to the widow, fell on deaf ears of its officials. This amounted to nothing short of disservice by the Bank not only to the widow of a Second World War Veteran, but also to the military pensioners at large. This callous behavior on the part of Bank officials should not be accepted under any circumstances. Both Smt Swarn Kaur and myself got disgusted with the despicable attitude of the bank officials.

Therefore, I wrote another personal letter to the Finance Minister by name, requesting him for his personal intervention in the matter one more time. I am pleased to say that under direct orders from the Finance Minister, State Bank of India Banga dispatched a Cheque Book to the Widow.

I regret to say that before poor sick Smt Swarn Kaur could physically receive and use her long awaited cheque book, she breathed her last on April 24, 2004. Intimation to this effect was sent by her son Balwant Singh Parmar to all concerned authorities.

It is of utmost annoyance that it took 10 full years of hectic correspondence to get the family pension of a Second World War Veteran late Subedar Sohan Singh’s widow in her bank account. Of what good was that pension to her when she could not draw it in her life time, in the absence of a cheque book? Is this the reward Smt Swarn Kaur received for what her husband put his life on the line during Second World War? The widow lying on her deathbed, could not draw and use even a penny of her pension, thanks to the Bank Rules.

This is an injustice of the highest proportion. The undesirable attitude of concerned individuals and bank officials for the inordinate delay in paying the widow her pension and for not issuing a cheque book, amounts to dereliction of duty. It essentially calls for an inquiry and exemplary penalty to those found guilty.

I full well knew, the pitiable and deplorable state of health Smt Swarn Kaur was in, when lying on her deathbed in hospital? Her stress had reached a critical level, “Seeing is believing” as it cannot be explained in words. I wonder how many more widows of World Wars Veterans are suffering like late Swarn Kaur in Canada and other Countries of the World, where our military pensioners have settled permanently. Remedial measures need be taken at the highest level, to prevent such cases from occurring in the future.




Lt Col Pritam Singh Jauhal (Retd) World War II Veteran



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