Prime Minister Narendra Modi spent Diwali with jawans of the Army, Indo-Tibetan Border Police and Dogra Scouts at forward posts along the Sino-Indian border in Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti in Himachal Pradesh. At a time when tensions with Pakistan are running high, the Prime Minister also dedicated a large part of his Mann ki Baat address on radio hailing the soldiers, saluting their valour, and lauding their sacrifices. He called upon people to remember their gallantry while celebrating Diwali. “In the wake of recent events, our soldiers have been sacrificing their everything for the safety and security of the country. Their dedication and valour has overwhelmed me completely. Let us dedicate this Diwali to our armed forces,” Modi said.
“Our forces endure grave hardships for our security. Someone is stationed in a desert, someone on the Himalayas, someone is guarding our industrial installations and someone is protecting our airports. Everyone is fulfilling a mighty responsibility. If we remember them while being in a festive mood, our remembrance will give them strength and renewed energy,” he said. The PM’s visit to Himachal Pradesh was kept a closely guarded secret until the time his chopper landed at Chango, near Sumdo, a base camp of the Army and ITBP in Lahaul-Spiti.
He later travelled to Sumdo in Kinnaur district, where he spent 15-20 minutes with jawans and distributed sweets. “We had no information about the Prime Minister’s visit. There were media reports about him celebrating Diwali with ITBP jawans in Uttrakhand,” Chief Secretary V C Pharka said.
To the jawans, who raised slogans of “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” and “Vande Mataram”, the PM said: “Because you guard our borders, people sleep at night. If you were not on the borders, people couldn’t have slept.” Modi recalled that ‘One Rank, One pension’ (OROP) had been one of his first moves on assuming charge as PM. “When I asked for the file, I realised the liability was not Rs 200 crore or Rs 500 crore.
It was Rs 10,000 crore. I consulted Army officers, suggesting that the arrears be paid in four instalments. I compliment the Army officers who agreed, and now the arrears were being deposited in instalments,” he said.