The timeless Chetwoode Motto of the Indian Military Academy, “The safety, honour, and welfare of your country come first, always and every time. The honour, welfare, and comfort of the men you command come next. Your ease, comfort, and safety come last, always and every time,” embodies the spirit of service deeply ingrained in every Indian Defence Serviceman. This motto encapsulates the essence of selflessness, valour, and devotion to duty that the Indian military personnel have historically shown, serving in some of the world’s most hostile terrains and facing constant threats to ensure the nation’s security.
Against this backdrop, the recent policy demanding Indian Defence Servicemen to dedicate 30 days of their leave for social work is a matter of intense debate. The policy underpins a noble cause: encouraging our service members to contribute directly to societal upliftment. However, one must ask: Is it necessary for the soldiers, who already live by the motto of ‘service before self’, to prove their commitment to nation-building yet again?
Understanding the Servicemen’s Sacrifice – Social Service Policy Implications
The Indian Defence Serviceman willingly puts his life at peril, whether it is War or No War, No Peace of Peace.
The servicemen operate in extreme climatic conditions, whether Siachen’s freezing temperatures or the Thar Desert’s scorching heat. Naval seamen sailing at sea and the airmen on deployment at their duty stations are all included, as service conditions are difficult on prolonged deployments.
Separation from families, witnessing the loss of comrades, and facing imminent threats are daily occurrences. Their commitment is not limited to protecting territorial boundaries; they’re frequently called upon during natural disasters, riots, and other internal disturbances.
The Physical and Emotional Toll
One must acknowledge the physical and emotional toll these situations extract. Soldiers need a reprieve to recuperate and reconnect with their families. Their leaves are not just holidays but essential mental and physical recovery periods. To mandate social service during this crucial downtime might detract from the primary purpose of their leave.
Is Service a Matter of Quantity or Quality?
While the intent behind the policy may be to imbue a sense of social responsibility, there’s an underlying assumption that quantity of service equals commitment. A soldier’s day-to-day life is an embodiment of the Chetwoode Motto.
Does extending their service into their leave period truly enhance their commitment or add to their already considerable burden?
Service members engaging in social work would bring a disciplined, organized approach to community service. Their experiences, leadership qualities, and problem-solving skills could significantly benefit society. This could also strengthen the bond between civilians and the military, leading to a more cohesive nation.
Balancing Commitment and Welfare
The policy’s sentiment is undoubtedly commendable. However, the execution needs re-evaluation. Instead of making social work mandatory during leaves, why not integrate such activities into their regular training or routine without impinging upon their rest periods?
Alternatively, offer service members the choice to voluntarily contribute to social causes if they feel emotionally and physically up to it during their leaves.
Supporting Defence Personnel: Rejigging the Civil Administration
Defence personnel, who dedicate their lives to protecting the nation, often face challenges on the home front that remain largely unrecognized. From battling corrupt officials to managing issues instigated by envious relatives or neighbours, distractions and worries can adversely affect a service member’s morale and performance.
A government genuinely supportive of its defence forces must address these issues proactively.
Here’s how the government can protect and prioritize its defence personnel and their families:
Centralized Grievance Redressal System
Establish a centralized online grievance redressal system exclusively for defence personnel and their families. This portal should be fast-tracked so any concerns are handled within time.
Appoint liaison officers in every district. Their primary role would be to act as a bridge between defence families and local administration, ensuring that the families’ concerns are prioritized and addressed efficiently.
Create a helpline specifically for the defence community. This helpline would provide legal advice, counselling, and immediate emergency assistance.
Conduct regular awareness campaigns that educate the general public about the sacrifices and challenges defence personnel and their families face. Such campaigns can deter people from causing unnecessary problems and promote community support.
Specialized Legal Cells
Establish legal cells that can offer free or subsidized legal support to defence families facing property disputes, issues with corrupt officials, or any other legal challenge.
Financial Awareness Programs
Often, the defence personnel’s families may need more financial knowledge. Regular financial awareness programs should be conducted to prevent them from falling into traps set by unscrupulous individuals.
Strict Action against Corruption
Servicemen and their families should not be burdened by corrupt practices in civil administration. Officials guilty of corrupt practices should face stringent action, especially concerning defence personnel matters. This could be enhanced fines, suspensions, or even termination based on the severity of the corruption.
Community Support Groups
Foster a community environment by initiating local support groups or centres exclusively for defence families. These centres can serve multiple purposes, from being a safe space for families to connect to providing counselling, legal aid, and other support services.
Punitive Measures for Harassment
Introduce stringent punitive measures for those guilty of harassing defence families, neighbours, relatives, or others. This could range from fines, restraining orders, or even jail time in extreme cases.
Regular Monitoring and Feedback
The government should conduct regular feedback sessions with defence families to understand the measures’ efficacy. This continuous feedback loop will help tweak policies and practices to cater to their needs better.
Consider the establishment of special courts to expedite cases involving defence personnel and their families. This ensures they don’t spend years in the often slow-moving judicial process.
There should be policy reforms aiming at minimizing bureaucratic hurdles for defence families. For instance, simplify processes for property registration, taxation, utility connections, etc., for families of service personnel.
Neighbourhood Watch Programs
Initiate neighbourhood watch programs in localities with a significant defence populace. These programs, which could be partnerships between local police and residents, would deter miscreants from targeting defence households.
Educational Programs for Service Personnel
The government could introduce programs that help them understand their civil rights, property laws, and other essentials. A well-informed service member can better guide and protect their family against predatory individuals.
Direct Communication Channels
Defence personnel should have a direct communication channel with senior officers or dedicated desks where they can report personal issues affecting their professional performance. This way, the higher-ups are informed and can intervene if necessary.
Role of Veterans
Veterans, with their wealth of experience and a deep understanding of the issues faced by serving personnel, can play an invaluable role in assisting the government in addressing the administrative requirements of active duty members.
Veteran Liaison Officers
Veterans can be appointed as liaison officers. Their primary role could be to bridge the communication gap between serving personnel, their families, and the civil administration. Given their personal experiences, they can offer unique insights and solutions to problems faced by currently serving members.
Veterans can be involved in policy-making processes as advisors. They can assist the government in framing rules, regulations, and welfare schemes for the armed forces. Their first-hand experience would ensure that policies are both practical and beneficial.
A mentorship program can be established where veterans guide and counsel serving personnel about their administrative rights, obligations, and avenues available to redress grievances. Such programs can help in smoother transitions and conflict resolution.
Grievance Redressal Committees
Veterans can be integral members of grievance redressal committees, providing a balanced perspective and helping in speedy resolution of issues.
The government can organize workshops where veterans can train serving personnel and their families on various administrative procedures, financial planning, and legal rights.
Veteran-led Community Centres
Veterans can manage and run community centres that cater specifically to defence families, providing them a space for recreation, learning, and support.
Veterans can be involved in creating and managing feedback mechanisms where serving personnel can voice their administrative concerns. These mechanisms can range from helplines to online portals.
Given their credibility and respect within the defence community, veterans can lead outreach programs that inform and educate defence families about their rights, government schemes, and available resources.
If liaised with the government, these associations can act as a potent force in addressing administrative challenges. They can collate common issues faced by serving members and work with the government for their resolution.
Special Task Forces
The government can create special task forces comprising veterans to look into specific administrative issues, like property disputes, bureaucratic corruption, or issues with local administration. Their experience and understanding can aid in swift and practical solutions.
Integration with Civil Administration
Veterans can be embedded within civil administrative structures at district or state levels. Their presence can ensure that the concerns of defence families are prioritized and handled with sensitivity.
Public Awareness Campaigns
Veterans can lead public awareness campaigns, fostering a better understanding among civilians about the challenges faced by defence personnel and their families, thereby creating a more supportive environment.
Incorporating veterans in assisting with the administrative requirements of serving personnel presents a win-win situation. The government can benefit from veterans’ vast experience and insights, and serving personnel can feel more understood and supported, knowing that their seniors are directly involved in their welfare. Such collaboration can not only streamline administrative processes but also foster a sense of unity and mutual respect within the defence community.
The Role of Armed Forces and Bureaucracy in Nation Building: A Comparative Analysis
In any nation-state, various institutions, from the armed forces to bureaucracy, play distinct yet complementary roles in ensuring stability, progress, and the general well-being of its citizenry. But questions often arise regarding the relative burdens these entities bear, especially in countries like India, where the narrative of nationalism and patriotism runs deep.
Dilution of the Indian Military from Their Primary Task
The Indian military, comprising the Army, Navy, and Air Force, is primarily tasked with safeguarding the nation’s territorial integrity, ensuring national security, and defending the country against external aggression. However, over the years, the armed forces have frequently been called upon to engage in various social service roles, particularly during crises and disasters. This dual role, while showcasing the versatility and commitment of the armed forces, has raised concerns about the dilution of their primary objective.
Engagement in Social Services
India faces a multitude of natural calamities, from earthquakes to floods. The military often plays a significant role in rescue and relief operations. Examples include their active involvement during the Uttarakhand floods, the Kashmir floods, and the Kerala floods, among others.
The military’s medical units have been crucial during health crises, notably during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In remote areas, particularly in border regions, the military often undertakes development projects, from road building to school construction.
Pros of Military Engagement in Social Services
With its disciplined structure and immediate availability, the military can respond swiftly during emergencies.
Resources & Expertise
The military has specialized equipment and trained personnel to handle challenging situations.
In areas affected by insurgency or civil unrest, social service by the military can foster goodwill and trust among the local populace.
Concerns About Dilution of Primary Role
Regular deployment in non-combat roles might stretch the armed forces thin, affecting their preparedness for their primary defence role.
Assets and funds allocated for defence might be diverted for non-military roles.
Risk of Casualties
Involvement in rescue operations can expose military personnel to risks, leading to avoidable casualties.
Militarization of Civil Space
Over-reliance on the military for social service tasks can blur the lines between civil and military roles, leading to concerns about militarising civilian spaces.
While the commitment and efficiency of the Indian military in social service roles are commendable, a balanced approach is essential. The government should:
Strengthen Civil Administration
Civil authorities, such as the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), should be empowered and equipped to handle most crises, calling the military a last resort.
Clear guidelines on the military’s role in civil operations can prevent ad hoc decisions that strain resources.
Joint training sessions between civil and military entities can ensure smooth coordination during actual crises.
However, for the long-term interests of national defence and civil-military relations, it’s essential to delineate roles and ensure the military remains focused on its primary task. Ensuring a resilient civil administration can achieve this balance, utilizing the military’s might when absolutely essential.
Bureaucracy and Police Forces
Bureaucracy runs the day-to-day administration. Their decisions impact citizens’ daily lives, ensuring that law, order, and public services function efficiently.
A well-functioning bureaucracy ensures continuity of policies and stability, crucial for a nation’s growth.
The central and armed police forces maintain internal security, combating threats like terrorism, organized crime, and communal violence.
Bureaucracy, with its intricate procedures, sometimes slows down processes, leading to public frustration.
The Role of Citizens and Politicians
While the armed forces and bureaucracy have clear institutional roles, the role of the average citizen and the politician is more nuanced.
Citizens form the backbone of the nation. Their active participation in civic duties, paying taxes, and voicing opinions shape the nation’s direction.
As elected representatives, politicians play a pivotal role in policy-making, which directs national resources and priorities.
Lip Service Nationalism
There’s a risk that the general public and politicians sometimes resort to symbolic gestures of nationalism without concrete actions or sacrifices. This can lead to accusations of hollow patriotism.
Political Manipulation. Politicians, for electoral gains, can sometimes play the “nationalism” card, sidestepping real issues and undermining nuanced discussions on nation-building.
Every institution, from the armed forces and bureaucracy to politicians and citizens, has a distinct role in nation-building. While the sacrifices of the military are more visceral and immediate, the sustained efforts of the bureaucracy, police forces, politicians, and citizens are equally crucial for a thriving democracy.
No single entity should bear an unequal burden, nor should any institution’s contribution be sidelined. True nationalism involves appreciating and understanding these diverse contributions and working collaboratively for the nation’s greater good. The intent to further bridge the gap between service members and civilians is honourable, and the policy should be carefully assessed to ensure it doesn’t become an additional strain.
The Chetwoode Motto isn’t just a set of words but a way of life for our Defence Servicemen. They already prioritize the nation and their fellow citizens above their comfort. The Indian military’s involvement in social service is a testament to its versatility, dedication, and the nation’s trust in its capabilities.
Our Defence Servicemen’s commitment isn’t in question; their well-being is. Policies should honour and uphold their sacrifices rather than inadvertently add to their challenges.
The commitment and sacrifices of defence personnel cannot be weighed in gold. They brave hostile environments and extreme conditions to keep the nation safe. The nation’s duty, represented by its government, is to ensure that families live without fear or unnecessary challenges back home. By addressing their administrative and social challenges, the government can ensure that the defence personnel can focus entirely on their duty and ensure that their loved ones are well cared for and protected.