Intro: Governments in the past have shown a casual attitude and given an impression that those who sacrifice their lives for the country deserve no more than a pittance. People have high hopes from the present government at the Centre.
The Republic Day Parade held at New Delhi this year had special significance as the chief guest was the President of the United States, Barack Obama. The most poignant moment of the Parade was when President Pranab Mukherjee posthumously honoured Major Mukund Varadarajan and Naik Neeraj Kumar with the prestigious Ashok Chakra, the highest peacetime military award of the country. These brave sons of India have laid down their lives combating terrorists in separate incidents in the Kashmir Valley.
The award was accepted by the widows of the two brave soldiers. The grace and dignity with which the ladies accepted the honour bestowed upon their deceased husbands would have revealed to the chief guest and his wife the spirit of nationalism prevalent in the country and the valour of its soldiers.
Consciousness of the soldiers’ contribution to the national cause has to be an ongoing process, not ceremony based. Sadly, the Armed Forces have, for quite some time now, been embroiled in debilitating and humiliating bureaucratic spats over several issues.
The soldiers’ fraternity and the nation had, since long, given up on the capability of the UPA Government to deliver in the domain of national security. With the BJP-led Government in place, a ray of hope has emerged.
There are many issues that merit immediate attention. The One Rank One Pension (OROP) demand still remains unattended. The Department of Ex-servicemen (DESW) which is charged with the responsibility to look after military veterans does not hesitate from dragging them to court over frivolous cases of disability pension that can well be resolved through in house arbitration. A demand of the services for representation in the central pay commission is also pending for long.
The defence procurement procedures are so complex that the forces reel under the pressure of being badly equipped and under equipped. There is no point in having mammoth establishments like the Ministry of Defence supported by the service headquarters sitting on prime land in New Delhi, while the soldier on ground suffers due to bad equipment, inadequate pay and pathetic living conditions.
Accountability and transparency is also of prime importance in matters relating to defence and security. The government should not hide its inadequacies behind a veil of a self-proclaimed need for secrecy as was frequently done by the UPA regime. Further-more, if the forces feel that they are not ready for war they should come out openly with their apprehensions.
Apart from these brave martyrs there have been many soldiers in the years gone by who have sacrificed their lives for the country. The war memorial at the Northern Command headquarters in Udhampur, Jammu and Kashmir, alone holds the names of over 12,000 fallen heroes. If we get down to making a National War Memorial (that has been pending for long) a full count of the brave soldiers who have made the supreme sacrifice for the nation post-Independence will be readily available, and it will be a lot more than what is recorded at the Northern Command War Memorial.
The Nation that has such courageous and brave soldiers has every reason to be proud. But the casual attitude by the government negatively impacts the morale of the soldiers and erodes their confidence. Regrettably, governments in the past have shown such a casual attitude. They have given an impression that those who sacrifice their lives for the country deserve no more than a pittance. Even more distressing is the fact that these soldiers are expected to fight with outdated weapons.
It is not for the soldier to demand, it is for the Nation to provide! One can only hope that this point will be well understood by the present government. Celebration of the Republic Day is all about generating a feeling of nationalism. It is also a time to rededicate all efforts towards the well being of the country. It is hoped that the Nation will be looking at more vibrant and confident Armed Forces next year.
Jaibans Singh (The writer is Editor of www.defenceinfo.com)