Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Winning the Hearts of People

Do Military units help the local community? Do they give back to the society? In what way?
The answer is a 100% yes. Whether in forward area or peace location, military personnel voluntarily come forward to help the local community. Be it healthcare, education, water or communication, military units have always contributed towards the welfare of the local community.
Here is a classic example from the jungles of Arunachal Pradesh, the eastern most state of India.


This is a guest story by Abhishek Singh who commanded the Battalion which was stationed there. Pictures and text by Abhishek. Used with permission. The story in Abhishek's own words:
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Some pics don't really need a description. The smiles on my kids faces do the story telling on their own 
An age ago, when we arrived in the remote border village of Arunachal which was to become our outpost for these last three years, we were met by a suspicious local Tribal population which viewed everything we did with suspicion and distrust. As army men - we were foreigners who apparently were likely to force occupy their land and impose a cramp on their lifestyle.
Three years - we have developed a water supply scheme for the complete village, provisioned electricity through solar lights and generators for all hutments, we've evacuated pregnant women out in our choppers, opened up our ration stores to the complete village when heavy rains cut off the region isolating it for months, brought modern medicine and doctors to their doorstep, built and provisioned a polyclinic in the middle of the forest, trained young boys of the village for recruitment into the army and transported their bamboo craft to Delhi to be sold for unimagined profits. We are family today.
I love walking into the village during sunny days and plonking down on the lush green grass. I love the way the village kids cheer up on seeing me and the way they all rush me - particularly when they find me seated in striking range.

They know my pockets will be full of chocolates and all for them.


The grownups always come trotting over to chat up the 'CO Sahib'. After a year or so, even the ladies had shed their reservations and would come over to talk and complain of their drunkard husbands and non - compliant children (women no different - no matter what tribe 😉) .
One such day as I sat on the grass with my friend Tai Mara - the grand old man of the village, the mother of one of my favourite kids - Bhoomi, came over to talk to us. Since I'd missed Bhoomi the last few days I enquired of her and her mother told me that she had to be sent away to the distant town to start her education. Our village did not even have a primary school which forced all kids away from their parents the moment they turned 3. Then she made a beautiful request - 'please build us a primary school so that we don't have to part with our kids so early...'
O K .
I've realised there's magic in these two alphabets. Just utter them.... Make the commitment.... Rest of the things tend to fall into line after that. We initially constructed a thatched hut classroom with the help of the villagers and I put my education instructor to teaching the kids. We bought them bags and books and stationary and words can not describe the kids happiness the day we distributed these goodies to them. We got a proper school building sanctioned and made and my men innovated a playing field for the kids. The District Commissioner recently promised me a permanent teacher. The kids are back... all of them... Our village is beautiful again 
We've named the school - the 'Sawaiman Primary School' after my unit and to commemorate our time and love affair with Arunachal and its people...







We leave in a months time.... When we do - the heartache will be mutual..
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Abhishek is a great photographer and writer. Sample the picture below. The write up is also his. Used with permission.


Little Big Mummas....
Another glimpse of Arunachal. It's common practice here for the young girls to take care of their kid siblings while their mothers go out to work in the Border Roads as labour or work the fields. This is the most common sight one sees as one drives (or attempts to drive - the roads of Arunachal defy our official claims of fast paced road development) from one place to another. The young ones start bearing loads very early (refer the youngest mum standing on the left) and by the time they are 13-14 they carry 20+ kg loads of firewood or stones with a relative ease which will put grown men from plains to shame. Happy faces and infectious smiles... They will remain some of the most favourite memories of my time in Arunachal...
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Thanks Abhishek for such a wonderful story and brilliant pictures. It was a privilege sharing it with Ghumakkad's readers. Am sure many of the armed forces readers of this blog will have similar stories to narrate. We would be happy to share, but do send a picture or two. Be it the Army, Navy or Air Force, we have always helped the local community in their welfare and upliftment. That's what we call the power of volunteering!

We close with John F Kennedy's famous words, "Ask not what your country can do for youask what you can do for your country." Indian armed forces have lived with this credo all along.

Thanks for browsing.

     - Harsh-the-Ghumakkad with Abhishek Singh/ 10th July 2018

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