Compensation for disability incurred in war or war-like-situations is at present paltry and highly inadequate. Although slightly higher in some respects than what is given to those disabled due to other causes, it continues to be at ridiculously low levels. This does not send the correct message to the environment and does not inspire confidence in the Governments policies to look after the interests of those who sacrifice their limbs and vital organs on the battlefield.
Now that the emoluments of all government servants are being scrutinised and revised by the Sixth Pay Commission, it is appropriate and timely to consider the concerns of the war disabled, so that these are met to a substantial degree.
This needs to change, so that potential soldiers do not hesitate to join the armed forces in future, on account of this perception that the war wounded are being callously ignored. Now that the emoluments of all government servants are being scrutinised and revised by the Sixth Pay Commission, it is appropriate and timely to consider the concerns of the war disabled, so that these are met to a substantial degree.
It needs to be reiterated at the outset that the compensation to the war disabled must always be at a higher rate, in all respects, than comparative disability on account of non-war like situations. The reason is obvious. When soldiers and officers go into battle, they know they may be wounded, get disabled or killed. It is thus a conscious decision. In other cases, it is on account of an accident or a medical problem, which was neither foreseen nor planned for. If this distinction is not maintained, why should officers and men risk their lives and limbs in the service of the nation?
Soldiers sacrifice their lives & limbs for many reasons, like national pride, pride in the regiment and unit, high level of motivation and above all the understanding that the nation will look after his next of kin (NOK), if he meets his death on the battlefield and look after him and his family if he is disabled in action. Till the Kargil War, financial compensation in both situations was highly inadequate, but thereafter while compensation to the NOK of martyrs was increased, no thought was given to the monetary compensation to those officers, JCO’s and men who got disabled in action. This situation continues.
The plight of the disabled and their families is no less than the NOK who have lost their husband or son – their breadwinner and their security. The disabled personnel who have lost their limbs or other vital organs may be alive, but as earning heads of a household they are akin to the soldiers who have died on the battlefield. In addition, the disabled person not only has to cope with the trauma and adverse psychological impact of losing parts of his body, but his physical capacity to earn is permanently impaired, in fact substantially reduced.
The monetary compensation paid to the NOK of martyrs i.e. those killed in battle or in other warlike situations, and that paid to disabled soldiers must be nearly equal and not over ten times less, as it is now. This is further amplified in succeeding paragraphs.
As soon as the first medical board is held post-disablement, the disability percentage must be quantified and monetary compensation paid to the disabled person at the same rates as paid to the NOK of martyrs, but in the proportion of their disabilities.
There are two types of adverse effects on personnel who become disabled on account of wounds sustained in war or war-like-situations. Firstly, on account of the trauma, their productive capacity diminishes. Secondly, the psychological effect is to amplify the serious problems that are likely to manifest as the person grows older.
It needs to be appreciated that as the disabled person becomes older, his capacity for productive work continues to decrease, even as his disability remains what it was. As an example, the productivity level of a soldier who has lost one or more limbs and has been fitted with prosthesis may be only marginally less than an able-bodied person of similar age, when he is young, but as he ages, the productivity levels fall substantially and in exponential terms.
The above table relates only to the physical impact of different types of disabilities. When the psychological effects are added, the percentages at each level get reduced by as much as half. The above table also does not reflect the condition of those with 100% disabilities & those confined to wheelchairs or to their beds. They are not productive at all, irrespective of their age.
Consequently, the first recommendation is that the disabled officers, JCO’S, or jawans be treated at par with martyrs and be given monetary compensation at the same level or nearly same level as is given to the NOK of martyrs, of same rank and service.
It is patently wrong to think that the Government is doing a favour to the war disabled by retaining him in service; it is in fact the duty and an obligation of the Government, as it is the employer.
Modalities for Payment
The suggested modalities are that as soon as the first medical board is held post-disablement, the disability percentage must be quantified and monetary compensation paid to the disabled person at the same rates as paid to the NOK of martyrs, but in the proportion of their disabilities. Thus, a 100 percent disabled person must get similar compensation as a martyr and those assessed with lower percentage of disabilities must get 75 percent or 50 percent of the amount, depending on the assessed disability percentage. This must not be constrained or restrained by whether the individual is boarded out or is retained in service. Retention in service must not be considered as a dole or a substitute for the compensation. The rationale is that firstly, the lost limb remains lost forever, whether one remains in uniform or not and secondly, the second career of a disabled person is, in effect, another career, whether it is in uniform or out of it. It is patently wrong to think that the Government is doing a favour to the war disabled by retaining him in service; it is in fact the duty and an obligation of the Government, as it is the employer.