New Delhi,The Defence Minister Arun Jaitley today emphasized on further strengthening and modernizing the military capabilities of the country by developing indigenous systems through sustained research & development. In his customary broadcast to the Armed Forces personnel this evening, Shri Jaitley said the government is ‘trying to further strengthen our capabilities in the northern sector. We are attaching top priority to the strengthening of the infrastructure in this sector by building and upgrading border roads, strategic bridges and airfields. We are enhancing other capabilities along the land and sea borders. Steps are also being taken to modernise the Army's infantry and artillery units, so that they can easily work in a seamless and net-centric environment’.
Following is the English rendering of the Defence Minister Shri Arun Jaitley’s customary address to the Armed Forces personnel broadcast over All India Radio on the eve of Independence Day:
My Dear Jawans,
Tomorrow we shall be celebrating our 68th Independence Day. On this occasion, I extend my heartiest greetings and convey my best wishes to each one of you serving in the Armed Forces, be it in the Army, Navy, Air Force or Coast Guard. I also extend my greetings to all veterans and ex-servicemen including all your family members.
As I speak to you, my thoughts are with the near and dear ones of all those who laid down their lives for our nation in the line of duty. Since you are at the forefront of our nation’s defence, I assure you that the Government is committed to do whatever necessary to keep your morale high.
After taking over, I had the opportunity to visit few bases and establishments of the army, navy and air force. I also interacted with several officers and jawans during these visits. I have seen the difficult circumstances under which you work while guarding our borders or when operating against terrorists.
Dear Jawans, while modernising and upgrading weapons and platforms remain our priority, we are fully aware that in the final outcome the man behind the machine will always remain a key factor. Thus the Government is taking all possible measures for your well-being through various welfare measures.
I am aware of the hardships and agony of long separations of Jawans from their families when serving in forward and inhospitable high-altitude areas. This does partially affect the mental make-up of some Jawans which has a bearing on their everyday life. The Government is therefore working on the Married Accommodation Project or MAP to provide nearly two lakh units for the married personnel near their places of posting.
Another important concern relates to ensuring the best possible health care facilities to our serving and retired Jawans, spread across the length and breadth of the country. To make it possible, the Government is operating the ex-servicemen Contributory Health Scheme or ECHS, as it is commonly known. This facility has now been widened further and 391 polyclinics have been established in the country out of 426 sanctioned to extend quality and affordable health care facilities to you all. Now, efforts are on to further fine tune this scheme so that your grievances can be addressed in a better way.
Besides these steps, the Government has also taken many measures, to make the life of soldiers a little bit more pleasant and congenial in the home-front by allowing liberal LTC and leave concession amenities and extension of canteen facilities to more areas in the country.
Dear Jawans, our Government is particularly keen to reduce the stress and strain of millions of ex-servicemen who gave their best for our country. They deserve to enjoy the fruits of their labour by leading a happy and dignified life now. Acceding to their long-pending genuine demand of ‘One-Rank-One Pension’, the Government decided to accept the same by allocating a sum of Rs. 1000 crore in this year’s Union Budget. This will ensure the implementation of the scheme in the current financial year itself.
Government is conscious of your demand for establishment of a National War Memorial in honour of our brave martyrs of independent India. Keeping the sentiments of our soldiers in mind, the Government has decided to establish the National War Memorial in Delhi for which we have allotted a sum of Rs. 100 crore in this year’s budget. The Memorial in honour of our martyrs is proposed to be built in the vicinity of India Gate and it will be supplemented by a War Museum.
The Government is well aware of the need to maintain all round vigil in the nation’s borders, to prevent any misadventure from across the borders. Therefore, keeping our war machinery in readiness and to be able to mobilise troops to forward areas at short notice is imperative. No responsible Government can afford to ignore this aspect.
This requires a balanced strengthening of infrastructure in this sector by building and upgrading our border roads, strategic bridges, airfields, advanced landing ground among others. To achieve this, the Government has assigned this task to our Border Roads Organisation and other Central agencies, while relaxing environmental norms for such critical infrastructures. In order to carry out this task in a time-bound manner without cost overruns, the Border Roads Organisation has been authorised to engage outside expert agencies in the building of tough and technologically intensive border roads on a case-to-case basis.
Extension of railway network in the border areas is another way through which we can expedite the modernisation process and facilitate quick mobilisation of troops and weapon systems. To begin with, the Government has allocated Rs. 1000 crores for accelerating the development of a railway system in the border areas.
Dear Jawans, taking lessons from the 26/11 terrorist attacks on Mumbai, the Government has taken elaborate measures to strengthen our coastal security apparatus by plugging loopholes in sea-patrolling and air defence mechanism. In this year’s budget, necessary funds have been provided to establish more number of marine police stations, completion of National Coastal Surveillance Network and commissioning of new Coast Guard Stations and Offshore Patrol Vessels. The recent induction of India’s largest aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, I am sure will definitely enhance our surveillance power and add teeth to our blue-water operating capability.
The role of Indian Air Force in defending our air space is enormous. The IAF is now undergoing a revolutionary transformation through acquisition of new high-end and state-of-the-art fighter and transport aircraft and helicopters. These are expected to meet the challenges of 21st century air warfare.
Lastly, you will agree with me that an independent and self-respecting nation like ours cannot afford to remain dependent on imports for meeting the needs of its weapon systems and equipment. The development of indigenous systems through sustained research and development is essential to enjoy freedom from external controls.
The Government wants speedy indigenisation in the defence sector and to make it happen has decided to enhance the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) limit from the present 26% to 49% with more emphasis on opening some non-strategic, non-core areas to private industries and encourage more public-private partnership in defence sector. In this context, I congratulate the scientists and technologists of DRDO and other defence related institutions for their good work in equipping our Armed Forces with the state-of-the-art weapons and equipment, developed and produced indigenously.
With these words, I once again extend my greetings to all of you on the eve of Independence Day. I convey my sincere wishes to all of you and your family members for a bright future.