While We Proclaim Our Patriotism, Why Are The Armed Forces Short Of New Hires?

Posted: August 15, 2019

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We may have just observed Kargil Vijay Diwas, but are we any closer to motivating young people to join the Indian Armed Forces?

The year 2019 marked 20 years of the Kargil conflict and 26th July 2019 was observed as Kargil Vijay Diwas. Over the past few weeks many events were held across the country to culminate into Kargil Vijay Diwas.

A lot has been written about how it was the Kargil war that brought attention to our Army and Air Force who successfully eliminated infiltrators and reigned supreme.

However, it is imperative that I mention the 527 men who made the supreme sacrifice in the course of their duty. Some of them even went beyond their call of duty while protecting the border. The more I read about them, the more I am in awe of what it is that makes these men do what they do.

Humanity, not just military might

It’s not only about those brave hearts of Kargil. I have heard Ted Talks of a few veterans and a serving officer. Each time I hear them it gives me goosebumps. The mere mention of the ethos of the Indian Armed Forces is enough and it is not just the first time I hear them, it is every single time.

During one such talk, there was a mention of the Pakistani soldiers who were killed during the Kargil war. Since the Pakistani army refused to claim the bodies, it was the Indian Army that gave them the funeral they deserved. The soldiers were buried, as is the religious norm.

In yet another incident, Brig. MPS Bajwa wrote a letter of appreciation about a Pakistani soldier, Capt. Sher Khan. Khan was killed by the Indian Army during the war. The letter resulted in Khan being conferred with Nishan-e-Haider- Pakistan’s highest military gallantry award. Such high morals!

In spite of knowing what a tough life, the military life is, and given what it entails, I know that I would jump at the chance to join the forces if the opportunity presents itself. I am just two decades late!

However, I cannot say the same with the same assurance about the youth of the country. Had that been the case, we wouldn’t have had a shortage of officers and jawans in the Armed Forces.

It does make me wonder why the youth isn’t keen on joining such an organisation. An organisation that has such high morals and is probably the last bastion of security for the country and its citizens. An organisation whose men always deliver results and reign supreme – be it counter insurgency operations, natural disasters or even times like the Kargil war!

Negativity around the Armed Forces

Over the past few years, Indian Armed Forces have been in the news for several wrong reasons. The key ones being their struggle for full implementation of OROP (One rank, one pension), granting of NFFU (Non-Functional Financial Upgradation and most recently exemption of tax on disability pension.

A lot has been written on social media on some or all of the above issues. There have been debates on TV as well that have covered these problems.

For a civilian like me, who is in awe of the Armed Forces, the negativity around it owing to these matters seems a bit demotivating.

On the other hand, there are more tempting options for the youth to opt for. At such a time, any uncalled for negativity around the Armed Forces may only drive them further away from this esteemed organisation.

Are we really taking care of our soldiers?

Is it effective then, to just confer titles on eminent personalities to motivate youth to join the Armed Forces? Is it not important to resolve matters faster to ensure that veterans don’t have to fret and fume about their organisation?

Vir Chakra awardee who served during the Kargil war, had to work as a traffic constable after he was discharged in 2009. As the news spread all across social media, the then Punjab Chief Minister ordered that he be promoted to sub-inspector.

There are several such personnel who find it hard to secure good jobs once they are discharged from the service. What, then, is the best way to ensure the right jobs for these veterans?

Most of the veterans I interact with have one thing to say, that it is a matter of pride and privilege to be a part of the Indian Armed Forces. They also say that if they had a chance, they would do it all over again. Hearing them say such things, I feel like we could do a better job of creating job opportunities for them.

People from different castes and sub castes demand reservations for their families, and community, and are more than willing to stage protests. At the same time, there is nobody to protest for reservations for these ex-servicemen. Wouldn’t a guarantee of a job after discharge from service be an encouraging factor? Would it not make sense to have clear reservations for the veterans?

Neither am I an expert when it comes to taking steps to motivate the youth to join the forces. Nor am I from the fraternity. However, I believe that those who are in the forces should be taking necessary steps to motivate the next generation. It seems only logical to me, that those who are, or were a part of the organisation are their best advertisers. Treating them in a fair manner is the easiest way to keep more coming into the organisation.

We remember 20 years of Kargil and might even conduct several related events across the nation. At the same time, there are some veterans who probably were a part of the war and are now fighting for the implementation of OROP and tax exemption on disability pension.

Is it enough to remember the sacrifice of our heroes by organising events or do we need to do look beyond such events held once in a while? Do such events serve the purpose? Paying homage to the fallen soldiers and honouring those who served during the conflict on few days is one thing. But ensuring that they get the due respect and recognition for their lifetime and thereafter is a completely different thing.

The youth is watching how those who served are being treated today. So should we not take care of the families of the fallen soldiers? Should we not ensure that a decent standard of living is maintained by the family even after death or discharge?

What about the next of kin and wives of the fallen soldiers?

Though there are a few women who have joined the Armed Forces after their husbands died, the number is marginal. What, then, about those who are not as educated? Or the ones who are not fit to join the forces? What about the education of the children of such brave-hearts?

In a few Ted Talks, I have heard personal accounts of officers who stay in touch with families of the fallen soldiers. These men even go as far as offering assistance to the families. I don’t think I need to mention the camaraderie the personnel and the families have.

Other than the above mentioned incident, in some cases, the supreme sacrifice is honoured and acknowledged during special events.

Such an acknowledgement, financial assistance for the education of the children etc. is commendable. No organisation would take care of the people who have left them. But if an organisation can do that, isn’t that a great motivation to be a part of the workforce there?

Exposure to discipline at a young age

Also, if the students are exposed at a younger age to military like values and discipline, it may only help them in choosing Armed Forces as a career.

Is it easier to have the option of NCC in more schools, thereby getting the students closer to the Armed Forces? Or should there be more celebrities conferred with titles?

What about having a chapter or two in our subjects on the icons like Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, Field Marshal K M Cariappa and Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh? Would it not be inspiring for the younger generation?

Of course, subjects and chapters thereof are a matter of individual states and a blanket rule for all schools of the country may or may not be possible.

My civilian friends casually brush me off when I discuss such issues with them. They say that those who are in the concerned positions would be doing what needs to be done. Maybe so.

But, as a veteran correctly pointed out on social media, that youth are not willing to join the armed forces is not their issue alone but that of the nation in itself. So here I am voicing my concern.

The effects of getting a few people to don the uniform may be short lived. In contrast, giving youngsters stories of brave hearts like Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, who laid down his life during the 26/11 attacks. Or those of Capt. Manjinder Singh Bhinder who lost his life trying to save lives during the Uphaar fire tragedy.

How can we expect a fire in the belly of the youth when there is no spark in the first place?  Such a spark and enthusiasm towards the Armed Forces may be ignited only when the youngsters see, hear and read more of the real men and women in uniform.

The citizens, the Armed Forces Fraternity, the educators and the policy makers may have to get together or at least in their own capacity make certain contributions to this effect.

I am unsure how much effective will a celebrity donning a uniform be. The fact remains that Mahendra Singh Dhoni is an exceptional captain and a cricketer par excellence, who will be remembered for his cricket and maybe not as a Lt Col (Hon) of the Territorial Army.

Whether the students of the next generation will get attracted to cricket coaching owing to M S Dhoni or that of NDA and SSB is a question that lingers on in my mind.

Picture credits: Pixabay 

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A homemaker, a freelance writer who loves to travel and has a passion for reading.

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