Saturday, March 20, 2010

Wheelchair-bound brigadier to become major-general

New Delhi: In a stirring achievement, a paraplegic Army officer confined to a wheelchair, Brigadier S K Razdan, is all set to become a two-star officer, a Major General. While this is not the first time that physically challenged officers have reached high ranks,with at least two having even become senior three-star officers or Lt-Generals, the feat is possible only through steely determination and sheer grit. Brig Razdan was a Lt-Col in the special forces when he participated in an intensive counter-terrorism operation in Damal Kunzipur area of Jammu and Kashmir in October 1994 to save several Muslim women taken hostage by militants. While the women were successfully rescued, the brave officer suffered grave injuries to his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed below the waist. A grateful nation awarded him the Kirti Chakra,the nations second-highest peacetime gallantry award, in 1996 for his act of valour. The wheel chair bound officer later went on to become a brigadier. And now, Brig Razdan has been approved to become a major-general and will pick up his rank once there is a vacancy. As per Army rules, any injury or disability suffered in war, counter-terrorism, which is called a battle casualty, does not come in the way of any soldier in his promotion boards as long as he is capable of performing his duties, said a senior officer.

However, if a soldier suffers a physical casualty, i.e. gets disabled in training or an accident, then there is no recourse but to put him in a lower medical category. He is allowed to serve if he can perform his duties but there is a bar on him getting promoted or attending some particular courses. Otherwise, he is boarded out. For instance, Lt-Gen Pankaj Joshi, (passed away last year) commissioned into the Gorkha Rifles in 1962, he lost both his legs during a mine-clearing mission in Sikkim in 1967. But through sheer grit after becoming a battle casualty, he went on to command an armoured brigade, an armoured division and a corps before becoming the GOC-IN-C of the Lucknow-based Central Army Command. Thats not all. Lt-Gen Joshi also became Indias first-ever chief of the tri-Service integrated defence staff in October 2001, established in the aftermath of the 1999 Kargil conflict,and retired after a fruitful tenure.

The Army, has also had a disabled Lt-Gen as it vice-chief. Lt-Gen Vijay Oberoi, who lost one of his legs during an operation,served as the vice-chief in 2000-2001 after first serving as the director-general of military operations, a strike corps commander and then chief of the Western Army Command.

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