Samba incident reflects changes in the officer-jawan interface
The Samba incident involving the suicide of a jawan in one of the Army's oldest cavalry regiments has underscored an old problem: the acute shortage of officers.
In the good old days, a serving general recalled, an infantry battalion had 21 officers for 800 men (smaller numbers for armoured and artillery regiments but similar officer-jawan ratio). Today, that figure is down to nine officers of whom at least four would be on leave or attending courses (Young Officers Course, Infantry Officers course, Platoon Weapons Course, Staff College etc).
That leaves a grand total of five officers including the officer commanding to handle the entire battalion. The result is that less time is spent in officers getting to know the men under their command and bonding with them.
Less number of officers has also meant that many unwritten but understood practices slowly faded out. For instance, all officers are required to attend morning PT with the men, followed by training in field craft. The officer could attend to his paper work only later in the afternoon. But in the evening, it was back at games with his men, the argument being that after having rogered them through much of the day, games gave the men an opportunity to get their own back. In a rough and tumble game of hockey, the officer could be pushed, fouled a few times and all will be taken in good spirit.
Other changes have added to the problem in the officer-jawan interface. Officers are now required to take command of their unit in the 16th year of service. The idea is to have younger commanding officers who, given their age profile, would be more energetic and decisive, both ideal attributes during a war.
But this has also led to a situation where the CO doesn't know or understand his men well enough. Prolonged absence from his parent unit means he may not have his finger on the pulse of his men or know what they are thinking or how they may react in certain situations. The officers under him, being younger, may not be able to provide what is described as "wise counsel".
Army Headquarters has been looking at how to remedy this situation. One plan is to shorten the duration of various courses that officers have to attend. This would enable them to spend more time in their parent units. Training of JCOs at the Junior Leader's Academy in Bareilly has also been stepped up. The aim is to empower JCOs to take on some officer roles but in the view of some sections of the Army brass, this programme has been too slow and laboured.
That apart, the Army takes comfort in the knowledge that in the last few years, the intake at the NDA and IMA has been at full strength. But for how long this happy situation will persist is anybody's guess.
More about Surya GangadharanSurya Gangadharan is International Affairs Editor at CNN IBN and was in Egypt to cover the anti-government movement. He has covered wars in Afghanistan, the UN intervention in Somalia and Rwanda, elections in Pakistan and the civil conflict in Sri Lanka where he interviewed the top leadership of that time. He has worked for the Straits Times Group in Singapore and also for PTI, the Indian Express and India Today in India.
- + India-China face-off in Ladakh: reading between the lines of actual control
- + Pros and cons of a two-front war
- + Five Indian Armymen killed in South Sudan: could it have been prevented?
- + Something's churning in that feudal institution called the Indian Army
- + India takes a convincing step towards achieving nuclear triad capability
- + The big picture: Turbulence along the LoC
- + Honour for our soldiers will come when our people demand it
- + The flip side of buying American arms
- + 'Tibet is not a priority for China'