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August 17, 1999
Army orders inquiry into PVC blunder
Our Correspondent in New Delhi
The Indian Army has begun a high-level inquiry into the "unpardonable mistake" of declaring one of the Param Vir Chakra winners, Grenadier Yogendra Singh Yadav, dead, though he was convalescing in an army hospital in New Delhi. Senior army officers said it was probably at the Srinagar headquarters of the 15 Corps or Northern Command headquarters in Udhampur that the goof up happened.
Sources said there were two Yogendra Singh Yadavs in a team of 22 men, under the command of Lieutenant Balwan Singh, who climbed to the top of Tiger Hill using ropes and mountaineering equipment. This group of 22, who were the first to reach the hill top and clear it of Pakistani intruders, have besides the PVC won a Mahavir Chakra too.
The "unpardonable crime of declaring a PVC dead", said army sources, will be "inquired into and action will be taken against those responsible." The faux pas came to light when the wife of PVC Yadav protested to the Base Hospital authorities about her husband being declared dead, and a scrutiny of the details of Yadav revealed that he was alive.
The army chief rushed to the Base Hospital on Sunday afternoon with gifts and apologies, while on Monday the defence ministry accepted the mistake. Chief of Army Staff General VP Malik has ordered an inquiry and has warned of severe punishment for those responsible, sources said.
What has surprised the army top brass and military observers is how the "grave mistake" crept into "one of the toughest selection procedures for any award anywhere in the world."
The Indian military awards have always kept away from controversies due to their impartial methodology, said Brigadier Satbir Singh, who is on deputation as a senior fellow with the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. He said a recommendation from the commanding officer of a battalion is "dissected and discussed" at various levels before being finally approved.
Recommendation for any gallantry award for a soldier is initiated by the commanding officer of a battalion to the brigade headquarters. From the brigade headquarters it is passed on after scrutiny to the divisional headquarters and from there to the corps headquarters. From the corps, after detailed discussion and correlation of the claims, it is the send to the command headquarters, where from it is forwarded to the army headquarters in New Delhi.
At the army headquarters it is finally scrutinised by the Honours and Awards committee headed by the army chief, which has principal staff officers such as military secretary and adjutant general as its members. The decision of this committee is forwarded to the ministry of defence for its final approval.
"The Param Vir Chakra is awarded for rarest of the rare gallantry which is beyond the call of duty and which in normal life is considered impossible to do," pointed out Brig Singh. He said a gallantry award is given for a particular act, and a soldier could win more than one gallantry award in a war for his different actions.
While the Param Vir Chakra, Maha Vir Chakra, Vir Chakra, Sena Medal and Mention in Despatches are awarded to soldiers who go out to the field and fight the battle, for leadership qualities senior officers are selected for Sarvottam Yudh Seva Medal, Uttam Yudh Seva Medal and Yudh Seva Medal. Sarvottam Yudh Seva Medal was awarded this time to the chief of Western Command of the Air Force, Air Marshal Vinod Patney, who is the second officer in Independent India's history to be awarded this honour.
A senior army officer said the goof up of declaring Param Vir Chakra "posthmously" to Grenadier Yogendra Singh Yadav would be taken into consideration "to see if there is any need for improving our system of scrutiny."
The brave band of 22 men, which also included three instructors who taught them to climb the dangerously steep right hand side of Tiger Hill, have also won a Mahavir Vir Chakra. Lt Balwan Singh, who passed out of the Indian Military Academy last March, won a MVC. He was recommended for a PVC from the brigade HQ, but was finally awarded a MVC.
Sources said the goof up came from the fact that there were two Yogendra Singh Yadavs among the 22 men. While one Yadav died, the other, fired by his comrade's death took the battle into the enemy's camp despite grievous injuries that included four bullet wounds, a broken left arm and an disabled right leg.
The Yadav duo were among the first to reach the hilltop and engage the enemy in fierce hand-to-hand combat.
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