In the pursuit of mega weapon systems like fighter jets, submarines and howitzers, basic requirements of soldiers in terms of both protection gear as well as personal honour are often forgotten due to general politico-bureaucratic apathy.
But now, after ordering some new ballistic helmets and bullet-proof jackets, the government is finally also scrambling to procure 7.60 lakh medals for military personnel after a hue and cry was recently raised over soldiers being forced to buy cheap replicas to adorn their uniforms+ from the market for the last several years.
Though much-delayed, the move to procure the 7.60 lakh medals for about Rs 28 crore is a welcome step since the basic ethos of Indian soldiers revolves around “Naam, Namak and Nishaan” (reputation of battalion/paltan, fidelity and ensign/colours).
“They live by this credo, and if required die by it. Our soldiers, for instance, climbed upwards despite all odds and near-certain death to dislodge well-entrenched Pakistani intruders from the icy Kargil heights in 1999. It’s simply difficult for civilians to understand all this,” said a senior Army officer.
But alarmingly, as of December 31 last year, there was a staggering backlog or shortage of 16.82 lakh service medals, which were awarded to deserving personnel from the Army, Navy and IAF but never actually presented to them. Consequently, military personnel are being reduced to buying replicas or “tailor copies” from private shops, as was earlier reported by TOI.
The defence ministry (MoD) now says there are two separate proposals for procurement of 7.60 lakh and 9.89 lakh medals in the pipeline to clear the backlog for the almost 15-lakh strong armed forces. The tender for the first procurement of 7.60 lakh medals was issued by the MoD’s Directorate of Military Regulations and Forms on Monday.