IMPHAL, Dec 2: Since 1949, December 7 is observed as the Armed Forces Flag Day throughout the country to honour the martyrs and the men in uniform, who valiantly fought on the borders to safeguard the country’s honour.
“It is the cause and not merely death that makes the martyrs” once said Napoleon Bonaparte. There cannot be a nobler cause than laying down one’s life for the country. At the same time, admiration for the martyrs should not mean that people have little time for the living heroes, who were wounded, while doing duty towards their motherland or their widows and children whom they left behind to fend for themselves.
On December 7, the armed forces observe a two-minute silence at 11:00 am as a mark of respect to honour the martyrs from the Defence Services and also to bring to the forefront the obligations towards disabled comrades, widows and dependents of the martyrs and those valiant soldiers.
During the course of achieving victories, in the various wars the nation has fought and in combating the ongoing cross-border terrorism and insurgency, our Armed Forces have lost and continue to lose valuable lives as well as leaving quite a few disabled. The trauma that the family suffers on demise of the head of the family is hard to fathom. Those of our men, who are disabled require care and rehabilitation, so that they do not become a burden on their family and can instead lead a life of dignity. Furthermore, there are ex-servicemen, who suffer from serious diseases such as Cancer, heart ailments, Joint Replacement etc who cannot afford the high cost of treatment. Hence, they too need our care and support.
The requirement of keeping our Armed Forces young necessitates the release of our service personnel at 35-40 of age when they are still young, physically fit and have qualities of discipline, drive and leadership. Every year about 60,000 Defence Personnel are compulsorily retired. Caring for these ex-soldiers and their families is, therefore, a Central and State Government responsibility.
Many brave-hearts and gallant soldiers from the Armed Forces have laid down their lives in the service of the country. Ongoing country-insurgency operations have also left many broken homes without a breadwinner. Armed Forces Flag Day brings to the forefront our obligation of looking after our disabled comrades-in-arms, widows, dependents and children of those, who have sacrificed their lives for the nation.
It is for these reasons that we observe the Armed Forces Flag Day. On this auspicious day, the services rendered by personnel of Army, Navy and Air Force are fondly remembered. It is the collective duty of every citizen of our country to ensure rehabilitation and welfare of the dependent of our brave martyrs and disabled personnel. The Flag Day gives us an opportunity to contribute most generously to the Armed Forces Flag Day Fund.
Prior to Independence, collection for the welfare of ex-servicemen used to be organised on Remembrance Day, the 11th November every year. This day was also known as “Poppy Day”. On this day paper “popies” were distributed to the public, in return for donation. These collections were organised by the Ex-servicemen Association and were primarily intended for the benefit of British ex-servicemen. The Association however, had the discretions of donating a portion of the collection, for the benefit of Indian ex-servicemen also. As this practice became inappropriate after independence, the Defence Committee of the Cabinet, decided in July 1947, that such collections should be organised for the benefit of ex-servicemen, widows, dependents and serving soldiers, on a suitable date.
The Defence Minister’s Committee decided on 28th August 1949 that from 1949 onwards, the Armed Forces Flag Day would be observed on 07th December each year. On this day citizens and volunteer organisations collect donations in exchange of Tokens and Car Flags, throughout the country.
A concerted effort is made on this day to raise collections from the public. The significance of the day is brought home through electronic and print media. In some places Armed Forces formations and units also arrange variety shows, carnivals, dramas and other entertainment programme. In some other states of India the Armed Forces Flag Day Special Functions are organised at the Raj Bhavans of that State. Token Flags and car stickers in red, deep blue and light colours, representing the three services are distributed to the public throughout the country by the Kendriya Sainik board, Rajya Sainik Board and Zila Sainik Board.
The welfare measures of the Central and State Government level are inadequate to provide support to the disabled, old servicemen, widows, dependants and children. It, therefore, becomes the collective responsibility of each citizen to make his or her unstinted and voluntary contribution towards providing care, support, rehabilitation and financial help to them.
Contribution from public is received throughout the year. The Fund is operated by a Managing Committee. Contributions to the Armed Forces Flag Day are 100% exempted from Income-tax.