The Army, for some reason or the other, has been saddled with rather a unfortunate choice of PROs in the Ministry of Defence for the past several years. Apart from some notable exceptions where the person holding the office really did try to establish a rapport with the media and get the Army's point of view across, the average PRO has miserably failed to perform his task.
Yet again now, the Army has a PRO, who seems to have no inclination in getting about and performing his duties as per the parameters required by them. He has had an honourable career as an infantry officer and he must have been a very good officer and a soldier in the OGs, but he has unfortunately failed to get a grasp on the situation in the South Block.
While this blog is not against an individual, per se, iI would rather keep it that way, but still there are some examples which need to be cited as to how the mismatch between Army PRO and media can create bad vibes. This gentleman, holding the office right now, has been averse to the very presence of the media in his office. The first thing he did was to close the door to his office that remained open like those of PRO-Navy and IAF! I, fortunately, did not have to deal with him for long, but even in my short interaction, I realised that he was distinctly uncomfortable in the surroundings where journalists milled about in his office, which he shares with the APRO and the clerical staff.
Why have such an officer as the PRO in the first place who is uncomfortable with civilians? It is not his fault that he cannot mix-up with them. After spending a lifetime in the uniform, there are very few career soldiers who would be comfortable talking in an unrestricted manner with journalists. But then why did he volunteer for this job? Did he want a last posting in Delhi? Is that the only criteria left for appointing officers as PRO-Army in MoD? That you have got to be on the last leg posting after your career has come to a stand still? Why so? This appointment had officers who were promoted to the rank of Brigadier while holding this appointment, so what's wrong in getting someone who is still in reckoning for his next rank?
This way at least he will have his heart in the job and will not go about halfheartedly handling the media, as if this was the biggest punishment inflicted on him ever since he got commissioned in the Army.
This PRO, now, does not even want journalists to grab a bite in his office. The basic chit chats which take place over such informalities and which breed good relations and foster friendliness have been tossed out of the window. Had it not been for the good humour and affection of the DG (M&C) and the APRO, the Army would have been getting a lot of flak in print just because it is trying to put a square peg in a round hole.
It is hoped that the new COAS will take stock of this problem and do something about it. The Army needs to project its image in a positive mannr in the media and for that it needs a positive individual as the PRO. Not someone who is sour-faced and laced with a dour attitude.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Here is a photograph of the Western Army Commander wearing his self styled badge on his beret. Note the difference when you compare it with the beret badge of the COAS. Eccentricities in uniform are common in defence services but only when those who practice them are of sufficient fame and prowess.
Lt Gen SR Ghosh can hardly put himself in category of Field Marshal Montogomery or Sam Maneckshaw when it comes to designing his own headgear accoutrement. And he wears it in the presence of the Chief! What affront!
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
After the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence, which told the Army to give the same pay and perks to MNS officers as regular officers, the AFT too has spoken in their defence. The order giving them the same priviledges of rank as regular officers must have pleased the MNS officers and driven a stake in the heart of the AMC officers who were behind the entire unsavoury episode which forced an MNS General officer to go to court.These same AMC officers were behind the move to change the uniform of MNS officers from OG to the creamish coloured stuff they wear now, and they were behind the hideous 'safari suit' design of uniform which the MNS officers now wear. They could not bear the sight of MNS officers going around as equals.
A bunch of them said that wearing the OG uniform had given a superiority complex to the nurses and that they were not "behaving" properly. There may well have been some instances of such behaviour. But this view was propogated privately. Officially, a ridiculous explanation was forwarded that the patients were confused with the same colour uniform of doctors and nurses and that there was a a lack of empathy while dealing with patients. There were ways of dealing with these "facts" instead of treating MNS cadre like second grade citizens.
The superiority complex of AMC officers stems from a societal problem and is an affliction gathered from the civvy street. They cannot accept the changing dynamics of the society; nursing is no longer the kind of profession that they associate with through the years. They are better trained, better motivated and better paid all over the world. And they volunteer to serve in the Army in the most difficult areas as do the AMC doctors. So why deny them the perks and priveledges of the rank once it has been bestowed on them?
I have also heard the argument that the MNS officers have been going around getting married to PBORs and therefore lower the dignity of rank. This happened because often they came from the same social strata. And for this the Army has to think out a policy. You cannot stop any legal marriage. If you wish to put some restrictions for men and women in uniform getting married to ORs, then spell it out clearly in the regulations. Whisper campaigns are not a substitute for law.
Ultimately, it is all about being aware of your rights and asking for them. Maj Gen Usha Sikdar did not give up when she was not allowed to fly a flag and display a star plate on her car by a zealous Rear Admiral. She is an educated lady and an officer so she did so. Let us not forget that more and more well educated men are joining the Army as PBORs. Very soon they will be asserting for their rights too. It is better that the Army evolves with the time and comes out of its second-world-war-administrative-mindset and wakes up to the reality of the day. As Lt Gen Arjun Ray used to quote Bob Dylan when he was GOC 14 Corps, "The times, they are a changin".