It is a season for every political party to pander to army soldiers and their families. They are lining up support by having retired leaders run for office like Gen. VK Singh for the BJP. Gen V K Singh’s manifesto is expected to include infrastructure and development of Ghaziabad, focusing on improvement of connectivity and transportation including widening of NH-24 and Metro line expansion. Yet it is surprising that there is no veterans affairs ministry in the manifesto!
While democracy can hardly be expected to work in operational or military matters; yet to me it is the call of all times! For the sake of policies affecting veteran pay, allowances, pension, disability benefits and general welfare that there needs to be a ministry for veteran affairs in India. Who else would know this better than veterans contesting this elections!
Recent history is a witness to the fact that be it the Ministry of Defence or the internal defense services, most of the problems crop up from the fact that the stake-holders have no say in the decision-making process, and power, or rather a voice, which has been concentrated in the chosen few. But veterans need someone to represent their issues!
With strength of over 1.3 million active personnel, India has the world’s 3rd largest military forces and the paramilitary forces stand at the 4th position with over 1,293,300 personnel along with the largest standing volunteer army in the world. While campaigning for votes with military personnel this elections seems to be all about photo ops, I wonder why don’t the army folks who are being wooed to vote for a party ask for something that should have been done a long time ago, have a Ministry on Veteran Affairs (whatever is the right name in India). They have created so many other ministries to take care of so many different constituencies like the tribal affairs, north-east affairs but not for veteran affairs.
Given that India is the only country to have fought 4 major wars in the past 60 years, it makes sense to dedicate a ministry that represents its soldiers beyond December 7—the Armed Forces Flag Day.
It all starts with a thought for your soldiers who risk their lives in odd weathers and tough terrains. They deserve respect— they deserve a Ministry for Veteran Affairs. Period.
Your thoughts are welcome.
Sanjay Puri has been working on Indian-American issues and facilitating stronger US-India relations through USINPAC (US India Political Action Committee and AUSIB (Alliance for US India Business), two bipartisan organizations that he chairs.