Just like every other day in the week, Lance Naik (Retd) Satbeer Singh trudges towards his fruit juice shop, leaning heavily on his walking stick, at his native Mukhmelpur village in Delhi. This has been a major source of livelihood for the Kargil hero, who has found it hard to survive on the army pension alone.
The 52-yr-old had suffered multiple gunshot wounds when his battalion 2nd Rajputana Rifles fought tooth and nail to recapture Mount Tololing in the 1999 Kargil war.
“On June 12 midnight, our battalion was directed to capture Mount Tololing, which was very crucial for our victory. I was the guide in the team, so I had to be at the forefront. While scaling the treacherous hills, I spotted three insurgents who had taken positions behind a rock, I notified my battalion. We gradually zeroed in on them,” Satbeer said reminiscing his role in the Kargil war.
“We were only 15 metre away when I attacked them with a hand grenade, even as the Bofors guns were used for covering us from fire from behind. They could not believe that we would reach so close. After throwing the hand grenade, I fired 30 bullets at them. However, the hand grenade didn’t go off, probably due to very low temperatures. It was when I started loading the next magazine in the gun, that the grenade exploded. Two of the insurgents were blown up, and I took care of the remaining one”, he said.
However, just after the soldiers captured the post, one of the surviving insurgents shot bullets at Satbeer’s battalion. Two bullets hit Satbeer, one piercing through his ankle and the other hitting below his knee, rendering him crippled.
Post-Kargil, a new battle began for the army veteran in the guise of bureaucratic hurdles and middlemen-ship. An acre of land was allotted to him by the government for farming, but a few years later that too was taken back from him after he refused to join hands with the alleged middlemen.
“I farmed on the land for 4-5 years, grew a ‘garden’. Invested all the my money on it. There was some possibility of getting the petrol pump that was promised, but some politicians created problems after I refused to toe the line. They sent men from the department and uprooted the trees (on his farm),” Satbeer said.
Till recently, Satbir was getting a paltry Rs 18,000 as army pension, which is not enough to support a family of four. “My pension has been revised to Rs 22,000, but till very recently I was getting Rs 18,000.”
Despite his visible angst against the government and its way of functioning, he is all praises for the army.
“I am indebted to the Indian army. Whenever I visit the hospital, I am given preferential treatment. Whenever I visit army canteen, jawans line up to help me. Even the army has shared half of my children’s school fee,” he said.
In last five years, Satbeer has filed over 30 RTIs and exchanged nearly 100 letters with the authorities over the allotment of a petrol pump as well as the seizure of his land but to no avail.
“Satbeer Singhji was earlier told that he is not eligible for the petrol pump. However, in an RTI reply dated October 16, 2017, it was clearly written that families of Kargil martyrs and those who are war-disabled and ‘disabled on duty’ are eligible to be allotted a petrol pump license and under CC1 category,” says RTI activist Harpal Singh Rana, who is supporting Satbeer’s cause.
“Army men and especially those who fought in the Kargil war are given a lot of facilities, but Satbeer Singhji is not getting his due.This should also be investigated. He is running a fruit juice store all because of financial constraints. He has a bullet in his leg and cannot do any other work, so this treatment is really unfortunate and does not befit the government, ” he added.