Freedom fighter to domestic help

 Laxmi Panda fought for the country’s freedom under Subhash Chandra Bose’s INA in her younger days and spent the rest of her life fighting for the freedom fighters’ pension. She made ends meet by working as a domestic help. Just nine days after the president signed her pension letters, she died at the age of 80.

 

Laxmi joined the INA when she was 15 but after independence she was forced to work as a domestic help. Her grandson Probin Raj who worked in Bangalore had been helping her fight the battle to get her freedom fighter’s pension from the Centre. Laxmi who lived in Orissa got just Rs 1,000 a month from the state government.

“On August 18 2008, she met President Pratibha Patil who promised her that the government will fulfill her needs. The president signed the pension papers on September 26. But my grandmother died on October 6. During her lifetime she did not get any money from the government and washes dishes to make a living. The authorities too made her run from pillar to post,” said her grandson Probin Raj.

A year before her death, I had spoken to Laxmi Panda, and she had narrated her story.

 

Laxmi joined the INA when she was 15 along with her brother Nakula Rath. “Our father was working with the railways in Burma. During a bomb explosion, both my parents died. Lt N C Das of the INA adopted the kids. We both became active members of the INA,” she told MiD DAY. She was a part of the Jhansi Laxmi Bai Regiment.

When Subhash Chandra Bose met her, he changed her name to Indira. “My officer was Capt Lakshmi Sehgal, and Bose felt that both the names would be confusing and named me Indira,” she said.

At INA Laxmi was trained in arms and also in espionage. “The British soldiers loved frogs. So we women used to sell frogs to the soldiers, and in the meanwhile collect information on their movements and ammunition,” she said. They were in hiding and would come out only at night. “Women soldiers used to hide in the jungles of Burma. When we had to escape to Singapore, we moved only at nights,” she said.

She went to Singapore and to Malaysia. In 1945 at Singapore they got orders from Bose to disperse. “The British were after Bose and us, so Bose asked us all to disperse and come together only after further orders. I married a fellow soldier, because I wanted to be able to fight again when Bose called us. If I had married someone else, I would have had to live in ‘ghunghat,’” she said.

 She then came to Jeypore in Orissa and gave birth to a son and a daughter. Her husband too passed away and she had to fend for her children. She started working as a domestic help. Because of poverty she couldn’t educate her children. Her son became a fruit seller and his children are working as labourers. Her daughter was married and came to Bangalore. Laxmi is now relying on her maternal grand son Probin Raj to fight for her.

“I am illiterate and so couldn’t fight for my pension. But I trust my grandson. My family is in a very bad condition. We don’t have money for even my medicines,” she said.

In 1973, the union cabinet approved the freedom fighters pension for her. But the officials did not intimidate her about submission of any documents. She being illiterate too could not follow up the case. Capt S S Yadava, General Secretary of the All India INA Committee, has been writing to the Freedom Fighters Division, but all in vain. Capt Lakshmi Sehgal too wrote in her favour, but that too didn’t work.

Her grandson Probin had been meeting ministers and officials seeking help. But all he gets is promises. “Officials say that pension will be given only to those who go to jail. Why don’t they understand that a brave soldier is one who does not get caught?” she asks. MP and former Orissa Chief Minister Giridhar Gamanga promised to fight her case, but it has yielded no results. Their local MLA refused to help her stating that he didn’t have a money plant.

Officials advised her to go to court. “Lawyers told us that we would have to give them 50 per cent of whatever pension arrears we get. Morover, my grandmom is old and the case will drag for years,” said Probin.

Laxmi was dejected and feelt all she did for the country was a waste. “Now, who asks for freedom fighters’ families? They remember us only during functions. The eminent citizens are only those who have money,” she said.

 This article was published in MiD DAY. Check the link http://www.mid-day.com/news/2008/oct/071008-laxmi-former-ina-soldiers-pension-released-dead.htm

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by priya on December 24, 2010 at 6:46 am

    I am priya.One of the my relative name is Mrs.c.Alagammai.Her husbund Mr.P.S.Chinniah is the one of the INA member.But he is now nomore.Alagammai applied for INA pension in the past 10 years.But still she can’t get it.She is go to high court itself.But they reject her request.She have ALL INDIA INA COMMITTEE certificate and Lakshmi segal’s reference letter.But the court was refuse her application .It’s result shown she is documents are not vallied.Becouse her husbands after deth she got this one.How it is corret?The AI INA comm. refference No is 8/2/356 ..it produce in the year of 10 th may 2000.Please give me a feedback.If any possibilities are their for got the pension?
    Thanking you

    Reply

  2. Has anybody noticed. The swantantrata Sanik Samman Scheme of the Govt of India actually does not offer any benefit for the INA soldiers. There is a condition in the Scheme that though an Ex INA need have only 6 month imprisonment, the coprisoner who has to be a CPC has to have 1 year imprisonment. This is imposible. As these brave soldiers were imprisoned in the jails of Singapore and Malaysia only for less than 1 year.

    Cases are being fought but to no avail. One important matter is being listed in the Chief Justice Court in Kerala for the past few days. All pray for the widow of a brave soldier.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Raju on September 30, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    With the rampant sycophancy, for the past several decades we were forced to clap for the likes of Indira,Rajiv,Sonia and now Rahul. Every thing possible was done to bury the memories of the real patriots and leaders.When great leaders and patriots like Bose and Sardar Patel were side lined can we expect any justice to valiant but poor ladies like Laxmi?

    Reply

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