Thursday, June 03, 2010

Army Officers - 'Gentlemen'??

Its' amazing - how many different types of scams have been unearthed, in the Army. And one wonders how many of them were buried and remain so..

There were scams associated with food supplies, liquor and fuel purchase, coffins for the dead during the Kargil war, a 'tent' scam, and what have you. Examples of men in uniform, in what is supposed to be one of the most 'honorable' professions in the Country, finding an opportunity to make money on almost anything and everything that the Army buys.

During a major war when hundreds of soldiers died fighting for the Country, there was corruption in even procuring coffins !

Most cases involve Officers and anyone can reckon that the possibility of any scam moving without seniors involved, is small. Some of these Officers were caught. Some of those Officers caught are now fondly called 'Booze Brigadiers' and 'Ketchup Colonels' At one level this sounds even funny. Imagine an Officer compromising all principles in life, risking his job and career knowing fully well the consequences, yet going in for the quick buck, while buying 'ketchup' for the Army.

But here's the 'mother of all scams' Recently a civilian has been caught and arrested for human trafficking in Jammu. He allegedly 'bought' young boys in their late teens or early twenties, and sold them to certain Units of the Army, who then killed these boys to stage a fake 'terrorist' encounter. The objective behind the killing is to display and publicise false bravado and courage, to gain personal glory as well as that for the Army formation to which these Officers and men belong.

The extent to which how rotten personal values and moral character is, has been displayed by the fact that people can murder innocents to get a medal pinned on their chest.

The larger issue is Regimental traditions values and customs in the Army have all been swept aside, under the carpet. Mind you these aren't once off incidents. One hears of a scam in the Army at regular intervals. It is likely that once a scam is unearthed, not all those that are guilty are punished, or that punishment is lenient and not harsh enough to discourage others in future. It is also possible that corruption is extremely deep rooted where a far larger number of Officers from the top to the bottom of the Organizational hierarchy are involved.

There is a good reason why the situation is so grim. Long long ago, the Armed forces in general was a coveted profession. Joining the Army was a matter of family tradition. A son on joining the Army would attempt to outdo his father's achievements while in service. Boys came from families were honesty, loyalty courage, tradition honor were the values en grained since childhood.

Today, the Army is the last choice a young man has to exercise. He would much rather opt for professions like Engineering, Medicine, Civil Services, or an MBA, to prosper economically. With all the bright talent getting 'lapped up' in these segments, what the Army gets to fill up its Officer cadre is second or third rate quality of human talent.

If we want to correct this, all efforts made now will only reflect in the next generation of Officers. The time is to act now, for our Army to become healthy thirty years later.

The crucial elements that will contribute to this 'cleansing process are"

  • A far more superior compensation system. What you pay to a future Officer has to be so attractiv, that for every boy or girl passing out from School the Armed forces are the first choice of profession.
  • With the first in place, a very rigorous selection process. The Army should afford to be choosey, and not try desperately to fill in vacancies.
  • A far more effective publicity campaign that is communicated across the length and breadth of the Country, to attract talent. If we can create communication for a common man to go to the nearest shop and buy all kinds of consumer brands, I am sure we can create communication that is inspiring enough for a young man or woman to see value in joining a profession that offers good pay prospects and a hugely interesting an adventurous life. Of course the Army will remain a profession for the brave hearted.
In the present state of affairs, we only have men who simply wear an olive green uniform. But they are officers nor leaders nor soldiers.

And I wouldn't sleep comfortably in the knowledge that a person who has compromised his morals and has bought bad quality 'ketchup' for the men he leads, will one day actually lay down his life to defend his Country and Countrymen like me.

We need to do some serious stuff and start immediately.

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