This article is aimed at driving awareness amongst the masses about a little heard of a struggle group called - Disabled Officer Cadets. These young, bright, highly capable women and men, were selected to don the uniform of commissioned officers in the Indian Armed Forces. They joined their respective training academies with sparkling eyes but fate took a turn for them, when they got physically disabled in their line of duty. Owing to the need of strict physical and medical standards, these Officer Cadets, were medically discharged from service and were essentially left to fend for themselves. This article, comes from their lens and view point and will let the reader understand their struggles, and how they try to cope up with their misfortune.
What led to their misfortune? A career in the Armed Forces demands high standards of discipline, physical fitness and personal integrity. Unlike other professions, Officer cadets are expected to partake in various physical and military training exercises, which enable them to become capable leaders and all rounded officers. Owing to the nature of occupation, they are exposed to immense physical stress and strain which will enable them to adjust to war time scenarios and have the physical and mental capability to lead troops in battle. Such training activities, owing to high risks involved despite adequate precautions being taken, lead to accidents which may physically disable the cadet.
To Quote a Few Examples
- A cadet, while taking part in a boxing competition, fractured his skull from the opponent’s blow. He is now 100 percent disabled and is unable to stand properly on his feet.
- A National Defence Academy (NDA) Cadet, dived in the swimming pool and fractured his neck by colliding with the floor of the pool. He is now paralysed below the neck and is physically incapable of performing even basic tasks.
- The activities they take part in are not devoid of risks and are not optional for the cadets. They are part of training and necessary for their growth and development. While adequate measures are taken by the training academies to mitigate risks, some incidents do take place which leave some cadets physically injured and disabled.
The real struggle starts for the Officer Cadet when she/he realises that their career in the armed forces is over. They are made to appear before a medical board after treatment which certifies them physically disabled and unfit for military service. This can best be described under the following sub-heads.
Emotional wellbeing: It is apparent that such Officer Cadets are flooded with emotions and insecurity when they realise that their career in the armed forces is over. Many suffer from trauma, dejection, depression, and anxiety. Instances of self harm and mental disorders have also come to attention. It is brought to the reader that no measures are taken by the Union of India (UOI) to provide professional psychological help to these Officer cadets.
Physical wellbeing: Such officer cadets sustain injuries that may require lifetime treatment. Some may even require professional attention/nursing support. Such officer cadets, after their discharge are not entitled to avail medical facilities from the military hospitals.
Job security: Such officer cadets, who are Union Public Service Commision (UPSC) qualified and selected for armed forces after a stringent selection process, lose a precious career after their disability. Some cadets, who join after their schooling, lose the opportunity to complete their graduation as well and hence are most vulnerable. Since no resettlement options are available, they are essentially left to fend for themselves and have to start from scratch. Government of India (GOI) had given priority one to such officer cadets for employment, but it is yet to be enforced in letter and spirit and to add to their misfortune, this priority granted is for Group-C and D posts only. It is hard to comprehend that a young dynamic talent, selected for Group-A post, is now considered worthy for Group-C and D employment only!
Financial security: It may be brought to attention that such officer cadets come from various social circles. Not every Officer cadet comes from a financially strong family. As stated earlier, some have to undergo life long treatment and this adds to the financial burden of the family. As a pittance, such Officer cadets are given an Ex-Gratia award only which is lesser than the pension of a Group- D employee.
Transition to civil life: The hardest task for such Officer Cadets is to deal with their transition to civil life. Hitting rock bottom, they have to rebuild themselves from the scratch and start life afresh. In this transition, they have to overcome tremendous mental and emotional stress to bring their life on track. It is natural for these Officer cadets to get easily misguided and they may require professional support. However, their misfortune is such that no support is provided to them to help them transition to civil life.
Injustice: In their struggle, the biggest barrier is none other than the Government and its bureaucracy. Within this group of Officer cadets, there are some disease cases, who’s disabilities have been conveniently marked as “Neither Attributed Nor Aggravated (NANA)” by service. They are entitled to nothing from the UOI. Despite clear precedents set by the Honourable Courts of the UOI, the bureaucracy continues to formulate hyper technical objections to deny benefits to the disabled officer cadets. Such Officer Cadets eventually are forced to take the matter to courts which in itself is a time consuming activity.
A career in the Armed Forces is extraordinary and unlike the chairborne career in corporate or other government agencies. It is safe to say that the Armed Forces are the last insurance of the nation. Women and men who take a step to join the Armed Forces are extraordinary humans who understood and accepted the risks involved when they signed up. They join under the confidence that they can operate with an open and stress free mind frame as their families or themselves will be adequately protected by the nation should something happen to them. The story and struggle of such Officer Cadets deserves to be heard. They did not sign up thinking that they got a cushy government job. They chose this career for honour and service to the nation.
About the Author
Pranshu Tiwari comes from a martial family and hails from Ludhiana, Punjab. Raised by the Sikh regiment, he followed his family’s footsteps by joining 124th Course of National Defence Academy. Misfortune struck him, when he got medically boarded out from NDA and had to start his life afresh. After multiple failures in life, Pranshu finally settled in corporate where he is presently a Manager of security and risk management in a US based multi national company. Pranshu carries five years of corporate experience and is actively engaged in bringing justice to Officer Cadets who faced similar misfortune. On a personal front, he is an avid biker, photographer and is passionate about computer gaming. He is currently living in Gurugram, Haryana.
(Views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial views of Mission Victory India)