This medal is awarded in recognition of non-operational services under conditions of special hardship and severe climate. The bar or clasp shows the words ” NEFA ” in Hindi. To qualify for this award, an aggregate of one year service in the North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA) is required. The medal shows an image of Nanda Devi Himalayan mountain peak with a bamboo stand in the foreground. I am proud of my military service in this area for several reasons. In 1962, after the Chinese brutal aggression, India lost control over its territory in the LADAKH region and that area still remains under the Chinese occupation. Fortunately, in the north-east Himalayan sector, India retains its control over the territory which we had lost in the 1962 War. In 1972, I was very glad to serve in this area for one complete year and I could personally witness the fact that India is prepared to fight the Chinese one more time and we are willing to do our best to keep ‘NEFA'( now known as ARUNACHAL PRADESH- The Land where Sun rises) under our control whatever may be the Chinese threats and protests. China did not give up its claim over this territory and had refused to issue a visa to an Officer of the Indian Administrative Service who had earlier served in this region. The tensions still exist and I am glad for we are better prepared now and if war is inevitable, we would welcome that challenge.
When I entered this area, the first thing that I was told by my Adjutant was, ” Rudra, if you need a copy of your most recent photo, ask the Chinese Intelligence, and they would provide you one. “ The Chinese Intelligence was keeping tabs on each Officer who is entering this area and keeping a close watch on our movements. We are neither threatened and nor intimidated by this kind of Chinese surveillance and we wanted to assure the Chinese that we will not be deterred by their Intelligence capabilities. Actually, I moved around this region without carrying my personal weapon. In 1972, this area was totally free of any unrest and insurgent activities. Indian Army had encountered problems in Nagaland, Mizoram and Tripura but not in NEFA. I would like to narrate a few events and earlier I had mentioned about the Traditional Hospitality in my entry titled ‘ Defining Indian Identity- The Tradition of Hospitality ‘.
INDIAN ARMY’S COMMITMENT TO ITS MEN:
In the Indian Army, we take pride in looking after our men and very often we stretch ourselves to do our best to safeguard the welfare of our men even under the most difficult circumstances. And we maintain this attitude while extending help to others who may not be members of our Service. I remember my stay at a Company location when a Sub-Inspector of Police came to me asking for some medical attention. He belonged to the Central Reserve Protection Force and was sent on posting to this difficult area without any prior health screening. I am sure that the same thing could be happening even today. We deploy police personnel to work in remote areas and we do not care and value their services. This man was not medically fit to serve in this area and no attempt was made to ascertain his physical fitness to perform the task for which he was sent. Fortunately, he had survived the long trek and a very difficult and physically challenging climb and reached the Government Clinic where I was voluntarily providing services to all civilian inhabitants in that area. I examined him and found his blood pressure to be very high and he was at great risk of suffering from a stroke which could be fatal or cause paralysis. He had undiagnosed high blood pressure for a long time and I could also find evidence that his kidneys were already damaged. He needed immediate hospital treatment and required emergency evacuation. His Police Department never cared to inquire about his well being before giving him the posting order. Whereas in the Armed Forces, we routinely interview the men and get them medically examined before they are sent to difficult areas. I had prepared a note about his medical condition and the signal team of my Unit immediately dispatched this message and within minutes, my request for air lift of the casualty was approved and the Air Force was informed to send a helicopter. After a short while, I received a call from the helicopter pilot who spoke to me on his radio and informed me that he was sitting in his helicopter and was ready to take off as soon as the weather permits. That was a particularly, rainy and cloudy day with very poor visibility and the mission was really challenging. The pilot assured me that he would fly in spite of all odds and would pick up my patient. The control tower was closely monitoring the clouds and they were waiting for a window of opportunity to make this trip while the cloud system moves through the mountain valley. He asked me to keep the patient ready at the helipad and that he would not be able to spend even an extra minute on the ground. Within minutes, the whole scenario at my camp had changed. The day had started on a very dull note. It was raining and there was dense fog. Suddenly, everybody got busy. As per standing orders, armed men were sent to secure our landing strip, weather signs were posted, the helipad was marked with fresh paint, smoke signals and other equipment were positioned on the ground. We erected a small shelter for the patient to rest while waiting for evacuation. A Sub-Inspector of Police was suddenly transformed into a ‘ Very Important Person ‘. He was worried about his senior officers who had transferred him to this station. He was worried that he might offend them by leaving his duty station without their prior permission. I reassured him and told him that Indian Army would accept total responsibility for sending him to the hospital and that we value him and care for his well being and that we would not expect anyone to perform duty when their personal health is at risk. The pilot made the bold trip as promised and safely transported him to a Service Hospital. The Sub-Inspector of Police told me that he would never forget the day on which he could directly experience the sense of urgency with which we acted and treated him as if he is the most precious thing on earth.
I love this award and the opportunity it gave to me to demonstrate my commitment to serve the men who serve our country.