A proposal by the Army to impart training to wives of officers in order to equip them better to deal with the changing societal environment has attracted sharp criticism from many quarters, especially Army wives.
A large number of spouses of serving officers resented the move, saying there was already enough pressure to take part in family welfare centre activities at lower formation levels and those of Army Wives Welfare Association at higher headquarter levels.
“The justification of imparting training to spouses of the junior officers so that they can adapt to role of senior officers’ spouses on promotion to higher rank is without any basis There is no such parallel system prevalent in any service, whether it is judicial, civil services or even the political and constitutional appointments. It will be opening a second channel of command,” said the wife of a serving officer.
Another woman, not wanting to be identified, questioned whether an officer’s promotion would depend upon his professional merit or also on the ability of his wife to successfully complete the prescribed training.
“Who is going to assess her? The senior officer’s wife? It will clearly lead to the sacrifice of merit and will promote sycophancy and quid pro quo,” she said.
Supreme Court advocate Major Guneet Chaudhary (retd), who had fought a case against the Army over the status of Army Wives Welfare Association (AWWA), said the move was ridiculous.
“In the present times, when the majority of the young spouses are minimum graduates, postgraduates and some of them are even doctorates with professional qualifications, what is the justification of imparting them training? In some cases, they may be more qualified than most of the senior officers’ wives. There will be ego clashes and recriminations by senior officers’ spouse. The officer may be exceptionally brilliant but he will not be able to get the higher rank because of his spouse’s incompatibility with the senior officer’s spouse,” said Major Chaudhary.
The advocate also said the thinking of the Army brass was restricted to officers ranks only in a day and age when even wives of jawans were also highly qualified. “Gone are the days when you could blindly order spouses around and order them to participate in events. There have been countless cases where wives of officers have protested at such forced participation in shows, events, fashion parades etc,” he said.
Major Chaudhary said the justification of training to the spouses in law and psychology to sort out the matrimonial and personal disputes of the families was also not acceptable.
The advocate termed the move as a bid to revive AWWA, an organization which is an NGO registered under the Societies Act of Delhi like any other society.
“AWWA is an NGO totally independent of Indian Army stated by Army authorities in 2009 in the Court of Chief Information Commissioner. In 2009 Army had declined that it had ever given any funds to the AWWA. In 2013 a new Memorandum of Association of AWWA was added. It incorporated wives of senior Army Officers like Wife of Chief of Army Staff, Vice Chief of Army staff ad wives of Lt. General officers up to Corp level as its members,” he said.
A concept paper prepared by the Army says that just as is the case with society at large, three generations of spouses – Gen X (those born between 1960 and 1980), Gen Y (those born between 1981 and 1996) and Gen Z (those born between 1997 and 2012), are coming together in the Army like never before.
“When related to the Indian Army, possibly spouses of Brigadiers and above could be categorised as Gen X, while Battalion Commanders wives may belong to the Gen Y and Gen Z would boast of the newly wedded spouses of young Captains/Majors. So, we have situations today, wherein a Gen X lady is obligated to guide and resolve issues of the Gen Z, without an adequate understanding of their attitudes / mind-sets. The lack of empathy / understanding, tends to exacerbate conflict,” the paper says.
It also notes that as the spouse ascends in stature with her husbands’ rank, she is obliged to shoulder wider responsibilities linked to managing institutions like schools, skill centres, health centres, hostels and shopping centres, apart from rendering counselling on marital discord cases.
The paper contends that these responsibilities have today acquired financial, legal and psychological dimensions, necessitating a more “informed response”.
The paper goes on to say that based on analysis, the desired end in terms of “spouse training” by the time her husband reaches flag rank, could be as under:-
(a) She should have imbibed core values of the organisation in their entirety.
(b) She should have upgraded herself to the role of an ‘Enabler’ with the ability to build teams, delegate responsibility, establish transparency, manage change, ensure feedback and audit performance.
(c) She should ‘Walk the Talk’ and provide inspirational leadership.
(d) She should effectively link the AWWA umbrella to Government of India (GoI) schemes for women eg Sukanya Samriddhi Scheme, Mudra Loan, Awas Yojana, Ujwala scheme, etc.
(f) She should encourage the embrace of ‘Core Competencies’ which are ‘transferable’ across verticals and formations.
(g) She should be able to appreciate the psychological nuances of today’s complex HR challenges so as to render sound advice with respect to discord, financial duress, anxiety, depression and estranged relationships.
(h) She should possess basic working knowledge of finances with knowledge of public monies / maintenance grants / financial rectitude, etc.
(j) She should have basic working knowledge of law to be able to appreciate legal advice on litigations in Family Courts, other matters.