Antony hopes for better pay package for armed forces

February 24th, 2008 - 8:49 pm ICT by admin  

By Vishnu Makhijani
Laungewala (Rajasthan), Feb 24 (IANS) Defence Minister A.K. Antony Sunday hoped for a better pay package for the armed forces, and said government would spare no efforts to modernise India’s military. “The Services need special attention. Their case is something different (from other government employees),” he told reporters while on a visit to this hamlet, which is one of the last Indian outposts along the border with Pakistan and where a decisive battle was fought during the 1971 war between the two countries.

“Soldiers are dying and getting disabled in operations (to protect the country’s integrity). They need special attention,” the minister maintained.

“We are now expecting a better package (from the Sixth Pay Commission that has been set up to revise pay and other benefits of government employees),” he added.

Speaking about the modernisation of the armed forces, Antony said this was necessary to safeguard the country’s security in an era of rapid economic growth.

“As the country is growing very fast, it is necessary to modernise quickly. This is not because we want to confront anyone but to safeguard our security and economic interests,” the minister added.

At the same time, the armed forces too have to play a role in this, Antony said.

“You have to tell us what your requirements are. If you can convince me, and through me, the government, then we will provide you with what you need,” he added.

Earlier, using tanks, recoilless guns and soldiers, the Indian Army graphically re-created the legendary Battle of Laungewala Dec 3-5, 1971 during which a small group of 140 soldiers led by Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri fought off a determined attack by Pakistani troops backed by armour.

With the Indian Air Force pitching in at decisive moments, Chandpuri and his men destroyed 37 of the 45 tanks the Pakistani Army sent into the battle, as also numerous other vehicles. Their remains still litter the area.

The Battle of Laungewala was immortalised in the Bollywood film “Border”. Chandpuri, who was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra, the second highest medal for gallantry during war, retired as a brigadier and now lives in Chandigarh.

Antony referred to the battle while addressing the troops immediately after the re-enactment was over.

“It was fascinating to learn how Chandpuri and a handful of soldiers repulsed the attack. Such acts of bravery and valour make us feel proud of our armed forces,” the minister said.

Antony also said that the government was making “sincere attempts” to improve the working and living conditions of the soldiers and their families.

“In an age of nuclear families, it becomes very difficult for your loved one back home. We are making sincere efforts to construct more married accommodation so that families are adequately taken care off when you serve in field areas,” the minister said.

He also joined the soldiers for a “barra khana” or community lunch before leaving for New Delhi.

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