Terming Rahul Gandhi’s walkout from the parliamentary defence committee as totally justified, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday urged the Speaker to look into the working of the committee, which he dubbed as `absurd’, with members discussing the type of polish to be used on buttons and shoes of the uniform instead of strategizing on ways to counter the joint China-Pak threat.“With both China and Pakistan breathing down India, the committee should have been discussing strategic security issues and the urgent requirements of our forces and not the polish they need to shine their shoes and buttons,” said Captain Amarinder, himself an ex-Army man with extensive knowledge and experience of security issues as well as the workings of such panels. “People who know nothing of the defence forces are made to sit on these committees now and we expect them to protect the nation,” said Captain Amarinder, expressing shock that political affiliations were guiding the functioning of the panel, whose chairman probably had not even ever been part of the NCC.Politicians with no knowledge of our history and armed forces are sitting in the committee, he remarked, adding that the chairman should understand that what is done or discussed in these committee meetings is in the larger interest of the nation and he should not behave in such a petty manner. Slamming the functioning of the present committee, the Chief Minister said he felt ashamed of the level to which it had reached. “For God’s sake, think about our forces, think about the country,” he appealed, asserting that Rahul was right to walk out of the meeting which, rather than talking about what the forces need to combat the threat of China and Pakistan, who are friends, was discussing trivial issues.
Underlining the need to raise the level of debate in these meetings, the Chief Minister said this is not the forum to discuss what Brasso is needed to polish uniform buttons and shoes, and make issues out of non-issues. He stressed that senior army officers attend the committee meetings not to talk about petty matters but to discuss more vital subjects of national security and the concerns of our forces, who are fighting out there every day, and losing their lives. “What are you doing for them? What are you giving them for their living, their clothing, food, arms, ammunition? This is what the committee needs to discuss,” he added.The way Rahul and other Congress members were treated was atrocious, said Captain Amarinder, citing reports that the party MP was not allowed to speak. He recalled his own experience as a member of the committee, once when Indira Gandhi was chairperson and on another occasion when Major General BC Khanduri led the panel. “We were allowed to speak freely” he said, pointing out that even Indira was the defence minister and understood the needs of the armed forces. What is being done now is an attempt to end those cherished traditions, the Chief Minister lamented.The Chief Minister pointed out that Rahul had wanted to discuss more important and larger issues, but was not allowed to speak. Instead of discussing operational and larger issues, such as the equipment and food that our jawans at the borders have or do not have, “the committee was discussing buttons and badges and uniforms,” he quipped. “What is this nonsense?” asked Captain Amarinder, adding that the committee has become a joke, with one member even reportedly suggesting that all the three forces should have the same uniform. Such type of people should at least read before coming for meetings, they should know the ethos and history of the Army, the Navy and the Air Forces, he said, adding that each regiment has its own history, its own insignia. “By talking about changes in insignia and uniforms, are we trying to raise the morale of our forces or are we demoralizing them?” he asked, adding that uniforms are the job of the army headquarters, not of the parliamentary committee.Recalling that his own former regiment was formed in 1846 and had 26 battle honours, Captain Amarinder asked “should we forget about them and the sacrifices?”. These people don’t understand what they speak and say, and don’t let others speak, he added.