The Ministry of Defence is facing a shortage of more than 16 lakh service medals in the Armed Forces, which are to be given to the soldiers for their distinguished service. This has forced the Ministry to buy duplicate ones from the open market.

According to information provided by the Ministry, 1,682,577 Service Medals are pending for issue to Army, Navy and Air Force, as on 31 December 2016. As per information, only 168,268 medals were supplied to the Armed Forces in the last four years—from 2013 to 2016.

This revelation came from Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre, in a reply to query of Rajeev Chandrasekhar, in the Rajya Sabha.

Speaking to this newspaper, Chandrasekhar, who has been fighting on soldiers’ issues, said: “Soldiers are the most important part of the MoD. For many years, the government’s priority has been to buy equipment and fancy helicopters and not enough focus was given on actual men who fight, and their families. They fight on the concept of izzat (honour).  and medal is a symbol of that honour. This izzat is the basic motivation for them. But sadly this has been low on priority because of bureaucratic apathy and the soldiers are forced to buy the medals from market. I hope the government will look into what soldiers expect.”

A source said, due to late delivery of these medals, many soldiers are forced to buy duplicate medals, which are available in the open market. For example, in Delhi, one can easily get duplicate medals from Gopinath Bazar in the Cantonment area.

Brigadier Bhagwan Singh, chairman of All India Ex-Services Association, told The Sunday Guardian that there was no proper system of making these service medals available. “Many of the soldiers do not get the medal when they should be getting it. I fail to understand why the orders for these medals cannot be given in advance as every year a large number of soldiers become eligible for one or the other medal. There should be a systematic approach to ensure that these medals are available on time.”

Admitting that the government was facing a short supply of the service medals, the minister said the Directorate of Military Regulations and Forms (DMR&F) has been “persistently” and “vigorously” making efforts to clear the backlog. “Two proposals for procurement of 760,000 and 989,600 medals are already in the pipeline,” he said in the reply.

He further said that keeping in view the requirement of medals during the last three years, procurement proposals in anticipation of demand are proposed to be moved by the DMR&F.

The procurement of service medals by the DMR&F is done on the requisitions received from 60 record offices of Army, Navy and Air Force, which is a continuous process. Normally, it takes 23 weeks to clear one procurement proposal.

Soldiers are awarded medals for bravery, distinguished service and other landmarks in their military careers.

Sources, however, said there was no shortage of medals awarded to soldiers for gallantry, presented by the President of India, during investiture ceremonies. But the problem is with the other awards which soldiers are entitled to after completing a certain number of years in service, serving in difficult parts in some operation.

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