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By Lt Gen PG Kamath (Veteran)
It was post 1971 and the nation was euphoric. Our countrymen were lauding the Indian Armed Forces for a spectacular victory that had changed the geography of the sub-continent. The nation was savouring the victory and more than 97,368 prisoners were in our Prisoners of War Camps.
It was the second largest surrender in the military history; second only to the surrender of Gen Von Paulus, Germany, 6th Army at Stalingrad in the Second World War. The Armed Forces were feted everywhere for its courage and the people were convinced that it was one instrument that would never let the country down.
Amid this euphoria, there were 4000 families, who had lost their fathers/sons/husbands in the war. Another 10,000 were wounded and maimed for life. They were picking up the lost threads of life to continue their journey in the forbidding world. However, their sorrow was lost amid the mirth, laughter and jubilation of victory.
Unknown to the services, a band of bureaucrats were conspiring as to how to cut the Armed Forces to size. Defence Secretary was Mr KB Lal, who was literally there for the entire duration of the Third Pay Commission. He was the one, who provided the inputs to the Third Pay Commission.
The Commission was constituted a year before the war and concluded two years after it. Its final recommendation marginalising the Armed Forces was made public two months after Field Marshal Manekshaw relinquished the post of Chief. Indeed, it was a clever move as the most popular person in the country was not able to take cudgels against the government.
This Pay Commission cut the Armed Forces to size for winning the war for the country.
Even Field Marshal Manekshaw was not spared; more of it later. ‘Ingratitude unkinder than the winters wind’ to adopt Shakespearean phrase to an ungrateful government. How did the government go about the act?
Firstly, they abolished a separate Pay Commission for the Armed Forces and formulated an equivalence between the Armed Forces and ‘Civilians’. It was here that the Pay Commission struck its vilest blow when they considered that ‘a trained infantry soldier with three years of service is below a skilled labour. Little do they know that it is the infantry soldier who does the actual fighting and charges the enemy with naked bayonet literally on the very front edge of the battle and makes eye and steel contact with the enemy.
It is the infantry soldier who bears the brunt of more than 90% of casualty in all wars and yet he was considered the lowest strata to base their comparison. Going by the same logic, does it not mean that the infantry soldier with less than three years’ service was a semi-skilled/unskilled labour? Just mark the irony of the sinister and ignorant move! Rest of the soldiers were equated based on this preposterous formulae!
Next step was to reduce the percentage of pension for the Armed Forces. The OROP that was effective till 1972, was annulled after the Third Pay Commission. A soldier then served only for 15 years and went on pension at the ages ranging from 33 years to 36 years of age. In view of this, his pension was 70% of his basic pay and an officer’s pension was 50% of his basic pay as the bulk of them retired at 50 years of age.
The civilian counterparts were getting only 30% of their basic pay as pension. Please note that they served till they were 58 years of age (now 60 years) as against the soldiers who retired a quarter century earlier.
The wretched Third Pay Commission did not consider the additional 25 years of service his civilian counterpart served and raised their pension to 50% and reduced a soldiers pension from 70% to 50% in order to achieve the so-called ‘parity’. Further, the government put mandatory 33 years of service for full pension fully knowing that the soldier then retired after 15 years of service.
They further, as a largesse, made a seemingly generous gesture to the Armed Forces by pegging the mandatory service for full pension (50%) to 25 years. Just look at the clever move; fully knowing that the soldier retired after 15 years of service. Thus the soldier in effect got only 30% of pay after 15 years of service, as extrapolated from full pension of 50% of pay with 25 years of service.
Thus the government ingeniously cut a soldiers pension from 70% to 30% of pay, at the same time enhancing the civilian pension from 30% to 50%. Look at the perfidy; how can possibly a government run down its own Armed Forces! It is indeed a remarkable feat from a nation that was a slave nation for over two centuries, yet disregards her Armed Forces who ensure her hard earned freedom!
Our Defence Ministry was hand in glove with these proposals. There was not a whimper of protest to set right the injustice. The soldiers had to pay heavily for having won the war for the country. Their travails were not over; more was yet to come!
One would wonder why did the soldiers not protest against the brash injustice perpetrated on them? It would be difficult to believe, as those were the times the officers, in particular, were told that politics and pay were not to be discussed. They were naïve and had full faith in the government that, in the long run, no injustice would be done to them. This disarming naivety of our officers appears incomprehensible now; but it was true then.
Hence the entire masterstroke of cutting the forces to size by impoverishing them was done with so much of dexterity, it took us couple of decades to realise its negative impact.
Mrs Gandhi was feted and glorified as ‘Durga’ as she basked in the limelight of victory and self-adulation. However, she proved to be the daughter of her illustrious father by sharing the same antipathy and disdain towards the Armed Forces. She was a smart women, hence concealed it to a great extent with outer façade of support and derived maximum political mileage of the victory.
The running down of the Armed Forces in the Third Pay Commission could not have been done without her active and positive consent.
Their next target was the most popular figure in the country– Field Marshal Manekshaw. He was made a Field Marshall and the appointment was active for life, though ceremonial in nature. A Field Marshall does not retire and continues to wear his five star rank for life. He was entitled to pay and allowances for life. The bureaucrats who were literally jealous of his popularity ensured that he did not get his pay and allowances, lo and behold, for the next 36 years. Finally a lump sum of Rs 1.60 crore of arrears was released to him on intervention by then President Abdul Kalam.
A nondescript bureaucrat gave him his pension dues on his deathbed in June 2007 a few days before he breathed his last. Isn’t it a national tragedy? Don’t you sometimes feel whether the country deserves selfless service from its soldiers? Can any country on this earth be more ungrateful towards her soldiers? What a great victory for the MoD for destroying the soldiers’ pride!
Let us now analyse as to why a soldier fights. Why does he give his life for a cause? What makes him charge through a fusillade of bullets and splinters against sure death and injury, overcoming the instinct of self-preservation? Why is he prepared to make his ultimate sacrifice and bid goodbye to the world? Why does he not think of his loving wife, his innocent children, his aged parents and the living world of mirth and bliss; knowing he has not even spent a quarter of his life? Why all his near and dear ones pale in to insignificance and he sees only his mission like Arjuna only seeing the eye of the bird?
All these questions can be answered in two words: His Pride.
It is his professional pride that makes him a hero. He wants to be a hero before his comrades, before his superiors, in his unit and in his country. He is a hero of his village and a hero in front of his parents. He is a hero to his wife and a superhero to his children. He also knows that he is the last bastion of the nation and he is the last trump card in the hands of his nation. He knows that if he fails, the nation fails. It is this emotion that drives him towards mission accomplishment.
It is all the way Pride! Pride! And Pride. It is nothing else but ‘Pride’.
Sad to say, it is exactly that the governments of his own country wants to deprive him of. He has been badgered, humiliated, impoverished and made a laughing stock in all the successive pay commissions. His status has been lowered, time and again, by insensitive governments.
How can noble thoughts like sacrifice, mission, cause, patriotism and pride be ever understood by self-serving, sly and scheming bureaucracy?
A soldiers pride has taken a beating and believe me, sir, it would be a long and painful time to build it again.
Mr Prime Minister! Before you forget history, in June 1932, President Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of the US, ordered firing on the veterans of First World War for demanding the promised bonus. Two veterans were killed and several injured. Herbert Hoover lost the election with a devastating defeat and has gone down in history as a lacklustre President. The Great Depression may have contributed to his rout but the firing on veterans brought him great disrepute. Mr Prime Minister! You are certainly made of a better stuff than Herbert Hoover!
Enough has been said of ‘OROP’ and nothing more needs to be said about it. Supreme court has granted it and parliamentary committee has approved it. Not a single political party has opposed it, but it is still undone? For the past 70 days agitation is on and brute force of police has been unleashed on them.
Dear Prime Minister! I hope you have seen the sad picture of a proud veteran trying to fight his tears and another veteran whose shirt with medals torn asunder withstanding the criminal use of force against him with quiet dignity and equanimity. It is still not too late to make amends.
It reminds me the words of Edmond Burke, “Invention is exhausted/ Reason is fatigued,/ Experience has given its judgement, but/ Obstinacy remains unconquered”.
Mr Prime Minister! I believe you have still the ability to overrule small minions around you, who do not have the nation in their heart and are bent upon murdering the ‘Pride in a Soldier’.
Remember ‘Soldiers’ Pride is Nation’s Security’. You kill his pride; you endanger the nation’s security.
(Author is a veteran of Indian Army and chooses not to use ‘retd’ in his rank. Views expressed are personal.)
Great historic events that have shaped the world and changed the outlines of countries are often not recorded in memory, or so we think. Wars made sure to destroy evidence and heritage, and the ones who survived told the tale of what really happened. Folklore, albeit through oral tradition kept alive many such stories, hidden in verse, limericks, and rhymes.
Ringa-ringa-roses, a common playtime rhyme among children across the world, is an example of folklore that has survived for many centuries. It tells the story of the The Great Plague of London which ravaged the city between 1665-1666.
The Plague broke out from improper disposal of garbage and poor sewage conditions. Fleas from the rats that lived in the sewers spread the disease that killed more than half of London's population. Many people fled from their homes as there was no medicine available for those who were infected.
Beak-shaped masks worn during the Great Plague of London Image source: wikimedia commons
It was around this time that masks began to be invented. The first masks were shaped like beaks, and were worn not to protect the wearer from the disease, but to the prevent them from being able to smell the decay and death around them, which they called 'miasma'. The beaks were filled with floral herbs that allowed doctors and nurses to tend to the sick without being reviled from the smell.
Children are often seen forming circles by holding hands and reciting loudly,
Pockets full of posies
We all fall down"
An illustration of the Great Plague of London, 1665 Image source: wikimedia commons
When the last line is sung, they break the circle and fall down. The roses and posies are believed to be the preferred fragrances inside the masks, and a single sneeze (a-tishoo) was enough to infect the one who was exposed to the disease. Consequently, they fell down, ill, and later died.
An alternative version of this rhyme is sung about the fall of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the aftermath of World War II. The roses and posies are interchanged with geranium and uranium, to symbolise what was used in the atomic bomb. But this version is not as famous the original.
Keywords: Rhymes, Ringa-ringa-roses, Great Plague of London, WWII, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Folklore
In modern times, many social movements aim to bring reform to the society we live in, on the basis of certain existing patterns. Patriarchy is something that many aim to cleanse our cultures of, to usher in the era of social and gender equality. Despite all these so-called movements, in southern India, certain societies that patronise matriarchy have existed since before India's independence. The Nairs and Ezhavas of Kerala, and Bunts and Billavas of Karnataka are matrilineal societies that continue to thrive in a patriarchal country.
Kerala remains separate from the rest of India in many ways. Be it literacy policy, form of government, or cultural practices, this state does not always conform to the ideal that India is known for. Even so with their social structure. Certain tribes have remained matrilineal, where the decision-making power rests with the eldest female of the family.
The Nairs and Ezhavas of Kerala, and Bunts and Billavas of Karnataka are matrilineal societies that continue to thrive in a patriarchal country. Image source: wikimedia commons
A male member, who is the close confidante of the matriarch is chosen. He plays a crucial role in representing the male members of his family, and his opinion is highly valued. He is called karavanan. The men reside in separate rooms or in separate houses, and do not interfere in the upbringing of children. Property is also passed down along the lineage of the eldest female. Among the Nairs, matriarchy is more prominently adhered to than the Ezhavas, who have some patrilocal connections.
In Karnataka, the Bunts and Billavas belong to the Tuluva ethnic group. They are also a predominantly matriarchal society, founded on the belief in a legend. Their matrilineal descent is known as Aliyasantana.
The story is told of a demon who threatened to destroy a kingdom if the king did not sacrifice his sons, but the king's sister comes forward to offer her children in sacrifice for the sake of the kingdom. The demon is touched and does not destroy the city. Since then, the kingdom, or the property is inherited through female lineage.
In Karnataka, the Bunts and Billavas belong to the Tuluva ethnic group. They are also a predominantly matriarchal society, founded on the belief in a legend. Image source: wikimedia commons
In the recent past, many of these matriarchal societies have been reduced to matrilineal societies by certain governmental laws. They fall under the patriarchal scheme of the rest of the state but have reserved the right to pass on property and heritage through the female line. In the North east of India, matriarchal dominance is far more resilient than the south.
Keywords: Bunts, Billava, Nair, Ezhava, Aliyasantana, Matrilineal, South India, Karnataka, Kerala
Apple inc. Is an American multinational tech firm specialized in consumer electronics, computer programs, and internet services founded by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne in 1976 to manufacture Wozniak's Apple iComputer. It is the world's top tech company in turnover (totaling $274.5 billion in 2020) and its most valuable corporation. Apple is the fourth-largest PC seller by unit sales and the fourth-largest smartphone manufacturer in the world.
Apple has revealed a slew of new products at a special launch event that has been long-awaited. On the day of the live event, Apple announced the iPad mini, Apple Watch Series 7, iPhone 13 mini, and iPhone 13, as well as the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max.
Apple has revealed a slew of new products at a special launch event that has been long-awaited. | Photo by Daniel Romero on Unsplash
In the first major product announcement during the event, Apple introduced the newest edition of the iPad and a 5G-capable iPad Mini.
iPad: The 10.2-inch iPad is equipped with a solid A13 processor that delivers 20 percent quicker performance than the preceding version. According to Apple, it is now three times faster than a Chromebook. A new 12MP ultra-wide camera with Center Stage, which utilizes machine learning to optimize the front-facing camera during FaceTime video chats, as well as more incredible accessory support, including compatibility with the first-generation Apple Pencil, are among the new features. For 64GB of storage, the iPad costs $329.
iPad Mini: In addition to reduced borders and more rounded edges, the 8.3-inch iPad mini also has improved front and back cameras. A liquid retina display, USB-C compatibility, magnetic support for the Apple Pencil, an enhanced speaker system, and new hues such as pink and purple are all features of the new Apple iPad Mini. The starting price is $499.
In the first major product announcement during the event, Apple introduced the newest edition of the iPad and a 5G-capable iPad Mini. | Photo by Leone Venter on Unsplash
The other major unveiled products include:
iPhone 13 and other variants: The iPhone 13 range is almost identical to the iPhone 12 lineup, with a 5.4-inch iPhone 13 Mini, a 6.1-inch iPhone 13, a 6.1-inch iPhone 13 Pro, and a 6.7-inch iPhone 13 Pro Max. It was also revealed that the Watch Series 7 has a smaller "S7" processor, which may allow for a bigger battery or other components to be housed in a smaller footprint. The gadgets have a revolutionary design that includes a dual-camera system, placed diagonally. Apple's iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini have longer-lasting batteries than the previous generation of devices. In addition, Apple claims that the iPhone 13 will have a battery life that is 2.5 hours longer than the iPhone 12, and the iPhone 13 mini will have a battery life that is 1.5 hours longer. A more energy-efficient display, an upgraded 5G chip, and functionality called "Cinematic Mode," similar to the famous Portrait mode function but is only available for movies, are among the other enhancements. The A15 Bionic chip present in the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini is also used in the 6.1-inch iPhone 13 Pro and 6.7-inch iPhone 13 Pro Max, also 6.1-inch devices. However, it also has a five-core CPU, which promises graphics that are 50% quicker than previous models. Other notable features of the Pro devices include a brilliant Super Retna XDR display with a higher refresh rate and long-lasting battery life. Now, for the price, it will start at $699 for the iPhone 13 mini with 128 GB of storage, $799 for the iPhone 13 with 128 GB of storage, and the Pro and Pro Max have starting prices of $999 $1,099, respectively.
Apple Watch Series 7: The new Apple Watch Series 7, which is smaller and has a larger screen than its previous model, was introduced by Apple on Wednesday. There is a 20% increase in screen size over Series 6 on the new watch. A complete keyboard that you can touch or slide to write out text messages can show 50% more text. It starts at $399.
Keywords: Apple, iPad, iPad Mini, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max, iPhone Mini, Apple event 2021