Thursday, July 12, 2012

Corruption in Military: Falling Standards of Officer Cadre

Corruption in military
The malady requires an effective remedy
by Lt-Gen Harwant Singh (retd)
The Tribune Thursday, July 12, 2012, Chandigarh, India
A TV channel recently showed a sting operation in which a junior commissioned officer is caught on camera handling wads of currency notes allegedly obtained from prospective candidates for various jobs in the military with a colonel-rank officer operating in the background. A maj-general is caught red-handed taking money from a contractor. These two are the more recent incidents of corruption in the Army. One is from down South, near Pune (National Defence Academy), and the other from up North in J and K. Earlier we had the case of Sukna land scam in the East where a few Lt-Generals were involved and were duly court-martialled. The DG, Supply Corps, a Lt-General rank officer, is court-martialled on charges of corruption.
A few from very high echelons of the Army are involved in the Adarsh housing society scam. The Supreme Commander of the armed forces, forsaking the very propriety of the act, reportedly made a desperate attempt to grab the military’s land in Pune. A more recent development is that of the nudging by the Supreme Court to hold court-martial of a number of officers involved in fake encounters at Pathribal in J and K, though the military should have done so on its own. Colonel Purohit is alleged to have been associated with a terrorist group. If all this is not enough, a second incidence of gross indiscipline in a unit at Nyoma in Ladakh leads one to infer that it is not only probity and integrity that are under assault but discipline also is on the wane. Corruption, malfeasance, fake encounters, ill-discipline, etc, from one end of the country to the other and right across the rank structure, give the impression that all is not well with our military.
During the last few decades the composition of manpower intake, both of officer class and the rank and file, has undergone a sea change. The military is simply not able to get suitable material, not only in the officer cadre, but in recruitment of soldiers too. With the opening of the economy and expansion in civil services, a number of lucrative options are on offer for the youth. Those likely to join the military as soldiers find the state and central police forces as a better option. Faced with these constraints, has the military lowered its intake standards?
In the early 1980s, army headquarters ordered a study to review the system of recruitment and selection for entry into the officer cadre. I headed the committee constituted to examine and review the officer selection system. Though the selection process had stood the test of time, military career as such had become least attractive and, as a result of that, a fewer number of suitable candidates had been opting to join the officer cadre. Consequent to this development, there was discernible tinkering with the selection process. Since then there has possibly been further lowering of intake standards!
The officer selection process is based on a triad system of evaluation. In this system three different techniques are applied over a period of four to five days to assess a candidate’s ability. When these three techniques are applied correctly, they are expected to produce the same result, thus reinforcing the selection process three times over. It also eliminates the possibility of fudging the result by an operator of any of the three techniques without being found out. When applied correctly, it is the most comprehensive and authentic selection process devised so far anywhere, in any army. Of late, the DRDO has managed to bring in some changes in the selection process, perhaps for the worse. During the eighties the DRDO, working on the recruitment intake standards, had projected that weight carrying capacity had no bearing on the height of a person and other physical attributes and, as such, the requirement of a minimum height for recruitment be done away with. One was constrained to observe that the Army wanted to recruit soldiers and not coolies.
It may be argued that the military is a mere reflection of society — where corruption is rampant, right across the national spectrum, and is accepted and even respected. When cheating and lack of discipline are all-pervasive, the military could not remain unaffected. After all, the Army draws its manpower from the same stock. Even so in this climate of loot and plunder, malfeasance and state of lawlessness, the military has strived hard to maintain its core value system by creating a sort of rampart of “do’s and don’ts” to isolate it from outside influence.
Of late, this rampart has been under attack, both from outside and within and breaches have appeared, but the military has made brave attempts at repairing this wall of core values. Cases of corruption, misconduct, false encounters and cheating have often manifested from within, cutting right across the rank structure. But the military has been quick to deal firmly with all such aberrations. Though a more recent development, venality threatens to engulf the very top echelons of the Army.
Some may contend that the level of corruption in the military is not even a minuscule of what prevails in the government machinery and civil society, and, therefore, there is no need to worry about it. Military service is quite apart from all other callings and it demands the highest standards in probity, integrity and personal conduct from its officers. Any shortfall in these will render the force ineffective, and national security will stand imperilled.
Even with the lowering of intake standards, the Army continues to remain short of over 12000 officers, thus reinforcing the fact that over time military career has been turned into the least attractive option. The officer cadre has seen an influx of not so suitable leadership material and, as such, the profile of the officer cadre has been undergoing a change for the worse. Though the military does strive to develop leadership skills in its young officers and instil in them an appropriate value system, in many cases it does not succeed.
However, individual aspirations, careerism, personal gain and dilution of leadership traits do sometimes get the better of some individuals, but where failings in character qualities surface, or discipline is lacking, action to correct the fault-lines is both stern and swift. It is essential to detect fault-lines in character at early stages of an officer’s career and apply correctives, which could even be weeding out.
The senior leadership in the military no more insists on setting good and enviable standards of conduct for juniors to follow. A few, at the very top, have faltered and fallen prey to greed. As the higher rank officers climbed into what is called “five star culture”, quite distinct from what fits in the military’s way of life, lower down the ladder some junior rank officers slid down to levels unacceptable for the officer class.
Finally, the officer cadre is the very soul of an army and mainspring of the whole mechanism. Any fall in its standards will surely lead to failures during a war.
Corruption in military

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