Saturday, October 12, 2013

                                                                                     I ask a simple question--Who is ultimately responsible for the present state of affairs in which the distrust between officers  (those who are supposed to lead) and the men  is becoming more and more palpable every day?? If you say that it is the Commanding Officer , you are only 30% correct . 
                         My dear Generals (and Brigadiers) , 70 % of the blame lies at your doors .It is the dog eat dog race to the top which has resulted in the Country , the Bureaucrats and the Media  playing merry hell with the reputation of the Armed Forces , specially the Army. 
            You can have any number of enquiries , any number of GCMs , any number of studies and any number of Do's and Dont's (and for your information,stoppage of leave is not a reason any more) , but unless you get over your Ostrich Policy and desist from pushing substandard material to higher ranks (for considerations other than merit) ,  you will soon be in charge of a rag tag force with mediocrity rampant in the Flag Ranks from Lt Gen to Brig--it is visible today , and it has resulted in the hierarchy being unable to discern the difference between good officers and well qualified officers . Do the mandatory courses (which will make you 'well qualified to keep rising'), have a good staff tenure (ji hazoor , do not annoy the boss -always say YES)  , have a two star or a three star General as a God father , a short tenure  in a difficult area (with a unit  due for relief) , atleast two/three tenures (in each rank from Col onwards) in the IHQ --and you got it made . Just have a copy of the old Army List by your table for ready reference , remember senior offrs do become LMC's or jump off roof tops , the room at the top sometimes gets vacated sooner.!!
                But lets agree on one thing first. Atleast at the the Bn/Regtl level, the issue being debated just boils down to one thing---The 'Offr- Man Relationship'. No more and no less. If there is a gap between the hierarchy and the men , there will be trouble and it can be ignited by any incident . The men are more literate , economically much better off , more aware and wordly wise  :  just a plain 'CO sahib ka hukum ' is not good enough now!!
          So what differentiates a good unit which has a happy team from the not so good unit??? Very basic---in a good unit  offrs and men work , train ,play together and spend a lot of time with each other.In a good unit the jawans are clear that there is impartiality and no double standards in the dealings of  their ''afsir saiban'' with their subordinates as well as their  with their superiors. Yes, note my words-- ' with their superiors'. The pressure of that mandatory race by the unit offrs for a flag and a star is not felt by the men. Period. And many a time this CO may not even have the urge or as some of our Generals say , -be 'qualified' to go up.

      One of the British CIG'S had once remarked that  the strength of the British Army was ' that Commanding Officer who aspired to be a Commanding Officer and no more.'

                                             All of us who have ever donned the olive greens will guarantee  that the Indian Soldier is one of the most loyal and trusting of human species!!
                     The whole problem arises because of mis-handling , discernible double standards, communication gap between the offrs and the men , lack of respect for offrs born out of a lack of  faith and lastly when the men see the un-officer like behaviour over a period of time (by some offrs , if not all) . I need not elaborate what  un -officer like behaviour is. This behaviour is now seen very often from the highest rank of Lt Gen downwards--just have look at the JAG Dept  rank wise record of Indian Army offrs court martialled for misdemeanour and un-desirable activities , vis-a-viz their cadre strength . You will be surprised. The Indian Army jawan is watching non deserving material going up and also seeing this non deserving  materal  pulling its ilk  upwards!!!
       The hierarchy has to wake up. the Indian Army definition of a 'good offr ' requires an immediate and drastic re-think.But definitely not by the present lot of General offrs . They are part of the system and what is happening is a systemic failure and not a failure of Commanding Officers alone.
           Not only this , there is a requirement to change the selection pattern of officers (for NDA.IMA,OTA,ACC)  as well as for  SELECTION GRADE RANKS , SPECIALLY FOR THE 'GENERAL RANK'.  We have to learn that the so called well qualified offrs may not be qualified enough to go up and beyond or to hold their present positions.



  1. how come you missed the selection process to become an officer in the first place!!

  2. Maybe because THAT itself has thankfully not changed over time, and been proved workable. There were suggestions sometime ago, that due to officer shortage we need to lower our standards and processes. Mercifully that did not get adopted.
    An Officer is a problem solver. The existing procedures to my mind do provide indications of who is suited and who is not.
    Lastly, if you examine the "Changes' incorporated in most of our national functioning, be it education or anything, it appears that in our enthusiasm (and unaided with adequate research) whenever we 'changed' we messed up the basics. While a Change is the most difficult thing to bring about, it can be argued that there should be something substantially in favor of a change rather than the desire to bust up an existing structure.

  3. Straight forward, forthright honest assesment.

  4. The institution of the Commanding officer has to be strengthened in the following manner:
    1. Give him a full tenure of 3 years as of yore, No more No less. It takes a min of 2+ years to see any new initiative flower to maturity.
    2. Give him his full complement of Offrs.
    3. Let him "COMMAND" the Bde & Div Cdrs have had their chance now let him alone.
    4. Remove the "ZERO ERROR SYNDROME" Humans make mistakes, let them do so and then correct them but do not force them to be hidden.
    5. Give him the wherewithal to function and not a load of NA's. AFTER ALL OF THE ABOVE IF HE DOES NOT PERFORM ......SACK HIM FOR GOOD.,
    A perceptible change would be not only visible but Welcome.

  5. I fully endorse the views of veteran DS Sarao on the present state of affairs in the Units in the Army.

    My dear Friend Col Anil Kaul has very aptly summed up as to what is required to be done.

    Wherever you see the Officer - man relationship has broken down, you do not have to do research to find the reasons. There are many signs which appear even before such un-Army like incidents take place.

    Our Engr Regt was based in Aundh, Pune in 1976-78. I was just a Capt in those days in my unit. The accommodation in Aundh was adequate for two units. There was one GR battalion(Bn) located alongwith us. What I found strange in that Bn was that the interaction between the officers and men was almost absent. I hardly found any officers in morning PT/Drill and in the evening games with the men. It is not that the unit had less number of officers.

    The CO (Lt Col Gupta) was very ambitious and thought of becoming nothing less than Army Chief. When the results of HC & LDMC (now it is HDMC) were announced and his name was not there, he became semi mad and ran away from his unit in his private car. When petrol was exhausted, at gunpoint forced the civil petrol pump attendant near Sangli to fill petrol in his tank. He just disappeared for few days. As expected he was replaced after he resurfaced. I could see the ignominy the Officer caused to his family who stayed even after this Bn moved to Leh in end 1977. They were replaced by 19 MADRAS.

    The GR Bn moved to Leh and what we heard in just six months time, the Unit had mutiny when the jawans killed one or two officers and SM took control of the unit. The GOC had to intervene and bring order to the Bn.

    The reasons as a young Capt I analysed of that fine GR Bn was the CO was too ambitious and did not enjoy the command of the Bn. He never thought he was so lucky to command his own Bn, when many of his course mates did not even become Lt Col (TS). He never set an example to his own officers and men.

    The 2 IC was a mere spectator who never showed any initiative to compensate for the CO. He allowed the unit to drift and was marking his time as he was too junior to take over the Bn even if the CO is removed.

    The middle level officers followed example of their CO and 2 IC and were only looking after their own interests.

    The Junior Officers were totally clueless as to what should be done.

    An Officer(Maj Yadav) of this ill famed Bn did Staff Course with me in 1985 in DSSC, Wellington. He was from the same Bn but was not serving at that time with the Bn. When I questioned him of the mutiny in his Bn in 1978, as he was a good officer, as expected was evasive. Then I told him what I saw of his Bn and said you are very lucky not to be present in the Unit at that time.

    Veteran DS Sarao was very correct when he gave some of the reasons for the malaise which has set in the Units now a days. What matters to any officer is his own promotion and coveted staff appointments. There is none in the unit to guide the young officers.

    CO has to please the Bde Cdr to get good chit and he in turn has to please the GOC. Every one marks his time and ensure nothing adverse occurs in his time.

    You just have to ensure well established routine in the unit is maintained. The men always look upto the officers for guidance, support and sharing of troubles. They expect their officers to be just fair, frank and firm in all their dealings. We were never permitted to sit in our offices when men were out on outdoor activities i.e. even grass cutting. We were there all the time supervising the weapon and equipment maintenance. Since our Company Cdrs set an example, youngsters did not have any choice but to follow them.

    If Officers behave like Officers and do what they are expected to do, then their would not be any problem.

    Brig(Retd) CS Vidyasagar
    The Bombay Sappers

  6. Sarao is dead right. If you look at the profile of our senior officer , that is Brigs and above you will regimental service ( that is with troops and in Comd) not more than 8 years. 5 years in unit ,after commissioning, includes courses etc, then on staff/ere/instr, then staff college then staff. back to unit for AE period , during this period att to bde/div for staff work plus ex) after this minimum time in unit, revert to staff from one to another and then comd of the unit, again 20 months , then staff, then wait for next rank and then another 20 months. Look at the regt service.These people do not face men. So what do you expect. No experience in actual comd. Now look at the Unit which is the basic constituent of army. Out of posted strength, all high profile and good and upcoming soldiers are outside the unit on staff/instr/ere. What are left are called Soldiers and Not PADA LIKHA.
    Unless we make it mandatory period minimum 10 years of physical service for Comd. things acn only get worse. High profile officers should at the Unit and not to assist Bde and Div or higher fmn cdrs.

  7. In the Roman army the tenure of a battalion commander was 20 years. It was 5 years in the British army during the time they created an empire.

    The big problem in the Indian military is that there is no exit policy for PC officers. In most democratic countries, a PC officer is permitted to leave any time after 5 years service. Unwilling officers are forced to stay and work under mediocre superiors.

    Quite true that "the strength of the British Army was ' that Commanding Officer who aspired to be a Commanding Officer and no more.' "

  8. Thank you , all of you.It is evident that a vast majority of us are saddened by the state of affairs which is making the Indian Army the front page news these days--all for the wrong reasons.Nyoma , Meerut , Samba, suicides , fights , insubordination , ROGs, court cases by higher rank offrs , mud slinging and washing our lin
    en in public, loss of faith in the selection boards (and the criteria itself), the Keran gun battle -----

  9. I wholeheartedly agree with the views expressed by Sarao on the subject of “officer- men relationship” and admire his dedication to the service by analyzing the subject in a straight forward manner. In their concerns, many veterans have suggested their heartfelt solutions to the problem. In my opinion, the problem has to do with officers alone, who are unable to rise to the needs of the men:--some avoidably handicapped by supersession and others equally afflicted by the heady intoxication of having bettered over their colleagues in a complicated assessment system biased wholly upon the observations made by an upward chain of comd. This competition not only becomes more intense with the rise in rank, it creates an emotional spatial distancing of the officers from the troops. Per-se, an officer’s individual promotion should have nothing to do with the “officer-men relationship” but in fact it does so when the whole culture of the officer cadre changes from troop oriented to self- growth oriented: manifesting in the zero mistake syndrome, apportioning time from training to less professional activities and falsifying operational results, to cite only a few examples.
    As for effective officer -men relationship, given the stock and caliber of our men, it is not such a complicated psychological exercise as it has being made out to be, and apportioning the blame of our own failures to causes such as the increased awareness among troops, their higher academic qualifications and their rising aspirations, is quite a lot of humbug. My father used to say “ Never come too harshly upon your men, as they are like children and their enthusiasm may get crushed . A stern look from an officer is enough to make them realize their mistake”. I found his advice true to the hilt. I confess that, I , in a my moments of passion, had sometimes acted too harshly with the men and may even have awarded illegal physical punishments .Yet, those same men, have not only always forgiven me but have bonded better with the team .
    I want to set one fact right regarding the mutiny in the bn as cited above by Vidyasagar, since I had faired out the Sof E in the case. No officer was killed by the troops in the incident. Even in those times it had been a case of a personally ambitious CO, who had been, in collusion with the senior JCO, driving the unit hard while the officers watched as mere bystanders. The situation was thus, exploited by the JCO, to cause a mutiny. Responsibility for the failure, as is always the case, was of the officers.
    It is my personal opinion , that the whole orientation , indeed the very ethos, must change in order to stem the unwholesome trend in the army, wherein individual officers have been let loose to seek personal career progression . The units and sub units must be rightly evaluated as being the core assets of the organization and we should acknowledge the secondary role of the higher command/staff structure .The senior commanders must ruthlessly check the temptation to treat units as their fiefdom, only to be used for the purpose of projecting their personal capability to their superior. Only by improving the operational efficiency of our core assets, which should definitely include instilling a sense of pride in skills, an honorable inter personal relation-ship based on love and fondness within the teams and by provisioning for them, a better quality of life, shall we be able to avoid the embarrassment in the face of the enemy and prevent the all too frequent in fighting.
    With regards,
    Col Y S Chauhan