Indian Army Losing Charm: Senior Colonels Shun Elite Courses and Prefer Pre-Mature Retirement
The Indian army has a long and checkered history. It traces its origin to the armed force raised by the East India Company nearly 250 years back. After the 1857 mutiny the army, the Company army became the British Indian army,as the crown directly took over the administration of India and Queen Victoria became Empress of Hindustan.
The Indian army during the days of the Raj was an elite force that carried a lot of prestige. Over the years with the Indianisation of the officer cadre, the sheen of the army did not go away and officers of the army had a niche place in Indian society. This is not peculiar to India, but is a fact in most countries of the world.
Come 1947 and India achieved independence and the British Indian army became the Indian army. The same set of military principles and laws continued and the army had only some cosmetic changes incorporated from the army of colonial days. However there was a marked difference as the new Indian leadership brought up under the aegis of Gandhi believed in non-violence and military power was relegated to the background.The army was thus allowed to go to seed and the finest fighting machine in Asia began to rust.
This was not all, as the political leadership, thinking the army as a hangover of British colonialism was down graded and perks and privileges of the officer cadre severely curtailed. Nehru the them Indian prime minister had no comprehension of the role of military power in geo strategic environment and with his passive approach not only surrendered the leadership to China, but also allowed it to occupy nearly 30000 sq miles of Indian territory. He also allowed Pakistan to capture a large part of Kashmir as he fiddled his thumbs about the army being a legacy of the British Raj.
The demotions in order of precedence and general distrust continued and we had a ludicrous statement by the the then President of India Dr Rajendra Prasad, who advocated disbandment of the army.
The Down slide
Despite having been reduced to impotence in TIbet, Nehru persisted with his demotion of the army officer cadre. His appointment of Krishna Menon was a disaster as this man interfered with the army hierarchy and allowed officers with doubtful aptitude of command to rise up, A defeat with China did not change anything and even after winning the 1971 war,Indira Gandhi the then Prime minister wanted to ' cut the army to size' and reduced pension by almost 23%.
The army continued to be hard hit, but the civil leadership continued in its line of thought. They were helped by a weak and supine general staff who with the lure of promotion and a job after retirement signed on the dotted line as required by the government.
The Birds have come Home to Roost
Over the decades the officer cadre of the army lost is lustre and the charm of being an officer of the national army went down the drain. Such a situation could only bring happiness to arch enemies Pakistan and China, yet the government failed to think of the army as the elite force of the nation. Even a change of government with the arrival of the BJP and Narendra Modi had no effect and apart from mouthing cliches, nothing substantial was done. The army career became so unattractive that young men with the required OLQ( officer like qualities) failed to turn up in significant numbers.
: Among the serving officers there is a significant shift for the first time, more than 10 colonels have refused to join the prestigious "higher command course" (HCC) and "higher defence management course" (HDMC) run by the Army for its topmost officers. This course is a prerequisite for a promotion to a higher rank like brigadier and major general. One rider going with the course is the stipulation of serving for another 5 years. this probably is the fly in the ointment as officers would like to leave service with pension and look for service in the civil and have no wish to serve longer.
The move by the colonels, has come as a rude shock for the army brass and Government who are already wondering what to do as more and more officers are retiring or applying for premature retirement or release.
The fact is that serving as an officer in the Indian army do not find the career attractive. Earlier, officers threw parties if they were selected for courses at the NDC, but now the officers simply want to hang up their uniform.Sadly many bright officers simply want to ditch their uniforms for lucrative jobs in the corporate world.
The action of selected colonels to opt out of the courses shows the fault of the Modi government which has not sanctioned One Rank One Pension as approved by Parliament. The so called pay commission has further eroded the perks and privileges of the men in uniform,. The armed forces thanks to the government are facing a crunch time. The army thanks to the political leadership is bleeding battle on two fronts. One, bright youngsters with requisite OLQs (officer-like qualities)are not joining and secondly the serving officers want to quit. What a shame from the army of a 100 years back. Glasses will be clinking in the officers messes of China and Pakistan