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The force behind the Forces

A soldier is more than a national property and is weighed down additionally by the responsibilities and challenges of a common man.

The force behind the Forces

Signifying a voluntary sense of moral indebtedness on part of civilians, the Armed Forces Flag Day on December 07 is observed to express gratitude and support to the welfare of servicemen and their dependents. The sense of the day categorically pertains to rehabilitation of battle casualties, welfare of serving personnel and their families, and resettlement of ex-servicemen and their families. The observance of this day is expressed with small donations in return for token flags. The fund thus collected is utilised for the aforementioned purpose.

Apart from some genuine and emphatic expressions of romanticised nationalism, there is a need to understand and acknowledge that the uniqueness of the service of defence personnel is not comparable to any other common man job. Professional requirements keep soldiers, sailors, and airmen away from home and hearth for long periods leaving behind and missing out some very personal aspects of domestic life at an invaluable price. There is no compensation for what servicemen selflessly forego, irrespective of their motivation behind joining the forces.
It goes without saying that armed forces is a profession that leaves little room for spontaneous personal aspirations. Inevitably, the functioning of this massive and intricately organised institution caters not only to the territorial security of people in India, but it is also responsible for ensuring conducive conditions to enable best and optimal service of the servicemen. The military is largely a parallel system that is supposed to ensure that the functioning of a nation as a sovereign entity is not hampered due to external aggression of any kind. This is a very critical aspect and juncture when the functioning of the military intersects with the decision-making of our civilian government.
There is a glaring and indelible example of military and civilian leadership coming to a decisive confrontation: the debacle in the 1962 war against China. The blemish of 1962 was a result of political indifference, apathy, and ultimately failure. Despite a formidable Army and a superior Air Force in a young sovereign India, a disconnected body of politicos was responsible for subjecting soldiers to in inhuman conditions compounded by inadequate supply of ammunition, food, and even warm gear on the frigid Himalayan border. What lives today of that humiliating defeat is the awe-inspiring courage of the soldiers that stood indomitable in the face of worst adversaries possible.
A cause of grave concern lately has been the disturbing frequency of air crashes during peace time operations that kill pilots and other serving personnel. There was a movement by wives of Air Force servicemen in protest against systemic laxity due to which this issue has been virtually unaddressed. This movement by the wives is, in fact, very emphatically telling of the matter that a soldier is more than a national property and is weighed down additionally by the responsibilities and challenges of a common man. In many cases, serving soldiers are still the sole breadwinner in the family.
With the rapidly changing times and a fast-evolving geopolitical situation, a formidable, deterrent military is a bare minimum requirement. However, what can actually sustain the forces holistically beyond their grit and integrity is a sense of peace from knowing that their personal responsibilities are adequately taken care of. The uncertainties owing to occupational hazard befall with greater impact on the families and immediate dependents of the soldier. It is ironical that veterans who were trained to aggressively achieve goals are now engaged in a prolonged passive struggle for One Rank One Pension. With debates surrounding induction of women in combat roles, let us also remember that it will be an intimidating offshoot of the role of 'women' altogether.
Though the military dwells on the fringes of the idea of the Indian nation, the individuals who serve in uniform are still closely integrated with the finest facets of our distinguishable set of cultures. It is as much a challenge to encourage youth from a range of backgrounds to choose the difficult, challenging, but equally fulfilling life of active service. There need to be reasonable incentives in place to sustain and materialise attraction for the armed forces among young enthusiasts.
(The author is Editorial Consultant and Senior Copy Editor with Millennium Post. Views are strictly personal.)

Kavya Dubey

Kavya Dubey

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