Diary of a wounded soldier: India, where pilots feel ‘ashamed’ to carry martyr’s body for his last journey


Brigadier (Retd) Narendra Kumar 

I had an opportunity to glance through Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) study, which has been extensively quoted by the Pay Commission to deny or scale down the dues to Armed Forces personnel. But I am surprised that the IDSA study did not mention that soldiers, in US or the UK, get their pensions at the rate of 75% of their salary. Also when the US and European nations deploy their soldiers in war like situation or disaster relief operations  they do not pay income tax.

I wish the study had made the mention that even in Kargil war officers and JCOs (Junior Commissioned Officers) paid the income tax. Same is the case for Jammu and Kashmir NE insurgency.

I was told that the income tax is also charged from the last salary of a martyr. which is nothing short of national shame.

I wish these facts should have been included, since the IDSA study compared the purchasing power of other country soldiers vis a vis India. But the pay commission did not use this analogy while calculating and doling out three increments to IAS , IPS & IFS.

A soldier gets 31500/– for serving in Siachen but a central cadre officer gets 50,000 to 70,000 for serving in so called difficult area such as Shillong, Imphal and Guwahati @ 30% of their salary (in spite of the acknowledgement made by pay commission cell that most difficult area to serve with no parallel is Siachen).

I was BGS during Uttrakhand Disaster relief operations, when three DCs- civil servants- were literally not available during the critical days of disaster. Same was the case with SDMs and tehsildars.

The SDM who was deputed to go to Kedarnath emerged only after five days of relief operation in vogue. DC prefered to park himself inside the Joshimath camp so that public could not reach him. When DC was forced to at least go and see the condition on ground, the gentleman did not get down from the helicopter fearing that he might not be allowed by public to board the helicopter.

DC, Uttarkashi, did not feel safe to visit and see the conditions of pilgrims at Gangotri and Harsil. The pilgrims kept asking “where is the administration, if the army has to do everything why is government spending national wealth on them.”

That is the condition of our so called elite.

It is sad that the  public of India do not even know why a soldier defy the logic and conventions? Why does he risk his life? In spite of the fact that there is no written rule where a soldier is supposed to die while performing his duty, yet he chooses to do so.

It is ethos, tradition and character of soldiers that prompt them to do so. Second factor is  because he knows he is not a government servant, he is an elite and serves the nation. He also knows that he is the last bastion and pillar which nation is dependent upon.

Every other department has failed and and can fail, but nation can still recover. But if the soldiers fail, the nation will fail. No other government agency can redeem it. it is elitism that separates soldiers from the rest.

Unfortunately over a period of time the elitism has been killed and soldier is repeatedly told he is a government servant that too semi skilled. Whereas soldering is most complex, technical and skilful job which is unparalleled.  It is an old saying that the day a soldier start behaving like a government servant it is beginning of erosion of foundation of a nation.

I must quote the examples of US/ UK and other countries. When the body of a martyr is brought back to US, the captain of the aircraft makes the announcement prior to taking off “we are privileged to fly back martyr  —xyz— on his last journey back home.”

On arrival, of the body of the martyr on US soil and his native place, water canon salute is given. Crew  line up on tar to pay last respect. The CEO or the highest authority of the airport receives the body along with the Guard. All passengers stand in line till body is moved out.

But when the body of Maj Varadarajan was being flown from Srinagar to Chennai, the Captain was requested by the officer accompanying the body to announce that Maj Vardrajan was on board on his last journey back home, the captain of the aircraft refused to announce saying that it will send a kind of bad feeling and omen to people flying.

Incidentally there was another pilot who wrote a small message regretting such an incident. Then there is also the tradition of taking the body of soldiers through the cargo gate which is indeed an insult. And we continue to accept it without highlighting it. It is only Mr Chandrashekher MP Rajya Sabha who is fighting a lone battle.

We need to introspect and make the nation aware. Profession of soldiering is not routine government job. It is different an elitism is must or else, we will have soldier also behaving like other government staff such as the famous DCs of Uttrakhand.

Can nation afford soldiers behaving like government servants? I don’t think so. I heard in the news today that doctors did not turn up in Chennai, the government staff did not turn up for discharging their duties…… But soldiers did their best whole day. Is it that there lives are not precious?  I think those of us who have the opportunity to share and proliferate our views must do it.

Brig Kumar is a retired army veteran. Views expressed here are author’s own.


  1. So Horrible . When will we learn that the Defence forces are a class apart . They do something which normal people are never expected to do . They have been trained to give their lives for the defence of their country – and , that too , unhesitatingly .

    The minimum they deserve is dignity after death . This is the practice throughout the world . This is the only institution in India whose commander is the First Citizen of India ie the President of India . If passengers of planes in India have any problem with the honour given to the remains of defence personnels dying in service , such passengers should be immediately offloaded .

  2. We are far, far behind USA and other western countries in recognizing the value of our veterans. Government should wake up and be more involved in the lives of these brave soldiers.

  3. I am really sad with the current situation of our soldiers and politics going behind it . soldiers are one of the strong pillar for nation and need to do ur best to get it as stronger as possible