By Colonel Balwan Singh Nagial
Social mobility refers to the capacity of people to transform positions within a social stratum. People feel social mobility when they progress or reduce their economic position in a way that influences social class. People can experience ascending or descending social mobility for numerous reasons. Upward mobility refers to moving from a lower to a higher socio-economical class. In variance, individuals experience downward mobility when they move from a higher socio-economic class to a lower one.
People in Jammu and Kashmir faced downward social mobility due to the onset of cross-border terrorism in the late 80s. People lost their businesses, faced unemployment, suffered illnesses both mentally and physically, dropped out of school, etc.
Indian Army, realising the importance of social upliftment and fighting terrorism, launched a ‘Goodwill’ project called ‘Op-Sadbhavana’ in 1998. This Military-Civic Action (MCA) was initially launched in remote areas along the Line of Control (LoC). This ‘Goodwill’ programme aims at ‘Winning the Hearts and Minds’ (WHAM) of the people of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. The motto of this programme is ‘Jawan aur Awam, Aman Hai Muqaam’ (peace is the destination for both the people and the soldier).
Rajesh Rajagopalan identifies the essential characteristics of counter-insurgency/counterterrorism operations in India: limited use of military force, isolation of insurgents/terrorists, domination of areas of operations, presence of a large number of teams in the operational areas, and restoration of normalcy. They were primarily based on the concept of British counter-insurgency practices demonstrated by General Gerard Templar’s MCAs and cooperation in Malay and Vietnam. Counter-terrorism operations have evolved in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir past three decades. The parameters and features of the use of force in non-conventional operations establish a relationship between the military and civil authority and seek to guide military priorities in the activities such as the allocation of resources, equipment acquisitions and training of human resources.
Counter-terrorism is a political endeavour wherein the military is in a supporting role only. Therefore, the emphasis is placed on using minimal force and winning hearts and minds while conducting counter-terrorism operations. ‘Op Sadbhavana’ is not only a typical organisational innovation, but it is a result of the counter-terrorism operation experience of the Indian Army over a period of time. Thus security forces in Jammu and Kashmir learned to blend ‘Op-Sadbhavana’ with counter-terrorism operations in conjunction with the policies of the Government of India. The Indian Army’s doctrine of sub-conventional warfare issued in December 2006 emphasised WHAM through civic action to achieve twin aims: to wrest the initiative from the terrorists and re-integrate the local populace into the national mainstream.
This was envisioned to be achieved by reinstating the infrastructure devastated by terrorist organisations and developing the human resource in Jammu and Kashmir. National security can only be through human security, which is safeguarded through the development and growth of human and infrastructure aspects. Thus, the focus is laid on the following aspects:
Empowerment of youth, especially women and children
Education: Real education augments the dignity of human beings and inculcates self-respect. As per Dr S Radhakrishnan, education should be imparted with a view to the type of society we wish to build. Keeping this in view, the Indian Army established Army Goodwill Schools. It also helped several government-run schools in remote areas through renovation, construction of additional classrooms, libraries, toilets, playgrounds, and sports facilities, and provisioning of furniture, computers, educational software packages, stationary, and books. About two lakh students have benefitted so far, obtaining middle and higher secondary education. People are demanding such schools in their areas. This is also generating employment for local people.
In 2013, the Indian Army launched the Super-30 initiative. Over time, the initiative included more students and was subsequently called the Army Super-40 and Army Super-50. It also sponsored undergraduate courses and school education to selected children and youth in residential schools and colleges, functioning under the Army Welfare Education Society (AWES) for various professional courses.
Initiatives like these are reassuring not only because of the positive numbers and results but also because in these initiatives exists a possibility of uplifting a section of the society which not only suffers socio-economically but also lives under a constant threat of geopolitical instability. Education is a tool that might prove to be very effective in encouraging social mobility.
Empowerment of Youth: Youth empowerment plays a vital and significant role in poverty alleviation and eradication from society. Empower the local youth by creating employment opportunities by skilling and supporting them to start their businesses. A few such welfare projects being run by the Indian Army are Skill Development Centres, Youth Centres, Army Goodwill Schools, Women Self-help Groups, sports and games and various other projects.
Over the years, these projects have gained popularity, and the same is also visible in many youths being motivated to take stride in their various fields. It has helped to clear the ill-conceived inhibitions and apprehensions about the Indian Army. The perception of the Army has improved over the years in the eyes of the locals due to its impartial and just conduct, resulting in more and more people approaching army units for their various requirements.
Healthcare: The medical camps organised by the Army have been significantly appreciated. They are well attended to, as good medical facilities are unavailable in remote areas. Another novel initiative of the Army was to support the Pritam Singh Foundation, a private healthcare provider in Poonch, which has been providing artificial limbs to victims of explosions during the years of militancy in the state. During the COVID-19 pandemic, all military hospitals were opened to extend healthcare services to the local populace, which was much appreciated.
Community development: The Community Development Centres (CDC) are envisioned as places where people in villages can assemble for various social activities. The centres are part of a larger model village complex in several places. Especially these centres are required in border and remote areas where such facilities do not exist. Some CDCs are working as Vocational Training Centres (VTCs).
Infrastructure development: In the past, habitation sprung up on the fringes of army establishments and has become tourist destinations, thus generating income for the locals. Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and Project Beacons, in addition to the construction of the artery of roads and bridges, also employ the locals and thus support them economically. The roads and tracks constructed improve the connectivity between people. Even the Indian Army is helping in electrifying the remote and border areas.
The BRO opened the Zoji La Pass for traffic on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh road at 11,650 feet on March 19, 2022, setting up a record for the pass being opened after just 73 days of its closure this year. As infrastructure develops, so does the boldness in strategy policy.
Conclusion: Social cohesion and inclusion may more likely to be achieved when people believe they can improve the quality of life they and their children enjoy through their abilities, talents and efforts. Lack of social mobility implies inequality of opportunities. Terrorism badly affected the power of social mobility in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The efforts undertaken by the Indian Army w.r.t. social mobility in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir coincide with the aim of Hon’ble Prime Minister of India Narender Modi, who asks to ‘embrace the land by embracing its people as one’s own’.
Connectivity through all-weather roads, rail, ropeways, and tunnels bridges the gaps between Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, thus bringing people together and pushing new investment opportunities.
The exceptional initiative stands as a striking example of the commitment and dedication of the Indian Army towards the people of Jammu & Kashmir. This has effectively dampened the anti-India propaganda sponsored by our adversary. It has complimented the government’s efforts to ameliorate conditions to provide much needed succor to the population severely affected by cross-border terrorism for over three decades.
Colonel B S Nagial(Retd) is a third-generation Indian Army officer who retired in 2019 after rendering three decades of service.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.