More than merited was every column-centimetre across which the media recently “splashed” the courageous recovery of Mr Chetan Cheetah, a CRPF officer, who after being comatose for 16 days was discharged from hospital ~ after sustaining no fewer than nine bullet wounds in an anti-militancy operation in Hajjan, Jammu and Kashmir, on 16 February. Doctors at the AIIMS, New Delhi, to where he was transferred after preliminary treatment at the Base Hospital in Srinagar, hailed his “steely resolve”, and said it was “nothing short of a miracle” that the Commanding Officer of the paramilitary’s 45th battalion had survived the multiple injuries.

Though one eye has been “saved”, he may lose sight in the other. The dedication of the doctors has been lauded by the home minister, Mr Rajnath Singh, who tweeted “fortune favours the brave”. Like a true warrior, Mr Cheetah has expressed gratitude for the goodwill messages, and made particular mention of the Chief of the Army Staff and the minister of state for home affairs having visited him in hospital: “such moments are unforgettable”. No doubt gallantry awards and other honours will be bestowed upon the man who has done his nation proud, yet as his wife noted, “normality in our lives will return once he wears the uniform and goes to work again”.

That is where the CRPF leadership must step in: assigning Mr Cheetah desk-bound duties may cater to financial and allied needs, but will not fully “compensate” for his willingness to go the extra mile for his country’s cause. The nature of the job could well be restricted by his physical condition, but quality leadership would demand that his exemplary conduct be harnessed to inspire other men and women in uniform to emulate the lofty standards he has set.

Traditionally the military and allied services are rule-bound when it comes to financial rewards for gallantry, distinguished service, etc., ~ the babus who deal with such matters are unable to look beyond “files”, standing orders, formulae, etc. As the cases taken to tribunals and courts suggest, there is limited scope for flexibility and innovative “out-of-the-box” thinking. Heroics are soon forgotten, promotions and postings, indeed longevity of service too, are linked with the evaluation of “medical boards”.

For how long will even those in the CRPF remember the gallantry of men like Chetan Cheetah and the tribute paid to him by ministers, the Army chief, etc? What also goes against the grain ~ in all matters relating to “recognising” the soldier ~ is that the ceremonials are essentially sarkari. When last were Opposition leaders involved in the homage paid to soldiers’ being transported to their native places for the Last Rites? Something is very wrong somewhere.