Ruby Panda, Freedom fighter lives life of neglect and penury, New Indian Express/PTI, August 24, 2008.
NEW DELHI: She is a freedom fighter who is fighting another battle — the battle for survival.
Laxmi Panda of Orissa’s Koraput district, who joined the Indian National Army in Burma and fought against the British, is caught in abject poverty and had to work as a maid servant, a shop attendant and a daily labourer.
Panda (84) was here last week to air her grievances before President Pratibha Patil who assured her all possible support from the government.
The freedom fighter has been abandoned by her son and also by the government. She has been running from pillar to post for her freedom fighter pension.
The state government recognises Laxmi as a freedom fighter and gives a paltry pension of Rs 1,000. But the Centre has denied Panda, who fought alongside stalwarts like Captain Laxmi Sehgal, the status of freedom fighter just because she was not arrested by the British.
“Had she been arrested by the British and got a police record, she could have got a pension of Rs 15,000 per month, enough to sustain herself,” says Anil Dhir, a researcher on INA.
Till recently, the octogenarian was sharing a hut with her “drunkard” son who threw her out, leaving her homeless. Once Panda had decided to end her life by immolating herself wrapped in the national flag.
But a positive response by the President, Prime Minister’s Office and Congress president Sonia Gandhi has enthused the frail lady to live on, said Dhir, who is instrumental in tracking her down.