Harsh is making a solid point in the article above…
“A state makes a sacred contract with its soldiers: that while they will lay down their lives when called upon to do so, the nation will take good care of their and their families’ needs to the extent its resources would permit. This contract underpins the very survival of a nation, as when its territorial integrity and political independence are under threat, the nation looks upon the only instrument that can protect it — its armed forces. While all governments have to look for a considered bargain between their commitments and power and between power and resources, a responsible government will always be aware of the serious implications of not spending adequate resources on defence.”
It is very painful for me to state this, especially since both my Dad and my Granddad were Army Officers, but the fact of the matter is that:
1) The Indian Government has not planned for or allocated resources to the Armed Forces to the tune required, especially considering the range of external threats that confront our country over the short, medium and long term
2) The evidence of innumerable news reports of official apathy towards war-widows etc would seem to indicate that the state has also not done its full duty towards taking care of the families. I say full duties, since by-and-large, various central and state entities have done their bit in this regard.
But the most powerful point in the article is that there is also apathy among we, the people – the citizens of India. Never thought of it that way, but if you ponder over it for a moment – that view of the NRI Mr H Pant does seem to be grounded in fact. Had there been a sincere concern, there would have been much greater pressure on the government to set things right. Further, the dwindling applications for armed forces openings also lay bare this fact.
My question to everyone goes beyond the article – do we take our independence and our Armed Forces for granted? Based on current evidence, this does seem to be the case. Further, why blame the gorvernment? The government is made up from within us. We have to look within our own selves, to accept the malaise that infests us all – the Chalta Hai attitude, the extreme focus on I-Me-Myself. This is evident everywhere – endemic corruption, lack of civic sense etc. Unfortunately, the government is in it for votes. Their steps will be dictated by what sells. And, not to put too fine a point to it, populism sells. Had it not sold, we would not be in such a dire situation on any number of fronts!
Having said that, I can spot the winds of change flowing through the environs around me. The India Against Corruption campaign brought out one fact that was noted by quite a few writers: the activism of the inward-looking middle and uper middle classes. For the first time, this class was involved big-time in something that concerned the society – actively involved. Their are other indicators also – well heeled people quitting prime jobs to come into rural service with various ideas or for teaching etc. Let us hope that this gentle breeze of change turns into a wind of change… where all of us can place our country at least on a par with our own self-interest, if not above!
In closing, I would like to quote from this incisive article: The military exists to serve the state; but a military that lacks societal prestige and the attention of the state will not only endanger the security of the state, but will also pose a challenge to the liberal societal values that we so love to espouse. It has become imperative now to get the balance between the Indian state, society and its military institutions right if India is to avoid the high costs that will inevitably follow if the present turmoil persists. A real dialogue needs to start now.