PITHORAGARH: More than 1,600 ex-Indian Army personnel, mainly those Nepalese citizens who had served as soldiers in the Gorkha Regiment, have been unable to draw pension for the past three months as the India-Nepal border is lying closed due to the Covid-19-induced lockdown.
These personnel (or their widows), who are residents of Baitadi and Darchula districts of
, get their pension deposited in the State Bank of India (SBI) on the Indian side of the border at places like Jhulaghat, Jauljibi and Dharchula.
Kamlesh Joshi, manager of SBI, Jhulaghat, told TOI that in his branch, there are 700 accounts of Nepalese personnel who have served in the
and an equal number at the Dharchula branch as well; SBI, Jauljibi, has accounts of 200 pensioners. “According to our estimates, the Nepalese ex-soldiers in the area, most of whom have been NCOs (non-commissioned officers) in the Indian Army, are drawing a cumulative pension of around Rs 50 lakh per month from the banks,” he added.
Heera Singh Bisht, one of the pensioners who is based in Baitadi in Nepal, told TOI over phone that all the pensioners are having a tough time as they have not been able to withdraw funds from the bank for almost three months. “The border was sealed on March 25 and all movement between India and Nepal was ceased. As a result, we have not been able to go to our bank on the Indian side.”
On being queried why the pensioners cannot use net banking facility or ATMs of Nepalese banks to access their funds,
, a pensioner, said that “none of the pensioners have access to online banking facilities and neither is there any bank on our side of the border with which SBI has a collaboration.”
Hem Chand added: “Our demand to both governments is to make some arrangements for former personnel of Indian Army living in Nepal to be able to access their pension. We have also put forth our problems to Nepalese authorities, too, but no action has been taken yet,” he added.
Meanwhile, when apprised of the problem faced by the pensioners, MS Jodha, officer of the district soldiers’ welfare office, Pithoragarh, said that the issue had not been brought to his notice by any Nepalese pensioner yet. “We have an office at
Nagar in Nepal which the pensioners can approach for redressal of their problem,” he added.