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Prasoon S Majumdar
Editor, Economic Affairs - The Sunday Indian
Dean Academics (All India), The Indian Institute of Planning and Management

Lesser life!

Only few soldiers acquire martyrdom status...

The State Police officers and National Security Guard (NSG) commandos who battled the 26/11 terrorists, literally swept away the national gallantry awards during the Republic Day, this year. Along with the three martyrs - Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte, Vijay Salaskar- who undoubtedly deserved the highest gallantry awards, even contribution of Tukaram Omble, Sandeep Unnikrishnan and Havildar Gajender Singh and many more, were recognised with Ashoka Chakra! Not just in terms of awards, the nation rightfully stood up in admiration to their unquestionable sense of duty and gallantry. But then, this is also a fact that not all such martyrs are bestowed with gratitude even when they sacrifice their precious lives for the nation! The death of paramilitary and state police personnel who fight the Maoists and Naxals in some of the remotest corners of the nation, is a regular affair. But then unfortunately their sacrifices not just go unreported but are treated in the most inconsequential manner! This type of prejudiced treatment is largely experienced by none other than India’s paramilitary forces. They count among world’s largest paramilitary forces. Yet it is evident that all that the nation cares about is the chest-thumping exercise which the ownership of such a huge paramilitary allows and rarely cares about giving them due importance and acknowledgement for their selfless work and sacrifice. Take for instance afew recent instances; almost 40 paramilitary personnel died in month of April alone. All the deaths can be attributed to the fight against the Naxals in the Naxal hotbeds of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and Bihar.

Almost every day some or the other paramilitary jawan faces death in India. No doubt that media does mention about these events but with such a non-descript treatment that most of us won’t even know the names of even one personnel who gave his precious life away. In fact media alone cannot be blamed; even the Central and the State governments rarely talk about their sacrifices. Going by past precedence, jawans from the paramilitary forces who receive gallantry awards are generally sidelined by the media. Even when it comes to monetary compensation, there is a distinct difference between the type of compensation being given to the paramilitary and the army. It goes without saying that army gets much more. Not that the army does not deserve it but the question that remains unanswered is why the paramilitray is often deprived. Sadly, in our country the death of a soldier is completely inconsequential and it is only the circumstances that make the death of any consequence! Would the same honour have been bestowed on the 26/11 martyrs had the incident happened in some remote forests of Orissa, Jharkhand or Chattisgarh? I doubt! Let’s accept the fact that deaths in India become meaningful only when it is livecasted on television and the footsoldier give away their lives protecting some elite hotels or places like the Indian Parliament!! The lives of those CISF, BSF or CRPF jawans do not matter to us who too fight their heart out and similarly give away their lives while protecting the pillars of our democracy or PSUs like NALCO. So much so, that if some paramilitary personnel die fighting, their death is tagged as ‘deaths in action’ and is not even counted in the list of ‘Amar Jawan’. In a country where hundreds of police personnel die every month fighting Naxalites or organised crime, the only thing that matters is how big the event has been and who were the stakeholders. All in all, what finally matters is when you die and where you die but not how you die and why you die!! That's the tragedy of India.


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