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Aug 15

Operation CARE – Help Families of Kargil

The Project Operation Care is designed to help bereaved families of those killed or wounded soldiers in Kargil action. The India Network collected funds at the request of several members and disbursed the funds during July/August 1999. There are few requests pending from the Army Base Hospital for improvements to facilities at the hospital such as providing air-conditing units to care critical areas, certain equipment, and Television sets in the wards. Also more than 200 families remain to be assisted from Haryana, Punjab, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and others. Since the state governments, central government, and public in India are providing substantial support, it is thought that the funds can be better utilized by establishing a trust fund to help children’s education or other needed assistance in future. If members are interested in contributing to the above, you may send a check made payable to India Network and mail to our office. In sum, INF provided financial assistance of Rs. 10,000 to the widows/Next of Kin of those killed and Rs. 5000/ to wounded soldiers.

  • 56 Families (Rajasthan)
  • 100 Families (Haryana & Punjab)
  • about 50 more such families need to be assisted from these states
  • 10 Families (Gujarat)
  • 7 Families + 2 Families of wounded (Andhra Pradesh)
  • 15 Families (Kerala, Karnataka, Goa)
  • 3 Families (Orissa)
  • Army Base Hospital (wounded soldiers, equipment etc)
  • R & R Hospital, New Delhi (wounded soldiers, equipment)
  • Army Base Hospital, Udhampur (wounded soldiers- in kind distribution)

**** more details will be posted as they become available.

Last Updated: 8/15/99

Distribution of Funds Part I

Report on Operation Care, India Network Foundation, July 1999

Part 1

In response to several member requests, the India Network Foundation launched a fund raising drive to help the families of Kargil action in June 1999. It is the firm belief of the INF that immediate and direct assistance to the beneficiaries is the onl y way in INDIA to reach the real people. Though this approach is very challenging, it has been proved beyond doubt that only such an effort can provide real relief. Writing Checks to various relief organizations in India or to Non-governmental organizatio ns (NGO) is very easy but no one can be sure how, when and in what shape the target beneficiary receive the help. Our recent discussions with various agencies including the Army Welfare Fund Organizers confirm our belief in providing direct help is the on ly way to reach as many as we can quickly and efficiently.

Dr. K.V. Rao, President, INF visited India to co-ordinate the distribution efforts from July 15 – August 1, 1999. During this period Dr. Rao visited several families of soldiers and officers that laid their lives as well as wounded soldiers in various army base hospitals around the country. A First report of ‘Operation Care’ has already been posted to all our members’ couple of weeks ago. Here is a more detailed report on ‘Operation Care’

Preamble: Provide direct assistance to the Jawan families and wounded soldiers in Kargil Action. A plan has been devised to provide immediate assistance to the families of those soldiers died in Kargil action in Jammu and Srinagar State and to wounded soldiers. A first step in this regard is to identify the next of kin and complete address of the families.

However noble the objectives are one will find the bureaucracy in India in combat mode if they know that someone is trying to bypass them and providing relief to families without going through their mechanisms. Our experience has been a mixed bag with some co-operating very well and others hiding behind rules or mis-interpreting the rules or somehow think that the information requested is confidential even though it was posted on a web page! There are still some very good officers that understand their limitations and efficiency of providing relief and were very happy that INF can do it fast and immediately.

Some states are very co-operative in providing lists of soldiers died and their next of kin (legal heir) and others are less co-operative and try to stop what we want to do (for example, Brig. Balaram Singh, Director, Sainik Welfare and Rehabilitation, Government of Gujarat, Ahmedabad. He not only wasted our time saying that he will give the list in Gandhi Nagar and then when we went to Gandhi Nagar he told that he had forwarded our request to the Home department and they will get in touch with us in d ue course. At the end of a very frustrated day, a friend of my contact, Sri Joshi informed us that the list was posted publicly by the CMs office and can be downloaded from the Web).

Here are the INF activities in executing the Operation Care-

July 17-18, 1999 – Karnataka State

Traveled to Karnataka and distributed direct relief to all soldier families in Belgaum District. The Deputy Commissioner Sri Gangadhara Adagatti has provided assistance and staff to accompany the INF personnel in delivering the funds to families. The I NF expresses gratitude to Sri Adagatti, Sri Shirchatti (Thasildar), Sri Baligar, Deputy Thasildhar, and Sri N.N. Patil, Revenue Inspector, Jambuti). One of the war widows, who happens to be very educated told Dr. Rao that people are exploiting the situati on and are more interested in taking pictures and videos of the check distribution and functions. She was upset that people have not recognized or try to know what her husband did and how he died but were more keen on stressing how much their association or political party helped war widows etc. This particular family has a 23 month old baby boy who has no sense of why people are calling on his mom and what happened to his father. Dr. Rao requested her to co-ordinate the activities in Karnataka and bring to our attention of any families that are in dire need of assistance either financial or otherwise. She has taken the tragedy very well and one of the proudest war widows we have ever met. Also she mentioned that she could not even see her husband’s body as it was much damaged. The Army did not send the body home and instead requested the family to come to a location in UP for funeral.

In the same district, a very interesting fact came to our attention – a small village of 300 people in Karnataka and Maharastra border maintained the tradition of sending their young men to Army, Government Service, and as teachers. This village locate d in a very remote corner and with no proper road has a great school and a good team of teachers. We were all surprised by the co-operation of the whole community during our visit. All teachers, Village Sarpanch, and several elders came to greet the INF t eam and explained their village unique characteristics and how they support each other family in times of grief and otherwise. It was a very emotional event to hear first hand from the village elders how the soldier died and what he has done before his de ath and what left behind for many young people in the village. This is located in Belgaum District of Karnataka and in a very remote area where the only way out is by private vehicles or by walk to nearest road. It is on a hill top and in the middle of a forest. The road from Hubli to Belgaum is a great drive with great scenic beauty and worthy of a visit. During our visit, it came to our attention that some families in remote areas have not received anything from the Government so far except paper state ments while some in urban areas have received partial funds.

A list of soldiers from Karnataka, Kerala, and Goa has been obtained and the INF has provided financial support to all but one officer’s family, which already received more than Rs. 11 Lakhs.

July 19-20, 1999 – New Delhi

In New Delhi, Dr. Rao visited the main Army Base Hospital and the Research and Referral Hospital. This is the major hospital where wounded soldiers arrive from the front and are treated before they are moved to other parts of the country. Dr. R. Pandey , Joint Director, Central Statistical Organization made initial queries with various officials before our scheduled visit. Dr. Pandey was not hopeful that the bureaucracy would allow INF what it wants to do from his discussion with his comrades and collea gues. On July 19, Dr. Rao arrived in New Delhi, he contacted immediately the In-charge of the Army Base Hospital, Delhi Cantt. and officers of the Public Relations department. They were responsive and requested that we visit their office to discuss what a nd how we can provide some relief to wounded soldiers. It is well known people like Mrs. Sonia Gandhi distributed Blankets to wounded soldiers in the past and hence taking gifts in kind has already been an established norm at the Base Hospital. However, it took sometime for the officials to convince themselves that it was all right to distribute checks to wounded soldiers, particularly from a foundation like the INF. We are thankful to Dr. K. Srinivasan, Executive Director, Population Foundation of Indi a and Mrs. Bharati Srinivasan, Social Worker, formerly with the Family Planning Association of India for their help in preparing and distributing the checks to wounded soldiers in various wards. A list of wounded soldiers currently at the Base Hospital wa s provided to us that enable prepare the checks on individual names. Dr. Rao, Dr. Srinivasan and Mrs. Srinivasan personally delivered all checks. Few terribly wounded soldiers were provider higher financial support. It was very moving to see how brave the wounded were and every one of them has a story to tell. As per our understanding with the army, the list of soldiers received by the INF will not be released to anyone for any purpose. However, if members are interested in donating funds in support of th ese wounded soldiers, INF would be happy to pass these funds to them through our established contacts.

During our day long discussions at the Army Base Hospital, several things were brought to our attention that would make a real difference in the lives of army Jawans now and in the future. As an immediate measure, INF provided pedestal fans (30) for d eployment in wards, medical equipment, such as Slit Lamp AIA-11 Model with Motorized Table, Vacuum Suction Apparatus, and funds to strengthen the overall diagnosis and record keeping with modern methods. The co-operation received from all staff members at the Army Base Hospital was excellent. The Army Base Hospital still uses the British time sheds as wards to accommodate the wounded soldiers. Temperature in these wards was very high. When Dr. Rao mentioned the state of wards and inquired whether there ar e any plans for building modern facilities, he was told by a concerned Army Official that most men in Indian Army come from rural villages where the conditions are comparable. The Indian Army Jawan is a tough guy who can handle anything under any circums tances. This characterization of the India Army makes one feel proud of their training, determination to head-on with the enemy with or without proper ammunition, and protection. Though INF provided funds to strengthen care areas and facilities in the hos pital, much more funds are required to provide a decent well-equipped hospital to treat jawans, particularly wounded at the war front. INF received request for donating two air-conditioning units for critical care areas, which will be provided funds permi tting. Also received request for major orthopedic surgery equipment (costing about Rs. 18 Lakhs). Members interested in donating to Army Base Hospital may contact the INF.

July 19, 1999 – Visit to Research and Referral Army Hospital, New Delhi

Research and Referral Hospital is a very modern hospital with excellent facilities. Essentially more critical cases that require intensive care are sent to R & R facility. It appears that the project started with whole building centrally air-condit ioned but later slowly with cut downs came to only 20 or 25% room-wise air-condition. As such some critical patient wards have no air conditioners with high temp particularly during summers. Dr. Rao handed over checks to about 35 critically wounded soldie rs recovering from more serious injuries. Also donated two air-conditioning units to facilitate the healing process to these soldiers. We are very thankful to the excellent co-operation extended by the Senior officers of the R & R Facility. The INF of fice already received acknowledgement from the Hospital to our donation. During our visit, we also met a neurosurgeon who just operated on a soldier whose condition was very critical. It was indeed gratifying to note that they have lost only one soldier i n their hospital so far. Besides the wounded soldiers currently at the hospital, we were provided a list of wounded that have been discharged who will come back for treatment in few weeks. The INF also provided financial assistance checks to those dischar ged soldiers. After a very satisfying and successful trip to New Delhi, our focus has been on meeting the wounded soldiers right in Sri Nagar as suggested by officials in New Delhi.

END OF PART 1

Distribution of Funds Part 2

Part 2: Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir – July 22 & 23

Dr. K.V. Rao took the unusual step of visiting the city of Srinagar even though the area seems to be very volatile with military, CRP, and J & K police and militants operating in the same area with powerful weaponry. The purpose of the visit was to visit wounded soldiers in the base hospital and provide relief as well as get a personal impression of situation in the State.

One get the impression that it is very dangerous to travel to Srinagar as the airlines required to fly-in and out of the city closing the windows completely and security forces make one very uncomfortable in moving in the city. On arrival, Dr. Rao contacted Brig. Bhagat, Commandant of the Army Base Hospital in Srinagar. Unlike other hospitals, Brig. Bhagat advised that visitors are allowed only during visitor hours and of course, distribution of gifts in kind are acceptable but not checks. Brig. Bhagat is less co-operative than his counter parts in Delhi and also one gets the impression that variable interpretations of the regulations are not just part of general bureaucracy in India but they get in to the defense dept as well.

Security in Srinagar appears to be very tight and every 10 ft one will find either a CRP person or Army Jawan or J &K police standing on the streets equipped mostly with 300s with few AK 47s. Amazingly local folks seems to chat and walk around as if nothing serious can happen when travelers/tourists feel very insecure (particularly from rest of India). It was also felt non-Indian looking tourists (Western) are treated very well by local people and the same groups that may otherwise try to create problems to others assured them of safety.

Due to confusion and lack of clear directives from Brig. Bhagat, In-charge of the Army Base Hospital in Srinagar and the staff holding the main gates, it was not possible to visit the wounded soldiers even during visiting hours. A more detailed report on Srinagar will be posted separately.

However, Dr. Rao managed to meet with some very brave soldiers who are manning the Sri Shankaracharya Temple (said to be constructed by Pandavas), about 15,000 ft. peak in Srinagar city. This is wonderful site that one must visit to get an excellent view of whole Srinagar valley and the surroundings. While talking to these men stationed at that peak, one get the impression that these young army recruits are very frustrated with political indecision to go head-on with the enemy and clear the decks once for all for future generations. They appears to have more faith in the current regime and think the political leadership at this time is right for taking tough decision if get re-elected.

During the visit, Dr. Rao has been assisted by several Kashmiri Pandits who have been displaced by more than 10 years and are staying at the Centaur Hotel as refugees in their own country. We would like to thank Sri Ashok Kumar Pandita, and Raj Kumar Tandon for their assistance. They provided information on various refugee camps in Udhampur, and other areas in J & K. We were told that thousands of these displaced persons are held in refugee camps in Udhampur, and other parts of Jammu for more than a decade with no solution in sight for their plight. The govt. of India pays each refugee family a mere sum of Rs. 1800/ per month for total support. Some of the Pandits were provided employment in Government Sector (employment at Centaur hotel). If any members are interested in helping or contacting the Pandits and their cause for a safe place to live, please contact us at inf@indnet.org. Getting out of Srinagar requires at least two and half-hours earlier to the flight time as one will be checked/stamped at least 7 times before boarding. Inter-agency rivalry at its worst at airport with every agency wants to make sure that their staff checked you thoroughly.

If any of you plan to visit Srinagar, AVOID CENTAUR HOTEL!

Udhampur, Jammu

The national highway from Jammu to Udhampur is one of the proudest achievements of free India in that region. It passes through several hills and tunnels and an excellent but somewhat risky mountainous road. Experienced drivers are recommended for the trip. There are about 50 wounded soldiers and officers at the Udhampur Army Base Hospital. Maj. Gen. Vijay Joshi, in-charge of the hospital was very co-operative and received Dr. Rao at the base. Col. P.K. Dutta, accompanied Dr. Rao during the visit. Due to lack of permission from Northern Command, the base hospital requested only gifts may be given to wounded soldiers. 50 bags of mixed fresh fruits were prepared and distributed to all wounded soldiers during the visit. We like to thank Sri Chunilal Bhat, Manager, Food and Beverages, Jammu Asia hotel for organizing the fruit bags at a very short notice. Sri Bhat is yet another displaced Kashmiri Pandit and thanks to Mr. Singh, taxi driver, Jammu for his excellent driving and help with the distribution of fruit bags to various wards at Udhampur.

Being near to the action area, the Northern Command base hospital is well equipped and seems to receive whatever they want without any restrictions on funds. During the rounds Dr. Rao met few officers who have suffered severed burn wounds and while talking to them, it was clear that the enemy was firing conventional as well as phosphorus bombs which burned the officers chest and back. The officer who was in excellent mood inspite of his situation has faith in taking on the enemy to inflict greater damage through his artillery wing before too long.

At the suggestion of Maj. Gen. Joshi, Dr. Rao also met the Major General In-charge of Northern Command head quarters near Udhampur. Unlike other places, the NC head quarters were guarded and no will is allowed to enter near the entrance without accompanied by a Col. Or higher rank officer. The INF expresses its gratitude to the Chief of Staff Northern Command (A.R.K. Reddy) for taking his time to talk to Dr. Rao and appraise him of latest information and called Delhi Army Welfare fund office to get some information earlier sought by the INF. We are also thankful to Col. J.P. Singh, PA to the Chief, Northern Command for his hospitality.

As a result of this phone call, Dr. Rao contacted the chief of the Army Welfare Fund and discussed with him about various ways of channeling funds to help the jawan families. Dr. Rao was told that the Army Welfare fund is planning to disburse Rs. 30,000/ per family of Jawans that died in the Kargil action and use rest of the funds collected to provide relief to families of those soldiers died in 1971 conflict and also jawans died between 1971 and 1998.

Due to time limitations, Dr. Rao could not visit the refugee camps of Kashmiri Pandits in Udhampur as planned earlier. However, if any INF members wishes to visit these campus, INF would be happy to provide contact information.

Next week, we will report on distribution efforts in Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana.

End of Part 2

Distribution of Funds Part III

Part 3 – Jaipur, Rajashtan – July 24-27, 1999

As many members know, Rajasthan contributes a very high percentage of the armed forces and traditionally, people from Rajasthan have earned several medals and recognition for their self-less service to the nation. Recent Kargil action involved several soldiers from Rajasthan and so the toll of families, 56 lost their loved ones in this state.

Dr. Rao arrived in Jaipur on July 24th and made arrangements to visit few families of the soldiers died in Kargil action on Sunday, July 25th. On July 25th, Dr. Rao accompanied by local volunteers visited five soldier’s families in Sikar District. The team hand delivered a message specially prepared in Hindi expressing our deepest condolences and support to the bereaved families on behalf of INF members. Also provided immediate financial assistance after confirming that each family next of kin has an account facility to cash the checks issued.

The villages are very scattered and are located inside many miles from the main road. We are thankful to the driver for his excellent driving on katcha roads. (he later mentioned that no driver dare to go in!) Due to the distances and lack of time, we could not visit many families. Rajasthan is also the home for four of the six soldiers that Pakistan handed over after mutilating them without recognition. One such soldier family lives in a far remote village of about 300 people and is about at least 30 miles from the nearest metal road. Fortunately, we also met Patwariji and his assistant who were maintaining close contact with the family, perhaps to deliver the government communications to the family. Many families we visited are poor and probably depended on military service of their loved ones to support the families. It appears that governmental channels have distributed funds to some while others were told about help. Dr. Rao was also told by local volunteers that the young widows (21 years old) of one family, who married for a year with no children is not likely to remarry due to local customs prevailing in that caste group. However, it seems that at least in some groups, remarriages of widows is a possibility.

Visit to families in various parts of Rajasthan shows how difficult it is even in 1999 to reach these places due to lack of proper roads. Most of these villages neither have safe drinking water nor have proper electricity lines or medical facilities (the nearest telephone is many miles away, we were told). Sri Puroshotam Bhansiwala, a leading attorney from Sikar district volunteered his day to collect information about various families and the exact location of the villages.

The Rambagh Palace in Jaipur is a nice place to see how the Maharajas of this region enjoyed the wealth and style in good old days leaving people to their own fate. After independence, probably political leaders are doing exactly the same since there is no change in the living conditions of average Rajasthani. The Rambagh Palace is now open to the public as a Hotel and caters mostly to foreign tourists. During the stay, we noticed that the service and attitude of the staff is pretty much geared to the colonial era with White foreigners enjoying extra-ordinary Royalty while Indians were treated like ordinary citizens even though they pay higher tariffs than most foreign tourists! It is sad that this kind of treatment is meted to Indian citizens in their own country by their own country establishments. We hope the Taj Group makes note of guest comments and improve their staff training to impress on hospitality of guests irrespective of their skin color.

All Fifty-six families in Rajasthan (incl. Capt. Ahuja’s family) have been contacted by mail. A letter of support on behalf of INF members and a check (financial assistance) was sent to them by registered mail by local volunteers around July 26, 1999.

Several people assisted us in various ways to help achieve the distribution of checks to all 56 families of soldiers that lost their lives in Kargil action from Rajasthan State. India Network Foundation expresses its gratitude and thanks to Sri B.S. Parihar, Rajasthan Industrial Development Corporation, Sri Puroshotam Bhansiwala, Attorney from Sikar, Sri K.E. Dutt, Food Corporation of India; Dr. Ratan Singh (INF Member in Jaipur); Sri Swamiji, Rajasthan Patrika; Ms. Ritu Singh Parihar, Technovators; Brig. Karan Singh Chauhan, Sainik Welfare Board and his staff; and the Telugu Association of Jaipur for their help and assistance to India Network.

Punjab and Haryana

Dr. Rao requested Sri B.S. Parihar and Sri K.E. Dutt of Jaipur to obtain the lists of soldier’s families from these states and disburse funds as allocated. A report has been received from Ms. Ritu Singh Parihar updating us on their efforts:

As advised, Shree B S Parihar and Shree K E Datta visited Amritsar and Chandigarh, met with Brig. Satya Dev of Harayana Sainik Welfare Board and Brig Kuldeep Singh of Punjab Sainik Welfare Board and obtained the name and addresses of the brave soldiers and of Officers who had scarified their lives in defending the countries borders. Distribution of allotted funds thru post completed. The details are as follows :

Rajasthan : Total families: 56: all families were sent/distributed by hand checks and letter

Harayana : All operations total families: 75 ; 50 families were sent checks and letter

Punjab : Total families: 78 ; 50 families were sent checks and letter

Please visit our web page under ‘Operation Care’ for overall efforts of INF and disbursement of funds. We have now a list of 53 families from Punjab and Haryana that (the INF already dispatched checks to 100 families from Punjab and Haryana) still need to receive our assistance. Each family received/will receive shortly Rs. 10,000 and wounded soldiers were provided with assistance of Rs. 5,000/.

If you are thinking and and would like to contribute, please do so at the earliest.
Next week, we will report on distribution efforts in Gujarat.

End of Part 3