Monday, October 10, 2016

Soldiers Are Great; We Too Must Get our Share of Votes/TRP/Patriotism!

            A classic Malayalam story about a great writer Kunchan Nambiar, who created the satirical art form of Ottamthullal goes like this. One day, Kunchan Nambiar accompanied the King, along with other courtiers, to see a newly installed lamppost at a temple. The King asked everyone to comment on the beauty of the lamppost. Everyone tried their creative best, and managed to get prizes from the King. Nambiar remained silent. Finally, the King asked Nambiar why he is not saying anything despite him being one of the best poets around.  Nambiar is said to have replied poetically, “Deepasthambam Mahaascharyam, Namukkum Kittanam Panam.” My crude translation would be, “The lamppost is wonderful; I too must get some money” (effectively lampooning his fellow courtiers). The story says, Nambiar managed to get the best prize from the King!
            When I read the scores of messages appearing on Whatsup, Twitter, and Facebook, extolling the virtues of Indian soldiers, I am always reminded of the famous retort of Nambiar. Praising soldiers has become an easy way to get one’s patriotism displayed in public, get more votes, get more TRPs, and get more sales in today’s India. Another convenience is that it puts all other Indians, psychologically, under a lot of stress to share/ agree/ like/ desist from questioning those posts and comments. Anyone daring to raise a finger against, can be easily put down as anti-nationals!
            I understand the behavior of common people, as the cheapest and easiest way for them to exhibit their patriotism is to praise soldiers. One doesn’t have to suffer any cost or pain but can effectively feel happy that one is a patriotic Indian. I can also understand the behavior of the TV channels that demonized the veterans who were at Jantar Mantar, asking for their promised dues under One Rank One Pension (OROP) and then brand all those who question soldiers as anti-national. For those TV channels, the morality is defined by the political affiliations of their owners and the TRP hunting instincts! But, how about the Government?
            How does a Government headed by a party that was too quick to begin felicitations of their leaders and putting up of larger than life Flux Boards, to take credit for an operation conducted by the soldiers behave otherwise, towards the soldiers? I must say the double standards are only too obvious!
            The same Govt that now seeks to bask in the glory of our soldiers were the ones that sent police forces to physically attack the veterans who were agitating against the cheating in the name of OROP. The supporters of the Govt did not spare any effort to blacken the faces of the veterans, throughout the social media!
            Look at the implementation of the 7th Central Pay Commission recommendations. All other employees of the Central Government have received their enhanced salaries and arrears under the 7th CPC. Not so for our poor soldiers, who are still waiting! The reasons is that the Chiefs of the armed forces are unwilling or unable to accept the anti-soldier recommendations of the 7th CPC!
            What irony that it was on the very next day of the now famous surgical strikes that the Central Government issued notification for reducing the disability pension benefits enjoyed by the soldiers who lost their health due to extreme service conditions!
            Perhaps such an attitude of the Government can be understood in the light of certain comments from the top leaders. The Prime Minister of the country is only record that the traders in this country have to bear more risks than our soldiers!  The Defense Minister openly stated (in the aftermath of the surgical strikes) that Indian Army did not know its strengths until he came and made them realize!  The Defense Minister compared Indian Army with Hanuman, to drive home the point. Can anyone be more insulting to an Army that had conducted many a glorious operations, including winning wars and creating a new country? With such attitudes from the PM and DM, the treatment of the soldiers is, perhaps, not so surprising.
            Why spent money on soldiers, when we can do a better PR by a loud salute and a couple of Whatsup messages!
Deepasthambam Mahaascharyam, Namukkum Kittanam Panam.”

P.S: This writer is a pensioner who has put in two decades of service in the Indian Air Force and, hence, has pecuniary interest in the subject matter.