119 years of Trust Fauji beat THE TRIBUNE
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Sunday, November 7, 1999
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Marred by controversy
By Pritam Bhullar

WHEN the Army, paramilitary forces and the police are deployed in a state to quell militancy or to fight a low intensity conflict, the question of who should be vested with the overall responsibility for deployment has always caused problems. At present, there is a tussle between the Army and the paramilitary forces over this issue in Jammu and Kashmir which has cast an ominous shadow on the counter- insurgency operations.

A unified command was formed in the state a few years ago with the chief minister as its head and the corps commanders of 15 and 16 corps as his advisers. In the absence of the chief minister, the corps commanders were authorised to chair meetings, comprising members from all the forces, in their respective regions.

However, the chief secretary who, according to a recent Home Ministry order, should function as head of the Unified Command in the absence of the chief minister, has objected to the Army exercising overall control over the deployment of forces.

The Army feels that since the deployment of forces to handle a proxy war calls for professional expertise, the overall control should rest with it. This idea does not appeal to the heads of the paramilitary forces.

Since this unhealthy controversy is affecting the counter-insurgency operations in the State, the Home Ministry should resolve the issue without any further delay. What must be remembered is that national security should not be sacrificed at any cost. Undoubtedly, no other agency can handle this deployment as competently as the Army.

A modern library

Ferozepur is one of the largest and oldest cantonments in the country. But being a border town, it has lagged behind in educational feailities that most other towns boast of.

To offset this disadvantage, a multi-purpose modern library was planned in 1998 by Maj-Gen K.C. Padha, General Officer Commanding (GOC) Golden Arrow Division. Happily, the project has been completed at a cost of Rs 10 lakh by undertaking repair, renovation and modification of old buildings and with the help of various formations and units.

The motto of the library, which is named as Dronacharya Library, is "strength through learning". The library has 20,000 books on a wide variety of subjects and there is a plan to increase this number to 50,000. It also provides facilities for computer education. Apart from this, it has an internet connection and a video games section for children.

The landscaped garden provides scenic and soothing surroundings around the main building and the annexe of the library which act as a "knowledge dissemination and information awareness centre" for the whole station.

Besides all ranks of the Army officers and their children, the library is open to the civil population, particularly to the school and college students of Ferozepur. This has gone a long way in inculcating the reading habit in the younger generation and in fostering good relationship between the civil and the military.

Appellate Tribunal

The 15th Law Commission of India, in its 169th report has recommended that an Armed Forces Appellate Tribunal be created to entertain appeals against court martial verdicts. For this, the Law Commission has recommended suitable amendment to the Army, Navy and Air Force Acts. The amendments, the Law Commission further recommends, should also provide for a statutory appeal to the Supreme Court against the decisions and orders of the Tribunal.

Besides, the Law Commission’s report recommends adoption of certain measures for the prompt redressal of grievances of the members of the three services.

No doubt, discipline is the bedrock of the armed forces. But over the years it has been felt that certain provisions in the law governing the defence forces are too harsh and need to be modified.

The Law Commission’s recommendation flows from the Supreme Court’s observation that there was a glaring deficiency in the armed forces law because of the absence of any provision for an appeal against the orders of courts martial.

The Appellate Tribunal, as recommended, will be presided over by a retired judge of the apex court or a retired chief justice of a high court. And it will have two members i.e. a retired Maj-Gen or a retired officer of the equivalent rank from the Navy or from the Air Force. Its second member will be a retired advocate general from any of the three services. The President and members will have a tenure of four years.

Apart from delivering justice to military men, this tribunal will bring down the number of cases of defence personnal in civil courts.

Second career

Nearly 60,000 soldiers retire every year at a much younger age than their civilian counterparts. Because of their early retirement, the ex-servicemen have to find a second career. What should this career be?

A very few who wield influence i.e. less than 1 per cent, can find suitable jobs. The rest have to fend for themselves. What is recommended for them is self-employment which needs planning and preparation of a few years while one is in service. Besides, having led a disciplined and protected life, defence personnel have to mentally prepare themselves to enter civil life.

Despite the training courses for various self-employment schemes that the Resettlement Directorate organises and the loans that can be obtained, very few ex-servicemen go in for these schemes because of their hesitation and fear of not being able to return the loans.

Mercifully, many new schemes are floated from time to time and one such scheme unveiled at a seminar in Chandigarh on October 9 by the Institute of Tourism and Future Management Trends (ITFT) was that of "resettlement of ex-defence personnel in the tourist transport business."

Because of the active participation of G.L. Reddy, Vice-President, Marketing, Hindustan Motors and his staff, Maj-Gen Ugrasen Yadava, Director-General Resettlement, Ministry of Defence, Gurbinder Chahal, Principal Secretary Defence Services Welfare Punjab, Dr Gulshan Sharma, Director ITFT Chandigarh, and financial experts from the banking industry, the seminar which was attended by over 200 ex-servicemen, proved to be very useful. The Hindustan Motors offered a package of incentives to the ex-defence personnel who wanted to go in for the tourist transport business.Back

This feature was published on October 31, 1999

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