Wednesday, February 13, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



President, PM should visit the troops

The Indian defence forces were ordered to be deployed in battle locations against Pakistan more than a month ago. The President and the Prime Minister have not so far visited the troops in forward areas. It is incumbent on the Supreme Commander and the elected head of the country to do so. It is part of the accepted role of top leadership to be seen amongst the troops when they are asked to get ready for war, motivate them and raise their morale.

During electioneering in Punjab, surely the PM could have also spared some time for those in bunkers, trenches, laying mines, exchanging fire with troops on the other side and on operational readiness in fighter aircraft! President Bush went to Saudi Arabia, President Clinton went to Bosnia! Some US leaders have even visited their troops in inhospitable and dangerous Afghanistan and in the ships in the Arabian Sea. Gen Musharraf has also visited Pak formations deployed in the desert and other areas.

Pity is that Indian leaders and their bureaucrat advisers have no defence background or interest in the soldiers/seamen/ airmen. They do not know what makes the military tick. There is no pressure either from elected representatives on those in authority for them to identify themselves with the ones ordered to face the enemy. Naturally, a visit to the troops does not perhaps even get on to the draft future programme made periodically for the President and the Prime Minister except ceremonial visits to the Fleet or Colour Presentation Ceremonies.


The style of functioning of the Indian political leadership has been shaped by the bureaucracy on bureaucratic lines ie meetings, memorandums, studies, committees, high level committees. Going on the ground, particularly in rugged and under developed areas, leading from the front is not the way the bureaucracy functions and political leaders also think that is the best way. Whereas, to get the real feel, impress the leader’s personality and provide practical leadership, there is no short cut but to go to the field.

It is, therefore, need of the hour that the Supreme Commander and the Prime Minister spare some time for the soldiers/sailors/airmen
deployed against our adversary on the West, don the camouflage fatigues or at least a military cap, travel in a jeep on dusty roads for a few miles in the forward areas, speak to them and have tea in metal mugs with them and with those on forward air bases, the naval ships being out on the high seas.

Lt Gen HARBHAJAN SINGH (retd), Chandigarh

Strengthen panchayats

It is indeed quite encouraging that the government is taking fresh initiatives to strengthen the agriculture sector by deregulating the movement of agriculture produce and products. But the question that still remains is: Will the benefits of internal liberalisation pass on to the small and marginal farmers and the measures really help the village economy to sustain itself?

The answer lies in strengthening village panchayats which must be given more resources and authority to draw their own framework for the development of the village as a unit. The first step in this direction should be to provide each village with a panchayat bhavan like town hall buildings in cities. Such a complex should invariably be provided with a reading room-cum-library to be funded by the government. Further, it should be made mandatory that the sarpanch of the village is to be rotated every two and a half years with an opportunity for a woman sarpanch to preside once in five years.

Taking a cue from the Anand Dairy Project in Gujarat, village panchayats may form cooperatives to pool their produce for better marketing and quicker returns by eliminating unscrupulous commission agents and even inefficient food procuring governmental agencies. The exodus of village youth to urban centres has to be stopped by encouraging agro-based industries, if we really want to check the widening income disparities between the ruralities and the urbanites. Governmental and bureaucratic interference should be made minimum to ensure proper utilisation of funds and grants in the villages. Let each one of us realise that if our villages prosper, the country’s economy will definitely be on firm and deeper roots. Let the fruits of liberalisation and development be enjoyed equitably by the masses.

B. B. GOYAL, Ludhiana

Titles, awards and ranks

The recent rank of Marshal of the IAF given to retired Air Force Chief Arjan Singh has made a mockery and confusion of our concept of titles, awards and ranks. When India became a Republic, Parliament abolished the giving of all titles, which was a relic of countries having a royal sovereign as its head. Thus although countries like the UK, Norway and Denmark still give, titles, all others like the USA, Russia and European countries have since done away with it, and so has India.

It must also be remembered that titles like “Sir” or “Lord” precede the name, whereas awards like the civilian Ratna and Bhushan series and the military PVC and PVSM etc follow it. Unfortunately in our country, whereas the military strictly follows this protocol, the civilians don’t, and it is common to find Bharat Ratna Tula Ram instead of Tula Ram, Bharat Ratna. The first becomes a title, which Bharat Ratna isn’t, as it is an award.

Coming now to the ranks, it signifies a position held by a serving officer in the government hierarchy against a specified post. It is neither a title nor an award, as such cannot be bestowed on a retired officer. I have known no country in the world which has bestowed a higher military rank on a retired officer as in case of Arjan Singh or given posthumously to a deceased officer like General Cariappa. It is surprising that the Services should have accepted this sort of political humbug.

Brig N. B. GRANT (retd), Pune


The open letter by an unemployed young person referred to in yesterday's front page write-up, "Congress has a definite edge", was carried in The Tribune on February 9, not on February 19 as published. The error is regretted.

— Editor


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