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Apathy hurts more than bullet

- Paralysed waist down, SPO says Dispur did not help, even discontinued salary

Panikhaiti, Jan. 21: The hands that held a 4.5kg self-loading rifle are as strong as ever but Biraj Das, a Special Police Officer (SPO), can no longer stand on his feet. A bullet fired by militants hit him from behind on November 17, 2012, leaving him paralysed waist down.

Das has received no financial help from the state government although his service agreement stated that SPOs are entitled to get ex gratia in case of injury or death while on duty. To make matters worse, his fixed monthly salary of Rs 6,000 was stopped in September last year. The medical bills are spiralling and with no government help coming his way, the 28-year-old SPO here, about 20km from Guwahati, has decided to join a march tomorrow seeking re-gularisation of jobs of SPOs.

The protest is being organised by Special Police Officers’ Welfare Society.

Das’ 60-year-old father Gobinda Ram Das had sold a plot of land and spent nearly Rs 14 lakh so far but can no longer afford another Rs 2 lakh for a stem cell treatment in New Delhi.

The rebels had attacked the SPO at Serfanguri in Kokrajhar district, about 280km from Guwahati, where he was posted in 2008 to guard officials engaged by National Highways Authority of India for the East-West Corridor project.

“I was on evening pantry duty and around 3pm three youths came to the gate and called me. One of them suddenly shot at me from behind with a pistol. I fell down and before I could use my SLR, they snatched it away,” Das told The Telegraph.

Das grew up seeing many undergoing training at the Central Training Institute of Home Guards situated near his home here. He had joined as a home guard and was absorbed as SPO in 2008. He still remembers how he once caught some robbers by risking his life. “I put my 100 per cent though the government paid us a fixed salary of Rs 4,839 only. Now when I am in trouble, nobody looks at us,” Das lamented, accepting a cup of tea and coconut laru from his mother Usha, 55.

His elder brother, Ananda, a private company employee, has been doing the rounds of government offices with the Rs 6lakh medical bills during the SPO’s one-week treatment at the Brain and Spinal Hospital in Chennai. They spent Rs 70,000 at a private hospital in Guwahati before visiting Chennai.

“My brother, a friend of mine and a local doctor took me to Chennai by air. The doctors could not remove the bullet as the operation could have further harmed my spinal chord. We had to come back as we could not afford the treatment there. Since then, we have been paying Rs 500 daily for physiotherapy. Doctors have advised me to go to New Delhi for a stem cell therapy which we can’t afford,” said Das.

“We are really in trouble without government help. We can only pray to God. We hope the government gives him a peon’s job after he gets well,” Das’s mother said.

When asked about the SPO’s salary, a senior official in Dispur said the matter has been taken up with the finance department.


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