Saturday, January 5, 2008

Ex- Servicemen Ideally Suited for the Corporate World

Approximately 60,000 army personnel retire every year; 3,000 are officers, most of them in their mid-50s, according to numbers provided by the Indian Ministry of Defence. This means many are in the prime of their working lives, retiring with an abundance of experience that they can ply in the private sector.

Velichati Satyanandam runs his office with military precision. As head of corporate services at business process outsourcer Nipuna Services Ltd., a subsidiary of Satyam Computer Services, he must ensure that 250 cars and drivers carry 3,000 employees from their homes to one of three offices in Hyderabad, India, every day. Every week scores of people quit while new employees are hired to work the nine-hour shifts for the U.K. market (start time: 3:30 p.m. local time) and the U.S. market (start time: 6:30 p.m.). On a recent day in late May, two rows of chairs for potential applicants outside Nipuna’s offices all were filled. Satyanandam is well-equipped to deal with this ongoing logistical crisis because like many executives in India’s new economy, including some human resource executives, he cut his managerial chops in the Indian armed forces. He retired in 1998 as a wing commander after 21 years in the Indian air force. He now brings a can-do attitude to his work running the logistical end of a BPO, which includes managing the company’s facilities. "Running a BPO is more like crisis management," Satyanandam says. "You can’t hide behind bureaucratic rules and say, ‘It can’t be done’. "

With India’s economy on a tear and companies hiring thousands of people a year, the armed forces have become a logical and bountiful place from which to hire employees, from the entry level on up. Approximately 60,000 army personnel retire every year; 3,000 are officers, most of them in their mid-50s, according to numbers provided by the Indian Ministry of Defence. This means many are in the prime of their working lives, retiring with an abundance of experience that they can ply in the private sector.

"In society, all the main management principles are developed by the armed forces," says S. Raja Gopal, a retired army colonel who lives in Hyderabad. That was the case even in ancient times, he adds. Gopal, 48, spent 25 years in the army, beginning with three years of training at the National Defence Academy, the Indian version of West Point. Eventually he became a "Black Cat" commando, part of the army’s special forces. He served in hot spots like Kashmir, where the country has fought a protracted border war with Pakistan. He says the leadership skills he learned during more than 20 live operations, which included the capture of 400 Islamic militants, helped him start a private security company. He now manages more than 500 employees, many of whom are security guards who also got their training in the Indian army. Gopal says his experience helps him know how to motivate employees and develop loyalty secured by more than just receipt of a paycheck. He has been able to retain 99 percent of his employees during the past three years, though he says his is not the highest-paying security company in Hyderabad. A man prone to understatement, Gopal recalled one mission from his army days, when he and his men were airlifted into the Himalayas on an eight-hour mission that stretched into five days. With only enough food for 24 hours, Gopal had to keep his troops motivated as they crossed the rugged terrain. "Have I eaten? No. Am I moving? Yes," he told his men. "So move with me."So how does this translate to the private sector? "It makes you realize, ‘I can do anything,’ " he says. "If the work is there, you don’t go home and go to sleep."

The government has institutions, such as the Directorate General of Resettlement, to help ex-servicemen find training and employment. But one Indian headhunter has found a niche placing retired military personnel in private-sector jobs. Appropriately named Bridgehead Consulting, the year-and-a-half-old company that was started by former military personnel has found upper management jobs for about 40 former officers. Venkat Ramana Rao, a former captain who served under Gopal, helped launch Bridgehead after completing a six-month course in human resources management at the state-run Indian Institute of Management in Lucknow in 2005. Rao says the new economy’s high demand for managers has made it easier for officers to penetrate a company’s upper management. "Earlier, for officers to start above the vice president level, it was not possible," Rao says. That’s because jobs were scarce and promotions were based more strictly on hierarchy, not merit, he explains.

Now that some former officers have reached the management ranks, they say they prefer hiring ex-military personnel like themselves. At his previous employer, Satyanandam hired 10 employees with a military background; seven were senior managers. Since arriving at Nipuna, he’s hired 10 people from the military, five of whom are in senior positions.

C.K. Veeresh, vice president of business operations for Computer Associates in Hyderabad, says he learned discipline during the five years he spent in an artillery regiment. Veeresh, 45, went from the army to the private sector in 1990 and was later hired by the public sector to promote economic development. Now he is in charge of business development and external and government relations for Computer Associates.

Ravi Babu, a retired colonel, has been in the corporate world since he left the army in 1996 after 22 years. During his tenure in the army, Ravi, 53, completed a master’s degree in computer science and taught computer science. While looking for a private-sector job in 1996, his future boss said to him: "We need a guy who can manage things. "Until the recent private-sector tech boom, the army was the center of technological innovation in India, and those who served in the service were the sources of that innovation. Today, Ravi says: "Indian companies want to create wealth, they want to innovate. They don’t just want to provide services". Officers, he says, have the management and people skills to do that. "You get fresh guys from IITs to do programming," Ravi says, referring to the Indian Institutes of Technology. "But you need people who can deal with client relationships. This is more important."

By Jeremy Smerd

Friday, January 4, 2008

ECHS: What Veterans Say

Cmde BB Mistry writes...
1. Let us look at the ECHS issue from the basics. As I understand this scheme has been instituted to:
(a) provide medical care to ex servicemen both in quality and quantity at an area closest to their residence. This pre supposes that the care would be similar to that which he or she received whilst being on active duty.
(b) to unburden the existing medical institutes of the Armed Forces for care of those in service.
(c) to assist the GOI by providing contributory funds from the pensioners.
2. We observe from the various feed backs that the main objective has not ben fulfilled at all in the mofussil areas. The facilities in the urban areas has also been wanting. In Mumbai there are three centres viz INS Asvini (Colaba). Kanjur Marg Dockyard colony and one at New mumbai. For those of us who stay at suburbs on the western, central and the harbour lines such as Virar, Karjat, Thane etc the crowded connectivity makes it nearly impossible to avail of these centres. Further specialised medical services are provided only at Asvini, which is approx 60Km from Thane and 120 Km from Karjat.
I suppose a senior citizen retired serviceman would probably have to make his final halt at one of the chandanwadis on his way before reaching Colaba notwithstanding the number of stars he had been displaying in service. Even if he does make it he would be a mind boggling challenge for the medics at Asvini. The situation is thus no different from the days when the facilities were free. Please remember Death does not make any concessions to the king or the pauper. It is the one and only leveller. During my visit to the Raigad district the DSSAB officer told me that lack of ECHS facility has been an unfulfilled wish of the gentry in and around.
3. The solution lies in reviewing the system empathatically by those who are responsible for its implementation. We should endeavour to affliate more hospitals into the systems. Neighborhood physicians should be inducted for primary care. There are many doctors who charge a pittance (max Rs. 30 only) in Mumbai for consultations and also make residential visits. We should encourage these gentlehealers.
4. Some neighbourhood laboratories could also be recognised and affliated on recommendations of these doctors.
5. High- end hospitals must be kept as a last resort. Neighbourhood docs must be requested to conduct some sort of modified annual/ six monthly health check up, depending upon the age, to assess the condition of the body and mind.
6. Both the in sevice and Ex servicemen must be encouraged to take up alternative health upkeep excercise such as yoga. If this is institutionalised in active service then the same agencies could continue with the ex servicemen.This would make prevention the by word in health care. It would be economical too.
7. Finally the staff of the agencies at active end should be trained by expert counsellors to be sympathetic listners, respectful, polite and considerate to the ex servicemen without discriminating ranks and positions. It would be an excellent example if the starred retired personnel awaited their turn with patience and dignity. This would make us exemplary and different citizens.
There is more to write if the interest by concerned authorities is forthcoming.
With Best wishes.

BB Mistry
Cmde (Retd)
Vice President, War Veterans Party. A Party with a difference for the veterans from uniform and like minded civilians. Registered with the CEC.

Cdr Iyer writes...
I visited the AFIDS (Dental Clinic) at Bangalore today for dome dental treatment. Dr Vidya Gupta,who takes care of ECHS patients said that I will have to be referred to a referral clinic. This cannot be done now as the revision is yet to be approved and asked me to report again after a month or TWO. It is obvious that unless we pressurise at some higher levels, some serious patient will land in trouble.

G V Iyer
Cdr (Retd)

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Indian Army Harbingers of Peace and Stability

Western Command to hold 'Know Your Army' exhibitions
Chandigarh Tuesday, Jan 1 2008 IST

On the occasion of Army Day 2008, a series of 'Know Your Army' exhibitions have been planned during this month by the different corps of the Western Command at Ambala, Jalandhar and Jammu. The first such exhibition would be held at Ambala, with a number of activities such as equestrian display, dog show, sky diving, band display, motor cycle display and hot air ballooning lined up for the two-day show on January 5 and 6. The show would possibly be the biggest army display that the residents of the city have ever witnessed in the past, a defence spokesman said.

The theme of the exhibition is ''Indian Army: Harbingers of Peace and Stability''. It will trace the saga of valour and sacrifice of the Indian Army over the decades and portray the technological advancement and military might of the world's second largest army over the years. This would be a unique opportunity for people to witness the latest technology and a wide range of military equipment like tanks, infantry combat vehicles, artillery guns, anti-aircraft guns, radars and engineering equipment, the spokesman said. The exhibition would afford a rare opportunity to the students to experience the thrilling of undertaking rides on tanks and infantry combat vehicles. Besides, awareness stalls would be established for information about joining the Indian army as recruit soldiers and as officers.

Terminal benefits of a glowing career in the Indian army such as Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS), Ex-Servicemen Recruitment and Army Welfare Housing Organisation (AWHO) would also be projected. The exhibition would be held at Convoy Ground, Ambala Cantonment on Ambala-Jagadhri road.


Lest we Forget

The work horse of Corps of Signals for four decades. These communication stations now have been assigned scrap status by COD Agra. Working sets are now available as museum pieces in the Training Establishments.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Elephants in Artillery Role

The Elephants were used as a draught animal in conjunction with our heavy batteries in India, particularly those of the siege train (5 Inf Div- Mhow). Elephant batteries are of modern origin, though the animal has been used in war from the earliest times, and can be managed by his mahout with as little difficulty as a well trained Jawan. It is, indeed, astonishing to see the apparently clumsy animal wheeling to the right or left when ordered, as though he, like the gunners who accompany him, had passed a considerable time under the care of the drill Havildhar. Each animal can carry with ease a load of 400Kgs. Its food is usually from 6Kgs to 15Kgs of flour mixed with sugar, or molasses, and 175kgs of green food. It requires at least 100 Litres of water per Diem, but works well on only five hours of sleep. Each heavy gun is drawn by two animals. The gunners are seen in front of the elephants.

Contrast 1897 Artillery with current Bofors Shoot and Scoot!

Exemption of Toll Tax

I have been very impressed and motivated by the great efforts that you have been putting into the cause of welfare to the veterans. I would like to express my gratitude on behalf of all my fellow veterans. I would also like to present my self in your service should it help the cause. I can relate with most of the problems that we face after having safeguarded the country with our Sweat and Blood. The kind of harassment that we undergo at the toll tax barriers at the hands of illiterate and arrogant duty personal is a shame and disgrace to those safeguarding the nation.

I have been harassed at most of the Toll Tax barriers as well but as a true soldier, continue to fight for the privileges offered by the Government. I will appreciate a great deal if a copy of the letter exempting veterans from paying toll tax is forwarded to me for wider distribution to put an end to undue harassment of the veterans on toll tax barriers. (National Highways Authority of India(Ministry of Road Transport and Highways) GM(CM) Office letter No NHAI/CMU/GMA Off/EXEMP/Toll Tax d 1166 dated November 17, 2006).
Best regards and good wishes for the new year.

V Sharma
Flt Lt (Retd)

SIGNAL replies
A copy of the NHAI letter is appended below:

Email for a copy and it will be send to you as pdf attachment.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Indomitable Spirit of a Brave Soldier

Two weeks ago, I was invited to participate in the Founder's Day Celebrations of Peevees Public School at Nilambur, near Calicut in Kerala. I took that opportunity to go and look up my friend Brig PT Gangadharan who lives in Calicut and has been sending some very lovely pictures and quips which I have been forwarding them to my friends.

What I saw there, touched my heart. Gangadharan was commissioned in the Brigade of the Guards in 1971 and when he was commanding a Brigade in the valley, he was shot at by insurgents in Mar 2000. In the gun battle which ensued, he slipped and fell into a deep ravine. The fall damaged his spine and he is now paralyzed below his chest. Despite his near total disability, he is neither bitter nor helpless. He has learnt to use the computer and keeps himself occupied, picking up some of the nicest pieces from the Internet. With literally no support from any one, he sends his selection to more than 300 friends. The list is growing.

As one sits with him and his wife, one is filled with admiration for the indomitable spirit of this brave soldier. His motto in life is


Wishing you all the very best for the New Year!

Maj Gen Surjit Singh

Brig Ganga writes

1. Thank you for placing my details in Signals blog.
2. It is kind of Gen Surjit to have taken the pains to visit me at Calicut and thereafter sending the letter. I am not a hero as you say but an ordinary soldier. There is a little factual error in the case. I was commanding a Brigade on the LoC and therefore the firing was from across the border, in the form of speculative fire, prevalent in border locations. My injury is as result of a fall for over 200 meters.
3. Thank you once again for placing my details in the Signal blog.

With best wishes and regards,
PT Gangadharan
Brig (Retd)
Date: 01 Jan 2008

ECHS- Constraints

Lt Gen Harbhajan Singh, PVSM (Retired), Former SO-in-C, met Maj Gen RK Kalra, the MD of ECHS, at the beginning of this month and informed him of certain problems being faced by retired Defence Personnel. In turn Gen Kalra explained what all is being done by HQ ECHS to improve the services. But being a Govt setup, the bureaucratic hassles have to be overcome by them (as we have faced in Delhi during our tenures).

Gen Harbhajan Singh further informed Gen Kalra about the 'Report My Signal - Blog' setup at website
In view of lack of a forum for proper interaction between retired Defence personnel and ECHS, Gen Harbhajan suggested to Gen Kalra that retired Defence personnel could put up their suggestions on the Blog, which Gen Kalra or one of his officers could periodically check and take necessary action where feasible. General Kalra agreed to the suggestion.

Therefore, it is suggested to members that as and when you wish to put up a suggestion regarding ECHS, please send your suggestion to -
'Report My Signal - Blog' setup at website

The link for sending your email to The Blog is given at the Blog itself, under Heading - "Sharing",

OR you can directly use the email ID - for sending your suggestion.

You would appreciate that it would depend on ECHS officers whether to visit the Blog and read your suggestions or not; and whether piecemeal suggestion can bring out the desired results? All the same let us make efforts and hope for the best.

CS Kamboj
Brig (Retd)

ECHS- Feedback

Dear friends,

Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) was launched with effect from 01 Apr 2003. The aim of the Scheme is to provide quality medicare to its members and their authorised dependents through 227 ECHS Polyclinics and a network of service and empanelled hospitals and diagnostic centres. The Scheme is fully financed by the Government.

There is a network of 227 polyclinics, ie, 106 Military and 121 Non Military Stations Polyclinics, based on density of ESM in various regions.

With the ECHS now functional for nearly five years, it is disheartening to hear criticism of the scheme.

There are numerous reasons for lack of popularity of the scheme. However instead of analyzing reasons, what is necessary, now, is to collect objective feedback and try to convince the authorities to carry out introspection with an open mind, and bring about improvements.

Having retired only in Dec 2006, I have very little experience of ECHS so far. However since some friends (coursemates in particular) have asked me to project a case, may I request you for your feedback. If you can collect feedback from your colleagues and forward it, you would contribute immensely to the cause.

Feedback is requested covering the aspects given below: -

Personal particulars .
Service No, Rank, Name.
Date of retirement/ leaving service.
ECHS Membership No.
Postal Address.
Email ID.
Phone/Mobile No.
Any other detail you wish to give.

Any comment regarding the org at the Army HQ (old name), Comd HQ, Stn levels.

Adequacy of staff vis a vis requirement. No of doctors and No of exservicemen dependent on the clinic. Is there a need to tailor the org of clinics based on requirements?

Competence and attitude of the staff.

Is there a need for more specialists, even on part time basis, once or twice a week?

Difficulties experienced in dealing with affiliated hospitals, and diagnostic centres.

Procedures followed by ECHS to prevent fraud or misuse. How justified and whether it is too bureaucratic. Any examples.

Any info on the finances of ECHS. Reasons for non clearance of bills of hosp, if known. Any avoidable expenditure in the clinics. Use of ECHS ambulances, if any (are they used for patients?).

Feedback systems in place. Attitude of different authorities.
Are you aware of any actions taken by any ex servicemen orgs or individuals, in this regard, so far? If anyone else is working on this please let me know.

Comment on the overall ambience. Is there place for patients to wait or do they wait in verandas and corridors? Parking space adequate? For how many vehs should it cater? This would depend on No of patients expected and time spent in clinics.

Your recommendations to make it an ideal org.

I intend using only authentic feedback with names and dates.

If some other issues arise on receipt of feedback I intend asking for more data to support such issues.

I will need data of as many stations as possible. I recommend special efforts to collect this data, to include interaction with pers in the clinics, and with the stn cdrs. Aim is to improve the system and not point out individual faults. The stn cdrs may be assured of the same, in case you interact.

May I take the liberty of reminding you that medical requirements will only increase with age. So efforts to collect feedback and attempts to bring about improvements are our investments for a better future. Feedback collected from senior colleagues will be most useful.

During visits to the ECHS or with your Regt affiliation could you please collect feedback from JCOs and OR, with their particulars.

Early action is requested. Comments should be sent on email ID

Even if our success is limited, we would have collected some data and made some progress which could be used in subsequent cases.

For those who do not know me, I would like to make it clear that I am no authority on the subject, and there are scores of senior offrs who would handle the case better. I harbour no grudge against any org nor do I have any axe to grind. Also I have no bitter experience of ECHS. I am doing this only because I hear a general crib and feel it is better to do something more positive.

Request excuse use of some commonly used abvns in my comns.


Lt Gen KK Khanna, PVSM, AVSM** (Retired)


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