Rapid Increase in English Usage: The English language has contributed much to the modernization of the country in terms of scientific and technological achievements, but has also created a big divide between ‘classes’ in our subcontinent. It has also been used as a tool to instill a sense of inferiority complex. In the army, it has created a big divide between officers and men. But undoubtedly now, the English language is seen as an essential vehicle of individual growth and progress. This cannot be denied to the other ranks in the army any longer. It is said that “you change a person’s language, and you change his way of thinking”.
Though all segments of the Indian population are represented, and there is no reservation as such in the armed forces; however this political phenomenon is very much impacting on the army.
Youth Profile of Indian Population: 70 percent of the Indian population is below 35 and 54 percent is below 25. This population has been nurtured in the environment of liberalization in all fields, though it may have impacted in varying degrees in different parts of the country and different segments of the population. Nevertheless, the expectations of this population, particularly the army which comprises mainly of the youth, are becoming more and more urgent and pronounced.
Communication Revolution (Mobile Phones): Mobile telephony has proliferated in the country at an amazing speed. It has not only annihilated distances but more importantly has given a tremendous sense of empowerment to the people of the lower economic strata. For army personnel, who serve in far flung and remote areas, it is a boon and a distraction as well. Earlier, the families of army personnel generally desisted from conveying unpleasant news or incidents while writing letters, which was treated as precious opportunity. Today, the army personnel are in touch with their families 24 x 7. Even minor untoward incidents, which mend in little time, are being conveyed to the army personnel on mobile phones. In many cases, it has resulted in a stress and incidents of suicide and fratricide.
Increasing Affordability of Consumer Items: The increasing affordability of consumer items especially electric and electronics is fast bridging the divide between officers and men with regard to ‘standard of living’. This invariably leads to greater yearning for improvement in ‘standard of life’, which is intangible and psychological in nature.
Automobile Revolution: Just a few decades back, the other ranks found it difficult to afford two-wheelers, but now it is a ubiquitous feature in army units in peace locations. Personnel below officers’ rank will soon graduate to four-wheelers and once they are in command of their own driving wheels, their entire perspective of the world and life will change.
Access to different societies, nationalities and countries is in effect transforming him into a global being. Its biggest impact is on the notions of nation-state. In times to come, it will be difficult to imbue army personnel with fanatical nationalism.
Availability of Loans: The easy availability of personal and housing loans have made dreams possible, which otherwise were considered impossible. It is an asset for all the army personnel, who have fixed and steady incomes. They thus form a very attractive market segment for nationalized and private banks.
Growing Materialism and Consumerism: The growing materialism and consumerism has created a segment of upstarts, who value materialism over character and enduring values. The army as a profession, where sacrifice of many personal comforts and life a such is involved, can ill-afford to be consumed by this phenomenon.
Media Revolution: The media revolution cuts both ways. While it is creating awareness and accountability, it is also creating and destroying personalities and institutions on a daily basis. No institution, no functionary is sacrosanct. When media is unfair and biased towards the army, it hurts and de-motivates the army personnel. With the proliferation and invasion of India, political bias of individual army personnel is something which cannot be wished away, even while the army remains apolitical as an institution.
IT Revolution: The quick access, transmission and retrieval of information is slowly but surely transforming the outlook of army personnel. Access to different societies, nationalities and countries is in effect transforming him into a global being. Its biggest impact is on the notions of nation-state. In times to come, it will be difficult to imbue army personnel with fanatical nationalism. The methods of motivation will have to be more reasoned and informed. Totalitarian states are already experiencing political and social churning on this account, as information and ideas do not respect any physical barriers.
The raising of the economic bar for the creamy layer amongst the OBCs has created a rather piquant situation for officer”“men relationship. We have a situation where a General from the OBC community is entitled to reservation, but a jawans son from the upper caste is not.
The Politics of Reservation: Though all segments of the Indian population are represented, and there is no reservation as such in the armed forces; however this political phenomenon is very much impacting on the army. In the dying hours of the parliament, I watched a debate wherein a Muslim MP demanded that there should be a ‘Muslim Regiment’ on the lines of the ‘Sikh Regiment’. Another MP demanded that there should be a ‘Dalit Regiment’. Probably the Muslim MP was not aware that there are regiments in the army in which there are pure Muslim companies and there are also battalions wherein the overwhelming majority is Muslims. The Dalit MP was also not aware that there are regiments like ‘Mahar’ and ‘Sikh Light Infantry’ composed purely of Dalits. The raising of the economic bar for the creamy layer amongst the OBCs has created a rather piquant situation for officer–men relationship. We have a situation where a General from the OBC community is entitled to reservation, but a jawan’s son from the upper caste is not. This runs against the very ethos of the army, which is a symbol of national integration, and a secular and casteless organization.
Churning of Caste and Class Structure: While there is an increasing clamour by new ‘caste and class’ groups for reservation and there is a bid by politicians to deepen the ‘caste and class’ divide, there is also a definite churning in the ‘caste and class’ structure in India, as evidenced by the waning popularity of caste leaders in the Indian polity, and the increasing number of inter-caste marriages. Sociologically, India is rather experiencing opposite pulls in this regard. The time of non-caste and non-class regiments in the context of the Indian Army may not have come, but is arriving rather fast.