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Friday, July 13, 2012

the sad plight of Shaurya Chakra awardee being denied medical treatment

In a civilized Society, there are some rules and regulations in place. The rules or laws are in place only to ensure that things are organized and free from chaos and not intended to take away the benefits intended.  

The Shaurya Chakra is an Indian military decoration awarded for valour, courageous action or self-sacrifice while not engaged in direct action with the enemy. It may be awarded to civilians as well as military personnel, sometimes posthumously. It is the peacetime equivalent of the Vir Chakra. It is generally awarded for Counter-Insurgency operations and actions against the enemy during peace-time. It is third in order of precedence of peacetime gallantry awards and comes after the Ashoka Chakra and the Kirti Chakra – prior to 1967, it was known as ‘Ashoka Chakra’. From 1 February 1999, the central government set a monthly stipend of Rs. 750 for recipients of the award.

In Dec 2011, newspapers carried out picture of  Brigadier Jadhav,  presenting cash award of Rs. 2 lakh to Shaurya Chakra awardee Naik P.V.Manish of  27 MADRAS,  who had displayed exceptional bravery on November 26, 2008 while fighting terrorists in Mumbai. But his story as available in various media, offers a very sad and sordid story, especially rules are binding and constraining reimbursement of medical treatment.  

 “A small part of my skull was blown away in the blast and three shrapnel pieces got stuck in my head. While two could be removed, I am still carrying an 11-mm piece in the head. Doctors have warned that attempting to remove this could be risky, with the chances of relapsing into coma not ruled being out,’’  Manesh, the Shaurya Chakra awardee is quoted as saying.  After the attack, Manesh lay unconscious for a month. A Naik with the Madras regiment, Manesh finally rejoined duty at the NSG Garrison at Manesar  after long period.  He had to endure the pain and undergo prolonged medical treatment and physiotherapy, with the hope of regaining a little more mobility on his right side.  “I cannot even button a shirt. I try to walk with the help of a stick, but it’s difficult to walk more than 100 metres,” he says. “I cannot recollect everything as I am tormented by bouts of migraine accompanied by short spells of total blankness.”  The lone earning member in a family that includes his parents, wife and four-year-old son, Manesh says he is the “only NSG commando of 26/11 who is still grappling with serious ailments.” He adds that “hero has become zero after the initial public interest has died down”. 

Paralysed and left wheelchair-bound in his selfless service to the nation while saving the lives of 40 persons from Hotel Oberoi during the Mumbai terror attacks, NSG commando and Shaurya Chakra awardee PV Manesh was forced to  foot the expenses of his Ayurvedic treatment on his own, worse still, the  treatment will continue lifelong.  The Pioneer, in its July 20, 2011 edition, had reported the plight of the NSG commando Manesh, who was in coma for six months after shrapnel from the grenade thrown by terrorists pierced his head.

For the past two years, Manesh has been undergoing Ayurveda treatment, which has now made him walk around 100 metres. Travelling 300 kilometres to a well-known private Ayurveda Hospital in Palakad district twice every month, his monthly Ayurvedic medicine expenses come to about `4,000. He needs the treatment for the rest of his life.  After The Pioneer report, a Public Interest Litigation was filed by Advocate Arjun Harkauli at Delhi High Court. Hearing the fate of the brave commando, in August first week, last year then Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Sanjiv Khanna directed the Health Ministry, Defence Ministry, Army, Navy and Air Force to take a positive approach.

An unmoved Army Headquarters has categorically informed the Delhi High Court that except Allopathy, the forces could not consider reimbursement for treatment under any other medicinal systems, since they could not bend the stringent medical audit rules of the forces.  In fact, the Army HQ has even maintained that the option of permitting an individual to choose the system of medicine he/she desires is not in the interest and ethos of a disciplined force like the Armed Forces.  Incidentally, Defence Minister AK Antony has been using the Ayurvedic system of medicine for the past 15 years and undergoes regular annual treatment for his spondylitis-related problems.

Manesh recalls that his commando team was airdropped on the roof of Hotel Oberoi in the early morning hours of November 28, 2008.   “We started from the top and raided each room. We rescued around 40 people who were trapped inside their rooms. When I reached Room No 203, I sensed the presence of terrorists. After blasting the doors when I first entered, I saw the tip of an AK47 rifle behind a curtain. In a split second, I fired and killed that terrorist. Then I saw the second man hurl grenade at me. Shooting him, I dived to catch the grenade. But it fell on my helmet,” he narrated his near-death experience. Manesh fell down and his US made helmet broke into three pieces. The terrorist who threw the grenade was neutralised by Manesh’s colleague. Manesh was in coma for four months. He regained the capacity to speak after six months. Three shrapnel pierced his head. Two were removed and Manesh lives with one inside his head now. “Let it be there. I am used to it,” laughs the brave soldier.

His Shaurya Chakra citation says: “For his undaunted valour, resolute determination and dedication towards the mission beyond the call of duty, Naik PV Manesh was awarded ‘Shaurya Chakra.”

Rules are stringent when it comes to common manthe ex PM Mr VP Singh was treated in foreign hospitals amidst high security of SPG protection  when actually there was no need for that.  Lakhs were spent that way.  The Karnataka Government is forced to cough up huge sums on spa treatment of Bangalore blast accused Abdul Nasser Madani.   Govt has been spending crores to keep the Mumbai killer Kasab alive, providing his luxuries of life.  

For months now, Manesh is undergoing treatment at Karuna Hospital in Ottapalam in Palakkad district, a well-known private Ayurveda hospital in the State. “They don’t take any consultation fee from me. But I have to pay `2,000 for medicines per visit he was wheelchair bound when he  reached the hospital for treatment now, he  can walk at least 100 metres at a stretch with the help of a walking stick.  The valiant soldier is hampered as he has had trouble even in travelling by rail – he cannot stand for long time as his right side is paralysed, but often he does not get reservation and suffers.

When it comes to a valiant soldier whose sacrifice saved so many people but  resulted in lifelong disability to self , only rules are applied to deny him the cost of the treatment. How sad ?   The valiant soldier is quoted as saying - “I have no regrets in life. I am proud to get Shaurya Chakra,” he said, and then added, “I have a wish. I want to go to the Oberoi Hotel with my wife and kid once in my life. One day I will.”

It is duty of all of us and the Nation to ensure that our valiant Jawans, the real heroes are treated with respect and taken care of in the best possible manner

Love and respect to our soldiers – Jai Jawan !!!!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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