New Delhi, Aug.14 (ANI): On the eve of Independence Day, the Defence Minister, AK Antony, today paid tributes to the martyrs of Leh tragedy.
In his address to the Armed Forces personnel broadcast over All India Radio on the eve of Independence Day, Antony said: "We celebrate our 64th Independence Day tomorrow. I pay my tributes to the martyrs and convey my greetings and best wishes to both uniformed and civilian personnel of the three wings of our Armed Forces on this occasion."
"My sympathies are with the survivors of the Nature's fury in Leh. I convey my heartfelt condolences to all those, who lost their near and dear ones in the tragedy, including several Armed Forces personnel," the Minister said.
Antony said, "As the nation prepares to celebrate the Red Letter Day, his thoughts go out to those brave hearts who lost their lives in the line of duty, especially in the mudslide in Leh."
Antony wished speedy recovery of all those undergoing treatment at various hospitals. As per the latest figures, Army has suffered 8 fatal and 41 non-fatal casualties till date. 27 Army personnel including 3 officers are missing.
The Minister, during his address, said it was difficult to pick up the pieces after such a large-scale loss of life and property.
Acknowledging the admirable work being carried out by Army, Air Force, DRDO and Border Roads Organisation, Antony said: The personnel from Army, Air Force, DRDO and Border Roads Organisation have been doing a commendable job in accelerating rescue and relief efforts, restoring communication links and in assisting in attempts to restore normalcy at the earliest. The Armed Forces personnel have on several other occasions, rendered invaluable service in times of natural calamities."
He said: "Our Armed Forces guard the land, sea and air frontiers in harsh weather conditions and in forbidding terrains. Living away from families makes your task all the more challenging."
Mentioning about the several welfare measures taken by the Government for the defence personnel, Antony informed that efforts were on to improve the quality of atta, rice, vegetables, tea, pulses and other items. "Similarly, we have made a provision for special rations to troops deployed in counter-insurgency operations. Special rations have also been authorised for additional troops serving in high-altitude areas - specifically above 12,000 feet."
The Minister also informed that a pilot project has been launched at 20 locations across the country for rail e-ticketing. With this facility, the system of railway warrants will be replaced and Armed Forces personnel will be able to book and print e-tickets through IRCTC websites at unit locations.
Stating that this project would be gradually extended to more than 5,000 Army, Air Force and Navy units across the country, Antony said: "We are committed to carry forward these measures and do a lot more for the all-round welfare of our jawans in the future."
"We accord top priority to the welfare of our service personnel, as well as ex-servicemen. We are trying our best to ensure that there are no procedural delays in pension-related cases of ex-servicemen. Some Armed Forces personnel are retained in service, despite a disability that is attributed, or aggravated by military service, who forego a lump-sum compensation in lieu of the disability," he said.
The Minisetr informed keeping in view their valour and sacrifice, it has been decided to grant them a disability element, or war injury element, at the time of their retirement, or discharge, in addition to the retiring/service pension or retiring/service gratuity.
"On the other hand, in case of pensioners who retire on disability pension, a decision has been taken to pay them a Constant Attendant at the rate of Rs. 3, 000 per month, in addition to the disability pension," said Antony.
He also informed that the Government has also granted permanent commission to women in non-combatant roles. The Minister said that he expects full cooperation from our Armed Forces in taking forward all such welfare schemes to their logical conclusion.
The Minister said that to further improve the living conditions of jawans, the Government has laid special emphasis on Married Accommodation Project (MAP).
"Under the project, a total of 1, 98, 881 Dwelling Units will be constructed in four phases. We are making all efforts to address the accommodation-related issues. We are sure that MAP will go a long way in boosting the morale of our Armed Forces," Antony said. (ANI)