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Far corner of an Indian village: The story of Havildar Surba Tode

Indians had played a great role in World Wars I and II, but they have been largely ignored due to a variety of reasons. Here’s a story of a great grandson’s search for his great grandfather’s war-time legacy.

Cmde Srikant B Kesnur

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The Memorial at Shirgaon village which was inaugurated on 5 June 2015, exactly 100 years after Surba Tode passed away in East Africa.

Today, 28 July, we observe the anniversary of commencement, in 1914, of World War 1 that went on till the end of 1918. Also called ‘The Great War’, it had a profound impact in many parts of the world, including, also, in leading to the Second World War, barely two decades later. These two wars, fought in the first half of last century, saw massive Indian participation. WW 1 witnessed almost one million Indian soldiers involved, with nearly 75,000 laying down their lives. In the Second World War we contributed close to 2.8 million volunteers, of whom nearly 90,000 were battlefield casualties. Sadly, Indian involvement in these epochal events has, by and large, been ignored due to a variety of reasons. However, there have been some encouraging instances in last few years, especially while commemorating the centenary of WW 1 and 75 years of WW 2, when government agencies and dedicated individuals have sought to highlight Indian stories and participation. This is one such human story of WW 1. It is also the story of a great grandson’s search for his great grandfather’s legacy. This author had a small part to play in it. Please read on.

The account begins in end of 2009 in the High Commission of India (HCI) in Nairobi where I was posted as the Defence Adviser with Kenya, Tanzania, Seychelles, Eritrea and Somalia as my area of responsibility. I had, few months earlier, returned from a trip to Asmara, Eritrea, where the sight of a lone Indian sailor’s grave at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery (CWGC) had occasioned much curiosity and an article for a Navy journal. Earlier that year, at Nairobi, I had also taken part in the Remembrance Day commemoration on 11 November and the Gallipoli Day commemoration on 25 April and wondered why Indian participation in WW 1 and in the Gallipoli campaign was unknown to almost everyone around including Indians in East Africa. In December 2009, an email landed at my desk, seeking details of a person’s whereabouts in Africa. Normally, this was an affair for the Consular Section in the Mission but my High Commissioner knowing my passion for the subject of ‘war dead’ promptly sent it to me for action.

The somewhat incoherent email from one Kiran Tawade in India sought the details of his great grandfather Surba Tawade (Tode) who had apparently passed away in World War 1 and whose commemoration stone was ‘somewhere in Nairobi’ as per the details available to him from the CWGC registry. I had a dynamic colleague in the Mission’s Assistant Welfare and Protocol Officer (APWO) Shri Arun Kumar, who too was a history enthusiast, to help me. We scouted all around the picturesque Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery on Ngong Road in Nairobi, but to no avail — there was no mention of Surba Tode. Just as we were giving up, we learnt of another Cemetery, a separate small British Indian Memorial, right off the Airport Road, next to the Moi stadium.

Arun and I visited the place, it was eerily quiet and nobody was there save the caretaker. While it was somewhat shabby compared to the main CWGC, the graves were neatly maintained. This was a different kind of memorial. While the Muslim and Christian Indian soldiers had specific burial stones, Hindus who had been cremated were remembered in the form of a memorial wall with their names etched on them. And there we found the name of Col Hav Surba Tode, of the 101 Grenadiers Battalion. We learnt that he had died on 5 June 1915 before the advance to Rufiji in East Africa. Arun had been prescient enough to carry flowers; we conducted a quick informal memorial service and took photographs of the memorial stone which we emailed to Kiran Tawade.

I thought that was the end of the matter but a few days later I received a call from Kiran. He was an inspector in Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and his first few minutes were a mixture of blabber, excitement and emotional outpouring. I calmed him down and asked him to explain again. “Sir, I cannot believe what you have sent. It is such a thrilling moment for my family and me. For years I had been wondering about my great grandfather and now you have given me this great news that he is commemorated in Nairobi”. Then, he went on to relate his story.

It begins in the 1870s when the subject of this story, Surba Tode (also spelled Tawade), was born in Shirgaon village of Devgarh Taluk in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. As was the practice those days he married early. He was tall, well-built and handsome and had the reputation of being a happy, fun loving personality but did not have a regular job. Possibly realising the need for means of livelihood as well as wanting to have a life of adventure and travel, he volunteered for the Army, sometime around 1892 and was recruited in 101st Grenadiers battalion of the British India Army.

However, it was not a decision that went well with his larger family or wife Draupadi. As it happens, Military was not a very popular profession in the coastal Devgarh region unlike in interior Maharashtra like Pune, Satara, Kolhapur which has a rich tradition of soldiering. In fact, in this place, like in many parts of India, there was a shade of infamy to soldiering as the stereotype was that they often took to bad habits like drinking, smoking and even womanising owing to their being ‘far away’ from wives.

 Army life implied Surba rarely stayed in touch with his wife except for an odd letter or the visit on annual leave. A son, Maruti, was born in 1906 but Surba saw him on very few occasions. When war happened in 1914, his unit was deployed in East Africa where he died in the course of the campaign. Back home, there was very little news of Surba. One can imagine the state of posts and telegraph in small Indian villages. Rumours swirled of him missing or being killed or his running away. Nobody was clear, nobody knew and nobody in that clan knew whom to ask. Other rumours suggested that he had deliberately staged this to desert his wife. Some others implied that he had joined a travelling troupe or some other itinerant team never to return. As Kiran explains “he came to be considered a bhagoda, a fugitive”. He was condemned as an arch villain who had left his wife and family and hence was not deemed respectable. While Surba had died ‘fighting for the King and the Country’ he had become a persona non grata in Shirgaon.

 His wife and young son Maruti Tawde, thus, went through great deal of suffering. Draupadi, an illiterate young woman, was subject to great humiliation and, given the unfortunate social atmosphere at that time, held responsible for the fate that befell her husband. On the one hand she was subject to unwelcome advances and propositions, on the other she was routinely insulted and mocked. When it was suggested to the young Draupadi that she must shave her head as a widow, she ran away with her little son to live on the outskirts subsisting with people who lived in the margins of society’ and often living on ‘roots or shrubs’. In short, they became outcastes in their own village.

Therefore, she missed out on the pension and other benefits that the government bestowed on the family — as all of this was delivered at the home address of Surba. The only thing that the other family members handed out to her was a scroll signed by King George V. That scroll acknowledged the death of Surba in East Africa and paid tribute to his devotion to duty. They had no use for a piece of paper written in English which nobody understood. Thus, Surba continued to face ignominy.

Consequently, the son Maruti Tawade grew up amid hardship and deprived of father’s love or care. He also, grew up, like Amitabh Bacchan in ‘Deewar’, hating his father and holding him responsible for their indignity and insult. A silent compact came up that Surba Tawade was never to be mentioned. Surba’s belongings, memories and the scroll were bundled together in a wooden trunk with strict instructions not to be opened.

Maruti went on to become a Sub Inspector in Maharashtra Police, was posted in Mumbai for many years, he sired seven children and earned both money and respect in society. However, he was a strict father who, while providing all amenities, showed no love for his children and was joyless in his conduct. His resentment against his father was reflected in the anger and physical violence against his children. He returned to village Shirgaon and even went on to become the Society President and Sarpanch. However, his hard drinking and bitterness about family reputation led to an early demise, in 1972.

The documents of his father, Surba, still remained in the wooden trunk and were passed down to Sadanand Tawade (born 1940) the elder son of Maruti. Sadanand had his own struggles in life against a stentorian father. He endured hardship and poverty, shifted to Mumbai, lived through the grind of staying in a chawl with 15 people in one room, went through 16 jobs but persevered. And prospered. Sadanand was meticulous, dressed well and had his grandfather’s happy attitude to life. However, going by his father’s diktat, the wooden box remained unopened.

Our protagonist Kiran Tawade was born in 1980. From his childhood he had fascination for uniform. He did well in studies, excelled in outdoors and enrolled in NCC in 1997. He was keen to join the Army as an officer but a setback in family fortunes and the death of his elder brother in an accident forced him opt for a job at the earliest. In 2002, he was recruited into the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP). He quickly moved up the ladder becoming a head constable in three years and adding to his repertoire of skills.

He was also curious about his great grandfather’s past and the wooden trunk. At last, in 2005, an ageing Sadanand decided that the time had come, to unlock the trunk after nearly nine decades and make peace with the past. Thus, he and Kiran discovered the commemoration scroll issued in honour of Late Col Havildar Surba Tode. But they still had no idea what it meant in its entirety, apart from a fuzzy idea that their ancestor had died in World War 1 because the scroll mentioned no details.

Kiran decided to get to the root of the matter. He had no idea where to start. In retrospect, it might be easy to suggest that he could have contacted the CWGC, the British Embassy or the Army records or the Grenadiers Regimental Centre. The arm chair variety might even suggest a Google search. But 15 years ago, young Kiran was unaware about these organisations or devices. Posted in Delhi, he launched himself into this activity with zeal scouting government records offices, Army Offices (he possibly visited the wrong ones), Japanese embassy (wrongly thinking he may have died fighting the Japanese, thus even mixing up his wars but one cannot blame Kiran) and searching at India Gate where for some reason, his great grandfathers name was not mentioned. It took him four years before an empathetic senior in ITBP guided him to the CWGC website and they were able to get the information that he died in Kenya and is commemorated in a cemetery at Nairobi. But Kiran needed confirmation of this, some palpable physical evidence other than website records. That’s how, to complete the flashback, his query landed on my desk.

Thus, the reply from our side was a culmination of a long search to know the real truth and whereabouts of his great grandfather. The fact that he had died in war, in the cause of the country, meant that the impression of a philanderer who had deserted his wife and was a disgrace to the family was wrong. He was not a villain but a hero. The family erupted in joy.

But it was not enough that his reputation was restored. The family was now convinced that his legacy needed to be celebrated. As Kiran explains “For several decades his heroic sacrifice remained unknown to my family. He had, for no fault of his, earned a bad reputation. However the chance discovery of commemoration scroll and certificate from the British King issued in his honour and our enquiries established that he laid down his life in the First World War. We embarked upon a mission to give him due recognition for his valiant act and dedication to his duty in his native village of Shirgaon. The idea was to erect a small memorial in his name. From our village or neighbouring region, hardly anyone went to war or served with the Indian Army in British India or independent India”.

This began the next herculean journey from early 2010 onwards. Kiran experienced the full force of the ‘Indian system’ as he tried to navigate through several corridors of bureaucracy and government offices. He met and corresponded with the district administration and Maharashtra State Government to seek assistance. This involved several visits to the MP of the Region, the Collector, the Tehsildar and their many deputies and assistants. I too wrote a letter from Nairobi to the District Collector Sindhudurg apprising him of the issue. I don’t know if it helped any. The family encountered the usual ignorance, resistance, obduracy and the standard taunt “But he fought for the British and not India”. However, Kiran stayed resolute.

In 2012, after three years of sustained efforts, the district administration earmarked a tiny piece of land, about 50 sq feet, in Shirgaon, to erect a memorial on the condition that the family obtains No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the 16 village sarpanches in proximity. Kiran, dutifully, visited all these villages, recounting the story of his great grandfather and got them to agree to the memorial. Since the plot was very small, they had to shelve plans for a general memorial for soldiers in the region to a specific one for Surba. As no financial assistance was given, the family decided to crowd source for funds and, to keep matters transparent, established a trust in the name of Surba Tode memorial.

 Kiran and his family had no idea how a memorial looked and what it involved. The design, construction and aesthetics had to be in-house since they had no money to pay ‘experts’. The ITBP helped him source an old rifle and helmet, the family got a glass cage and casting done and a small memorial was thus readied. Through all this time and all these hardships, Kiran informs that the entire family had taken a vow ‘not to celebrate any festival, any birthday, any anniversary, any good event, not conduct any wedding or any ceremony’ until they could finish the memorial. From 2010 to 2015, the Tawade family had one single mission — the erection of memorial no matter the odds.

At last, on 5 June 2015, precisely 100 years to the day, after he had passed away in distant East Africa, a memorial was inaugurated for late Col Havildar Surba Tode, in his native village. The whole village had turned for the function as the ITBP paraded a guard of honour. Many local dignitaries were present and heralded the occasion. The ‘prodigal son’ had finally returned home with pomp and show and his honour redeemed. It was the culmination of a journey, in different ways, for both the great grandfather Surba and his great grandson Kiran Tawade.

Note 1: In order to make his commemoration more meaningful and everlasting, the family, every year on 05 Jun, engages in social service, such as sponsoring meals for villagers, donating books and notebooks for poor and deprived children and going around all villages motivating children to join armed or security forces to serve the nation.

Note 2: The Grenadiers is a regiment of the Indian Army, formerly known as the 4th Bombay Grenadiers when part of the British Indian Army. It is the oldest active and continuing Grenadier regiment in the Commonwealth of Nations. The 101 was the 1st Battalion of this regiment. After Independence, the 4th Grenadiers were allocated to the Indian Army and retitled ‘The Grenadiers’. 101 Battalion was transferred to the Brigade of the Guards in 1952, becoming its 2nd Battalion (2 Guards).

Cmde Srikant Kesnur is a serving Navy officer with interest in contemporary naval history.

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Defence

CADETS OF NCC DIRECTORATE GUJARAT TO BE DEPLOYED AT SURAT IN SUPPORT OF THE CIVIL ADMINISTRATION FOR COMBATING COVID-19 AS PART OF EXERCISE NCC YOGDAN

Ashish Singh

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As the nation is going through the second surge in Covid-19, NCC Cadets of Gujarat Directorate have volunteered to support Civil administration in various activities as part of the Exercise Yogdan II. In response to the requisition from DM Surat, 56 highly motivated Cadets (both boy Cadets and girl Cadets) have volunteered to provide relief efforts and assist in functioning of agencies employed in Covid-19 at Surat. More Cadets of Gujarat Directorate are likely to volunteer as the Exercise Yogdan II commences. Only Senior Division Boys and Senior Wing Girl Cadets of Gujarat Directorate above the age of 18, are being deployed to support the administration as part of NCC Exercise Yogdan II. All the Gujarat Directorate Cadets deployed would be Senior Volunteer Cadets and with proper Covid safety precautions and adequate care. The Cadets have undergone a thorough training on DOs and Dont’s on Covid Protocols before being deployed.

In addition, on announcement of Tika Utsav by the PM , the Cadets of Gujarat Directorate actively participated in spreading awareness about the necessity of getting Vaccinated and following Covid appropriate behaviour, through door to door interaction and circulating a large number of videos and messages on social media. The Directorate General NCC at Delhi has also made provisions to insure the volunteer Cadets adequately. DG NCC at Delhi has been actively involved and focussed in giving the necessary permission for the employment of cadets. Major General Arvind Kapoor ADG, NCC Directorate Gujarat, Dadra Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu informed that last year during Exercise NCC Yogdan I, Cadets of NCC Directorate Gujarat were deployed in maximum numbers which was highly appreciated by the dignitaries and the people of Gujarat. He further assured that all safety precautions related to Covid -19 will be ensured for the Cadets and staff of Gujarat Directorate employed in Exercise NCC Yogdan II. He also complimented the parents to have come forward and given their consent for the Cadets to be deployed.

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AUSTRALIA ANNOUNCES THE INDO-PACIFIC OCEANS INITIATIVE PARTNERSHIP WITH INDIA

Ashish Singh

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Australia’s High Commissioner to India, Barry O’Farrell AO, launched the Australia-India Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative Partnership (AIIPOIP) grant program to help support a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific underpinned by the rule of law and respect for sovereignty. “This AUD 1.4 million (INR 8.12 crore) grant program is a practical initiative to advance Australia and India’s shared vision for the Indo-Pacific”, High Commission O’Farrell said. “Through this program, we are seeking new proposals on how Australia, India and other regional partners can advance our shared maritime objectives”, he added.

 

The AIIPOIP grants program will help deliver practical outcomes under the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI), launched by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 14th East Asia Summit in November 2019. “Australia is proud to be co-leading with India the marine ecology pillar of the IPOI”, High Commissioner O’Farrell said. The first phase of this multi-year grant program will encourage proposals from Australian and Indian stakeholders to share expertise and resources, complementing the work under existing regional mechanisms such as ASEAN, the Indian Ocean Rim Association, and the Pacific Islands Forum. AIIPOIP is an outcome of the Australia-India Joint Declaration on a Shared Vision for Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, signed by Australia’s Foreign Minister Senator Marise Payne and India’s External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar in June 2020, as part of the Australia-India Comprehensive and Strategic Partnership Agreement.

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PROTESTS BY TEHREEK-E-LABBAIK & ONGOING SITUATION IN PAKISTAN

Ashish Singh

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Tehreek-e-Labbaik, Pakistan (TLP) which draws its ideology from the Barelvi sect of Sunni Islam is a far-right Islamist political party in Pakistan, founded by Khadim Hussain Rizvi on 1 August 2015. TLP is known for its countrywide street power and massive protests in opposition to any perceived change to Pakistan’s blasphemy law or disrespect to Allah/Prophet Muhammad. Its first demonstration of street power came to light following the execution of Mumtaz Qadri the bodyguard of Salman Taser, the Governor of Punjab, who killed the Governor for publicly voicing his support for Asia Bibi (Aasiya Noreen). Qadri was hung on 29 February 2016, after which TLP supporters took to the streets across Pakistan, proclaimed him a martyr, chanted anti-government slogans and clashed with the police. A TLP patron, Pir Abdul Qadri, also called for the killing of the Supreme Court justices who ruled on the case and the Army Chief.

TLP, among other extremist religious outfits, was manoeuvred into mainstream politics by the country’s Army brass as one of its tools of political engineering. It was thought that carving out the far-right fringe from the conservative voter base of the PML-N, would damage it in the 2018 general elections, which proved correct & many PML-N candidates lost to PTI, as the voter base of PML-N gravitated towards PTI. Pak Army’s support for TLP was evident during their protest which took place from 8th November 2017, at Faizabad contesting changes in the Elections Bill 2017, demanding resignation of Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid. DG of Punjab Rangers, Major General Azhar Navid Hayat was seen distributing envelopes containing Rs 1,000 notes to the protesters. The ISI then ‘brokered’ a deal between the TLP and the government. Wrapping up the suo-moto case of Faizabad protests, the two bench judge which included Justice Qazi Faez, directed DG ISPR & ISI amongst others to operate within their mandate. The said Judge is now facing various charges of corruption reportedly on the behest of Pak Army & the ISI.

In October 2020, a teacher, Samuel Paty was beheaded in Paris by an Islamist terrorist reportedly for displaying a cartoon of Muhammad. French President Emmanuel Macron defended freedom of expression and the rights to publish such cartoons, after which widespread protests took place in Pakistan, with calls to boycott French products and sever diplomatic ties with France. In November 2020, activists of TLP demanded the expulsion of French Ambassador from Pakistan. The protests were called off on 16 November 2020 after the Government of Pakistan reached an agreement with TLP by seeking more time to discuss the matter in Parliament.

On 11 April 2021, TLP leader Saad Hussain Rizvi (son of founder Khadim Rizvi) released a video message asking TLP activists to launch protests across Pakistan if the government did not expel the French Ambassador from the country by 20 April 2021. On 12th April 2021, after Saad Rizvi was arrested in Lahore, protests broke out across the country, with TLP activists blocking roads and cutting off Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar and Gujranwala from each other. The protests turned violent with reports of stone pelting; at least two people were killed in the riots on 12 April 2021. In addition, TLP claimed that two protesters were shot dead in Faisalabad and Karachi. On 13th April 2021, one police officer was beaten to death by the rioting mob in Lahore, while 40 others were injured. TLP spokesperson Tayyab Rizvi claimed that the number of TLP workers “martyred” in the protests by the second day had increased to 12. A spokesperson of Punjab Police confirmed that two cops were killed by the protesters who used clubs, bricks and firearms to attack them. Paramilitary forces were brought in to assist the local police across various cities including Lahore, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi and Bahawalpur. On 15th April 2021, the French embassy in Pakistan advised French citizens and companies to temporarily leave Pakistan “due to serious threats”. Pak Government formally banned TLP under Anti-Terrorism Law. On 16 April 2021, Pak government blocked several social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and YouTube for around four hours fearing call of protests by TLP. Situation turned extremely violent on 18th April 2021, at Yateem Khana Chowk, Lahore where three people were killed and hundreds of others, including 15 policemen injured in a clash between TLP protestors and police. It was reported that the TLP workers took five policemen, among them a DSP, hostage after an attack on a police station. It has also been reported that the protesters have taken a 50000 litre petrol tanker with them precluding any massive operation against them for fear of collateral damage.

Tanzimat Ahl-e-Sunnat leader Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman has called for a nationwide shutter down strike on 19th April 2021, against the Lahore incident. It has also been reported that that the protesters will march with the dead bodies of their colleagues to Islamabad, demanding expulsion of French Ambassador, release of all TLP members jailed in various parts of Pakistan and action against Pak’s Interior Minister Mr Sheikh Rashid. JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman also supported Mufti Muneeb’s call for the shutter down strike showing growing collusive support for the protests among other radical Islamic groups in Pak. The protest that started over a cartoon of Muhammad in France has brought the entire nation to a standstill. The Pak social media is replete with hashtags like #CivilWarInPakistan, #Stop_Gov_Terrorism, #Lahore, #LahoreBurning, #iStandWithTLP, etc.

There have been widespread reports of Pak Army and police personnel defecting from the forces and openly coming out in support of the protesters. The military-intelligence establishment’s pathological obsession with legitimising groups that provide their own warped-version of Islam, has made the foundation of Pakistani society unstable and unpredictable. While PakistaniEstablishment is trying to enforce writ of the Government& present a positive image to the international audience, given its precarious economic condition, the possibility of the ongoing protest looming into a major crisis for Pak cannot be ruled out.

There have been widespread reports of Pak Army and police personnel defecting from the forces and openly coming out in support of the protesters. The military-intelligence establishment’s pathological obsession with legitimising groups that provide their own warped-version of Islam, has made the foundation of Pakistani society unstable and unpredictable.

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INDIAN NAVY SEIZES NARCOTICS WORTH RS 3,000 CRORE

Ashish Singh

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New Delhi: Indian Naval Ship Suvarna, whilst on surveillance patrol in the Arabian Sea, encountered a fishing vessel with suspicious movements. To investigate the vessel, the ship’s team conducted boarding and search operation, which led to the seizure of more than 300 Kgs of narcotics substances. The boat with its crew have been escorted to the nearest Indian Port of Kochi, Kerala for further investigation. The approximate cost the catch in the international market is estimated to be Rs 3,000 crore. This is a major catch not only in terms of the quantity and cost but also from the perspective of disruption of the illegal narcotics smuggling routes, which emanate from the Makran coast and flow towards the Indian, Maldivian and Sri Lankan destinations. Apart from the human costs from drug addiction, the spoils of narcotics trade feed syndicates involved in terrorism, radicalisation and criminal activities.

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RAJNATH SINGH REVIEWS PREPAREDNESS OF MOD AND ARMED FORCES AMID SPIKE IN COVID-19 CASES

The Defence Minister asks them to aid civilian administration to tide over the current coronavirus situation; gives go ahead for emergency procurement of critical medical supplies.

Ashish Singh

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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held a virtual meeting to review the preparedness of Ministry of Defence and the armed forces to deal with the recent spike in Covid-19 cases across the country, in New Delhi on Tuesday. Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh, Chief of Army Staff General M.M. Naravane, Director General Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) Surgeon Vice Admiral Rajat Datta, Secretary (Defence Production) Raj Kumar, Secretary Department of Defence R&D and Chairman Defence Research and Development Organisation Dr G. Satheesh Reddy, Financial Adviser (Defence Services) Sanjiv Mittal and other senior civil & military officers attended the meeting via video conferencing.

Rajnath Singh was briefed about the measures taken by AFMS, DRDO, Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs), Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and other organisations of Ministry of Defence such as National Cadet Corps (NCC) in providing aid to the civil administration in this hour of crisis. The Defence Minister was informed that a COVID care centre established by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is active in Bengaluru assisting the civil administration. He was informed that arrangements are being made by the DPSUs to buy oxygen plants that will help them in production of oxygen cylinders at a faster pace. The Defence Minister asked the DPSUs, OFB and DRDO to work on war footing to provide oxygen cylinders and extra beds to civil administration/state governments at the earliest. Rajnath Singh called upon the Armed Forces to be in close contact with the state governments and be ready to provide any required assistance. In a significant decision, the Defence Minister directed the Armed Forces and other stakeholders to go ahead with procurement of critical medical requirements under emergency powers of procurement.

DRDO Chairman briefed that a Covid-19 facility, developed by DRDO, has again been made functional in New Delhi and efforts are being made to soon increase the number of beds from 250 to 500. Dr Sathish Reddy informed the meeting that the ESIC Hospital, which was converted to Covid hospital in Patna, has started functioning with 500 beds and a Covid hospital will soon be made functional at Muzaffarpur in Bihar. He also informed that work is on at war footing to set up a 450-bed hospital in Lucknow, 750-bed hospital in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh and 900-bed hospital in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Rajnath Singh was also informed that based on the On-Board Oxygen Generation Technology developed for LCA Tejas, a 1000 litre/minute capacity oxygen generation plants technology has been given to the industry and the Uttar Pradesh government has placed order of five such plants with the industry. Dr Reddy informed the Defence Minister that more plants can be supplied by the industry to cater to the hospital requirements. He further said SpO2 (Blood Oxygen Saturation) based supplemental oxygen delivery system developed for soldiers posted at extreme high-altitude areas can be used for Covid patients as their conditions become similar. The product will be available soon in the market from the industry as per technology provided by DRDO. The Defence Minister was informed that the AFMS has mobilised its man power and other resources in various military hospitals dealing with Covid patients. To augment the manpower if required, the minister suggested to utilise the services of vaccinated retired Armed Forces personnel to assist the civil administration/state governments to deal with the current situation. During the meeting, Rajnath Singh also discussed ways to contain the spread of Covid-19 among the Armed Forces personnel and the officers/staff working in Ministry of Defence. He focused on Covid-appropriate behaviour at the work place, stressing on the need to strictly follow all the Covid protocols such as wearing of masks at all times and maintaining physical distancing.

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Defence

HERITAGE AS LEGACY IN THE EVOLUTION OF INDIA: CASE STUDY OF NAVAL DOCKYARD IN MUMBAI

The Indian terrestrial approach lured us away from the seas which were left almost unprotected.

Janhavi Lokegaonkar

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India is a maritime nation with a rich heritage. History records our oceanic links with other nations of Indian Ocean and beyond from the Harappan civilisation and lasting through the centuries. Indian maritime influence can be seen in all walks of Indian history. Our development is owed to the maritime economy and a gradual advancement of maritime infrastructure along the coastal frontiers. If we are to learn from our history, the biggest lesson is that the Indian terrestrial approach lured us away from the seas which were left almost unprotected. The failure amongst the Indians to perceive the potential threat from the maritime frontiers and percolate a maritime vision and policies among the masses was one of the grave problems that led to the rise of Colonial rule in India. This article highlights one facet as an outcome of “Manthan” or churn of the sea saga of Indian journey.

Under the Company and the Crown, the city of Bombay was developed further taking into consideration of all the physical features it had which gave it an edge. Even with self-gain as the motive, the emerging vision aided colonial officials to analyse the importance of the geography of Bombay and developed it as ‘Urbs Prima in Indis’-the premier city of the Empire.

Today as we traverse the heritage precinct of Fort area in South Mumbai, we are reminded of the lasting legacy that is the built heritage across the city’s waterfront. The Naval Dockyard that stands tall as a custodian of Mumbai’s coastline is a heritage facility in itself. The Wadia Master builders were commissioned to develop this shipbuilding and docking facility (erstwhile Bombay Dockyard) in Bombay in 1735. Today, this is used by the Western Naval Command of the Indian Navy that upholds its heritage and continues to maintain its legacy.

With the Industrial revolution in Europe, change was inevitable. In the wake of Industrialisation in England, there was a paradigm shift in the realms of production. Technology took over and since then it has only developed. Ironically, this phase also marks the deindustrialisation in the Indian subcontinent in order to facilitate and furnish the English industries. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the need for better docking and banking facilities at such a juncture is self-explanatory. The undertaking of construction for new dock building and related facilities was deemed necessary and beneficial for improving the efficiency of the maritime trade and commerce.

Bombay Dockyard and nearby facilities made ‘Ships-of-the-Line’ for the Royal Navy that were considered to be of superior quality and craftsmanship. The skills and nautical expertise of the Indian shipbuilders was a legacy in itself. But, the Indian shipbuilding industry that was once sought after met its downfall as the sail ships were replaced with the steam vessels. Despite such setback, this never deterred the Indian shipping industry. Bombay faced economic repercussions but the indomitable spirit of the city as we see today was blazing even then. After an initial slump in the shipbuilding industry, the Dockyard and other facilities gave rise to a number of other associated industries that aligned with the needs of the shipping sector thereby creating a market for economy with wider avenues. Soon, the docking facilities were equipped and gained momentum as a ship repair and refits industry which made a lot of progress.

Built heritage and maritime affairs intermingle with economic matters-thus creating a legacy and building a stronger future of our nation. A gradual progression in the maritime infrastructure and its resultant impact on the economy has played a vital role in the development of the Indian shipping sector. Promotion of our maritime heritage and traditions by a holistic development of the coastal communities by integrating them in the mainstream policies will ensure the promotion of our rich maritime legacy.

The evolution of the Mumbai city is owed to the maritime economy and due to harnessing of its maritime connect and development of the infrastructure. The role and contribution of the maritime sector in developing the city to what it is today must be acknowledged. The mushrooming of allied industries in the shipping industry is a subsequent factor. The economy of Bombay strengthened which led to the creation of an industrial infrastructure. This was the rise of a modern SEZ i.e. Special Economic Zone, a precursor to the modern metropolis that Mumbai has become today.

Shortly after the World Heritage Day commemorated on 18 April 2021 this week sees launch of a multi-stakeholder initiative to revive maritime consciousness in form of a unique workshop titled “Indian Maritime History : A Manthan”. In the two day workshop, 21 – 22 April 2021, Dr Malini Shankar, IAS (Retd), Vice Chancellor, Indian Maritime University will deliver the Keynote Address while Commodore Odakkal Johnson, Director, Maritime History Society will mentor the proceedings and provide the thematic setting. The contents will benefit students, faculty & maritime enthusiasts. The workshop will evolve elements of an approach towards a long-term facility for excellence in Maritime History as envisaged in Maritime India Vision 2030. Maritime History Society and Indian Maritime University invite an enthusiastic response toward the resurgence of Sea Mindedness through participation, promotion and resource infusion into the journey to enhance influence for greater maritime consciousness in India.

Janhavi Lokegaonkar is a Research Associate at Maritime History Society with a focus on modern aspects of Indian Maritime History

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