Differences in Casualty Management in The Tri-Services Vs Paramilitary

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The Central Para Military Forces and the Police

Armed conflicts involving our central para military, the police forces and the casualties that follow these operations are duly highlighted by media. However, our curiosity ends once the incident is over. Every conflict has its set of casualties. The fighting fit soldiers bear the brunt of disgruntled elements, terrorists and Naxalites, put themselves on the firing line to maintain a good social order. They end up becoming casualty of uncanny incidents.
It is observed since some years that due to civil unrest, rioting, terrorism and naxalism, the paramilitary forces and the police are literally at war at one place or another. Asansol – Durgapur DCP Arindam Dutta Chowdhury lost his hand in a deadly blast. Such conflict zone casualties are concurrent for the forces.

Ct. Manoj Singh Tomar is the lone survivor of the July 2014 Maoist attack, in which 17 security personnel were killed. Tomar survived even after getting riddled with 7 bullets. He was evacuated and air lifted to Raipur where doctors pulled off a miracle by saving his life. However, His serious battlefield wounds required prolonged specialized treatment.
Four years have passed, he has not recovered from his injuries, has partially lost vision and a portion of his intestines remains outside his stomach, in an external pouch. The injury has taken unusually long time to recuperate. If the government hospital in Gwalior was not proficient to treat such serious wounds, they should have referred Ct. Tomar to a suitable empaneled hospital having the expertise to patch him up fully.

Injured personnel of the paramilitary forces in need of specialized treatment are referred to CGHS empanelled private as well as government hospitals where they become victims of the usual apathy of the government and private doctors alike.

A wounded soldier needs constant care and affection instead he is caught in red-tapism of CGHS medical scheme. The government hospitals involved are always short of beds, therefore they want to discharge the individuals immediately. In case of CGHS empanelled private hospitals, issues like overbilling results in irregular payment from the CGHS. The impacts range from rejection of referral to incomplete treatment and impromptu discharge of the patient- soldier.

An individual serving in the lower rungs of the forces and incapacitated due to battlefield wounds is not physically and mentally capable enough to fight injustice and indifference arising out of medical negligence.

Manoj Singh Tomar’s story grabbed the headlines for the good. The Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Mr. Shivraj Singh Chauhan took cognizance of the matter and arranged for the wounded soldier to be treated at AIIMS, New Delhi. When this veteran spoke to him on 26 March, he said, I am being airlifted to the AIIMS, New Delhi for operation.

As a disabled veteran myself, I am looking to suggest a permanent solution to issues pertaining to treatment of battle wounded para-military soldiers.

What are the solutions?

All the hospitals in India should be ordered to provide the best available treatment to the casualties of the forces. Any highhandedness or negligence while extending medical care to the wounded soldiers must be treated with harsh punishment for the hospital.
In Manoj Tomar’s case, the onus should also be put on the high-command of CRPF, the commanding officer, the divisional officer, the duty officer and the mates for whom he fought valiantly and got fatally wounded while losing his 17 brethren. They have willfully forgotten one of their own when he needed them the most. If they all have failed to follow up on his injury, then to blame the Government for the apathy he faced seems totally out of context. Let us not look into rehabilitation of Chetan Cheeta and compare it with the treatment mated out to Ct. Manoj Tomar. Choked voices and official apathy towards paramilitary Jawans is not unheard of.

How The Tri-Services treat its wounded soldiers?

When, a soldier gets injured during enactment of his duty, a service ambulance, available 24×7, shifts him immediately to nearest field hospital where he is provided emergency care. If, the injury is serious and necessitates further evaluation and treatment, the soldier is referred and shifted to the command hospital.

While in the hospital for rehabilitation and treatment post operation, he is visited by the commanding officer of his unit, who takes special care to visit the treating doctor to understand further treatment of his men. Respective duty officers and Junior Commissioned Officers of the unit followed by his unit mates keep visiting him every week. The tri-services do not abandon their wounded instead keep caring for them until they totally recover. The ones needing constant medical care are kept admitted in the military hospitals and occasionally sent on sick leave with sick attendants so that they can spend time with their families.

Apart from the Medical team of the Hospital, the injured pals’ treatment and rehabilitation are also personally monitored by the regiment’s officers and Junior Commissioned officers who keep the commanding officer abreast about the latest improvements. The Jawans and officers of the three armed forces enjoy very strong bonding between them which is strengthened by the famous Regimental System of the Indian Army and Divisional system of the Indian Navy. We never leave our wounded alone to fend for them. The three forces have traditionally taken utmost care and provided deep affection to their injured troops.
The Regimental System is the primary system of bonding for combat and creates an extended family system. It gives all the soldiers an identity and a deep sense of belonging. It forges the bonds of camaraderie and trust that see the soldier through the stress and trauma of combat. It is an amazing system for combat motivation and bonding. The Regimental system has stood the test of repeated wars and conflicts.

The first initiation of a person into the way of life of the army takes place at the regimental center. Here the tough initial training and traditions of the regiment are handed down to the next generation of soldiers creating a strong and unshakable life long bond. Twenty or more years later the same battle hardened soldier returns to his alma mater; the regimental center, to hang up his uniform and go home. But the relationship endures much beyond, not only lasting a lifetime but often spanning many generations.

The officers placed in high echelons of the central and state para-military forces and police forces must raise their own regimental system to add the humane touch to the already tense service environment. During the last six years, about 700 personnel of the Central Armed Police Forces have committed suicide. It is high time for the senior official for taking welfare of their wounded and families of the fallen ones’ in their own hand. The Regimental system is a time and war tested, well preserved structure. The Paramilitary and police forces can implement, strengthen and made it relevant in the modern context. The Regimental system has remained as the bedrock of the Army’s organizational structure which has stood the test of numerous bloody battles and years of peacetime over many decades. It symbolizes the heart, soul and perhaps the very spirit of the Indian Army.
“Soldiers may don the uniforms for pay, but it is not for the pay alone that they win the Gallantry awards”

Jai Hind, Petty Officer Manan Bhatt, Veteran

Manan Bhatt is a Retired Petty Officer of Indian Navy. This article has been posted with the author’s permission. The views expressed are personal.