Saluting the Disabled Soldier of India

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By Sarita Brara

New Delhi, Sept 14, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio / PIB India) It was  year   1999.   A young  army officer from one of the  North Eastern states   lay on a bed in one of the wards of the army hospital  in Delhi.  His   leg had  been  amputated  after he hit a land  mine during the  Kargil   conflict.   He was one of the  over 1500 personnel  who had been injured in the conflict.

“How are you?”  I asked  the young officer.

“ I feel  one and half Kg  lighter !”  he said with a  smile  that lit up his whole face .    Brave words  indeed! .   How could a man  in  a situation  like this have the courage to make light of his grievous injury?   I  managed  to smile back but in the  heart of hearts  I saluted   the  spirit of  the  young    man .

Twelve   years later I met Lt . Colonel   Shoban Singh Danu again.  This time  for a story on  the year of the disabled soldier.   I remember that    Shoban Singh Danu’s  leg  had to be  amputated  after he stepped on mine planted by the militants   in the  Poonch - Rajouri sector.  After  his  artificial limb  fitment   he insisted  on going  back to  the same battalion .  Why?  He says he  wanted to boost the morale  of his men  as  three others  in the battalion had also  lost their limbs   in the  land mine blast.

Retired  Subedar LD Sharma   too lost his limb in a land mine blast.   Had he not been hit by a mine land blast  he would have retired  two ranks higher.   But he has no   regrets .  “ I did this for my country !”  he says with his head held high. “I am ready to serve my country any time I am called to do so .”

These  men as they defend  our borders, battle against insurgents  and  take part in  other operations , many a time   suffer  spinal  injuries   rendering them paraplegics and tetra -      plegics . Major  Mahesh Bisht  suffered  spinal   injury  in  one of the operations  but today he is looking after the administration  at the Kirkee (Khadki)  Paraplegic Rehab Centre  and  is  a source of inspiration for  the  paraplegics living there.

Rifleman Latif was  on  VIP protection duty  in Jammu and Kashmir  where after an IED blast his vehicle met with an accident  and he suffered a spinal  injury.   He may have been depressed  initially  but today  he is  completely transformed . Last year  he  won three gold medals  in   national paralympics in Wheel Chair Race , Discuss Throw and Javelin.   Latif  who belongs to Anantnag in Jammu and Kashmir  is   now  staying at the  paraplegic Rehabilitation  Centre at  Mohali  with his family.

Gunner  Ajit Kumar Shukla  had  suffered bullet injuries. When he came to the Kirkee  Paraplegic  Rehab Centre he   was very depressed.  Today,  leaving  behind  his pain,  he too  has not only won medals in the sporting events but  also  worked on contract basis as data operator with one of the government schools in Chandigarh.

There  are several such  stories of these brave  men .   Whether still   in service or  living in  rehabilitation centres,  they have all converted  their  disability into ability.  It  is    to  recognize their indomitable spirit  that  the year 2011 has been  declared as the Year of the disabled  soldier.

According to Col.  Shamsher  Dalal, Director, Rehabilitation and  Army Welfare at  the Headquarters,  about  150 to 200 army personnel  on an average are  injured  in anti insurgency and other operations every year. Of course when wars happen  the number is much more.  So what happens  after a  soldier is injured? What all steps does the army take to  rehabilitate them ?  The action plan is  as follows :-

·                                 Immediate medical treatment
·                                 Categorization of  the  disability.
·                                 Fitment of  artificial limbs if required .
·                                 Psychological and  physiological counselling  of the injured soldier
·                                 Counselling of the family
·                                 Financial help
·                                 Training  for  alternate vocation
Usually following a  spinal  injury when a person’s  body below the waist becomes  paralyzed,  or tetraplegic  and they cannot use any of their limbs, their  very own  blood relations  either disown them or become  apathetic  towards them .  But   not  the   armed services. They  not only take care   of them but also   make them  self dependent    and  enable them to  contribute to the society. And  some time even their families  are accommodated.  They are provided with two room  set  with  modified kitchen  and bathroom    to suit  their situation .

There are two   Paraplegic  Rehabilitation Centres,  one  at Kirkee in Pune  and  the other one at Mohali .  The centre at Kirkee  came up in the year 1974 and the one at Mohali in 1978.  There are  nearly hundred  inmates in these two rehab centres.

According to  Col Jaswant Singh  Spehia , Director, Paraplegic Rehab Centre at Mohali, apart from boarding, lodging, and  physiotherapy, the inmates given  vocational training  depending  on their aptitude,  ability and physical condition.  Utmost care is taken to ensure  that their injury is not aggravated.  The areas of training include knitting on machines, working in printing press, tailoring and cutting, making wire brushes,  scrubbers, Well, needless to say with    the festival season round   the corner , these men are busy  molding wax into  a   variety of candles  of different  shapes, sizes and colours , the ordinary and the fancy ones.  They also  provide  uniform pullovers and jerseys  to   various schools including one at Dagshai.

They also run a printing press where they  make stationery mostly  copies and registers  for  sale to various schools.   The profit they make   is used  for their  welfare .

There is no  question of feeling isolated  or unwanted   or frustrated . At the end of the hard day there is   time to relax  and enjoy . There is music channel in every  room  and  there are over head projectors  for film shows. There are some indoor and outdoor  games as well.   The idea is  to keep them  not only  physically and mentally  fit  but also   in a happy frame of mind.

Similar facilities are provided  at Kirkee . The training part may  differ depending on the demand .As part of the  year of the disabled soldier, seminars have been taking place  at  various commands. The idea is to disseminate  information  on  various steps being  taken for the welfare and  rehabilitation of the  disabled soldiers  and  to discuss how best  all these steps are implemented, to see  what are the lacuna  and how it can be addressed.

While declaring  2011 as the year of the disabled soldier, the  Army Chief General  V.K Singh  had said,  “We have been giving great respect to our martyred soldiers and the time has come to give due honour to our soldiers who have been disabled in operations.” Yes.   One should not forget that the   sacrifice  of the   personnel  who have  been disabled  in wars and other operations  is no less than those  who have  made a supreme sacrifice and laid down their lives . We must always remember  that they have   defended the country and   made our lives  secure  without  caring for their own lives and well being .  Hence, it is the duty of every citizen to treat the disabled soldiers with respect which  they truly deserve.

Disclaimer:  The views expressed by the author in this feature are entirely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of PIB or WBRi.

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