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Friday, August 21, 2015
IN DEFENCE OF THOSE WHO DEFEND US - By Suhel Seth (Aug 16, 2015)
Being the amazingly optics driven country, we are fine ones for tokenism. Let there be a natural calamity or an incursion or insurgency or even a war, we are the first to salute our armed forces. More recently, we've even used the vagaries of social media to make #SelfieSalute trend and yet many of the brave and the valiant are languishing owing to the misdemeanours of one Government after another. This is not about One Rank One Pension. That is a legitimate right of our armed forces which has been denied to them. It is about the callousness of successive political parties that extol the virtues of those who defend our shores and yet behave like hooligans and thugs in Parliament. India has just completed its 69th year of Independence: a freedom we cherish so much but one, which is guaranteed by the heroism of those who give up their lives so that we can live without fear. And yet, for decades, we have been unable to solve this logjam which I find so disgusting.
Our mainstream media is good at shows felicitating our armed forces; making all the relevant points when there is a war or a rescue effort and yet when it comes to the pathetic state of our veterans there is more time devoted to a silly god woman than to the living gods that each of our service personnel is. We have used every pathetic political excuse to deny our retired armed force officers their place in society, which should be one laced with dignity and not one that is now being spent in penury. It is a shame that there is no debate in any House of Parliament when it comes to loutish MPs seeking a pay rise but there is complete silence across the political spectrum when it comes to giving these veterans their fair due.
Any country which cannot honour those who die for it, is a country which has lost the essentials of shame. I had great hope when Narendra Modi took over because I believed he would undo this enduring injustice. Yesterday was his second address to the nation from the Red Fort and yet apart from sound bites we have seen nothing. Instead, what we witness is the pain of the Indian veteran who must be regretting why he ever took the call of duty when no one cares for him.
We are the same country that jumps to allotting petrol pumps to widows and names parks after the dead but are woefully apathetic to the living. How damn ironic? Is this the way we are going to encourage future generations of Indians to join the services knowing well that when they leave service they will be discards and not the toast of a grateful nation?
We cannot let our veterans take to the streets. We cannot have former Chiefs writing to the Supreme Commander expressing their anguish. We cannot afford to have our veterans camp in protests and dharnas. What signals are we sending to those who are in service presently? What kind of gratitude do we as a collective people show?
We need to put our money where our salute is. We need to raise our voices at this indignity meted out to officers in uniform. The bureaucracy and the political establishment have fattened themselves far too much off the lay of our fine land. They cannot be the only beneficiaries of largesse most of which is undeserved.
We need to rise above partisan politics and lower our heads in shame for the deeds of the past. And atone for them. Not when we need the armed forces. But when they need not just our empathy but our support and actions. Happy Independence Day.