Ill-advised move

The controversy over the proposal to construct a war memorial at the Indira Gandhi musical fountain park in Bangalore is assuming unsavoury dimensions. The proposal to locate the memorial at an important lung space in the heart of the City, that is afflicted with a high rate pollution is ill-advised, regardless of the patriotic packaging with which it has been wrapped. The proposal itself is opaque, with details coming out in driblet.

There’s no clarity about the number of trees that will be martyred for the project nor the space that it will occupy. It required the advocate general to inform the high court that there would be an underground “motivational hall and a museum” as part of the memorial. The design is not public knowledge, nor the identity of the people who would be managing the memorial. The hurry and even desperation with which it is being pushed through and the insistence of the promoters of the so-called memorial to site it in the park and not on the defence land, much of which is available elsewhere in the City, raises questions. The government needs to give up the idea of despoiling a public lung space for a private enterprise.

Apart from the locational issues, the very concept of the memorial calls for revisiting. None questions the need to revere and cherish the memory of the heroes who laid down their lives for the nation. Such pride in the best of our youth is but natural to all nations. But to build a static monument in their memory is less important than ensuring that the families of the fallen heroes and our veterans live in relative comfort and dignity. Many of the Kargil heroes are yet to receive their due. The ex-servicemen have many times raised the issue of pensions, honours and post-retirement rehabilitation for the wounded veterans. Only a week ago did the finance minister put in effect the Sixth Pay Commission’s one-rank-one-pay recommendation.

One specious argument put forward by the promoters of the memorial is that it would encourage the youth to join the armed forces. In the era of globalisation, when a career takes precedence over a mission, a better way to convince them would be to make the services attractive in terms of pay and perks, because our soldiers deserve it. The youth of our times, smarter than their elders, can see through empty gestures.

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