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Friday, November 27, 2009

Glimpses of gallantry in the time of festival fever

LUCKNOW: Adjacent to the main cultural pandal at the Lucknow Mahotsava, one heavily crowded stall instantly arrests one's attention. The unusually high footfall indicates something very interesting is happening there. Wading through the anxious onlookers as one finally gets closer, one is accorded a warm welcome by the radiant men in olive from the Gorkha Rifles Regimental Centre (GRRC).

So, what are they doing at a festival meant to showcase culture of Avadh and art from various parts of the country? Pat come the reply from team leader Naik Subedar SK Pradhan: "We are here to convey that we will always stand by them."

And the message is driven home with the display of several types of weapons used by jawans in the real combat situations. Each of these weapons fills one's soul with confidence. Take the example of a simple multi-grenade launcher (MGL). This machine weighs 6.5 kg and is used to blow up the enemy bunkers. The mechanism is that of a revolver and like a revolver, it also launches six grenades in one go. Hawaldar Binod Tawang, who was briefing visitors, said, "it allows us clear the field for the heavy armoury that follows. A single jawan carries it on his shoulders during a combat situation."

The 20 mm automatic multi-grenade launcher is the big brother of the MGL. Weighing about 16.5 kilos, this machine carries 14 grenades at a time. In one go, it may allow clearing a field range of 200-1,800 metres. It requires a unit of two men to carry the automatic MGL. Interestingly the earlier version of the same weighed about 30 kilos. Rifleman Nar Bahadur Singh who used the machine in real-life combat situation in Srinagar said, "the wonder-machine becomes a part of the life of the soldier who carries it."

Asked if he was to use some other weapon instead of this he said, "I am not sure of the circumstances and the orders, but nothing else can give the confidence this one gives me."

The 84 mm rocket launcher also drew the attention of any visitor who entered the stall. This one can blow up anything with 500 metres of its range when stationary. The capability reduced to a radius of 400 metres when mobile. This one is mainly used to blow up tanks. A unit comprising two soldiers is needed to use the weapon as the entire apparatus weighs 16.1 kilos.

Interestingly, what's probably drawing some youngsters to the stall is an opportunity to see what actors use on screen to beat the enemies. Says teenaged Ritesh Mishra, "I feel very good to see Sunny Deol killing enemy soldiers in `Border'.. Now I'm seeing this. I will always cherish this opportunity throughout my life."

Ex-army officer Col AK Saxena feels that the such an initiative may also help the Indian Army which is short of strength. "Children must get an idea as to what happens in a real-life war situation... all these tales and exposure will sow seeds of desire to join the army at least in some minds," he says.

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