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Issue No.: 559 | January 2014
 

A Sad Story of Corruption in the Armed Forces

Jug Suraiya
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Nineteen-year-old Ranvir (name changed) has a heartfelt ambition: he wants to join the Indian Army as a jawan and serve his country. Regrettably, his ambition is unlikely to be fulfilled. Because though the young man, who comes from a town near the foot of the Garhwal hills, has passed the required physical tests not just once but three times with flying colours, the official selectors refuse to recruit him unless he pays up Rs.1.5 lakh as an enlistment ‘fee’. Ranvir’s father, a hill taxi driver, doesn’t have that kind of money at his disposal. So Ranvir’s dream of becoming a soldier and helping to protect the country that he loves will probably never be fulfilled.

Ranvir’s case is just one of the numerous instances of corruption and graft at various levels that increasingly are staining the once unblemished honour of India’s armed forces. In an overall national climate of corrupt practices, the defence services have long stood out as being an exception to the general rule of rapacious greed and rampant indiscipline that has become an inbuilt feature cantonment areas as compared with of Indian life. The stark contrast between the codes of conduct of life in uniform and the chaos of civilian India is obvious in the well-ordered cleanliness of the filth and mess of other neighbourhoods in any of our cities and towns. In what has been called the functioning anarchy of India, the armed forces have always been an exceptional example of not just outwardly manifest spit-and-polish discipline but, more importantly, of the unswerving dedication to duty that underlies the clockwork precision of parade ground drills.

What with its power-hungry, money-grabbing politicians and rent-seeking babus, the country might seem to be sinking into the quagmire of despair, but the armed forces have been there as a solid rock of integrity we could depend on. Of recent times, however, that unshakable faith that the country has had in its defence services has been called into question by various scams and scandals.

Like our doctors, to whom we entrust our physical health, and our priests, to whom we entrust our spiritual well-being, we expect those to whom we entrust the security of the nation to be somehow different from us, better than us. And when they turn out to be just like us, we feel they have no defence Like the country itself. For who is to guard the country if it has to guard itself against its guards?

Jug Suraiya, excerpted from
The Times of India, 3 December, 2013.
 
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