BENGALURU: Confer the country’s highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna, on the late Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa as a one-off event, sans politics, says his son Air Marshal K.C. Cariappa (Retd).
The award would be an honour for the Indian army but the decision itself would assume political contours irrespective of whichever party makes the choice, he rues in an interview with Deccan Chronicle. “The current chief of army staff, General Bipin Rawat, recommended Bharat Ratna for my father, but the Congress turns around, and says it is not for the army chief to make such suggestions. Are they questioning it because they think he will score brownie points for the BJP? Tomorrow, if the Congress were to say the same thing and suggest the name of Field Marshal Cariappa for the award, the other party will say who are they to make this suggestion? That’s the sad thing. My father was very clear in his mind that the armed forces are loyal to the government of the day, not to any political party. And therefore he was able to stop politicisation of the armed forces,” he added.
He said when the rank of Field Marshal was conferred on his father, then army chief the late General A.S. Vaidya made the recommendation but did not announce it in public in 1986.
“The acme of one’s career is to become the commander in chief of the army, which he did, and the icing on the cake came 30 years later when he was elevated as Field Marshal. When it comes to Bharat Ratna, which is given to people from different walks of life, I don’t see why the armed forces should be left out. It will be a fine move, but makes no difference to the morale of the armed forces. If salaries are enhanced, families of martyrs are looked after, and rations are given, these matter to the man on the field. In a recent gesture of largesse, the Government said we will restrict the amount of pension to families of soldiers and others killed to `10,000. This is a piddle sum today. If this is enhanced, that will be a morale booster, but only platitudes are offered by the government of the day” he added.
Air Marshal Cariappa (Retd), however, was of the opinion that the coveted award should be conferred during the lifetime of an individual to help him savor the privileges and honour. Recalling some anecdotes about his late father after releasing a book on the Field Marshal, he said people in Kashmir referred to him as Khalifah as he went out of his way to solve several problems of local residents, including shortage of drinking water and salt. “He echoed the opinion that the north east must be dealt with on priority, and security should be beefed up in this area, but Pandit Nehru reportedly remarked that it was not for Generals to dictate what the government must do. Pandit Nehru is supposed to have said ‘Cariappa is off the track mentally and otherwise’ about the threat from China,” he added. Besides, he objected to merger of Kodagu with erstwhile Mysore state and wanted Kodagu to remain as a model state....