What’s the point in being mere paper tigers & Twitter warriors?
Lt General K J Singh
Citizen Warrior is an amorphous idea that dawned on me, thanks to a simple village carpenter from a border village, nicknamed AK — other details withheld in the interest of security. Disregarding considerable personal risk, in November 2014, he vectored Territorial Army team to engage four dreaded terrorists, on the second-tier of counter-infiltration grid, short of their intended target at Samba. Yet, in the very same area and five months later, a serving soldier deployed in valley gave lift to two terrorists in his vehicle, thereby allowing them to attack their target at Samba Army camp. Ironically, it was follow-up attack, after suicidal attack on Rajbagh police station, and took place next day.
Despite great surge of nationalism and patriotism, we are essentially paper tigers and Twitter warriors, generally steering clear of all semblance of risk and past masters in chalta hai approach. The problem is compounded with overwhelming desire to save such culprits. This is often fuelled by parochialism, exemplified by even rank coward, Army deserter on Line of Control, rallying support from his native MPs and ministers. The loop of investigation to cover collaborators intentional or incidental never really closes. With hybrid war coming to hinterland and even in cyber domain, there is a need to make every citizen, a warrior or nagrik yodha.
Yodha or warrior creed is rooted in our ancient culture and religion based on concepts like dharam yudh. It has potential to enhance commitment to basic duties of citizen, which though enshrined like rights, currently, receive lip service treatment. In security domain, it requires all of us to acquire situational awareness, security consciousness and above all foster commitment. Basic competence should include essential cyber hygiene, which may be the next frontier. Skillset required is so elementary that it can be easily acquired and built into our curriculums. What is seen in youth is marked masochistic approach without elementary awareness of even borders, which needs to be corrected.
Israel has laudable pervasive national culture, albeit driven by survival instinct in hostile neighbourhood. The famed Chinese efficiency and productivity is partially shaped by compulsory military training. Last year, 200 million Chinese were imparted formal national training as part of their education. It is time that nation fighting on two and half fronts with simmering insurgency raging for 50-odd years in North East, sheds complacency and works on plan to create, jagruk Hindustanis, self-aware, committed and in control of their destiny. Bharat, at best can be termed as collection of many diverse sub nationalities, across multiple demographic and regional fault lines, ever ready to break into centrifugal confrontations. We need to coalesce together around such concepts invoking higher consciousness. This would also have spin-off benefits in social projects, disaster management and ecological initiatives.
Compulsory national or military service is non-starter because of capacity problem of sheer numbers. Besides, at conceptual level, it is difficult to nudge enough qualified professionals to man slots in health and education sectors in backwaters of rural Bharat, even for minimum tenures despite incentives. Consequently, officer cadres in forces continue with deficiencies. It is also pertinent that conscription is sub-optimal solution and volunteer security forces are much better and efficient option.
India is projected to have 500 million youth below 29 years of age. This demographic dividend and youth bulge, if not harnessed creatively, could well become potential disaster and ticking demographic time bomb. India has existing system of military and social service training in form of National Cadet Corps (NCC), Nehru Yuvak Kendra Sangthan (NYKS), National Service Scheme (NSS) and Bharat Scouts and Guides (BSG), run by various ministries with little synergy and coordination. It is pertinent to take stock of numbers, NCC has close to 1.4 million (projected capacity 1.5 million), operating under ministry of defence. NYKS has approximately 8 lakh, NSS has 4 lakh on its rolls, both operate under ministry of youth affairs and sports. In addition, we have Sainik, Military and Army schools. More than 35 lakh youth are being put through sub-optimally administered and disjointed programmes. It is high time that competent task force is constituted to orient them in correct direction to draw optimal benefits.
Some states are experimenting with their own variants, like police cadet scheme in Haryana, making little headway. In addition, Punjab runs many preparatory institutes for officer entries and programmes like Centre for Training and Employment for Punjabi Youth (C-PYTE). Highly subsidized camps of 12 weeks duration are held regularly to train youth for career in forces. These camps seek to address additional objective of weaning youth away from drugs. The sad plight of Punjabi youth, trapped in drugs and migration syndrome, calls for revamp of these initiatives. It is learnt that many states with low representation in forces are planning to replicate Punjab model, hopefully they will draw appropriate lessons.
While government departments definitely need to review these programmes and build synergy, matching effort needs to be made by volunteer socio-political organizations also. The fact that India ranks at 78th in global corruption index is damning indictment of failure of our superficial religiosity to breed correct moral values. It will be in order, if the proposed task force takes up the revised mandate of making Citizen Warriors and does holistic review to cover both government and voluntary organizations, including introducing capsules in school/college curriculum and other mobilization initiatives like Skill India.
The writer is former Army Commander, Western Command
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.