Home Opinion Why Do We Soldiers Feel Cheated And Forgotten?

Why Do We Soldiers Feel Cheated And Forgotten?

Non-provisioning of the latest equipment, accommodation and system to redress grievances of the soldiers deployed on long field tenures. 54 Indian POWs languishing in Pakistani jails since the 1971 War. Appointment of the CDS, neglected for seven decades, is a necessity.

An Indian Army contingent during the Indian Army Parade this year
An Indian Army contingent during the Indian Army Parade this year

They Never Came Back Home..!

During World War I, over one million Indian troops served overseas, of whom 62,000 died, and another 67,000 were wounded. In total, at least 74,187 Indian soldiers died. Over 87,000 Indian troops and 3 million civilians died in World War II. Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck, former Commander-in-Chief, India, stated that Britain’ couldn’t have come through both World Wars if they hadn’t had the Indian Army.’ We fought both wars for our colonial masters. What for; is there any answer to such massacres?

In the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947–1948, Indian losses totalled 1,104 killed and 3,154 wounded; 1,103 Indian Army deaths while state forces of J&K killed or missing amounted to 1,990 J&K . 32 RIAF personnel were dead or missing, and total military casualties were 6,279. The Pakistanis must have suffered equally while India gained control of about two-thirds of Kashmir; Pakistan, the remainder. India had the upper hand, but Kashmir’s areas that could not be liberated from our adversaries formed part of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), pricking us like needles ever since and because of numerous wars soiling bitter relations between both countries forever. 

In the 1962 Sino-Indian debacle, as per the Chinese reports, Indian forces suffered 5,000 killed or wounded and 4,000 captured against the Chinese casualties of 722 killed and 1,700 wounded. However, as per Indian reports, India lost 1,383 soldiers, 1,047 wounded, 1,700 missing, and 3,968 captured against 1,300 Chinese soldiers killed. The Chinese, after that, hold large areas of the Indian territories, including the Aksai Chin. Whatever the conflicting figures, the country lost its self-respect, men and materials and large parts of our legitimate territories captured by China, our bigger and stronger adversary than Pakistan, at what astounding costs? 

Though the 1965 Indo-Pak War headed for a stalemate, with both nations holding each other’s territory, the Indian Army suffered 3,000 battlefield deaths and 8225 wounded, while Pakistan suffered 3,800 casualties. The Indian Army had 1,920 sq km of Pakistani territory, and the Pakistan army held 550 sq km of Indian territory and the Indian tank losses were 80 as against 475 of the Pakistanis. Both the air forces suffered heavy losses of trained personnel and their combat aircraft. Finally, UN efforts agreed upon a cease-fire on 23 September 1965. Neither side achieved victory, nor could India liberate POK. All this was at tremendous cost in men, materials, equipment and collateral damages to properties on both sides, reminding us that rather than fighting wars with each other, they need to fight wars against hunger, poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy and lack of medical facilities. Sadly, we gave away to Pakistan Haji Pir Pass, captured after the bitter fight and heavy losses on both sides.

In the 1971 Indo-Pak War, East Pakistan was obliterated from the world map leading to the liberation of Bangladesh. In this Bangladesh Liberation War, India suffered more than 12,000 casualties. Of these, 2908 had laid down their lives for the Bangladesh Liberation War. The war on the eastern front ended with the unconditional surrender of 93000 Pak forces on 16 December 1971. While liberating Bangladesh at that moment was the greatest decisive psychological and military victory for India, dismembering Pakistan made it strategically a comparatively more compact and homogeneous country. However, fissiparous tendencies amongst Punjabi Muslims and the rest of the Sindhis, Balochis and Pathan tribes from other provinces and the communal divides amongst Shias, Sunnis, Ahmediyas, other minor communities/tribes and dwindling Hindu population are multiplying. Also, at colossal costs, we could not liberate the heart-burning occupation of the POK from our adversary Pakistan.

The 32-month presence of the IPKF in Sri Lanka resulted in the deaths of 1100 Indian soldiers and over 5000 Sri Lankans. The cost for the Indian government was estimated at over ₹10.3 billion. Why MUST we die for other’s wars, more so when surrounded by two adversaries and other countries not so friendly with India?

In the limited Kargil War, orchestrated by the then mischievous Pakistani Army Chief General Pervez Musharraf, the official death toll of the war on the Indian side was 527. Meanwhile, the casualty figure on the Pakistani side is said to be 453. In this war, we only captured and liberated our areas surreptitiously occupied by the Pakistanis due to the failure of surveillance and intelligence agencies to provide real-time tactical intelligence. The POK remained with Pakistan hitherto fore.

Why Do Soldiers Feel Cheated?

During British Colonial rule, the Indian soldiers in the British Army were unhappy due to poor terms of service and pensions, bad pay, lack of promotion, and increased cultural and racial insensitivity from the British officers. The Indian soldiers were prohibited from wearing their traditional and religious symbols and headgear. They were paid a meagre salary and had no promotion options with no Indian officers beyond JCOs rank, while the wages were high for the British officers. They were provided with good facilities and promotion avenues. These and some other reasons led to what the British call mutiny, but we as the first war for independence. Since we were then British slaves, the concept of giving back captured territories like the Haji Pir Pass in 1965 did not arise. Surrendering enemy territories captured in war is the most painful and a big de-motivational factor to soldiers and regiments involved in its capture. I list some of the glaring de-motivational factors that adversely affect the combat effectiveness of the armed forces:-

  • Returning captured territories at great losses of lives, war injuries and destruction of properties. Before returning Haji Pir and other similar areas, we must think about soldiers who never returned to their homes, were wounded, missing in battle or taken prisoner of war (PoWs).
  • Non- implementation of one rank one pension (OROP) and other benefits like non-implementation of Non-Functional Upgradation (NFU).
  • Discrimination between pay and allowances between the armed forces personnel and the civilians working in the same areas.
  • Placing military soldiers below police constables in pay & allowances, service conditions and precedent, sadly, considering that at worst as chowkidars.
  • Police personnel wearing army pattern uniforms and badges of rank. Newly commissioned army officers and counterparts in IPS wearing the same military badges of ranks. While the army officer, after 20 years of service, becomes Colonel, his IPS counterpart becomes IG wearing Major General’s badge of rank, creating heart burning amongst service officers. Also, wearing OG/disruptive camouflage pattern uniforms is the Army’s prerogative, and the police should wear khaki uniforms only.
  • We must know that only military soldiers are called ‘Jawans’. Police personnel are constables/constabularies. Media and people must understand this subtle difference and stop using wrong connotations.
  • Agniveer has not been accepted by the armed forces and peasantry supplying the bulk of soldiers for our regiments. Many former released SSOs & ECOs were not absorbed suitably post-release from the army and were deprived of ECHS and CSD (I) facilities. We must realise progress means change, but all changes may not lead to progress and are harmful and detrimental to any institution or organisation.
  • Non-provisioning of the latest equipment, accommodation and system to redress grievances of the soldiers deployed on long field tenures and lack of married housing in short peace tenures.
  • Many Veer Naris and widows don’t get pensionary benefits as basic Part II orders were not published at the unit level or names were improperly spelt. Many veterans suffer similarly for treatment. 
  • Sadly, during Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living Foundation private Yoga camp, it was reported that instead of protecting our borders and people, 120 soldiers were misused over a week, building two temporary bridges that will float on the Yamuna River. The event was equally an ecological disaster. Such misuse of combat power for non-combat jobs is most disheartening. 
  • Soldiers deployed on borders and veterans run from post to pillar for routine jobs like getting electricity connections or ration cards made suffering at the hands of lower-ranking corrupt officials. 
  • When the government of India released all 93,000 POWs of Pakistan, why are 54 Indian POWs languishing in Pakistani jails since the 1971 War?
  • Appointment of the CDS, neglected for seven decades, is a necessity. But after the death of the first incumbent, the post remained vacant for a long time, adversely affecting coordination among the three services.
  • And last but not least, Babus must realise that our armed forces fight for the IZZAT of NAAM, NAMAK & NISHAAN. Please do not infringe on this pious concept.

 The anguish of my Regimental Officer Col BK Sharma, 4 Kumaon 

 I retired from the Army about 30 years back.

In hindsight, I feel cheated, exploited and having been used as gun fodder.

I served four years in Nagaland during the insurgency in the late 60s and early 70s, risking my life every day. I asked what the tangible gains of that were.

I fought the 1965 War with my infantry battalion and captured Rustam Hill (now known as Kumaon Hill). My battalion also cleared the entire Bogina Bulge and destroyed Jura Bridge at the cost of 60 casualties and many more wounded, but what was the net result? It was all given back at Tashkent under pressure from Russia.

In Bangladesh Liberation War1971, I physically took part in the operations, and my battalion captured Chatlapur Tea factory, Shamsher Nagar, Munshi Bazaar, and Maulvi Bazaar and advanced up to the outskirts of Sylhet when the surrender of Pakistani troops took place.

What was the tangible gain of that surrender? We treated the 93000 POWs like guests and then returned them back to Pakistan on a platter.

Liberation of Bangladesh created another hostile country which has been saturating us with illegal migrants ever since in millions creating hordes of law and order problems all over our country and upsetting our demography, economy and standards of living. And what reward did I, as a soldier in uniform, get? My pension was reduced from 75% to 50%.

If you look holistically, before Independence, Lat Saheb (The Viceroy ) was No 1 in precedence, followed by the Jangi Laat (Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces) in the number two slot. But now the Chief of Army Staff has come down 30 notches in the order of precedence. 

We are the only country where the military has no role in the decision-making apparatus of the Defence Ministry. Can one imagine that there is no representative of the Services in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and civilian Babus take all decisions from pay and procurement of combat equipment to the pension of the armed forces?

The Defence Secretary is responsible for the nation’s defence but is not accountable for anything.

I dare say that Babus of this country running MoD does not know the difference between the langar commander to army commander or between transport aircraft and fighter, but sadly, this is the state of affairs. For example, the Indian Army had proposed to buy snow scooters at Siachen, which was turned down with the argument, ‘How can you drive scooters in a snowbound area’? The file was cleared only after Defence Minister George Fernandes had visited Siachen and ensured the Defence Secretary also visited Siachen. To add insult to injury, the Babus of the Defence ministry filed a maximum number of legal cases against the Armed Forces.

For 70 years, we did not have a CDS. Finally, we got CDS as a 4-Star general instead of a 5-Star, as is the norm all over the world. Now we have replaced one, a 3-Star general, that too after one and half years of his retirement. It is a matter of great coincidence that he, too, had served with Mr Doval, including late CDS Gen Rawat; all three are Garhwalis. While I know nothing about Gen Chauhan, he must be a competent person, so there are no aspirations for him, but it’s the decision which is the most irking.

Our Jawans and Officers are still keeping their side of the pledge, but will the MOD ever realise that they have deliberately, repeatedly, let down the Armed Forces?

Today I ask, where are the Generals of the calibre of the Generals Thimmaiah, Bhagat and 5-star ranked officers like Cariappa, Arjan Singh or Sam Manekshaw?

I request the government, in my humble ways, ‘Give the Armed forces their dues in Izzat-o-Iqbal and their financial dues and status gracefully instead of going to courts every time. This will lead to high morale, motivation and combat effectiveness. Remember, if you throw peanuts, only monkeys will be attracted, and then God save this country if real war breaks out and the gloom of 1962 will loom large on the horizon!

The country’s citizenry must remember that the Armed Forces protect the security of our country. They keep us safe. They also help protect our independence, which is about us deciding for ourselves what happens to our country.

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Col NN Bhatia (Retd), besides being a combat military veteran is perhaps the only freelance consultant in Industrial Security. He has audited large numbers of core strategic industries in both private and public sectors such as Aeronautics, Airports, Banks, Defence, DRDOs, Mints, Nuclear Energy, Oil, Power, Ports, Prasar Bharti (AIR & Doordarshan Kendras) Railways, Refineries, Space, Ship Building, Telecom & various vital Research Centres & Laboratories and conducted numerous Industrial Security & Disaster Management Training Programs, Seminars, Workshops & Exhibitions & interacted with numerous Ministries, Departments & NGOs and undertaken Industrial Security Audits, Reviews, Training & Advice in Disaster Management & handling of IEDs & Explosives. He has vast experience in the management of the Human Resources, Training & Development, Liaison, Fire Fighting, Logistics, Equipment & Material Management, Strategic Decision-Making Process, clearance of Maps & Aerial Photography (GIS), Explosives handling, Industrial Security & Disaster Management. He is physically, mentally and attitudinally sound having good communication skills to undertake Industrial Security Consultancy, IED handling, Coordination & Liaison Assignments to add to the productivity of the Organisation. He can also organise discreet customised intelligence gathering & surveillance operations on a turnkey basis for his clients. He is a prolific writer written numerous articles on industrial security, national and geostrategic security issues and 5 books- KUMAONI Nostalgia, Industrial and Infrastructure Security in 2 volumes, Soldier Mountaineer (biography of international mountaineer Col Narender Kumar 'Bull' and Reminiscing Battle of Rezang La. *Views are personal.

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