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Army goes back to epics for moral lesson

The Army has invoked the Mahabharata and the Vedas to check sliding morality and ethics in its ranks, reports Rahul Singh.

india Updated: Feb 06, 2008 03:00 IST
Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh
Hindustan Times

The Army has invoked the Mahabharata and the Vedas to check sliding morality and ethics in its ranks. An honour code circulated to soldiers across India quotes Bhishma’s advice to the Pandavas, asking them to control passion for wealth, promotion and luxuries as these “frailties” erode leadership.

Drafted by the Shimla-based Army Training Command, the code dubs sycophancy and manipulation deadly diseases caused by the “virus of ambition and selfishness”. It also makes the point that a morally bankrupt force, even if effective, risks alienation from the community it serves. Officers say the code, or ‘army training note’ in military jargon, is as honest as a self-appraisal can get.

The code carries case studies of a unit involved in selling rations meant for troops to civilians and that of a captain who stole his colleague’s ATM card and withdrew money, reflecting a decline in army values.

Officers have been warned that double standards can undermine leadership. “Accountability for officers should not be lower, and consequences for infractions should be fair, if not equal,” the code says.

Citing the Bhagwad Gita, it says, “The army draws its inspiration from the high moral ethics of our civilisation, which considered it righteous to take up arms against evil.”

Soldiers have been asked not to ease the way for others to do wrong and stand up for their beliefs. Hard task masters have been advised against the typical approach: “I don’t care how you get it done — just do it” or setting impossible goals for juniors.