Corruption in uniform: A huge crisis in the making

Corruption in uniform: A huge crisis in the making

Of late, there have been many cases of corruption among Generals, sleaze among middle level officers and deteriorating discipline among the officer corps in the defence services.

Shocking absolutely. Shocking to the people, even more shocking to any self-respecting soldier of India. By no means are such acts pardonable. Let us however examine what might be the genesis of the problem and what could be the causes underlying this malaise?

Where there are humans and especially where humans are under stress, individual indiscretions can never be entirely eliminated but organisations retain their efficiency and elan as long as these are contained effectively.

That is the role and responsibility of officers – Junior, middle or senior. If they recognise and respect what is good and discard, condemn and punish what is bad, the organisation will continue to flourish. There is an old saying in the Army “ No unit is good or bad – Officers make it so – Senior officers even more so”.That exactly is the area where things appear to have gone wrong in recent times.

This is not to say that the officers of today are any worse than those of yesterday. This is not to say that in my time military officers were made of different material. Times have changed, the job has changed, the challenges have multiplied.

In these times of degraded moral valuesacross the nation, being an exemplary upright military officer has become excruciatingly challenging. Corruption, bribery, give and take, accommodate, have become such acceptable words affecting every Indian right from his formative years. A country where even the public has forgotten that plundering public money means robbing your own people.

Leaders are not born. They are made. So are military leaders. Look at the way India has started treating its militarymen. Rather than creating a memorial for its militarymartyrs the country is witnessing construction of one for the assassins of its generals. Not only are insipid supreme commanders foisted on the armed forces, political selection has even gotten down to generals and middle rung officers.

Our politicians are too eager to penalize generals for speaking the truth. Admiral Ramdas and General VK Singh could never get away with what Sam Manekshaw did. Each successive pay commission has downgraded soldiers vis a vis every other govt functionary.

A soldier is now placed below a peon and a Brigadier who used to be above Joint Secretary in the central Government is now equated with a director. The Chief of Army Staff who was earlier called Commander-in-Chief is now a non entity in governmental hierarchy. He is overruled by the Defence Secretary even in professional military matters of which the later knows little.

Immediate action

I remember a time when a lieutenant could directly walk upto the Chief Minister and be heard (and I did). A letter to the Deputy Commissioner about the domestic problems of a soldier evoked immediate remedial action.  Today a commanding officer cannot  get to meet or speak to the deputy commissioner or superintendent of police. Who has time for the well being of a soldier’s family? They are busy pleasing the local politicians.

The soldier himself of course cannot get past the daftry. Our public servants don’t think anything of asking their soldiers for bribes. Most second generation armymen today are denied domicile of any state in the country because their fathers could not stay long enough in any single state of India.

Their deserving children struggle for admissions in good schools and colleges. Is it strange then that the sons of distinguished Generals think little of their fathers’ ideals and do not want to join the forces, at least not the fighting arms? Is it strange that a young defence officer is no longer considered much of a suitable match for a daughter?

No family of means today wants to send their sons and daughters to the armed forces. How many of our politicians and bureaucrats have their sons in the military?

A sizeable proportion of the officers today come to the services looking not for a profession of honour and dignity, valour and adventure but for the job security it affords. There are of cource, some  sentimental fools still around- second or third generation military kids looking for the lost respect and admiration of their countrymen.

It is said that respect begets respect. Respect has been denied to them. What then, can we ask of our military officers? How then, can one expect military officers to be paragons of honour? How easy then is it for an officer to extol the virtues of integrity to his men? Are you not pushing him into getting  swept away with the prevailing national flow?
Is it possible to change the environment in which they are groomed?

Can we have separate boarding schools for these gentlemen? should politicians. babus and media be xpected to treat them with a little more respect? Must the people behave differently towards them on buses and trains? Do we need to learn from other countries how to treat our soldiers? Does the change have to start from the top?

When push comes to shove, the military will be called upon to protect  national interest and integrity. A well officered military has a better chance of doing so successfully. It is as much for the government of India as it is for the people of India to seriously ponder and ensure that the profession of soldiering is protected against the evil influences of an otherwise rotting social, administrative and political environment.

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