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Sunday, July 11, 1999
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Are soldiers children of a lesser God?
By Pritam Bhullar

ANOTHER MiG-21 fighter aircraft on a routine sortie crashed near Pathankot on June 23, killing its pilot Flt Lt S. Karti. Such accidents have become routine, so much so that we have already lost about 215 pilots and over 555 aircraft. But what is amazing is that despite the government’s admission that the training related accidents take a heavy toll, it has been dragging its feet on the acquisition/ manufacturing of an Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) for the last 14 years.

Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha’s statement on June 23 that "his Ministry would provide adequate funds to the Defence Ministry to meet the defence requirements of the nation in view of the situation in Kargil", seems to be politically motivated. Does Sinha know that any funds doled out now will not help the defence forces in the Kargil operations? For, by the time all the formalities to purchase any equipment are completed, the worst of the Kargil conflict will be over.

Sadly, we have lost a large number of infantry officers and jawans in the Kargil sector due to the enemy sniper fire because they can be seen by the enemy at night but our troops cannot see the enemy movement as they are not equipped with night vision devices, thanks to the resource crunch. Indian soldiers are, thus, at a great disadvantage as compared to the enemy.

In scam-ridden India where politicians and bureaucrats roll in wealth and business magnates spend more than a crore for booking places like Calcutta’s Victoria Memorial for a wedding, besides eight to 10 lakhs on the evening’s musical performance, the soldiers are dying in vain because of their poor equipment.

Isn’t it a cruel joke on our soldiers whose lives are considered the cheapest in the country because they belong to the armed forces? Think of the widows who, if the past experience is anything to go by, will not get what is being promised to them. As for the disabled soldiers, their disability assessed by duly constituted medical boards is reduced arbitrarily by the controller of Defence Accounts (Pensions). Though this callous attitude is devoid of any logic, yet the government does not step in to stop this high-handedness being perpetuated on those hapless soldiers who have lost their limbs to save the honour of the country.

Despite all the promises made by politicians since 1989 and now being repeated over the last few months by the Defence Minister George Fernandes, the "one rank, one pension" demand still stands out like a sore thumb. Why?. Because the bureaucrats are determined not to let it go through.

No doubt, politicians and bureaucrats are wise enough not to send their children to the armed forces. But if all countrymen become as wise as they are, then who will evict the intruders and Pakistani soldiers from Kargil? Don’t these people think even once that they would not be sitting in the comfort of their air-conditioned offices and enjoying peaceful sleep, if soldiers were not sacrificing their lives? Are soldiers children of a lesser god?

Vocational training

"OP VIJAY" has already turned over 125 young brides into war widows and three times as many children into orphans. Today, our wily politicians are singing songs in their praise just to gain political mileage. But when the action in Kargil is over, these unfortunate widows will be as forgotton as the earlier ones.

These war widows have to fight alone to sustain themselves and their children, besides educating and settling them. No matter what pittance is doled out to them, their subsistence will depend on their own earning capacity which should be created during peace time.

Today, most of the wives of JCOs and jawans are well educated. What they need is the right kind of vocational training to generate a second source of income to boost their husbands’ income. This income can also help them during difficult times.

Almost all Army formations cater to the vocational training of women. One such training centre called Gurj Vocational Training Centre (GVTC) is at Mamun cantonment in Pathankot. Started in May 1998, it has already trained 572 women (wives of JCOs and other ranks) in various disciplines.

Some of the courses run in the centre are on beautician training, computer training, secretarial training and home science training. When asked about the benefits of the course, a beautician course trainee said she was already earning over Rs 1,000 a month by doing some casual work.

Holiday homes

The concept of Army holiday homes took birth during World War II. But over the years, the idea tickled the fancy of all armies of the world.

We in India have holiday homes at several hill stations. Some of them are at Gulmarg, Srinagar, Shimla, Kasauli, Mussouri and Nainital.

The Army Holiday Home at Kasauli with 11 small and four large suites is not only one of the best holiday homes in the country but is also very popular with both serving and retired officers and their families. The holiday home suites which are well-equipped and have a kitchenette with necessary utencils, crockery and cooking gas, are meant for a couple and two children.

While the staff at the holiday home deserves all praise for rendering excellent service to the occupants, the sore point is that some officers misuse this facility by helping non-entitled people to stay their. Imagine the inconvenience that is caused to the other occupants when more than ten members stay in a suite, spoil the serene atmosphere of the holiday home and strain its limited resources. Another dismaying feature is that some retired officers do not vacate the accommodation on the expiry of the allotted period. Back

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