Naik Subedar Bana Singh, who won the Param Vir Chakra for his bravery in preventing a Siachen post from falling into Pakistan Army’s hands in 1987, was on Wednesday awarded the inaugural Shivaji-FACT award for courage.
Singh, who was feted by spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in the presence of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, was also given Rs 1 lakh with the award.
“For all the services this great hero did for the country, the government sees it fit to give him a pension of Rs 100-odd. Hence we decided to give him a cheque of Rs 1 lakh,” said Francois Gautier, the trustee of the Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism, a non-profit organisation, said while presenting the cheque to Singh.
Earlier in the day, in New Delhi, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sushma Swaraj appealed to the government to do whatever it can including changing the rules to ensure that some dignity is restored to people like Singh.
“I hung my head in shame when I learnt the conditions in which Singh lives in Jammu. The man who gave the best years of his life to the country is now being forced to run from pillar to post to make ends meet. He gets a meagre sum of Rs 100 as pension,” she said.
She wondered how a person like Singh, who has two daughters of marriageable age, will carry out his duties towards his family.
At the function in Mumbai, chants of Jai Gurudev and Gujarat ka sher ayaa overlapped as Ravi Shankar and Modi stepped on to the stage together. The two charismatic leaders, who inaugurated an exhibition on Chatrapati Shivaji, spoke about the greatness of the Marathi leader.
Gautier threw the rule book out of the window and surprised the dignitaries by inviting them out of turn and asking them to speak extempore.
Ravi Shankar, who was asked to speak of Shivaji and his spiritual side, said: “One day, Shivaji who was tired of all the problems he faced as a ruler, went to Samarta Ramdas and laid down his crown in front of the swami. Shivaji said he found the burden of ruling was too much for him to handle. The swami accepted it and when Shivaji was just about to leave, he called him and placed a proposition in front of him. The swami said he would take the mantle of the ruler under one condition: that Shivaji work for him.
“Shivaji gladly accepted and returned to rule the country with great prudence. All he needed was the burden of responsibility taken off him.”
Modi, who was asked to speak on Shivaji as an inspiration for those in public life, said: “The brand of secularism that Shivaji followed was the real deal. He wrote to the Mughal rulers, who levied a tax on Hindus, asking them to revoke the tax.
“I do not know why the government in Delhi is so uneasy when the subject of terrorism is broached. They should also learn from Shivaji. He was the person who engaged in guerilla warfare against those who invaded the country, which is a form of terrorism so to speak.
“And third, Shivaji was one of the first persons to protect the cow. Will the centre again learn a lesson from Shivaji, and if not him at least Mahatma Gandhi, who also fought for the protection of the cow, and pass a law to protect the cow across the nation?” he said.
With inputs from Onkar Singh in Delhi