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Power Equations: Where Does the Fauj Stand?

The judiciary has its own power over the people and with this come their perks and ability to arm twist even the police. The IAS have their power, perks and pelf in place, so does the police. The professors and teachers hold power in their own domains and can make or mar many a careers. The banker runs an empire from within his premises and holds sway over a large public sanctioning and disbursing loans. Whom do we (Army) exercise power over? Well, within the organization, over ourselves. 

by Col PK ‘Royal’ Mehrishi (Retd)

On 20 October 2018, I had a unique opportunity to take part by invitation in a discussion cum feedback session on the present and future national scenario. This discussion was organized by the local wing of the RSS in Jaipur (Rajasthan) and was helmed by a senior functionary of the RSS from Nagpur, Bhaiyyaji Joshi.

The main points of the discussion are as follows:

  • There are six power centers in the country (Shakti Kendras)
  • Need to carry SC/ST along in the Hindutva mainstream and not allow their alienation
  • Lessons of history to be righted from their skew towards negativity (losses in battles by Hindu rulers, with historians not mentioning victorious battles)
  • No use of NOTA, as it is a step towards lack of interest in the political system.
  • Continue to exercise/persuade people to vote the best among available candidates (bad among the worst?)
  • Lot of coverage on western culture, youth being led astray etc.
  • On the current, urban Naxals, terrorism, J&K , Rohingyas, Sabarimala issue no clear vision was propounded (brushed off as Devasur Sangram, timeless battle between forces of good versus evil, Sajjan versus Shakti)

The six power centers (Shakti Kendras) mentioned were intelligentsia (Prabudh Warg) including doctors, professors, lawyers, teachers, engineers etc;          media (Patrakaar); industrialists and businessmen (Udhyogik/Vyapari Warg); religious heads (Dharamacharayas/Mutt Adhish); Youth (Yuva Shakti) and lastly, farmers and labourers (Shramik Warg). The common perception among the policy drivers even among the present government (many ministers have an RSS background and share this view) is that the IAS and IPS are in any case doing the government’s bidding and are completely pliable. Why upset this cozy nexus? Give them what they ask for and use them to stay firmly in saddle (power).

Since politics is a game of perception and with not many from the public willing to seek the truth, the politician can continue to manipulate and please or work the power centers to come back to power. My understanding of the situation is that the bad among the worst political candidates will continue to be elected (a vicious cycle).         Overall caliber of law makers will continue to be low. Not even a miniscule of them will have any in depth understanding of matters military. Retired and serving officers and soldiers from the military, CPMF, ITBP etc are not a power center for votes, they will never be accorded priority for their problems being addressed.       The defence budget and purchase of arms are lucrative hunting grounds for party and other funds. Nearly all governments and political parties while in power have been caught with their hands in the till. The military especially the Army, unless it emerges as a bulwark against the machinations of the politician the nation will continue to suffer and constantly live under the threat of intrusion/taking over of our national territory by enemies.

Modern arms/equipment/weaponry, for an upgrade in the functionality of the military will continue to be stalled by the bureaucrat and politician because of lack of exposure and vested interests. The COAS with Army HQ will have to emerge as an additional nation building power center from other than the six mentioned above.  Otherwise be prepared for dents in national security and compromises in sovereignty of the nation in the near future.

What the Future Entails?

In our country everything is a game of power, I will elaborate by example. The judiciary has its own power over the people and with this come their perks and ability to arm twist even the police. The IAS have their power, perks and pelf in place, so does the police. The professors and teachers hold power in their own domains and can make or mar many a careers. The banker runs an empire from within his premises and holds sway over a large public sanctioning and disbursing loans.

No single profession which deals with public including the deluded politician exists without a show of power for its own existence and sustainability. In our country, the military, especially the Army, is holding land (real estate) in remote areas at the border with no people to exercise power over, other than rocks, peaks or rivulets. The military in public mind space is a dangerous profession meant for different kind of people i.e. who are crazy enough to stay away from families for a long time, do their duty 24X7 and please and entertain people by putting up a grand spectacle on 26 January at the Rajpath every Year.

For the government in power, the Army is an instrument to be used for jingoism, drumming up nationalist fervor for their own ends and of course cannon fodder where the military brave hearts can count the body bags yet keep taking repeated blows on the chin. In this entire game of power, play, military is the loser because it deals with the highest stakes, chances of loss of life (death) or limb at a comparative young age, chance of     high altitude sickness, injuries during training, mental trauma, loneliness, extreme stress, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), separation from loved ones, lack of entertainment, regimented food and living conditions, uncertain routine, excessive travel, lack of celebration of normal life like ceremonies, festivals and functions with family and daily hugging/touching one’s own children.

Whom do we (Army) exercise power over? Well within the organization over ourselves. Since the Army does not deal with the public/people and is confined to the barracks/ bunkers, it has little or no place in the public discourse. Since it is remote and wields no influence or power, it is of little consequence in the daily power play within society thus will continue to be neglected & given short shrift by other power satraps. Nowhere in the world, does a trained manpower, facing so many odds like an Army man, working such long hours, with little resource give so much. Ever noticed how Generals and officers feel when they face the real world in the Civvy Street? The word is helpless and powerless.

In the days of yore, kings and emperors kept large standing Armies to defend their kingdom from intruders or attack other kingdoms, thus the Army swore allegiance to the ruler and derived its power from the King himself. In modern democracies, it takes orders from the government in power i.e. elected representatives (who are elected by the public). For the work it has to do and the values that it stands for, no Army can forego its stake and say in nation building and policies that are made at times by clueless and short sighted politicians/lawmakers.

The Army has to maintain a dynamic equilibrium and cannot afford to be comatose and found wanting upholding the national honour and sovereignty. The COAS has to, by design become more vocal with the support of his Army Commanders and raise issues regarding obsolete weaponry, pay, perks, pensions, welfare, dues and independent pay commission for the military. The COAS, with the backing of his Army is a powerful man and should always be counted for advice in policy formulations which will eventually effect the Army i.e. the J&K problem, Rohingyas, Naxalite issue, Urban Naxals.

Any major wound left unattended on the national body cape will fester and ultimately the Army will have to be called to control the symptoms. The root cause would have been long forgotten or neglected. The Army has to be proactive in sensing threats to national security and advising the government accordingly.

Should the government not react within a reasonable time frame of 60 -90 days, it should bring out a white paper in the public domain highlighting issues which require action by the government. There cannot be a situation where because of shortsightedness or political compulsions, national sovereignty is compromised and the Army is ultimately left holding the can because of a change in government.

Col PK ‘Royal’ Mehrishi (Retd), an alumnus of the NDA, has been an active Infantry combat leader for 28 Years. A qualified clinical psychologist, he is a prolific writer, author of several books, a TV panelist and a motivational speaker. In addition, he is a Harvard Business School product, certified in ‘Expert Negotiations’. He can be reached at Email: pkradventurer61@gmail.com