119 years of Trust Fauji beat THE TRIBUNE
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Sunday, May 2, 1999
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Saving Navy from rough seas
By Pritam Bhullar

"THE Indian Ocean is the key to the seven seas; whoever controls it dominates Asia and, in the 21st century, the world’s destiny will be decided on its waters", said the famous naval strategist Alfred Mahan. To exercise any control over the Indian Ocean, it is imperative to retain a firm naval presence in the region and for this, we need an effective carrier arm.

Now think of the crucial role played by INS Vikrant in the 1971 war. In which, it pounded the installations in erstwhile East Pakistan and blocked the adversial coast-line single-handed in the Bay of Bengal to prevent the enemy from escaping by sea.

Of our two aircraft carriers — Vikrant and Viraat — the former was decommissioned in January 1997 and the latter is being refurbished. This will leave the Navy without any carrier for about two years. A situation that cannot be accepted, especially when the Pakistan’s French-built Agosta 90-B submarines begin prowling the sea-lanes of the Indian Ocean and peninsular waters of the subcontinent.

Despite the alarming situation that the Navy has been landed into, we have been dragging our feet to fill the perilous carrier void in our Navy. The government at the Centre should go full steam ahead with the construction of an aircraft carrier at the Cochin shipyard as top priority.

Besides, it is time New Delhi acquired the Russian carrier "Gorshkov" on which it has been tarrying for nearly a decade now. Though the ship will cost about $ 2 billion after it is fitted with the aircraft, the Navy seems to have no other option but to acquire it.

Little-known facilities

At times ex-servicemen coming to the Command Hospital Chandimandir from far off cannot be seen by the specialists concerned and admitted to the hospital the same day. To help them, a guest-house has been started in the hospital. Here they can stay up to two days free of cost.

Another facility extended to the outstation patients is a bus that runs for them from the Command Hospital to the railway station. Not only that, they are also provided with a packed meal for their journey. This is to obviate any chances of the patients being duped by the undesirable elements. Several cases of duping of militarymen, including officers by administering drugs have already been reported.

On the death of an ex-serviceman or his dependant in hospital, a funeral van is provided to take the dead body to the cremation ground. The funeral van facility is also available for the ex-servicemen and their families, residing in Chandigarh, Mohali, and Panchkula, who die at their homes. For this, a request has to be made to the Command Hospital or the Station Headquarters Chandimandir. This service is free of cost and charges for the van are paid out of welfare funds.

Soldiers and religion

By putting his hand on the holy book at the attestation parade, a recruit pledges his allegiance and loyalty to the country, his unit and his superiors. This oath-taking ceremony on completion of his training, changes his status from a recruit to a sepoy. From this day whenever he faces a challenging task during his service, he is reminded of his sacred pledge.

The religion is given great importance not only in the Indian Army but also in all armies of the world. When correctly channelised, the religious fervour of the troops can become a rallying factor in war and for the national cause.

Every unit in the Army has its own temple and or gurdwara, depending on its class composition, where the soldiers pay obeisance on Sundays, holidays and on festivals and raising days. No wonder then, the war cries of units which goad the soldiers to launch an assault on the enemy in the face of the raining bullets are all religion based.

Spiritual training is considered to be an important motivating factor for the jawans. That is why it finds a mention in the annual training instructions of units and formations. It was their motivation that made 21 soldiers fight till the last against a few thousand tribals at Saragarhi in September 1897; to quote only one of the many examples of unmatched bravery.

In April, when the country was celebrating the tercentenary of the Khalsa at Anandpur Sahib, the Army organised a tented camp for over 10,000 devotees, including the Army jawans. Apart from this, the bands of the Sikh and Sikh Light Infantry regiments also joined in the celebrations.

Renal treatment

Most of the ex-servicemen and their families do not have the wherewithal to afford expensive treatment in civil hospitals, unless ther disease is covered under the Army Group Insurance Fund (AGIF). Take for example, renal disorder, each dialysis costs Rs 1200 in civil hospitals.

To offset this disadvantage, a dialysis centre, funded by the AGIF, was started at the Command Hospital Chandimandir for ex-servicemen and their families in December 1997. Subsequently, facilities for dialysis were also extended to the serving personnel and their families.

The centre that provides both haemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis facilities has two machines at present. There is a plan to expand the centre by procuring three more dialysis machines. Besides, kidney transplant facility will also be provided at the centre in a year or so.

The dialysis centre has provided treatment to 417 patients in 1998. And in March last, 68 patients had undergone this treatment. On an average, three to four patients get haemodialysis every day.

The ex-servicemen and their spouses who are members of the Medical Benefit Scheme (MBS) of the AGIF are given this treatment free of cost, while the non-members have to pay about Rs 400 for each dialysis. Incidentally, the membership of the MBS which was closed on June 30, 1994 was re-opened in 1995. To avail themselves of the benefits of this scheme, the ex-servicemen who have not yet become its members, should opt for it now.Back

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