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Friday, November 21, 2014

An open letter to the Defence Minister by an Indian Military Veteran in the United States (From StratPost)

A former Captain of the JAG department of the Indian Army, now in the US, has written an open letter to the Defence Minister which has been featured and published on StratPost.

Here is the text:

Dear Shri Manohar Parrikar,

I write to you today after attending Veterans Day celebrations in Washington DC on November 11, 2014, as a former Indian Army Veteran. I would rather prefer calling ex-servicemen as ‘Veterans’ without giving them a feeling of gender bias or being left out as the term ‘ex’ conveys.

Having served the Indian Army, given my youth to the nation and being a third-generation Army officer I am proud to say that the qualities of ‘guts and glory’ run in my blood.

With this open letter, I intend highlighting the fact as to how Veterans are respected and revered in the United States of America, which I never witnessed back home in my own country. This, I say with conviction after having a first-hand experience at various events, which reflect the honor meted out to the Veterans of the Armed Forces. The country and its citizens do not give any differential treatment to non-US Veterans like me. Rather the kind of attention and respect I have received here as a Veteran is applaudable.

The Veterans Day Celebrations made me feel how American citizens (including civilians) were proud of their soldiers who defend their borders. Each person who knew that I had served my nation came to appreciate my role and hugged me. I wonder why our Indian civilian population would not pay attention to the soldiers who have sacrificed their youth for India. The root cause for all this is that we do not glorify the important role of our Armed Forces in the World Wars and respective wars in the annals of history in the curriculum taught at school level.

Are our men and women in uniform only to be remembered for a short attention span? They are called only on occasions such as Republic Day and when in dire straits especially during natural calamities like floods, cyclones and earthquake for relief work. Not to mention the ‘aid to civil authority’ in times of domestic turmoil just because the local police and administrative authorities (the so called babus) could not handle the situation.

I would like to emphasize that USA has special programs and scholarships (yellow ribbon program) to encourage veterans to continue their higher studies. Please note that this scheme is alike for officers and troops. One such example is yours truly.

I am presently pursuing my Masters of Laws in a top ranking US Law School and the University has awarded me at par scholarship as a foreign veteran. There are various networking events and recruiting workshops that are conducted only for the veterans.

The US Veterans face the same myths of ‘irrelevant experience’ and ‘rigidity in thought and action’ while moving to the civilian world however the US government and its policies make the transition simpler. The US Department of Veterans Affairs and other authorities as well as universities make the Veterans’ ride smooth to move from the battlefield to the boardroom. US Companies receive tax benefits on hiring Veterans. It is pertinent to mention that US troops (not just officers) have been making a mark in the corporate arena by displaying their leadership qualities.

My concern at this point in time is that why our Armed Forces personnel are not glorified for their heroic acts. Our soldiers have been fighting in the toughest terrains possible in this world.

Why are the Veterans treated like a ‘burden’ by the serving officers and the Ministry of Defence? Why does a Veteran have to struggle to get his paltry sum of disability pension by resorting to long drawn and expensive litigation doing rounds of Armed Forces Tribunal and higher Courts? Why are the majority of appeals filed by the Ministry of Defence in the Supreme Court against their own disabled soldiers and old pensioners? Why are you- the decision makers, shielded and insulated from the real problems suffered by the veteran stakeholders and made to sign on the dotted line wherever the military or civilian bureaucracy wants resulting in unilateral decisions which are forcibly imposed?

Why do you not directly get to hear the authentic voice of the Veterans and the problems that they are facing? Why is the status of military personnel on a constant decline in the official pecking order? Why are there not enough continuing legal programs for our soldiers except the antiquated vocational courses of Director General of Resettlement? Why is the Kendriya Sainik Board not being pro-active on policies on Veterans? Is showing an agenda on paper enough?

I say this not as a disgruntled Veteran but as a responsible former officer of Judge Advocate General’s Department who has served in the Integrated Headquarters of Ministry of Defence and worked with these institutions closely.

May I also remind you that your party in its manifesto had promised minimizing appeals against soldiers with respect to the rulings rendered in their favor by judicial bodies, an issue which was also strongly raised by Ms Smriti Irani when she was in opposition, however sadly nothing seems to have moved in that direction, there being not even an iota of change in the attitude of the Ministry in the said regard.

I request you, as the new Defence Minister, to implement progressive policies for all Armed Forces personnel (not just officers but also the troops) and Veterans of the three Forces.

As for the Indian citizens to look up in awe towards the Indian soldier and appreciate the role of Armed Forces at all times, this change in attitude and thought has to be instilled in the minds of the younger generation by highlighting the glory of the Forces. This is also the reason for the low rate of selections in the Armed Forces in the past few years at the Commissioned Officer level.

My country has the third largest Army (and an equally capable Air Force and Navy), that craves for attention and respect for the valour it has shown over the ages.

It is for you to take a call on this Raksha Mantri Ji, it is for you to ensure that Indian Military Veterans like me command respect and dignity in my own country too, just as we do, ironically, in other democracies.

Loveleen Kaur Mann
Former Captain, Judge Advocate General’s Department
Indian Army


Loveleen Kaur Mann is a former JAG officer of the Indian Army. She has conducted various Courts-martial independently and handled critical litigation on behalf of Union of India before the Armed Forces Tribunal and Supreme Court of India. Currently she is pursuing her International Legal Studies LLM at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington DC. She is majoring in War Crimes and International Criminal Procedure. She has been nominated as the Global Teaching Fellow 2015 and will focus on Laws of Terrorism and Asylum.


Anonymous said...

where is the chat roll?has it been removed for ever/

Ajit Datta said...

There is utter disdain, disregard and disrespect for the Military in the corridors of Power Inspite of almost losing Assam in 62 and also Punjab and Kashmir in 65 due to negligent Defence preparations and cantonment syndrome prevailing amongst the military brass. There is no question of learning anything from even those days of frequent raids on Somnath Temple. It is our Karma to remain invisible and outcaste . It is time we follow the Chinese model wherein only professionals control the Military and MOD acts as Liaison Office. We are just about surviving because of the kindness of our adversaries

dattatreyahg said...

Well said. A progressive-thinking Sri. Parrikar under the dynamic leadership of Sri Modi can easily understand the wider meanings of this letter. All they have to do is to ask the Bureaucrats intelligent Questions,and seek straight-forward Answers from them. To start with, 1)Ask for a list of on-going Legal Cases relating to Armed Forces Fraternity,and ask why they became Legal Cases and why they are getting prolonged endlessly 2)Ask What have been their PRO-ACTIVE CONTRIBUTIONS in their dealings with Armed Forces. Give them a pat for their good job,if any; and LEAD them to positive CONTRIBUTIONS with Understanding,Sensitivity and constant Focus on the MORALE of Armed Forces. There is great Hope that Sri Parrikar will bring Fresh thinking on Defence Matters.

Anonymous said...

Erudite and sensitive submission. But asking for a similar appreciation in our country seems too steep an asking from our elite society. While every individual citizen in private is appreciative of our forces, we are seen as a huge financial drain on resources by most in the 'educated' class. Options for us include military education in schools and colleges, conscription, less ostentatious behaviour by the fauji community including doing away with expensive republic day parades etc etc, smaller strength of standing forces and earlier reintegration of young service personnel back into the national mainstream so that they are seen as productive veterans more than pensioners.
My two bit.

Unknown said...

An eye opening article indeed. Sometimes an idea comes to my mind as to "why have I wasted my life in the Armed Forces and for whom?" Was my loyalty for these ungrateful people who are willing to pay Rs 1 Cr for one wicket and go to HSC to deny them their rightful dues.
A clerk in revenue deptt amasses Rs 16 Crores by accepting bribes. No heckles are raised on such reports.What if a jawan resorts to such practices at the border?
It is a pity that people in uniform are treated so shabbily and political dispensation does not bother at all to make the mends. The Nation will have to pay a very heavy price for this callousness.


We have a department of welfare for Ex-servicemen which actually works against the welfare of our veterans.Our veterans run from pillar to post to redress their grievances.The fate of emergency commissioned officers who joined National cadet corps is a case in point.They served in 62.65 and some of them even in 1971 and then joined NCC.Now after retirement they are fighting the toughest war of their life to get their rightful minimum guaranteed pension.

Unknown said...

During the 1971 ops, every time we passed through Punjab people would stop you and shower you with tea/snacks and goodies and well wishes. whatever happened to that type of "veneration" and love and loyalty?This is mainly because, the people of that region understood what WAR really means.
What a pity that people will wake up only when "GOD FORBID" the Bombs/shells start falling.
It is high time Everybody realizes the Importance of the Soldier who later becomes the VETERAN. and gives him his dues.
In the USA, there is priority everywhere for the uniformed services and Veterans.Wish the same will be done here.

Ajit Datta said...

The top military brass always traditionally distanced themselves from glorifying the image of their command and and neglecting the morale of their soldiers as reflected in reduction of their pension from 75 to 50 percent to keep parity with civil counterparts whose pension was increased to 50 from 33 percent Let at least those killed or missing in action be inscribed on the the boundary walls of Rajghat . Bapu would be happier along with families of the departed

Anonymous said...

The chat roll is dead. Long live the chat Roll.Amen

rgkadam said...

I salute the lady for her honest and frank open letter to the defence minister hope that he will seriously introspect, investigate and come to a logical conclusion to act on it firmly.
I would also like to request Mr Manohar parikar to check that many vetarans have died and widows are suffering due to the bureaucratic apathy and intentional criminal neglect. Is it just to put down Armed Forces? If I am not wrong, Mr Krishna Menon had done it in late 50s and early 60s for which India not only paid a heavy price then but still has not recovered emotionally from that embarrassment.