When the War is Over
Democracies, war wounded and war disabled
The US hierarchy always harps on the Indo-US partnership based on America and India being two great democracies, even though America has transformed into a Global Autocracy with its sanctions regime, economic terrorism and blackmail.
The United States has scant regard for India’s security concerns as demonstrated by its overlooking China giving nuclear technology to Pakistan, the terrorism seeping through India’s western borders and China’s 2020 aggression in Ladakh, sanctioning Myanmar to push it into China’s lap and the ongoing skullduggery to lure India into supporting the US-led Anglo Saxon Crusade against Russia in Ukraine.
Successive US Presidents use the slogan “God Bless the Military” but how serious are they about their veterans, war wounded and war disabled beyond ceremonials to earn brownie points? Dr Douge Rokke who was in the Gulf War during 1991 says the US dropped a million bombs of depleted uranium in Iraq amounting to over 350 tons. He and his team were sick within 72 hours, diagnosed with “uranium poisoning” but there was no medication. He also says that most US troops killed in Iraq were by “friendly fire” and hundreds suffered uranium poisoning.
Over three decades after the Gulf War, Biden in his State of the Union address on March 1, 2022 called upon the Congress to enact a law to make sure veterans devastated by toxic exposures in Iraq and Afghanistan finally get the benefits and comprehensive health care they deserve. What a terrible shame and it shows that the US also used depleted uranium ammunition in Afghanistan. Are these not war crimes and genocide while Western propaganda is crying hoarse over Russian actions in Ukraine?
The above note from Major General Ian Cardozo, AVSM, SM who fought in the wars of 1962, 1965 and was wounded losing a leg in the battle of Sylhet, Bangladesh in 1971, says it all. Ironically in democracies the military has little voice or the military hierarchy won’t raise it for fear of annoying the masters. Witness how even NSAs (military veterans) have been sacked in the US, especially during the Trump administration.
In India the deep state embedded in the politico-bureaucratic construct rules the roost. The bureaucracy has expanded in recent years and has grown stronger. The Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare, which has no veteran representation, has done little for the war wounded and the war disabled to give them due honour, recognition and providing means for them to live honourably.
In 2002 the War Wounded Federation or WWF was established by Lieutenant General Vijay Oberoi, PVSM, AVSM, VSM, former Vice Chief of Army Staff, who fought in the December 1961 war to capture the Portuguese colony of Daman, and in the 1965 Indo-Pak War where he lost his right leg.
The public would be unaware how General Oberoi and General Cardozo as President and Vice President respectively of the WWF have strived for the honour, recognition and livelihood for the war wounded and war disabled over the past two decades. The public would also be unaware that the WWF has a membership of over 10,000. A “little” help from the Directorate of Indian Army Veterans could have done wonders but alas the bureaucracy does not have the word ‘empathy’ in their lexicon.
War disabled include those disabled in war and warlike operations like counterinsurgency/ counterterror operations. A lot is rightly done for those who sacrificed their lives in operations and gallantry award winners but why not for the war wounded and war disabled? If we don’t look after our war wounded and war disabled, why should soldiers take risks in future operations? Does the government have an answer to this?
Fortunately the public holds the veterans, war wounded, war disabled and serving personnel in high esteem, despite the bureaucracy downplaying the military in segments of society and maligning the serving in the media at every opportunity, while the politicians are busy placing the police forces above the military.
A major reason for this is that despite every soldier being authorized to vote in state and general elections from the place of his or her posting and exercising franchise being a fundamental right, no Service Chief has ensured this for fear of annoying politicians whose vote calculations could go haywire if the military votes.
Sure there are odd cases of service personnel voting but for the personal interests of Service Chiefs, the military has never exercised the power of 1.4 million votes - the only thing politicians value and will make them roughshod the bureaucracy to give the military the place it deserves.
Isn’t it a shame that the disabled in civil services personnel are given their disability pay as soon as medical authorities determine their disability, but for military personnel, whether war disabled or ‘other than war’ disabled, war injury pay and disability grant are given only after leaving the service?
This discrimination is criminal. There was also an instance where income tax exemption for disabled military persons authorized to all government services personnel since 1923, was recommended to be taken away by a politically ambitious General – a crying shame!
Then there is the ‘Disability Act’ passed by the Parliament in 1995, with one provision mandating that neither can an employee be discharged from service on account of disability nor their rank reduced. But this does not cover the military. And these disabled civilians retire in the Higher Administrative Grade by virtue of Non-Functional Upgradation, denied to the military. There are many more issues that need to be addressed.
The above warrants the personal intervention of the Prime Minister since the Defence Minister appears more worried whether he will be shelved as ‘Marg Darshak’ in 2024 having completed 70 years of age in July last. Rising India needs to do better than the US in dealing with its war wounded, war disabled and their next of kin.
Lt Gen Prakash Katoch is a veteran of the Indian Army. Views expressed are personal
Cover Photograph :Indian and British wounded soldiers in England, WW1 1914. TheTimes.