April 17, 2020 7:29:43 pm
It takes a singular breed of men to make it to the Special Forces. They tend to be extremely stress-resistant, competitive to a high degree, self-reliant, self-evaluative and stoic in the face of tremendous difficulties and adversities. Colonel Navjot Singh Bal had all these qualities in ample measure and many more besides.
After passing out from Army Public School, Delhi, he joined the National Defence Academy in 1998, and was commissioned into 2 Para (Special Forces) in 2002. In an operation in the higher reaches of Kupwara’s Lolab Valley, Bal closed in on two terrorists along with his team-mate and killed them at close range. He was awarded the Shaurya Chakra. Bal also served with the United Nations mission in Congo.
Bal took over command of 2 Para at Bangalore in March 2018. Before that he was General Staff Officer Grade 1 in the operations branch of Headquarters Northern Command. In that capacity he took part in the planning of the cross-LOC surgical strikes. Extremely fitness conscious he experienced pain in his right arm which was diagnosed as a rare form of cancer.
The doctors carried out amputation of his right arm to check the spread. Undeterred he retained command, learning to shoot, ride a cycle and do his routine chores using only his left arm. But fate had willed something else. The cancer had spread and the cruel hands of death snatched him away a few days ago. He is survived by his wife and two sons, aged eight and four.
Soldiers like Bal never die. They leave behind a rich legacy to inspire fellow human beings. In death as in life he typified the never say die spirit of the Special Forces.
Compassion in High Places
The entire nation was horrified at the ordeal of the late Colonel Navjot Bal’s aged parents. Apparently, an Air Force aircraft was not made available to fly them to Bangalore for their son’s last rites. This left his father, Colonel KS Bal (from the Garhwal Rifles) no option but to drive over 2,000 kilometres from Gurgaon to Bangalore to reach in time. One cannot but be livid at the insensitivity and lack of compassion exhibited by military and civil bureaucracies.
This was not so earlier. My mind wanders back to 1969. As a ten-year old I had a fall from a horse at Rajauri, my father’s place of posting in the field, and fractured my skull. The doctors recommended evacuation by air to guard against the buffeting and shocks of a road journey. My father’s divisional commander, Major General AK Luthera called up General Sam Maneckshaw, who had just taken over as the Army Chief. The Chief had no hesitation in sanctioning an evacuation by helicopter. An IAF Mi-4 helicopter took my father and me to Jammu, landing right next to the scheduled Indian Airlines flight which took us to our home town, Chandigarh. I made a complete recovery.
There is no shortage of Maneckshaws and Lutheras in today’s Services. The pity is that an obstreperous bureaucracy seems to stymie all their efforts at compassion.
Women in the Military Police
Training of the first-ever batch of 100 women recruits commenced at the Corps of Military Police Centre and School, Bangalore on 6th January. The women recruits will undergo 61 weeks of basic military and advanced provost training. Batches of a hundred each will be inducted annually over the next seventeen years.
Appropriate training and administrative infrastructure have been developed. All necessary factors have been taken into consideration while putting into place administrative requirements including accommodation for female recruits.
A great deal of responsibility hangs over the head of these women recruits. As pioneers they will have to prove themselves while undergoing training and then performing the same duties as male military policemen. On their performance, professional approach and devotion to duty lies the success of the entire programme of induction of women personnel as Other Ranks (ORs) in the Army. Good luck to them!
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