LT COL NOEL ELLIS | 10 MAY, 2019
The ‘Viraat’ Visit, Why The Fuss!
I was posted at a Jaisalmer unit when Rajiv Gandhi visited
Rajiv Gandhi once drove Ms Sonia Gandhi in COs open jeep from Air Force Station to our unit location in Jaisalmer. Never a thought went through anyone’s mind that she is a foreign national. For us she was our Prime Minister’s wife and that was it.
On the road leading towards the quarter guard, massive arrangements were made to show the PM the latest vehicle acquired by the Indian Army. Our unit at that time was the most “Hush-Hush” organisation. This vehicle was called ‘Bornivanaiya-Rajobethlinya-Dajorniya-Machina’ (BRDM). Even the Russians would have got confused what I just called it.
There was so much excitement in the air for the PMs visit. I, a pip squeak, with one pip on my shoulder was feeling so important, as if it was me who would receive the PM. Though, I was detailed for the chai-pakora-jalebi bandobast.
There was another arena which was being set up. I found all our senior lot huddled into discussing the contents of what will be shown under it. Our boys put up a huge camouflage net. It was rejected as it did not have much of garnish woven into it. The shelter was laid on ground and people were knitting the correct percentage of green, brown and khaki garnish as per some Army Order, as if the PM knew.
Holes were being checked for fear if Pakistan would send an aircraft to take a photo of this briefing or an American satellite would read the name plate of Havildar Azad Singh, the guard commander. All hell would have broken lose. I was put in lying position under the net with my face up to see from where the sky was visible, to stop any peeping Tom.
BRDMs used to lie in the open in our MT garages with just one sentry with a danda. Today, because the PM was coming they were going to hide the BRDM under this net. Finally, the net was so thickly knit that they had to fix a few bulbs to light it up.
Rajiv Gandhi came and was taken straight to this enclosure by none other than the Army Commander. Rest of PMs entourage was stopped outside the entrance. Sonia was quickly ushered to where seating arrangements for VIPs had been made. Our 2IC, who could pass for a subaltern was giving her good company. Now I know why was he learning Italian chupke-chupke.
That top-secret meeting lasted precisely less than 10 minutes. The PM, I am sure would have understood the Kwadrat system and calculated the Alpha angle required by this vehicle to navigate and reach silently as close to Islamabad as possible. Basically to stun Benazir Bhutto by the invasion, as it could cross the deserts noiselessly with its hidden auxiliary wheels and of course its floating capabilities.
In this context, I don’t understand why this ‘halla’ about a PM and his family being on an Aircraft Carrier. If Rocky and Mayur of Highway on my plate fame can polish off everything which was cooked while they had a day at sea on an aircraft carrier and a submarine. I am sure they would be more of a security risk carrying hi-tech cameras, than someone who had trouble speaking English.
To understand various systems of an Aircraft Carrier there would be some basic knowledge which is needed I suppose, to be a threat of any kind. By the way there were no cell phones with cameras then. I am sure the PMO and MOD would have taken care of the various technicalities of that visit.
If the Defence Minister can fly in a Sukoi and spend a day at sea, what is the harm if the PM and his family spent some time aboard a ship. Don’t naval guys take their families to ships?
The SU-30 did not have enough space for RMs family to squeeze in, else they would have taken them for a spin, if they could fit in a side car.
MK Kaw and other members of the fifth pay commission were taken on a Tank & BMP ride at the Pokhran Field Firing ranges many moons back. The ‘jhatkas’ given by our Mech Forces were such that they erased a few zeros from the pay calculation sheets and we all are suffering till today due to those anomalies. I wish we had made them eat sand in their mayonnaise and hid scorpions in their shoes, we would have got eighth pay commission scales straight away.
I don’t see any issue with the Ex PM of our nation visiting any defence establishment with his family. The present one is welcome to visit too. Why are we making so much of fuss about it? I wonder!