COMMAND TENURE: MUSINGS (2001-2004)

23 PUNJAB Officers along with my son and Dennis, our dog

Discipline

I was well aware of my reputation of being very strict and it had provided immense benefits as the best thing possible is that potential offenders are deterred from committing offences. I did not want to be overly harsh and also appear to be not too harsh. Thus, I made a policy. It had two ingredients. No offender would be tried within 24 hours of commission of offence-implying a strict no to instant justice. The second ingredient was also rational. To inquire into the offence and recommend punishment a three-person jury was composed-one member was of the same rank as the offender and two were his seniors. The jury gave me a report in writing. The juries performed excellent work and I kept abiding by their advice totally. It continued like this for about 6-7 months and then a serious problem occurred in the system. I had kept a very tight control on liquor consumption and it was important in ensuring that our unit suffered not a single weather casualty. In the case of an offender, a rum bottle had reached the MT Platoon from one jawan of MT, who was proceeding on leave and carrying with him his quota of 12 bottles. The inquiry was done diligently. The jury did not recommend any punishment. I abided by the advice and no one was punished. After this incident the juries stopped recommending punishments (displaying the human weakness to be popular). As CO I was not legally bound to follow the advice of the jury and could have terminated this policy as a failure but I did not do so. I got the jury members produced in front of me and asked them as to why I should not take disciplinary action against them for not performing their job sincerely. One counselling in the CO’s Office to the jury was good enough. The jury kept doing an excellent work and the unit benefitted because of it throughout my command tenure.

Leave

Since the day I joined service till I retired I found that getting leave in the Army is a problematic issue. I was sure that this issue could be easily resolved. For officers 2 IC made a plan and it was executed. I did not curtail leave for Administrative Inspection or Operation Alert or Summer Posture of deployment. My own leave remained a problem but that was no big deal for me. I made an interesting policy for JCOs and Other Ranks. I told them that they were authorized 3 months of leave -2 months of AL and 30 days of CL, that is 90 days. They could go on leave once, twice or thrice and could take the leave in whatever number of days they wanted. There was one washerman from Kerala who opted for 90 days leave in one go. He was the only one to do so. He also did not use this option next time. The reason he told me:

“Sahab, ghar mein izzat kam ho gayi. Khub kam karvaya mere se. Ab se 60 days se upar kabhi nahin jana hai.”

The information of this “Ram raaj” reached the Brig. He asked me as to how I was doing such an illegal activity? I told him that as per publication of leave everything was as per the prescribed orders and in practical application of orders a CO could do a little bending of rules in the benefit of the troops. He said that he could not allow me to do something illegal. I said that it was fine with me. If he got a complaint against me then I would be happy to face disciplinary action but I would like to continue my leave policy. This continued till the end of my tenure. Fortunately, no one ever complained.

Lady ASC Officer

During my command tenure our unit was shifted from 190 Mountain Brigade to 311 Mountain Brigade and location changed from Yangtze to Rupa. During our Rupa tenure we were at times deployed in Assam during elections/ 26 Jan/15 Aug. For such moves on road, we had to depend upon Third Line Transport of ASC. During one such move the OC of the ASC troops was a smart Lady Capt. She used to always come with the last vehicle and got along well with the junior officers. She used to go out with them as freely as any male young officer would do. I learnt that quite a few of the young officers were contemplating proposing to her or may have done so. To the best of my knowledge, she did not show special affection towards any one in particular but was friendly with all. The best part of the story came when I learnt that she invited all the prospective suitors to her marriage to someone else.

I will stop now. Please wait for more musings of the command tenure.

–By Col M M Nehru

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