20 AUGUST, 2020
*Why Just The 61st Cavalry, Get Rid of Imperial Relics and Mindset*
Pomp and show
After independence, India had only one horse cavalry unit, namely the 61st Cavalry. Now perhaps as part of the effort to do away with colonial relics and imperial trappings and to cut down unwanted expenditure, it has been decided to disband this unit.
The issue of disbanding this unit first came up when General Sam Manekshaw was the Indian Army Chief. Manekshaw prevailed upon the government to drop this proposal, because he felt that there was need to retain some degree of military pomp and splendor for ceremonial occasions.
As a gesture of gratitude, 61st Cavalry made the Army Chief their Colonel of the Regiment. Since then every Army Chief has been the Colonel of 61st Cavalry.
Now if the aim is to do away with colonial era pomp and glory and save some money, then why have the horse cavalry escort the President of India. He is being made to live in colonial era relics, imperial style and royal splendor. The only other head of state in the world to have a horse cavalry escort is the Queen of England.
In response to an RTI by Dr Nutan Thakur, about the size of the staff at Rashtrapati Bhavan, it was revealed that some 540 personnel work there.. There are 28 cooks including two chief cooks, one chief baker, one chief Halwai, 32 butlers including 4 head butlers and 10 persons to polish silver and brass. There 19 washermen, including a chief laundryman, one tennis coach and 2 squash coaches. Along with 37 drivers, 2 tractor drivers, 184 gardeners and 57 cleaners, Other staff members include 13 museum assistants. Nearly a thousand military and policemen guard the Rashtrapati.
The President’s estate is spread over 350 acres of prime land. There is a golf course, tennis courts and squash court, though none of the Presidents ever played any of these games. Then there are dozens of Raj Bhavans where colonial culture, over staffing, abundant security and reckless expenditure is the norm.
At Harrisburg, the capital of the US State of Pennsylvania while taking an evening walk on the road in front of the governor’s residence, which was no better than adjoining bunglows, one could see just one security personnel and nothing more. This was soon after the 9/11, attack on America’s business center in New York. Even at his office, within an imposing state building, which houses the state high court, and secretariat, visitors were allowed with minimal security presence.
If the idea is to cut expenses, then what of the enormous money being spent every year at the Republic Day parade, just for the amusement of VVIPS etc. Till the country hits 5 trillion GDP, we could go easy and have only military equipment, marching columns of military, police personnel and children. We should do away with the enormous display of flowers at various meetings and functions.
Bulletproof cars and security personnel encircling, even not so important persons, gives the impression that we are living in very dangerous times where bullets freely fly around. Even a small state like Punjab, has a police strength of eighty thousand, with more than half a dozen DGPs, dozens of IGs and any number of DIGs. Yet there has been free flow of drugs, illicit liquor and fake passports, in the province.
This grant of Non Functional Financial Up-gradation (NFFU ) to 51 class 1 central services, opened floodgates of additional pay. For basically doing the same work without any additional functional responsibilities.
The US President and UK Prime Minister, on retirement, move to their own house. In India the President, PM and some others spend their retired lives in spacious bungalows with staff and vehicles provided by the government at taxpayers expense.
The list of wasteful expenditure is endless - where reduction is not only desirable but very possible. The call for less government and more governance has remained an empty slogan.
We built a Statue of Unity at a cost of Rs 3200 crore, ( much of the work on it was done in China ) while on the ground we have created divisiveness through measures like the Citizenship Amendment Act, and the National Register for Citizens etc. A statue of Shivaji, on horseback, out in the sea, will cost another few thousand crores of rupees. Then there are plans for a new Parliament building, because the existing one is over 90 years old! This when the majority of buildings in New Delhi are over a century old and qualify as heritage.
Various offices to be constructed along the Central Vista will cost an estimated Rs 20,000 crore. Surely all this can wait till the economy hits the ten trillion dollar figure.
There is no urgency to build the Ram temple. Ram lives in every Indian’s heart and the best tribune to Him is to usher in ‘Ram Rajya,’ where there is no poverty, no discrimination, no corruption and all around happiness prevails.
In India around 22 percent live below the poverty line. That is with Rs 37/ per day, which in reality is abject poverty. SDG index 2019, released on December 27, 2019, records that more Indians have fallen into poverty, hunger and income inequality in the previous two years.
Every year lakhs of children do not get past the age of 5 years and millions do not get to taste milk after they are done with their mother’s milk.
The country’s infrastructure remains poor. Education in government schools is sub standard in that one in four elementary school students in the country cannot read or write basic text even 10 years after the implementation of Right to Education Act.
An estimated 5 crore children in elementary schools have not attained foundational literacy and numeracy, which is the ability to carry out basic addition and subtraction. This number is set to double soon unless we act fast.
Healthcare facilities continue to remain dismal.
We need to set our priorities right, cut out all wasteful expenditure and bring about prosperity for all. ‘Make in India’ drive needs a greater push. There is little time to lose - tide and time wait for no one.