NEW DELHI: While it has been two decades since thousands of brave hearts put their lives on the line during the Kargil War, the fighting spirit of these jawans has not faded an inch. India lost 527 soldiers in the battle and several more brave sons of India had to be boarded out with injuries that left them disabled and unfit for the army. They accepted their fate and bowed out of the force, yet deep in their hearts all that they desire is to don that uniform one last time and offer their services for Mother India.
Sepoy Rajesh Hooda
Unit: 4th Jat Regiment
Joined: Feb 1995
Released: Nov 2001
Severance: Rs 20 lakh
One of such bravehearts is Rajesh Hooda, son of a martyr. Sacrifice and service to the nation run in the family. He lost his father in an operation in Sri Lanka during Operation Pawan against the LTTE. On May 16, 1999, Hooda was part of a search party that was looking for Captain Saurabh Kalia and his missing platoon. As soon as they reached near Bajrang post, near the foothills, they came under heavy enemy fire. “We were able to vacate three posts despite being outnumbered,” recalls Rajesh. He carefully disarmed a series of mines but was shot in the leg, and even stabbed in the shoulder with a bayonet.
He was granted a relief of Rs 20 lakh when he was released from the service, and a disability pension of Rs 43,000. He lives with his wife, daughter and mother in Delhi, while his son is studying at IIT-Kanpur. Rajesh is a stay at home father and helps around in the household.
Another such Kargil hero is Subedar Umed Singh who hails from a family that has sent several of their sons to serve the nation. He dedicated 27 years of his life to the uniform, and even today wishes to serve the country, if given an opportunity. However, on May 30, 1999 Umed Singh suffered a blow that changed his life forever. Under heavy enemy fire, he lost his shoulder to a splinter that tore his biceps and triceps.
He was declared unfit and boarded out with a disability pension of Rs 90,000. Since then he has been helping his nephews and nieces to prepare to join the army. While one of his sons is a doctor, his younger one is preparing to join the army. His daughter is employed with the Railways. “I am fit to complete my Battle Physical Test with the full battle load even now,” he shares.
Havaldar Vishnu Bharadwaj
On May 31, Vishnu Bharadwaj was rushed to the operation theatre with bullet injuries to his leg. His thigh was torn apart with shrapnel and doctors were able to save his leg albeit with a reduction of six inches. Vishnu was left with a permanent limp and a crutch for support. His wife is by his side, and both his children are pursuing their careers in the private sector.
However, the disability in his leg disallows him from taking up any external work. He stays at home and helps around the house. “I help my family and my son and keep myself busy.” Vishnu spent 21 months in the hospital before he was discharged. “My unit has always stayed in touch and I was granted a disability pension of Rs 67,000.”
Unit: 18 Grenadiers
Joined: Dec 1980
Severance: Rs 30 lakh
Grenadier Satpal Singh gave seven years of his life to serving the nation, and in the process damaged his legs in the line of duty. He was part of the operation at Tiger Hill and was struck by enemy artillery shells. He suffered several injuries on his body and both his legs. While most of his wounds healed after treatment, one of his legs develops an infection every now and then. “It was a fierce battle of May 30, 1999, as the enemy wanted to hold its position. Pakistan knew that once they were dislodged it was only a matter of time before the Indian Army would run them over.”
The war cry of his regiment ‘Sarvada Shakti Shali’ reverberates in his ears, and he wishes that his one of his children joins the army. His daughter is pursuing her MBBS in Patna, and two of his sons are in school. The army granted him a disability pension of Rs 52,000 and he spends his days looking after his farm, and supporting his family. He shares that even if he is called in to serve, he will put his life on the line for the nation without batting an eyelid.
Location: Rohtak, Unit: 22 Grenadiers,
Operation: Tiger Hill, Joined: Dec 1993
Released: July 16, 2000
Severance: Rs 25 lakh