The Indian Army is an excellent fighting force, and has few parallels in the world. But of late, the image of the soldier is diminishing which calls for immediate action. This is happening because the forces have to face divergent pulls and pressures which are different today than from yesteryears. Institutions have a long memory, take time to change. On the other hand, the Army has to operate in a dynamic environment, with an active press and a changing civil society which are able to apply pressure and push for changes. Also Read – Gateway of criminal justiceThus, it is the Army that is perceived at times to be unable to ‘keep up’ with the societal fluctuations, and due to its strict procedures, it is not able to present its side of the story with the dynamism expected of it. It has prolonged deployment in counter-insurgency operations leading to uncanny situations. Armies are trained, equipped, geared and made ready for the primary task which is to protect the nation from external threat. But today judgement is passed on it for how well it does its secondary task. In short, people tend to judge the doctor by how well the nurse performs. Also Read – Turning a blind eyeThe Army simply has no answer to live media carrying out television debates beaming live to soldiers’ bedrooms the twists and turns of various scams. In a democracy, this is the one thing that is acceptable, adds to transparency. But when quite often, officers are on the mat for becoming ketchup colonels, booze brigadiers, generals fighting over various issues and scams, some of which like the Sukna have been set aside by the Armed Forces Tribunal — the stage is set for a soldier to question: ‘What am I serving for, is this my officer class like?’ Does the Army need to change its value system? In fact, when threatened it must reinforce the old values, but its manner of interaction with the media, its manner of conduct when deployed in prolonged counter-insurgency operations, requires a holistic look and not a knee-jerk reaction. After the recent firing at Budgam, in which two young boys were killed, the Army admitted that it was a “mistake” and a violation of rules of engagement. The Army also said that it would complete its inquiry within ten days and take action against the guilty. The legal catch here is that once the Army Commander has agreed it is a mistake, are all procedural inquiries on the subject irrelevant? On the other hand, while the law enforcers are guilty, in the wake of protests and all good work done by the Army during the recent floods in that area and the fact that elections were around the corner, pressure was going up from civil society, reckless teenagers were moving in a vehicle to a restricted area, isn’t there also a need for civil society to look inwards as well? The ground reality is that because armed sentries are there everywhere in view of the live threat posed by terrorists, such incidents are bound to recur. If there is accidental firing, and a whole host of other scenarios, will the Army now admit to its mistake every time before an inquiry? This could well have happened in Delhi, but the issue inevitably takes a different colour in Jammu and Kashmir. Will the soldier be blamed before an inquiry? Some time ago, a paramilitary force in Delhi waited for its inquiry to take place, before having the added burden of having put the blame on any one. Loss of life is regrettable but loss of soldiers’ morale critical and difficult to restore.The greatest strength of the forces lies in its intangibles: such as, morale, training, ethos and value system, bonded by discipline. The Sukna scam and the Budgam incident touch upon all these intangibles, especially discipline and training. The Budgam affair was at best an operational cum training issue. By declaring the soldiers guilty before inquiry, a whole host of issues, which are morale-sensitive, have been opened up. Are these even debatable? The Sukna scam AFT judgment opens up another can of worms, which the Army needs to take to its logical conclusion. If the military justice system is shown in poor light, won’t its soldiers need an answer?Television debates do need some introspection. The debates on geostrategy, arms and equipment do become interesting, but when discipline is debated or discussed yet nuts and bolts of the ground situation are generally not known, the picture becomes confusing. Of course, the media needs to report the various scams, it needs to show all the dead wood, but it should exercise its judgement, on what will be the impact on the morale of the soldier? In the Sukna scam not an inch of Army land was involved, there was no trickery or fraud: then how come the word scam was used for a so-called issue of ‘No Objection Certificate’ (NOC)? Discipline is the very key to a soldier’s being and to impact on his sense of discipline, needs sense of responsibility from all, including the political class, who have left us equipment deficient. The impact of the movie Haider which shows the soldiers in poor light has also come at this juncture and what is the ‘langar gup’ one wonders. How should the Army react in inadvertent cases? It should go back to the Chetwode credo, of safety, honour and welfare of nation first, soldier next and its commanders last. This implies, supreme national interest first, completion of inquiries before pronouncing soldiers guilty second, and the various twists and turns of scams and age related issues last and not on prime time television because of TRP. The Army has had a long stint in counter-insurgency operations. This tells on training there is a need to cut down exposure in counter-insurgency, but the drawdown from foreign forces in Afghanistan opens up a different scenario and weakening of Army from the border areas improbable. The forces therefore, need to settle these issues in house. The entire issue is of faith and the generals need to have 56-inch chests while interacting with civil society and take on ‘bullets’ flying at the aam sipahi.The author is a retired brigadier
Kolkata: Three persons were killed and at least 15 injured in West Bengal as violent political clashes over the formation of the state Panchayat boards continued, police said on Wednesday. Armed clashes took place between groups allegedly belonging to the ruling Trinamool Congress and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) in North 24 Parganas district’s Amdanga block late on Tuesday night. “The clash erupted centering around the Gram Panchayat board formation in a number of villages in the block,” an officer from Amdanga police station said. Also Read – Rain batters Kolkata, cripples normal life According to local residents, two of the deceased were Trinamool Congress activists while the third person belonged to the CPI-M. Police have arrested 12 people including CPI-M district committee member Ahmed Khan, for inciting unrest in the area that was found littered with crude bombs, splinters, cartridges on Wednesday morning. The political parties blamed each other for the clash and claimed their members were stopped from forming the boards. Ten people have been allegedly killed since August 25 in political clashes over the Panchayat boards formation in different Bengal districts. The situation in several districts has been tense over the last few days over the Panchayat boards formation after the Supreme Court permitted the notification of the results of 20,159 un-contested seats in the state Panchayat polls.
Kolkata: The state government has denied permission to BJP’s “Rath Yatra” but stated that if the saffron party wanted to hold meetings, then it could go ahead with the same. A communication will soon be sent stating that the BJP can organise meetings and take prior permission from the administration for the same. The state government has clearly stated that the law and order situation might be affected due to the Rath Yatra and maintained that it would not be possible to deploy adequate police personnel due to the upcoming festive season. “A huge contingent of our forces will be deployed Also Read – Rain batters Kolkata, cripples normal lifefor Christmas tentatively from December 21 to 31 and from January 7 to 17 due to Ganga Sagar Mela,” sources said. Senior officials of the state government in the ranks of Chief Secretary Malay De, Home Secretary Atri Bhattacharya and Director General of Police Virendra held a high-level meeting at Nabanna on Saturday after getting reports from the District Magistrates and police superintendents who stated that such “Rath Yatras” may disturb communal harmony.