August 30, 2012:
The Indian Army, the largest component of the 1.1 million strong Indian armed forces, is facing some serious morale problems. The biggest problem is economic. Over the last two decades military pay and benefits have not kept pace with inflation and growing affluence in the country. Thus, troops hear from childhood friends who did not join the army and are doing much better in a civilian career.
Then there is the corruption. Over the last decade the extent of corruption in the military, both in the Defense Ministry (especially regarding procurement) and among senior officers, has became widely known. This was in part due to Internet based Indian journalists going after the corrupt officials more energetically. When troops wondered about their lack of income, in the face of inflation and growing prosperity among civilian workers, they had to wonder how much corruption had to do with that.
Finally, there was the continued hard service, especially on the Pakistani border and in Kashmir. Some units got modern equipment to deal with the dangerous service along the border. But the troops noticed that their counterparts in other countries were getting all sorts of new gear and Indian soldiers weren't. Moreover some of the new stuff the Indian troops got was decidedly second rate, especially weapons and equipment made by government owned companies. These outfits were widely known to be very corrupt and inefficient and the soldiers did not appreciate being forced to pay for it, sometimes with their lives.
The senior army leadership has noted the increase in suicides and instances where troops attack their officers. A series of meetings with junior officers and opinion surveys of all personnel has revealed that the poor morale is real and getting worse and is more widespread. So now something has to be done, but what? There is no shortage of ideas but the main problem is coming up with a solution that the army can afford and actually implement. That will not be easy.