His eyes lit up when he recalled the three wars he fought, one with China and two others with Pakistan.
“I should have been killed during the three wars,’’ said group captain (retd) DK Dass who flew the Hunter aircraft and was the first pilot to bomb the lead enemy tank, destroying three others, and causing a huge blow to Pakistanis’ morale. But, it was then. Being asked about the present scenario, Dass returned, “The personnel have been treated shabbily over the years. Though we are among the most technically qualified professionals, our status is downgraded.”
He was among the 200- odd serving and retired Air Force personnel gathered at the College of Air Warfare to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Indian Air Force (IAF). Many of the city’s own war veterans shared their experiences and interacted with young officers.
“The armed forces are not being taken into confidence while formulating policies, but everyone expects us to pull the country out of mess whenever there is a trouble. People are not aware of the defence requirements and there is a need to educate them. If there is no support from public, what are we fighting for?” he wondered.
Vir Chakra awardee Dass was only 32 when he fought the famous battle of Longewala in Jaisalmer during 1971 Indo-Pak war. Settled in the city, the 73-year-old ex-serviceman, who hails from West Bengal, said that Jaisalmer would have been a part of Pakistan, if the IAF had not stopped Pakistani tanks.
Warrant officer M Ravindranathan, who served the country between 1962-88, said, “During our days, defence would be the last option to make a career in. But now, it is one of the most lucrative jobs.”