By Yogendra Bali
As one who has watched the growth of Indian Armed Forces as splendid institutions of defence of a resurgent democracy for almost sixty years, the recent tendency to sting and smear the forces, is obviously disturbing and distasteful. Of course it is the right of everyone to express his opinion freely in a democracy. It is equally the right of others to differ with them. But opinions, to be credible, have to be honest, well intentioned and well informed not just subsidiary parts of sting operations so much in operation these days.
Those, who might like to sit in judgment over the Armed Forces on the basis of an odd aberration here and there would give themselves away the moment they seek to compare the uniformed with the non-uniformed in terms of rank, pay, status and experience. Such comparisons are odious and offensive. For example, if one is over influenced by reports of some IAS officers being caught red handed in traps laid for catching the corrupt, by civil agencies, that would not mean that the entire Indian Administration is corrupt. Similarly, if some officers of the foreign service or the revenue service are held on charges of corruption that should not earn the entire revenue services or the entire foreign service the charge of being corrupt. If a police inspector is held for taking bribe or torturing the innocents, that should not be an indictment of the entire police service. There has to be a balanced approach towards the issue of crime and punishment while assessing services which are based on the principle of laying their lives for the defence of the country. If outsiders chose to smear the Indian Armed Forces for their own frustrations and defeats on the battlefront it is understandable. But if insider resort to sting and smear it has to be carefully examined on their motivation and objectives.
There are some, who overlook the tough disciplinary system and military law system in which violation of discipline and code of conduct are summarily tried and dealt with unlike in civil administration, where those accused of corruption and often cognizable criminal conduct get away after long and tortuous inquiries and litigation. Military courts of inquiry, though confidential, are fair and fast track and Court Martials spare none in dealing out punishment to those found guilty. The Armed Forces are very sensitive about maintaining their honour and very senior officers too have to prove themselves innocent before a Court Martial. It should go to the credit of the Armed Forces and not made out to be a slur on their name. In fact there are some who feel that such an “Administrative Law” should also be enacted for Civil Services to hold summary inquiries and fast track court martial punishment for the civil bureaucracy in cases of corruption and criminal misconduct.
There were also those disgruntled souls today who even grudged the soldiers their ration and some compensation for serving in high altitude snowbound and burning hot desert areas of the country. They forgot these were people who had committed their lives to the nation and often laid down their lives to defend the democracy. Who else but a soldier would prove his accountability by giving his life. On the countrary there were cases where a former Defence Minister had to threaten the civil top brass with a high altitude posting to get the taste of the life at the Siachen Glacier. That yielded approval of a long pending proposal to provide snow-scooters to jawans posted at Siachen and other snow bound areas.
Few armies of the world have had to come out to the aid of the civil authorities in order to help in a variety of emergencies including disaster management as the Indian Army. But oddly enough the same civil administrators and their apologists who are quick to seek help from the Armed Forces are among the first to start bickering campaigns on issues for which they have neither understanding and training, nor experience. Calling a general names would not make one a great civil servant, serving or retired.
A soldier’s real test is on the battlefield. The “Indian” as a soldier, coming from the same families which produced teachers, engineers, doctors, scientists, writers and various categories of government officials had his role to play in building new India, both in the cantonements and the civil streets. The Armed Forces had produced some of the best governors for the large and problematic states of India. Their governing assets were the discipline, dedication and selfless approach to challenges of the day. No wonder they were objectives of envy and grumbling by their civil compatriots.
In conclusion I would point out how the Armed Forces are emerging as the carriers of the global power imprint of the Indian democracy. The numbers of joint army, air force and naval military exercises, including counter terrorism exercises being held every year shows esteem in which they are held by the highest military powers of the world like US and China. The last comment of my argument. Please do not equate the clerk with the soldier. They are both doing different jobs. Let them do what they are doing.
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Please don’t sting the armed forces
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