Chronicling activities of Veterans in Manipur
- Part 2 -

Lt Col L Manongba (Retd) *

·Healthcare Solutions for the Veterans –

The Armed Forces veterans have an extremely vigorous and useful healthcare system, Ex-servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS), which is probably the best system in the country. However, in 2015, the two polyclinics in the State were quite dysfunctional, with just about five patients on an average daily, and medicines were often not available.

With dynamic leadership, and support of various local Army formations the ECHS Polyclinics have now become nodal centres for ESM welfare. The daily sick report footfall has increased to 30 (six times previous figures) and medicines availability has improved vastly.

Today we dispense medicine worth Rs. 9 lakh per month, including for Cancer Patients, Anti Hepatitis Viral drugs, Chronic Kidney disease, Post Renal Treatment, etc. Not a single patient has gone back empty-handed or returned dejected due to lack of medicines.

Controlled quantities of Anti Rabies medicines & Polyvalent Anti Snake Venom (ASV i.e. effective against all the four common species; Russell's viper, common cobra, common Krait and saw-scaled viper) are kept under strict supervision for any emergency. The mini pharmacy ensures the availability of medicines ranging from Amlodipine (Re 01 /- per tab) to Tab Lenvatinib for thyroid cancer costing Rs. 1.90 lakh per month's dose.

This is the story of a simple yet significant transformation of a humble ECHS Polyclinic at, Imphal. These are changes that the team has been able to bring about–To bring smiles to many a veteran.

The Interface Organisation–Every State & Union Territory is supposed to have a fully functional Rajya Sainik Board and Zilla Sainik Boards. The basic function of Rajya Sainik Board is to be the Interface of the ESMs vis-ŕ-vis State Govt/ Regimental Centres/Local Military Authorities. The Rajya Sainik Board was largely defunct, with no clerical staff.

The office building was in a dilapidated condition due to lack of funds for repairs and upkeep. Churachandpur Zilla Sainik Board had no office. With AFESAM becoming an effective representative voice, a new Secretary RajyaSainik Board, Col. SK Sharma, (Retd) was officially appointed through the Manipur Public Service Commission.

Working as a one- manoffice, he looks after the interests of the 11,000 ESMs of the State and their families. The State Government is yet to respond kindly to the constant pleas to provide bare minimum office staff, hence the ESM community ourselves employed a retired Subedar Major as office clerk, without a salary or any benefit.

For the past 18 months, he works as a volunteer from the ESM community. The energies and activism of AFESAM succeeded in attracting interest of few Cabinet Ministers of the State Government. On 1st June 2019, the Education Minister of the state donated a handsome amount of Rs 10 lakh and few more donations came in ranging from Rs 10,000 to 1 lakh.

The contributions that trickled in from few Ministers, MLAs, were used to create the foundation of a dream–"Ex Servicemen Memorial Park" inside the complex of Rajya Sainik Board, Manipur. Within 40 days, An 'Altar For The Brave' was constructed with these donations and unveiled on 21 July 2019.

Republic & Independence Day Parades

On these occasions, all State capitals have an ESM contingent marching at the head of a parade. Manipur probably had been one example where there was a very rudimentary presence of the ESMs. This changed in 2019. On 26th Jan 2019, a proud contingent of 60 ESM of Manipur, leading the parade, marched past the saluting dais.

The contingent came from all districts of the State, camped in the Rajya Sainik Board premises for five days; all expenses were borne by the not so rich ESM Association, AFESAM.

The 16th Governor of Manipur, Honourable Smt Najma Akbar Ali Heptulla reciprocated the smart salute from Hony. Capt Hausuan Mang, Sena Medal (Assam Regt), leading the ESM contingent, clad in blacks with the glittering medals & ribbons on their breast pockets.

Similar parades were also held in all district HQs with the ESM contingents leading. The same standards were repeated on 15th Aug 2019 and 26th Jan 2020.

Assistance to ESM

With the Sainik Welfare organisations becoming more effective, needy ESM and widows have benefited with financial assistance released to them as warranted. The AFESAM has networked well with the Command HQ and local formations, who have also provided much needed financial support.

As per a resolution of AFESAM, immediate financial assistance of Rs 5000/- is given to the next of kin of a deceased ESM and an obituary is also taken out in local media for the deceased. Here too, we the ESM community have made these changes for and by ourselves. This step has enhanced the pride amongst the ESM and contributed to lifting their status in society.

AFESAM has been an interface with NGOs, who have been forthcoming in helping out needy ESM. Mention may be made of Atharva Foundation of Shri Sunil Rane of Mumbai, who recently donated a fully equipped Ambulance and computers, wheelchair etc for the needy ESM of Churachandpur District of Manipur.

Besides these individual initiatives, the ECHS polyclinic also erected a Green House in its premises. Exquisite varieties of orchids from the hills of Manipur adorn the bamboo racks in the green house. Thus, Veteran Affairs have gained substantially, once the ESM community has developed a united voice and forum.

The ECHS Polyclinic is now a happening and active community service centre and adds phenomenally to social wellbeing. The changes, tangible or otherwise, for the ESM of the State, have begun. However, there's a lot more to be done.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
– Robert Frost


Lt. Col. L. Manongba (Retd) was commissioned into 11 GR in June 1980, and took premature retirement in Nov 2003. In his second innings he was witness to epochal events, where he saw the birth of a new Nation, i.e. South Sudan. At that time he was working as General Manager of a Petroleum Company in East Africa (South Sudan). He was elected as an Executive Member of the 1st Commercial Association of South Sudan (Petroleum Association of South Sudan). Since 2016, he has been overseeing the Ex Servicemen Healthcare scheme in Imphal and has been the driving force of the first ESM association in the State, AFESAM. He is in the forefront of ESM activities in Manipur.

* Lt Col L Manongba (Retd) wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer can be contacted at colmanongba(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on January 02 2021.

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