This article is straight from the heart... musings whilst at a magical evening!
3 April was the raising day for the Army Medical Corps (AMC) of the Indian Army. This is celebrated each year where all the old and serving officers in a particular location meet and recollect the olden days in an atmosphere of fun and frolic.
My dad, a retired General, veteran of all the four wars India has fought and now above 95 years, makes it a point to attend it every year despite the challenges associated with advancing age. This year, the Air Force decided to honour him as the most senior officer of the corps in the country at the AMC day celebrations in Bengaluru.
I had accompanied him due to his health reasons and was literally thrilled and simply awed at the event.
The familial responsibilities the forces have towards “their own”, along with the genuine camaraderie and brotherhood, long after they have ceased to be in active service, is heartwarming to see in today’s cut-throat world outside the defence services environment.
It is this sense of honour and duty which is at the core of the continued dedication demonstrated by the Indian Defence Forces, despite institutions crumbling all around us due to the fierce onslaught from the combined forces of greed, corruption and overriding self-interest.
On the same day in Delhi, Col Chetan Cheetah, the CRPF commandant, who took nine bullets from a Lashkar terrorist, returned home to a hero's welcome after being in coma for one month at AIIMS. Doctors have described his survival as nothing short of a miracle and attributed it to his intense desire to fight back and dedicated support from his family.
Do We Really Care?
What makes these exceptional men tick? And motivated enough to risk all in the interest of the nation? After all, they come from the same society which is steeped in the divisive politics of caste, creed and regionalism apart from progressively sickening levels of selfish self-interest, lack of accountability and a quid pro quo in all defining relationships.
To my mind, primarily two things drive this phenomena – one, the disciplined and principled upbringing as children in a cantonment environment for those with a services background, and later, the training imparted by the defence services in institutions like the NDA, IMA, etc; two, the twin feelings of being respected and the sheer honour of serving the country.
In Israel, a tiny nation, it is mandatory for all non-Arab citizens above 18 years to serve a minimum of two years in military service post school.
In India, not only has national character building been a casualty over the years due to abominable lack of political leadership and role models, even demonstrating respect towards servicemen – their key motivator – is just a lip service offered as a token in times of a national calamity.
Furthermore, government policies with regard to employment, living conditions and pension remain antiquated and are at a significant variance to the well-compensated bureaucratic machinery of inefficient and corrupt babudom.
Far From the Corporate Ethos
Despite this, these highly-motivated men and women continue to serve us. It is a testimony to the culture, the training and the overall ecosystem of the services carefully crafted over the years.
Compare this with the corporate world and all the pettiness and self-interest which largely govern relationships in most organisations, for all the song and dance made by famed HR managers and consultants in developing "culture", even the best organisations do not come even close to the culture of "service before self" – so deeply ensconced in the military ethos.
The ability of fostering team work, ensuring security of comrades as well as others, after some real time decisions, taken in very stressful and dangerous situations, is unparalleled. No corporate training programme will ever be able to inculcate this or even appreciate the enormity of this feeling.
So much hullabaloo is made by HR managers on compensation strategies designed to optimise performance and enhance motivation. Just imagine, what all our forces are called upon to do, and the efficiency with which they deliver, without any such fancy "incentives" coming into their collective thinking whilst performing the task on hand.
Contrast the culture of "being as good as yesterday" in the corporate sector with the life-long support system of the forces where a retired soldier is always made to feel at home, and respected, in his regiment/ corps irrespective of which officer is presently running the corps. Can this sense of belonging ever exist in any other corporate entity after an employee has left the organisation ?
It is practices such as these that drive long-term loyalty and dedication to an organisation and commercial companies would do well to imbibe some of these in their organisational development endeavours.
Sending HR managers on compulsory training to some defence units, instead of fancy academic sessions in five star hotels or storied institutions, would be a good place to start with!
Respect Their Sacrifices
As regards our society in general, conscription would go a long way in inculcating that kind of sensitivity to some extent. NCC training for young students must be made compulsory.
It is also high time the society starts showing some semblance of genuine respect in day to day life, towards our forces, in a substantive manner. This one factor forms the cornerstone of the incredible motivational engine, which drives the highly-efficient institution of the armed forces.
Till then, we must remain grateful that our defence forces still display the grace and dignity to honour those who have passed their prime realising the fact that they sacrificed their present for our future.
The sheer joy and contentment at such gatherings has to be experienced to be believed.
(Prabal Basu Roy is a Sloan Fellow from the London Business School and a Chartered Accountant. He can be reached @PrabalBasuRoy. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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