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Defence in the hands of amateurs

I read Maj-Gen Pushpendra Singh’s article “Sapped from within: National defence in the hands of amateurs” (Sunday Oped, Oct 26).

I would like to add a few more points. He has correctly described that our defence is really in the hands of amateurs, not professionals. We have not learnt any lessons from the past.

In fact, after Independence, our government feared that like Pakistan, our forces may also declare Martial Law in the country. I think these leaders have yet not understood our troops correctly.

Our troops are no less patriotic than these leaders. And now, the Sixth Pay Commission has further downgraded the status of the armed forces. Nehru had described civil services as superior to the military.

No one denies that elected representatives are superior to civil servants, but babus cannot be accepted as superior to the armed forces personnel. An IAS officer having 18 years of service becomes senior to a Major General having more than 30 years of service.

In 1959, relations between the Defence Minister Krishna Menon and Chief of the Army Staff General Thimmayya became strained over the issue of strengthening our defence forces. Like Krishna Menon, Nehru also rejected the demand of General Thimmayya.

As a result, the Indian Army had to face a humiliating defeat in the 1962 Indo-China conflict. India lost about one lakh km area that the Chinese occupied forcibly.

The government should consider these points before it is too late. It should be made compulsory for the IAS officers to serve in the armed forces for five years before joining regular duty. Retired armed forces professionals must be accommodated at strategic policy making fora.


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Time to wake up

Vijay Sanghvi’s article “Misplaced Centre of power” (Perspective, Nov 9) highlighting the infirmities plaguing the Indian National Congress (INC) is noteworthy for its fiercely forthright tone and tenor.

No doubt, the working of the Congress has registered steep deterioration over the years. The “nomination culture” seems to have overtaken the party virtually with a vengeance. Dedicated leaders and party workers are being sidelined ruthlessly, while sycophants are having a blast. The rank and file, by and large, stands disappointed and demoralised and the masses are disenchanted.

It is time for party president Sonia Gandhi to realise the gravity of the situation and take immediate steps to rejuvenate the historic party, failing which its electoral fortunes in the Lok Sabha elections will be dismal.

TARA CHAND, Ambota (Una)

History lesson

Lalit Mohan’s article ‘Gateway of Uzbekistan’ (Nov 2) was almost a history lesson. He dealt with all that is worth narrating in a beautiful. Tashkent is the capital of a Central Asian country, yet the ambience here is more European than Asian.

The city was virtually rebuilt after the devastating earthquake on April 24, 1966. It’s a splendid cocktail of old and new. One gets bowled over by the magnificent mosques, madaras and minarets of Islamic architecture, which remained buried under mounds of Marxist doctrinaire concrete.

Cultural ties between India and Uzbekistan are very old. One thing that the writer overlooked is the popularity of Indian films in Tashkent. Indian films remain an important element of Uzbekistan’s cultural life.

Songs like “Ramaiyya vasta vaiyya”, “Awara hoon”, “Mera joota hai Japani” are evergreen songs for Uzbeks.

Finally, an important revealing fact that reflects the iron-first rule of erstwhile USSR rulers, as mentioned in Jaswant Singh’s book Travels in Transoxiana, is worth narrating:

“How many people died in the great quake of 1966?” Jaswant Singh asked a Uzbek.

“Fifteen were killed and 365 injured”, pat came the reply.

“Only fifteen? In such a major quake?”

“Yes”, the Uzbek patiently but futilely mouths the official lie, “ you see it was the month of April, quite warm, and in Central Asia people have the habit of sleeping in the open.”

K.J.S. AHLUWALIA, Amritsar

Tribute to valour

In “Days of Horrors” (Spectrum, Nov 16), Lt-Col Chanan Singh Dhillon has described the heart-rending and harrowing account of the hardships faced by the soldiers captured during the World War II.

It is ironical that while the British government raised a memorial (India Gate) to pay tributes to the soldiers killed during World War I, our government has not made a similar gesture to pay tribute to those killed in World War II.

Not only this, the government was ignorant of the supreme sacrifices of the late Maj Shaitan Singh and his comrades, who were buried under snow while fighting the enemy with exemplary valour, for quite some time.

Sadly, those who are not aware of the horrors of Army life decide the future of the armed forces personnel. The government has been dragging its feet in removing the anomalies in the Sixth Pay Commission about the pay and status of the men in uniform vis-à-vis their civilian counterparts.

Major NARINDER SINGH JALLO (retd), Mohali


Lt-Col Dhillon has given a vivid account of the hazards and hardships faced by him and his comrades in North Africa during World War II.

Equally heart-rending and bone-chilling were the two pictures published with the piece — one showing the “exhausted” Indian soldiers taking rest in the dense forests of Burma and the other showing an enemy soldier shooting an unarmed helpless Indian soldier. Such accounts of the valour of veterans are highly inspiring..


Of poetic melodies

I read “Poetic melodies from the Past” by Humra Quraishi (Saturday Extra, Nov 8). She writes that “Sir Shankar Lal ‘Shad’ of the DCM, himself a poet, was a great patron of mushairas”.

However, she seems to slip here on one point. Sir Shankar Lal ‘Shankar’ and Murli Dhar ‘Shad’ were not one but two persons. Sir Shankar Lal ‘Shankar’ was the younger brother of Sir Sri Ram. He was a poet, and his collection of ghazals is Dair-o-Haram.

As for Murli Dhar ‘Shad’, he was the son of Sir Sri Ram, and, thus a nephew of Sir Shankar Lal’ Shankar’. Murli Dhar ‘Shad’ was a disciple of Be-Khud Dehlvi. His poetic composition is titled Gul-o-Anjum. He started the All-India Mushaira in Lyallpur (now Faislabad) in 1944. It later turned into the annual Indo-Pak mushaira of Lyallpur.

The annual Indo-Pak mushaira of New Delhi is held in the memory of his uncle, the late Sir Shankar Lal ‘Shankar’.

Let me also add that unlike the Indo-Pak mushairas of 1952 and 1958, poets from Pakistan did not participate in the subsequent mushaira of 1967 and the ‘Shankar-o-Shad’ mushaira held on March 23, 1968 at the Vithal Bhai Patel House on Rafi Marg, New Delhi.

In her introductory remarks, Tarakeshwari Sinha conveyed most eloquently the overwhelming sentiments of the audience on missing Pakistani poets. She observed that the shadow of politics was looming over literature, which by itself was a matter of grave concern.


Bharat’s misfits

Khushwant Singh’s “The misfits of Bharat” (Saturday Extra, Nov 15) was very impressive and touching.

Though the writer is known for his atheism and cynical comments on those with religious leanings, the article has proved that in today’s world he is the real believer — a believer in the religion of amity, goodwill and love.

If we can live together celebrating one another’s festivals, it will be the ultimate belief in God. When the writer gives a lively account of how his daughter worships Hindu gods, and when he asserts that he regards Ganesha more as a friend than a deity, he never appears to be an iconoclast.

Today as some selfish elements within society are bent on dividing people on the basis of religion or caste, the advice of Khushwant Singh to celebrate festivals together will really open horizons of new hope and cement ties between communities.

Dr VINOD K. CHOPRA, Hamirpur



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