Hazaribagh (Jharkhand), Aug 17: As the nation celebrated its 62nd Independence Day on Friday, elderly Somar Sundi of Jharkhand remained busy pulling a rickshaw to earn his daily meal. He has been a freedom fighter but cannot prove it today.
Every year on Independence Day, Sundi is an embarrassed man at heart and full of regret. All freedom fighters started receiving their pension in 1974 but Somar Sundi is awaiting his turn. The file, which could certify his identity as a freedom fighter has been lost, thus he leads a hand to mouth existence pulling a rickshaw despite his old age and contribution for the national freedom struggle.
He says he never imagined he would be pulling rickshaw long after India gained its freedom from the British. But today even in the 62nd year of independence, there is barely anything he can do to contest his case and ensure the allowance due to freedom fighters.
Though he was formally invited to participate in the Independence Day function by the District administration and honoured by the Jharkhand Governor last year, the file pertaining to his entitlements could not be traced so far.
At the ripe age of 86, Somar Sundi wishes that the government should ensure that he gets his two square meals a day.
"I'm helpless I earn just Rs 10 to 15 a day. The government has not taken a look at us. I've given my blood, taken bullets and endured cane lashings during protests. I even went to jail but they've not done anything to me. I request the government to at least provide us two square meals a day," said Somar Sundi.
He says during the Quit India Movement in 1942 the Indian National Congress activists in Hazaribagh were protesting before the District Board. Police resorted to firing. Besides bullet injuries Sundi was also caned on his back and hurt on his forehead.
Sundi was jailed and later sent to the hospital for treatment while his family members on pretext of his being dead in the firing, sold his part of paternal property, including his house.
Today, Sundi lives with his family in a rented accommodation. He has dependents in his family and supports them by pulling a rented rickshaw.
Sundi's wife complains that despite her husband shedding blood for the nation, the custodians are not bothered to take care of such a person.
"If we don't have a rickshaw, we cannot survive. We had a rickshaw but it was stolen and this rickshaw is on rental basis. Somehow we are managing. If we had our own house, we wouldn't have stayed in such a bad condition. The government has not helped us in anyway. He (Sundi) has given his blood for the country but got nothing in return," rued Jaswa Devi, wife of Somar Sundi.
Local administration says Sundi's family is given 10 kilograms of rice every month.
Meanwhile, Sudhir Mahto, the Deputy Chief Minister of Jharkhand claimed ignorance of of Sundi's case and has assured immediate actions and ensure that Sundi is assisted accordingly.
"I'm not aware of the matter. If I was aware that he was a freedom fighter and that he is troubled I would have been happy to help him. I'll make sure that he receives his cash pension immediately. I will pursue the matter. Now that I've come to know from this medium about it, I will talk with the District Magistrate, District Collector and SDO to hasten his case. If there's anything else left pending, I will make sure that it's done properly and at the earliest possible time," said Sudhir Mahto, Deputy Chief Minister, Jharkhand.