Indian Army personnel, who are awarded for their exceptional service, are forced to buy ‘replicas’ of the medals from private shops as the Army takes several years to deliver the original ones.
According to a Times of India report, the replicas of the original medals, are available for as low as Rs 40 to Rs 180 at private outlets at Lal Bazar, Regimental Bazar, Mehdipatnam and Golconda in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad.
Sources in the Defence Ministry confirmed that the backlog of non-gallantry medals runs as far back as 10 years, the report said.
The report further claimed that one can buy a complete uniform with all the medals and badges, for as less as Rs 2,500.
Practically every medal, except for the gallantry awards, is up for sale at these private shops. Gallantry awards, which have the name and Army number of the recipient engraved on them, cannot be bought from a private shop.
“Yes, I bought nine out of 10 medals from private shops,” Mohammed Rafee, who served the Army for 24 years, was quoted by Times of India as saying.
Rafee was awarded 10 medals but was given only one by the Army. He joined the Army as a sepoy when he was seventeen years old and finally retired as a havildar.
“I should have got my medals at the time they were to be given to me,” he said.
On the other hand, former Army personnel believe that lack of coordination among various wings of the Army is the reason why medals are not reaching recipients on time.
“The Army Postal Services should deliver the medal to the personnel wherever they are. One problem could be tracing a person if he has been transferred,” said Rafee.
The revelation is a serious security threat, with the replica copies available for sale to any willing buyer. The shops also sell badges that are to be pinned to the Army uniform.
According to the report, on could even buy the replica of a medal given for participating in the Kargil war, codenamed Operation Vijay; the Samanya Seva medal, for designated operations; and the Uchh Tungta medal, for serving at high altitude.
Colonel P Ramesh Kumar (Retd), director of Sainik welfare, admitted that there was delay in giving recipients their medal after their names were entered in the records.
“But some who may not want to wait might go and buy the medals from privately owned shops,” he said.