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Military discipline: recast officer cadre
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Lt Gen Harwant Singh | Date:15 Oct , 2013 3 Comments
Lt Gen Harwant Singh
Former Deputy Chief of Army Staff. He also commanded a corps in J&K.

Of late a number of units have experienced trouble between officers and their men. The disturbing aspect is that there have been scuffles between officers and men, which was quite unheard of in the Indian army. So what has gone wrong! Some may put to the outcome of an overstressed army and yet some others may point it to changed environments, where men are educated, well informed and observant and therefore, their handling requires an altogether different style and quality of leadership, which by implication is lacking.

It is a well established dictum in the military, that there are no bad units, only bad officers make them so.

It is a well established dictum in the military, that there are no bad units, only bad officers make them so. Therefore, has the quality of intake into the officer cadre deteriorated or there are more involved and compelling reasons for this fall in the conduct of officers and their leadership skills. Are these incidents mere aberrations, in a very large army and are of not much consequence. Therefore, there is no need for serious introspection and initiation of corrective steps. Else if not set right could become endemic!

In the military a unit, be it of infantry, armour etc, is the cutting edge of the whole organization. Its standard of discipline, training, camaraderie depends on the quality of leadership it has and the combination of all these attributes determines a unit’s potential to deliver, both during peace and war. Unfortunately it is in the units where trouble has surfaced.

Indian army is successor to the British Indian Army and much of the customs, traditions and value system have been carried forward. Of the two hundred years of record of the British Indian Army, no incident of troops raising hand against an officer came to light except during the 1957 mutiny: reasons for which were altogether different. So how has this change come about!

During the British period army officers enjoyed status, position and consequently respect that compared well with those in the government. They stood well in the eyes of their troops. After independence, political class being totally ignorant of matters military and bureaucracy deeply resentful of the military, the down-gradation of the latter was initiated in a sustained manner. Gradually and surely military’s status has been lowered which in turn has led to drop in intake standards. Even well after independence a brigadier ranked with the chief secretary of a state and DIG of police between Lt-Col and Col, these equations have been drastically disturbed and the down-gradation has had a deleterious effect on the military system.

It is the very syndrome, “we will fight with whatever we have,” rather than fight to ensure that troops are adequately equipped, which has continued to this day.

Least Preferred

Higher command instead of standing up to the government for sabotaging of the very structure of military’s officer cadre and its consequent adverse impact on the organization, accepted it without appropriate protests.  It is the very syndrome, “we will fight with whatever we have,” rather than fight to ensure that troops are adequately equipped, which has continued to this day. This recasting has led to a state where Lt-Cols command companies etc. Besides this a whole range of other disadvantages have come about, resulting in army becoming the least preferred career option for the youth of the country. Consequently in-intake standards for officer cadre have fallen: even so deficiencies are alarming.

Short Service Commission

Recasting officer cadre is a compelling requirement. The possible structure of such a recast could be forty percent regular officers and sixty percent short service commissioned officers, with the latter group given assured absorption for all, into various Central Police Organizations, civil services etc, with some percentage given reserved seats on management and other professional courses with full pay during the period of training.  Only then can short service commission attract suitable material.

Officer cadre is the very soul of an army and mainspring of the whole mechanism. Troops are exceedingly accurate judge of an officer’s worth and character. Therefore, there is a compelling reason to maintain intake standards. The regular cadre in the army has to be of very high caliber and therefore, the need to pay particular attention to its intake standards. Status of the military officers must be restored and once that happens the whole rank structure will revert back to the earlier system, command tenures at all levels, which are far too short at present and one of the main contributing factor to the existing malaise, will stretch to required periods of minimum of two years.

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Finally to quote from Anatomy of Courage by Lord Moran, “If we persuade intelligent youth to hold aloof from the Army in peace; we ought not to complain if we are not properly led during war.” Over two thousand years of history of military defeats, no country knows this better than India.

Courtesy: Hindustan Times, Chandigarh

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3 thoughts on “Military discipline: recast officer cadre

  1. This article is just beating about the bush, and talking big, covering real issues under the shroud of English Language! The real issues have not even been thought about, and cannot be addressed ever, at present!

  2. Agree that 2 things are necessary -1) to improve the quality of the officer intake and 2) change what do you do with the officer’s body and mind once he is commissioned.
    As long as the army brass continues to live in manicured ivory towers in their respective cantonments dutifully tended by ” sahayaks” and “fatigue parties”, it will be more and more difficult to control the groundswell of resentment that the jawans have against the army brass from building up into a flood.
    Look at how the US Army or the Brits do it -They also have equally well educated guys in the ranks as they have in the officer cadre yet they manage- lets learn from them.
    The generals lifestyle at the top has to change first ……

    • I totally agree with you. It is an insult to use a jawan as domestic help at an officer’s residence doing manial duties.A jawan is the w first in the line of fire and takes a bullet .
      I have have first hand experience of this. Having seen their exploitation with my own eyes There is no doubt that today’s youth is not ready to accept this conditions any more.The system has to be changed

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