Sunday, June 6, 2010

Know the unknown soldier: Remember him when the chips are down?

Hindustan Times: Published 2 years ago- Nothing has changed!
Know the unknown soldier by Barkha Dutt 18 April 2008
We push our military into duties that were never really part of its job description. So, apart from and in addition to fighting wars and terrorism, we count on our soldiers to play roles as varied as building bridges when the tsunami hits, keeping the peace during religious riots and even managing the now-epidemic condition of saving children who mysteriously end up at the bottom of borewells.

But if we are a country that really cares so deeply for its military, why is it that a monster called apathy is in serious danger of devouring the future of the Armed Forces?

This week, while we were all consumed by whether the Olympic torch would make its way safely past India Gate (built by Edwin Lutyens to honour the 84,000 Indian soldiers who died in World War I), the Army Chief was making a trip down the same road. He was on his way to meet the Urban Development Minister, probably wondering — as many of his predecessors had before him— whether he would have any luck convincing this government to do, what the British had already done as far back as 1921. He was carrying a file that has now travelled through multiple ministries for seven years: the plans and architectural designs for a National War Memorial.

For the last two years, different government bodies including the Delhi Urban Arts Commission, the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) and the Heritage Conservation Committee have squabbled like recalcitrant children over whether the designs for the memorial are tenable. Could anything be a more shocking illustration of the stranglehold of red-tape around what should have been a flagship project for any government?

The PLU (People like us) brigade would no longer consider the military as a career option and many of those who did are now lining up and pleading for the freedom to leave. Ask the Generals and Admirals unofficially, and they will concede that they have to reject resignations, because the shortfall would be too dire to deal with. In Kashmir, there are already reports of ordinance and artillery units doubling up for infantry duty, because of the numbers crunch. And for the first time in years, the Army is actually considering a one-time emergency, short-service commissioning of officers to fill the ever widening gap. That’s how serious and morale weakening the situation is.
Know the Unknown soldier

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