Wallah! At last India has a permanent Defence Minister after a long wait and amidst so much of speculations. Congratulations ma’am and welcome to a different world. Things are different here and things are done very differently in the Armed forces. I am not using the words defence on purpose because you will get a first hand feel of its enormity once you get on the chair proper. You will have the three services Chiefs at your command to give you the correct picture of things on ground and national security. They will also tell you how things are on paper. If you will have a heart to heart talk with them they will reveal to you how they are actually functioning with all that they have. Madam, trust them and listen to them. I wish you all the best.
Well let me not get into the 3Cs of criticizing, comparing and complaining mode from the very beginning. I am sure all your predecessors would have contributed their bit in nation building and with special reference to defence. You have got a fresh slate and a fresh charter. You also have come in here in the third year of the government so the ball must have been set rolling in any case by now. I am sure budget will not be a constraint even if you have to walk in into the FMs or the PMs Office or is this asking for too much on the second day in your office. So let me assume that you will take that liberty as and when the need arises but on the other hand I would request you to change the way the defence ministry works and that its rigid protocol. You will find it on every file, the seniority in which people will put their remarks on each noting sheet. Ma’am I want you to go to the three service Chief’s offices rather than them coming to you.
Imagine what commotion you will create in the corridors of South block if you walk up to the Army Chief’s office. Let me tell you ma’am the sandwiches served there are too good. They will be served with so much of love and affection that you may ask for more. Madam you will see people running to hide all maps with those huge curtains in the Military Operations room, later realising that you will be the one giving directions soon as to which part of the map to obliterate or pound and with what intensity. Suddenly, you may find pink napkins in the corridors of South Block. Madam jokes apart, you have yourself to feel the warmth that the men & women in olive greens, sky blue and white will shower on you. They are looking for a fresh face as they have had too many stain marks from spilled goan curry, Chai from Jaitley’s ketley and rancid coconut oil on their documents.
Madam Minister, another thing I request you to change is the perception of an iron wall between the MoD per se and the people from the services. If a gun has to be used by the Army man, an Aircraft by the fly boy or a submarine by a mariner then who should have the last word in its procurement. Please involve the user in every phase ma’am because to tell the difference between a smooth bore gun and a rifled gun your technocrats will give you but for a man to survive on the battlefield and hit the target in varied terrain and weather will only be revealed by the user, I hope you will agree. Please let there be a change where the well walks up to the thirsty rather than the other way around. If anyone in uniform does hanky-panky or misappropriation of money please skin him alive. He doesn’t deserve to be in uniform but if the same is done by someone in white collars, you may decide appropriate punishment.
The biggest thing I ask of you madam is the restoration of our IZZAT. I do not want to get into the naam, namak and nishan part of it. But our prestige, our honour, our self esteem needs a definite boost. Why do we in the forces get a feeling that we are children of a lesser God? Madam our ex-servicemen are sitting on Jantar mantar peacefully till date. They are old, many infirm and not in their best of health but are conveying their feelings to this nation that for what fault of theirs they still have to bear the heat, rain and cold after doing their time in hell. Madam do go and just say a hello to them. Probably your predecessors never had the time or inclination to meet the veterans and the veer naris.
One more thing ma’am, please do not change your ministry like my wife changes her dresses. By the time you get the hang of it your tenure will be over. Do a good job and help me to vote for you in 2019 again to see you at the helm of affairs in the same Ministry. You will see many Chiefs change during your tenure but the ethos and dastoor of the services won’t change. Let them hold their head high and give you all their support. Visit doklam next week end, I would say visit every theater of operation, ask the commanders there what are their typical issues and resolve them then and there. Issues could be operational or administrative like infrastructure, health care, accommodation, equipment, morale anything under the sun. Madam another thing I am skeptic of is the DRDO, reason I don’t know but the perception says there is something amiss. We still wait for our Main Battle Tank, a state of art rifle to say the least. We want Israel and Russia to use equipment made in India is what I ask you.
At the outset let me again welcome you to the uniformed part of it. The non-uniformed you have to take care of. I can’t say I wish you were Ex-NDA but madam I expect you to be one. You need to be a flier, a commando, a paratrooper, a deep sea diver, a tank man, a sailor, a Commander of men and women in all varied terrain and weather. Madam above all you will have to have a heart of gold which beats in sync and tune with the armed forces. I wish we sort out Pak in the next three years to start with. Good Luck and God Speed to you. Have I asked for too much? I wonder!!!!!!!!!
© Noel Ellis