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Friday, December 30, 2016

Faux regalia in the real unforgiving world: Look at yourself in the mirror, Part 2

Like many times in the past, I debated if I should pen my thoughts today- free flowing, without structure. I debated because, as I have stated before, critical pieces are at times used as tools by some frustrated souls to pinprick and grind axes against the system, rather than to introspect, improve and march ahead.

But then I still decided to. And I shall be honest.

I have written about this earlier but the wedge between the civil and the military world has since widened as the voices have become shriller. And then I saw this very important and much valid statement by General VP Malik in his recent interview to The Times of India:

“...The chief must have wide experience. The chief should also be civically literate and conversant with the principles and precepts expressed in the Constitution...”
Though we are on a different subject and not discussing higher defence appointments here, the statement is important since it comes from a former Chief of the Army Staff, who, even though retired in 2000, seems much more progressive and practical in thought than many of our current commentators. Valid since it makes one realize the fact that the knowledge of basic constitutional concepts, democratic or even administrative principles is not optimum within the military community. To put it crudely, many serving in the military are not aware how things work.

A few days ago, at an official gathering where I had a longish conversation with some highly competent officers of the defence services, certain issues that I speak of above, stuck me hard. One, that there is an extreme lack of understanding, knowledge and acknowledgement of contribution of other professions or services. Two, that the basic insight regarding our national institutions is lacking. Three, that there is some kind of a feeling as if only the military is serving the nation while all other professions are lax, dishonest or both. Four, that there is strong resistance to change and things have come to such a pass that attempts to impress are made not by the depth of learning or knowledge but by scratching the surface and flowery English.

In the same conversation, I was also taken aback by a number of broad statements such as “80% of judiciary is corrupt” and questions about how the judiciary enjoys the month long vacation of Courts in the month of June or the promotional avenues in the civil services or how the Central Armed Police Forces are paid more than the Army while they are not performing duties that are as exacting. Urban legends, basically. Pitiful though is the fact that while the military itself is facing a multitude of challenges, people have time to discuss other professions from afar regarding which their knowledge or understanding might not be of the desired level. Or, to take an example from the above, though not germane to the subject, the actuality that it is only the Constitutional Courts that close for vacation in June and not others and that even the said Courts continue to function with vacation judges and that overburdened judges at times have to hear hundreds of cases per day, read their files in the morning and evening and night, apply mind on the precious rights of litigants, pronounce judgements, dictate decisions, sign orders and so on. Just as military personnel avail about three months of leave in a year, perhaps judges (and lawyers) too deserve a break to maintain mental equilibrium or even to look through pending work which piles up during court days, and they too are serving the society in their own way. Talking ill of babus is also fashionable, repeatedly comparing the military and the bureaucracy. I don’t think that a young newly inducted IAS officer looking after the magisterial, executive and revenue functions of his sub-division or a young IPS officer supervising the policing and security in the same area is encumbered with any less onerous responsibility than a newly commissioned defence officer. While we continue to ascribe duties to our officers (in the name of so-called grooming) that are not commensurate with their ranks thereby ourselves lowering the prestige and sheen of the military brass, paradoxically, on the other hand we speak poorly of other professions. 

What stands out distinctly from the above is that there is not enough education being imparted in our academies or institutions about other occupations and services with whom we have to work shoulder to shoulder in today’s complex environment. The vision expressed by General VP Malik for senior staff is as much valid for the youngest officer since if he or she does not build up knowledge in the formative years, the foundations shall remain weak even on attaining higher ranks. If not given attention, the knowledge about concepts such as the constitutional separation of powers or even elementary notions that would be clear to a civics student in school, would remain elusive. The net result would be tunnel vision and spending time forwarding fake social media and text messages spreading disaffection, discontentment and planting falsehoods against seniors and the establishment instead of focussing on positive well-rounded advancement to take on challenges in the real world. There would always remain people like us who shall steadfastly stand behind the genuine causes of the men and women in uniform, but not at the cost of causing injury to the reputation of  others. While IAS and IPS officers get to know more about the Army while on attachment, the equivalent exercise is missing in the defence services. Shouldn’t Gentlemen Cadets in batches be attached for a week to a Police Station to understand its functioning and the challenges faced by policemen and women or basics of investigation or criminal law? Shouldn’t they be attached at the local tehsil to comprehend its functioning? Till the time there is cross faculty exposure, which is the call of the times even for essentially military functions, seminal growth shall continue to dodge us.

The military must not lag behind in real terms by way of some kind of show of faux superiority or holiness. Sense of entitlement must yield and make way for sense of legitimate expectation. Theoretically camaraderie is stressed upon but unlike the civil services, there are sharp divisions within the system when it comes to benefits, cadre management or  even welfare schemes whether it is a struggle between the Army, Navy and Air Force, or between the Combat Arms and Combat Support Arms or between Arms and Services, and at times even between Regiments. Healthy competition is replaced with peer jealousy and crab mentality. Problems are created for own comrades at each level. Whether it was the Dynamic Assured Career Progression Scheme (DACP) for doctors or medical facilities for our Short Service Officers or certain benefits for women officers, most impediments emanated from within the uniformed community, not from outside. While we discussed whether women commissioned officers, who were allowed to serve for 14 years, were fit enough to serve for 6 more years to earn pension or not, the Central Armed Police Forces deployed women personnel at jawan level even at high altitude locations and for extreme riot control, without controversy. While we with our high noses debate how the military is superior to the ‘paramilitary’, the latter have implemented the DACP smoothly while our Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) at one time made presentations to the Ministry on why it should not be implemented, a fact now made use of by financial mandarins. While civil organizations discussed with their employees and pensioners how best to present their views before the pay commission, the military refused to share its memorandum to the pay commission even with its serving rank and file and also refused to part with it under the RTI Act. While lawyers of civil departments go out of the way to assist the courts graciously and fairly when it comes to litigation of their employees, our officers brief govt lawyers as if it’s some kind of war being waged against litigants- of course they are not at fault since they are pressurized by higher headquarters to ‘win cases’. Promotion related litigation for empanelment under the Central Staffing Scheme with the central government has sharply decreased in civil departments because all promotion related and other administrative policies of the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) are now available online and transparency is valued, while in the defence services, officers keep groping the dark to get a grip on what has hit them. Sporting events and movies come to a halt if a military VIP enters and till he is given his separate large chair in a separate enclosure with better cutlery, something unheard of in today’s civil set up. During the OROP agitation, certain veterans were full of hate towards civilians, while civilian pensioner organizations, on the contrary, supported us to the hilt even during the Anomaly Committee meetings during the recent disability pension reduction controversy. While we continue to rightly feel proud about the military, its discipline and impeccable service to the nation, there are a few things we can learn from others.

Operations and strategy, though nationally of utmost importance and also pertinent to military morale, do not affect the quality of life or basic dignity of defence personnel and their families. In every sense of that sphere, civil departments and services are doing better than the defence services- in cadre management, in welfare related issues, in facilities, in progressive personnel policies. So next time we talk about others, we must go to the nearest mirror and take a very hard look. To end, I must add that what I write above should not make you gloomy since it is simply a call to embrace positivity and reformatory thought with an open mind. Till when would we thump our chests about our past and rest on our laurels? This feel-good regalia could quite be useless in the actual world.

Get real.

49 comments:

Indian Navy Solo Circumnavigation said...

Well said sir! Couldn't agree more with you!

Bharat Chevur said...

Maj Navdeep,
You are bang on !
It is time for us to look individually and collectively in the mirror.
It is time that cadets in the service academies are exposed to civil services and their roles.
ARTRAC and DGMT should take a call on inclusion of the necessary syllabus at various levels of training, at the cadet level, YOs course and subsequent career courses.
We are like the blind men of Hindoostan, when it comes to subjects beyond the military scope.
It is time to train scholar warriors in our academies !

k_ram said...

Excellent write up Maj Navdeep. Military ignorance is something which hits me hard everyday. I am also a veteran of 22 years and my frustration at the level and degree of discourse within the army has found voice through your words. Thanks and regards

kvg said...

Dear Sir,
Couldn't agree less with you.
Well said and well articulated.
I wish our so called TOP BRASSES understand this very little simple things!!
Regards
KV G

Unknown said...

Time to look in the mirror that has so kindly been shown by Navdeep. There is much wrong in the Services and we, the oldies, need to accept that we were part of a lot that is wrong, as well as right, today. We should acknowledge our mistakes and help the present generation make the transition in a smoother manner. We owe it them.
Brijesh

Anonymous said...

Agreed with Maj Navdeep.

At the same time point to it be noted is that the Armed Forces are the most trusted snd others are after that and the least trusted is the bureaucracy.

SK said...

An amazing wake-up call for all still in service. You have verbalized what we all have known inside our hearts.
It is when some of our people speak with dogma that we realise the shallowness of knowledge - and its pervasiveness in our organization. Not generalizing, but the new generation is remarkable in its ability to skim through Google results first page and speak floral on the subject. The depth tends to be lacking.
I do not remember the reference but we do need to realise the age-related learning curve of service commanders remains very gradual. We make Brigade commanders at over 20-25 years of service and expect the same officers to think national, international and global within the next 10 years! It is not possible to acquire such kind of perspective without international deployment or early training. The need to introduce constitutional and civic awareness early cannot be over-emphasized.
The decay in an appropriate sense of welfare, personnel planning and pervasive ad-hoc-ism is cause for worry too.
I remain convinced that our General Staff comprises some of the sharpest people in the country - trained on ground and relevant to the cutting edge military. However, to become relevant to the national interest they need more tools before they can integrate the fuzzy logic of national interest and military precision.
Appreciate your comments - it is NOT a decimation of an ethos but an urgent call to introspect and improve our understanding of what role we need to play in the times to come.
You're a victim only if you claim to be one. Get up, get real and move towards the future!

Unknown said...

I agree in totality sir, we serve with bigger egos and smaller arena for adjustment and enlightenment.

Puneet said...

Maj Navdeep. You have put in words what the silent majority of Army does not or cannot.
I understand the pain.

Col S K Sawhney (Retd) said...

A very well written piece. Totally agree with you. Its high time we break the shackles and come out of our cocoons.

Anonymous said...

Well said Sir. You have articulated issues that aflict military with simplicity, clarity, purpose and logic. Unfortunately, it needs a huge paradigm shift in the attitudes of Sr offrs, and also so called 'budding' mid level ones, which is impossible, as of now.

Anonymous said...

Very balanced and educative post but who takes it....I am from a family of civil services and bank officers services ..while bleating we are the best ...every one is competing with others ..the worst is pulling the legs...I am from the medical corps and passed out from one of the the best medical Institutes in the world....DACP is one example of Burning As syndrome ..the the arms just couldn't digest ..While I have seen a brigadier of the arms showing the teeth to an inspector for petty reasons ..he behaves like a king to the sub ordinate officers ...End Game ..DaCP or no DACP..Army doctors retire with more pension than an army cdr ...so The jealousy factor will only burn the person who is influenced and acted by this factor...

Unknown said...

Spot on!

satinder sangha said...

Thanks for being so forthright and bold. A wake up call to our Fauji fraternity both serving as well as veterans.

satinder sangha said...

👍👍👍👍👍👍👍

Avi Sud said...

Well said Navdeep. The military community and especially the officer cadre needs to beoaden their horizon on matters related to other services who are equally contributing to the growth of our nation.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article!

Komal Bera said...

Am glad someone has put my thoughts to pen and explained it well. I am proud to be part of the military but I cringe when I see people around me take pride to the level of arrogance by demeaning others. Cross service exposure is an excellent suggestion. It will help us get real.

deepak sharma said...

An excellent treatise to such a sensitive,necessary yet overlooked issue.All or most of us know but not even a handful realize the extent of damage being done to the ethos & ethics by such self-serving interests.I personally feel that the rot in the system has percolated so deep that it is sadly impossible to inculcate such culture at large in the services.As sycophancy being eternal is growing in leaps & bounds with time and without any course correction.
I genuinely appreciate the views expressed by Maj Navdeep.

sarvjit slaria said...

Well put out. While taking pride in our services, we can not belittle other organisations.Really appreciate your views on the subject.

Sp Singh said...

SUPERB AND REALISTIC. WG CDR (RETD) S P SINGH









Anonymous said...

Sir in my opinion, the LOOK ONLY UP policy or should I call it a habit which is so deep rooted in the officer cadre in general and the select rank and above in particular is the cause of all ills in this beautiful organization. The interests of the brig and above are taken in so much care in the name of privilege that they forget the real issues affecting 90% of the organization.Also I think in the race to the top there is little time for the ones still in the race to find time to be aware about the organizational issues.The decision makers are so engrossed in their personal growth that other issues of organization doesn't matter to them.

karunakaran a ex havildar said...

We are serving in defense it does not mean we deserve the lion's share in the budget. to command an army unit, not much difficult comparing with civil multitude, civilians are asking several questions and argue on meaningless agenda , we are disciplined forces we can not object even if it is illegal, our brought up in army is obey the order whatever it is. after passing on order army officers are having siesta whereas an IAS officer he does not get enough time to think himself

as far as judiciary officers concerned they have to refer previous judgements to pronounce a new judgement , they have to break their head and sacrifice the leisure time for the sake of their profession

we should not mock at other professionals they have got their own responsibility and commitments and duties no way they are inferior to us
you perform your assignment truly that is your karthva, do not compare and contrast with civilian brothers duties and commitments, it is a great sin

chau said...

Excellent ... Navdeep ... As usual ... As a start point your article must be read by all service officers

Anonymous said...

Excellent and time we need to orient ourselves.

jaz said...

Very well articulated ! I am sure many of us in the forces have felt exactly what you have penned down . Introspection is necessary and so is tolerance and integrity to tackle issues with an open mind and forward looking approach

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with the sentiments expressed.
Every segment of society has made its contribution to the progress of nation.
Every profession in Govt is equally making its contribution to serve the people.
It is not doing any good to consider one profession above another as it is doing only damage in the long run.
Continuous criticism of bureaucracy and political leadership at every step by some uniformed persons and veterans is only causing animosity and not benefiting the cause.

Uma Sudhindra said...

I'm so thankful you've penned this. I had broached this subject at a get together and was amazed at the vitriolic responses I got. It's unnerving to see the sense of faux righteousness in some of our serving lot, without realizing the need for knowledge & introspection. Sharing this with as many as possible, Maj Navdeep. Thank you for a great piece!

Parminder Sukhdev said...

Well said Navdeep.
Defence is paramount but it is Consumption Expenditure.
No Defence is possible unless those constituents that generate wealth contribute the capital to pay for Defence.
Within Defence a sense of pride is essential to maintain morale but there is no need for a sense of superiority.
All concerned will have to contribute their worth towards National Endeavour.
No constituent is superior, all are essential & have to work cohesively for National Good.
Knowing the working of all constituents of Govt is essential hence we in the Services should attempt to learn about their working & appreciate their worth and also be aware of their problems.
It is time we shed our false sense of superiority & learn to appreciate the contribution of all constituents of Govt even if they appear different to the services.
Without gene action of wealth the services cannot exist. They pay for maintaining the armed Forces & get Security in return. Brig Sukhdev.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I fully agree. It reminds me of of a fat half Colonel pretending to be a full Colonel who would snatch away copy of the Govt letter sanctioning me disability post Court order on the pretext that he needs permission of his superior to give me a copy .... copy of a letter pertaining to me, affecting me, already delivered to all except me .... and he needed permission to give one copy to me .... such are the ways some of us think Ex Servicemen welfare should be handled and executed. I was also aghast to hear from one Lt Col dealing with Ex - Servicemen in derogatory tone addressing me not appropriately but as "litigant", as if being a litigant was something which makes you loose your basic dignity and honour and as if being "litigant" was something that deprived you of your military status... so bizarre have some of us made our own system to our own utter disadvantage.

Most of those who deal with Ex Servicemen grievances utterly fail to understand the basic psychology and mindset of a retired person, his hopes and aspirations and his expectations from a person dealing with him. They deal with them as unwanted, undesirable and irrational individuals who need to be shunned, shown the door, and made run from pillar to post even for paltry legitimate benefits that is due to him. That reflects on our utter incompetence to deal with civilian matters and issues normally out of the ambit of the uniformed staff. They pick all bad from their civilian counterparts and no good from them.

Anonymous said...

The rivalry within services and so much of branch compartmentalisation has lead to the fall. Also need to attach dignity to each job done by other civil services needs to be taught early than pushing the thoughts in young minds about any supremacy of defence services. All are doing their bit and we all services need to be cohesive units to serve nation better. So true Navdeep. GET REAL

invictus said...

Sir
A real piece of 'hard hitting' truth. I totally agree with you that definitely the time has come for self introspection as an org. The very basis of this prob is our resistance to change and the very 'realisation' of the the fact that all of the so called 'evils' are OUR OWN CREATION AND WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR IT'.
I really liked the fact which you bought out that in the name of 'grooming',we often task Offr which are totally 'nonsensical' in nature and thus create an illusion within the org that we are doing something great. Lastly bottom line is our lack of knowledge on military/non military and civil dept is 'piss..poor pathetic'..sadly attributable to precious time wasted on non productive things.
Really a thought provoking article sir. Hope to read more and enlighten ourselves. Regards

Daljeet Singh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The man said...

I think well written paper which exposes theweakness of our officers at all levels n not only at heighest level. At hieghest level it is worse. But problem lies in the fact that none of us realise that.

Pritika Gulati said...

Your insight is commendable Navdeep! Whenever I've tried to say the same to our brethren/family in uniform or as veterans, I've been termed/branded a rebel and an upstart! I also very strongly feel we need an HR corps to manage the welfare and cadre of our personnel. If we have corps for medical, ordnance, ASC, why not HR. That would actually solve a whole lot of issues...from AWWA,to management of appraisals to tackling the suicide and fracticide issues. (Getting religious teachers is NOT a solution to suicides -psychologists is) The mirror is what the army needs NOW! And not a gold-gilded one!

Anonymous said...

A well written article but I think those who matters and can effect change know it all and not very keen to change for obvious reasons. Reminding time and again is definitely required and may strike someone sometime for betterment of all. Keep up the good work. You are mouth peace of silent organization...

Anonymous said...

Sir, you have expressed the realities in a perfect sense . Time has come to do introspection and grow up individually as well as an organisation. Else, we will one day stand exposed and loose sanctity held in the eyes of civilians.

Anonymous said...

sir,well what you have brought out is fine i agree but i wish to bring certain points which i feel need attention.first and foremost the army has an absolute different way of life and functioning n by n large total isolation from other govt services which overlap with each other.secondly in army you have steep pyramidal structure which makes decision making person centric or personality oriented.the army because of its obvious role needs to have highly motivated ppl ready to lay life.have to be different,treated differently n highly motivated.last course of defense to the nation n cant fail.we saw what happened in 1962.what is urgently required is more integration with civilian counterparts,introspection in higher echelon of army ,honest one as the army has changed,everyone is in glasshouse visible to every one.to end it i would say the anomalies of various pay commissions need to rectified.as they say,if you give pea nuts than what you get is monkeys.

Anonymous said...

Extremely well articulated Sir. I think grant of NFU will kill a lot of these unhealthy practices and dog eat dog culture.

amit2001 said...

Excellent article. Indian military officers are totally lacking in exposure outside the military. The Armed Forces policies and training also do not encourage or give them exposure. For example going on civil deputations is detrimental to career and was earlier allowed only in last 2-3 years of service. Officers dont do courses like public policy from IIMs like IAS officers. Higher education and PhDs are not encouraged and do not add to career ( Compare with USA where at least 30% Generals are PhDs and Fletchers school is invariably headed by an Armed Forces officer. In technical arms , officers are not given opportunities to do deputations in organizations like DMRC etc and learn from their best practices.Officers are sent on deputations only after supersession.Armed Forces need to realize that more they expose their officers to other organizations better it is for them . Again a comparison with USA is apt where HR professionals like Marshal Goldsmith are called to take workshops for Generals and improve their people skills. Today in almost all spheres - management , technology, HR practices - the Armed Forces are lacking behind other civil govt depts and are way behind corporate. It is this ostrich mentality and lack of exposure right upto top level which causes Armed forces to act against their own .Perhaps the Armed Forces need to now learn from other govt , public sector and corporate . It would be apt here to mention the motto of Virgin group of Richard Branson.."Give a man enough skills and training to make him capable of leaving the organisation , provide him with an environment wherein he never leaves it". Armed Forces seem to be following exactly the reverse!

Anonymous said...

Well written. Agree totally

Sat said...

You have hit the nail on the head Maj Navdeep. Till the time we look in ourselves and correct or clean the rot we have no face to point fingers on others.

Sat said...

You have hit the nail on the head Maj Navdeep. Till the time we look in ourselves and correct or clean the rot we have no face to point fingers on others.

Col Misar Gundagi said...

Yes understanding of how teh administration functions with its myriad challenges would go a long way for service officers who are cocooned till they reach senior ranks.
Postings to Tehsils and Thanaas is also a welcome suggestion but is the Civil Bureaucracy and political class ready for such an engagement. The vehement opposition to lateral entry which has been touted since decades is a case in point. Sadly such a large disciplined force both at the lower ranks and officer level is wasted out due to the seep pyramidcal promotion avenues.

Anonymous said...

Sir I feel that same is true for other organizations too. In words of FM Sam most of the people who decide our fate do not know the difference between Gun and howitzer. Also perhaps the ground reality is different from what you seem to profess. Please take a walk in any judiciary (district level) or any district civil or Police office and be a silent observer you will know that what the officers discussed as you refer to in your write up is not their perception but the perception of general public and ground realities. I know you will take it as an offence as a lawyer (as I took it as an army officer) but I want to tell you that in my state which is biggest in the country. any court and I repeat any court majority of the cases can be fixed to be very polite. So as you said before pointing fingers to others one must stand before the mirror to assess himself but one cannot turn blind eye to ground realities
Thanks
Alok

Col Sarwar said...

Dear Navdeep

Your article is a self introspection for services but you will agree with me that all other organizations have their own strengths and weakness. However your silence on the NFU is deafening, is it because now you are part of the decision making committee and part of Govt or you don't support our cause of NFU. It will be nice if you publish an article on the issue supporting us
Thanks
SARWAR

Navdeep / Maj Navdeep Singh said...

Col Sarwar above.

There is an old saying by the wise men, that if you do not have deep knowledge, it is better to keep mum.

Now to answer your queries. Firstly, I am NOT a part of any committee or any instrumentality of the Govt. My work on the Committee of Experts was probono as an independent expert and the report was submitted way back in Nov 2015 and in the time granted to it.

Secondly, my views on NFU are well known and are available on this very blog. The decision has been rendered by a judicial body and there is nothing more to say about it. Also, I believe in the dignity of not commenting on issues that have been decided by judicial fora. I reject your insinuation that I do not support NFU with the contempt it deserves.

sudha bhanu said...

Good Afternoon Sir, I would like to put across a case on behalf of my Mom & her batchmate's regarding pension issue they were commissioned in 79 as MNS after 20+ years of service they put down their papers,they are as per Government records Lt.Col,gazette was published as per protocol in 2000,however for some reason they are not getting the pension for the same Rank.This came to light when none of these MNS ladies received any OROP benefits.No one has any answers as to what is the issue and how this can be rectified,they are being shunted from pillar to post,Pune says check with Allahabad,they say check with DM,but no one is coming forward to help them sort this issue.As per VI CPC 18+ years if service is for Lt.Col and they are supposed to get benefits for the same,but Mom & Her batchmate's not getting their due credit..can some one help them in getting this issue resolved...for more information please call on 09848111982 Lt.Col G N Lakshmi NR16987A- DOR 30/11/1999

Unknown said...

Though civil services/ other services bashing is rampant in military circles and sometimes over the top, it's not without any basis.
The dismissive attitude of even the juniour Babus towards the Faujis is shameful.This is inspite(or may be because) of military top brass being almost servile even to the section officer of the under secretary.
The military top brass after retirement cribs about Babus but they have the least clue about the labyrinth of babudom that military matters face which are generally dealt by the mid level Officers .
A capsule about civil services and procedures followed by specialised extended tenures in the corridors of power could help the situation.
Regards