Home Army: No Room for Failure in Aid to Civil Authorities

Army: No Room for Failure in Aid to Civil Authorities

Nature’s fury has no mercy and two topical events, the flash floods of Uttarakhand and the recent floods at Srinagar are pointers towards the same. The scale of devastation has been unprecedented and in both the events the forces were quick to respond. The task was equally challenging in both the cases; though both Uttarakhand and Srinagar floods have one thing in common, the ethos of the forces got them going to ensure success but Srinagar and the valley have special relevance for the nation. The Srinagar floods and the restoration work will continue to test the Army more. The reasons are many, first and foremost being that more the civilian administration collapses the greater is expected from the soldier, who can provide relief and aid but not rehabilitation. Aid and relief are immediate, rehabilitation is a process designed and processed by the civil administration which involves bureaucracy and governance. The state government which has after a fortnight yet not gotten its act together will find the task challenging specially under strenuous conditions with winter fast approaching. A critical question remains whether the capital will shift to Jammu this winter leaving the valley bare and very bitter? The Army also has to maintain the CI grid and it has a herculean task of winter stocking which goes on via this damaged life line, thus ensuring many challenges for Srinagar.

Soldiers when deployed in the aid of civil authorities have no room for failure and they go about the same most nonchalantly yet fully aware of their responsibilities. This is not a stand-alone national phenomenon but a universal fact and all nations deploy their respective forces in aid of civil authorities and each time the forces deliver. Armies world over develop their ethos, yet each and every army has a special work centric national ethos, a way of conducting business, which sets it apart. Similarly the Indian Army too has developed ethos which are nationalist, secular, apolitical, humane, god-fearing and the will to succeed at all costs never to let down the people to whom it is called to give succor.

“Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die”, said Lord Alfred Tennyson in 1854 about the "The Charge of the Light Brigade”. Even today the soldier in the valley was as badly affected as his counterpart because geographically they were in the same domain. Yet not a man flinched, espousing “Service before Self”, with its own cantonment in twenty feet of water, its own communication links swiftly put in place, the soldier was out for relief, embracing the old lines which were said at a medical center before an over worked surgical team treating war injured dying soldiers, “thy necessity is greater than mine”. 50% of the military areas were under floods, seventy odd army installations hit by floods, anti-social elements threw stones at them, their relief material was hijacked, yet the show went on. How does the same soldier who just the other day was wielding the gun so effectively turn and show the other side of the face so quickly. He does that because of his sense of discipline, commitment and core military values. 

Core military values like loyalty, honour, integrity, duty, courage, respect, selfless service, make the sum total of the valve system. A large number of cantonments also have the words ‘naam, namak, naishan and izzat’ in roman displayed all over on the roads. Slowly the list got enlarged and added compassion, social sensitivity, from experiences and need of the hour. The soldier goes by the core military valves and the facts that the valve system all over is seen as changing thus the forces need to reinforce the same. It therefore becomes incumbent on the military to reinforce its core valves, to get back to basics which is does during training. 

Each time the forces deploy for a large scale operation the people of the nation expect something from it and each time it has to pass the litmus test. The nation expects the soldier not to work for himself but for the nation. The nation expects him to have ethics, morals and values in addition to ethos consistent with national aim in furtherance of national objectives. They see the army as a professional force capable of delivering against all odds and expect it to score a perfect ten in all walks of life and all tasks given to it. Another aspect of the forces is the commitment to the task at hand, the fierce single minded obsession to accomplish the mission even at the peril of one’s life, thus the chief said, “The army will not go back to the barracks till the last man is rescued”. Each and every soldier cherishes mission accomplishment and does not shy away like his civilian counterpart into obscurity but clearly wears his uniform because he is proud of it.

The secular valves that the Army has imbibed and the nation at large are best demonstrated by the adaptability that the nation has undergone. A look at the food habits clearly shows that all types of cuisines are relished at multi-cultural work places. Dress that are worn are also shared, the Dandiya dance is slowly becoming a national event so are a range of religious festivals, marketed for economics, thus a secular environment is adaptable. Thus in a secular environment especially like the armed forces, adaptability becomes a strength and the fact that the forces serve in all remote areas of the country they adopt well and take in the rich cultural heritage of the nation. This allows them to quickly adapt and work in aid to civil authorities.

The geostrategic environment that the forces operate in will continue to be challenging, the threats have diversified, from a single lone fidayeen to operating in nuclear environment. The red dragon is ominously flexing its muscle; the American draw down from Afghanistan will open a new can of worms. The global phenomena of  climate change has only put one more challenging task which is quick, short and intense, something like a VIP visit to a unit, short in duration long in memory, and the soldier will continue to meet the challenge, no problems, as long as you give them their due which needs a system correction.

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Brig CS Thapa (Retd)
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