Thursday, September 24, 2009

Die for our country? Is it sacrosanct anymore?

1. Is this country worth dying for? I shiver and shrink as I write this. To even doubt, much less question, something held sacrosanct for nearly half a century has to have this effect. But the thought has come. So, some introspection/analysis is warranted. Now, what are the ingredients/parameters/constituents/properties of ‘country’? Is it the ‘land’–the real estate, or the ‘people’ inhabiting it who will perpetuate our race, identity, philosophy, culture and values, or something more esoteric like the places having “the ashes of your fathers and the temples of your Gods”? If the first and the last are valid, the matter is settled; there is no hesitation, no debate. But, is that all? Don’t the people have any role to play? Indeed, they have the most important role as they, and they only, will preserve and perpetuate the race, ethos, culture, traditions, scriptures, monuments, languages, arts, literature, wisdom– everything we hold sacred or important beyond measure, which distinguishes us and makes us special, rather unique.

2. I will be honoured to lay down my life for such people so that they may thrive. But, do I want to die for all those Balus, Laloos, Rajas…. ( the list will fill up the hard disk) who infest the country in very large numbers? Does any one have any hope that these people will perpetuate, much less promote, any of the aforementioned tenets? They will do exactly the opposite and worse.

3. Confronted with these very Basic Considerations, the sixth pay commission, OROP, warrant of precedence, war memorial and so on pale into insignificance. It is not a matter of mere money or status. The bravest of the brave, the cream of the cream of the Indian youth did not assault up the murderous slopes at Kargil or charge blazing machine gun posts, convinced of certain death, to get a small metal disc dangling from a colourful ribbon, called some ‘Chakra’, a hundred odd rupees and a mention in the media for a day or so. They did it, made the supreme sacrifice, without hesitation, brushing aside thoughts for their families, wife, kids, for ‘honour’(the singular privilege of dying for the country), a word not found in the dictionary of those who claim to be called ‘honourable’. For them, it would be a foolish act.

4. I am an old soldier, 35 years in service and 16 years into retirement. I joined up motivated by, ‘there is nothing more honourable than bearing arms for the country’. Now I feel sorry that I had laid out my life for the benefit of those, to describe whom I cannot find a word low enough in my dictionary. It is said that, charity to the undeserving is a sin! I have committed a sin, not a mortal one, though, as I did not die. However, I feel despondent, anguished and guilty, as I have let my children, both girls, join the Defence Forces.

5. What troubles me constantly is that not only I was prepared to die; but also I am prepared to let my children die to keep those “scoundrels” alive and thriving, who are our real enemies and should be killed first. Therefore, anyone who thinks that he is opting for an honourable way of life (not a mere job) as he is ready to sacrifice his life for his country, should get his thoughts readjusted. He is merely taking up a job in which there is no ‘honour’. If he dies, only his family will be affected; no body else will give a damn. Most, notably politicians, will just glance through the news-much less important than cricket or su-do-ku and such. The legislators of this country who have granted themselves a pension, no minimum service, if you please, are reluctant to grant pension to a soldier who comes forward to lay down his life for the country even if he has put in 14 years of service! A military pensioner who is entitled free medical treatment is given Rs 100/- per month as medical allowance if staying at a place without a Military Hospital. He can barely buy 2 to 3 antibiotic tablet with that. Some state governments while considering requests to exempt Defense Services canteens from VAT feel quite poor but have no hesitation in waiving crores of rupees worth of taxes to private companies or even MNCs. Canteen and medical ‘facilities’ are duly taken into account by the pay commissions while fixing the pay. In short, the ‘Sena’ dies, just as cannon fodder, so that some live on and plunder the country on.

6. Another real but intangible point. Maintenance of morale is one of the ten ‘Principles of war’. State of morale of the opposing forces is always considered. The Pay Commissions, earlier ones included, have dismayed our forces but the enemy commanders must be feeling very satisfied. Less trouble for them.

7. So, once again, is this country worth dying for? What a country where criminals make laws and are, de facto, exempted all punishment! Therefore, logically– NO, but it does not feel right– and that is what these cunning chaps know and are exploiting. Let us see till when.

8. Cheers, nonetheless, to our Sena– Thal, Nau and Vayu.
Col BN Ratha (Retd)
23 Sep 09

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