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On Himmat & Izzat

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We, the Citizens 

By Hugh & Colleen Gantzer

Our small state has a very strong Defence Services’ orientation. Today, we would like our column to express a feeling keenly felt by veterans but seldom expressed. Those who have never taken an oath to the Constitution of India can never feel the power of the words Himmat and Izzat imposed by adherence to that oath.

The best English translation for the words Himmat and Izzat are Guts and Glory. Even in the first years of Independence, employees in multi-nationals like Burmah Shell and Imperial Tobacco, earned appreciably more than Defence Servicemen, but in social circles they were Boxwallahs who were admitted to our social institutions under sufferance. This enhanced the status of Defence Services’ personnel and more than made up for their smaller salaries.

But then, slowly and insidiously, the boxwallahs infiltrated our social institutions and                      eventually took over. Bangalore’s BUS Club had nothing to do with public transport. It was, originally, The Bangalore United Services’ Club. This is just one example of the insidious whittling down of the status of the Defence Services social status in our land and the rise of the babus and boxwallahs. Status no longer compensated for the difference in salaries.

This is not a complaint. It is just a statement of fact. And yet our netas often feel a sense of grievance at the “perks and privileges” of Defence Services’ personnel. They don’t seem to realise that the Defence Budget is the annual premium they pay to insure the life of India as a free nation. Perhaps our Movers and Shakers did not assess how deeply it hurt many defence services’ personnel when we were told that our Government had to introduce the Agnipath scheme in order to pay our pensions. Really? So why do you retire us when we are so young? So why are our salaries not pegged to years of service instead of promotions to higher ranks?

This brings us to another point. The Governor of our state, who is also a veteran, is quoted as saying that Uttarakhand is a military oriented state and people from almost every house are serving the country. He said it is the collective responsibility of all to help each soldier and their dependants. In spite of what the General said, however, every ex-serviceman has a problem. If he wants to join a political party to give power to his plans for the development of his home state, he will have to conform to the mysterious High Command’s diktat. But what happens if that order goes against the oath of loyalty he took to the Constitution? Our Constitution lays down certain principles for every Indian to follow. Freedom of speech is one of them. But as we have seen in a recent case, this had drawn the ire of a powerful political leader. Does the veteran turned neta abide by his oath or by the whip issued by his party? Or does he compromise by saying, “I took the oath as a serviceman but I am a civilian now!”

So, he hides his himmat under a smokescreen of self-deceptions and his izzatt flops like a boiled spaghetti. Or, is this just another reason why recruitment to the Armed Forces is declining? The once high sheen of being a serviceman has been tarnished by insensitive netas. Here are some figures to prove our point. They have been taken from news-reports in the public domain quoting government sources.

“The over 14 lakh armed forces have a shortage of as many as 9,797 officers and 1.26 lakh soldiers, airmen and sailors from their sanctioned strengths as per the latest figures tabled in Parliament. The Army has a shortage of 7,779 officers and 1.08 lakh soldiers. While the figures from the Navy are 1,446 officers, and 12,151 sailors, the IAF has a shortage of 572 officers and 5,217 airmen, said Junior Defence Minister Ajay Bhatt.

Clearly the Armed Forces are not the attractive career option that they had once been.

With a very aggressive dragon breathing fire while sitting on our own lands in the north, a chaotic Pakistan on our West and a dysfunctional Sri Lanka on our South, is this any time to think about aesthetics? WE NEED TO SECURE OUR BORDERS FIRST.                                                                                WE MUST DIVERT ALL OUR EGO-BOOSTING DREAM PROJECTS’ EXPENDITURE TO THIS SINGLE CAUSE: To give our Armed Forces the personnel and equipment to defend our nation from all present and foreseeable dangers. Bullet trains and lunar trips can follow.

(Hugh & Colleen Gantzer hold the National Lifetime Achievement Award for Tourism among other National and International awards. Their credits include over 52 halfhour documentaries on national TV under their joint names, 26 published books in 6 genres, and over 1,500 firstperson articles, about every Indian state, UT and 34 other countries. Hugh was a Commander in the Indian Navy and the Judge Advocate, Southern Naval Command. Colleen is the only travel writer who was a member of the Travel Agents Association of India.)