Saturday, August 14, 2010

Affliction in the Indian Armed Forces

Many commanders, even after rising above unit level, fail to shed their regimental mindset. Non-development of broadmindedness forces them to behave in prejudiced and partisan manner"
Communal Parochialism
Indian society has always been plagued by divisive forces. As precedence is given to communal identity (based on region, religion, caste and sub-caste) over nationalism, most people remain embroiled in petty bickering and internal squabbles. Earlier, community bias was unheard of in the services. It was considered a sacrilege. Indian armed forces had inherited a legacy of keeping religion and region out of its normal functioning. Religion (along with politics and women) was never allowed to be discussed in the officers’ messes. Unfortunately, the spreading virus of communalism in the country appears to be affecting some military leaders as well.

In the recent past, a senior commander was derisively called ‘clan chief’. He was known to surround himself with cronies from his clan and was forever ready to take up cudgels on their behalf. Through his ‘clan contacts’ at the Ministry, he managed extra-ordinary dispensations for his clan mates. Similarly, another senior commander was known to provide unhindered access to soldiers from his state. During his outstation visits, a discreet message used to be passed around. Both the commander and his wife used to receive their state-mates and note down their complaints/requests. Needless to say, both the above mentioned commanders forfeited respect of the services. By their communal acts, they had betrayed the trust of their commands and let them down. Their failure to rise above petty parochialism proved their unfitness to occupy high appointments.

Communal predisposition is the worst and most destructive type of parochialism. It has the potential to split the services on communal lines – a dreadful scenario indeed. Thankfully, communal parochialism is a recent phenomenon and is at a nascent stage at present. It is time cognizance is taken of this threat and suitable measures initiated to nip it in the bud.

Finally, it is time to act
Parochialism is an anathema. It poses a grave threat to the credibility of the military leadership. To be trusted by one’s subordinates is the greatest reward and highest accolade that a leader can earn. Trust is a non-substitutable, priceless, intuitive and complex force. It flourishes on credibility that a leader enjoys in his command. Trust is the expectancy that the followers can rely on a leader’s impartial and just approach. Subordinates feel let down when they witness partisan conduct of their commanders.

Merit is invariably the first casualty of parochialism. No organisation can flourish unless there are strong merit-performance ethical linkages in place. Every dispensation extended on the basis of parochial disposition amounts to depriving a deserving claimant of his lawful rights. As soldiers lose faith in the fairness of the system, a certain degree of despondency sets in, forcing the aggrieved to approach courts for getting their due
Let Parochialism not Afflict the Services: More... By Maj Gen Mrinal Suman

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