Breaking away the tradition of conferring the highest civilian award ‘Bharat Ratna’ to the country’s eminent personalities, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Wednesday urged the Government of India (GoI) to bestow upon this coveted award to the legendary Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh, in recognition with his outstanding contribution towards safeguarding the unity and integrity of the nation.
Addressing a mammoth gathering after unveiling the foundation stone of Punjab State War Heroes Memorial and Museum here, the Chief Minister said that Arjan Singh deserved this highest honour because he was the lone survivor in the line of top most Army Officers Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw and Field Marshal KM Cariappa.
He said that the outstanding services rendered by Arjan Singh in Air Force in various capacities made him eligible for ‘Bharat Ratna’ in the Defence Category, which was so far given to the noted civilians from different walks of life.
Badal also urged the Centre to immediately concede the long pending demand of ‘One Rank One Pension’ so that ex-servicemen could lead a comfortable life after retirement. He also echoed for another genuine demand of recruitment of Punjabis in the Armed forces thereby asking the Union government to reverse its criteria of male population ratio in the selection process, so that the states like Punjab having just 2.5 percent of the country’s total population could secure jobs in the Defence Services keeping in view state’s rich legacy of gallantry in Indian Armed Forces since time immemorial.
Announcing a bonanza for the serving and ex-servicemen, the Chief Minister said that the state government would soon launch a special drive to fill the backlog of vacancies reserved for Ex-servicemen in various departments, boards and corporations.
Badal also announced to double the amount of loan extended to war widows for construction of houses from existing Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh besides enhancing the war jagir from Rs 5000 to Rs 10000 per month. He also announced to waive off the property tax on the house property owned by the serving Army personnel and Ex-servicemen.
Acceding to another demand of the Ex-Servicemen, the Chief Minister also announced to immediately slash the VAT charged on the CSD items from 6.5 percent to 4 percent.
In a major reprieve to the serving army personnel and veteran, he also announced to set up a special court at Jalandhar for quick dispensation of justice to them besides opening two Police Stations at Jalandhar and Amritsar to be directly supervised by an officer not below the rank of SP. Badal also announced to start a toll free number in the office of Financial Commissioner Revenue (FCR) at Chandigarh to enable the serving and veteran army personnel to get all their cases resolved related to revenue matters especially the eviction of houses.
Highly enthused with the superb performance and success of Maharaja Ranjit Singh Armed Forces Preparatory Academy at Mohali, the Chief Minister also announced to establish another academy namely Mai Bhago Armed Forces Preparatory Institute for girls to enable them to be selected in Armed Forces. He also said that the state government had already allotted 200 acres land to the GoI for setting up of Service Selection Centre (North) at Rupnagar for the recruitment of officers in the Armed Forces. Apart from this a state-of-the art naval academy was also being set up at Rupnagar to train the youth for their recruitment in navy, where there was a lot of scope but the youth was not coming forth in this field due to non-availability of training infra structure and lack of knowledge. Cheering up the young cadets, the Chief Minister also announced to hike the refreshment charges of the NCC Cadets from Rs 6 to Rs 25 and diet charges during the camps from Rs 75 to Rs 95.
Speaking on the occasion General (Retired) Shankar Roy Chaudhary highly appreciated the Chief Minister for taking a laudatory step for erecting this memorial to eulogize the rare deeds of Army soldiers and officers during various Military Operations. Without mincing any words General (Retd.) Roy said a great task which the centre could not undertook, the Punjab government has done it thereby cherishing the aspirations of millions of their brethren. Going a step further, he said this memorial deserved a national status and centre should come forward to declare it.
Badal who was accompanied by the Deputy Chief Minister, also honoured the Marshal of Air Force Arjan Singh, who was the star attraction of the function, with the replica of Sri Harmandir Sahib. Besides, Gen Retd SK Sinha, Gen Retd JJ Singh, Gen Retd Shankar Rai Chaudhary, Gen Retd Deepak Kapoor, Admiral Retd VS Sekhawat and Madvendra Singh were felicitated with a shawl, a sword and a memento of memorial.