Chennai, Oct 12: A soldier disabled in war need not go into a shell. He can and should lead the life of a soldier, which is what a 10-year-old NGO of ex-servicemen is working towards and which is set to open its doors in southern India later this month.
“The War Wounded Foundation (WWF) was founded in 2002. It is into the long-term rehabilitation of armed forces personnel who get disabled in a war or a war-like situation and get discharged from service,” its executive officer, Lt. Col (retd) Gulshan Kumar, told IANS on the phone from New Delhi.
The foundation, which currently operates in northern India, has a membership of 3,200 ex-servicemen and has rehabilitated around 100 defence personnel disabled in war or war- like situations/counter-insurgency operations.
“There is no membership fee. The basic aim of the foundation is to gain visibility for the war wounded,” Kumar said.
“Normally a soldier goes back to his native place after getting discharged from service due to disablement. The foundation helps them to get visibility and rebuild their lives.”
Kumar said help for soldiers pours from various quarters during a war or war-like situation but then peters out.
“After the (1999) Kargil war, there was plenty of help. While any help is welcome there should also be a sustainable livelihood model for wounded soldiers to live like soldiers,” Kumar said.
That is not an easy task.
First, the wounded soldier has to be motivated to get back into the mainstream. Then one has to scout for an organisation that is willing to use the services of the wounded soldiers.
“Given a normal soldier’s background, he does not have the inclination to go into business,” Kumar said.
According to Kumar, companies like Ambuja Cements, Chambal Fertilisers, ONGC, Apollo Tyres, Shell India and Pepsico India, among others, have supported the foundation.
“Ambuja Cements has given sub-dealerships to some of our members,” he said.
In the corporate sector, barring a few, others want something in return when they extend a helping hand to the wounded soldiers, Kumar said.
In order to find the discharged soldiers different livelihood opportunities, WWF has started imparting training in soft skills like computer literacy, English language and others.
Though the Foundation is a decade old, it has been operating in northern India all these years and was not able to expand primarily due of lack of data on war wounded.
“We have been appealing to various regiments for data about war wounded defence personnel. Many a time we get it and sometimes we don’t,” Kumar said.
On the Foundation’s southern foray, Kumar said the launch is scheduled Oct 20 at the Officers Training Academy (OTA) in Chennai.
The Indian Army chief, General Bikram Singh, has agreed to be the chief guest at the launch event, said Kumar.
At the event, war disabled personnel from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka would be honoured and their grievances would be forwarded to the appropriate authorities.
(V. Jagannathan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)