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'My uncle told Mrs Gandhi the PVC is not for officers, but soldiers'

'My uncle told Mrs Gandhi the PVC is not for officers, but soldiers'

The Rediff Special/ Rangarajan Kumaramangalam
Rediff on Net
March 14, 2000
Title: 'My uncle told Mrs Gandhi the PVC is not for officers, but soldiers'
Author: The Rediff Special/ Rangarajan Kumaramangalam
Publication: Rediff on Net
Date: March 14, 2000

General P P Kumaramanaglam, who had the distinction of becoming the chief of army staff, was the last of the officers from the old school of Sandhurst. He was awarded the Victoria Cross in recognition of his contribution to World War II. He went on to become chief of staff of the Indian army, and his contribution is well remembered by the men in uniform even today.

When Mrs Gandhi's government offered him a Param Vir Chakra since all the chiefs of staff were being given this honour, he politely turned it down. He told Mrs Gandhi that the PVC was meant to be given to soldiers whose services are recognised for their bravery while keeping a vigil on the borders, and not to officers sitting in the army headquarters.

This is the level of principles and commitment that he held in life. Unfortunately, the last couple of years were a bit difficult for him. He was very fond of horses and had his own stud-farm near Bangalore. He was an upright officer who was known for his straight-forwardness.

I also wanted to join the Indian army like him, but events took a different turn and I went on to become a politician, like my father. My uncle was the eldest of three brothers, and all of them excelled in their respective fields. He became the chief of staff; my father was the youngest to become a Union minister; and the third brother was the chief executive of Coal India Ltd.

They were all committed to their principles and they were all committed to the nation. When I was in the Congress party my uncle would always tell me that he did not like the party in which I was. He was all praise for the Swatantra Party, the Jan Sangh, the BJP.

He used to believe in free market, while his two brothers were socialists by conviction. When I told him that I was going to join the BJP he was the happiest man. He patted me on my back and told me to go ahead when I had a few doubts in my own mind. Of course, Jaswant Singh was very close to him personally.

His ideological moorings were close to strong nationalism, and he also held a socialist outlook on life. He was disciplined. He was very meticulous in his approach towards things in life. He believed that if the command given by the officers meant sacrificing something, then the order had to be obeyed. He often said that while the army was doing its bit, the bureaucrats were neglecting their duty.

He loved riding, and this passion was passed on to his daughter. Roshan, my cousin, was one of the best show-jumpers during her time and now his grand-daughters are carrying on the good work. The beauty about my uncle was that he was a very understanding and affectionate person. He was disciplined and committed in life. This is a rare combination that one gets to see these days.

Union Minister Rangarajan Kumaramangalam spoke to Onkar Singh

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