Miscellaneous, Reviews

‘Col. N S Bal’s death: A case of bureaucratic hurdles or forgotten moral conduct?’

If India can send military aircrafts for evacuating its citizens from the neighbouring countries, we hope the authorities were atleast that equipped to help the Colonel’s parents during the ongoing lockdown as well. Keeping logic aside, it has become a question of morality and respect. This was a special scenario and exceptions were needed to be made without giving much importance to Red Tape Bureaucracy.

Colonel N S Bal, Shaurya Chakra, took his last breath on April 9th 2020. The loss was colossal for the family members and his brothers in arms. An alumnus of the prestigious National Defence Academy, Col. Bal was commissioned in the Indian Army in 2002. In 2018 he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of
cancer. The after effects of treatment can make everyday life extremely
difficult for anyone. He underwent excruciating chemotherapy sessions and despite losing an arm to Telangiectatic Osteosarcoma, continued serving in the 2nd Battalion (Special Forces) of the Parachute Regiment as the Commanding Officer. Furthermore, what followed the incident was as tragic as the incident itself. His father, a retired Lt. Colonel, requested if they could be accommodated on an IAF Aircraft on April 10, which was anyway scheduled between New Delhi and Bangalore, because all domestic flights were banned due to the ongoing lockdown.

The inter-ministry fiasco – 

It’s a shocking state of affairs in this country; the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Ministry of Defence were reluctant to issue written permission. About the proposal of getting his body flown to Delhi for the last rites, what about his rest of the family? His wife and two sons. What about them? Was there any plan to cater for their travel or it was supposed to be either of them being present for the same? The same situation would have occurred on the other side. Whatever help was offered to them was just a cover-up. Due to the uncertainty, 78-year-old Lt. Col. Bal along with his family had to travel 2100 km to Bangalore. When the course mates and the fellow paratroopers of Col. N S Bal got to know about this incident, they raised Rs 22 L to charter a private helicopter from Baroda for the family but Lt. Col. Bal decided to continue by road. Now the question arises that why was the written insisted upon, once verbal sanction from the MHA was already there?

Life, death, duty and the case of moral obligation –

Was the ministry legally bound to help Col N S Bal’s parents reach Bangalore to attend their son’s cremation ceremony? The answer is No. But is the military legally bound to assist the government and the system in times of a disaster? Even here the answer is No, but they’re morally obliged to do it. Except in the case of radiological, biological, chemical and nuclear disaster, the military is supposed to be a second respondent. The military’s primary job is to maintain the territorial integrity of the nation but we’ve seen vigorous involvement of the armed forces in disaster management and relief operations as well – 2001 Gujarat floods, 2004 Tsunami, 2005 Kashmir earthquake, 2008 Bihar’s
Kosi river flood, 2010 Cloudburst in Leh, 2013 Uttarakhand floods, 2014 Mission Sahayata in J&K, Operation Sahyog – Kerala  , Operation Madad – Chennai floods, the list goes on! The Indian armed forces have never disappointed us in times of crisis, the least we can do for them is to be thankful for their service.

It has sent a larger message across this time –

The Ministry of Defence’s lack of action and support for the Col. N S Bal’s family makes us wonder if there’s any value of a soldier’s life and
their selfless service in this country? Does its value decline if they die a natural death or if they aren’t martyred in the line of duty? 

With the military increasingly being politicized, has the top brass stopped going by their ‘Chetwode Motto’?

“The safety, honour, and welfare of your country come first, always, and every time. The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. Your ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time.”

Have they stopped looking after the welfare of their men?

If some people were responsible for making the decision and it was a soldier serving under them and it was a genuine emergency, they could’ve atleast done something to help the family. The soldiers never leave their buddies behind even if they fall into the field. Under gunfire the soldiers get bodies so that their parents can see them one last time, they can atleast get their last rites done. Many soldiers have lost their lives doing that as well.

The very first thing is that an elderly couple in their 70’s had to travel 2100 km, all the way from Delhi to Bangalore to see their dead son. It makes us wonder if there’s any importance of even a Colonel ranked officer (a gallantry award winner at that) of the elite Special Forces unit for the system? Over the years the system has kept disrespecting the service. This was their chance to do something but they failed to act on it yet again!

Rest in Peace, Tiger.

Thank you for your service.

-Ishita Jha

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2 Comments

  1. I agree with each and every word written in the article. It is sad to see that none of the media houses are even bothered to show this issue. The same treatment was given to the news of 5 para SF being martyred while killing 5 infiltrators. The only line in the article which I believe is not factually correct is the line, “But is the military legally bound to assist the government and the system in times of a disaster?”. Yes it is bound. As you mentioned they are second responders and whenever a situation cannot be handled by the first responders (usually police and state govt.) army is bound to come in and do its duty. And maybe we as citizens have taken this fact as granted. We cheer for celebrities but not for soldiers (except when we need them).

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