In our NDA prayer we prayed to God to guide us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong.
At IMA we were given the Chetwode moto:
The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time.
The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next.
Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time.
The preamble to the Indian Constitution states:
WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN, SOCIALIST, SECULAR, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation
Culture Defines Actions More than Ideals
Culture in Training
The culture I experienced at NDA or at IMA was not in accordance with these inspiring ideals. The culture was somewhat like this:
· The junior most person was expected to sacrifice his personal interests for the sake of the organization. Example: A junior cadet, suffering from stress-fracture and in serious risk of aggravating the injury by running the inter-squadron cross-country competition, was expected to run & take the risk. However, if the Squadron Cadet Captain (SCC) was in a similar situation then it was considered appropriate for him not to take the risk.
· The junior most person was expected to be satisfied by his authorised scale of one biscuit with the morning tea and not crib if he did not get it. The seniors could eat the share of juniors without having any feelings of guilt.
· If a junior made a mistake then he was expected to accept the punishment as fair. If a junior suffered because of a mistake committed by a senior then also he was expected to accept it bravely. The culture accepted a senior not owning up his mistake & thus getting a large number being punished and himself going scot free.
However, not everyone adopted this culture. There were some, who remained inspired by the ideals and rarely some of them rose also to higher positions. Two such examples I see from the Services: Our present Naval Chief Admiral KB Singh & Western Army Commander Gen RP Singh.
Rationale for this Culture
Culture of any sub-society is an amalgamation of the culture obtaining in the society at large and the impact of the top leadership of the sub-society. The culture we witnessed at NDA and IMA was a function of the culture of the Indian society and the top leadership of the three services in general and the Commandants posted at these establishments in particular. No one Commandant can drastically alter the culture because the prevalent culture resists the changes being made & hence the changes embed gradually. It is to be noted that the Commandant has himself come up from the same culture and hence is incapable of affecting drastic changes. The nature of leadership a Commandant provides is a function of his values and ambitions, influenced by the environment in the Services and the nation. When I was a Gentleman Cadet at IMA our Commandant Gen Mathew Thomas used to run the 10 mile test with us. Gen JS Verma, who retired as the Eastern Army Commander, used to have rum from the same glass as the troops who were guarding him. We rarely find such senior commanders today. Culture changes.
We analyzed as to how the culture at NDA and IMA was formed. In the same way the national culture gets formed. The top leadership plays a major role in shaping the culture. It is to be noted that the prevalent culture existing in the society resists the culture being shaped by the top leadership. Leaders of the society who are driven more by ambition than values adopt to the culture of the top leadership faster than others and reap quick rewards.
Salient features of the Indian culture today are:
· A poor farmer will have to repay his debt taken at exorbitant interest & may be forced to commit suicide but a Neerav Modi can run away with crores.
· An FIR has been registered against a social activist, Harsh Mander but not against Anurag Thakur.
· The Supreme Court has felt that no investigation is required in the dubious death of Justice Loya or Rafale deal despite numerous unanswered questions.
Examples of value driven top leaders would always be much lesser than the ambition driven ones. The reason is very simple. The value driven people would invariably not rise to the top leadership positions in a society which values manipulation above competence. You will find examples of both kinds:
· Value driven people in prominence today:
o Media: Ravish Kumar, Prasun Bajpai, Vinod Dua, NDTV, The Wire & a few others.
o Judiciary: Justice Murlidhar. During the black days of Emergency: Justice Khanna.
o IAS: Gopinath.
o Indigo Flight Pilot involved in the Kunal Kamra episode with Arnab Goswami.
o Politics: Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan, Yashwant Sinha, Aroon Shourie, activists like Harsh Mander & maybe a few others.
· Selfish ambition driven people in prominence today:
o Ranjan Gogoi.
o CDS Rawat.
o Numerous others in all fields, including practically all the politicians in power.
The societies which will be successful in the long run will need the leaders to be value driven rather than ambition driven. For any leader to lead a society to success. character is far more important than capacity, street-smartness and cunning.
What Should We Do in India Today?
We should continue to believe in the NDA prayer, IMA moto and the spirit of the Preamble to India’s Constitution. We should emulate and be inspired by value driven leaders of the society and support them. One Justice Khanna is better than a 100 Gogois. Please decide who you want to be and what type of society you want to live in?