Following is the English rendering of the Defence Minister Shri AK Antony’s address to the Armed Forces personnel broadcast over All India Radio on the eve of Independence Day:-
My dear Jawans and members of our Armed Forces,
We celebrate our 64th Independence Day tomorrow. I pay my tributes to the martyrs and convey my greetings and best wishes to both uniformed and civilian personnel of the three wings of our Armed Forces on this occasion.
My sympathies are with the survivors of the Nature’s fury in Leh. I convey my heartfelt condolences to all those, who lost their near and dear ones in the tragedy, including several Armed Forces personnel. It is difficult to pick up the pieces after such a large-scale loss of life and property. The personnel from Army, Air Force, DRDO and Border Roads Organisation have been doing a commendable job in accelerating rescue and relief efforts, restoring communication links and in assisting in attempts to restore normalcy at the earliest. The Armed Forces personnel have on several other occasions, rendered invaluable service in times of natural calamities.
Our Armed Forces guard the land, sea and air frontiers in harsh weather conditions and in forbidding terrains. Living away from families makes your task all the more challenging. The challenges to our nation’s security are indeed varied and manifold.
Our rising economic stature has brought with it several challenges. The developments in and around our neighbourhood have forced us to review and upgrade our security apparatus. The security measures taken by us are often misunderstood by some nations. However, we have always been a peace-loving nation and we will continue to strive for peaceful relations with all our neighbours.
Post-26/11, we have taken several steps to strengthen the security apparatus, particularly along the coastline. We have cleared the setting up of four air enclaves at Goa, Kochi, Vizag, and New Mangalore. Coastal security has been strengthened, with acquisitions of new systems and platforms.
Armed Forces all over the world are modernising and becoming technology-intensive. I wish to take this opportunity to assure you that our modernisation plans are on the right track. We want to give our Armed Forces the latest and the best possible equipment. We would like the modernization process to proceed hand-in-hand with indigenisation. The success in the development of the indigenous nuclear submarine - INS Arihant must be replicated in other fields too.
We have accorded top priority to create infrastructure and build all-weather roads in inaccessible areas. The Border Roads organization has been given the responsibility of constructing the Rohtang tunnel. This tunnel will ensure that the remote areas in the northern region, which remained inaccessible for over six months, will now be connected and accessible throughout the year. The Rohtang tunnel would be the longest tunnel in our country at such a high altitude.
Dear jawans, despite all odds, you all have been doing a creditable job – both during warlike situation and in peace. During my visit to Siachen in June this year, the jawans raised the problems and difficulties being faced by them. Some of you wanted better quality socks and more snowmobiles for operational requirements. Some of you requested reduced telephone rates for better communication with your family members. I have directed the concerned officials and departments to take immediate remedial action. Though the pressure on our Armed Forces personnel is tremendous, the need for exercising maximum restraint cannot be over-emphasised. I wish to stress that any instance of human rights violation anywhere will not be tolerated.
Our Government has taken several welfare measures for the defence personnel. We are making efforts to improve the quality of atta, rice, vegetables, tea, pulses and other items. Similarly, we have made a provision for special rations to troops deployed in counter-insurgency operations. Special rations have also been authorised for additional troops serving in high-altitude areas – specifically above 12, 000 feet. A pilot project has been launched at 20 locations across the country for rail e-ticketing. With this facility, the system of railway warrants will be replaced and Armed Forces personnel will be able to book and print e-tickets through IRCTC websites at unit locations. This project will be gradually extended to more than 5, 000 Army, Air Force and Navy units across the country. We are committed to carry forward these measures and do a lot more for the all-round welfare of our jawans in the future.
We accord top priority to the welfare of our service personnel, as well as ex-servicemen. We are trying our best to ensure that there are no procedural delays in pension-related cases of ex-servicemen. Some Armed Forces personnel are retained in service, despite a disability that is attributed, or aggravated by military service, who forego a lump-sum compensation in lieu of the disability. Keeping in view their valour and sacrifice, it has been decided to grant them a disability element, or war injury element, at the time of their retirement, or discharge, in addition to the retiring/service pension or retiring/service gratuity. On the other hand, in case of pensioners who retire on disability pension, a decision has been taken to pay them a Constant Attendant at the rate of Rs. 3, 000 per month, in addition to the disability pension.
Our Government has also granted permanent commission to women in non-combatant roles. I expect full cooperation from our Armed Forces in taking forward all such welfare schemes to their logical conclusion.
In our effort to further improve the living conditions of jawans, the Government has laid special emphasis on Married Accommodation Project (MAP). Under the project, a total of 1, 98, 881 Dwelling Units will be constructed in four phases. We are making all efforts to address the accommodation-related issues. We are sure that MAP will go a long way in boosting the morale of our Armed Forces.
Dear jawans, the nation is indeed proud of your devotion and sacrifice in securing our country’s borders. I once again extend my greetings on the eve of the Independence Day and convey my heartiest greetings and sincere wishes to all of you for a happy and a bright future.