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From a security point of view, as a nation, we are faced with unprecedented transformations and challenges around us – As nations like Bangladesh, Burma and Sri Lanka attempt to transform into stable democratic nations, some others in our region pose challenges and represent clear and present danger to our nation. Some of these neighbours represent very different forms of challenges to us as a country and to our Security – be it to shipping lanes or geopolitical influence or proxy terrorism attacks.
Countries that have engaged in a proxy war with India will eventually fail – faced, as they have so far, with the determination of all Indians, but more specifically with the indomitable and undefeatable spirit of, patriotism and service of the many generations of our servicemen and women and their families. These men and their families form the basic backbone of this nation’s efforts at providing a stable and secure country for all its people.
It is about these men and women and their families that I wish to speak about today.
Our Defence Minister is one of the most decent and unassuming men that I have come across in our Politics. I am sure he realizes that as Defence Minister and civilian custodian of the Defence Ministry – he is, in effect, the trustee of the great institution that is the Indian Armed forces and the millions of men and women and their families that have served and are serving and will serve this nation in times of war and peace.
It is to this role as trustee of the Armed Forces that I address him today.
He is aware that our nation has had to fight and defend itself against many aggressions and wars and is being challenged almost every day on various fronts.
He is aware that the country has asked thousands of young men and women and their families to a call of duty – and to sacrifice life and limb to protect our nation and all our people over the last several decades.
He is aware that almost every day since Independence till today, some family somewhere is asked to go through the pain of knowing that they have lost a family member in service of the nation.
India is the only country that does not have a Military Memorial to honour sacrifices of brave men and women
He is also aware that despite all this, we the people of India and indeed, the Government of India, have failed in our duty and continue to fail - to build a National Military Memorial in our nation’s capital to honor these sacrifices and service to the nation. Every nation honors its heroes who have perished on the battlefield with a memorial, except us.
My state Government of Karnataka has undertaken the project of a Memorial and it will be completed soon. It will be inscribed with names of each and every son of Karnataka who died in the service of our nation. But a National Memorial for all the sons and daughters of India, who have perished, is missing in Delhi.
This is a shame and embarrassment which should NOT be allowed to continue. I urge him, as I have been urging the Government for several years, to act on this. Do not leave this in the hands of a group of insensitive bureaucrats to comprehend the deep emotional need for the country, and indeed, the families of those who perished, to have this memorial.
One Rank, One Pension is a deeply emotional issue
This is a deeply emotional issue of honor for many thousands of retired soldiers and their families. We must not forget that our veterans have served this country under the most trying of economic and security challenges. We must not forget that whilst all around us in our region, militaries subverted democracies – the men of our Armed Forces protected it and helped it grow into what we are today. Honor isn’t a concept that is very well understood or respected in the corridors of Delhi, but sir, I urge you to recognize honor and pride which is what makes a man put his life on the line for his nation – placing his country ahead of himself and his family or religion.
The Standing Committee on Defence has recommended OROP. Recently, the Committee on Petitions, Rajya Sabha - comprising of all Parties – has, after detailed consultations and hearings on the matter, tabled its Report in the Parliament on 19 December 2011, recommending the immediate implementation of OROP and constitution of a separate commission to determine pay and other service conditions and benefits of the Armed Forces.
But even now, the Defence Ministry refuses to act on this, and the old excuse trotted out by the bureaucracy that all other central services will ask for it certainly holds no merit, because of the very different nature of serving in the Armed Forces. The right thing for the Hon’ble Minister to do is to respect the views of Parliament and MPs, as has been communicated to him on more than one occasion. Ignoring the sense of Parliament on this issue would be wrong and a big error on his part.
Both these issues are not about money. Given the amount of money that is wasted or frittered away or even looted from the Government – these amounts for the OROP and Military Memorial are nothing. In an overall defence budget of Rs.1,94,000 crores, this will be insignificant in terms of cost – but very, very powerful in terms of the message it communicates to the men and women in uniform. This is about our determination or lack of interest to do the right thing by our servicemen and doing the right thing by the idea of service to the nation.
Nominate of Armed Forces Veterans to Parliament: Does Serving in Kargil and Siachen rank atleast as high as cricket or movies ?
Lastly, before I end, let me touch on another issue – A few months ago, I had written to the PM and the Defence Minister, and also raised a Special Mention in Parliament about nominating an Armed Forces Veteran to the Parliament who can be the voice of the over one crore ex-servicemen and their families. I was given an answer saying the Constitution doesn’t permit it. Be that as it may, if the Government can consider Cricket and Film stars as icons of National service, I would urge the Defence Minister to consider nominating Veterans to at least one of the nominated Seats in Parliament. I think he would agree that battlefield service in Kargil, Siachen etc to the nation ranks at least as high as cricket or movies.
Sir, as we move forward as a nation, our Armed Forces needs to continue to attract the best and most motivated of our young generation in service of our country. Let us do these basic fundamental duties by the generations that have served us and let them inspire the future generations to serve. Let them be confident that the country and people haven’t forgotten their service and value their service to our country.
And to our Defence Minister, I would like to quote our own Kautilya, the great political strategist, who wrote to Chandragupta Maurya centuries ago: “The day the soldier has to demand his dues will be a sad day for Magadha. For then on that day, you will have lost all moral sanction to be king”.
Speech made by Rajeev Chandrasekhar during the debate in Parliament on the working of Ministry of Defence. May 07, 2012