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 Col 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 tetraplegics. 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:
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 VK 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.
Saluting disabled Soldier of India