Saturday, March 26, 2011

Political Action should be central to ESM Agenda

How effective is the IESM?
Dear Brig Kamboj,
We need to celebrate the recommendations of the committee to establish a National Commission for Ex-Servicemen. We need not be elated, however. We need to follow it up. Previous commissions, such as the National Police Commissions, have been gathering dust in the unopened cabinets of North Block for years!
Those who are skeptical about the effectiveness of IESM should consider that most of the public policy issues in India and elsewhere on our planet are driven by political considerations. This is a rather reckless but a fairly accurate assertion. Having worked for the best part of our years in the narrow confines of an apolitical environment, in which we implicitly support government policies, regardless of the party in power, it takes time to adapt ourselves to our retired status, which allows us greater freedom of expression than before, particularly with regard to our interaction with the media. I say "greater" because it is my understanding that we are still bound by the Official Secrets Act. Unfortunately, politicians in general, and bureaucrats in particular, expect ex-servicemen to be apolitical and subservient to the political leaders "from cradle to grave," as it were! When General Sinha paid a courtesy call to the then- RM (later President Venkataraman) on the eve of his premature retirement, the-then RM warned him against joining politics. That some segments of the public, and even the intelligentsia, should needlessly be oversensitive to the legitimate grievances, articulated by the IESM, and denounce them as "unbecoming and undisciplined " should be seen in this light. It is ironic that some of our Veterans also have joined this chorus.
Given these circumstances, I do not hesitate for a moment to commend the admirable accomplishments of a few dedicated members of the IESM.
One cannot jump into the political realm abruptly, unless one is a scion of a renowned political or a rich family. The challenges faced by a new entrant to the political arena in India are formidable, even if he/she has matching resources. And since politics is the "art of the possible", even a small success does not come without substantial compromises. How is my rambling relevant to the IESM?
Political action should be central to our future agenda. Veterans should realize that there are no shortcuts. It is a tedious journey, defined by slow progress and unanticipated setbacks. Our biggest asset is the public sympathy and confidence. Let us not be deterred by, or overreact to, a few articles in the media, predicting the "decline and fall of the armed forces," based on a few unfortunate incidents, such as Adarsh. The core of the armed forces is strong, and like ancient civilizations, will survive the trials and tribulations of emerging challenges. We should organize ourselves politically to fight for our rights.
Although no two situations can ever be identical, in the U.S., the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) and AMA ( American Medical Association), to name a few, have powerful lobbies to advance their causes. They are funded by membership contributions. I am unable, even incompetent,to develop this theme further, because I have neither the experience nor the knowledge about how to formulate a coherent political strategy for a successful prosecution of our rights in India. IESM might want to talk to some of the veterans, who have some success in this regard.
Bhimaya,10th J.S.W.
The Garhwal Rifles, Maj Gen K Bhimaya, California, USA

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