New Delhi: A group of veterans from India’s special forces’ have come together in an attempt to create three world records — on land, air and underwater — with people with disabilities.
The first attempt will be made in May this year on land when the team, led by former 9 Para officer Major Vivek Jacob, will climb the world’s highest battlefield, Siachen Glacier, with the largest team of people with disabilities (PWDs). The team, expected to be around 20 members strong, will include not just ex-servicemen but also serving soldiers and civilians.
Following this, they plan to set a record for the largest team of PWDs doing accelerated free fall, in Dubai, and will later head to the Maldives where they will attempt scuba diving in the open sea.
“Special Forces is an instinct, a mindset. You don’t become special just because you have worn a particular uniform and carry a rifle. It is all about state of mind,” Major Jacob said as he launched the participant campaign to select people with disabilities for the Siachen trek Saturday.
About the range of disabilities the group can take on, the Major said for the Siachen trek, the group won’t choose those with spinal cord injuries.
“There will be those who are blind or have lost their limbs. For scuba diving, we train even those with spinal cord injuries,” he said, showing a video of a man in a wheelchair doing scuba diving.
For the underwater activity, CLAW aims to create a team of 50 while for the accelerated free fall attempt, it wants a team of around 10 members.
What Is CLAW
Major Jacob set up the organisation of special forces’ veterans, called Conquer Land Air Water (CLAW).
“There are close to 12 crore people with one or the other kind of disabilities. But we don’t see them often because they live within the challenges of our society. The idea is to give every disabled person [the opportunity] to do something that they want to do,” Major Arun Ambathy, former 5 Para, said.
Major Ambathy, CLAW co-founder, said a chance meeting with an IAF officer, paralysed from his waist down, that inspired them to set up CLAW.
“Major Jacob’s parachute malfunctioned during a combat skydive in 2015 and [he] suffered a spinal cord injury. In hospital, he met with IAF officer Fl Lt Bhaduria who was permanently paralysed after a freak accident and was on wheelchair for four years. The IAF officer asked Major Jacob once if he can ever scuba dive. The Major promised him that he can and it eventually led to the forming of CLAW,” he said.
The group has now started a scuba training centre for PWDs in Pondicherry. “It has given tremendous hope and healing power to many who have come. The idea is to spread it across,” Major Jacob said, adding that the organisation, which was launched in 2019, has trained more than 100 people with disabilities in four cities.
CLAW is also in the process of formally tying up with the Paraplegic Rehabilitation Centre (PRC) of the Army in Pune and Chandigarh for institutionalised training.
“We have had serving soldiers with disabilities and veterans coming to us for training. But this was in their personal capacity. We are in the process of institutionalising this,” Major Jacob said, as he added that the idea is to see ability in disability.