The armed forces
India is perhaps the only militarily powerful nation where the civilian defence secretary wields more power than the military leadership. It was only about two years ago that the chiefs of our three defence wings were granted exemption from being frisked at airports. It is important to keep up the morale of the world’s finest, most professional, highly secular and most apolitical armed forces. Let our political masters remember the words of Kautilya very aptly quoted at the beginning of this thought-provoking article.
OUR armed forces work under very difficult conditions and face dangerous situations in their line of duty. The government should bring their salary and benefits at least on a par with those of the Civil Services so that many more of our youth will be enthused to join the Army. We will need more forces to guard our borders, especially after the U.S.-led NATO forces leave Afghanistan.
Venkatesh B. Navaratna
IT is good that in the Interim Budget 2014-15 there is a “one rank, one pension” provision for defence personnel. It would have been better if their income had been exempted from income tax and wealth tax too.
IT is sad and unfortunate that our armed forces personnel are not getting their well-deserved dues. We should hang our heads in shame.
The shortfall in the intake of cadets is a clear indication that our youth are not motivated to take up the armed forces as a profession.
THE long-overdue “one rank, one pension” scheme which was announced in the Interim Budget will greatly benefit more than 2.4 million superannuated defence personnel; the move will also boost the morale of serving defence personnel. Similarly, the allocation for defence has been increased by 10 per cent—from Rs.2,03,672 crore in 2013-14 to Rs.2,24,000 crore in 2014-15.
It is sad that even the genuine grievances of our serving soldiers and ex-servicemen are not met in time. It is also a matter of concern that ex-servicemen are reportedly not getting proper medical facilities at the health centres covered under the Ex-servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS). The centres need to be equipped with the latest medical technology.
Again, ex-servicemen need to be provided with decent opportunities in civilian services as per their educational qualifications after their retirement, and their recruitment needs to be intensified. Their legitimate demand for an assured second career also should be accepted and implemented through an Act of Parliament. Widows of soldiers also need to be rehabilitated properly by way of providing jobs and other facilities.
THE legal battle waged by the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti against the publication of Wendy Doniger’s well-researched book “Hindus: An Alternative History”, which, it alleged, denigrated Hindu gods and goddesses, is an instance of the growing intolerance of right-wing Hindutva groups (“In their bad books”, March 7). It is equally disturbing that a renowned publisher such as Penguin capitulated to the whims of the SBAS and withdrew the copies. An opportunity has been lost for many discerning Indian readers to critically evaluate the book.
IT is unfortunate that a book containing a different view on Hinduism will not be available in bookshops. Freedom of expression should include the right to present a different viewpoint. If one does not like the different viewpoint, then one should not read it. Why ban a book? Incidentally, a reading session of the book was held during the recently concluded international book fair at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi.
Deendayal M. Lulla
IF commission agents at wholesale vegetable markets do the job of bankers, what are the banks for? (“To farmers’ rescue”, March 7). The policy of financial inclusion also has no relevance if farmers have to depend on these agents for their monetary needs. The waivers on crop loans also have no meaning in this context. The question arises as to who the real beneficiaries of government-sponsored schemes are. If it is happening in Azadpur, it must happening elsewhere too.
Kiruba Shankar K.
Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu
THE many brilliant and intricate paintings inside the caves are a legacy of which we should be proud.
A similar group of caves dedicated to the Buddha is located in Xian of Shaanxi Province in China and are known as the Mogao Grottoes of Dunhuang. There are nearly 500 caves here with numerous Buddhist paintings on the walls and more than 2,000 Buddhist sculptures. These caves on the Silk Road were famous throughout the Buddhist world. This trans-Asian highway carried not just silk and other precious commodities but the gentle creed of Buddhism from India to Central Asia, China, Japan and other nations. The extreme dryness of the desert region has helped preserve the manuscripts and paintings, but age and exposure to the elements have withered many paintings as in Ajanta.
Dozens of painters are working silently in the gloomy Mogao caves to restore these paintings to their original splendour. India should seek China’s help to restore the glory of the Ajanta paintings.
WHEN past experiments of non-Congress, non-BJP fronts to form an alternative government either failed to take off or broke up after failing to discharge its responsibilities, it is amusing that the Left parties have taken the lead to bring together 11 parties, chiefly regional parties, on a single platform to put up a united fight in the 2014 general election. Further, with the launch of a Third Front in the past ending in a fiasco, one is surprised at the coming together of the same group of politicians once again. The whole drama shows that the head of each regional party in the front nurses the ambition of becoming the Prime Minister.
They have also kept the options open to bargain for the best in a post-election situation if the magic figure of 272 eludes the front.
THE sky is the limit for corporate avarice (“Licence to plunder”, February 21). It is not sufficient for the government to be just investor-friendly. It must be nature- and people-friendly as well. When eco-sensitive zones are disturbed, the organic unity of nature gets disrupted. The global climate pattern has already become rather erratic.
Today, the earth is turning uglier as the natural environment is being replaced by a man-made environment.
Madurai, Tamil Nadu
I AM an Indo-Canadian currently visiting India on a short voluntary academic assignment. I have read A.G. Noorani’s article on the Kashmir issue (“To craft a Kashmir policy”, February 21).
He quotes the Army generals as saying that the Indian government consistently failed to set out its aims and policies for Kashmir. As a result, the armed forces carried out its duties on an ad hoc basis as the circumstances demanded. How else could the Centre act? Noorani himself admits that the solution can only be found with the participation of Pakistan. But Pakistan, which has never really tasted democracy and has periodically gone through a number of internal upheavals, cannot honestly represent any side on a topic such as Kashmir’s “azadi”. That would have been a blatant sham. Hence, Pakistan simply sat back and supported the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir. Even the proposed Manmohan Singh-Pervez Musharraf plan, which could have made the Line of Control (LoC) a mere line on the map, fizzled out because of the political upheaval in Pakistan.
Again, Noorani seems to defend two opposite arguments. He agrees with Omar Abdullah that the Kashmiri people do not care about jobs, roads and bridges. Instead, they want a political solution, which is unattainable because different actors in the State—the Congress, the separatists, terrorists of diverse hues, and the National Conference—cannot come to a decision. On the other hand, Noorani seems to believe that the Manmohan Singh-Musharraf solution, had it materialised, could have led to a lasting solution of the Kashmir problem.
Puttaparthi, Andhra Pradesh
THE review of Akshay Manwani’s book “Sahir Ludhianvi: The People’s Poet” was interesting (“Inhabiting two worlds”, February 21). Sahir was basically an atheist and a communist who wrote many songs depicting the vanity of life and the injustice and inequality among men, but he also wrote some divine songs such as “Aana hai to aa” (“Naya Daur”, 1957) and “Man re” (“Chitralekha”, 1964). His association with S.D. Burman started with the film “Naujawan” in 1951 and ended with “Pyaasa” in 1957, with 15 films in between.
THIS note of appreciation is from a long-time subscriber in Tokyo.
I tend to let the magazines to which I subscribe pile up, and then read them in reverse order. Thus, I have just reached the Frontline of December 27. While each issue gives me great pleasure, this one was altogether outstanding: the first part of your marvellous series on travel through Central Asia; a lucid, elegant and highly educational essay in the guise of a book review by the peerless A.G. Noorani; an in-depth analysis of Nepal’s distressing political dispensation by that most thoughtful of Indian observers of the country, S.D. Muni; the reporting (and opinions) of John Cherian; and so much else. Today, Frontline is a unique bi-weekly at the global level, given its mix of news, analytical essays, and focus on culture and science. But what makes it great is the quality of your writers. Bravo!
David M. Malone
Rector of the United Nations University,
of the United Nations