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Forces reach out to war widows

Chennai, Dec. 16: The armed services is putting the finishing touches to a scheme that will help them reach out to 1.40 lakh widows of ex-servicemen.

At least once a year, the grievances of war widows, including those in the four southern states, will thus be redressed. Their problems with the civilian administration, too, will be sorted out.

“Now is the time for us to reach out to them, rather than them look up to us,” Maj. Gen. Anup S. Jamwal, ATNKK&G Area, said today. ATNKK&G stands for Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Goa.

He was speaking at a Vijay Divas function honouring soldiers who died in the 1971 Indo-Pak War that led to the creation of Bangladesh. “We want to honour widows of our ex-servicemen on more occasions, including Independence Day, Republic Day and Kargil victory day,” Jamwal said.

The idea is to personally get in touch with all the widows, at least once a year, and give all necessary help, including financial, he said.

According to Jamwal, Tamil Nadu alone has about 37,000 war widows. Most widows face difficulties in educating their children, getting pension and employment and dealing with the civil administration. Once the scheme kicks off, local army units will help the widows sort them out, Jamwal said.

Two other assistance schemes, too, will be introduced from January, he said. The first will help set up clinics, with a man and a woman doctor in attendance, right next to ex-servicemen’s canteens.

These will offer low-cost medical consultation on a “no-profit” basis for ex-servicemen’s families, Jamwal said. The doctors there can refer patients to army hospitals.

The second, Serving Soldiers’ Separated Families Welfare Scheme, will help the families of soldiers serving in remote areas. Their problems can be related to land, house rent or of a legal nature faced in the absence of the soldier. It will kick off in Vellore first.

According to Jamwal, land for a war widows’ hostel and low-cost accommodation for soldiers will be discussed with Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa within a week.

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