Stand Up for Our Soldiers

VICTORY IN Kargil was certainly a defining moment in the history of Independent India. It was the outcome of supreme sacrifice by the soldiers of this country, displaying valour with dignity. Kargil was not an easy win. The terrain was tough and the enemy was perched comfortably on high mountain peaks. The task was to regain the occupied peaks. The Kargil victory was an extraordinary achievement for the Indian Armed forces as they conducted the war without violating any international norms. July 26 is celebrated as Vijay Divas, to mark the victory in Kargil. The young officers and soldiers were primarily responsible for India’s victory in Kargil. As a grateful citizen of this nation I pay my homage and salute those brave soldiers who “gave their today for our tomorrow.”
Kargil WarBut nine year on I feel that we as a nation are callous towards our soldiers. A soldier lays down his life to protect the integrity of the nation, which is his duty. The duty to live up to the trust of billions of people, duty to save the motherland from enemy, duty to keep the integrity of the country intact. A soldier fulfills all his duties but can the same be applied to Ministry of Defence (MoD) or for that matter to our bureaucrats and politicians. They earned money on the bodies of the martyrs. They even neglected the intelligence failure. Like the other wars Kargil was also converted to genuine victory. India declared ceasefire when Army was ready for the final assault. Nehru’s mistake in calling a ceasefire too early and taking the issue of Kashmir to the United Nations for resolution are fairly well-chronicled, as a starting point for the modern-day Kashmir issue. Under pressure from Mountbatten and personally committed to peace and non-violence, Nehru opted for a civilised resolution to the conflict. The 1965 war with Pakistan did not end in a decisive victory for any one side. When Pakistan captured the Akhnoor and Chicken’s Neck in Kashmir, Shastri’s aggressive reaction of opening war along the entire western front with Pakistan had resulted in the Indian Army making substantial inroads into Pakistan territory and famously coming within striking distance of Lahore. Shastri, for reasons still not quite clear, decided to play a Prithviraj Chauhan to Ayub Khan’s Mohammed Ghouri. He agreed to withdraw the Indian Army from all captured territories, including some strategic territories in Kashmir. 1971 was probably the best opportunity that India had to resolve the Kashmir issue on terms favourable to it. India had come out of the war not only a decisive but also a magnanimous victor. The ceasefire Indira Gandhi unilaterally declared, against the advice of her armed forces commanders, was driven by realpolitik and economic reasons.
We as a citizen join hands and come forward to extend our support to our brave soldiers. But only when there is a war. We forget them during peace time. Why? Why can’t a nation salute its soldiers when he is alive, not just when he is dead?
Few months ago after the recommendations of Sixth Pay Commission, former servicemen staged protest against the recommendation. They said that the Sixth Pay Commission hasn’t met the expectations of the defence personnels. Minister of State for Defence M Pallam Raju voiced displeasure over the protests by the ex-servicemen, saying it was not dignified on their part. I agree with Raju because India is perhaps the only nation where the politicians are not interested in looking into the grievances of the services. The government must realise that they have taken such a step because their demands are very genuine and they have protested as the last resort. If government hopes to solve the trouble with the laid-back attitude then it is trying to fool itself. A nation is as strong as its armed forces. The words like non-violence and world peace are used these days but one must understand that on the international stage you are identified by your defence forces. Unfortunately, government hasn’t woken from slumber. In India, soldiers are treated shabbily, their prestige is often mocked at and their fate is decided by the IAS babus who have earned notoriety for reasons other than providing a clean administration and efficient governance. Hence joining the forces is no longer a matter of pride and preference, consider the number of vacancies the forces have now. When the ugly politicians look down on patriotism and honour of the soldier, we see heroes laid to rest unsung and soldiers committing suicide.
The defence forces are facing shortage of thousands of officers which has been accentuated by the attrition. This year National Defence Academy (NDA), which has the intake of 300 could get only 192 cadets while Indian Military Academy (IMA) got 86 out of 250 intake capacity. The signs are really disappointing and the government must not take it lightly. After independence, Jawaharlal Nehru neglected the army for years and thus China was able to attack India without any hesitation. He himself later admitted this.
The Indian public and press remain apathetic on defence issues as well. Kargil war was duly covered by media. But when the war was over none of the media houses took the issues of unceremonious treatment meted to the families of martyrs. We forgot that our soldiers are still guarding the frontiers. We as a nation never try to understand the sacrifices, problems and demands of the forces. The problems of the forces is not a priority for our politicians. There has been no solution till date concerning to the Sixth Pay Commission report. It may be seen that initially, an IAS officer and defence service officer start off on an equal footing so far their salary is concerned. But after a year or two, an IAS officer is promoted to the post of under secretary which is equivalent to the rank of a Major or equivalent ranks in other wings of defence forces, where as, the officers in defence services attain the rank of a Major after seven years. As such, a wide gap is created in the salary of an under secretary and an officer of the rank of Major and equivalent ranks in the defence forces.

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