CoBRA commandos deserting duty to visit home is an embarrassment and merits strong action

The Cobras turned into little wriggling worms of deceit. The decision by 59 commandos from anti-Naxal force Combat Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRAS) to get off a train at Mughalsarai and go off to their village for the weekend before reporting for duty is an act of desertion any way you hack it. The very fact that the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) is "asking" these highly trained commandos to come back to work rather than simply dispensing with them under the Absent Without Official Leave (AWOL) provisions or meting out severe punishment is an embarrassment and will impact negatively on their work ethic.

These troops have been trained to tackle Maoist insurgency in Bihar and Jharkhand. With this attitude, the Maoists will have a field day. Sorry folks, today is Sunday. Can’t make it to the encounter.

Obviously, there is a desire to play it all down by the government and make it look like a mild indiscretion or an epidemic of homesickness that swept the compartment. It still does not address the mindset or the lack of discipline. The least action would be to cashier them all for walking away.

A file image of CRPF commandos. News18

A file image of CRPF commandos. News18

Men and women in uniform are held to a higher standard of conduct. To an extent when the armed forces and the paramilitary forces were a brand apart from the civvy street and looked up to as the epitome of probity and moral values, the levels of discipline and unquestioning obedience to orders was the starch in the spine.

There was something to say for that march down a parallel road and the "do or die not to question why" lyric that marked a career in the services. The media was generally kept away and each force cleaned its own house and kept it in order.

But with the train now stopping at social platforms (literally) and the "uniform" being accessed by social media, and scandal and criticism as well as politics permeating the ranks, the dragging off the forces into the mainstream has diluted their awe. Familiarity breeds contempt and this is what is happening. So, whether it is the Border Security Force's (BSF) Tej Bahadur Yadav showing his chapati and lack of spices on a social post or the Sukna and Adarsh Colony land scandals or the navy sailing into stormy waters over the stealing of the affections of a brother officer's wife, the admiration and esteem that has been lost has made the nation feel these guys are no different to them and they are now fair game.

There are those who might feel that with senior echelons involved in their own political skullduggery and general officers often being caught with their paws in the jam jar of corruption, and the government also playing about with their stature while paying lip service to their role, the focus of the spotlight is deserved and the security forces are no longer the sacred cows.

One report paraphrases the use (or misuse) of social media: "Many people are just walking officer's dogs," said a soldier in the video. He also complained about the lack of transport facilities for soldiers, while he alleged that the families of senior officers were given vehicles even if they had to visit a "beauty parlour".

In other videos, men who said they were Indian Army soldiers spoke about being "exploited" by senior officers to "polish shoes, walk dogs" and clean officers' cars.

All this is in the realm of possibility but whining in public platforms is so against the military grain that one understand General Bipin Rawat’s warning that soldiers who go public with such complaints will face disciplinary action.

There is a harmful fallout which one risks when the security personnel begin to use Facebook or gripe on Twitter or volunteer for interviews and lay bare their grievances in public.

Where does it stop? I was woken up at 5 am and I haven’t slept for three days. They made us march in the sun. The commando training was too hard. I had to carry a 30-kilogram backpack. We were given no water in survival training. Jungle warfare courses make us eat locusts.

That is why you are in the forces... to be a lean-mean fighting machine, not a whining complainant.

By virtue of their commitment to the duty to protect and defend the nation, soldiers must follow a strong hierarchical procedure. The moment that chain of command collapses so does the efficiency of the forces. The media has a very major role to play in recent years as it has sought this fresh pasture to graze in... unfortunately, occasionally helped by the indiscretions occurring within the security forces themselves and the lure of media publicity that is now offering a great deal of opportunity to generate sensationalism.

If these commandos are let off with a mere slap on the wrist the message will be clear: you can get away with being a second rate undependable soldier.

That is not the pride of our land.

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Updated Date: Feb 08, 2017 14:38:57 IST

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