Saturday, February 19, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Why does one want to join the Army?

TO make up the ever-increasing dearth of military officers joining the armed forces, which has now reached a dangerous operational low level, it has recently been decided to cut short the training period of cadets at the Indian Military Academy (IMA) by six months. This drastic step was taken, since all attempts, such as a hefty increase in pay packet, upgrading of ranks, promoting junior commissioned officers and sustained campaign in the media, have proved totally unsuccessful. This is causing great concern at Army Headquarters.

Studies of wars have amply proved that, ultimately a soldier joins the forces and makes the supreme sacrifice, not because he is more courageous or more patriotic than his civilian fellow mate; he certainly does not do it for the Army pay he receives or the false promises made to him after retirement; even the Army Act does not enjoin him to die. The only reason he dies without batting an eyelid is because, he is made to believe that he is a superior citizen, and as such, cannot let himself down in the eyes of the nation.

  The question therefore arises, as to how this feeling of superiority can be inculcated in the soldier in peace time, so that it becomes a part and parcel of his entire mental make-up and automatically manifests itself during a crisis in battle. No country in the world, including a rich one like USA, can afford to pay its military personnel as much as they would earn in industry. However, the civilian society of those countries see to it that, the military officer, in spite of his meagre salary, is automatically accepted in the highest of society and the best of clubs, and at no time his honour and prestige is ever allowed to be lowered in the eyes of the nation.

Whereas all other countries, including Pakistan, have gone out of their way to foster this feeling of honour and prestige, our country has not still grasped the significance of the word “izzat”. Unless this is realised, the present shortfall of officers will further deteriorate.

Brig N. B. GRANT (retd)


Reference your news item (PTI) titled: “Army to induct 1,400 more officers” (The Sunday Tribune, Feb 13, 2000). Being a retired Army officer, I feel rather hurt to learn that the deficiencies in the ranks of Captains and Lieutenants in the Indian Army are as high as 40 per cent. It is an alarming situation when viewed from the national security angle. How can we call our Army operationally fit when there are such a large-scale deficiencies of young officers existing? The lowering of the selection criteria or reducing the duration of training in IMA/NDA is not the right answer to meet the situation. Such measures are bound to prove counter-productive and will tend to lower the overall standard of our Army. The situation demands taking of certain tough decisions on the part of our Union Government. The terms and conditions of service must be made attractive enough to motivate our young generation to join Army in preference to joining corporate sector or IAS. Post-retirement security and dignified/proper rehabilitation of retired Army officers must be ensured and catered for. Army officers retire young as compared to their civilian counterparts. They must be given respectful re-employment and their due place as per their status/rank in the society after they have hung up their uniform. NCC (National Cadet Corps) units in our schools/colleges must be re-vamped/re-energised to ensure the popularity of NCC so that it provides maximum intake to the Indian Army’s officers’ strength. Our Military Sainik Schools/Army Public Schools should motivate and encourage the students to join defence forces. We should make documentary films which unfold the heroic deeds of our brave soldiers/officers in Kargil operation/1965 & 1971 wars so that these can be shown in schools/colleges in order to motivate students to adopt these war-heroes as their role models. Even if all this effort fails to attract our young generation to join the Army, then I am afraid as a last resort we should not hesitate to make it compulsory for our young boys to join the Army and serve the nation for a minimum of five years.

Lt Col ONKAR CHOPRA (retd)


R. Day honours

The controversy which erupts annually with regard to the award of Republic Day honours has focused public attention on the need to evolve proper and transparent criteria for awards, and restarted thinking whether such awards for civilians are proper at all in a republic.

There are a number of prestigious awards for accomplishments in various fields, and these are given to deserving persons by established organisations after proper scrutiny. What is of concern is the emergence of an “award” industry by non-descript organisations sending letters to businessmen, professionals, and others conferring on them “awards” for their “achievements”! The gullible victims rush to the Press with the news or even congratulatory advertisements!

“Award functions” are arranged in five-star hotels, and elected representatives or other assorted politicians, who are too ready to lend their names (for reasons not difficult to guess) are associated with such organisations and functions, and publicity crazy VIPs or VVIPs give away the “awards”!

The delighted awardees are hooked by the award givers for huge contributions towards “expenses of the function”!

With our craze for “phoren”, some private organisations, with local agents, have joined this game. The damage to recipients in these cases is in the form of costly medals or plaques.

Rare indeed is the recipient who on getting intimation of such an “award” replied: Someone has given you wrong information about me. I do not deserve the honour, as I am an ordinary person. Therefore, I beg to decline the great honour you have proposed.”



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