The war against Corona is no less than a war in defence of the Nation and for Internal Security. It is being fought valiantly by the Doctors, medical personnel, support staff, police forces of the Centre and States, and many others. It is hightime that their efforts and sacrifices are recognised with a dedicated medal.
- B.L. Vohra
It’s high time that the Government of India institutes a Medal for Corona Warriors. This war is no less than the wars that the Army/Defence Forces/Police forces/others fight in the defence of the Nation, for Internal Security etc. And it is being fought valiantly by the Doctors, all medical personnel, the support staff, police forces of the Centre and the States, and many others. It’s easier to say that the Doctors are attending to the patients but being among the infected always and having the risk of being infected is very tough. Attending such duties for days together and going home after a few weeks and keeping themselves away from the family members, being insulted and beaten up sometimes by the patients and others, is a big courage and sacrifice.
Many of them have been infected and quite a few have laid down their lives in service to the society and the Nation. It is necessary to not only recognize their services, including supreme sacrifice made, but also to raise their morale and that of the Nation. Recognition of services is one of the methods shown by the States to show their gratitude and who will be more deserving than them in fighting this unknown virus these days which has suddenly descended on the globe leading to havoc with no end in sight at least in the near future.
The following suggestions are made based on the templates and the experience already available. First, are the eligibility criteria.
All medical personnel including the support staff which has been involved in various stages of tackling this virus all over the country should be included along with police personnel of states and the Central Armed Police Forces, Defence Forces including Army, Navy and Air Force, Coast Guard, people working in the Central and State Ministries and undertakings, the Administrators, private professionals involved in this work, the media personnel, the staff of the Railways, the Airlines, Embassies and Ministry of External Affairs, the scientists and the manufacturers of medicines and equipment, and other private players fighting this war in their own way. This list should be as broad based as possible and shouldn’t be confined to the government personnel only because there must be/and will be many unknown and unsung heroes.
Second, the following categories of the Medal are suggested:
(1) President’s Medal for Gallantry for the Corona Warrior in cases of supreme sacrifice of laying down the life in fighting the virus and for exceptional courage of a very high order. It should carry a citation and a cheque of Rs. Fifty lakhs in case of loss of life and Rupees Twenty lakhs to the living and be handed over by the President of India in a special function in Rashtrapati Bhawan at suitable intervals preferably once in six months. This function should be attended by the Vice President of India, the Prime Minister, other Ministers, leaders of opposition and other distinguished guests as also the family members of the awardee. This is the standard practice for giving other gallantry medals in the country.
(2) Indian Medal for Gallantry for the Corona Warrior in both cases of supreme sacrifice and exceptional courage of a little lesser category. This medal should carry a citation and a cheque of Rs. Fifty lakhs in case of supreme sacrifice (as loss of life should be treated at par monetarily with the higher medal as lives are equal) and Rs. Ten lakhs for the living awardee. This should be handed over by the Union Health Minister at a special function.
(3) Medal for The Distinguished Service for Corona Warrior along with a citation to be handed over by the Governor/Lt. Governor of the state/UT in which the awardee ordinarily resides, in a special function and (4) Medal for Meritorious Service to be handed over in special function by the State Chief Minister/Head of the Department in a special function. All these special functions should be attended by the family members of the awardees and the guests. These functions should be telecast live by all the TV channels. Private channels should be persuaded to do the needful.
A Committee should be appointed by the Central Government in the Union Health Ministry to decide the eligibility criteria, frame rules, to decide the format of recommendations, design medal, etc.
A Committee should be appointed by the Central Government in the Union Health Ministry immediately with a time frame of one month to suggest the following: to decide the eligibility criteria, frame rules, to decide the format of recommendations, fix time-frame for receiving, considering and deciding the recommendations, to design the medals, ribbons and the citations at the time of handing over of medals, deciding the logistics like the mint and the printing press for making the medals and printing the citations, to suggest the budgetary head from which the money will be spent in the Union Health Ministry, position of these medals in the Table of Precedence of Medals of the Government of India, the place on the clothes/uniforms where this medal will be worn and all other related matters.
Thereafter a branch in the Health Ministry should be earmarked to do this work on a regular basis. The templates for all this are available in the Home and Defence Ministries because they award and give medals on Republic Day and Independence Day each year. The first instalment of handing over these medals should be done within two months from now. It’s feasible provided the will is there and why it shouldn’t be there? The earlier the better to recognize the services and raise the morale. A quicker announcement about it by the Prime Minister will be very desirable.
In addition to the medals, the insurance cover already announced for medical personnel should be extended to other categories of Corona warriors. Also in the case of loss of life, the family should get full pay being drawn by the deceased on the day of his death as pension till he would have attained the retirement age as is the case at present in the armed forces and police forces when they make the supreme sacrifice in a warlike situation. Also, one person in the family of the deceased should be given a permanent government job, according to his capability, in the central or state government on compassionate grounds as is done in central and state government presently in the case of death of the government officials on duty. This facility should also be extended to the next of kin of those warriors also who were not in government service at the time of their death, unless they don’t want it.
These are the rough contours of the suggested medal.
Of course, there can always be improvements in these suggestions because of different inputs from various angles and sources. But it should be done fast even if it turns out to be an imperfect model at present. The famous quote, justice delayed is justice denied, should be kept in mind. Suitable changes can always be made later on. This is not a favour that the country will be doing to the Corona warriors. It’s their due.
(The author is a retired IPS officer)