Saturday, September 11, 2010

Military Ranks Demeaned

This article appeared in the in the Times of India, 09-08-2010 on the editorial page in the section "Times View-Counterview" on Sachin tendulkar being given the honorary rank of Group Captain. I had critisized it in a mail to Signals blog. Now Jay Kumar writing on the editorial view has very lucidly written why such ranks should not be made cheap. I am sure all your readers would like what arguments Jay Kumar has given for opposing the action by the IAF. I append a copy of the article below which will interest all veterans.
Shashank bendre

Jay Kumar, Sep 9, 2010, 12.00am IST
The Indian Air Force has granted 21 persons honorary ranks, from flight lieutenant to air marshal. This includes the latest anointment of Indian batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar as a group captain. The territorial army has conferred similar honorary ranks to cricketer Kapil Dev and Malayali actor Mohanlal. It is questionable whether the honorary ranks accorded by our forces serve any purpose, when the government and civil society have already devised numerous ways to recognise distinction and individual achievement.

Let's not ignore that our soldiers earn such ranks and distinctions through years of arduous life in inhospitable terrain, and sometimes are called upon to make the supreme sacrifice. Let's not confuse achievement in this area with achievement in other domains. Military honours keep them motivated and prepared for service to the nation. Conferring them indiscriminately on civilians would blur their meaning. The purported utility of 'brand ambassadors' in terms of actually motivating youth to join the forces also needs closer scrutiny. It is puzzling how cricketing legends like Sachin or Kapil can motivate someone to join the forces instead of cricket. More so, when cricket is one of the few sports in India that guarantees money and fame and can turn an individual's fortune overnight. Is there any comparison with the grit and grime that life in the armed forces would entail?

The question is, ought we to reduce our forces to mere 'brands' with a need to woo customers? Even if we answer that question in the positive, a brand can only work if it has credibility. For that to happen, the armed forces ought to bet on real war heroes who can better position them in the market.

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