To broaden public understanding of Air Force's role in the nation's security and welfare
HISTORY OF AFA
“History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are and the way we are”.
The sheer volume of ancient literature handed down through generations by the forefathers of humanity in various civilizations of the world, leaves one spellbound – considering the fact that there was hardly any systematic way to preserve the knowledge until very recently. The Indus Valley civilization, one of the earliest, which dated around 6000 to 10000 BC, bestowed on humanity a treasure-house of wisdom through what came to be known later as the Vedas. The Brahmanas and the Upanishads followed. The earliest epic poem of the world – the Ramayana comprising 24,000 verses – the Mahabharat. Here, in India, lived men whose minds generated poetic fantasy and scientific study with equal felicity.
DREAMS TO FLY COME TRUE
It took centuries sometimes, for the dreams of those poetic mystics of yore to come true. For example, going back to the Greek mythology, there is the successful attempt of Daedalus, the architect of the famed Labyrinth, to fly. Under the yoke of tyrannical rule of King Minos, he found himself a prisoner – because of his own skills. The master craftsman wishfully looked up at the birds that flew high above in perpetual freedom, and designed wings for himself and his son Icarus to ‘fly from the prison’.
At 10.35 hrs on 17 Dec 1903, Orville Wright was in the pilot’s seat of his ‘flyer’. He was up in the air only 12 seconds and had covered only 40 meters – but man’s dream to fly had come true.
Over the century, flying has developed by leaps and bounds. In just over a century, the speed of the aircraft has increased from 40 meters in eleven seconds to 24 Kms during the same time period, by the experimental x-45 remotely piloted machine. Aircraft has been used not only for pleasure and business but also for defending one’s country. That is how the Air Forces were established in various countries. Later, the aircraft has also been used for attacks and conquests, as has been during the two Gulf-wars of 1991 and 2003.
Indian Air Force has not been far behind. Exactly in the 30th year of the first flying effort by Wright brothers, the India Air Force was established as Royal Indian Air Force (RIAF), since India was being ruled by the British at the time of the formation of RIAF. The brave airmen of RIAF participated in the 2nd World War. The first Indian Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal S Mukherjee was decorated with the Order of the British Empire in the year 1945.
History of any organization not only gives the interesting aspect of the bygone era, it also opens a line of communication between the past and the future. We may recall that Milton too, in his Paradise Lost, indicated the significance of communications and its relation to prosperity, in the line:
“Good, the more communicated, the more abundant grows”
After a hectic active life, when the Air Warriors retire to become Air Veterans, they are still loaded with family responsibilities. They also find it difficult to be conversant with the various welfare measures granted by the Government and other agencies from time to time. The idea of extending the good fellowship and a helping hand to the retired Air Force personnel – irrespective of his rank – was thus born, which finally took shape by the name of AIR FORCE ASSOCIATION.
Two broad common goals were conceived for the Air Force Association (AFA):
(1) To broaden public understanding of the role that Air Force plays in the welfare and security of the nation.
(2) To improve the quality of life of those who have served the Air Force and the nation.
ABOUT THE AIR FORCE ASSOCIATION
“The only force that can overcome an idea or a faith is another better idea and faith, positively and fearlessly upheld”. - Dorothy Thompson
For more than a quarter of a century, Air Force Association (AFA), established in 1980, has been at the forefront of the retired air veteran odyssey. It has indeed been a long journey through trials and tribulations. The journey, however, has to go on, transcending the nook and corner of the country and beyond, creating a niche for itself amongst the ex-Air Force fraternity and generating respect for the services rendered.
At present we are living in a knowledge-based society. But we need a wisdom based society to improve the quality of life. Unless we have more and more people with lots of wisdom thinking beyond themselves about the society, the community, the country and the world, the quality of life cannot be enhanced.
That is where, AFA is playing its vital role - informing the former airmen with all relevant information, giving them analytical power and thus helping them to improve their quality of life.
It has been said in GITA – the holies of the Hindu scriptures that “THE WISDOM WHICH MUST BE KNOWN BY THE OTHERS MUST BE IMPARTED”.
According to the Founder Secretary of AFA, Air Commodore AL Saigal, “The concept of having retired Air Force personnel, right from their Chief to the rank of AC2, was first conceived in the mind of Late Air Vice Marshal Harjinder Singh”. In 1968, an organization by the name of Veterans’ League was formed in the hangers of Delhi Flying Club. However, it died down with the demise of AVM Harjinder Singh. Air Commodore Saigal writes, “I was imbued with the spirit and enthusiasm to take up the project in my hands after retirement in 1975”. “So wrote to the then Air Chief Marshal Arjan Singh (Retd), who was our Ambassador in Kenya, who wrote back in reply that he was returning to India shortly to discuss my concept of having an Air Force Association, similar to the RAF Association in England with a slight difference that our Air Force Association will not include serving personnel membership………we pick up the good provisions of (various) constitutions. The constitutional feature of the Association was quite unique as its President will not be elected but would be the last retired Chief.”
“It was 08 Sep 1980, when the Secretary and Chief Legal Advisor of the Government of India approved the nomenclature as AFA and advised me to take the note personally to the Registrar of Societies”, writes Air Cmde Saigal.
“Many times I was asked how did we choose 15 Sep as the AFA day. While sitting with the Registrar of Societies Delhi State, when asked what date should be given to the birth of AFA, two things came to my mind. Firstly, the Battle of Britain ended on 15 Sep 1941; secondly when Clement Atlee, the Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1947 asked Lord Moutbatten, the then Viceroy of India the date of giving Independence ot India, Lord Mountbatten thought of the date 15 August 1947. Thus the date 15th appeared very appropriate (as the date of birth of AFA)”, narrates Air Cmde Saigal.
“Getting hold of the certificate,” writes Air Cmde Saigal, “I came to the AFA office and rang air Chief Marshal PC Lal (then President of AFA) to inform him what had happened.” “Only you could have done this”, said PC Lal to me”.
“From this stage onwards, we had full support from the then Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal IH Latif. He provided a clerk, a typewriter, two chairs, two tables and a fairly decent room at the Air Force Station, New Delhi. Subsequently, other facilities to run an institution came automatically.”
MEMORANDUM OF ASSOCIATION
The Air Force Association was founded on 15 September, 1980 as an apolitical body with a mandate to basically promote the motto as inscribed on its LOGO. As on date is has 66000 members whom it is serving through its 20 Branches. Out of these, 18 Branches are in the various State capitals in India and one each in UK and Australia. There are three levels of membership, viz;
(a) Life Member
(b) Honorary Member
(c) Member Institutions
There qualifications have been well defined in the ‘Memorandum of the Association, Rules and Regulations – Revised 2003’ as under –
(a) Life Member. Any person, who has served in the Indian Air Force as an Officer, Airman or NC (E) for the duration of one year or more (Whether continuously or in broken periods) excluding the period of initial training, if any, or has retired/released/discharged under normal course therefrom.
(b) Life Member (Widow). The widows of the deceased Air Force personnel are automatically entitled to be Life Members without payment of any subscription.
(c) Honorary Member. Any person of eminence may be invited by the Governing Council to become Honorary member of the Association for any specified period or for life. An honorary member may be invited to any meetings of the General Body by shall have no right to vote.
(d) Member Institutions. Admission to the Member Institution of the Association shall be at the discretion of the Governing Council. After the application has been approved by the Executive Committee, the name of their Institution and number of the members to be admitted for membership, of that Institution shall be on payment of the subscription, which may be decided by the Governing Council, be entered by the Hony Secretary in the register of Member Institutions. The institution may be invited by the Executive Committee of the Association to depute any office bearer (s) or member(s) of the member institution to attend any meeting or function of the Association as “Member-in-Attendance”, without the right to vote or comment on the proceedings of the Meeting. The Executive Committee may also accept request made by the member institution for their office bearers/members to attend the Association’s meeting/function as per the provisions stipulated herebefore.
The Air Force Association registered in 1980 with the Registrar of Societies under the Societies Act 1860, at New Delhi has its principal office at New Delhi. It constitutes of a Governing Council (Central) and an Executive Committee (Central) for its management. The Association may also authorize establishment of Branches, Sub-branches, Chapters of the Association in any State / Union Territory of India or in any other country.
The Governing Council (Central) consists of the following members
- Senior Vice President
- Vice President /Addl Vice President (If any)
- Presidents of the Branches
- Secretary/Jt Secretary/Asst Secretary
- Treasurer/Asst Treasurer
- Six members are nominated by the President out of which not less than four shall be life members and two will be from the category of Hony/Widow members, the President may nominate two more life members to fill the vacancy.
- Six life members elected by the General Body.
The Governing Council (Central) ordinarily meets once in three months to deliberate on various affairs of the Association and give guidance to the Association for future course. This council is responsible to the General Body of the Association for all their activities and decisions.
The Executive Committee (Central) consists of the following members.
- Senior Vice President
- Vice President / Addl Vice President
- Secretary / Jt Secretary / Asst Secretary
- Treasurer / Asst Treasurer
The Executive Committee (Central) is responsible to the governing Council (Central) for its action and decisions.
The Accounting Instructions help to make the accounting procedures of the Association financially transparent so that the confidence of its members is generated and maintained. It is therefore, reviewed and revised periodically to ensure total transparency.
|Old Logo||New Logo|
A LOGO is a graphical description of the aims and objectives of the Association represents. The IAF LOGO, the Himalayan Eagle, with its wing fully spread, is a symbol of swiftness and ferocity. The manner in which it swoops upon its quarry symbolizes the fighting qualities of the IAF.
The old AFA LOGO was the same Himalayan Eagle with its wings raised towards the sky was the symbol of the retired airman. The Eagle was enclosed in a rectangular enclosure. The initials ‘AFA’ were inscribed below the base of the rectangle.
However, the original LOGO was without any motto or any place. The solitary Himalayan Eagle, with the name of the Association below it, continued to be in vogue till, in the year 2004, President Air Chief Marshal AY Tipnis proposed to get it modified. An All Indian competition was held. The modified LOGO was designed by the Honorary Ediotr of AFA, Wg Cdr (Dr.) ML Bala, with the guidance of the then Senior Vice President KB Singh, who suggested that the spirit of the IAF should be maintained in the new LOGO.
It may be seen that the modified LOGO maintains the general design of the IAF LOGO, thus maintaining the spirit of the Indian Air Force. The Himalayan Eagle, with its wings raised towards the sky, is the symbol of a retired air warrior; his ferociousness is mellowed down, but the capability of achieving great heights is still maintained. The Himalayan Eagle occupies whole of the inner space of the LOGO while the name Air Force Association and the date of establishment are inscribed around the Eagle.
The motto taken from Rig Veda, an ancient Hindu scripture. It means ‘Let Everybody Live Happily’ which aptly conveys the role of Air Force Association.
GROWTH OF AFA
Once the basic infrastructure was established Air Force Association started functioning in its own modest way wit the Head Office located at Air Force Station, Race Course Camp, New Delhi – 110 003, and with 9 Branches.
The news about the good work being done by air Force Association spread like a wild fire. There was demand for more Branches. As on today, AFA has 18 Branches and 12 Sub Branches /Chapters across the country and two Branches in Australia and UK. There were only around 400 retired Air Force personnel to start with. The founder President of AFA was Air Chief Marshal Arjan DFC (Retd) the founder Honorary Secretary was Air Commodore AL Saigal AVSM (Retd).
The first important requirement was to disseminate the information received from various quarters, to its members. A “News-letter” was, therefore, started for this purpose in 1984. The first issue was published during Spring 1984. The Editor of this issue was Gp Capt Situ Mullick, AVSM (Retd). The editorial of the maiden issue, highlighting the reasons for starting the AFA Newletter.
In his first message through this Newsletter, the President Air Chief Marshal Arjan Singh requested retired IAF Officers and Airmen all over India to join the Organization to:-
- PROMOTE the welfare of officers and airmen who have served in the Indian Air Force and their widows and dependents.
- PRESERVE the memory and honour the example of those who have rendered meritorious services to the country.
- HELP to rehabilitate retiring officers and airmen by finding suitable jobs or to assist them in establishing industries, business or other gainful activities.
- PROMOTE interest in defence studies and in particular in the field of Military Aviation and allied subjects.
- CREATE amongst the public interest in the Air Force highlighting its problems.
- To further its welfare work, the Association seeks to foster GOOD FELLOWSHIP AND SPIRIT OF SERVICE amongst the members. This combination of WELFARE & COMRADESHIP is the reason for the Association’s Birth.
In fact, it was Air Cmde AL Saigal, the Founder Secretary of AFA who did most of the groundwork. In reply to a letter dated 24 Nov 1975 from Air Cmde Saigal, Air Chief Marshal Arjan Singh (Retd), the then High Commissioner at Nairobi (Kenya), wrote back on 03 Dec 75.
“Being away, I am a little out of touch with what is happening in India regarding the organizations looking after the welfare of ex-servicemen. In my opinion, it is always better to have such organizations on an inter-service basis as they carry more weight with the Government and business concerns. After all, one of their main tasks is to find employment for those who retire from service at such a young age. Air Force has not so far played much part in an organization like the ex-Defence Service League mainly because there were so few IAF retire persons. Now, that there are many in that position, don’t you think that it would be better to support that and also play an active part towards its improvement and effectiveness?”
“I would suggest that you consult the CAS about it so that whatever is done has his backing and proves useful for the welfare of our retired officers, airmen and civilians.”
Air Cmde Saigal appeared to be quire concerned that papers of historical value be preserved for posterity. In one of his letters dated 08 Apr 1980, he wrote;
“I do not suggest that we prompt national Achieves Director to approach our Former Chiefs but I do suggest that we have a collection of such papers and preserve them either at Air headquarters or in the Force Museum or even in our Headquarters of the Air Force Association.”
A number of retired senior Air Force Officers I have spoken to on the subject have shown willingness to part with such papers and souvenirs”.
Air Cmde Saigal also prepared a small brief about the History of the AFA which covers the period from the conception of the association till he left the Association in the year 1995. The write-up, though brief, has been quite informative.
Thus, was started a movement, twenty four years ago, by the name of AIR FORCE ASSOCIATION. It has not gathered any moss since it has kept rolling. In fact, it has gathered a momentum and strength has grown from 400 to over 66,000 ie HUNDRED AND FIFTY THREE times over these 30 years.