Freedom fighter sells vegetables


Kendrapada (Orissa): Clad in a white dhoti-kurta and sporting a long beard, Anil Chandra Jena, 81, sells vegetables here every day. But the freedom fighter has no regrets about having to work for a living at this age.

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He lives with his wife and two sons in a thatched house at Hazaribagicha, his village on the outskirts of Kendrapada town, some 150 km from the state capital Bhubaneswar.

“I have no complaints, no regrets. I served my country with utmost dedication. For me, work is worship which I have been doing,” he said.

The octogenarian fought against British rule during the Quit India movement of 1942 and was imprisoned for three years in the Berhampur and Cuttack jails in the state.

He gets Rs.1,500 as the freedom fighter’s pension from the state government every month. While one of his two sons sells fruits in the local market, another son is a farmer.

They have a small piece of land in the backyard of their house where Jena, his wife, their sons and their families grow vegetables.

“The total earning is inadequate for us,” Jena told IANS. “That is why I have been selling vegetables to contribute to the family income.”

“Another major reason is that I love to work,” he said.

A silver plaque given to him by the state government in 1972 on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of independence and some faded black and white photos of Mahatma Gandhi, Acharya Vinoba Bhave, Orissa’s Pandit Gopabandhu and others adorn his vegetable kiosk.

“We fought against the British. My father, Ananda Jena, was a revolutionary who fought against the tyranny of the Raja of Kanika during British rule. He was my inspiration,” he said.

“After independence, I worked with Vinoba Bhave in the Bhoodan movement in the state. We persuaded many landlords to donate their lands to the landless,” he said.

“For more than two decades, I have got the freedom fighter’s pension. My children and my wife are proud for my status as a freedom fighter,” added Anil.

Ahead of India’s 60th Independence Day anniversary, he has one message for people: “Do your duty and do it well.”