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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

There and Here, Part – II

The subject line refers to an old post on this blog.

Though the following excerpt has been circulating for quite some time now, I think it deserves better attention from all of us. It is a pick from Pages 110 & 111 of ‘Towards Resurgent India’ by Lt Gen M M Lakhera who currently holds a gubernatorial appointment.

I had gone to UK in 1995 as Deputy Leader of the Indian Delegation to take part in the 50th Anniversary celebrations of the victory in Europe during the Second World War. I along with four other Army officers, had just stepped out after attending the inaugural session and were waiting on the roadside for the traffic to ease so as to walk across the road to the vehicle park. Among those with me was Honorary Captain Umrao Singh, a Victoria Cross winner (unfortunately, I have received the sad news of his expiry just two days back). All of a sudden a car moving on the road came to a halt in front of us and a well dressed gentleman stepped out. He approached Umrao Singh and said, “Sir, may I have the privilege of shaking hand with the Victoria Cross?” He shook hands with him. Evidently he had spotted Umrao Singh’s medal from his car and had stopped his car to pay his respect to a winner of the highest gallantry medal of his country.

Then he looked at me and said, “General, you are from Indian Army.” When I replied in affirmative, he gave out his name, saying that he was Micheal Hazelstine . I was absolutely astounded as the recognition dawned on me that he was the Deputy Prime Minister of UK. I was totally overawed by such courtesy shown by a dignitary of the second highest status in the British Government and humbly thanked him for having invited our delegation for the VE Day function. Again his reply was typical of his sagacity, “General, it is we the British, who should be grateful to your country and your Armed Forces, who had helped us win both the first and the second World wars. How can we be ever so ungrateful to forget your country’s great contribution.” Suddenly I became conscious that all the traffic behind his car had come to stand still. I hurried to thank him and politely requested him to move along to relieve the traffic hold-up. He stated, “Sir, how dare I drive off when Victoria Cross has to cross the road.”

Realizing his genuine feeling I and my colleagues quickly crossed the road. Reaching the other side I looked back and saw that Mr Hailstine was still standing waiting for the Victoria Cross to be safely across. Ladies & Gentlemen, that is the type of regards they have for their decorated soldiers. I have always aspired that similar respect could be shown at least to a Param Vir Chakra or Ashok Chakra winner by the leaders and prominent figures in our country.


Anonymous said...

It needs one to be equally brave morally and educationally.

Anonymous said...

A great post.
Let us not forget " The VICTORIA CROSS " is recognised in the manner it is worn.
Our Medals are indistinguishable unless a closer look is made OR the soldier is recognisable.
The mute question remains: HOW TO MAKE OUR MEDALs DISTINGUISHABLE from a distance either from its wearing method OR by identity.

Anonymous said...

Dear Major Navdeep,

A very poignant and powerful narration!

Next time when our veterans surrender the next lot of Medals/ Honours to the Hon Prez - the Sup Commnader of the Armed Forces- let this narration also be edited and printed as a poster and supplied to all concerned for their appreciation!

ninihala said...

1. How many of us, even those in Indian Armed Forces, recognize a PVC etc?
2. We have all heard on media, later substantiated by due inquiries, how some of the medals were earned and conferred. Even if such cases are few, it gives rise to doubt about all awards. Gallantry awards have lost their sheen. It's like Caesar's wife.
3. Before desiring respect from civs, we have to give respect to these medals ourselves, firstly by being very fair in their award; and then by honouring their recepients.
4. Recent statement by RPF men castigating award of gallantry medals to seniors is a pointer. By the way, today's newspapers have reported that both men have been suspended for airing their opinion in public.
5. This bar on awarding PVC etc for acts against militants etc is unreasonable and serves no public purpose. For a soldier under fire, it does not matter if he is in peace keeping role or in LICO or any such mumbo jumbo. For him, it is 3rd World War. Let us do away with this senseless distinction.

S Vasu said...

very touching incident. its just one of the many social and moral differences we have between the two countries. the question is how many of our own uniformed fraternity recognize a PVC or AC and how many will extend half the courtesy extended by the deputy prime minister!

Anonymous said...


Eyes get moist while going through the article not because of anything else but at the gratefulness of a British citizen. We are yet to mature as a nation wherein these values will take precedence over the rally to compete in surpassing the amount of deposits of other fellow in swiss bank.

I have known the veteran Late Shri Umrao Singh very closely as I was posted to the Bde HQ with whom his proud unit was located and he was a regular invitee in functions of the unit. May God Bless his soul.



Sir, you have posted a very good debatable article and same time it shows that in India our politicians and bureaucratses have no time for all these sensitive topic except at the time of kargil like situation but same time we should blame ourselves also for a self centric attitude. Reason is that even in our defence forces have so many welfare associations on name of soldirs but when their real role demands for help to these TRUE HERO or their helpless family then no body dare to come forward to helpout them even our service chieves dont say any words and same we all, but simultaneously we demand for a better pay and perks besides respect for our awards and honours.
so as true airwarrior it is my humble request to you all that please come forward to join hand for helping these HERO's FAMILY and their wards coz even a PVC awardee's mother is doing household job for getting one time meal. so leave all these issue aside for a while and think about our image which reflect on these soldiers's family member.
and then later we can ask these politician as well as other bureaucrates class for a better respect as per law.
"Always only a little thought is responsible for every big revolution in world results in to justice to human society.
Thanks to Major Navdeep for providing this platform to share all concerned issues of defence forces.and same time expect a positive word from you on this very very sensitive topic.

Anonymous said...

It is the mentality of a race who conquered the world. Further our Armed forces were always viewed with suspicion by the political class right from Nehru onwards. May be they were afraid to give prominence to Armed forces in the light of take overs by Army in the neighboring countries.It is highly unlikely that the Armed forces or the War veterans will ever get that kind of recognition in India

pk said...

A great article which requires more publicity.
Fellow countrymen should know about it.

Anonymous said...

an interview with Marshal of the Air Force supporting orop.


Anonymous said...

Dear Interested,

I am a Senior Civilian Pension activist - also associated with Defence Pensioners in our own Forum/ as well as the Affiliated Federation-type Assocition and above all am intolerant of anything whic makes no-sense!

Today I read in the other blog- "Report My Signal" about one of the most silly episodes of recent times - an issue raised by a "retired Captain" (Army ot Kabaddi Team?) and curently holding a responsible position in one of the Consituents of our Ruling Junta - about the "Surrender of Medals/ Honours" by Military Veterans of the Nation which is viewed with GREAT CONCERN AND ANGUISH like very mature senior and even other citizens of the country.

This particular person who has raised the "FAKE" aspects of medals that are being surrendered or even that of the "BLOOD" with which the "memo" had been signed perhaps will cause the Party concerned greatest damage if he is allowed to continue to hold the post with which he is honoured!Perhaps the Party and he realise this "truth" soon and retrieve the situation before it is too late!

The issue throws up more points to ponder:

1.We the responsible Citizens of the Country had been worried over the "FAKE NOTES" and "FAKE VOTES" till now- on which the Govt has no control!

2.But now even the Medals and Honours the Govt are conferring on many Citizens/ Sportsmen/Military Personnel/ Achievers etc may need a "thorugh check" and "assay certification"- as there are possibilities of the "contractors" supplying the "FAKES" rather than incumbents trying to manufacture and possess them for themselves ( for eg. None would go out of the way to manufacture a single or few FAKE MEDALs even for some vested interest!).

3. In the mean-time, a Cell be formed at the President's Secretariat to "test" all Medals that are being surrendered and also a DNA lab to check the blood-ink from each signature so that it may prove the same to have been drawn from a VETERAN only!



SagarDezign Pvt Ltd said...

Well written I say it must be one thought.

Sgt.S.Kanthiah said...

This atricle is really a valuable one, how a Britisher respects a victoria medalist. Our people particularly , the politicians do not respect the veterans and it is not fare on their part.A soldier whether in service or retired must be respected.

Anonymous said...

In general Warmonger nations give great respect to War Medals. We have ministry of Defence and literally so (that is not attack). We respected all those who fought for freedom from external rule.

Dharam said...

Col DP Badsra (Retd)

Our War Medals design, shape, colour of ribbons, size of medal is dull and unattractive. Its difficult to recognize even from a closer look. From a distant all ribbons and medals seems to be strip of coloured threads and a sheet of metal. Watch on TV during any Army functions and know the difference. Design of the medals can now be given to large number of fashion designers, metal architect and so on.

We are sure good results will emerge.

Abhai said...


This might be just an isolated case but my point is that it happens there too. We as a democratic nation are very young and when comes to military history, we actually are no where compared to brits. We've been fighting within ourselves since ages and are still doing that. We first have to start respecting ourselves without comparing to western world. By saying this i'm not saying we have a very good system. The System is definitely not up to the mark and needs major overhauling. And with recent media boom, the corruption within military is no secret. How r we going to point fingers at people when we ourselves are not right. What respect we r asking for. I've faced some severely embarrassing moments post retirement while interacting to civil world. I have a long life ahead and don't know till when i can proudly say that I'm an Ex serviceman.

Anonymous said...

God Bless The Britishers & you Gen for having passed on this to us.

We never dared to imbibe their good qualities.

May God Bless our people also.

Col Sanjay Bajpai