Date: 15/03/2013

Indian Army: Decay sets in the last Bastion

1. Is it not very late for the nation to come to this conclusion. Even the hugely visible last Army Chief was more into eradicating Corruption in Army and MOD and modernization of the Army but did not look down at the ground below his stars. It was so obvious to anyone that the Army had nearly reached the point of no return in their degradation by their masters and also in equal measure by their own stars despite their spirit of public bravado.
2. Not that Navy is any different but then it has to increasingly fight its battles from out of line of sight, gun boat battles are out, except in piracy where Navy, too, is lacking teeth like the Americans and the French . And credit must go to the sacked Navy Chief for making fresh entry norms and laying down minimum norms for Technical Degrees and Diplomas.
3. Air Force was always the spoilt child till their former Chief did them in. Nobody knows where they go from here.

Indian Army: Decay sets in the last Bastion.

14 Mar , 2013

The most important pillar of any nation, the Armed Forces, often referred to as the last bastion, under the strength of which rest all others, the temples of democracy, environment of free air and freedom, financial security and progress, fundamental rights, judiciary and many more that we do not realise in our day to day life. It is this bastion that has cracked and begun to decay. The reforms if not carried out forthwith, will soon result in history repeating itself and the nation weeping.

The question, “What has gone wrong with our Armed Forces?”, should trouble us more than the incident of beheading of our soldiers by the Pakistani troops on the LOC.
The latest horrific disclosures of a former Air Chief under surveillance for taking bribe in the notorious Helicopter deal, thus betraying the faith of millions in uniform, will shake the faith of millions if proved true. Well, the story of corruption is not so new but the magnitude is ever on the increase by the day. Over the past five years or so there have been regular reports in the media on suicides and “fragging”. Recently the officers got beaten up by the very men they commanded. Why does the situation develop into an ugly scenario so fast and regularly these days where Jawans gang up and thrash the officers, flushing down the drain our rich traditions , customs and the ethos that we have been boasting about for more than a century?
It is difficult to even imagine what these officers must have gone through, a trauma from the insult and shame of getting beaten up by their own juniors. The country should be forced to think of the larger reasons that have gone wrong. After all these officers were selected and trained into the military ethos which is inscribed in the Chetwood Hall of the IMA, and says,“The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time. The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time”.
These officers who are supposed to love their men more than their families, who were motivated to lead them into battle with a smile and whose subordinates considered their seniors as gods, since the leaders would do anything for their well-being and honour. Then the question, “What has gone wrong with our Armed Forces?” should trouble us far more than the incident of beheading our soldiers by the Pakistani troops on the LOC.
Our PM and the Chief may underplay the regrettable situation in the interest of the nation, and the organisation, by stating ‘that our army is 12 million strong and such small incidents do occur’, a reaction given soon after the incident of 16 CAVALARY in 2012.
Is it so normal and common? Well, by any analysis it is not so. At least I never came across such incidents during my 20 years of military service.
My experience tells me that this organisation is chock-a-block with great fire fighters, where the effort of all is to brush up things under the carpet and trivialise incidents and give a closure by minimally blaming the Commanding Officers.
We, as a nation, need to think, introspect and implement changes to stop this down slide taking place in the “last bastion” of our country. There is an urgent need to understand why the standards of our officers are falling, resulting in such incidents. It is their failure that will be responsible for a terrible and an irreparable damage to the fibre of our Army.
I sincerely feel that the responsibility lies not merely with the armed forces to keep their house in order but with all the Indians to ensure that it is in order.
Our political masters are not bothered and are contented till such time the Army stays in barracks and keeps itself busy internally. The Indian political class, that has virtually no exposure to the armed forces, their routine and functioning, other than a few visits to military establishments and watching Bollywood movies. Hence they lack the required knowledge to steer and initiate corrective measures. The senior echelons of the army who are entrusted with the responsibility to maintain internal health suffer from parochialism and exclusivity who appear more bothered about their post retirement employment and false regimental spirits and loyalties than the real issues.
Armed Forces, “The Holy Cow”, I don’t know why it is always kept under wraps and discussions about them are not open to a larger intelligentsia, inviting the participation of professionals and eminent people. This policy may have been correct during the British era for the European masters who wanted to keep the Armed forces out of influences of the Indian Masses and vice a versa.

The reality is totally different today: citizens’ participation in framing policies that guide our systems, has become essential. The beginning of this change has started and clearly visible on our streets, the society is restless and so are our armed forces. People participation in Anna’s movement and the citizen protests after Delhi rape case demanding change in the laws and the system. This should shake up the rulers before these tremors trigger a tsunami resulting in chaos and confusion which would not be good for the nation and definitely not if the army men join in the chaos. The cases of troops openly showing resentment against their officers should not be viewed in isolation without considering societal reality.

A young man who joins the Armed Forces comes from a society that is seething in hatred, anger and resentment towards the corrupt administration and politicians.

The challenge faced by the nation today needs to be debated by the professionals from various fields of life who would put their brains together and reason out the reforms needed. Whose army is it after all? If we don’t bother then who else will? Unfortunately, unlike the armies of the west where the citizen awareness and participation is far more, where soldiering is highly respected and honoured, this is something beyond imagination in our country.
Our joint family system is finished that in earlier times gave a lot of mental peace and stability to a soldier’s family back home. Unlike the West where the State takes over the responsibility to safeguard the interests of the soldier’s family, in our country the representatives of the government will not spare a chance to fleece the brave and the honest the moment they get a chance. The neighbours and the relatives are always eying the property of a soldier who is away from home and who will not get an opportunity while in service to attend to his needs.
All this leads to mental tensions coupled with the challenges of the service. In the present environment of internet and free media the news about the senior army officers involved in corruption and malpractices that are generally associated with civil servants and the politicians, leave the junior army ranks utterly dismayed.

On part of the officers who generally come from the urban background and were raised by their parents in over protected environment, where group activities like sports and cultural activities are virtually non-existent and attributed to those not academically focused, this leads to deficiency in development of the art of dealing with, and understanding, the group dynamics. Urban life style, corporate culture, internet, media and cut throat competition shape the character and personality of our children who would later join the army as officers. The art of man management which was earlier learnt while playing in parks, streets and vastly available grounds is now a thing of the past.

Any little time that an officer may have, he would like to invest in his professional studies if he wants to continue abreast in the competitive environment rather than wasting time in troop activities, thus slowly and gradually the officers have become virtually invisible to our men.

The Armed forces have not been able to cope with the changing times. The general outdoor culture is on the fast decline, the company and battalion level sports and physical activities that were organised almost on daily basis are nowhere to be seen any more. The immense work load and stiff competition has led to short tempers and reduction of compassion towards juniors by their seniors.
The deliberate ignorance by the military leaders and a steep rise in the cases of corruption in the defence forces is another major reason that has led to trust deficit between the led and their leaders . The incidents in Ladakh and Pathankot may be the early signs of greater troubles in the future if necessary steps are not taken. We have to curb and check scandals like the one involving NDA commandant, bribery case of Canteen Stores Department in Bombay, fake killings at Siachen Glacier, “Ketchup” colonels, attempts to bribe by a retired general seeking favours from the COAS, vast corruption in Assam Rifles, Jhorat’s recent case of extortion of money by an Intelligence officer, a brigade commander taking money for writing ACR of the COs in the North East, like this the list can go on. Such incidents raise doubts in the minds of our troops regarding the credibility of the officers, hypocrisy overshadows the genuine lot.

So where is the fault ? Well the fault is inherent in our character that resists change and refuses to evolve. On the contrary we do not hesitate in subverting the system for vested interests. The officer men gap continues to widen, the good things that we inherited from the British are gradually eroding and dying . In my view, camaraderie, honesty, integrity, service before self, personal example, moral and physical courage are the attributes that a soldier should possess to be a successful and effective military leader. These are gradually being reduced to irrelevant subjects like the moral science . Who is to be blamed ? The Army, well it may be partially correct, but if I may put it, the correct order should be – our society, administration, the politics and then the army. Why the society keeps quiet, why the law makers do not seek answers, why the judiciary keeps mum unlike the other issues of relevance. Why there is silence towards these inadequacies in the Army that make headlines off and on.
In my opinion we need to integrate our officers back into the great value system and traditions of the Armed Forces and simultaneously curb the menace of growing corruption in uniform. There also exists a strong reason for the government and the society to look after the soldier’s interest back home, may be by enacting laws and increasing public awareness.

Apart from corruption that has brought in degeneration to the overall ethos, this organisation unfortunately is also carrying a huge baggage of superseded Officers, JCOs and NCOs as well as medical category personal other than the Battle Casualties, which is equally responsible for the decay . This lot unfortunately gets de-motivated fast leading to wide spread discontentment which is not healthy for the organization. I am by no means trying to trivialise the sacrifices made by these officers and men, but our pyramidal system which has no alternate but to exist, leads to weaning away and picking the best, this is essential for ensuring the winning factor during war. In my opinion we need to graduate from a welfare organization into a through professional organization. By this I imply that we need to scratch the bottom of the pan regularly, those officers and men who are found NOT TO BE HAVING IT IN THEM should be given a golden hand shake or given management or technical training from prestigious institutions or absorbed laterally in civil police, Para Military, etc and gracefully eased out. There can be many other options but by this what the organization will gain is in terms of energy, positivity, morale, and motivation and the pay offs will be immense.

We within the organisation are all aware of the misuse of Military Intelligence funds and siphoning off of various grants allocated to the units and formations in the name of organisation where the line often gets blurred.

Within the organisation a few issues that need to be addressed like the importance and professional relevance of Honours and Awards, understanding the ills of awarding Unit citations and the effects, reviewing the selection process to Higher Courses, all of which make units and individuals do a few wrong to maintain an edge. Over the years there has been an increase in role of private contractors at unit and formation level, be it in the current system of Logistics and supply, Land and Works, OP Sadhbhawna projects, Army Commanders Special Powers Fund. We within the organisation are all aware of misuse of Military Intelligence funds and siphoning off various grants allocated to the units and formations in the name of organisation where the line often get blurred. In today’s age of information nothing is hidden from the troops and our young officers thus adding to the frustration, distrust and disgust amongst them.

Other aspects that has an adverse effect on the psyche of the troops is the five star culture that has crept in the officers class, sense of exclusivity that prevails when the use of resources on welfare is concerned, and to top it all our Sahayak System which reflects the feudal culture and is hated by the troops despite the fact that this is defended and preserved by the officers.

More than the police reforms, administrative and the Political reforms, the Armed Forces reforms is an urgent necessity

Having given an insight in to the areas of termite infestation in the solid plank, which I would still maintain is the most robust and sturdy when compared with other institution of our great nation. The decay however has set in and the responsibility lies in the hands of all us to ensure the cessation of this drift. After all this is our Army?

More than the police reforms, administrative and the Political reforms, the Armed Forces reforms is an urgent necessity. The citizens don’t come face to face with the Holy Cow hence are oblivious to the lurking danger which if not averted may let down the nation at a crucial juncture for which the history may not pardon.