The Forgotten War-Dead
Does our military do enough for those killed in action? Indeed, it does, in terms of monetarily compensating the families of fallen service men and women, in accordance with the service rules. However, do the monetary benefits alone heal the deep scars that the untimely death of a dear one inflicts on a family? They certainly do not. Not every soldier killed in action is honoured by a gallantry award. Besides the communication from the military authority concerned intimating them of the death of their dear one, and probably a letter of condolence from the commanding officer, all the mention a family comes across about him or her is the roll of honour the newspapers may publish. As far as the family can see, their dear one was just one of the many who died deserving no special recognition. This leaves them in anguish beyond repair, and feeling disgraced to a great extent. What if our armed forces instituted a mechanism for a special recognition of every serviceman or woman killed in action? Of course, it is not pragmatic to decorate every war-dead with a gallantry award. Nevertheless, some out-of-the-box thinking might help.
What if we made ‘KIA’ – KILLED IN ACTION – the top military honour of the country? It need not replace the PVC, but it can be merely given precedence over all other awards. This would also save the trouble of adding ‘Posthumous’ after the decoration of someone killed in action. Accordingly, the decoration of a PVC awardee, killed in action, would read as KIA, PVC. This would, in no way, lower the rating of the gallantry award (PVC, MVC or whatever), but would only recognize and respect a loss of life. It need not involve any monetary benefits, but would be a gesture that would go a long way in alleviating the distress of families. The child of a war-dead would grow up proud that his father was ‘killed in action’ and not merely ‘died in war.’ It has a great psychological and emotional impact. If need be, a Hindi equivalent of ‘Killed in Action’ can be coined, for the sake of uniformity.
In a way, it could also act as a morale booster for troops under fire, in that it would help them overcome the fear of death, which is an essential requisite for combat efficiency. Whether it is the commander of a point tank in an assault or the driver in a supply convoy under air attack, all, across the board, would know that at the end of the day, if he does not make it back home, he would at least be leaving a proud legacy for his loved ones.
Just a thought, out of the box. Anyone listening?