: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday launched a website enabling citizens to contribute for the Armed Forces Battle Casualties Welfare Fund (AFBCWF). The funds will be utilised for grant of immediate financial assistance of ex-gratia, to the next of kin and dependants of battle casualties from tri-services of Army, Air Force and Navy. Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan has agreed to become Goodwill Ambassador for the initiative aimed at welfare of armed forces personnel.

A website “Maa Bharati Ke Sapoot” was launched at the National War Memorial complex here to facilitate patriotic Indians to partner in this noble cause. While the government of India has initiated a large number of welfare schemes for the soldiers killed or disabled during active military operations in the line of duty, there has been a strong public sentiment and requests from patriotic citizens, corporate heads/industry captains, to contribute to the cause of welfare of the soldiers and their families, said the defence ministry.

In his address, Rajnath Singh paid glowing tributes to the valiant soldiers of the armed forces whose sacrifice and unwavering commitment keep the country safe from those who try to cast an evil eye. “Names of great personalities like Maharana Pratap, Veer Shivaji, Bhagwan Birsa Munda, Rani Laxmibai, Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad and Ashfaqullah Khan will be etched in our hearts forever. Their sacrifices continue to be an inspiration for all. It is our Armed Forces who are at the fore preserving our freedom,” the defence minister said. Singh in his previous stint as home minister had launched ‘Bharat Ke Veer’ initiative for the welfare of Central Armed Police Forces personnel.

Referring to the public support to the armed forces during 1962 & 1971 wars, Singh asserted that it has always been the country’s tradition of extending all possible help to its soldiers. He described the AFBCWF as one of the major steps in that direction, urging the people to contribute generously to the fund. He also felicitated the immideate family members of fallen heroes and disabled soldiers.

In a video message, senior Bachchan, who just turned 80, expressed his gratitude towards the families of the fallen heroes and urged people to contribute to the fund.

Army Chief Gen Manoj Pande, in his address, said in the face of challenges, all the three services of the armed forces have performed their duty diligently. "And, soldiers are the base of this glorious tradition," he said. "This website will help in providing economic aid in a "transparent and simple manner," Gen Pande said.

Chief of Defence Staff General Anil Chauhan and top brass from tri-services, ministry and parents and relatives of many war-decorated soldiers graced the occasion.