Close on the heels of the fourth anniversary of 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks, Arvind Kerjriwal-led India Against Corruption has taken up the cause of some National Security Guard commandos who have allegedly been deprived of recognition by the State for their sacrifice and also their shares in private donations made for their welfare.
According to IAC, Surender Singh was one such commando who was seriously injured in Operation Black Tornado while rescuing people trapped inside Taj Hotel in Mumbai. The young commando from Jhajjar in Haryana, on deputation from the Army’s Grenadiers unit, joined the operation barely four days after his first child was born.
In the ensuing battle with the heavily armed Pakistani terrorists, Surender’s team liquidated two of them. But then a grenade exploded close to him, riddling his body with splinters.
“He was treated at the NSG and Army Base hospitals. Doctors recorded that he had suffered serious injuries in the right shoulder, left leg and the blast had also rendered him deaf in both ears. They later tendered a report declaring him medically unfit for service in the Army. His service was terminated thereafter,” said Mr. Kejriwal.
The IAC alleged that persistent enquiries on the credit due to these NSG commandos, including that of Surender, earned them nothing but the ire of their superiors. Mr. Kejriwal said while in service, Surender came to know that his name along with that of eight other commandos seriously injured in the operation had not been included in the list of those conferred bravery awards on January 26, 2009. When enquiries were made, superiors from time to time gave assurances that never fructified.
Meanwhile, the Home Ministry reply to an RTI query by one Anand Singh of Bahadurgarh in February 2010 revealed that no recommendations for bravery awards to the nine NSG commandos were pending nor received. “It means that Army officers gave false assurances,” alleged Mr. Kejriwal.
Another reply from the NSG revealed that of the 11 injured commandos, two were conferred Shaurya Chakra, one with Sena Medal and the rest were given commendation letters. “The commendation letter given to Surender Singh (who also took part in the Kargil war) does not bear signature of any officer nor any date of issuance, hence it carries little significance. Irregularities in distribution of the government and private assistance offered to the commandos were also detected,” alleged Mr. Kejriwal, adding that only four of the commandos were given Rs.2.5 lakh each from the amount received from Royal Western India Turf Club.
The IAC alleged that several cheques sent by various organises for the injured commandos never reached them, besides Rs.2 lakh shown as given to Surender on behalf of Rohan Motors had never been made. In reply, the authorities said they were not authorised to receive such donations.
After the aggrieved commandos finally presented themselves before the media on August 13, 2010, seeking redress, they were allegedly threatened with dire consequences. The IAC alleged that what followed was sheer harassment of the commandos, who were chucked out of the NSG to parent units one after the other. One of them opted for voluntary retirement.
Since Surender was under treatment, he could not be repatriated. But then on October 15, 2011, he was relieved on medical grounds after a service of 14 years, three months and ten days, without an entitlement for pension. In response to his claim, the Grenadiers Records said his service tenure fell short of the mandatory 15 years.
In response to the statement issued by the Army on Thursday, the IAC said the Army was now only claiming that an approval has been given to Surender’s pension and retirement gratuity. “The money was not paid. In fact, the Grenadiers Records letter refuses to acknowledge his claim on pension. If at all such an approval had been given, why was Surender not informed through a letter? In case, such a process has been initiated, it is only after our press conference,” said IAC, rebutting the assertions made by the Army.