Monday, November 25, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Soldiers buried in Siachen glacier and officers seek the gallantry award!

I am a retired JCO. In April, 2002, Rifleman Rashpal Singh from our village in Kathua district who was serving with 6 Jammu and Kashmir Rifles at the Siachen glacier, was buried under an avalanche along with one JCO and six jawans. It was a rude shock not only to the surviving mother of the boy, but also to the entire village and everybody took it with a brave heart.

But now it is shocking to learn from other jawans of the same unit that the Commanding Officer of the unit along with two or three other officers of the unit, including the Company Commander, have sent their citations for the Gallantry Award for a rescue operation that never took place.

Rifleman Rashpal Singh along with one JCO and six jawans (all of them are no more) were ordered to stay in a tent which was located in an avalanche-prone area, much against their wishes by their Company Commander. There were some 20 other jawans staying in a fibreglass hut next to their tent. This hut was also buried under the avalanche but all these 20 jawans were saved as they could breathe in the fibreglass hut. This was not the case with Rifleman Rashpal Singh and his fellow jawans who were in the tent and died due to suffocation.

These 20 jawans had rescued themselves by their own efforts. They cut across their way up through the snow and came out. The entire rescue work like the digging of snow from the top to the bottom and locating living or dead soldiers was carried out by local hired Ladakhi porters, and not by these officers and their men as they are claiming.


The JCO, who also died along with Rifleman Rashpal Singh, had made repeated requests to the Company Commander on a number of times about shifting his post from the avalanche-prone area to a nearby safer place and also about the danger of staying in a tent, but it is learnt that the Company Commander and the CO paid no heed to his requests. Rather, the Company Commander was counting his days to come down to the base camp as his company's shifting was to take place after a week or so.

Now these officers are rejoicing about saving the 20-odd jawans, who were in the secure fibreglass hut and are looking forward for the gallantry award as if they have captured an enemy post/territory/enemy jawans.

What about the six jawans and the JCO who halost their lives due to the folly of their commanders? Have our moral values gone down so much that our officers have started sending their citations over the dead bodies of our own jawans just to get name and fame for themselves in the form of gallantry awards-cum-promotions and to cover up their own sins and skins. It is shameful. Is any body in the higher echelons of the Army listening?

SUB SURINDER SINGH (retd), Kathua (J&K)

India’s strategic culture

This refers to Gen VP Malik’s article “India’s strategic culture” (Nov 4). Having gained Independence through non-violent means, our political leaders thought that they could assume Asia’s leadership simply by powerful oratory in Parliament or before the UN General Assembly and other world fora. They did not realise that power flows from the barrel of the gun and allowed the gun to get corroded. After the first ceasefire in J and K in 1949, our representatives in Parliament started demanding that the Army should be deployed on some “constructive” work like building roads and dams. And, in fact, soldiers did work on housing projects instead of training for war. We should be grateful to China for giving our rulers a wake-up call in 1962, although at a very high cost to the nation’s prestige. One shudders to think what would have been the country’s fate had 1965 come before 1962.

The article contains some misconceptions which need to be discussed. Let me take up the return of the strategic Haji Pir pass after the 1965 war first. Perhaps the General ignores the fact that during the 1965 war we did win battles and captured some areas, including the strategically important Haji Pir pass. But so did Pakistan, which occupied rather more strategically important area in the Chhamb-Jaurian sector in the Jammu region. Although we had a slight upper hand, we could not carry the war to a logical end because of pressure from the USA and China. The USA had threatened to stop supplies of PL-480 wheat without which our people would have starved. China had ordered the forward movement of its troops and had issued an ultimatum on us to dismantle some bunkers situated within our own territory in Sikkim, and to compensate it for some thousand-odd sheep allegedly captured by us by Sept 20, 1965. With the 1962 experience still fresh, we started running helter-skelter since we could not fight on two fronts. With the USSR diplomatic intervention, both sides ceased fire and agreed at Tashkent to withdraw behind the original ceasefire line of 1949. I wonder how could we keep Haji Pir pass and force Pakistan to vacate the strategic Chhamb area.

As regards the return of 91,000 prisoners of war to Pakistan without making Pakistan agree to a permanent solution of J and K at the time of signing of the Simla Agreement in 1972, perhaps the author overlooks that the status of the ceasefire line had been changed into Line of Control and both sides agreed to respect it (as a de facto border). If Mr Bhutto had yielded anything beyond that, he would have perhaps lost his job even before reaching Islamabad. The author also needs to ponder over the problem of looking after 91,000 prisoners of war according to the Geneva Convention indefinitely. Moreover, the strategic area of Chhamb was still in Pakistani possession and we got it back only as a result of the Simla Agreement..

There appears to be nothing wrong with the “No first use” clause in our draft nuclear doctrine which is only Pakistan centric. In case of a India-Pak real war (unlike Kargil), nuclear weapons would be first used by the losing side to prevent its being annihilated. We do not expect to face any such situation in any war with Pakistan.

It is rather difficult to agree with the author when he says that “Greater social respect and not greater pay is needed to make the profession more popular”.In today’s world, social respect is dependent on one’s economic status, of course, with wealth acquired through honest means. Simply celebration of “Vijay Divases” without giving the soldiers adequate compensation, during and after service, for their hazardous and risky life away from home, as a result of which their children also suffer because of lack of fatherly watchful eye and guidance so essential in the present extra-competitive society.

During British rule and some 20 years after Independence, soldiering was the most respectful and preferred profession when even sons of Maharajas and other rich people would opt for it. But no more. It is ironical that a nation with over 100 crore population cannot make up the deficiency of nearly 15,000 officers in the Army alone. As rightly observed by the author,”no political leader, bureaucrat or industrialist is prepared to send his children to armed forces”. I would like to add that senior defence officers also appear to have joined the above category of citizens. All lectures on patriotism are now meant for the consumption of ordinary people and their progeny only.

Dalip Singh Ghuman, Henderson (USA)

Of corruption & roads

It looks very nice when the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, speaks of removing corruption, but it will be nicer if he looks after the people's basic needs as well. Every inch of the road from the Mehatpur barrier to Anandpur Sahib is full of potholes. Nobody seems to understand that thousands of tourists and other people use that road daily to go to their destination. May I request the CM to visit that area and understand how back-breaking it is to travel on this road?

SUMI SHARMA, The Lawrence School, Sanawar


Please, read the report first

Quite a few persons, including professional economists, have commented on my committee’s report on production pattern adjustments in Punjab agriculture, in the columns of The Tribune. Kindly permit me to make a few clarifications.

This report has been prepared by a committee of 11 knowledgeable persons, including progressive farmers, dairy farmers, milk plant operators, representatives of the BKU, business houses, grain handlers, the Director Research and the Vice-Chancellor of PAU. The Committee had the benefit of expert advice from various departments of PAU, other research institutions and received valuable suggestions from farmers and extension workers and other knowledgeable persons in the state and even from outside.

Thus, these recommendations have not been spun from the thin air. Still, wisdom is not the monopoly of a few persons. We respect the views of the persons who presume to know it better. We will be happy if any one can offer any improvement and make better suggestion(s).

Yet to do so will require studying the report that spreads over 150 pages. Proper appreciation of even the summary recommendations, which are 95 in number, will require careful reading of the full report that provides the context in which these recommendations have been made. I am afraid the persons who have commented upon this report so far have not as yet seen the report.

We prepared only two copies of the report which were submitted to the government. The Press was provided with only a summary of the report. Even I did not keep any copy. Unfortunately, all comments appear to have been based upon press reports only, which by their nature cannot bring out the full import of the report.

I request those who are eager to comment to kindly read the report first. The report is under print and will be available soon from the Punjab Agro-Industrial Corporation, Chandigarh. My request to the knowledgeable persons being: kindly do comment, we will appreciate it, but read the report first.

S.S. JOHL, Ludhiana


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