Sub-inspector Sarvottam Wagle received the King’s Police Medal for Gallantry from the British for shooting down dreaded dacoit Sakharam Barbatte in Satara a few years before Independence; the pension that was coming regularly even after his death in 1983 has been stuck in red tape for the past few years
It is with a sense of immense pride that Mangala Wagle narrates the story of her husband, Sarvottam Narayan Wagle and how he shot down a dreaded dacoit in Satara before Independence.
Mangala Wagle says the money, although a pittance in today’s times, is symbolic of her late husband’s bravery
With the same intensity of emotions, she narrates the apathy of government officials who have made her and her family run around for the monthly allowance that they are entitled to, since 2004. Sarvottam Wagle was a sub-inspector in service of the British government, and had shot dead Sakharam Barbatte, a dreaded bandit from the Satara region.
For his valour, Wagle had been awarded the King’s Gallantry Police medal, along with an allowance of Rs 60 per month. He quit the force in 1965 and dabbled in the fishing business, but failed. Wagle later turned scribe and reported crime stories for newspapers in then Bombay (see box).
Sheetal Jaywant found out about her father’s allowance only in 2013, nearly nine years after it had been stopped abruptly
The allowance continued to come to Wagle until he breathed his last on November 11, 1983, at his Shivaji Park residence. In 1988, Mangala shifted to Goa with her son and two daughters, and started a fish supply business, and also did some social work.
The allowance was sent until February 2004; it was suddenly stopped then. Unfortunately, during this very period, Mangala had fallen ill and could not follow up with the authorities, and, like most people, had to give up on the government, with her application having been lost in the black hole of government files.
Struggle for her right
Wagle’s son Surendra, the eldest child, had taken care to transfer all pension-related paperwork to Goa, but he later passed away at the age of 42 due to cardiac arrest. It was only in early 2013 that Mangala’s daughter, Sheela Jaywant (57), learnt of the award. “My mother was seriously ill in the ICU when I came across her pension book in her cupboard.
I followed up with the Department of Accounts in Panaji. Every fifteen days, I made a trip to their office until finally they sent a letter saying my mother’s original order papers were not traceable.
They also informed me that as the gap since the pension was last drawn was over three years, the sanctioning authority in Mumbai (the pension section in Pratishtha Bhavan, near Churchgate station) would have to issue a fresh letter for the same,” Jaywant said
Undeterred, Jaywant contacted her sister, Geeta Kapadia (64), in Mumbai. Kapadia has made several trips to the office, but the clerks there, in characteristic fashion, kept asking her to return in a few days. “First, they said it would take two days, then next week, then another week, and so on,” Jaywant said.
The 84-year-old widow’s health doesn’t allow her to run behind the authorities, who don’t seem bothered in any case. Jaywant says there seems to be confusion because the award is a ‘King’s Medal’ and not President’s Medal.
“I have heard of defence widows having problems in getting pension; it is now happening in my own house. My mother is being deprived for no fault of hers,” asserted Jaywant.
Fighting for pride
When we asked her why she was persisting in her efforts for R60, a fierce Mangala told mid-day over the phone, “The question is not about the worth of the money today, but the pride of our family that comes with it. It is recognition for my husband’s bravery; it is symbolic and priceless, and too precious for me.”
“My husband was an honest and upright officer. He was blunt and against the wrong practices within the police force then. Hence, he quit the force in the 1965 and refused to even take the family pension. I stood by his decision,” she added.
Though fragile, Mangala is still very active and is involved in running Hamara School, a home for underprivileged children under the Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust. She is the trust’s representative in Goa.
Soon after numerous correspondences began, the Deputy Director of Accounts, PA 1, Directorate of Accounts, Goa, wrote a letter to the Senior Accounts Officer, PA 1, Mumbai, dated February 17, 2014, wherein they stated that Mangala Wagle, holder of pension payment order no.
PS-306-Mah, had not been receiving the allowance pension since February 1, 2004 and as per Rule 237 (1)(ii) of Government of Goa (Receipts and Payments) Rules, 1997, the sanction of Head of the Department is required if the pension remains unclaimed for more than a year.
Hence, a fresh order has been sought for sanctioning total arrears of pension till date. Raghoba Gawandi, deputy director accounts, PA 1, Panaji, Goa, confirmed writing the letter and said, “We have written to the office of the Principal Accountant General (A&E) in Mumbai, asking for fresh orders, as we were unable to trace the original order that we had received earlier.
Also as the pension hasn’t been drawn for more than a year, we are helpless until fresh orders are issued from the Mumbai office.” When contacted, Principal Accountant General (Account and Entitlement) 1, Meenakshi Mishra, said, “I am not in the know of this correspondence. I will look into the matter and provide necessary assistance to the applicant/widow, if they write or approach me directly.”
Hero cop to daring scribe
According to noted historian Deepak Rao, who knew Sub-inspector Sarvottam Wagle personally, the cop was the son of late Narayan Wagle, who was the second Indian to be promoted to the rank of Superintendent of Police by the British Government in the year 1928.
Wagle was posted to Satara after completing his police training in Nasik, and he successfully controlled the violent agitation of the ‘Patri Sarkar’ (parallel government against the British) agitations that had erupted in that region post the Quit India movement of 1942.
Members of this guerilla agitation meted out torturous punishments to government officials who tried stopping them. Dacoit Sakharam Barbatte had terrorised the entire region, and was killed in what is Maharashtra’s first ever encounter (even though the state was born only in 1960) by Wagle.
The cop received the prestigious King’s Police Medal for Gallantry, along with an allowance. Wagle was trained in intelligence gathering by the Military Intelligence 5 (MI-5) wing of the British Army, and was deputed to the Intelligence Bureau post Independence and was drawing a monthly salary of Rs 380 then.
In 1965, he quit the force and tried establishing a fishing business by hiring a diesel trawler for three months, but his venture failed miserably. He then started nurturing his passion to be a journalist by joining the Onlooker magazine in 1978 as a crime reporter.
With his knowledge of the police force, Wagle broke well-researched stories on the Bombay police riots of 1981. His reports on the rape of a teenage girl by a police sub-inspector in Byculla police quarters forced the police to lodge an FIR. Wagle had also raised serious questions about the encounter killing of gangster Manya Surve.
After his death, the editor of Onlooker had published an obituary extolling Wagle’s work. Wagle was also working on a monumental book on 60 year of Bombay Police when he suddenly passed away as he lay on his sofa, due to a heart attack.