Punjab youth losing interest in olive green

Punjab youth losing interest in olive green

The credo of the Indian Military Academy (IMA) finely displayed at the eastern entrance of the Chetwode Hall epitomises the spirit of the officers who don the olive green uniform.

The engraving on the wall is an excerpt from the speech of Field Marshal Chetwode at the inauguration of the academy way back in 1932. It reads: “The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time. The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time.”

The evolution from Gentlemen Cadets or GCs, as they are well-known as, to officers at the IMA needs real men who have nerves of steel, who know no fear, and are willing to prove their valor in the battlefield.

Till the 1980s, Punjab was famed as the sword arm of the nation--a nursery where boys either grew up with dollar dreams or a passion to join the Army. Over the decades, border state Punjab, which bore the brunt of all major aggressions with Pakistan, has arguably lost its sheen as the sword arm of the country.

It’s a feat that neighbouring state Haryana now proudly enjoys. The intake of officers from Punjab has drastically been on the wane. Of the 636 cadets of the recent 2014 batch which passed out of the IMA last week, only 33 are from Punjab.

Consider this against Haryana’s feat: despite having just a little over two per cent of India’s population--less than Punjab-- the intake of officers from Haryana is nearly double that of Punjab. There were 62 cadets of the recent batch from Haryana who passed out of the IMA,
second only to Uttar Pradesh, which is bigger than Haryana.

In fact, Punjab’s contribution has been even below smaller states like Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Uttarakhand, considering that the population of these states is far less than Punjab.

There were 57 GCs from Uttarakhand, 29 from HP and 37 from Delhi who passed out as commissioned officers of the rank of Lieutenants.

Punjab’s decline has been steady. The December 2012 batch had just 20 officers from Punjab. The June 2013 batch had 30 officers from Punjab who took part in the passing-out parade at the IMA.

For Punjab, the genesis of the problem cannot be attributed to one. Punjab’s youth have been grappling with drug menace for some time now. The state has high incidence of drug trafficking. Sorting out the problem of drug addiction, especially among youth, is a major
challenge for the government.

Haryana, on the other hand, does not suffer from any such problem. Its youth are addicted, but to sports, which is why whether it’s wrestling or hockey at the Olympic or international level, youth from Haryana have proved their mettle more than once.

Even the gold and the silver medals in the recent pass out batch at the IMA went to two officers from Haryana-- Vishal Dahiya and Vikash Kalkal. Haryana youth are keen sportsmen with a passion for fitness and an uncompromising attitude towards healthy diet.

The state, which promotes sports in a big way, has an inherent sports culture and that is one reason youth are attracted towards the Army as a profession, despite the tough life a military man and his family lives.

Fields become unviable

The dispensable wealth in Punjab has arguably soared over the years, a phenomenon that is attributed to rising land prices that has turned agriculture fields into high-priced real estate properties. Punjab agriculture fields--considered the food granaries of the nation contributing a majority of the traditional-- wheat rice crops to the central grain pool are beco­ming increasingly unviable and ecologically unsustainable for several reasons.

Land holdings have reduced at a time when agriculture in this agrarian border state is struggling to be cost-effective.

Experts opine this unpalatable heady mix has been inciting land holders to make a quick buck by transacting with real estate developers.

Wealth creation has stirred new aspirations among the youth of Punjab. The yesteryear charm of the olive green uniform appears fading before the brandings of Tommy Hilfiger and Gucci, at least for the Punjab youth, Col Raminder Singh Sandhu (retd) opined.

The lethargy that has set in is a dissuading factor for the youth to join the Army.

Talking to Deccan Herald, Col Sandhu recalled that in “good old times” Punjab contributed nearly 25 per cent of the total officers passing out of the IMA. Both the Army chief-designate Dalbir Singh Suhag and former Army chief Gen VK Singh (retd) are from Haryana.

Unlike Punjab, the intake of officers in the Army from Haryana has been relatively steady.  Artillery officer Col (retd) Brij Narayan Lal Kaushal feels the overall sentiment towards the Army is not the same anymore.

Col Kaushal maintained that Army men earlier commanded great respect in society, which may not be the case anymore. The Punjab government is aware of this trend. Its crackdown on drug-peddlers and at the same time focus on de-addiction of youth is one step to stem the rot.