As published in TOI: Almost four years ago, when Rohit Kumar Choubey, a young topper in academics and student of a prestigious engineering college in Chandigarh, opted to join National Defence Academy (NDA), he had never imagined that an injury during the training would not only shatter his dreams of donning the olive green but also demolish his family’s ambition of seeing him as a high ranking officer.
Rohit was medically boarded out from NDA in November 2019, declared unfit for military service after he suffered a shoulder injury. What pains the Choubey family most is the step-motherly treatment and irrational policy of the Centre to rehabilitate such young boys after they are declared unfit to continue military service due to injuries during training.
Rohit’s mother, Saroj Choubey has written a letter to the Prime Minister and the Union defence minister, seeking their intervention on the issue.
Around 8-10 cadets are medically boarded out of NDA every year due to injuries suffered during training. However, boarding out of academy means not only the end of a bright career but no status of ex-servicemen — a dream for which these “academically strong” young boys at the age of 17 leave behind a comfortable lifestyle.
“At a very young age, they qualify one of the toughest competitive examinations conducted by UPSC and personality tests by the armed forces to induct them on class-1 post. However, if they meet with an unfortunate incident during training, they are left to fend for themselves at such a crucial period of their life by giving ex gratia — money paid when there was no obligation or liability to pay it,” says Saroj.
Her main grouse is that when her son had to leave the academy because of injuries, he was not only deprived of the status of ex-serviceman, decent pension or re-settlement but only offered ex gratia and preference in giving group-C or D jobs of the Centre.
“Were the people who framed this policy in the right mind? I doubt it. A young boy, who topped his classes, cleared a UPSC exam, the multi-dimensional SSB interview and was found fit to lead our gallant armed forces being offered a class C and D job! Where is the logic in that? Sir please try and comprehend the feelings of a mother when her son is offered a grade D job just because he gave his best in training and unfortunately got injured,” she has written in a hard-hitting letter sent to the PMO and defence minister.
“When I gave my son, he was perfect. He will always be perfect to me, but the world sees him as a cripple. I have never asked our good country anything in return but I am obliged to ask at least these questions for the voices unheard. Maybe these boys are too proud to beg for something, but you know a mother can do anything for her son,” the letter adds further.
A topper in academics, Rohit had joined NDA in June 2016. He was injured during final year of training in April 2019, was hospitalised and finally boarded out of NDA with 40% disability and unfit for military service. The family had to struggle a lot to get permission to complete his BSc (computer science) degree from JNU along with other NDA cadets. While other cadets were sent to military academies to complete their pre-commissioning training, Rohit was sent home with an ex gratia and disability amount. He is at present preparing for some competitive examination.
According to Rohit’s father Sanjay Kumar Choubey, the cadets like his son should have been adjusted in other class-I posts of non-combat nature. “They are the best talent and well-trained human resources and should not be wasted by paying lump sum ex gratia amount or disability amount,” he said. The family is planning to pursue the matter to change the arbitrary policy against arbitrariness with NDA boarded out cadets.
As per the official figures, around 2.3% of the total around 6,000 cadets who passed out from NDA in 10 years till 2019, had to leave the academy due to academic, outdoor training, discipline standards or injuries/medical conditions. A majority of the cadets boarded out of the academy is due to medical reasons.