Saturday, March 17, 2012
Beyond ’Adarsh’, on looking after armed forces retirees
Well, having written about the hearing in the Mumbai HC into the Adarsh Housing Co-operative Society, I was thinking about the housing scheme itself, and beyond that too. The Adarsh Housing Society in Colaba (Mumbai), was originally meant to be a six-storey structure to house Kargil war heroes and widows. The original idea is suspect in its scope itself. To imagine the politicians and babujis having so much concern for the families of war veterans to allot prime housing plot for them in the Colaba area in South Mumbai needs rare innocence in the Indian context. I remember the Police housing colony coming up in the eighties next to the Mumbai’s Mahim Creek and wondering how the poor police wo/men and their families will breathe in fresh air ever in their service lives!
The idea behind Adarsh Co-Operative Housing Society then, was to use the name of war veterans to have prime real estate allotted in the frightfully expensive quarters of Mumbai. It was tricky and could have been done only to some worthy cause. Later they could always dilute the cause at their convenience, in conspiracy with the high and mighty. That is how the housing project for the war heroes and their widows got converted into a posh 31-storey building and was allotted to bureaucrats, top defence officers, a ruling CM’s mother, proxies of several former chief ministers, a former environment minister and legislators.
The nation is indebted to 750 or so armed forces personnel who died defending country's borders during the Kargil war, and many more who had served the country during the earlier wars and those who get killed and maimed during the ‘peace time’ in unanticipated military engagements every day. We civilians fail to remember that the armed forces personnel serve the country not only in times of war but day and night in protection of the country's boundaries, Only during a war or in the aftermath of it there are the right noises being made of the nation’s indebtedness to the Defence personnel, especially those who had laid down their lives in the call of duty. Promises made during these times of ex-gratia payments to their dependents, offer of help through jobs, businesses like petroleum agencies and the like are more kept in their callous breach than in execution. Ex-Servicemen Welfare Associations all over the country lament that the land allotted to former Defence personnel is routinely encroached upon by land-grabbers. Dependents of those who laid their lives down for the country cry about the solemn declarations forgotten by politicians and bureaucrats who made them.
Apart from the war heroes, there are more than 2 million military retirees in the country. Every year over 50,000 officers and jawans, who are relatively young, retire from the armed forces. Only a minuscule percentage of them obviously deserve special privileges. Still the nation as a whole, and the State and Central governments in particular prove ungrateful to the defence services veterans and their families.
According to the Defence Ministry, the Ex-servicemen have hands-on work experience in about 300 trades, and they need to be properly utilised, providing them gainful employment in the economy.
Even vertical induction of ex-servicemen into the para-military forces, which is the easiest and the most sensible option, and highly talked-about, is not being implemented. It will be the obvious solution to the problem of getting the right candidates for the para-military forces that would also benefit many ex-servicemen. However, progress on this front has been slow. What is the private sector doing to absorb the skilled and disciplined former soldiers with considerable work experience in different fields? Precious little indeed. Even in cases where their experience is inadequate, imparting them the training and education to equip them for civilian jobs will be a lot easier and purposeful than taking in the unruly, and unemployable youngsters from many of our educational institutions. Our armed forces have a long and proud tradition of serving the country, and it is only fitting that men who are retired when they are still young and far more fit than their civilian counterparts should be looked after by employing them gainfully besides giving them their pensions.