Friday, February 19, 2016


Thursday, 18 February 2016 

It’s ironic that issues like the arrest of a student activist or the death of a student galvanises our politicians and public more than the grave issue of national security
Lance Naik Hanamanthappa Koppad’s gallant but ultimately unsuccessful fight for survival is finally over and he has been cremated with full military honours. It is now time to step back and introspect on the media hoopla, public mass hysteria and ersatz patriotism that followed his death. Indeed ironically, his miraculous survival against all odds under 35 feet of ice for six days forced people to sit up and take notice of the difficult challenges that our military faces while defending our borders. That public memory is short and media attention is fleeting, comes as no surprise.
Media and public focus, with attendant political activity, has now shifted to ‘graver’ issues of the alleged anti-national activity and Government high-handedness at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. In all the petty politics, other nine colleagues of Koppad who tragically lost their lives in the same incident and also the superlative action, the grit, the courage and determination displayed by all those who were involved in the search and rescue operation, at great personal cost and physical danger, is all but forgotten.
Indeed, it is ironic that the tragic suicide by a student or the arrest of a student activist galvanises our politicians and the public more than either issues of national security or the pathetic circumstances in which a vast majority of military veterans or their widows survive. One needs to accept the hard reality that the military in this country is seen as nothing more than security guards who is paid to protect the treasury; to be seen, but not heard. That is why, the sacrifice of a thousand of our soldiers who have been psychologically or physically maimed while protecting our borders and their way of life have never concerned the common man or the more privileged in their drawing rooms. If it had, Governments, over the years, would have been more empathetic and sensitive in their dealings with the military.
We would then not have witnessed the unsavoury sight of an 80-year-old war veteran being pushed around by policemen in the name of ‘security’. Nor would there have been the necessity of the veterans to protest or resort to hunger strikes against the Government’s deplorable interpretation of the one-rank-one-pension imbroglio.
For that matter, there would have been no need for the serving military Chiefs to object to the Government against the horrendous recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission which has taken upon itself the task of demeaning and castrating the Armed Forces, probably just to prove who’s the boss, by justifying its arguments with mistruth and outright lies. How else can one justify paying bureaucrats double the ‘hardship allowance’ of that received by those serving in Siachen while serving in Guwahati or elsewhere in the North-East. Or, why should the paratroopers get ‘hazard allowance’ that is around 10 per cent of the allowances received by personnel of the ‘Cobra’ battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force deployed in Maoist-affected areas.
The Prime Minister certainly earned brownie points for his unprecedented visit to the Army hospital where attempts were made to revive Hanamanthappa. His ‘gracious’ gesture is to be welcomed, but it means little if such symbolism continues to be at complete variance with the action initiated by his Government to fulfill its promises made to the military earlier. It may be recalled that former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had done exactly the same when she publicly credited the Armed Forces for the 1971 victory, honoured its architect, Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, while quietly ensuring that their pensions were drastically cut, compensations reduced and their prestige and standing eroded by the Third Central Pay Commission. It is in this context that the action of the Congress, which was then in power, to refuse to send the Defence Minister or the Service Chiefs to attend his funeral three decades later, must be seen. Soldiers, both serving veteran, are not stupid. They will no longer be fooled by symbolism.
A vast majority of the soldiers who toil for a living fully understand that the compensation they receive only guarantees their loyalty to the extent that the organisation that they serve looks after them. We need to remember that the men and women who join the military of their own volition do so not to earn money, but because of their abiding faith in the country and what it stands for. Unfortunately, over the years, their expectations have been belied and they have been let down by an uncaring public, scheming politicians and self-serving bureaucrats. The vital question that confronts us today is: Are we worth for our soldiers to die for?
(The writer is a consultant with Observer Research Foundation)

(Source- The Pioneer)


  1. Kindly donot become short tempered. Use simple meaningfull sentences so as everybody can quickly and easily read and understand the expression of the author

  2. The 'hardship allowance' in the North East was in vogue when the infrastructure was primitive during the British times and the then ICS was blessed thus. Now these ISA officers live in cities which are as modern as the rest in the country with Malls and entertainment. How come they are put to hardship as compared to the soldiers who operate in remote areas? They are not posted to areas where 'Koppad' like soldiers work for years, if they experience the hardships of a soldier, they will enhance their hardship allowances in such areas to additional lakh Indian Rupees. In their AC environment they feel hardships, how funny and they pay themselves hefty hardship allowances, so are the Parliamentarians, a sad state of affairs. Both these categories must hang their heads in shame. We soldiers presently live and operate in an environment where there is no loyalty in our government towards our Mother Land, for these bureaucrats and Parliamentarians forgot what it means to be honest, live with integrity, move about with humble life, and sincerity in words spoken/work done.

  3. It has become a fashion to blame ICS for everything. Are you taking care of your Jawans fairly? Ask to your consciousness . What career advancement being offered to them by working in glacier like Siachen? a maximum of PB-2 grade. Is that a great grade for the hardship being faced by them during the course of their career in Army. Definitely not.Then who is the stumbling block? is it ICS ? Indian Army should learn from others how to treat their staff fairly. For example a person who joins as peon or clerk in Bank can raise to the level of Sr Mgr or AGM without any discrimination, a democratic way of functioning in Democratic India, unlike in Indian Army where a 'Lakshman Rekha' has been drawn between PB-2 to PB3. Jawan can get killed fighting terrorist,can be a PVC awardee,can get trapped under 35 ft snow working in glacier, you can be in uniform even for 32 years, you may be a subject matter expert,every thing is ok but never ever think of crossing the 'Lakshman Rekha', it is 'WE' blue eyed,white skinned & golden haired race's sole privilege. Indian democracy... long live.

  4. There is one supreme national necessity. The political class, not the bureaucracy - which represents the real civil supremacy better become more savvy on matters relating to the Armed Forces. Till then they are at the mercy of the civil service, who frequently play their own little war games. At ministerial level there are some very specialised departments eg Finance, Railways,Security (Home), Foreign and Defence, where split second decisions are necessary. It is always possible to find netas savvy in finance, foreign relations and railways. Security has been addressed in getting a former IPS officer as NSA at the level of a MoS. It is time that a professional is also brought into the Defence Ministry as MoS? The sooner the better. In fact this will be better than a CoDS because the Armed Forces will have someone not constrained by the Army Act or Article 33 of the Constitution. Of course the loudest howls will come from the babus. The netas must realise that a divide and rule policy cannot work where the country's security is concerned. Recall 1962?

  5. Mr Modi and Parrikar think that Armed Forces means guns, tanks, aircrafts, submarines, ships and such equipment. We veterans are fighting to impress upon them that men are required to operate those war machines and they require a bold and generous heart to sacrifice their lives in the process. But they fail to understand why majority of them live to claim OROP now. Besides scrapping the PMR, on retirement they may propose an novel idea, the 'euthanasia' to those surviving and retiring soldiers/airmen and the sailors. With that, the pension burden in future will be lessened once for all.