Did you know Army soldiers deployed on the borders with Pakistan and China are treated differently in terms of benefits to their families if they are killed in accidents or while performing operational duties in the face of enemy forces?
Kin of soldiers who die on the western front with Pakistan get “liberalized” family pensions and “enhanced” ex-gratia, but those on the northern and eastern fronts with China do not. The Army has been battling to get this “continuing injustice” rectified for decades, but without any success till now.
The issue has become all the more relevant with additional Indian troops being forward deployed in hostile high-altitude regions along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, stretching from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, as a fall-out of the Doklam stand-off near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction+ .
A liberalised family pension is equivalent (100%) to the last drawn pay of a soldier. In sharp contrast, the family pension for a soldier who dies on the LAC is only 60% of the last drawn pay.Enhanced ex-gratia to the family of a soldier dying on the LoC would amount to around Rs 45 lakh, while it would be about Rs 35 lakh on the LAC.
“It’s crucial to understand that the terrain and operational conditions on the LAC often have far more challenges than the 778-km long Line of Control (LoC) and the 198-km international boundary (IB) in J&K with Pakistan,” said a senior officer.
“Families of soldiers, who have laid down their lives in the line of duty, whether due to cross-border firings or accidents and avalanches, should not be treated differently. But the families of soldiers on the LAC get less benefits as compared to those on LoC and IB,” he added.
Successive governments, for one, have refused to accord official sanctity to Operation Falcon, which was launched way back in late-1986 by the then Army chief General K Sundarji along the border in Arunachal Pradesh to counter Chinese incursions in the region. The show of strength and diplomatic parleys ultimately led to Rajiv Gandhi becoming the first Indian PM to visit China, at invitation of Premier Li Peng, in 34 years.
Notification or promulgation of Operation Falcon would lead to better death and disability benefits or “higher compensation” for soldiers who continue to be forward deployed along the LAC, on the lines of the notified Operation Rakshak along the LoC or Operation Meghdoot underway since 1984 in the Siachen Glacier-Saltoro Ridge region. As per rules, a soldier is declared a “battle casualty” if the death or injury occurs in an operationally notified area.