ALL IS NOT WELL IN ARMY
By Col (Dr) PK Vasudeva (Retd)
New Delhi, may 18: “The safety, honour & welfare of your country comes first, always & every time. The honour, welfare & comfort of the men you command, come next. Your own ease, comfort & safety come last, always & every time.” Inscription at Chetwode Hall, Indian Military Academy, Dehradun.
Sadly, despite this motto one fails to understand why incidents of indiscipline like in-subordination and jawans rash behaviour against officers, a rarity in the yester years, today is occurring often in the present day Army.
Undeniably, the group clash between officers and jawans in the highly sensitive border Ladakh area with China is unheard of and indeed shocking. The incident points towards certain deep-rooted aberrations in the man management aspects of the Army. The incident sent ripples down the 1.13 million-strong military, justifiably proud of its disciplined ethos and esprit de corps, and the entire defence establishment in South Block.
This shameful breach of discipline in the Army, whereby officers and jawans of an artillery regiment deployed in the Nyoma sector of eastern Ladakh only 45 km away from the Chinese Actual Line of Control (ALoC) violently clashed with each other on 10 May. The ugly brawl ended with the commanding officer of the 226 Field Regiment deployed in Durbuk, Colonel Prasad Kadam, Major SK Sharma and two jawans being admitted to the military hospital at Leh with multiple injuries.
According to reports, it began when an orderly (sahayak) was thrashed by a group of five-six young officers for misbehaving with a Major’s wife. The jawans started agitating after the sahayak was not allowed to be taken to the hospital for medical treatment by the officers. The crisis deepened when the officers ganged up to thrash the unit CO who tried to intervene on behalf of the jawans. Pertinently, raising another issue of how the officers’ were allowed to have wives and families present during a training firing camp, that too at highly sensitive operational areas.
Recall, in 1964, a battalion of the Assam Regiment was disbanded because of acts of collective indiscipline. Whereby, subsequent investigations showed this indiscipline was the direct outcome of poorest leadership and management. Hopefully, the 226 Artillery regiment will ‘eventually be disbanded’, just like the 9 Sikh was following Operation Bluestar at the Golden Temple Amritsar when some recruits posted at Ramgarh mutinied in 1984.
Importantly the time is ripe for army officers to be reminded once again of what former Army Chief General Sunderji wrote to his serving officers: “Dear Brother Officers, it is imperative that we have a totally combat effective Army to support the revitalised India of tomorrow to earn her rightful place in the world. This involves getting the ‘man-machine mix’ right, improving the quality of both and placing them in a structure, which will be effective in the battlefield ……
“However, no amount of modernisation of arms, equipment, tactics and organisations can produce results unless we have the right kind of man in the right state of mind, manning the system. And that is what this letter of mine is about…”
Also, as Field Marshal Cariappa used to say, “Good officers, good Army; bad officers, bad Army”. This is as true in the present day as it was then. Therefore, we need to look at ourselves first, be not only frank but also hyper-critical.
Undoubtedly, the Corps of Officers as a whole per se, has lost much of its self esteem, pride and élan whereby it is becoming increasingly careerist, opportunist and sycophantic. Not only have standards of integrity fallen but worse honour and patriotism are becoming unfashionable.
Raising a moot point: Where are we going wrong? True, all talk about ‘Officer Like Qualities’ and being ‘officers and gentlemen’. This refers to the ‘Sharafat’ ingrained in the best tradition of Indian culture: Of honour and integrity; of putting the interests of the county, Army, unit and one’s subordinates before one’s own.
Besides, doggedness in defeat; magnanimity in victory; of sympathy for the underdog; a standard of behaviour and personal conduct in all circumstances. And of behaving correctly towards one’s seniors, juniors and equals. Indeed, we have everything — brains, bravery, technology, skills, ability et al. All one needs to do is to get our Act together, get moving and then we would be unstoppable.
It has been observed that the inexperienced, vain, ill-bred and inadequately briefed officers’ wives are generally bloated with wrong notions about ‘officer-jawan’ relationship. This exacerbates an odd strain in the working relationship of officers and his men, especially when soldiers perform orderly duties. There have been many such frictions earlier also, but then, wise commanding officers contained and controlled emotions at a manageable level.
In fact, gone are the days when the jawans realm of activities and thinking were just limited to their ‘soldierly profession’ and welfare because of poor education. Presently, with educational standards rising, their awareness of socio-economic and political matters has also attained new heights. While enforcing discipline and managing the affairs of such a comparatively enlightened lot, the officers need to modify and upgrade their handling methods and managerial skills.
Clearly, the Ladakh incident shows the Army in poor light. There has been a complete leadership failure due to poor man management in the Artillery Regiment, which should not be taken lightly. The officers behaved like ruffians with their subordinate soldiers, which is highly condemnable. In the process tarnished the Army’s good name and image.
Furthermore, the political and bureaucratic leadership too cannot be absolved of the blame because of poor working conditions, disparity in pay and allowances and shortage of officers. Scandalously, the Army needs over 14,000 thereby affecting the morale of the troops due to heavy workload and extreme stress on its serving officers. This has also resulted in poor intake of motivated youth who considers joining the Armed Forces as his last priority. Time for the Army to clean up the mess in owns backyard! —-INFA
(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)