Changing with the times, NCC's new challenge

It has been in the forefront of extracurricular activities in academic institutions and has immensely contributed towards development of youth and nation building in various forms.

Times have changed and today the organisation is at the crossroads as cadets and officers feel that it needs to attune itself to the demands of the post-liberalisation era. Simultaneously, alarm bells have been set off with the adoption of credit and semester system by several universities which threatens to derail camp-centric activities.

A national symposium held recently in Thiruvananthapuram tried to address the NCC’s role in the new era and also took stock of the ‘grave threat’ to its survival from educational reforms. Participants at the symposium pointed out that just as the organisation is being extolled for inculcating values and spirit of adventurism in the youth, it is also looked down on for not intervening proactively.

“The NCC is the right organisation to work among the youths and prevent their recruitment by terrorist organisations. It is the NCC which should have been halting various undesirable tendencies on college campuses like ragging,” pointed out Prof K Jagannathan Nair, a retired NCC officer.

The NCC was originally envisaged to be a feeder organisation to the Army during exigencies. However, this idea cropped up at a time when nationalist sentiments were running high and people were eager to associate themselves with nation building. The NCC syllabus then included a more stringent training regimen which made it relatively easier for the cadets to be absorbed into the armed forces. Subsequently, the syllabus itself had undergone revision thrice and the priorities of the organisation had undergone change. Brig T K Murali, deputy director-general NCC Kerala and Lakshadweep admitted that the NCC is no more seen as a second or even third line of defence. Yet, the NCC’s popularity had not waned judging by the wait-list of institutions in Kerala which wanted to open an NCC unit. “May be there is a decline in NCC’s popularity among the urban children,” he agreed.

Sources say that over the years there has been a qualitative change in students enrolling for NCC in a state like Kerala with many of them more interested in cornering benefits like NCC certificate. Several Associate NCC Officers (ANOs) who attended the symposium painted a grim picture of the organisation by pointing to the declining interest among students, outdated syllabus, funds shortage and very low emoluments for them.

Lt Sanil of 10 K Bn NCC Chengannur in Alappuzha district pointed out how cadets faced shortage of uniforms, a general apathy at all levels and favouritism in Republic Day parade selection. Girl cadets had to put up with a general neglect because of shortage of women ANOs.

There were several reasons for this state of affairs one of them being the dual ownership of the organisation — the Central and state governments hold equal stake. However, informed sources say that for all practical purposes, the Centre has 75 per cent stake in it and the state, 25 per cent. Some states honour very little of their commitments. For instance, in Kerala, the NCC is yet to possess a parade ground for training purposes or firing range even though the former was recommended by the NCC State Evaluation Committee way back in 1975.

Harsh realities

It is evident that even though the cadets and ANOs maintained certain core values thanks to the Army which managed the organisation, they are a demoralised lot. R Narayanan, a former additional secretary in ministry of defence, pointed out that cadets had to face harsh realities like unemployment and family pressure on leaving college. The fire of enthusiasm kindled in them while being part of NCC got snuffed out before slipping into the rat race. “There is a need to continue the NCC beyond college life and involve youth in certain areas of decision making and implementation,” he said.  Lt Gen S K Pillai, former deputy chief of army staff who chaired the session felt that there was a clutch of organisations pulling the youths in different directions and this number had to be pruned.

On the question of credit and semester system being implemented by universities, there was almost a unanimity of view that the NCC authorities should take up the matter with the universities. Thomas Jacob, member-secretary, Kerala state higher education council, said voluntary organisations like NCC could thrive only if extension was integrated into the core curriculum. At present, extension was seen as an extracurricular or co-curricular activity. According to him, the credit and semester system gave ample scope for integrating NCC into the syllabus.

Additional director-general Rear Admiral Anand Iyer who represented the NCC headquarters, New Delhi, said the headquarters was aware of the numerous problems confronting the organisation. A sincere attempt was being made to address some basic issues and results were expected in the near future.

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