Monday, January 23, 2017

The importance of Leave in the Forces - Commodore M Bhada (Retd)

The recent shooting spree by a Jawan from the para military force for not being granted leave needs introspection.
Leave to an individual from the Armed Forces, including the Para Military Forces, posted in the border areas or the outlying areas, as also on board Naval vessels, is as important, if not more, than the quality of food given to them.  The later is also in the news, thanks to the Media going all overboard on this count.
Leave in the Armed Forces is not for rest-and-recuperation only, there many more important and essential reasons for asking for leave. It could be for a sister’s wedding for whose marriage one has been saving over a period of time and being the eldest in the family, one’s presence becomes essential. It could be for a child’s board exams when the mother is unable to cope with the child’s studies. Or to help the family during the harvesting season when labour is not easily available. Or for repairs to the house which has been damaged owing to a natural calamity. There are countless reasons for an individual to ask for leave, denial of which can upset anybody, some more than the others.
Whilst in command of a Naval Warship, I had occasion to witness such a scenario when a sailor was marched up to my desk as a “defaulter”.
His crime – he left ship without leave just a day prior to the ship’s sailing. The sailor had gone on a short leave two months earlier but had once again requested for a few days off just prior to the ship’s sailing for a major exercise. As he was the only qualified radar operator on board, his presence during the exercise was essential, hence his leave was denied by the departmental officer.
The Sailor’s explanation - He had been preparing for his BA exams for over a year, to improve his re-employability prospects after leaving the service.  He had earlier requested for leave to appear in the BA Part I & Part II papers in his home town, however owing to some unavoidable circumstances the Part II paper was postponed indefintely and he reported back on board the ship without appearing for the same. A few days later he received intimation of the new date for the BA, Part II exam which unfortunately coincided with the ship’s operational programme.  If he missed this opportunity he would lose a full year.
Unfortunately, the priorities of the leave granting officer and that of the sailor were at variance. For both it was a hobson’s choice.
After hearing the case I, unhesitatingly wrote In the Register, 
“Case dismissed. The sailor’s absence to be regularized”. 
Soon thereafter I issued Standing Instructions to the effect that Departmental Officers may approve the leave of all sailors in their departments but refusal of the same will be the Captain’s prerogative.
A request for leave should not be
taken lightly.


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