The programme on the DD Channel telecast at 10.30 pm, well past the prime time, ensured that only a few dedicated Veterans watched the show. How ever, the discussion was engrossing. Maj Gen Satbir Singh, was fully primed & was well prepared. So was Maj Gen Ashok Mehta, who appeared to have been well tutored by the MOD. He politely put across some views from the Govt side, ie, Returning of Medals, signing of memorandum in blood etc, which may be construed by the public as unbecoming of military behaviour.
Brig Gulia, President IESL, did not voice either his consent or dissent to such acts. Let us not conclude that the IESM, therefore, has the tacit approval for such forms of demonstrations from the IESL. Far from it.
The reason is, as brought out by Gen Satbir Singh himself, that IESL is the Govt recognised body & their Patrons are the President of India & the RM. Hence it has its own limitation in fighting for a cause & IESM does not have such inhibitions. Both the heads of these ESM Organisations, were in full agreement with each other that the ESM Committee must be tailored on the pattern of Minority Commission, fully manned by the Veterans themselves ( though Brig Gulia said maximum members from ESM), ESMW Directorate must be revamped with Serving Soldiers & the Veterans, the entire chain of Veterans Welfare must be revised, so that right up to the Districts level, we have some dedicated Serving Officers to look after the Veterans affairs.
On a question from Ashok Mehta, Gen Satbir explained that there are more than 300 recognised ESM Associations in the country, since the ESM feel that they require a forum, to take up the issues affecting them locally.
Air Marshal Kuldip Rai, was in complete control of his subject of ECHS. He admitted that the ECHS is still growing & there is a lot of distance to cover, to provide consumer satisfaction. Therefore, we can depend on him to implement some valid suggestions made by Brig Muthu Lashmi & Maj Gen RN Radhakrishnan, in this regard (kindly refer to their mails).
This was the first time that the two stalwarts from IESL & IESM faced each other in a discussion, not to fight each other, but to lay a path of coexistence. Brig Gulia was there, as a matter of right. He has the numbers & the recognition by the Govt. Whereas, Maj Gen Satbir Singh was there, due to the psychological impact the IESM had made with much smaller membership base. In a span of couple of years, IESM has become the "Voice of the Veterans". The result is obvious. The Govt cannot ignore its presence. Do the numbers really matter?
Our complements to Maj Gen Satbir Singh, Brig Gulia & AM Rai. Of course to Maj Gen Ashok Mehta. He performed his role of anchor to perfection, because the participants in the discussion were well disciplined Veterans. Never exceeded the time & never seriously contradicted the differing views of the establishment. But, I could watch the anguish on the face of Satbir Singh, when he was cut short by the Anchor, immediately when the subject of Rank Pay came up. This is a solid case where the Supreme Court had ctegorically up held the contention of the ESM, but the Govt prefered an appeal. After all, the Anchor has his role to play, to save the Govt from some humiliation. Especially on a Govt TV Cahnnel. The discussion was terminated due to time up.
There are certain points made by Maj Gen Satbir Singh, which require some serious deliberations. He has stated that at present, the ESM Welfare in the States is funded by the respective States & the Centre on 50/ 50 basis. His suggestion was to have it entirely funded by the Centre, with States having no responsibility in funding. Is it feasible, practical or advisable, since all our Veterans belong to one State or the other & are in receipt of some concessions from their own States?
Other point is that the Supreme Court had upheld the concept of OROP, in a few of its verdicts. I feel that this view requires to be backed up by legal experts. Our own interpretation of various rulings may not suffice.
(Col TN Raman, Convener IESM Tamil Nadu)
I too watched the said programme on DD News. The input from Veteran Ranjit Rai is very apt.
Gen Satbir Singh put forth the point of view of veterans and about the injustices meted out to them, aptly and appropriately within the time constraints. Given a little more time and opportunity Gen Satbir would have laid bare many more discrimination on soldiers and veterans and put to shame all those pseudo patriots and their side- kicks who sing hypocritical paeans to defence forces on national occasions (one such approaching very soon).
It was very heartening to see Brig Gulia (IESL) and Gen Satbir (IESM) complementing each other on the issue of veterans.
However, my only regret is that the programme was telecast too late in the night when most of the people have already retired for the day and that it was on DD News, the least watched programme among the bouquet of news channels. All the same, as a sarkari channel, it was good.
Regarding the 'jar' at Gen Satbir calling Gen Mehta 'Sir' on the programme, I wish to state that it is in the ethos of Defence Forces (at least in the Army) to continue to address the person as 'Sir' who had been once his senior. Many youngsters who once called me 'Sir' and scaled greater heights in life, continue to address me 'Sir' even today. At one occasion when I addressed 'Sir' to an officer who had been a youngster in my regiment, he got down from the podium, embraced me and without any hesitation said: "Sir, I am still the same old bacha for you. Please don't call me Sir. I have still many things to learn from you." Touching elocution and down to earth sentiment. That is the culture which binds us and makes us unique in the otherwise jungli milieu in which we step in after retirement. As veterans we may be equal but in our approach we do not shed our respect for each other.
This American culture of equality is alien to both British and Indian culture.
Veteran Ram Gulrajani
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