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There’s a need to utilise ex-servicemen in rural development

NewsThere’s a need to utilise ex-servicemen in rural development

The optimum utilisation of this motivated, disciplined and skilled workforce towards nation building is the focus of the author, Lt Gen S.K. Gadeock.

Lieutenant General S.K. Gadeock, who retired as the Commandant of the Defence Service Staff College after a distinguished military career, has written “From War To Peace” in which he has examined ex Servicemen’s role in good governance and rural development. The issues that he has touched upon are both relevant and contemporary. He has examined these in an extremely detailed manner giving various statistics to back his argument and has thereafter given suggestions with regard to the implementation of his ideas put forth, which the NSA in a letter written to the author, has stated “are novel and incisive”.
While a military career is balanced, respectable and extremely satisfying, what comes to the mind of everyone inevitably towards the end of their career is, “what next”. Approximately, 60,000 personnel retire every year of which 44% are in the age group of 40-50 and 33% in the age group of 35-40 years. The figures will change with the Agniveers and there will be personnel retiring at even younger ages, who will retire without pension but would have been given some financial benefits to help them transit to their second career. The optimum utilisation of this motivated, disciplined and skilled workforce towards nation building is the focus of the author.
In the first of five chapters, namely, “Good Governance and Rural Development; A Conceptual Framework”, the author writes about the “fundamentally unbalanced relationship between urban and rural areas”. He thereafter gives out his recommendations on measures to be taken to reduce this divide which includes “better targeting of investments to meet economic and poverty alleviation goals”.
He states that while rural to urban migration has aided in the eradication of poverty; however, “formal and informal policy barriers still restrict the movement of population and these need to be eliminated”. There needs to be “development of a non-rural farm sector”, for which public investment in infrastructure, health and education is crucial. Focus must also be on developing small rural towns to serve as transitional areas between rural and urban areas. He then lists out his vision and gives out a two-pronged approach strategy for realisation of this vision which includes acceleration of income and employment growth, and elimination “of deprivation of basic facilities” which include sanitation and water and designing delivery mechanisms to provide these.
In the second chapter, “Odyssey of Socio-Economic Growth in India”, Lieutenant General Gadeock covers an extremely wide canvas. He clearly states that tepid land reforms “coupled with state interventions in food pricing and procurement, have served only to retard the larger transformation” of agriculture which is “the primary sector of the Indian economy”.
Today, due to the rapid pace of urbanization, rural life is also being transformed and the author writes that the “first priority for societal transformation is accelerated rural development”. Basically implying that while urbanization is taking place by leaps and bounds, rural development is suffering. He states that “agriculture is no longer the unique centre of economic life in rural India. The advance of capitalism and emergence of industrial and service industries have provided different forms of livelihood creating a rural non-farm path to growth. Non-farm activities prevent the poor from descending into deeper poverty or rise above it.” He has of course backed all his arguments with a lot data and statistics.
Chapter three deals with “Success Stories of Rural Development in India”. He feels the 21st century model village needs to incorporate certain key themes which are: sustainability, community involvement, technology and connectivity and thereafter lists out what constitutes these themes. The two “success states” are Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.
As regards Gujarat, he writes about electricity, Jyoti Gram Yojna which has ensured availability of 24-hour three-phase quality power supply to rural areas. Gujarat has transformed from a power deficient to power surplus state. The state-wide “Drinking Water Grid”, “Agricultural Initiatives” to include “micro water harvesting” resulted in using less water to produce the same results. “Krishi Mahotsav” started in 2005 educated farmers by visiting every village yearly and the “Garib Kalyan Mela” is a programme for social transformation that combines the benefits of many programmes, eliminating intermediaries and reaching the most vulnerable. Amongst, good governance is the Samas Yojna Programme, which gives a village Rs 1 lakh if they elect their representative unanimously. Today “the rapid growth of Gujarat as compared to other states is largely due to its significantly higher comparative advantage in agriculture and manufacturing”.
Tamil Nadu is another story of growth-oriented development. Higher the growth, higher is the employment. The factors that contributed to Tamil Nadu’s growth is its industrial growth where the share of manufacturing is 17% of the Gross State Domestic Product. In agriculture it has implemented a multitude of crop-oriented schemes for the welfare of the farming community. Energy security is another area of focus and while it is still deficient of energy it has invested a lot in renewable energy sources including 7,178 MW of wind power.
He also mentions schemes like budget canteens, education to include infrastructure works undertaken in schools and provision of free education. Under skill development, the state government has forged partnerships with industry to identify skill gaps and design courses leading to “Modular Employable Skill Certification”. The Village Habitations Improvement Scheme has been covered in great detail.
Chapter Four on ex serviceman’s leadership, “a paragon for rural development” is the heart of the book. General Gadeock has examined “Societal Structure & Administrative Setup” (SOSAS) under the Ashoka period, during the Chola dynasty and under the Mughals in great detail. He then states that while the leaders in the Armed Forces are a true epitome of transformational leadership the “irony is that these men in uniform are not being co-opted in nation building and holistic growth once they superannuate”.
He then gives out a strategy to ensure development of our rural areas: unfortunately, “Ex Servicemen (ESM) remain a resource untapped”. He states “the bureaucratic imprint of ineptitude has been strongly revealed at village level” and ‘the local level politician is steeped in old age petty parochialism and greed”.
Thereafter the book covers details of the schemes of Directorate General of Resettlement, the retiring details of ESMs to include their skill sets, pan India distribution of ESMs and types of employment available backed by statistics in Gazetted and Non-Gazetted jobs. He once again highlights the young age at which ESMs retire and states “ensuring full employment of its people till they attain the age of 60 has now become one of the major welfare objectives of all states”.
He writes that 80% of ESM JCOs and NCOs are settled in villages. “Investments incurred in their specialised training and training acquired in the Army both technical and moral should not go waste”. He then lists out where they can be utilized and the support that requires to be given. The other area he has covered is giving tax concessions to private industries who employ ESMs. However, while his recommendations are exhaustive the crux lies in the recommendations for employment being backed by suitable legislation by Parliament. The dream of creating a smart/ideal village can become a reality if the ESM are suitably engaged.
The last chapter focuses on “A Citizen’s First Approach: Insights into Good Governance”. The author elucidated comprehensive critical issues which if implemented and concluded in the correct perspective would enhance “good governance” in the country. He then covers a range of issues from national security, containing the threat of left-wing insurgency, judicial reforms, empowerment to include self-empowerment, mutual empowerment and social empowerment. The other issues examined include “generation of employment”, “delivery of services in social sector, urban planning capacity building for the nation and infrastructure development” amongst others.
He concludes by stating that ESMs “are ‘role models’ of ethical leadership and an ingrained value system contributing to society and nation building with a great sense of commitment towards multifaceted progression and excellence in all spheres of activities.” ‘Governance Augmentation and Progression’ can be brought about at grass roots level by ESM’s residing in villages given their commitment and ability to monitor execution of developmental projects.
It goes without saying that to improve outcomes in rural governance, the talent of ESM from the Armed Forces who are still in their prime and possess the requisite qualities and skill sets across a wide spectrum of job descriptions must be meaningfully utilized.
Maj Gen Jagatbir Singh, VSM (Retd) is a former officer of the Indian Army.

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