How do you plan your leave? An outing to a hill station. Or a trip to your home town that you haven’t visited in ages. But that’s not how the recent leaves of Indian Army officers have panned out.
An incisive editorial published in the Deccan Herald, alluding to recent reports, outlined that the Indian Army had passed an order to all its soldiers on leave, authorising them to do social service as part of nation-building initiatives.
The Army HQ’s list of suggestions includes interactions with the local community about Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan, Rashtriya Ucchtar Shiksha Abhiyan, SAKSHAM, Samagra Shiksha, Garib Kalyan Rozgar Abhiyan, Ayushman Bharat Yojana, and Jan Aushadhi Kendra, the benefits of insurance schemes like National Pension Scheme (NPS), Atal Pension Yojana, livestock insurance, Rashtriya Swasth Bima Yojana, Deendayal Gramin Kaushalya Yojana, and Gram Jyoti Yojana.
The editorial notes: “The already-stretched Army units have been tasked to empower and equip these ‘soldier-ambassadors’ with structured literature and enabling content so they can market government schemes effectively. The Shimla-based Army Training Command, which should be focusing on its core task of keeping the Army trained for future conflicts, is preparing scripts on subjects that soldiers will carry when they are on leave and use in this ‘social service’ exercise.”
The writer observes that the political initiative in this exercise is apparent. The Army has agreed to act as “ambassadors of the Modi government, which faces a tough general election next year.”
Part of the editorial reads: “Why else would the nation require building at this stage when it has been strong and resilient after being painstakingly built in the early years of our independence?
It adds that while many retired service personnel have been vocal about it, others have voiced their criticism subtly. Apart from those connected to political parties, no one is convinced about the Army taking this route. “But that has made no difference to those with the heaviest brass on their shoulders,” the editorial remarks.
The writer warned that such policies will have domestic ramifications, as witnessed in the Manipur saga, where the Army has been treated with derision by the BJP state government and the state police. The editorial concluded, saying, “Military brass must heed these flashing warning signs. And act. It’s their constitutional responsibility and moral duty.”