Pick up the baton to build the nation

Pick up the baton to build the nation

Half a century ago, the famous American President John F Kennedy had raised a slogan, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” This call to the conscience was never as relevant in history as it is today for the Indian youth. Sixty three years after gaining independence, India stands out as a fast-growing economy, a nuclear power, producer of some of the greatest brains, and a civilised secular nation.

For all the criticism that we throw on politicians, this generation that has elected stalwarts like Dr Abdul Kalam, Pratibha Patil and Dr Manmohan Singh to the highest offices of the country. With these luminaries, and many other highly capable ministers, secretaries, commissioners, and intellectuals, at the head, what the country needs now is a fresh batch of young men and women who will build up the core of the vital sectors of military, civil services, planning, policing and mentoring the next generation.
If you are at the crossroads of your life in terms of career, and have already been woken up by the uncertainties of the financial recession, this is the time to pick up the baton, and take the lead.

Military service
Obviously, the most courageous and valiant career to serve the nation is through Military service.  There is a shortage of officers in all three wings – Army, Air Force and Navy. Yet, the military will not dilute its quality of officers, hence you will be able to get in only if you match the rigorous conditions set for selection. Entry is through National Defence Academy, (as soon as you have finished your 12th with a first class), or through various other selection exams held for graduates in any stream, for engineers, for lawyers, for educators, doctors etc. The Sixth Pay Commission has greatly enhanced salaries and pension for military officers, hence you will not only be serving the nation with pride, but will also get a decent remuneration, unlike in the past. And remember that you will be looked after for life, long after you have retired, not only by pension, but also medical benefits, canteen facility, housing, welfare, etc.

The military not only fights wars, but also carries out dare-devil rescue operations, flood and famine relief, rehabilitation of refugees, anti-terrorist missions, training youth through NCC, etc. Remember Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, National Security Guard (NSG) Commando from Bangalore, who sacrificed his life in a courageous air-drop mission to eliminate the terrorists on 26/11 in Mumbai – there are so many such courageous activities being undertaken day in and day out, away from public glare, but with the immense satisfaction that they are protecting the nation in all ways. Also keep in mind that in its entire history, India has never invaded any foreign land – hence you will be joining a military that has held an impeccable moral record.

Police force
The police force is another career by which exemplary young men and women can serve the nation. Unlike what some people think, most IPS officers are corruption-free, independent of political links, and fully dedicated to their duty. If you qualify in the Indian Police Service, or even the State Police Service, you have the right to uphold the highest values and serve without fear, since the services are protected by law. The worst that can be done to an upright officer is to transfer him to another posting – where again he picks up and performs without fear or favour.
If you wish to make a career in any of the uniformed forces, do join scouts or NCC, participate in competitive sports, excel in athletics, and generally build up your physical prowess. Keep abreast of national affairs, improve your general knowledge, and build up your communication skills.

Civil services
Serving the nation is not restricted to those in the uniformed services. It is a joy to see young IAS officers (both men and women) posted in remote districts far away from their homes, and the dedication with which they build up the lives of the people in their areas. Without them we would not have been able to progress as much as we did – and at this juncture the country needs more and more sincere and dedicated civil service officers. Services range from IAS and IFS, to Police, Customs, Income Tax, Railways, Information, Economics, Audits & Accounts, Forests, and many more. Strong-willed young officers can keep out corruption from public life and ensure that the common man gets the maximum out of welfare measures.

Scientific field
Another wonderful way of serving the nation is to get into the scientific arena of organisations like ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation), Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), National Aeronautical Lab (NAL), Atomic Energy Commission, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), and innumerable other institutions that are a pride of India. Scientists from these organisations are no less than any others anywhere in the world. Though salaries may not compete with the private sector, scientists are very well looked after in terms of research and travel facilities, housing, dignity and respect, with opportunities for growth and recognition.

Public Sector Units
Just after independence our visionary Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru established the “temples of modern India” – the Public Sector Units (PSUs). Many of them did extremely well and provided the necessary boost to the technology and industrial sectors. Subsequently, with globalisation and influx of multinational companies, the importance of public sector units came down. They could not offer salaries to compete with MNCs, and they could not break tradition and give fast promotions. Many young people flocked to MNCs due to the lure of big money. But the recession has made people sit up and think.

While MNCs have a hire-and-fire policy, PSUs offer job security, they offer opportunity to participate in nation building, they give you the satisfaction that you are working for society and not for individual share-holders. After a shake-out many PSUs have ably competed in the global field and are moving ahead with pride. A career in organisations like Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), Border Roads Organisation, Hindustan Petroleum, just to name a few, can be very satisfying in the years to come.

Another way to extend long-term service to the nation is to help build up future capable citizens – by taking up teaching or training as a vocation. From school to college teachers, from technical to soft-skills and corporate trainers, every teacher plays a very important role in nation-building. Even the great Dr Abdul Kalam still considers teaching closest to his heart. In Western countries, top level politicians, scientists, engineers and business executives go into teaching at some stage of their life or other, and share their expertise with the younger generation. Almost half of all the astronauts who went up in space in the last forty years in USA, are connected to the teaching profession in their later years. No nation can progress unless it builds strong future generations. If you have been privileged to have a good education, give back to society and the country by taking to teaching. Salaries have significantly increased, university professors now earn more than IAS officers, private universities pay their faculty as much as the corporate sector does, and international schools remunerate their teachers very well. If you are innovative you may be able to get into education management, content development, creative teaching and holistic education, too.

Select a career based on your strengths and interest, but keep in mind that if you add meaning to your vocation, you will not only earn money, but respect, recognition, and dignity too.