In a developing economy, rapid industrialization and a country well on the road to prosperity, preference for government jobs tends to decline. This has not happened in India so far due to a number of reasons. One, government jobs offer unmatched security of employment, two, seniority overrides merit, three, mediocrity prospers, promotions are plentiful and finally, there is much rent to be collected with minimum risk. Government employees have still not shed the colonial era hang-ups of being masters and not public servants: ego and false notions of status persists.
Within the ambit of government jobs, military has lost most of its shine, because hardly any of the pluses of government jobs apply to this service. Economically well-placed democracies offer many incentives and perks to make military service attractive and somewhat competitive with other job avenues, so as to draw on the right material. As opposed to this, in India, sustained attempts have been made to make this service more and more unattractive, by disadvantaging it in every possible way. Even after spending much money on T V advertisements and lowering of intake standards (in recently held promotion tests 80 percent of officers failed in Part B and D examinations) military has not been able to fill its huge deficiencies in the officer cadre (approximately 24 percent.)
Even after spending much money on T V advertisements and lowering of intake standards (in recently held promotion tests 80 percent of officers failed in Part B and D examinations) military has not been able to fill its huge deficiencies in the officer cadre (approximately 24 percent.)
As country’s economy further improves, less suitable candidates will come forward to join the military but instead will be attracted to lucrative jobs from a wide range of other options, where the intelligent and the more ambitious can realize their full potential. This relegation of military as a profession, which bears on the quality of intake into officer cadre, will eventually impact our ability to face future security challenges: internal and external. Merely modernizing and upgrading equipment and weapons systems, building defence infrastructure etc, will be of little avail, if those who have to strategize and exploit to the optimum their potential, lead troops into battle, do not measure up to future demands of national security.
Much before the Second World War, American government wanted to prune down the defence expenditure by cutting down the strength of officer cadre by 12000. Speaking before the Senate, General Douglas MacArthur, the greatest general in American history said, “ If you want to cut every thing out of the National Defence Act, the least element should be the officer Corps. If you have to discharge every soldier, if you have to do away with every thing else, I would still professionally advise you to keep those 12000 officers. They are the mainspring of the whole mechanism; each one of them would be worth a thousand men at the beginning of a war. They are the only ones who take this heterogeneous mass and make it homogeneous group. ”Incidentally Indian army is short of 12000 or so officers.
Persistently down grading of the military by the government and taking pot shots at it by all and sundry, is considered fair game. If the Army Chief talks of good governance, some MPs, which included later day defence minister, want him sacked. (This was when quarter of a million of his troops was deployed to ensure minimum governance in many parts of the country.) If the service chiefs stands up for their officers and troops against the vagaries of the 6th Pay Commission and the Committee of Secretaries, as a compulsively moral obligation and command commitment, an editor-in-chief of a national newspaper wants them sacked. Yes sacked and no less! For these so called liberals and their warped and constricted understanding of democracy, the civilian control of the military only means, ‘not to reason why, –!’
Persistently down grading of the military by the government and taking pot shots at it by all and sundry, is considered fair game.
When asked whether Indian Army can do a ‘Geronimo’ (elimination of Osama-bin-laden) the Army Chief, says yes, (without naming target/country) the press and a whole lot of others are at his throat. Raising the issue of his date of birth in public, leaking to the media that government has over-ruled his visit to attend the biennial conference of Pacific Armies Chiefs does deliver grievous blows to the institution of the Chief. This periodic targeting the chief greatly irks the serving and veterans. When the home secretary makes a statement, almost sabotaging Foreign Minister’s visit to Pakistan, there is not a whisper in the media or the government! We do have some strange notions of an Army Chief’s functioning in the Indian democracy. On the other hand consider this.
When British government decided to send troops for the invasion of Iraq, Sir Michael Boyce, Chief of Defence Staff of U.K demanded an unequivocal statement from the government that the invasion was lawful, without it, Boyce felt, his troops could lay themselves open to charges of war crimes. Figure an Indian army chief demanding anything even remotely close to such a requirement and do visualize the storm it would generate and send many an editor into a tail spin, in the name of civilian control over the military in our special democracy! It is not only the military’s chief who can be easily targeted, but the military as an institution is fair game to hunt. Sample only a few.
It is surely not militarys job to run colleges for other than its own wards, whose education suffers due to extreme turbulence in their schooling.
Due to periodic transfers, children’s education suffers immensely. To overcome this drawback, military started own schools and a number of professional colleges. Now the Honb’le Supreme Court has ruled that admission into military’s professional colleges be opened to civilian children too. Why then should the military run such colleges! It is surely not military’s job to run colleges for other than its own wards, whose education suffers due to extreme turbulence in their schooling.
CAG has objected to military having golf courses in the cantonments on its own land (class A land) and that golf is not a recognized game! Surely the military can use its vacant land in the manner it feels best and also the games its officers can and need play. It is military authorities concern and responsibility to ensure that their officers remain physically fit and mentally alert. The CAG may not know, but his better half would, who is an avid golfer and plays regularly at the Air force Golf Course, that there is a golf course in the President’s Estate in New Delhi.
The government (MoD) wants to gain control over units and formations private funds. Government created a department in the MoD for the Welfare of ex-servicemen with no one from the defence services on its staff. The attitude of the staff in this department towards the veteran is completely negative, bordering on hostility. At another level their Supreme Commander is in total denial of the painful experience of veterans returning their medals. Anomalies pertaining to defence personnel, dating back to 4th Central Pay Commission are still to be resolved: some two decades later!
The CAG may not know, but his better half would, who is an avid golfer and plays regularly at the Air force Golf Course, that there is a golf course in the Presidents Estate in New Delhi.
These are few cases out of the numerous where the military faces pinpricking and neglect. This constant and needless needling and driving the military against the wall will greatly de-motivate the serving and further dissuade those who may want to joint military’s officer cadre. The most negative image of the military as a career is reflected in the condition and the manner of treatment of veterans by the government. Unless this picture is drastically recast, all efforts at TV advertisements at great expense are a sheer waste of money. Authorities continue to remain divorced from reality and therefore, needs to come alive to the ground situation.
Such treatment, the inherent drawbacks and travails of military life bears heavily in selecting military as a career in India. Add to this the risk to life and limb. With very few promotions, which come rather late in service, and no provision for ‘non functional pay’, which is available to all class 1 central services, few suitable candidates want to opt for the military. Just about 0.02 get up to HAG and HAG Plus Pay Band while on the other hand almost hundred percent of their equivalents in the civil, make it to these pay bands. A government, with a bent of mind perpetually bent to downgrade the military in every possible way and the manner of treating the institution of the army chief and the veterans, does contribute immensely in making this service so very unattractive.
However here we are concerned with making the best of a bad situation and work out means and methods to redraw the contours of officer cadre so as to attract, whatever could be termed as suitable material with the lowest possible acceptable standard? There is the need to recast the officer cadre with much larger Short Service Commission officers. (SSC). This will not only, some what improve the career prospects of the regular cadre officers, but in the long run will be economical to the state and the army’s cutting edge will remain young and vibrant. The right material can only be drawn if this cadre is made really attractive.
This constant and needless needling and driving the military against the wall will greatly de-motivate the serving and further dissuade those who may want to joint militarys officer cadre.
The intake into the SSC should be between 17 to 19 years age and after a short spell of 6 months intensive training, serve for a period of 5 years. Since they are to serve for a short period, their standard at intake has to be rather high for them to fulfill tasks that are likely to be assigned to them and their subsequent assured rehabilitation. This should be done by taking 10 to 15 percent (after some entrance test) into the civil services, another 10 to 15 percent into the CPOs and around 10 percent offered regular commission. Another 10 to 15 percent should be given free education at IITs/IIMs/medical colleges (depending on suitability) with a stipend of minimum of Rs 30000/ per month and the balance admitted into military’s own professional colleges and given free education and stipend, much of which would get adjusted against gratuity.
It is through such incentives, particularly in the field of higher education, that the U.S. army is able to draw on the right material and keep the deficiency in its officer cadre in the military down to around 3 percent. These young officers, with their military background and training, when absorbed into various fields such as civil services/CPOs/business/ industry etc, will be able to bring about, in these fields, change for the better. Military life offers unique opportunities to a young officer to develop leadership skills, learn to innovate and operate and deliver under extreme stress. They also learn to live with risks to their lives and are well adapted in converting adversities into opportunities. Once such a scheme is implemented, nation will be able to draw benefit from this disciplined and dedicated pool of talent, while army’s shortages in the officer cadre will be made up to quite an extent.