Modi Date With Siachen 'family'

23 October 2014

Srinagar: Narendra Modi paid a surprise Diwali visit to Siachen today, repeating his Independence Day theme of being a 'pradhan sevak' who had come to 'see and experience' the conditions faced by soldiers. 'No one has got the opportunity of guarding their motherland in these conditions. As a pradhan sevak, I have been able to see the conditions faced by you with my own eyes, experience it. The doctors accompanying us were keeping tabs on me...checking my BP and oxygen. This shows how precarious are the conditions you live in,' the Prime Minister told soldiers at the 12,000ft base camp of the glacier, the world's highest battlefield. Modi, who wished President Pranab Mukherjee from the spot, emphasised that he had not intimated the soldiers about his trip as there was 'no need to announce one's arrival when coming to one's own family'. 'I have specially come on the occasion of Diwali to be with you. I am aware how it feels like to spend Diwali with your family. The happiness is different, but you are so involved in the devotion to your motherland that (your) family is spending Diwali somewhere else and you are somewhere else, guarding the motherland. My coming to this place will not fill the void of your family, but as a representative of 125 crore people...after being with you, I feel proud and satisfied,' Modi, for whom this Diwali was the first as Prime Minister, said. Modi, who went to Siachen this morning before flying to Srinagar, spent more than an hour with the soldiers, praised their valour and courage saying 125 crore Indians 'could celebrate Diwali and go about their lives in comfort' because the jawans stood guard at the borders, prepared to make every sacrifice for the nation. Modi underlined the challenges and the perils of the job, noting how the bodies of soldiers who died in the glaciers young were found decades after their deaths. 'Till the time someone does not see these icy glaciers, he will not know the way our jawans work in the remotest parts of the country. Many slept pulling over a white snow blanket. Someone's body is recovered after 21 years. Don't know how many such families are there, still waiting for their loved ones.' The allusion was to Havildar Tukaram Patil, who died in 1993 after falling into a crevasse and whose his remains were found last week as rain lashed the glacier. In August, soldiers had found the body of Havildar Gaya Prasad, who had died in similar circumstances in 1996. In the visitors' book, Modi wrote that soldiers who guarded the nation's frontiers in such difficult conditions were no less than 'rishis (saints) and sages'. 'The feeling of pride towards you is because every time, in every condition you are ready to live and die for the country. Today, the country has sound sleep because you are awake day and night. People can lead a life of peace because you face hardships. This has been the message of your life. And for this reason, let that be army, air force and navy... the whole country is proud of the armed forces.' Modi said that while the armed forces were busy guarding the country, it was responsibility of the nation to realise their dreams and aspirations. 'Your dreams and responsibilities are the responsibility of us all. It is unacceptable to me that you have depend on others for anything after you are out of the force. It is my duty and desire that you and your family live with pride and respect after retirement.' Modi said the issue of armed forces was an 'emotional subject' for him and his government was committed to building a National War Memorial. 'How many decades have passed without one-rank-one pension. It was in my destiny that one-rank-one pension has been fulfilled, and preparations were being made for a National War Memorial, that we could all be proud of. The government is committed to the cause.' The Prime Minister also lauded the role of defence personnel in rescue and relief, making specific mention of the recent Kashmir floods, in which government agencies had been criticised for alleged tardy response. 'The way forces pose a danger to enemies, in the same way our forces give life to us. There has been no natural calamity in which our forces have not participated... worked hard day and night. When Srinagar was hit by floods, the army jawans showed an exemplary work of humanity and sacrificed their lives in the process.'