Harnessing Ex-Servicemen Leadership Potential Towards National Rural Socio-Economic Transformation
Vol 10 Issue 4 Sep - Oct 2016
The fraternity of ex-servicemen is a national asset that must be harnessed to accomplish national development projects and objectives
Monday, October 3, 2016
The objective for the emerging nation states and powers is to create an economic and social order based on equality of opportunity, full employment and provision of adequate means of livelihood. It would entail multi- dimensional tasks, encompassing an extensive range of activities, viz economic, social, technical and cultural, towards attaining rapid economic development so that the trajectory of high, inclusive growth can be achieved and poverty can be rapidly ameliorated.
An ‘Inclusive’ India
The Indian rural socio-economic development story revolves around three multi-agencies of delivery – civil service, panchayats and the society function. While the former two have play their designated role, the time has come to harness the potential of the ex-servicemen towards implementation of Alternative Rural Development Models, as part of our new government strategy towards poverty alleviation.
Until the opening of the economy in 1991, the Union and the State governments were steered by the socialist ideals of the Constitution, which had a pivotal role in the funding and execution of all major development programmes and projects in many key areas of the economy. However, success could not be achieved in terms of social stratification of the people because of the deteriorating law and order situation, corruption, spiralling price index, criminalisation of politics, degeneration of our value system and poor ethical and social norms.
The last 25 years, the opening up of the economy has also not been able to elevate the abysmal human developmental indices of the country. The latest Human Development Report released by the United Nations Development Programme has ranked India 135 in a list of 187 countries, with 21.9 per cent of 1.2 billion people living below the poverty line or having income of less than $1.25 a day.
The Indian rural landscape has witnessed a major exodus of its youth towards the urban areas in the recent years (census report of 2011 indicates that the level of urbanisation has increased from 27.81 per cent in 2001 to 31.6 per cent in 2011, while the proportion of rural population has declined from 72.19 per cent to 68.84 per cent in 2011). Thus, the only credible and educated workforce available in the villages, apart from the ignorant farmers and self-employed ones, are the retired personnel of the armed forces, who can be the common pivotal link in the endeavoured socio-economic transformation, given their great sense of commitment, amidst plethora of challenges towards attainment of enunciated purposes.
The problem is further accentuated by the degenerate functioning of the civil administration, governance implosion and falling apart of the policing mechanisms. The solution lies in a multitude of productive measures orientated towards evaluated outcomes, rather than internal procedures besides delegation of responsibilities, which would certainly augment governance. Harnessing leadership potential of the retired officers of the Armed Forces within the planning and monitoring process of various government schemes will pay substantively rich dividends.
According to the economic census 2013, rural India is far more enterprising than the urban areas, as it counts for 61.3 per cent of the country’s industrial units compared to just 38.7 per cent in towns and cities. However, it is noteworthy that the part time labour (unorganised) is employed in greater proportions than full time labour both in the rural and the urban areas.
Transformational Holistic Growth
Governance, in contemporary usage, is seen in terms of partnerships and cooperation between governments, corporate sector and civil society. This inclusive process is based on shared interests, where each partner contributes according to their respective resources, strengths and areas of expertise. The core principles that govern the restructuring can be first, separation of policy making functions from execution; second, coordinated implementation ; third, flatter structures – reducing the number of levels and encouraging team work; and fourth, well defined accountability.
The expansion in self-employed enterprises and non-agricultural opportunities and introduction of new rural enterprises indicate the feasibility of constructing an alternative rural development model, based on the potential productive capacity of huge pool of surplus resources and labour in the rural areas.
The fundamental argument thus revolves not around the lack of planning, but a planned ‘road map’ for implementation of the thought process. The lack of ‘transformational leadership’ is apparent in the fields of public education system, health care, water management, electricity services and delayed infrastructure projects. The same can be gauged from the fact that only 18.7 per cent of villages have safe water supply, 51.1 per cent depends on wells, tanks and other sources and 32 per cent of the villages do not have any water supply. Similarly, some 400 million people have zero access to electricity.
In its simplistic form, transformational leadership entails connecting the follower’s sense of identity and self to the mission and collective identity of the organisation; being a ‘role model’ for followers that inspires them; challenging followers to take greater ownership for their work, and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of followers, so the leader can align followers with tasks that optimise their performance.
The officers of the armed forces, retiring relatively early and endowed with vast experience and transformational leadership qualities are rightly suited to head/ be part of the monitoring and execution agencies towards greater accountability in accomplishment of envisaged objectives in these domains.
The Societal Organisation Structure and Administrative Setup (SOSAS) Model
Apart from the transformational movements, the states of Gujarat & Tamil Nadu have been the frontrunners in implementing successful growth models. Although the Gujarat model is essentially based on the economic reforms launched at all India level, it incorporates several modifications introduced by the Government of Gujarat in the context of the state’s socio-economic and cultural conditions, as well as the ruling party’s political ideology under the dynamic leadership of then Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Gujarat has, unlike many other states, followed the classical model of transition from agricultural development to industry-led development before transforming into an economy dominated by the service sector. In the last decade, the state has seen an exceptionally large flow of industrial, especially large infrastructural investment, both by the private sector and the government. The Gujarat model of SOSAS, ridiculed by the scholars as a ‘crony capitalist’ model, is fast emerging as a systemic economic development model.
The SOSAS recommends a ‘National Level Strategic Planning Commission’ (NLSPC), a strategic structure at the national level and an operational structure in the form of ‘Rural Areas Progressively Integrated Development (RAPID)’.
National Level Strategic Planning Commission (NLSPC)
In order to ensure overhauling of the existing systems towards holistic multi-spectral high trajectory growth, a number of innovative measures are required to be taken by the country for strengthening its strategic planning process and moving them in the direction of a sustainable & pragmatic development strategy. This entails identification, coordination and continuous improvement of mechanisms that help towards balancing the economic, social and environmental concerns of multiple stakeholders.
• Identify the stakeholders that will own the preparation and implementation of an integrated sustainable development strategy, and encourage discussion of their roles.
• Ensure broad based ownership by key ministries and agencies, civil society and the private sector.
• Mobilise the required resources, identify, secure and allocate in a timely and accountable manner, the required skills, management and financial resources.
• Define and seek agreement on the roles of stakeholders – private sector, civil society, national and local government and the Secretariat.
• Develop coherence and coordination between strategy frameworks at all levels from international to local, between and within sectors.
• Establish and promote a schedule or broad based calendar for the strategy process- determine activities, responsibilities, capabilities and resources needed and their timings.
• Promote the strategy as a unified concept. Possibly publish a ‘prospectus’ for the strategy outlining all the above.
• Establish or improve provisions for regular analysis, debate, communication, planning, implementation, monitoring and review; to ensure that all stakeholders are optimally employed as part of the strategy. These processes are the ‘heart’ of the strategy.
Ex-Servicemen: A Reservoir of Trained and Experienced Human Resource
Pre & Post-Independence Era has witnessed the Indian Armed Forces winning worldwide appreciation for their valour, indomitable spirit, invincibility and fortitude while being employed for varying roles i.e. maintaining territorial integrity, rendering overseas military assistance to other nations as part of United Nations Forces, maintenance of internal security and aiding civil authorities during civil disturbances and in national calamities. The spectacular achievements have been possible due to their qualities of leadership, discipline, integrity, responsibility and above all an inexorable quest to excel always and every time.
Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, while addressing the Director General Resettlement (DGR) Corporate Conclave 2014 in New Delhi, stated that the corporate sector should utilise the services of ex-servicemen to meet their requirements of trained, experienced, talented and disciplined manpower. Thus, perceivably there exists a credible force, both at the grassroots (retired jawans) as well as the highest level (retired defence officers) which can be a major contributor assisting civil administration and panchayats in good governance, towards a holistic and transformational growth from village to the state level. They possess the energy and high integrity to galvanise the rural masses in achieving the development together for creation of ‘smart’ villages.
There are approximately 60,000 personnel released annually from the three services. Age-wise availability of skilled manpower is as under:
Existing Utilisation of Ex-Servicemen (ESM)
At present, Ex-servicemen are being employed in the following manner:
• Reservation in Central Government Jobs (10 per cent in Gp ‘C’ Posts, 4.5 per cent for Disabled & Widows, 20 per cent in Gp ‘D’ Posts, 10 per cent Posts up to Asst Commandant in Central Paramilitary Forces (CPMF); 100 per cent in DSC and Public Sector Units and Nationalised Banks, 14.5 per cent in Gp ‘C’ posts and 24.5 per cent in Gp ‘D’ posts.
• Priority in government jobs for group ‘A’ and ‘B’.
• Jobs in Corporate and Private Sector.
• Lateral absorption in Central Paramilitary forces (CPMF).
• Self-employment schemes.
Are We Harnessing Ex-servicemen Leadership Potential Optimally?
In order to foster inclusive growth, as per the vision of our political leaders, it would be prudent to optimally utilise the invaluable ex-servicemen resource, which shall result in optimal exploitation of the talent and capabilities of this trained and disciplined force towards the overall growth of the country. Utilisation of the services of our ex-soldiers has multiple advantages, under which, firstly, it will exponentially raise the morale of Indian soldiers; secondly, both the private and public sectors can benefit by absorbing a skilled and disciplined workforce and thirdly, employing ex-servicemen is more economical for the government, as compared to fresh recruitment as they are paid only the difference between the entitled emoluments of the job and the pension being drawn by them.
The time is most opportune for incorporation of the potent workforce of our ex-servicemen (Junior Commissioned Officers/Jawans) into the mainstream development projects. The government must usher in such projects which promote community involvement of ex-servicemen in rural development. It will result in better decision making, more sustainable durable actions, promotion of concept of self-help, community development and empowerment and better capacity building in the long term.
About 80 per cent of the ex-servicemen of the rank of JCOs and Non Commissioned Officers (NCOs) post retirement are settled in the villages. Investments incurred in the specialised training of the ex-servicemen, while in service, should not be allowed to go waste or be under utilised. It requires some time and money to make a man culturally rich to enable him to understand the importance of perseverance, discipline, sincerity to work and honesty in one’s dealings. Therefore, the intensive training acquired in the Army, both technical and moral, should not be allowed to go waste, but optimised towards progressively creating ‘smart villages’ in the entire country.
Recommended Government Initiatives
Even after creation of SOSAS and RAPID structures, only limited number of ex-servicemen can be purposefully utilised, hence additional initiatives from the government would be required as follows:
• Employment in Government Sectors: Exploiting the technical expertise and capabilities of the retiring personnel of the armed forces by employing them in the following government sectors:
• Employment with Ministry of Defence (MoD): The MoD is a major employer of the civilian workforce. Absorption of ex-servicemen in such organisations will increase overall synergy, reduce defence expenditure and increase the satisfaction levels of the ex-servicemen.
• Tax Concessions to India Inc : India should take a cue from the tax credit mechanism that was available in the US for employers who hired veterans (ex-servicemen). For a corporate employer in the US, the tax credit can be as high as $9,660 for every qualified veteran hired. A similar model could be adopted by our Finance Ministry to provide tax concessions to companies that hire retired or ex-servicemen based on their skill requirements.
• Self-employment Schemes: The Department of Ex-Servicemen’s Welfare offers a host of self-employment schemes, but the demand which exists is far more than the availability. The government needs to create a climate which brings together industry as the franchisor, ex-serviceman as the franchisee and MoD as the facilitator, with the ultimate aim of forging a win-win partnership, which unambiguously boosts the national economy.
• Raising of Environmental Battalions: The ‘Swach Bharat Abhiyan’ and ‘Ganga Rejuvenation Plan’ are today national missions which can be best implemented by raising the environment battalions, staffed and manned by the ex-Servicemen from the eco-battalions.
• Exploiting pan-India presence: Ex-Servicemen are present across the length and breadth of the country. They are, therefore, the best candidates when it comes to pan-India requirements. With the government planning to construct the SEZs and associated infrastructure in terms of highways to connect these, there exists a scope to have a Welcome-Spot at every 50 or 100 km which are hubs for refreshment, refuelling, repair, ATM services, where the ex-Servicemen provide the nucleus of the staff. This is an example of just one of the very many such opportunities that exist.
The defining moment has arrived for India to address all visualised challenges in pursuance of its national interests, with a well-measured and a multi-pronged growth strategy. India can only achieve holistic growth, if it addresses two issues; one, in terms of all sectors or segments including the rural sector which needs to be brought into the folds of vibrant economy; and two, in terms of enabling sections of the population, whom the growth process has bypassed, to fully engage themselves with the development process. Hence, it’s imperative to provide due impetus rural socio-economic transformation, which is the need of the hour.
Ex-servicemen are ‘role models’ of ethical leadership with ingrained morals and value systems focused on ‘blood and honour’ contributing to society and nation building in an exemplary proportion. The ex-servicemen leadership potential residing in villages can assist in mitigating the gravity of challenges faced during attainment of rural socio-economic developmental objectives, thereby bringing about ‘Government Augmentation & Progression’. The moment has arrived for the policy makers to take cognisance of this vast invaluable leadership potential and harness it to bring about the desired national rural socio-economic transformation, to achieve our dream of a super power status.