Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi: Honour our Soldiers

The following is a column by former Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi that appears in the latest issue of COVERT, the fine new current affairs magazine edited by MJ Akbar.

There is predictable euphoria in the country about the brave actions of the defence forces during the highly successful operations launched by them at Mumbai to clear terrorists. There is no doubt that the land, sea and air warriors of the three services excelled in carrying out their tasks skillfully and with great √©lan. They do deserve to be commended. However, the rhetorical question is how long this adulation will last? I am afraid the unfortunate answer is ‘not too long’. After every such operation, there is spontaneous and across the board cheering for the soldiers, but it is soon forgotten.
Soldiers, whether serving or veterans, need to be honoured at all times and not only when they return victorious from a battle or war. Most nations do this, but in our country soldiers are soon forgotten and then ignored, till the next time they sacrifice themselves in some operation, Should we not change this? We must also compel a callous government to change its attitude towards the soldiers who protect the nation. This is not a harangue, but a statement of facts. While the citizens of India love and respect the military, the entire governing class, is either callous or indifferent to all military personnel to varying degrees. If this state of affairs continues, soon the military will lose its motivation to deliver when the chips are down.
The Indian defence forces have served the nation loyally, efficiently and effectively since Independence and even during the turbulent times of the partition of India. Thereafter, commencing with the operations launched to save Kashmir in October 1947, to the various wars and conflicts fought by the Indian military to secure the nation, it should have been the darling of the nation. It still is, in the eyes of the common Indian, the Aam Aadmi.
The story is quite different, however, where our governing class is concerned. They are so engrossed in meeting their own petty and short-term vested interests that they have no time for the soldiers. Indeed, they have left no stoned unturned to reduce the military’s status and make it a third class service. Witness how the budget of the defence forces has been steadily declining. As a percentage of the nation’s GDP, it has reached an all time low of less than two percent. Modernization of all the three services is moving at a snails’ pace and shortages of weapons, ammunition and equipment are steadily increasing. There is a grave shortage of officers in all the three services, but it is hurting the army the most, resulting in serious erosion of the capabilities of our units.
The pay, allowances, perks and most importantly status have declined to such an extent that service in the defence forces is at the bottom of the aspirational ladder for all young men and women. Although there is no shortage of soldiers, the young men come forward to get recruited, not because they are enthused but on account of the rising levels of unemployment. It is only the resilience of our soldiers; their training and ethos; and the values ingrained in them; coupled with professional leadership at all levels that has prevented the disintegration of the Indian military. However, against the sustained onslaught of the governing elite of our country, it is unlikely to last unless the people rise and compel them to honour the military and empower it instead of demanding the best while compensating them the least!
The military has always placed status and ‘izzat’ as the epitome of a soldier, while the government seems to have no time for such emotions. Our political leadership, on account of their high dependence on the bureaucracy, seems helpless, as they merely echo what their so-called advisers say. The situation reached such a breaking point in October that the three chiefs’ of the services had to protest vehemently, a departure from their traditional acquiescence on most issues, as the status of many ranks, particularly those of Lt Gen and Lt Col are being grossly lowered. This would have had a highly adverse effect on the morale and consequently fitness for war of all ranks, besides functional problems, especially in situations where a high degree of co-ordination with the police and administrators is a must for smooth conduct of operations. This type of downgrading not only affects status but also emoluments. What a reward for the military that is task-oriented and takes pride in its efficient work. People with inadequate knowledge termed it as defiance of authority, when in actuality it was the commitment of the chiefs’ to their commands, a sacred duty, which compelled them to take such a stance.
Morale of the defence forces is an important ingredient for victory. The effect of low morale of the military translates into the weakening of the security of the country. If the government is indifferent, the civil society must act. What should the citizens of the nation do to assuage the feelings of hurt and neglect, which are gnawing away at the hearts and souls of both serving personnel and the military veterans? Let me suggest a simple solution.
Most countries honour their serving soldiers and veterans by nominating a day and sometimes a week, where soldiers are felicitated by the highest leadership, as well as the citizenry. The serving personnel and veterans are made much of and literally placed on pedestals, while a grateful nation, led by the governing elite, sings paeans for their gallantry, tenacity, spirit of sacrifice, contributions to the security and sovereignty of the nation and their selfless spirit. Readers may recall that in early November many countries across the globe celebrated Remembrance Day, Veterans Day or days with other similar sentiments in a major way. Most citizens adorned the lapels of their coats or other outer garments with a bright red poppy flower to remember those soldiers who had sacrificed their lives and limbs during wars and conflicts, in the service of the nation.
What do we do in our country? Nothing at all! We seem to have no time for such niceties of life. Is this a deficiency in the character of our nation or are we so engrossed in the business of living that we studiously ignore those who are ready to sacrifice even their lives and actually do so? I do not think the citizens of our country are so callous, but I cannot say the same for our governing elite. Why can we not declare 16 December, the day when our armed forces brought glory and victory to the nation in 1971 as the day for honouring our soldiers, both serving and those who laid down their uniforms?
We must honour our soldiery. If the government or the civil society cannot do so, perhaps the military veterans, who numbered over 30 lakhs at last count and whose numbers are increasing by 60,000 every year will have to do it themselves but what a shame it will be for a nation of over one billion souls!!

Text ©Copyright COVERT


IndianACE said...

What the government is offering us in terms of pay is a cruel joke after taking from us the best years of our lives. And the bind which continued to hold us to this service, that is, the IZZAT of the uniform has also now been taken away.

Was reading a book titled 'The Later Mughals' (Irvine)- Within just 12 years of Aurangzeb's death, the mighty empire had collapsed to such an extent that Emperor Farukhsiyar was blinded and murdered by his internal enemies- just because he did not have a motivated army with him.

India has gone 61 years. Good Luck.

birju said...

What Gen Oberai has said is unexceptional even though it may sound as a repetition of the cry of the veterans for a long time.
Let me however add yet another truth-that it takes anything from 10 to 15 years for any equipment to be fully fielded just as it takes about five years for a power project to start delivering power from start of the project. The only exception being that in case of power projects, it is inconvenience to populace and effects on economy, in case of defence equipment and manning, it would have implications on the very existence of our state.

Finally, it ought to be remembered, especially by the bean counters, that investments in defence do not yield easily measurable gains except in an indirect way and therefore the political leadership has to show sagacity and far sightedness. Regrettably our leadership has failed in this respect-from Nehru onwards.

Disclaimer- One is a veteran and is dismayed, perhaps to a much higher degree than Gen Oberai, at the current leadership of Mr. Man Mohan Singh so far. Otherwise how can one accept that the family of an IFS Officer is compensated to a higher degree as compared to Brig. when both were traveling in the same car in the same location! And the new term for gallantry invented for the IFS Officer who, like the Brig, was a passive passenger in the car!

Anonymous said...

One thousand year ago anyone in Kabul who ran out of cash or pretty women had to just muster 400 horsemen and march down the plains of Punjab looting and plundering and raping at will since those days there was no one to defend India and the Indian people. The invader then carried on to Delhi and had a good time plundering and raping and butchering the citizens at will at his own time. After finishing his job he would return victoriousy with Delhi reduced to dust with trains of young women and handsome slaves and all the booty. This continued for last one thousand years with frequency of about ten to twenty years. So sure was the certainity of this loot plunder and humiliation of India that people of punjab developed a trait of eating drinking and enjoying what ever they had since it in anycase is going to be taken away " KHADA PEETA LAI DA BAKI NADU SHAHE DA" meaning yours is only what you eat drink and put on ; the rest belongs to Nadir Shah. These threats have stopped only after providential appearance of the Indian Army which has ensure that out Western border is secure from the barbarians. Nothing has changed otherwise ; the barbarian with their old designs are still waiting at Kabul and Peshawar ; the only thing they rue is this stubborn Indian Army which is holding this line in the West of the nation. Today going by the discourse in the media and the opinions being expressed by some friends on the net it seems a deliberate effort is on to demoralise the Indian Army so that the society can get back to enjoying the forced genetic mixing of the Indian blood from the West.They are trying to do what Taliban and the ISI in last so many decades have failed to do. The mindless triade against forces by people like that imbecile Shekhar Gupta appears to be a natural genetic urge of a civilisaion used to periodic plunder and rape and forced genetic enrichment. The only force which is prevention this are the defence forces and hence the campaign against them. Pardon me I may be being disrespectful to a civilization which has a natural urge to assimilate other cultures but I could thind of no other reason for the deliberate humiliation of the soldiers by the society that he is protecting with his life. Please put me wise if there is some other reason. Warm regards to All

Anonymous said...

why nobody want to listen to these GENs because they never speak when in uniform. Did he ever even thought of resign giving the reason that india is illtreating its soldiers. NO because then he must have been thinking of some good job after retirement.
Now he is writing to gain sympathy.
why does not he meet and tell the serving Gens that till the time Govt does solve the problem of soldiers armed forces will not celebrate any thing not even a BARAKHANA IN LANGARS . and it is the best way of protesting. In your own house when you are not heard you just stop celebrating.
If you keep celebrating everything and keep odrering everybody to attend everything how will you show the india that armed forces are demoralised at present.and that is the reason Defense minister says that defense forces are happy with pay commission .
In fact all these COLs and GENs are real culprit who will do everything for their promotion. if they change themselves no india will dare to humiliate Armed forces.

Anonymous said...

"grave shortage of officers in all the three services".

Airforce refutes that. We also know that many of its pilots are performing ground duty & administration tasks instead of flying.

Anonymous said...

An excellent article written by the General. But will it be read by the people whom it is meant for.It will remain a good piece in one of our good publications which do not matter to the decision makers.
Perhaps this is not the way our country is going to respect the men in uniform. We need more contribution from our elders in terms of going to the people and getting them on board with our cause.
Seems that their services are required even after they have shed their uniforms.

Anonymous said...

An excellent article written by the General. But will it be read by the people whom it is meant for.It will remain a good piece in one of our good publications which do not matter to the decision makers.
Perhaps this is not the way our country is going to respect the men in uniform. We need more contribution from our elders in terms of going to the people and getting them on board with our cause.
Seems that their services are required even after they have shed their uniforms.

Anonymous said...

It is only meant for the likes of Shiv ad only he will read it to keep the blog going

Why doesnt he do a ful fledged on TV what stops him

Anonymous said...

It is meant for the likes of Shiv and only he reads it to keep the blog going

why doesnt he do a full fledged for his channel..what stops him

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


When can we have a few more senior officers like the current CNS?

I am fed up of these retired lot now trying to show their concern.

Neeti Joshi said...

excellent article. shiv can we request u to forward this article to PM who is FM also.

Anonymous said...

The soldier's izzat will be restored only when we have some of our retired personnel joining the politics. Have our retired officers, especially the generals, forgotten that ethos called - leading from the front? In today's world, politicians make all the important decisions. If we want them to listen to us, we better have enough representation in the democratic framework. Gentlemen, you were really good leaders when in uniform. Let's see those skills once again when you are out of the uniform.
Writing newspaper and magazine articles will not help. We need some leaders supportive of our cause in the democratic system of the country?

Anonymous said...

Dear Gen
The feelings in the forces are very clear now. Where as all ranks agree with what you say but please do substantiate with facts as to what you DID to achieve what you feel or these are your subdued feelings that are now coming out as you no more have perks of being a gen that blinded you while in uniform. SERVICE BEFORE SELF UH...

Anonymous said...

Some Anonyms above have criticised Gen Oberoi without knowing his contribution to the elan and prestige of the Inian Army or they very well know his role and contribution and are settling scores.

Gen Oberoi has had immense positive contribution in setting very good standards for the Indian Army officers specially during his various tennures at Mil ops Dte and specially as DGMO. Those who know it, has seen him giving shut ups calls to the high and mighty arrogant bureacrates, of course for the sake of the good of the country. He has set very high standards for others by his personal examples. Those who know it value it very highly..

Difficult to get such fine and deicated general officer...

I welcome his heartfelt feelings which are aboslutely right, timely and encouraging.

Thank you general...A soldier never dies...

Anonymous said...

Victory in past wars was sum total of spirited battles fought at sub-unit level by the leadership of officers of rank of lt col and below.The casualties of injury/death in these ranks reflect everything.These soldier officers have struggled,sacrificed and bleeded during wars of 1947,1962,1965,1971 and KARGIL action.The Nation has been defended and the armed forces emerged victorious.Prosperity of today is enjoyed by these babus&politicians .
Those lt cols and below who did not get higher promotions/grades (like civil service) have received only 60%of legitimately eligible pay/pension since 1986.The life of living with those frequent wars and almost half pay and as subjects of ARMY ACT was so bitter. That is why the youth who see the life and living standards of veteran soldier officers do not volunteer for services .The neglect and ill-treatment since 1986 was glaringly visible . these generals were a party for all that grave injustice. they did nothing .Now they are crying loud because they are now effected.Anyway better late than never.

Anonymous said...

OHH YESSS it is because of that high standard for army officers they are being f**** now. ye GEN saheb log sirf angrezi maar ke GEN bante hain aur wahi angrezi maarte reh jate hain.
Has he ever been successful in getting something good for defense.
Even now only Navy chief is trying.

Anonymous said...

@Anon Above

Armed Forces in this country will always be F***** and subjugated till the Political class really gets hold of their Political bases and becomes secure. Till then it will always be projected as a threat to the psudo baseless and superimposed Political class.

Those Political parties which emerge from the Mass base and have solid foundations as also National Character does not need IAS and IPS crutches to rule the Country and keep distances from the Armed Forces subjugating them in fear, iimaginary or real.

One must realise that The Congress has ruled this country for last 60 years never ever poliing more than 42 per cent of votes, with the Cruthes of Minorities, so called social justice, regionalism, castism, and all Political evils that are evident and existing today. The Chankya niti of all kinds were throughly practiced. In this process, IAS, IPS and many other services have become indespensable part of the Congress Political system and part of the rot.

Since Army is not part of the political system and it has not many political uses, it has been kept at the bay by the mischievious and status hungry greedy competing Bureacrates. For them Army gaining closeness to Politics is a threat to thier Power and status.

Armed Forces will only gain their place in the Country only on stablisation of our Political system which will render the Bureacrates less influencial and the Politicin like Nehru will not spend all time in Constant Political fear. Then only the Defence of the Country will merit Political attention rather than mamanging it as a mtter of expediency.

Why abuse Generals. Do you want them to take over the Political system. As citizen soldiers understand why Babu and Thulla is more important today. You mean to say the Babu Neta and Thullas ever bother about some desrt expanses of Ladakh. Look Nehru donated large chunk of it to the Chinese and only made some nises when politically threatened on that issue.

Why should govt bother about Fauzi. He neither votes, not contributes to Funds not coerces people to votes nor rigs election results..

So stay calm and be happy with two lrgs, two pegs and two eggs...or MOD Babu will take that too away from you all...

Do not abuse Genral if you are not one....


Anonymous said...

There are credible whispers in the corridor about why the three top officers of Bomaby ATS got shot in such a way. Connected with that is why very high placed ministers like Antuley are up in Arms on the issue.

The grapevine has it that Karakre and two other Cops were Daud men. When the firing stated at CST and in Taj karkare rang up Daud and asked him to stop that. The three cops were then told to to go towards Kama hospital where two men would have surrendered to them and other place firing would also be stopped. Then the two terrorists with their local ID and red strings on their hands would be arrested by ATS and proved and tried as Hindu terrorists. However, when the three top Cops reached the spot, instead of surrendering, Ajmal Kasab emerged out of the bush and shot dead all.

Antuley and many other Muslim leaders. Malegaon investigations all are links of the same chain. The IB perhaps had known it and even warned the Govt but the ruling Party encourged the Hindu Terror game.

Dawood played bigger game as even after so many narco tests, Karkare was not able to get any thing from Sadhvi. Before the Dawwod connection could be known Karkare and two other Dawood men were removed during Bombay attack. The terrorists had Hindu IDs and were dressed like Hindus to give it Hindu Terror look.

Dawood played a big game which is being carried forward by Antulley fully knowing Dawood game.

Anonymous said...

Some more evidences to the above:

However, in this it has been ommitted that soon after thier muder, Azmal Qasab had telephoned to their Masters in Pakistan that they has got the "Bounus", meaning that they have been able to kill the three defient Cops.

Read this;

It is also not very strange as to how Beijing daily promptly published an article showing the terrorists to be Hindus.

Strange but Connected links..