Letter Addressed to Raksha Mantri (Defence Minister Shri AK Anthony)
My Dear Sir,
1. It was indeed a noble gesture by the PM. As per news paper reports, the PM was so impressed by the devotion to duty of late Mr Rao, the IFS officer who died in the Kabul bomb blast, that he announced several benefits for his next of kin. These include, full salary and government accommodation till the officer would have retired in 2023. It is undisputable that every possible succour must be provided to the bereaved family under such circumstances. Yet, without prejudice to this thought or to the sacred memory of the deceased, certain politically incorrect questions arise?
2. What separates the case of Mr Rao from that of Brig RD Mehta, or for that matter Col V Vasanth and scores of other army personnel who lay down their lives in the line of duty, actively combating terrorism almost every day? Why has no one ever thought of such benefits for their families? Is there any doubt about their devotion to duty? Are their lives any less precious to their families, or to the nation? Or is it 'no big deal' because it is part of the professional hazards for services personnel, to lay down their lives? The violent death of a diplomat or bureaucrat, on the other hand , is a rare occurrence thus evoking greater sympathy?
3. All along, we are being told that that the armed forces are supposed to be at par with other services when it comes to fixing pay and allowances. This is the standard argument forwarded ,for denying a separate pay commission for the Armed Forces. By the same logic, the death benefits for other services should be the same as those applicable to the armed forces. The reason for these double standards is therefore hard to fathom. Irrespective of the reasons or sentiments behind such random acts of kindness, it must be understood that it undermines the supreme sacrifice made by others, and is liable to affect the morale of their comrades.
4.It is time that the government decided once and for all whether the armed forces are at par with other central services or not, and act responsibly rather than arbitrarily.
Brigadier PT Gangadharan (Guards) Retd
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