The project is an initiative to help families of army officers who lost their lives under ‘non-operational circumstances’ such as physical ailments, accidents, and suicides
Retired army officer and Shaurya Chakra awardee Colonel Vembu Shankar’s penchant for the Indian Army began in his childhood. His decision to begin ‘Project Sambandh’ - a one-man philanthropic initiative. to connect the Next of Kin (NoK) of ‘physical casualties’ in the Army - was made in 2017 as he was nearing 20 years of service.
Project Sambandh, which Col. Shankar refers to as his calling, was initially started as a 1,000-day endeavour to reach out to families of army officers who lost their lives under ‘non-operational circumstances’ such as physical ailments, accidents, and suicides. A few years in, he realised that it would take more than a thousand days to collect information on the NoKs and help them reconcile the loss of their loved one.
“Project Sambandh has identified that the NoKs, particularly young widows and children of the army personnel, face three kinds of challenges - financial, emotional, and social,” said Col. Shankar. While the financial aspect was because of losing the primary breadwinner of the family, social challenges could be brought about by the stigma that the NoKs had to face within the society.
“If there are about 100 army personnel killed in the battlefield every year, over a thousand die due to non-operational reasons and for these families entitlements, grants and schemes are vastly different from those of the battle casualties,” Col. Shankar said.
Although the Indian Army assisted the NoKs in the initial years after an officer’s death, the connection was lost in the subsequent years, he said. Over the last five years, he mapped over 15,000 NoKs and connected them to authorities. This had helped in delivery of more than ₹1 crore financial assistance. Moreover, many families had also been put in touch with the units and regiments their husband, son, or father had served.
The main intent of the project was to bring awareness about the challenges the NoK of the physical casualties faced and assist them in connecting them to the Directorate of Indian Army Veterans, which provided several educational and social schemes to children and the widows of slain army personnel, he said.
For details, visit projectsambandh.com.