by Vaishnavi Prasad
I am Vaishnavi Prasad, daughter of Colonel K Prasad, whom you would remember from MHOW between 1991-93. I am a student of Journalism in Chennai, India and am closely following this issue, both on the news and through the email group Report My Signals which my father receives regularly. You are doing a great service to the armed forces both serving and retired, in fighting the injustice meted out them by the bureaucrats and the politicians.
Here, are my personal views on the same for your reading.
Sincerely& hoping for the best,
A concerned citizen
Absolutely genuine views of an Officer’s daughter!
It’s very simple. A military coup, that is. One collective word is all it needs to convert this nation from a democratic country to a progressive economy with martial law.
The armed forces will take over the nation, and no one can do a thing about it.
Not the police force, not Manmohan Singh(=Sonia Gandhi), not A.K. Antony. No one. A movement will arise so suddenly and with the fury of a raging tsunami, that it will rewrite India’s future, inject discipline in the blood of every Indian, unscrew unopened bottles of potential and terrorise the intestines out of those who dare to oppose them or irrigate the minds of others with vile thoughts. Corruption will be eliminated 90% and progress will double.. Indeed, the souls of our forefathers who fought for real freedom, will rest whole-heartily under this military control. Ironic, but true. The question here is, why won’t they do it?
Let me tell you what bothers me. I am the 19 year old daughter of a retired government servant, an army officer to be specific (note the ‘Servant’.. absolutely true in case of the armed forces)
My father, who retired as a Colonel, is not a reciever of the PVSM, AVSM,&; VSM, or even the VC for that matter. He was a part of the army, served an ordinary Colonel’s role, did not jump in front of a bullet to save his men, or plan an intelligent strategy to capture some enemy territory. He was a part of both major wars with Pakistan and China, returned without being a decorated war hero, served in regiments in both borders, saw extreme weather conditions and backward technology and most importantly, he enjoyed and took immense pride in doing all this and serving the nation.
Yet, I feel my father is a greater man than many ‘greats’ in thisnation. Shahrukh Khan, or Pratibha Patil,to begin with:neither of them have sacrificed more than a sleepless night or compromised on their Saturday morning sleep for the nation.
I don’t blame you for saying, ‘Oh, she’s an army officer’s daughter, obviously that’s why she’s biased’. I don’t deny it. It is true. I am biased. And I want every single person in this country, if not the world to be biased. I can only tell you what it is like to have seen these people up, close and personal, to have heard true incidents of bravery and selflessness and then know they’re are being paid peanuts, to sacrifice their lives without hesitation for the nation.
When I was 16, my family took a holiday to Arunachal Pradesh, to the regiment where my father had been in command, more than 20 years ago. From a scenic , quaint little town called Tenga, on the banks of a gushing river, we travelled to a snow desert near the Chinese border called Bumla. Here, in the middle of nowhere, one could see a small board stuck in the ice reading ‘Welcome to India’.
For as far as our eyes could see in all four directions, there was nothing but snow. Beside that board stood a guard, probably of south Indian origin, in 6 layers of clothing, a giant wind-cheater and the heaviest pair of snow-boots imaginable, against constant rapid winds, endless lengths and immense depths of ice, pacing an abandoned minefield from the 1962 war, looking through a telescope at Chinese vantage points to track enemy positions and moves.
He didn’t opt to be there, but when he chose the forces as a career he knew what he would be facing, and he faces it with valour, for he has the patriotism that you and I and many of our politicians lack. Tomorrow he may die in battle, but I know for sure, that no one who has joined the forces will ever regret taking up that profession. If he dies in an act of bravery, he will most
probably be awarded a VC or PVC medal for the same, posthumously. Then the government might give his family a lump sum and/or a measly monthly stipend of Rs.850 to Rs.1500. I ask you, is that all this man’s life is worth?
What about a serving soldier? He mostly hails from small areas or rural backgrounds with an uneducated wife and 2 children back in his village alone.Typical, but true. This man, who has time in the forward areas only to eat, sleep and watch the enemy, hardly sees his family. His entire salary is sent back home to his spouse, who faces the brunt of yet again uneducated parents-in-law ready to blame her for anything that happens to their son. In such a situation, a soldier’s wife receiving the pitiful salary of her husband will be left an orphan in the middle of the road, simply for the lack of money.
Then, these war heroes, and martyrs are forgotten within minutes, no, wait, seconds of their death. No one forgets to come for the Republic Day parade ,or to place that wreath they didn’t order on the grave of some memorial they don’t know was built for what om Independence day. Just because it is protocol. Protocol to ‘remember’ (or forget?) these people on these ‘days’ meant for our nation, to ‘remember’ them for the 30 seconds it takes you to read patriotic forwards and messages in your in boxes on email and on your cellphone.
My father and I have been discussing this issue for a while now, and my blood boils, every single time I see our so-called Defence minister Mr.A.K.Antony defending his stupidity on a podium which he does not deserve. Have you for a minute stopped and thought about why you at home are able to enjoy your evening spent listening to your iPod, or watching a DVD on your 42-inch LCD? It is because you live in India, where the borders, threatened by invasion every second, are guarded constantly, by the watchful eyes of some 27-year old son of a mother who sits far away in a remote town, praying consciously every second for the safety of her son. If that guard decided to look away for even a minute, he would be dead, within seconds, and there would be an invasion leading to chaos everywhere. Soon, India would become a replicate Iraq, pandemonium prevailing,where you would need the permission of your invaders to even use the toilet, which under normal circumstances would be your birthright.
Sometimes it’s scary, how something so simple and routine is linked to something so complex and out of hand. From all of you who saw these reports of the military’s peaceful war against the government on television, some of you changed the channel since it didn’t concern you, some saw the report and took it in as general knowledge, and some burnt rage over it for a few seconds. Those whose blood still boils, would be the ones who have actually some patriotism left in their blood.
Am I being too philosophical for a nineteen year old? Most of you might say yes, but I say, why not? You would too, if you saw the fire in the eyes of these people the way I do.
And what is it, with Mr.Antony’s comment on discipline? I’m sorry Mr.Antony, but you politicians, who hit each other with chappals, and microphones, use unparliamentary language in the parliament, come half an hour late to a meeting, and do not know the words of the national anthem, are talking about discipline.Please, don’t make me laugh.O r with the panel that is enquiring the pay commission having IAS officers in it!? Why don’t we have a separate pay commission for the Military like most other countries do? Why do we have to put up with a cock-eyed system? Why does a DGP get paid almost twice as much as his equivalent in the forces? Why does the army have to replace the fire-brigade, police force and everyone else, when it is specifically mentioned that the forces are only for training during peace and attack during war. Why does the government involve the forces in flood relief , earthquake relief, tsunami relief, and more recently, rescuing of children fallen in pits? Then to put the cherry on the icing, you pay them in a pay scale adopted in 1948?
I have faced and will face a lot of criticism for my views.As some of my friends say, we do get good rations, accommodation and cheaper FMCGs and alcohol. Rations and accommodation -anyone in a decent government service gets that. Cheaper FMCGs- The least the government can do is to remove the taxes off the MRP of many products and make it available to the average soldier, who in return is willing to pay the price of his life for his nation. Cheap alcohol- yes, a bottle of rum is relatively cheaper. Why don’t you spend one year of your life to replace a soldier in snowy altitudes, in nothing but a tent or in the blistering heat of the Thar with the only wind bringing sandstorms along with it or in the jungles of Nagaland with the leeches sucking your blood out and I’m sure ANY soldier you replace to give him precious time with his family will gladly give you all the rum he can ever get in his life, simply so you don’t die of exhaustion and depression and actually live to tell your tale. Simply, so you can survive.
Let me remind you (non)patriotic souls, that the life of a person in the armed forces is one filled with dignity and pride, and I believe it should reflect in how much s/he is paid, for glamour and corruption rule the roost today, and that bias will take our country nowhere.
Hoping for the best to come for our brave men and women..