India's Dark Secret
Every nation has its holy cows. Persons and Institutes revered
by all citizens without exception. No one questions them.
Indian army is one such institute. It's getting away with
egregious blunders, profligacy and abuse.
No one is questioning it. All in the name of "national interest".
While nation ruled by dictatorships can be excused but why is
it that Indians, proud of its pluralist views, never
ask uncomfortable questions about its army.
Here are my peeves about our national army.
First, we have too large an army. This may sound foolish
because the army is fighting battles against separatists,
and of course, the "sent from across the border" terrorists
in Kashmir.The fundamental problem is india's insistence
on solving political problems militarily. India has always
been like this -
hyderabad, goa, north east, bhindrawale, kashmir ...
you name it.
We can't think of one political problem that India has solved
using diplomacy and political acumen. India had time from
1948 to1989 to settle the kashmir in a fair and peaceful way.
There was no popular demand for "azaadi" before. In 1965,
when Pakistan sent its soldiers to Kashmir hoping to incite
unrest, not a single kashmiri cooperated. On many instances
the locals promptly reported outsiders. Why did India not
capitalize on the opportunities ? Right upto the 1987 elections,
which the central government shamelessly rigged, political
solution was possible. Having blundered again and again,
India is now trying to ruthlessly suppress the militants.
So overwhelming is the force that India is applying, that it
is using more than a hundred thousand troops in the valley
to tackle a few thousand militants.
Take the north-east. We had a golden opportunity in 1947
to integrate these states into the mainstream. The popular
sentiment was ready for it. But given that India's central
leadership has always found it hard to think for people
beyond the gangetic valley, it was not surprising that we
managed to alienate the people in those regions. If only we
studied the history of these people, we could have realized
that delhi's rule over this region has always been tenuous.
The mighty mughal army could not establish control over
this area, in spite of trying for 300 years. Trying to
accomplish this with a few decades of Indian army is
repeating a folly. We should try political options.
We now have nuclear weapons. Doesn't this increase
our sense of security ? Why has it not resulted in a
decrease in theexpenditure on the army ?
On the contrary, the defense budget has seen steep
hikes. And this has been done by none other than
P C Chidambaram, a minister whom urban middle class
seems to eulogize as the panacea of all ills.
I have an inkling why the budget never goes down.
We keep importing arms and ammunitions. Who is
benefiting from this ? There are myriad middlemen
who get cuts from defense deals. And this cannot be
happening without the connivance of atleast a section
of army top brass. Bofors and the coffin cases came
out in the open. But every defense deal steals money
from the tax paying citizens. Then there are petty
thefts and pilferage - kerosene being sold outside.
Ration and other items marked for soldiers are
easily available inthe market. The MES (Military
Engineering Service) contracts are so notorious
for corruption that it is euphemistically called
the "10 percent" service. The Army Supply
Corps (ASC) goes by the appellation of
"Atta Sugar Chor" !
Need we see more ?
A large part of the army stays occupied
maintaining itself - serving other soldiers
(barbers, medics, priests etc). While this
can be justified, do we need soldiers running errands
for officers. These soldiers called "batmans" (sic)
are a throwback to the times of british occupation
when the Indians used to do menial jobs for
the british officers.
These are the steps that should be taken to fix the
current situation :
- Use our democratic and pluralistic spirit to solve
political problems with dialog and political process.
Reduce military present and create an atmosphere
for dialogue. A happy population proud to be part
of the nation is the best defense.
- Decrease army headcount by 50%.
Augment the national army by creating a strong
volunteer army that can be called upon duty at a
short notice. This will need NCC to be upgraded.
- Decrease the defense budget. Decrease the
import and stockpiling of arms.