Monday, 3 February 2014

Too little, too late - R. Mani is disappointed but has not lost hope

Too little, too late

Forty-four years after he suffered 230 per cent disability and blindness in a TNT explosion while serving in the 1 Armoured Engineering Regiment, R. Mani was recently offered a sum of Rs 1 lakh by the Indian Army under a self-employment scheme meant for rehabilitation.

The offer has only heightened Mr. Mani’s sense of hurt. He has lost his arms, eyesight and some hearing power. At 70, he is in no position to take up a job.

This is not the first time in the last 44 years that Mr. Mani has had to fight the system for his rightful dues. According to him, the Army has treated him like a “medically invalid man” rather than a “war casualty”.

Recalling how on that fateful day, July 1, 1970, his unit was preparing for a visit by General Sam Manekshaw, when a TNT explosive on which he was “putting the leads” went off, Mr. Mani said he suffered extensive injuries. “I was an Engine Art [Artisan] and was employed as an explosive storekeeper.”

“In the explosion, I suffered 230 per cent injury — 100 per cent in both the eyes, 100 per cent to the arms and 30 per cent to the ears. I was treated in various army hospitals in Jhansi, Lucknow, Pune, Delhi and Bangalore. But the Army refused to acknowledge me as a ‘war casualty’ and, as recently as 2008, before a Pension Adalat in Coimbatore, it submitted that it was a ‘civil accident’.”

“My honour was lost that day. But I have almost got used to encountering opposition from my very own. Even in the Army records, officers never made a proper mention of how the accident took place. The discharge and disability documents were manipulated and in the Disability Certificate issued in 1991, the words, ‘cause of disability,’ were deliberately altered to ‘cause of discharge,’ despite the officers knowing full well that they would decide the merit of the case.”

Mr. Mani said: “All these years I have been denied war injury pension, 230 per cent disability pension, attendant allowance and a medal for my service. I was also denied the improved pension after 2006.”

He now stays with his daughter in Salem, Tamil Nadu. ”

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