Two premier fighting units of the Air Force, 32 and 220 Squadrons were recently presented with the Presidential Standards at Punjab’s frontline air base, Halwara, home to 9 Wing. 32 Squadron is actually based at Jodhpur with 32 Wing of South-Western Air Command and flies the Mig-21 Bison with its formidable within-visual-range (WVR) combat capability. The Thunderbirds, as they’re called, were raised in 1963. The unit flying Sukhoi 7s made several successful strikes against Pakistani ground targets, including airbases in the 1971 war. Wing Commander HS Mangat, the CO, was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra for among other accomplishments, bringing his plane back to base despite being hit by a Sidewinder missile and suffering extensive damage.
No 220 Squadron based at Halwara was initially an Auxiliary Air Force unit. Equipped with Sukhoi Su-30 MKI air superiority fighters; it is the first to fly the type in Western Air Command. This heavy, all-weather, long-range fighter is tailor made for Indian conditions and to the IAF’s specifications. IAF plans to ultimately have 272 of the type, which will form the backbone of the fighter fleet till some time beyond 2020. Halwara was one of the first air bases to be built after Independence and is responsible for defending central Punjab and offensive air operations across a wide swathe of Pakistan’s air space. The performance of the units stationed here, their pilots, technicians, ground staff, maintenance crew and all other officers and men in both the 1965 and 1971 wars was exemplary.
Exempt veterans from house tax
Brig KS Chandpuri, MVC, is a doughty warrior whether facing enemy tanks on the battlefield or fighting for ex-servicemen’s rights after retirement. He has now taken up the case for exemption of veterans from property tax in Chandigarh with his characteristic vigour. Military men retire at an early age, which calls for significant readjustment in their lifestyles as their earning capacity is suddenly halved. The sudden onset of fresh taxes like the one recently levied on residential properties in Chandigarh UT is a huge burden on veterans and serving soldiers. Their case for exemption from its provisions is strengthened by the fact that states adjoining the Union Territory like Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh have already provided exemption to defence personnel.
In this connection the attention of the decision makers is drawn towards the then defence minister, Sharad Pawar’s demi-official letter No. RM/68883-F/92, dated November 30, 1992, addressed to the chief ministers and Lieutenant-Governors of all states and Union Territories calling upon them to exempt ex-servicemen from the payment of house/property tax. In addition to the states adjoining Chandigarh he has also mentioned Rajasthan, Tripura, Sikkim and Mizoram as having done so already. The contribution of ex-servicemen and serving soldiers to the development of Chandigarh cannot be overly stressed. They chose to buy plots and settle down in the City Beautiful at a time when it faced an uncertain future with grave doubts about its viability. The vision of Partap Singh Kairon and Dr MS Randhawa ensured that an exclusive defence colony was carved out in the second phase of the Capital Project. Military men thereafter settled down here in large numbers, bringing into being Sectors 33 to 36. Soldiers’ tremendous contribution to the nation both in peace and war must be recognised, not forgotten.