Ex-servicemen have always faced problems, mainly to do with pensions, medical and canteen facilities. The premier organisation spearheading the cause of ESM rights and articulating their grievances currently is the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM) headed by Lieut Gen Raj Kadyan from the Rajputana Rifles, who retired as deputy chief of the army staff. Being a familiar face on national television, he uses his high media profile to clearly enunciate the cause of ESM and serving soldiers to the general public.
On the One-Rank-One-Pension (OROP) issue, the IESM has taken a strong stand clearly making the grievance known to the country. Some progress has been made towards the achievement of this long-standing and genuine demand of former soldiers, but a lot more needs to be done by the government before ESM are satisfied and justice seems to have been done.
Attending a recent seminar organised by the organisation's Panchkula branch, of which Brig Kiran Krishan is the convenor, on the subject of 'Ex-Servicemen as Ambassadors of the Armed Forces', I was impressed by the dedication and commitment of its activists as also by their determination to resolve issues pertaining to the perennial problems of ESM.
In time, the IESM will probably evolve into something like the Royal British Legion with charitable and grievance resolving mechanisms providing financial, emotional and social support to both ESM and servicemen. However, to carry their mission forward, one wishes that they maintain equidistance from the two main political power blocs in the country.
Decline in officer recruitment from traditional areas
Recent statistics carried in the media about demographic composition of Gentlemen Cadets who have passed out from the Indian Military Academy this month show a sharp decline in the numbers of newly commissioned officers from traditional areas with heavy representation like Punjab and Delhi. While one welcomes the increase in officer numbers from states like Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Odisha, which have hitherto not sent as many officers to the armed forces as they should, the decrease in numbers from traditional areas is alarming. Are the forever-squabbling politicians and social activists from Punjab reading this?
It's important to analyse the reasons for decreasing attraction of the defence services for youth from the traditional areas. An increase in opportunities for educated young people isn't the only reason why fewer of them are opting for a career in a demanding, risk-prone sphere. Failures to respect the aspirations of young men and women nowadays as regards pay, perks, professional status and the many intangible benefits that go to make up career choices by the government are largely to blame.
This isn't a parochial wake-up call but a warning to the powers that be to note that in an increasingly insecure world, neglect of the officer corps' genuine needs will immediately reflect in the quality of the intake.
218 Medium Regiment celebrates Raising Day
After an arduous tenure in a high-altitude area, 218 Medium Regiment, the first unit to be equipped with the 155mm Bofors FH77B howitzer, celebrated its raising day with its parent formation, 31st Armoured (White Tiger) Division from October 1 to 3.
Raised in 1967 at Dhrangadhra in Gujarat as part of the drive to modernise the artillery with medium guns, a lesson learnt in the 1965 war, the regiment took part in the 1971 war. One of its veterans of that war was the Chhattisgarh Governor Shekhar Dutt, who won a Sena Medal for gallantry. Joining the IAS after his stint as a short service commission officer, he retired as defence secretary and was later deputy national security adviser. In its 45 years of service, 218 Medium Regiment has distinguished itself in a variety of operational roles as well as in sports and other activities.
5/4 Gurkha Rifles' golden jubilee
The 5th Battalion of the 4th Gurkha Rifles, known as Kanchi within the regiment, celebrated its golden jubilee recently at Gandhinagar in Gujarat. Soon after its raising, the battalion saw action in the Sialkot sector with 168 Brigade of 26 Division in the 1965 war, its good performance leading to it being awarded the theatre honour 'Punjab 1965'. It has the distinction of being among the first infantry units to receive the Chief of the Army Staff' Citation in 1992 for constant excellence in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir. Another laurel won by it is the Eastern Command Unit Citation in February 2008.
As many as 200 veterans of the battalion from Nepal and various parts of India participated in the three-day event. The event was flagged off by a Special Sainik Sammelan by Maj Gen PS Paul, colonel of the 4th Gurkha Rifles. 4 GR, one of the most distinguished regiments of the army, has a tremendous war record.
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