I recently started a campaign with #SupportDisabledCadets and though I received lot of public support I was astonished to see how little, people know about the long held issue of Disabled cadets. Support to Disabled Cadet is a not just an important issue but also a sentimental cause. Why, I will tell you but first let me educate you about Disabled Cadets.
Who are Disabled Cadets?
Disabled Cadets are those young officers trainees of Indian armed forces who are getting trained to become Indian Armed Force Officers. The young officers trainees are called cadets or Gentleman Cadets. These cadets who are usually teens of 17-19 years of years are rigorously trained to face any tough situation as a soldier from crossing enemy lines, to fire weapons, to blast grenades to more. Apart from these they are also given a lot of physical training which involves rigorous physical exercises, PT and various sports. The gentlemen cadets are also trained to be a true leader who will lead their soldiers from the front at the battle field in future. So, lot many mental and psychological tests and trainings are also imparted. This process involves pushing cadets into difficult situation from sleep deprivation to jungle trainings to mass punishments and more.
Training is so rigorous that almost every soldier is injured at some level but most recover and joins back academy but Disabled Officers cadets are those who are seriously injured during such training and never recover. The disability percentage may vary like some cadet may be paralyzed and permanently wheelchair bound while other may have shoulder dislocation. Physical numbness , blindness, deafness, fracture, brain dislocation, spinal injury are some of the disabilities which a disabled cadet might have.
What happens after the cadets become disabled?
Disabled cadets are evaluated over the medical reports whether they are fit for risky Armed forces life which demands mental and physical alertness of highest level and if the medical reports says otherwise they are declared medically unfit and are boarded out on medical basis. Once discharged from hospital (usually Military hospital) They return their home where their families look after them and support them as any family stands behind its kin.
What are the entitlement of disabled cadets?
Disabled cadets are given an exgratia of Rs 9000/- monthly this amount is not categorized as ‘disability pension’ and such cadets are not entitled to the status of ‘ex-serviceman’, ECHS or any other military facility which is granted to retired or released officers. On the other hand, a recruit who may get injured on the first day of training is entitled to proper ‘disability pension’ along with the status of ‘ex-serviceman’, ECHS and all facilities that are available to released Jawan. There is also disability award based on the percentage of injury.
What are the demands of disabled cadets?
- The disabled cadets should be given an ex servicemen status.
- They must be covered under the ECHS scheme and all other health emoluments an officer is covered in.
- There are a lot of appointments and posts for which the defense does private hiring be it in the administration sector, logistics, management etc, these cadets can be rehabilitated in these positions as they are qualified enough and are selected through a rigorous process.
- There should be proper rehabilitation facilities for the medically boarded out cadets in reverence to their graduation, vocational training, mental trauma, counselling etc.
- Lot many disabled cadets can be rehabilitated in the Ministry of Defense itself, services like Army postal service, defense estate services can easily accommodate these bright young boys and girls.
Why it is unfair not to grant these disabled cadets their rights?
The ‘Persons with Disability Act’ states that any government employee who is declared medically unfit for the service should be continued to be given complete salary, service benefits, pension etc and shall be rehabilitated according to his status which means from a government peon to an IAS officer if disabled don’t have to worry about their medical expenditure or a future and can continue to live with dignity. Though this act astonishingly does not imply on Armed Forces Officers Cadets. Even the other faujis like a recruit or trainee jawan if gets disabled is entitled for all the benefits of service including ex servicemen status but not officer cadets. It is completly unjust, unfair and unethical.
What are our responsibilities as a nation and people?
If we claim to be civilized society or a society which is humanitarian don’t you think we have utmost responsibility towards these crippled youngsters who were bright, meritorious, talented and patriotic so they chose to join Military academies instead of option for other cushy jobs? They certainly had sense of passion and duty towards their nation and people that they chose to wear uniform otherwise why will one join forces? For money or secured life there are much easier jobs. They believed in us. there is a tagline of Indian Army which is also written on their website which says ‘While you will look after the nation the nation will look after you and your kins’ this line give comfort and sense of security to our soldier that they freely do their duty but dont you think this also implies on young cadets who could not be a soldier?
Some cases of disabled cadets
Shubham Gupta was 19 in 2010 when he joined National Defense Academy after clearing UPSC exam and also SSB interview. He had this huge dreams of becoming a grade 1 officer who will serve his nation but it could not be fulfilled. Two years later In April 2012 during the advance stage of his training when he dived into a swimming pool his head hit the floor which caused spinal jerks and made him a quadriplegic. Now hw is 100% disabled permanently wheelchair bound with a monthly expense of Rs 40000.
Chetan Choudhry son of a soldier has been a topper through out his academic career. He always wanted to be a better soldier than his father and he achieved it in 2015 by qualifying TES entry which is one of the toughest entry schemes of Indian Army. During a boxing tournament his brain was dislocated and he became a quadriplegic. He was medically boarded out in 2016 and now by 2021 he is able to walk but left side is paralyzed and he can not focus on anything. He shared with me how he was able to study for 9-10 hours continuously and now if he studies more than an hour his head pains nor can he memories anything. He intends to crack UPSC exam someday but he is not sure with so many disabilities in the body.
Ex Cadet Vickrant a Rimcolian (product of RIMC Dehradun which takes only one student form each state) and joined NDA 137 in 2016 with huge dreams in his eyes. He was going to be 4th generation fauji of a fauji family and he indeed was brightest of them all. In October 2018 he got seriously injured in a boxing tournament against a foreign cadet but he joined academy within 15 days of hospitalization only to be hit at the same spot in a football tournament which eventually ended every dream he ever saw and crushed the spirits of his family. He got up from Coma after 4 months, took 5 months to recognize his mother and after 2 years of mental, physical and financial trauma he is learning to walk and talk. This December 2020 rest of his course mates have been commissioned and are Lieutenants now.
Anunaya Chaturvedi was student with good academic record and an NCC cadet, joined OTA Chennai in Oct 2009. She got injured during training in April 2010. She suffered long continuous hospitalization and three surgeries for neck of femur fracture. Boarded out in July 2011. Though fortunately she was able to resume studies while still walking with a crutch. Presently she is Masters in Science and Humanities, and teaches in Navodaya Vidyalaya Jodhpur. She is one of the lucky few who could get an employment.
GC Rony Scaria belonged to Kanjar Kerala. Rony had joined the academy via NCC special entry in April 2017 and was slated to pass out as a commissioned officer in the Army in March 2018. He sustained the grievous injury during a boxing competition at the academy which eventually killed him. He died.
If together as one nation ,people and society we could not support our disabled cadets it is truly a shameful. It will always be a black spot in the history of a society which claimed to be humanitarian and kind. Please support the campaign and raise awareness about them to 1.3 billion people of India. May be then something would happen as this battle continues since 1985.