Thursday, 20 February 2020

Resettling Soldiers A Nation’s Social Responsibility

Updated: August 7, 2015 5:10 am

Resettling veterans is indeed a ‘Nation’s Social Responsibility. A concerted and collective effort is needed for absorbing veterans. The priority should be to help soldiers obtain jobs in the government sector by exploiting reservations. This is to be followed by mapping the industrial needs, talking to them (Industry) and training individuals as per the requirement of the industry. The DGR will well utilise their funds in this manner than conduct courses which are cosmetic in nature and results, and used as a paid break by most. This can best be done by integral placement organisations in respective services.

We need to learn from the past and see that all armies care for their veterans. The trainees and disciplined manpower is to be taken as an asset on which a lot can be built upon.

Nations need young soldiers in their armed forces who can withstand prolonged deprivations that push the limits of extreme physical hardship. History is full of daredevil heroics by young soldiers. Since there are no runners up in war, daredevilry in young soldiers is necessary as one mellows with age. Soldiers hang their uniforms at a relatively young age. Notwithstanding the limited financial security provided by the various Pay Commissions, not-so-young soldiers pass into civil life full of energy and vigour and have a lot to give to the society at large. Their regimented approach to life brings discipline in to a workforce, which is so essential.

Around 60,000 soldiers hang up their uniforms every year. The Indian Army being the largest retires the maximum number of soldiers every year. The Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Navy (IN) with their technically oriented soldiers retires personnel who have better exposure and acceptability vis-à-vis Army personnel from the General Duty (GD) stream. The government on its part has brought out a number of schemes for the resettlement of veterans. There is a need to earnestly implement these obviating possible impediments and this is possible.

Resources for resettling soldiers need to be intrinsic to the organisation. Not only this, by the time a soldier comes out of service, he should have the qualifications to adapt to civil jobs better and still be in demand by a large number of organisations. To achieve this, organisations themselves have to get involved deeply by not only counseling individuals but also training them for specific absorption. It is a national responsibility to ensure that ex–soldiers are well settled post retirement and thus the title ‘Resettling Soldiers: A Nation’s Social Responsibility’. It is a study that needs a planned, holistic approach.

There is a need to examine the resettlement of veterans in a holistic manner…

We need to learn from the past and see that all armies care for their veterans. The trainees and disciplined manpower is to be taken as an asset on which a lot can be built upon. During medieval times, armies on return from their excursions/crusades were demobilised and soldiers were provided for a decent living. After World War I, the demobilised Indian soldiers were given land for resettlement and generous grants. Alexander distributed all the captured wealth amongst his soldiers. England established the Polish Resettlement Corps in 1946 for resettling the Polish soldiers who fought for England and this Corps was decommissioned in 1949.

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As we have our Directorate General – Resettlement (DGR), USA and UK also leave their arrangements for their veterans and in fact, they exercise a lot of care in ensuring reasonable resettlement opportunities for them. Incidentally, both follow a two-year cycle for resettling retiring soldiers. Post World War II, the British had established the DGR for demobilised Indian soldiers which, post-Independence, converted into DGTE under the Ministry of Labour.

However, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) resurrected the DGR in somewhat present form. The DGR has a role cut out for itself. However, level of satisfaction has not been too high. Suffice it to say that service HQ had to resort to raising their own facilities for maintaining a direct touch with veterans who wish to adopt a second career. Definitely there is a need to examine the resettlement of veterans in a holistic manner so that maximum opportunities are availed of to re-settle maximum number of ex–soldiers.

Statistics of Retirees

India has a standing army of 1.2 million, the naval strength is approximately 100,000 and the IAF has 150,000. Thus a total of one and a half million soldiers defend the nation. The figures being projected are approximate and are based on very realistic experience since no authentic data is available in this regard. However, rational conclusions can be drawn. The enormity of the task at hand can be gauged from the following:

  • Approximate overall strength of forces—1,500,000
  • Average length of service in defence—20 Years
  • Yearly outgo (retiring/leaving service due to other reasons)—four to five per cent—which translates into 60,000 or so
  • Out of the retiring strength the following needs to be considered
  • Veterans unlikely to take up jobs—20 per cent or 12,000
  • Requiring jobs (Resettlement)—48,000 or so
  • Technical manpower with proven—144,000 (30 per cent) Skills
  • 50–60 per cent of technical manpower—6,000-7,000 are absorbed by the industry or others—Help required for resettlement—About 40,000 every year

It would be unrealistic to imagine that all veterans will be absorbed.

Thus from the above analyses, it is inferred that approximately 20,000-25,000 veterans need help yearly which is a tremendous task and to this backlog, the numbers keep adding. This requires a structured approach for which organisational synergy is a must. With over 158 trades in services and most applicable in the civil, then why is there a need to look at the subject de novo? Veterans from the IAF and the IN have better exposure than veterans from the Indian Army especially the General Duty component. Mature, experienced and disciplined manpower should find ready acceptance but still gaps exist.

An assured steady career transition to bureaucracy or CAPF will ensure acceptance of defence as a career by many more…

Our ex-soldiers are faced with the dilemma of changing careers because it involves adopting/changing skills for an entirely different environment. The ESM need to be kept occupied before they exhaust their energy. Consider the following:

Productive Years

Retiring in late thirties for Other Ranks (OR), early/late forties for Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) and early fifties by Officers leaves 25 to 30 years for ORs, 15 to 20 years for JCOs and five to ten years for Officers in terms of productive years. These years must be utilised fruitfully. Not keeping not-so-old but trained manpower unoccupied can lead to obvious problems of being picked up by unwanted elements or may even cause psychological problems. These are all imaginable. Alcoholism is the easiest and prophylactic active measures are a must besides drawing the maximum benefits in the interest of the society by utilising this mature manpower fruitfully.

Financial Security

Military Pension gives reasonable financial security to ESM, it is still not adequate to raise the standard of living, keeping in view that the majority comes from rural areas and even humble backgrounds. Progress in life is endemic with all humans and added to this, further urbanisation, additional resources are a necessity making earning a livelihood a compulsion for all.

Family Liabilities

Fulfilling family liabilities viz old parents, children’s education and construction of a house needs additional resources. Add to this the breaking up of the joint family system, ex-soldiers have to seek their own establishments. During service, a soldier moves every two to three years to a new location which unsettles the family. Post retirement, they all look for stability nearer home and organisations must take this into consideration.

The government has legislated reservations in all the departments and these vacancies can absorb 15,000 to 20,000 veterans or more every year.

Psychological Reasons

An idle mind is a devil’s workshop. Staying at home without work will germinate tensions in a family. Everyone needs space even a husband and wife. Children not used to their father being around leads to general adjustment problems. Their vast experience needs to be channelised for the society and the organisation must empower them to work till as long as they can. Some weaknesses or problems that veterans face when they step into the civil stream are:

Subordination

Functioning in the armed forces requires a high degree of subordination at every level vis-à-vis in the civil. At every level soldiers look over their shoulders for orders and this is an organisational necessity. In the civil sector, there is greater autonomy and superiors take for granted many things which if not done, draws their angst. There is no guidance at every step. This orientation needs to be highlighted at the time of retirement since we know that once a task is understood and adopted by a soldier, delivery is better than his hard core civilian counter parts.

Adjustment Issues

Working under much younger superiors may lead to adjustment problems. Added to this, are the not-so-fixed working hours. While in service, the emphasis was on carrying out the task without giving much thought to economy whereas in the civil arena, profit in output is preponderant.

Personal administration becomes an individual’s responsibility whereas in service it was taken care of to a large extent.

Many states do not have specified reservations or very little for defence retirees…

Although most trades of defence are applicable, their intricate application keeps changing in the civil. Introduction of new equipment takes five years in defence because it follows a process of requisition, trial evaluation, order for manufacturing and reaching the users through a supply chain and training the users. This is not so in the civil arena. Changes are more dynamic due to faster and more economically orientation of results. A software company may change the software its uses overnight, if it so decides. Also, the workers keep getting exposure outside to keep upgrading their skills which is not so in defence where upgradation takes place only if the equipment/application is to be changed. To this added are the management jargons which keep changing dynamically. Soldiers do not get exposure to these and find it difficult to communicate in a highly dynamic environment.

Communication skills is an important factor which conveys something effectively pertaining to the job at hand. There is gap in this regard since soldiers during their service are not exposed to the civilian way. This orientation is important for speedy progress in a new environment. More important to understand is that a soldier is changing a career and he has to compete with civilian counterparts, who have grown in the same career without changing job skills. This issue needs deeper understanding in order to equip our veterans for transformation.

Added to these are the adjustment problems. Veterans with limited financial security become a little arrogant and there have been occasions when they have taken leading role in perpetrating of strikes and agitations which no corporate likes. Also, this financial security makes an individual leave a job on the spur of a moment as he is no longer bound by Army Act/Rules. At times, corporate organisations feel insecure employing veterans even if they are better workers. Veterans must draw lessons from a Harvard study which concludes that bad hiring in corporate costs 24 times the basic component i.e. the cost of hiring, training, laying off (loss of revenue), re-hiring and training and may also result in loss of business/opportunity. Therefore, counseling of soldiers before retirement becomes very important. ‘A boss is a boss’ whether very young or elderly; male or female. Also, consistency in any job pays. Frequent job hopping is less paying and will bring in insecurity.

(Indian Defence Review)

By Brig R K Sharma

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