| Veterans now: An army officer interacts with retired soldiers in Ambala. File picture
New Delhi, April 3: The Indian Army that has zealously guarded the colonial traditions bequeathed by the British in its parlance is now injecting a dose of Americanism into its military jargon: its old soldiers will now be called “veterans” ' and not “retired” or “ex-servicemen” ' in the fashion of the US.
In Hindi, the “veterans” will be called “gaurav senani”.
So, just as the Americans have “World War vets” and “Vietnam vets” and, of course, increasingly, “Afghan vets” and “Iraq vets”, India’s ex-servicemen of the three services will qualify to be called “1971 vets” or “65 vets” or “62 vets” or “Kargil vets”.
Though the British have also increasingly started calling old soldiers “veterans”, it was the US that used the word first to designate ex-servicemen. But the new phrase also comes in vogue when the Indian and American military establishments are closer than they have ever been before with exchanges of personnel, joint drills and trade in equipment scaling new heights every year since 2002.
To drive home the change, the Adjutant General ' itself an office and a designation from the British colonial past ' will be travelling across army establishments in the country.
Lieutenant General A.S. Jamwal, the holder of the office who sports an impressive handlebar moustache reminiscent of many British officers in World War II, will be announcing the change of nomenclature and opening of “Veterans Hostels” in Delhi, Dwarka, Pune, Bangalore and Jammu to start with. He will also be meeting widows of army personnel.
An army spokesman, asked if the government was also considering ' like the Americans ' a “Veterans’ Day”, said for the moment army headquarters was proposing to set up a National War Memorial near India Gate.
On average, about 55,000 armed forces personnel ' 50,000 from the army alone ' get out of soldiering every year. More than 15 lakh “veterans” and 3 lakh widows are registered with the zilla sainik boards. The government has allocated Rs 13,224 crore for defence pensions and retirement benefits in 2006-2007.
The chiefs of staff committee, comprising the army, navy and air force chiefs, has decided that the nomenclature of soldiers who leave the services needs to be changed not only as a mark of respect but also because most military personnel get out of uniform at an age when they are still fit enough for employment in other sectors.