Indian security forces keep on marching on their stomach

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INDIA-PAKISTAN-ARMY

Recently the countrty was shocked to view the series of videos posted by Tej Bahadur Yadav of 29 Battalion BSF, deployed in J&K. The post alleged that the quantity of food served to the men in his unit was neither sufficient in quantity nor of good quality and the rations meant for them were being misappropriated by the officers. The video went viral and understandably the anger of the common man erupted soon. It was followed by similar posts by some CRPF soldiers and most shockingly by the army jawans  going online to voice their grievances alleging shabby treatment to the sahayaks/sewadars of army officers. Retired officers and men of the paramilitary and armed forces were very upset and have been giving their angry reactions to many newspapers and TV channels since then. This sudden turn of events baffled the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), prompting the Union Minister Rajnath Singh to promise an impartial enquiry while the BSF went into the defensive mode with its crude attempts to shoot the messenger through character assassination. It is for the first time in the history of independent India that men of the Security Forces have displayed their resentment with service conditions in public. All governments are in the habit of instituting enquiries and fact-finding committees when they fail to find a solution to any problem. That is exactly the case in present situation also.

The quote, “An army marches on its stomach” is recorded in The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable and is attributed to both Napoleon Bonaparte and Fredrick the Great. The quote is documented in, Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier by Jacob Walter. Though it refers basically to keeping the soldier well-fed, it attests the importance of forces being well-provisioned in general. It is well-known that no war can be won on an empty stomach and the persons who are called upon to handle the security of the nation must be given enough good quality food and be provided with reliable body gear and weapon systems. A recent report submitted by the Army Design Bureau reinforces the famous statement. It has highlighted 50 problems that need to be tackled; improving the quality of food served to troops is one of them. The report says that the supply of food that suits the palate of the soldiers will, “tremendously enhance the motivation level.”It is heartening to note that the new COAS has promised to act quickly.

In the recent past,the virus of unethical conduct and corruption seem to have affected our security forces

It seems Indian Security Forces are passing through a difficult phase as they fight battles on many fronts; mismanagement of human resources , corruption in their rank and file and acute shortage of officer cadre in armed forces due to an unprecedented and unabated exodus. It is a clear that no system, even when designed to be fool-proof, can remain so in hands of those who have to implement it. Our Security Forces in general and Army in particular, has a fairly good record as far as this is concerned. However, it has been observed in the recent past that the virus of unethical conduct has broken the solid barriers of our Security Forces. Courage, morality and integrity have been the major causalities and sycophancy and hypocrisy have replaced values considered the basis of its very existence. Many retired senior officers would like us to believe that an unreasonable and unfair treatment is being given to the officers involved in unethical practices because of the age-old rivalry and one-upmanship between the Forces and the Babus. No one can deny the fact that Babus are not well-wishers of the Security Forces and have always tried to put them down, however stretching the argument to every case whenever the Security Forces are accused of misuse, mismanagement and misappropriation would be unfair to them. It is a stark reality that many officers intoxicated with authority (and power)  treat their sphere of action as their fiefdom and misuse official position for personal gains. Such leaders, whether at junior or senior levels sully the fair image of Security Forces, which a common man expects to stand out as efficient, incorruptible organizations that reflects fair play and good values worthy of the respect of the lesser mortals.

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Courage, integrity, self-esteem, dignity and moral values of life have been major causalities for most of the civilians for decades; unfortunately security forces too have become a victim of this contagious disease. It is not possible to insulate the armed forces from the society, however when a soldier who is looked up to by the society as an island of excellence in a rotten system moves away from the golden path of ethical conduct, he spreads a very foul smell. This point is illustrated by a Latin phrase, “Corrupti optimi pessima” (the corruption of the best is the worst) and William Shakespeare’s sonnet XCIV-lilies that fester, smell far worse than weeds.

Public discussion on matters raised by soldiers of various forces has tarnished their fair image and should be a matter of great concern for the entire nation. It is high time that a new concept of ethics and discipline is evolved for the armed forces in view of the changed operating environment. Accountability of leadership towards the troops they command must be established. In recent past, the image of the Security Forces has been taking a beating by the day. In earlier days, it was for professional incompetence or for any other reason but corruption. However, recent happenings in which some senior army officers behaved like the acknowledged corrupts ie the bureaucrats and politicians. It is most unfortunate that an attempt is being made by certain sections of the media to show the Security Forces, the protectors of the nation, in bad light by projecting them as corrupt as the rest of the nation. Till a decade back associating the word corruption with Forces was considered a taboo as print and electronic media felt it could demoralize them. However, today, our print and electronic media are competing with each other to use every turn and twist in news of corruption connecting them and discrediting them.

While no one can justify what has been happening and all right-thinking persons with or without the background of Forces, hang their heads in shame in the face of such disgraceful allegations .But confusing a few black sheep with all the Security Forces is neither right nor acceptable. It is not possible to isolate the Army from the avalanche of deterioration and degeneration of moral fiber and character that has been accepted by the society as our fate for years. Very few ever take pride in being upright and having the conviction of talking straight. Perhaps, misuse and mismanagement of human and material resources is one important issue as far as the image of the Army is concerned. The civilian has not openly criticized it till now because he had very limited knowledge about it and he did not want to be dubbed as unpatriotic and anti-national. Army has refused to have a cold look at all the well known facts about mismanagement as it is convenient for it to project these as non-issues. However, lack of direction and coherent policies for curbing and mismanagement have been responsible for the sad, steep fall in overall standards of the Security Forces as professional organizations. Mismanagement pertains to incompetent and unprofessional planning, decision-making and problem-solving and is a bigger and larger sin as compared to misuse. Many who mismanage do so out of sheer conviction that what they know is all there is to know and hence they can never go wrong. Mismanagement in Army often stems from disturbance of equilibrium of the brains of specific individuals, caused generally due to plain incompetence and/or freak/and fluke promotions. This invariably results in hallucinations of greatness, resulting in an unrealistic behavior pattern and flawed decision-making. Misuse may be seen as a corollary to mismanagement. It is a personalized sin and pertains to either oneself getting undue and unethical benefits or willfully permitting others of one’s choice to do that. Personal misuse by seniors is aided and abetted by the juniors, as a matter of fact, the misuse by seniors and juniors is complementary to each other as seniors ignore the misuse by juniors so that they (juniors) bend backwards to meet any of their illegitimate demands. Organized misuse and mismanagement of all resources is made easy due to flaws and inadequacies in our structures and general lack of sensitivity and national pride.

Mismanagement of human and material resources is one important issue as far as the image of the Army is concerned

No committees or fact-finding panels are required to ‘reveal’ that most of the problems related with any unusual behavior by the jawan is due to the fact that junior and middle-rung officers do not understand and use “back to basics” principles of managing human resources. There is a need to go into the genesis of the problem to find the solution keeping in mind that the security forces of any nation are the reflection of the society they represent rather than look for ‘quick fixes’. Discipline is the bed-rock of Security Forces of any nation and one must accept that while there are many great units, great soldiers and great officers in security systems of any nation, the fact is that discipline in the forces across the globe has declined steadily over the years due to various reasons. The jawans have certainly crossed the Lakshman Rekha by going public for their grievances and they must be suitably punished for the indiscipline under the existing laws. But more important is going in to the genesis of the problem and designing system of grievances handling which is simple to follow in the present operating environment. Many tend to understand ethics in a very narrow and limited sense; it relates only to honesty and integrity in financial conduct. In fact, it relates to moral rules and beliefs about right and wrong in any situation, as such ethical behavior begins with good thoughts and deeds. We are a deeply religious people and believe in karma and the karmic debt. In that sense ethics becomes more important than any religion one may follow. Perhaps the services of retired officers/JCOs and men who possess compassion, maturity and experience can be used to counsel, educate and motivate those in uniform in stations wherever they are available. Modern day life style inflicts special type of stress and strain on society which is sure to have its adverse impact on the security forces.

It must be accepted that the officer cadre cannot escape the responsibility for any hostile and unwarranted behavior of the men they command. There is a definite need to hire the services of combat psychologists for counseling advice to officers. All training establishments must pay special attention to handling combat battle fatigue and stress as also the “society induced “ stress in their curriculum .Training and management of the men in security forces must be based on the emerging human sciences like emotional intelligence and spiritual intelligence rather than the traditional concepts of izzat of self, unit/regiment and country only. The men must be made to do only what they are trained for. They are bound to take pride in such professional commitments. We know that any effort to keep the soldier as a lotus in the waters of society which stink with scams and grafts is bound to fall flat unless and until our men are given the leadership they deserve , leaders who they can look up to and emulate in personal and professional conduct . Sending the right message to an intelligent soldier of today is the right thing to do. Politician has an obligation to create situations favourable for young leaders and the soldiers to develop their ethical attitude.

What has gone wrong with our security forces which are rated very high and are perhaps one of the best in the world? The simple answer is that the leadership at different levels has not moved with the times; they still believe that they can command the men by sitting in offices and enjoying all the privileges while denying the men what is their right. No one can deny the fact that social, economic and educational environment of the society and the operating environment of the security forces have undergone drastic changes. We also have a more fearless print and electronic media and the social media plays a major role in unfolding the events. But these are the factors which are beyond the control of the leaders, what is within their control is their own conduct. Security forces have tradition of impeccable integrity and self-less service in tune with the fundamentals of code of conduct provided by the famous words of Field Marshal Sir Philip Chetwode inscribed on the walls of Indian Military Academy., “Safety, honour and wellbeing of your country comes first always and every time. The safety, comfort and wellbeing of the men you command come next. Your own safety, comfort and ease comes last always and every time.”
Those who do not recognize the virtues of the above advice are professionally dishonest. Corruption is not only getting personal benefits, it does include helping others to get unfair and unreasonable benefits out of a system it is one’s responsibility to take care of. Applying this yardstick, it is clearly a case of corruption and deserves to be treated as such Corruption is the bane and shame of our nation but certain organizations and institutions have to be protected against it at any cost. We cannot accept the same state of affairs in Forces as what happens anywhere else, just because corruption is all pervasive and many feel complaisant by merely calling it a ‘global phenomenon.’

Lack of coherent policies to curb mismanagement is blamed for steep fall in standards of Security Forces as professionals

Undoubtedly the unfortunate state of affairs has tarnished the fair image of the Security Forces but this does not give the license to anyone to decry the large percent of those who are honest, upright and have dedicated themselves to the cause of their motherland. Let us not forget that even in the land of heroes, there are bound to be some who sell their soul for a few silver coins. At the end let me remind all those who are fortunate to become leaders of men who fight for the security and honour of their country what Guru Gobind Singh, the great philosopher-warrior asked Lord Shiva to grant him in his ode to Goddess Chandi. This is indeed the most befitting end to a warrior’s life.

O Lord, these boons of Thee I ask,
Let me never shun a righteous task, Let me be fearless when I go to battle,
Give me faith that victory will be mine,
Give me power to sing Thy praise,
And when comes the time to end my life,
Let me fall in mighty strife.

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