When soldiers are martyred, citizens offer lip service and show short-lived sympathy and politicians confine themselves to paying tributes at the martyr’s memorial. Neither the people nor the government look for solid steps to address the issue on a permanent basis.
Ex-serviceman-turned-progressive farmer G. Venkatrama Raju (79), who hails from the Railway Kodur town in the district, wants compulsory drafting of the youth for a fixed number of years in the Defence services.
As an Indian Air Force (IAF) sergeant, he had fought the Indo-China war in 1962, the Indo-Pak. war in 1965, and the Bangladesh liberation war in 1971 as a member of the ground crew.
In an exclusive interview to The Hindu on the current scenario at Galwan valley, where Indian soldiers fell victim to the Chinese aggression, Mr. Raju appeals to the government to make armed services compulsory for youth so as to instil in them a sense of patriotism, responsibility and commitment towards the nation. “There are young people who join the NCC, National Defence Academy and Indian Military Academy for a career in the armed forces, but that is not enough. Military service should be made compulsory for a fixed term, similar to the five-year drafting in the U.S., which will definitely inculcate national integration and expand the horizons of knowledge and tolerance, especially when we view the young population as a demographic dividend,” he points out.
Mr. Raju faintly recalls the plight of soldiers treading the hostile rocky terrains, snow-capped mountains, crossing gorges and valleys by carrying rifles.
“We had no pistols, no solid boots and no motor vehicles those days. Many of my colleagues used to suffer from frostbite. That is not comparable to the modern weapons, safety gadgets and protective wear we have today,” he observes. “The Chinese had launched unprovoked attacks even during that time time,” he recalls.
Though he had received five service medals as an airman, the prestigious ICAR award received in 2007 for promoting diversified agriculture is equally close to his heart. Now, he is training fellow villagers on the nuances of Subhash Palekar’s natural farming practices.
Mr. Raju’s rendezvous with the border does not seem to end. “I may not engage in warfare at this age. But, given an opportunity, I can certainly stay at the border to serve food to our soldiers,” says.