A century ago the First World War broke out in these days. Indian Expeditionary Force consisting of the 3rd (Lahore) and 7th (Meerut) Divisions and the 1st and 2nd Cavalry Divisions was sent off to fight in Europe landing at Marseilles in September-October 1914. Shortly after they arrived Indian soldiers were involved in some of the heaviest fighting around Ypres in Belgium. More used to colonial warfare modern combat came as a shock to them but their customary hardiness soon came to the fore. The Germans developed a high esteem for the fighting qualities of the Indian Jawan. Casualties were heavy however.
The troops were rested in early 1915, but were soon back in the trenches and involved in heavy fighting. The Indian corps provided half the attacking force at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915, and the Lahore Division was thrown into the counter-attack at the Second Battle of Ypres in April. Indian troops’ morale picked up in the spring of 1915, declining towards mid-year when it became clear that an end to the war was not in sight. The Indians again took heavy losses at the Battle of Loos in September.
The Corps was withdrawn to Egypt in October 1915 for a variety of reasons. The Indian Cavalry Corps stayed on in France albeit fighting mostly in a dismounted role, moving ultimately to Egypt in the spring of 1918.
DEFENCE R&D IN INDIA
Development of new weapons, equipment and technologies is the life blood of any forward-looking military.
The defence budget has grown from Rs. 313 crore in 1961-62 to Rs. 2,29,000 crore in 2014-15. The outlay on research and development has also grown from Rs. 3.1 crore to Rs. 15,282.92 crore in the same timeframe. The expenditure on R&D was just 1% of the defence budget in 1961-62. Over the years this percentage had grown to 6.7% in the fiscal year 2007-08. Thereafter, there was either level or declining expenditure till it reached a low of 5.2 in the last financial year. The increase this year is appreciable but it must be remembered that we have a fairly small budget compared with the leading nations in the world in the field of military technology. If we are to achieve any acceptable degree of equipment indigenisation apart from increasing the expenditure on R&D we need to impose same sort of accountability on DRDO, the nodal agency for the purpose.
A new formula has been mooted by the Controller General of Defence Accounts and the Department of Ex-Servicemen’s Welfare to implement OROP. This envisages that pre-2006 pensioners be paid pensions at rates applicable on January 1, 2006, i.e. the start of the 6th Pay Commission. The ramifications of this are that a sepoy going on pension before 2006 and drawing a pension of Rs. 5,196 would get Rs. 6,450 an increase of only Rs. 1,254. This contrast with Rs. 8,349 that a sepoy going on pension in 2014 currently gets. This method neither reflects the spirit nor the letter of the definition of OROP as accepted earlier by the government. Need one say more about bureaucratic machinations and lack of political spine to give veterans what is after all only their due?
(Please write in with your narratives of war and soldiering to msbajwa@ gmail.com or call on 093161-35343)