New Delhi: More than half of around 12,000 freedom fighters drawing pensions from State Bank of India (SBI) have snapped their ties with the bank and shifted their accounts to other banks following some complaints.

The freedom fighters, who have been drawing their pension from the SBI for the last 43 years, shifted their accounts to other nationalised banks after the Home Ministry had decided ‘to leave it to the pensioners’ which nationalised bank they opt to get their freedom fighters’ pension from.

Acting on the complaints, the Home Ministry had on 5 March issued an order saying “all the Central Freedom Fighter Pensioners, who are drawing pension from SBI, are hereby informed that this ministry has removed SBI from its list of authorised banks to disburse the Central Samman Pension due to certain unethical practices by SBI".

However, later the Home Ministry withdrew the order and issued a fresh one saying the freedom fighters were free to take their decisions whether to continue with SBI or shift their accounts to any other nationalised bank. A senior Home Ministry official said around 6,000 freedom fighters have snapped their relations with SBI and have shifted their accounts to other banks in the last one month.

During the silver jubilee year of Independence, a central scheme for the grant of pension to freedom fighters and their families from central revenues was introduced by government of India. The scheme commenced from August 15, 1972 and provided for grant of pension to living freedom fighters and their families; if they are no more alive, and to the families or martyrs.

Till 31 July, 1980, the freedom fighters pension was admissible only to those who were in need of financial assistance on account of their meager annual gross income. From 1 August, 1980, the benefit of the pension scheme has been extended to all freedom fighters as a token of ‘Samman’ (honour) to them.