FORMER CHIEF of Army Staff, General VP Malik (retd) Sunday said the lack of compassion of the bureaucracy as well as elected leaders towards disabled soldiers was a major cause of concern and a great disappointment.
He was speaking at the launch of the revised edition of a book – ‘Maimed By The System’ – on disabled soldiers and the travails of their next of kin at Panjab University. The book has been written by Major Navdeep Singh, a practising advocate at Punjab and Haryana High Court and Armed Forces Tribunal’s (AFT) Chandigarh bench. A former volunteer in Territorial Army (TA), Major Navdeep has also been the founder president of the AFT Bar Association.
The former Army Chief said that though there has been a slight improvement in the reduction of litigation by the government against disabled soldiers yet the situation was far from meeting desirable standards. “We feel ashamed that dues of such soldiers are denied to them over frivolous reasons,” he said.
General Malik said there was a lack of cohesion in the Ministry of Defence which was overwhelmingly staffed by civilian officials who remain at loggerheads with their military counterparts. “This book chronicles the legal battles which the disabled soldiers have to fight. It makes for some disturbed reading but it is essential that this be read. Because we have to fight for their rights,” he said.
Speaking on the occasion, Lt Gen KJ Singh (retd), former Western Army Commander and the brains behind Gyan Setu strategic affairs thinktank, said that the book was a must read to know the plight of the disabled soldiers. Praising Navdeep Singh for his efforts, Lt Gen Singh said that he waa doing yeoman’s service to the cause of soldiers in general and disabled soldiers in particular.
Major Navdeep informed that the book is a collection of real life accounts of defence personnel, veterans, disabled soldiers and their kin who were wronged by the system and successfully claimed their rights and dues. “These are real stories of such individuals who had to put up difficult and protracted battles with officialdom to claim their basic rights post disability,” he said.
Navdeep said the book embodies hope and not despair. He gave numerous examples of soldiers who were denied their rightful dues by over-officious pension disbursing authorities. Addressing the gathering, the author also blamed the system for promoting excessive litigation, often forcing disabled soldiers to go right up to the Supreme Court for their pensionary benefits.