FACT – Two to three farmers end their lives EVERYDAY in our ‘Krishi Pradhan desh’ Bharat. An average of 13,000 every year.
FACT – Thousands of Army veterans have been camped in Jantar Mantar in Delhi agitating for fair and equal pension. Some of them have begun ‘Fast unto Death’ to press their demand, many of them have had to be forcibly taken to hospital after collapsing. These agitators represent Close to 26 lakh retired servicemen and over six lakh war widows of India.
The message is loud and clear – be anything in India, bank clerk, teacher, shop keeper, Doctor, lawyer etc. but do NOT AIM at being a farmer or a soldier! If you want to get really, really rich in a short time though become a politician or an IAS officer!! The keys of ‘Kuber’ (custodian of God’s wealth) will be handed to you on a platter – a golden platter.
Less than ten years into independence, a very short lived but beloved P.M. Lal Bahadur Shastri gave us the message “Jai Jawan Jai Kissan” (Glory to our farmers and soldiers)… had he read the writing on the wall?
By 1965 a newly independent India had fought three wars and numerous ‘skirmishes’ with two immediate neighours – China and Pakistan. The first ‘mini war’ in Kashmir happened just weeks after 15th August 1947. How many of us know that Pakistan soldiers, disguised as unorganized Kashmiri ‘freedom fighters’ had come close to capturing Srinagar with its Airport? If this had happened, it would have been Good Bye Kashmir since flying into Srinagar was the only way of going to Kashmir, specially in winters. Read the book slender was the thread to know how close we were to losing Kashmir. How was it saved? By our gallant army of course!
During the second and very disturbing war with China in 1962, there are reports that we were getting ready to give up our entire North East! Assam, Tripura, Nagaland etc. etc. So unstoppable did the Red Army appear. We were morally, militarily so down and stood isolated in the community of nations. Suddenly the Chinese army stopped its march and announced cease fire! One factor must have been the valour and bravery of our soldiers who were heavily outnumbered yet went on fighting. Remember that line ” dus – dus ko ek ne mara?…phir gir gaye hosh gawan ke, jab ant samay aaya toh kah gaye ke ab marte hai, khush rehna desh ke pyaron, ab hum toh safar karte hai…” Over four thousand officers and soldiers died in that war, an exact estimate is not possible since many died due to hostile weather and terrain conditions and their bodies were lost on the snow and the ravines of the brutal N.E. Himalayas. A screening of the movie ‘Haqeeqat’ should be compulsory in every school and college – it is a heart breaking but almost factual documentary of that lost war.
What do we say about our farmers? They have been getting a raw deal even from the British before independence. Though Cotton farming in our Deccan plateau made some Indians and some towns very prosperous – like Amraoti in Vidarbha for instance – ( imagine how rich it made the British? International price of cotton was declared in Amraoti those days and can you imagine how strong the Indian Rupiah was? We could purchase five American $s with it!!!) – the cotton farmer suicides had already begun then. Usurious taxation by the invader Brits was the cited reason.
So despite already being down and trodden our farming community was faced with the challenge of feeding crores of fellow citizens in a newly independent nation which was not at all self sufficient in food. Some time soon after the 1962 war, we had to beg for wheat from developed nations : we had no stocks, no money to purchase food grains and had to literally depend on ‘alms’ ( which were actually loans). The wheat that was to be fed to dairy farms and/ or pigs and surplus thrown away into the sea was shipped to us, with tons of impurities! How else do you think we have so much of that weed “American/ Congress grass” growing all over our countryside?
Our farmers had to rise to the challenge and learn new ways of farming super fast. Thus the ‘green revolution’ happened and today India is not just self sufficient but a net exporter of food – one of the biggest in the world.
We really, really needed our farmers and soldiers back then, so we came up with that slogan JAI JAWAN JAI KISAN. THEY TOGETHER SAVED OUR LIVES FROM AGGRESSIVE INVADERS AND KEPT US ALIVE BY FEEDING US.
How did we treat them in return?
What we did with our farmers is another story – much of it well documented.
Not many know the short strife that was dealt to our soldiers in the 1970s – soon after they had won the glorious 1971 war for us that liberated Bangladesh and an unprecedented 90,000 + Pakistani soldiers were taken as POW.
In 1973 our bureaucracy hiked up the salaries for IAS, IPS officers etc. leaving our services, specially Armed Forces in the lurch. the munificence trickled down to class 3 and 4 Govt employees, but not to our soldiers – never to our soldiers! Very soon we had Government clerks earning more than Captains and Majors even. A soldier, staying away from family for many months of the year, and willing to die every day for us, earned as much as a Daily wages labourer – about Rs. 60/ a day!
The most shocking ‘fact’ I had read was that an Air hostess with Indian Airlines, forget Air India ( an international courier) used to earn more than a fighter pilot!
Add to that the fact that as per service rules Army officers and sepoys retire very young. We need young people with stamina and strength to fight for us – it is only in politics that you can aspire to be PM even in your 80s. Thus the average age of the Indian soldier is 24 +. Even as officers you begin retiring soon into your 40s.
Which means your working life is short – very short. Either you die young ( which of course ends your career!) or you are kicked out when still in your prime. Or you resign, so you can seek greener pastures while you are still employable. It is common sense that when you retire, your pension depends on your last salary received. Thus the pensions received by our armed forces have also been pathetic compared to those of any other Govt. employee.
Way back in the 80s, I remember a relative in the Indian Navy asking me “do you know how much we earn as a ‘living’? You don’t. I don’t blame you for that. We earn so little that by the end of the month we cannot afford vegetables and fruits for our family, we make do on dal-roti. But do you even care? You don’t, and that is what we cannot forgive you for!”
The sad reality is, we really do not care… not yesterday, not today… will tomorrow be any different?
– Sunita Mudaliar