Officer-jawan acrimony denting morale
quoting full report
With as many as four incidents of serious face-offs between officers and jawans in the last one year alone, the Army has realised that there is an urgent need for bridging the generational gap between the two sides at the operational units.
A recent study by the Army also found that the vital connection between officers and jawans, crucial for fighting battles, is slowly fading out and this can pose serious problems of man management.
Hence, the new human resource development policy — titled Professional Military Education — put in place by the Army since last week calls for special focus on having more junior officers and giving them longer stints in the operational units to increase camaraderie among the unit members.
Facing acute shortage of officers in battalions, having just about six officers against the sanctioned 20 officers), the study leave policy has also been completely rehauled. Officers will now avail of study leave only after serving mandatory years in the field. But they can undertake only those courses which are relevant to their present job profile.
Even junior commissioned officers (JCO) or jawans will now be given opportunity for undertaking courses normally meant for junior officers. Further, the stress is more on usage of internet and online facilities for studies.
At present, there is an overall shortage of more than 12,000 officers despite the Government taking several measures to make a career in the armed forces more attractive.
The posting of junior officers, officials said, will ensure that they spend more time in their units in the field while studying through the internet facilities. Sources said one of the main reasons of face offs was shortage of junior officers in units operating in stressful environment like counter-insurgency. And reworking of study leave will enable more officers to be in the field rather than undergoing courses at far off places.
Explaining the ground situation, officials said, at present, there only six to seven officers present in a battalion (1,000 men) instead of the sanctioned strength of 20 officers. Most units are managed by 10-12 officers and out of those three are generally on study leave while one or two are on annual leave. This puts tremendous pressure on the remaining five or six officers thereby affecting their performance and growing distance with the men they lead, officials said.
As per the new HR policy, courses have been categorized as “must do, should do” and “could do”. Preference will be given to “must do” courses, which are generally professional in nature like studying strategy or weapon craft or related topics, officials said.
This will give more exposure to jawans and at the same time free the junior officer to be in the unit and interact more with his men, learn about their problems and generally act as their elder brother or mentor.
Giving specific examples of restricting study leave, officials said now an officer will be allowed to sit for the Staff College examination only after completing 12 years of service. Earlier, an officer could appear for this examination till the age of 34 years.
This led to officers concentrating more on studies than their professional duties resulting in neglect of the men under their command. Officials said the issue came up for discussion during the recently concluded army commanders’ conference.
They said these measures meant for cutting edge officers in the service bracket of six to 15 years and who have to lead their men into battle will see the strength of officers in units going up by 18 to 20 per cent in the next one year or so.
Moreover, only combat arms officers like infantry, armoured corps and artillery will now undergo the Junior Officers’ course instead of all the army officers made to do the course earlier. This measure will free many more officers for field duties, sources said.
One thing that I have not been able to understand is that the shortfall of number of officers in the army is always around the same levels. It was 20 years ago that I read the shortfall was 15000. Could it be one of the "30% of NASA engineers are Indians" type number that gets quoted without any checks/confirmation from reliable sources?