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Outdated courses to rampant ragging: Why India’s National Defence Academy needs urgent help

NDA instructors pass on the same unethical practices they picked while being ‘groomed’ by the flawed leadership development programme.

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It is empirical wisdom that leaders are not born, they are made. For the armed forces, the foundation of leadership is laid at the military academies.

The Chiefs of Staff Committee has given a clear directive to the Commandant of the National Defence Academy – the cradle of military leadership in India – to develop leadership qualities in the cadets and in doing so, impart foundation military education and training, and make them graduates with a BSc/BA degree.

But has the National Defence Academy delivered on this?

From ragging to suicide

Disturbing reports from the National Defence Academy (NDA) have emerged over the years. In 2014, a video of a junior cadet being beaten with a hockey stick went viral. Much earlier in 1975, a senior cadet was lynched to death by his juniors. There is a dropout rate of 16-20 per cent annually, primarily due to ragging and use of ‘illegal’ ways to punish cadets in the barracks on the pretext of ‘toughening’ and leadership development. Two years ago, a cadet committed suicide allegedly after ragging. A Commandant of the NDA was removed from his post for alleged corruption.

The defence academy is in desperate need of reforms. The issue is relative as in matters of leadership, ‘good is not good enough’.

Also read: Narendra Modi govt can’t increase defence budget. Best it can do is go for reforms

Who becomes a Commandant?

The executive, administrative and instructional staff in the NDA are selected from the armed forces on the basis of a flawed and inflated appraisal system instead of their aptitude. The first available, and not the best, Lieutenant General or equivalent is appointed as the Commandant. There is a tendency among the younger officer instructors, themselves ‘groomed’ by the flawed leadership development programme of the NDA, to replicate their own experience with respect to their cadets. This not only condones and encourages the unethical ragging and illegal punishments, but also scuttles the reforms attempted by the system.

This selection system needs a review. Only the best must be selected after an aptitude test and training, which is how it’s done to pick officers for the Services Selection Board. Instead of appointing just any Lt Gen, who retires after his tenure, it would be prudent to appoint the best role model Major General with 6-7 years residual service and who is likely to be selected for higher ranks, as the NDA Commandant. Imagine the impact of a corrupt Commandant’s sacking on 1,800 young minds.

The quality of the academic civilian staff also leaves much to be desired. In the 1950s, the best in the country were part of the faculty. The UPSC selection system needs to focus both on character and academic qualifications. The civilian officers also must be role models for the cadets as 70 % of time is devoted to academics.

Like the armies of developed nations, role model retired military officers could be employed to teach military subjects at the NDA.

Outdated academic curriculum

In the 21st century, making future leaders earn a basic BSc or a BA degree serves no useful military purpose. The focus should shift to teaching subjects relevant to the military, and cadets should graduate in theory of war, military history, military psychology, aeronautical/naval science, space science, weapon technology, nuclear physics, management, and so on. The system of ‘major’ and ‘minor’ subjects must be ensured.

A cursory look at the curriculum of the United States Military Academy at West Point, considered one of the best, should prove the point.

The mandatory Foundation Course that covers military history and geography, weapon systems and armaments, geopolitics, human rights, laws of armed conflict, and environmental sciences is too cryptic. A lot of time is wasted during courses of instruction after commissioning to learn the same in a graduated manner linked to years of service.

Also read: Modi must appoint chief of defence staff – and prove India’s political class isn’t fearful

How can theoretical knowledge be linked to length of service? After three years at NDA and one year at one of the service academies of choice, an officer’s theoretical military education must be complete and s/he should be focusing on refining and applying the theoretical knowledge, and not on learning fundamentals.

Bullying & killing individual creativity

The practical aspects of leadership are covered through mentoring by ‘role model’ instructors and senior cadets, and by giving leadership positions to cadets (both for day-to-day functions and during military training camps).

The leadership development programme is inspired by the outdated traditional military culture of breaking the will through subjugation to ensure discipline, uniformity and adherence. A large part of this is done in the barracks by senior cadets who are products of the same flawed system. Bullying and illegal ways of punishments amounting to physical abuse are rampant. Junior officer instructors too become complicit in upholding the flawed ‘traditions’.

‘Ends justify means’ , ‘survival of the fittest’ , ‘beg borrow or steal’, ‘never volunteer’, ‘never own up or report a wrong’, and ‘never snitch’, are part of the barrack culture. Integrity is given short shrift when senior cadets usurp the uniform/kits and bicycles ( a necessity in the vast campus) of juniors starting a chain reaction of theft codified as ‘maroing’, involving the entire academy as the juniors ‘maro’ the same from others.

Individual creativity and initiative are considered a taboo. An unusual form of initiative, which focuses on avoiding the draconian system, is developed. The NDA should be producing self-actualised and creative leaders driven by military ideals, but ends up producing “adherent under supervision” leaders whose ‘NDA traits’ remain latent and come to the fore when they get higher independent commands.

Also read: ‘Booze Brigadier’ to egg & tent scams: Indian military must check falling standards in ethics

This seriously impinges on the organisational mission. In 1999, at an informal social gathering in Jodhpur, Major Jaswant Singh, cabinet minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led BJP government and an NDA alumni (1954-56), had told me that the academy “destroyed my soul and free spirit”, and that he somehow “retained sanity through reading and music”.

Decaying infrastructure

When the defence academy was established in 1954, it possibly had the best infrastructure and habitat in the world. Over the years, it has decayed and only maintains a façade, particularly with respect to the cadets’ living accommodation. The ‘NDA Cabin’, an eight-by-ten-feet small room, was a unique example of economy of space complete with sturdy teak wood bed, chest of drawers-cum-cupboard, a study table with a study chair and an old style easy chair.

Today, the cabin does not match even a good boarding school room. Teakwood furniture has been replaced by cheap steel furniture, apparently due to presence of bed bugs. This ridiculous excuse itself explains what is wrong with the NDA. World-class toilets and community bathing rooms have been replaced by sub-standard amenities.

The way forward

To say that our cradle of military leadership is not up to the mark is stating the obvious. The three Chiefs must look beyond the glitter of the passing-out parades that they review. An empowered panel of committed serving and retired officers must be set up to push holistic reforms in our military  academies and subsequently act as a supervisory board. The matter is too important to be wished away.

Lt Gen H S Panag PVSM, AVSM (R) served in the Indian Army for 40 years. He was GOC in C Northern Command and Central Command. Post retirement, he was Member of Armed Forces Tribunal. Views are personal.

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  1. Some of the points deliberted in the article look to be true and the same practices are being followed in Sainik schools as well. We are actually ignoring character development.

  2. What I did not like in NDA .
    1.Telling lies and stealing was considered ‘ Smart’.
    2-Shirking responsibilities by taking shelter with senior ex school / place type a parochial approach was considered being ‘ Smart’.
    3.Skipping training schedule’even occassionally by fiening illness or some ‘ Duty’, was considered clever.
    What NDA did — It demolished the basic punch line of education- ” End of Education is Character”.It made character a minuscule part of the curriculum.
    Revisions Suggested.
    1- IMA syllabus be introduced from fourth term with IMA graduating to YO training.
    2- IAF and Naval Cadets to upgrade to flying Piston Aircrafts/ midshipman level.
    Out of the Box point — Make it into a National Service Academy with all civ services entries too for a more economically integration of all services at basic level.

  3. 1. My father is ex National Defence Academy (NDA). I am a proud alumnus of NDA & I entirely agree with General Panag’s views. “Outdated courses to rampant ragging: Why India’s National Defence Academy needs urgent help”. The NDA does need urgent help.
    2. I have experienced firsthand the soul destroying, humiliating & mental torture in the NDA. Nothing can justify this form of ragging & many carry lifelong mental trauma. Many squadron commanders & divisional officers encouraged this practice. The ‘pass it on syndrome‘.
    3. “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Alvin Toffler. This applies to individuals, institutions and nation states. The NDA is no exception & is out of touch with modern day trends.
    4. The NDA robs an individual of initiative & creativity. It epitomizes the Armed Forces as it persists in the prevalence of an authoritative type, fawning to superiors & often harsh or uncaring to juniors. It is the very foundation in which today’s Indian army is being built.
    5. While I was in the Army reading Norman F Dixon’s “Psychology of Military Incompetence” was mandatory reading. I would remind senior leaders to go back and understand the nuances of this book. The fundamentals of values & principles are being compromised to blind servility.
    6. As a cradle for future leaders of the Indian Armed Forces, the NDA needs a dose of realism. Character, combined with an innate sense of values, ensuring human rights, standing up for what is right-without fear of favor, promoting initiative, thought leadership & courage.
    7. She/he must be a unique type of person looking for challenges – intellectually, physically and emotionally. They require conviction, decisiveness, initiative & an overwhelming desire to lead, to not only bring out the best in themselves, but bring out the best in others.
    8. The NDA has a choice to either transform itself into a best in class dynamic institution or regress into becoming a dinosaur. Thank you @rwac48 for shining the spot light on our Alma Mater which must change & embrace the 21st century reality & not be stuck in time capsule.

    We all have a stake in the success of the NDA. Without the foundation of the NDA I would not have got very far in life. It is an institution I care about deeply. Therefore we must be able to correct when we can see cracks appear. It is about our future young officers after all.

  4. Why should Gen Panag’s credentials influence our views on content?

    His observations must be seen objectively and issues addressed wherever needed.

    I will cite an interesting anecdote from my IMA days in ’77

    Our adjutant, Major John Taylor was very witty. He belonged to Pune and wasn’t commissioned through NDA. He was a DE (direct entry). A graduate commissioned from IMA after three term training.

    During Diwali, Academy organized fireworks in our stadium. But cadets were in different mood.
    They, instead of appreciating fireworks in Stadium right in front of us, would clap at rockets flying far away in Dehradun.

    It continued all through the fireworks, knowing fully well that all of us were ‘in for punishment’.
    And it happened. After commandant left, Major John Taylor appeared. He announced punishment fallen next-day for whole academy.

    Imagine GCs (gentleman cadets) of whole academy running with ‘rifles up’ etc in drill square. Great fun, it was.

    Then Major Taylor addressed us. He dissected
    the character or ethos of all ‘entries’ to IMA.
    He gave example of a cadet ordered to go round a tree as punishment.

    1. A techie ( Technical graduates/Engineers) will go running up to the tree sincerely, go round it n come running back to instructor.
    2. An ex-ACC ( Army cadet College, soldiers selected for Officer’s trg undergo 3yr trg at ACC) will go running cum walking upto the tree, touch it n come back
    3. A DE ( Direct Entry, graduate joining directly at IMA) will go running up to tree. But, he will look back at instructor when reaching close to tree. If instructor isn’t attentive he will turn n come back running.

    4. An ex-NDA will start very fast but turn back ten times before reaching anywhere close to tree. He will turn back as soon as instructor isn’t attentive n will report ‘panting breathlessly’. He will never go round the tree. In worst case he will touch the tree and come back.

    Then he gave a parting shot. ‘Bloody chaps, don’t try to be smart. I have dated girls at the place where you have been front rolling’😄

    Training and academics is a function of time. These must be updated including the administration.
    Why shouldn’t it be the best for our boys?

  5. Its shameful that the author continues to pour vitriol against Indian Army. He was officer in the Indian Army for 40 years and did not raise these issues, not even when he was the Army commander the second most powerful position in the army. He did not volunteer to be the Commandant of NDA. It’s only when he did not become the chief that he started this campaign.
    The Print can’t publish such articles and brush off its responsibility by a disclaimer- Views are personal
    Sorry. That doesn’t hold any water.

    • Here’s a ‘ Bhakt ‘ , criticising a decorated General for airing his honest views about an elite Institution that badly needed reforms.
      This Bhakt has, fortunately for the author, stopped just short of calling him a ‘ traitor ‘ .

  6. The broad themes on which the general has written are the following: excessive ragging, need for outstanding commandants, need for improved quality of civilian staff, use of outdated and inappropriate curriculum, and inadequate infrastructure. These have all been addressed in the Victory India series and therefore this is an endorsement of what has been said by many other veterans. By this Lt Gen Panag has added his voice to the call for a thorough review.

    Like most if not all contributors of Victory India have vocalized, General Panag too agrees that outstanding leaders have indeed emerged from the NDA, but like many have debated earlier he agrees that important methods used in the NDA for training are detrimental rather than enabling. Or in other words the outstanding nature of leadership provided by the young leaders in Kargil and other places can be attributed more to the cadets’ homes and may be to the young officers’ units where they serve rather than to the NDA itself.

    Of particular interest is his point on the approach to training of cadets’ mentality. He says:

    “The leadership development programme is inspired by the outdated traditional military culture of breaking the will through subjugation to ensure discipline, uniformity and adherence.”

    It is true that this is indeed the approach. Is there a better one? What about helping cadets perform from the self-actualized plane as he says?

    The list of NDA specific phrases that sprout negativity he has listed is still not exhaustive. There are additions and variations and are in vogue to this day. Do these terms and phrases, “Managing”, “Do what you want but don’t get caught”, “Shamming” and such other inspire faith? How can a young cadet take his first steps into a military environment and not be depressed by the ‘double standards’ that are practiced in the name of training?

    That the entire science and system of training, in all the armed forces institutions including Sainik schools, needs a thorough review is an obvious fact. The weakness induced here, if at all, will come back to haunt the Indian nation in the years and decades to come even as the cadets passing out today climb up the hierarchy in the armed forces. So those with even a little bit of foresight will do the minimum of having a thorough review.

    Those ostriches with their heads in the sand can be ignored. There is too much for the nation to gain or lose if adequate steps are not taken today.

    Will the leaders stand up and take charge?

    If someone has been found to be doing something wrong. System takes action. And people are punished or counselled.

    Some gems from my course and many other courses have martyred doing their duty the way various academies taught. And people serving in the line of actual fire bullets (not ppt bullets) seek pride in those heroes not in someone who came to Fauj and managed to never face fire no matter whatever rank he would have held.

    AND FOR THE UNIFORM’S SAKE please compare the ratio of how many people are caught doing some corrupt actions and then proven also with how many others serving honestly in Armed Forces.


  8. Dear Gen Panag,
    You have recommended overhauling of the selection process for Commandant, Instructors and ways the NDA works. Ragging and bullying plus illegal punishments by senior cadets to junior cadets and few examples have been quoted including allegations of corruption against one commandant. Let’s understand few facts about NDA.
    1. Annually 600 cadets roughly pass out from NDA for their further service training and commissioning. By now approx 35000 cadets have passed out. So till date one suicide and one case of ragging amounting to loss of life. That is virtually negligible. Incidentally it’s these cadets who are delivering somewhere in some remote part of India totally unnoticed, and in most pathetic infrastructure conditions. You are a witness to it.
    2. There has been one commandant who has allegedly gotten into corruption. Well that’s certainly undesirable but isn’t it’s a fact that there have been none other till date out of nearly 40 commandants till date in NDA. So does that really qualify enough for questioning the selection process.
    3. Every organisation has a culture. There are good, bad and worse times these have to undergo. Only brave, determined and war hardened survive, as per law of survival of the fittest. NDA is meant to produce such fauladi leaders and not sissies, people who will brave it out in any circumstances and yet lead men into the extremest danger knowing fully well about the consequences. The odds are always high for these guys. NDA and the seniors help you go through that nonsense and most abhorrable of the things and guess what that’s where the difference is made. As regards the beg, borrow buy steal manage dictum, it doesn’t continue any further than the academy. Unfortunately it’s people like your seniority and rank over there at the top with complete financial powers who fail to bring in a real change as you people are way too inward looking. To that extent I agree with you on the decaying infrastructure and cabin furniture standards and maintenance. I don’t think NDA is to be blamed for that, the structure is nearly 60 years old and there has been a huge change in the environment, dynamics and legal and regulatory issues which have an impact on everything of an organisation. Things have to change with times.

    I have few questions to ask which will help drive some point.
    1. What is leadership and how can one define it completely. Is it all about the way you have portrayed it or is it different.

    2. Do you think NDA has delivered on its objectives. If Yes, does your argument about the selection processes still holds ground.

    Lastly, an organisation keeps evolving and continues it’s journey from one ideal to another. It’s more about finding the balance and calibration is a continuous process. NDA will continue to do so in a way it’s suitable. The deliverables have lives to its standards. Even manufacturing processes have tolerances in terms of sigma values. Out here we are talking about humans. Trust me the sigma value of NDA is unmatchable. Yes a little calibration if required may be done but challenging the process and culture of NDA is certainly much beyond the ask and unfortunately based on your personal emotions than facts can substantiate.

  9. All institutions need periodic review to that extent his views and comments are welcome. Change in syllabus is absolutely necessary.
    Problem is who will bring the change? Selection of Comdt is not done on merit but residual service and other not so important considerations. Bullying and mass punishments are important toughening aspects-we do not want our future crop to be sissy.
    I think we need to take Gen’s suggestions in a good spirit of bringing much needed change.

  10. What is flawed is a system that allows someone like this author to be promoted to general rank.
    A mindless piece, apparently written to gain some sort of infamy.

    • Cannot disagree more. Completely flawed piece except for the curriculum part. We may do away with conventional science and arts degrees and introduce specialist def studies curriculum. However, thinking that it will do away with the requirement of regular courses after commissioning is again incorrect. It will surely build a better base for future studies surely.

  11. Shame, ppl start becoming journalists and littérateurs after retirement.
    Ppl have commented enough.
    Sir, why didnt you volunteer to take over as Comdt NDA (your Alma Mater) and refused the appointment of Army Cdr and done good for the nation and humanity.
    In fact your being shifted from NC to CC upsetted you so much as you aimed at occupying Chiefs chair.

    You tried another trick by joining AAP. But sorry it failed.
    Pl dont waste your time and ppls by writing such articles. Pl contribute something fir the betterement of Armed Forces or humanity.

    – Veteran SSK

    • Well said SSK. However, we just can’t wish it away, under the garb of being personal. Take the good thoughts only, and do the course correction. Reality must be faced in the country’s larger interest of national security. Does our hierarchy have the will to bring about the cultural change ? A daunting and most challenging situation and task !

  12. The fact that NDA produced some body like you is proof enough to verify that whatever you have written is correct.

  13. this gentleman was an army commander for fairly long . what was stopping from thumping the table in the army commanders conference making a power pint presentation and insisting on a discussion to solve the problem . now post retirement he frequently finds faults with the system what an act of courage and gratefulness to the system

  14. While I do not agree with the Gen on many issues raised frequently by him, I firmly believe that any deterioration in the standards of NDA in academic and administrative fields need to be rectified. The correct course of action is for the COSC to act collectively, identify the shortcomings and rectify them. There is a definite need to reorient academic content by weeding out superfluous subjects. These must be replaced with subjects of relevance to the services.

  15. As an alumni of the NDA I am aghast to read the views of the General. ..Without going into details, with due apologies, just two questions for him:-
    1. All these issues plagued the NDA during your training period as well. Did you apprise the Commandant or anyone in the hierarchy at that time?
    2. At any time during your 40 years service did you officially communicate your views or recommendations for improvement to the Chief or theDGMT or even the Comdt?
    The comments of Brig SK Ambike placed above must also be read by all especially by those who have no idea of the Armed Forces.
    While the point re ragging is largely valid, but the same malady ails medical & other residential colleges.

  16. I agree with General Panag the quality of the Army Officer has deteriorated, poor specimens are being selected. Officer cadets are passed on by a sub grade selection board to to be trained by sub grade staff and instructors.
    If we cannot pay for the best in the country then why have such a big army?
    There are several retired officers here, who are yapping at Gen Panags heels taking umbrage to the fact he is critical of ragging at the NDA. Ragging chaps came to the NDA from the traditions of second tier boarding schools in India, schools like Dr Graham Homes Kilimpong established for the children of Tommies from the slums of England. This was the environment that Jaswant Singh encountered in 1954, a ragging system set up by poor Anglo Indian boys.
    Officers were meant to be recruited from the elite of society, from India’s first tier schools like Doon, Sherwood, Martiniere, Mayo Lawrence etc, these were privileged character building institutions, patterned on the English public school system, this is where the culture of the code of the schoolboy, the system of prefects, the laws against snitching /sneaking and general toughening up via sports, excellence academic study and spartan living emerged.
    Coming through a boarding school in India in the 1950s by the time the young man got to a military institution he was expected to have completed most of his regimented and toughening up part of his education.
    The early NDA took over from one of these schools and made the youth into an officer and a gentleman, infusing in him a military education of a high standard and the integrity and character so essential for leadership.
    This is where the schoolboy code stopped and the officer of firm character emerges, ragging and stealing should have been left behind at boarding school.
    “Ragging is the refuge of the coward” one highly decorated ww2 veteran and chief instructor at the IMA used to bellow to his cadets, “a bully lacking qualities of integrity will be the first to run under fire”.
    The present NDA is not fit for purpose, it is not producing the standard officer that the men respect and follow. Pay and conditions do not attract the best, our poverty ridden country can only afford peanuts for such a large officer corps and army, But one gets what one pays for.
    In addition our military is now become just a reflection of Indian society , the British have long left India, the traditions of the great institution the army they give us have been eroded away. The Army has been Indianised, the corrupt commandant of the NDA, Gen Panag mentions in the article is just a mirror of the culture in the rest of India.
    No senior officer of any brains will want his son to join the army, he knows it’s a third rate institution, he rather send him abroad to study, preferably eventually to emigrate of join a western multinational company.
    The present army chief is of standard that he would have certainly should have made promotion to Major ( if he was in the old traditional Indian army ) but no further than that.
    That old smaller army the one in which the Good Gen Panag father served, would never have produced such below par senior officers who we must admit are mostly products of a diminished NDA.

  17. NDA is supposed to be the cradle of leadership – and in the several wars India has fought the products of NDA (and other direct entry institutions) have proved them selves with distinction – probably better than their equivalents from similar institutions worldwide.

    When I joined NDA in 1961 ragging was very much a part of the squadron activities – and even beyond; for instance haunching all the way from the Auditorium to the Cadets Mess because of the whim of the ACA, or some flimsy reason, eg for laughing too loudly at a Laurel & Hardy movie! Those cadets determined enough to overcome such depradations sail through the toughening process. Those who felt they couldn’t take it chose to leave – which turned out to be a good thing as they obviously did not have what it takes to be good military leaders anyway. It is said that to become a good leader one has to first learn to be a good follower, hence I do not see the formal and informal disciplining at NDA in a negative light. If the proof lies in the eating, then NDA has done a remarkably good job of shaping future leaders.

    However, one negative that I have observed is the change in the use of swear words and bad language. During my days very rarely were words like BC or MC or worse used to denigrate or abuse a junior. In sure this tendency can be curbed with a mix of counseling and, occasionally, with a sharp ratio on the knuckles. We need to inculcate discipline in the trainees without sacrificing or hurting the dignity of individuals.

    About educational qualifications : I think the consideration for post-retirement rehab should NOT be the basis for selecting syllabus and course material at the ab intitio stage; the only consideration should be the need of the service over the first 10-15 years after commissioning, based on existing and foreseeable future military technologies. Of course it helps recruitment if young applicants know in advance that they will gain a technical degree while under training, so providing an appropriate degree is important. However, the present JNU driven syllabus has placed severe time constraints on military training. Hence, I think it’s time to create a National Defense University that can offer tailor made syllabi for NDA cadets. The present system of obtaining a degree from JNU tries to bend an inflexible civilian educational system on a military training academy.

    Further educational and professional training should be done post-commission at in-house institutions or at suitable IITs or IISER – all on a need based system, where the driving force should be service requirements.

    Post-retirement or rehab trading should be imparted only where promotion avenues are blocked or there are medical reasons for separation. These should be done only in the last 2-3 years before the outgoing officers finally hang up the uniforms.

    Before rushing to reform a system which has served its purpose well for over 6 decades, let us pause and reform only that part which needs updating and modernisation. Let’s not throw out a healthy baby with the bathwater.

    While penning these thoughts I can’t but help the uncharitable feeling that the author may be angling for inclusion in the ‘Reforms Committee” that he had proposed!

  18. Sir you have been through thick and thin of the same very organisation but still having such thoughts. Its miserable to see such words from a person pf such hi caliber.
    1. A commandant is an institution in itself . Mere telling him incompetent wrt other is degrading his esteem. The mere fact that he has risen to such level is indicative that he is competent.
    2. No system is perfect . It requires constant upgradation. Thats what the org is doing .

    Rather than being a critic you can be a facilitators by recommending things of value.

  19. What a larf! 33rd or 34th NDA ACA Panag,Gul Panags dad was ACA responsible for the discipline of all cdts in the academy.So he himself rose ragging toughening and bullshitting.A turn of heart that too being from the clan where in the Academy they are addressed as Khalsas,pure warriors.
    I was an NDA ‘General’37-39.With a year extra I would be more well placed to comment.Make no mistakes,the NDA is still one of the finest institutions in the world.
    Teachers were excellent,standards awesome even in compulsory clubs of your choice.Fab lifelong unmatched bonds.Humanities and science make u a rounded person.A lifelong love of Military history and horses.There is no room for sissy’s,war is brutal I saw it in Lanka.The General would best serve national interests by ensuring good governance at the helm of the Nation.That way young soldiers would not die needlessly due to not crossing the Kargil LOC in a rear riposte.

  20. Yes sir this is what we follow here and had served our nation to win all wars against our adversery. Yes these things are old i.e. basics which have laid a strong foundation of our young officers. Sir young graduates from this very academy have always been bedrock of India’s success in any war be it kargil. Change if at all required is at higher level and this has also been suggested by lessons learnt from various ward. Indian army has been surrounded by a morbid sysytem of higher level flawed planning and policies . Need today is to thank this academy for producing such breed of young officers who sacrifice without hesitation. Also there is need to revamp system of training for top brass so that they understand the importance and value of such traditions ….thank you

  21. Very sad to read this article on one of the prestigious institutions of our country. I generally keep myself away from responding or writing comments on someone’s views. But this article is giving a very negative picture of our great institution and our pride so I could not resist myself from commenting.
    Sir I agree with you that our country and Defence Forces need to address following issues :
    1. Review of curriculum
    2. Degrading infrastructure
    3. Appointment of Commandants and Instructional staff incl civilian academic staff.

    But I would be to differ with you that all that is happening in NDA is wrong. I wish to remind you that the junior officers as instructors & senior cadets actually groom juniors to be tough ( physically and mentally) which most of the time is done to win the competitions for their sqns and achieve pride of winning at any cost ( Team goals/ achievements and Junior leadership traits). We get toughened by this part of training , learn to remain composed in adverse situations without losing your mental balance – Wg Cdr Abhinandan faced the Pak officials recently while in their captivity, because of that training). So we would not call it ragging. In my view, Remove it and we will produce individualistic, selfish and coward leaders.
    I would like to request Lt Gen Panag as he rose to top position of the Indian Army, why he could not change what wrong was happening in NDA. Or may be the condition of NDA has worsened after he retired.
    May be Gen was in dark during his service in Army and become aware of this fact after he is in the company of Politicians post retirement.
    As regards your point on “producing self-actualised and creative leaders driven by military ideals, but ends up producing adherent under supervision leaders in NDA”, I wish to ask you if while in service you gave enough freedom to your subordinate commanders or junior leadership to act as per their judgement and take decisions all the time ( generally lacking in our culture).

    This article is giving a very gloomy picture of our institutions which is actually not the fact. There are shortcomings in the system always sometimes due to absence of tomely review of the systems but they can be corrected internally by defence forces. It didn’t require a open article from Retd Lt Gen.
    If it was from a civilian or Junior Officer like me I would have accepted because these category of people do not have powers to change systems in institutions but Senior leaders have all the powers ( executive and financial) when in service to bring changes in the organisational interest.

    These are my personal views in response to this article.

  22. The taste of the pudding is in eating it. So goes the saying. The NDA has produced outstanding officers who have led their men in battle in the various armed conflicts. The casualty ratio of officers in the Indian Army is perhaps the highest. Where did these officers pick up the qualities? The NDA. Ofcourse some changes are required. I agree with the changes needed in the academic curriculum and the need for improvement in the civilian instructors. The cadet’s living conditions should also be brought back to the original standards. The General is climbing the wrong tree🙃

  23. More than the main article, I am humoured by comments of the sentiment that ‘Nothing should be said about our dear officers because they are dying so well on battle field.’
    Well, some are indeed dying but people of same lot are also getting caught for petty corruption in appointment of Comdt, NDA itself. Others as COAS are purely out to please politicians. Is that the leadership that NDA inculcates?
    And dying is not being done purely by ex NDAs. Simple jawans too are dying in droves. And this is happening the world war, not only to ex NDAs of India.
    So, wake up guys. Make NDA such that your guys live, not die.
    Even if the criticism is extreme and coming from a guy who could have done something about it when in service but didnt, jump at this opportunity to improve NDA.

  24. Just being a retd Lt Gen doesn’t make you right. Before Raising finger at an institution like NDA you should have checked the facts which are grossly wrong. If you seriously want the things to change you should have done once you had the opportunity. I don’t know if your personal ambitions of becoming commandant were shattered or something but just for your information as I am sure you have forgotten that this Academy holds the honour of producing heroes who have proven themselves in all the wars and Unconventional ops. 3 PVC, 31 MVC, 160 VC,11 Ashok Chakra, 40 Kirti Chakra, 135 Shaurya Chakra and don’t know how many Sena Medals. Thank God that the NDA OSB the Wayne it is. And of course who left the academy due to tough trg or pressure from seniors they must have fooled the SSB by telling blatant lies.

  25. The author of the article was himself a big bully, who was overtly over ambitious right from academy days.
    He was thrown out of his bn by his father, *(I am made to believe,)* for shaving his beard.
    Was shunted to a GR bn, only to shift to Mech Inf later. He also had a failed marriage. We did Staff College together & were DSs at DSSC in the same time frame. He was unable to upbring the poor daughter as the parents were having a gala time.
    He talking of leadership is a big no no. God was kind that he became Army Cdr.
    We just recently had our Course Golden Jubilee Reunion at NDA & in the same connection visited NDA a No of times. The NDA has certainly undergone changes but they are for better. The *Sqn Cdrs & DOs are still the best offrs in the respective service Bracket & are role models.*
    Yes, there is a diff in life style, *our DOs rode bullets or scooters,* *now they are riding SUVs & why not.??*
    The Comdt & Dy Comdt are *the finest offrs capable of setting example.*
    The present Dy Comdt knew the names of the appointments & sportsmen. I have experienced it during the Comdt’s Tea function for the passing out Batch.
    So HSP can write all crap to make waves, don’t believe it.

  26. Could not agree more. Tje posting to NDA as instructors too is mistry. One has to be son or son in law of senior officer of the armed forces to be posted as an instructor.
    The civilian staff are vintage and way out if time.
    The flawed culture/ traditions of squadrons needs to done away with completly and with a heavy hand.
    Induvuduality and initiative is dead thst is why meodocre officers are passing out of our academies.

    • This is a stupid article.
      You are an immature person today and you were unbecoming when you were in service.
      Do yourself and us a favour. Stop posting uncalled for opinions.

    • Army always craved to recruit Mediocrity to train towards physical fitness and gel with Command and Control setup…. Gone are the days… Now it is the era of Technology and Artificial Intelligence… and wars now become technology driven. There is no scope for bullying as a means of training… Which will only drive away real talent out and retain those mediocre lot. Next thing is I am surprised to see how veterans outbursting on Generals article… His advice is to reform the curriculum, select Commandant properly and improve the culture of the organisation to suit for making next gen soldiers and officers.

  27. Out of all the comments to the article Mr Shyam Gupta’s review was most disheartening and absolutely atrocities. Hiding your son’s weakness to cope up a time tested mechanism by blaming the system is not fair and not what a good father does. And this can question your parenting skills as well. This is just to highlight that people like you who skill their opinion based on scanty information are the biggest culprit in demeaning such a great institution. The so called RAGGING which your son has not been to cope up because he felt insulted by his superior is what most of the best military academy including the westpoint too follows. And which mentally toughens a cadet to face adversities. Your son dreaming to fly fighter jets for what purpose? Exercise or luxury flying? Then he should have tried to become a commercial airline pilot. As a fighter pilot he needs to flying behind enemy lines and if things get messy, he has to face the wrath at the hands of adversary . And with endless classified information with him and a person who cannot survive an insult will be a disastrous combination.
    Infrastructure, yes indeed has gone bad with time but it’s nothing to do with the leadership. This with the beaurocrats who sanction limited funds and it’s the same leadership which is being questioned has been able to sustain the basic quality of training .
    Please don’t create issues if you cannot help or understand it.

    • Mr Kushwaha, I have personally experienced the wrath of this time tested mechanism and system. I come from a military family and I myself witnessed rampant ragging which led to the departure of few 2nd and 3 rd termers before me. Beating up with hockeysticks, manhandling, stealing are very much a part of the system. The DOs expect the entire squadron to shut their lights and then themselves manhandle the sixth termers in the name of tradition. Ofcourse sir, it is easier for everyone to put the blame on the ”sissies” and ”mentally weak” people but what will it take for everyone to see through the flaws? I suggest if we had to cull out the date of the number of cadets leaving the academy on medical grounds or being medically boarded out and then chart out the injuries sustained due to ”unofficial ragda” then the picture would be much clearer.
      Moreover, I absolutely agree with Mr Jaswant Singh’s account on a personal level.
      The lesser said about the overall ‘holistic ‘ development of a cadet the better. Some public school types are able to maintain their speech and cognitive capabilities. However it is definitely an upgrade for some sainik school/ military school types.

      I secured a rank in the first merit list and joined the academy happily. I was in NDA for a full term before having to leave it for medical grounds, due to some injuries which I sustained due to some ”unofficial” reasons.
      The NDA PT ustaads, Drill Instructors are the best in the world. They can break your spirit and ego without having to touch you and as a consequence harden you up. However, I fail to understand how come a second termer or a third termer who himself just came to the academy months ago is fit enough to punish you physically .

  28. With all due respect sir….I feel you aired views of reform for NDA in most inappropriate way as if deliberately wanting to insult the very system which has given you so much. As an ex NDA I feel change is inevitable and it will happen at it’s own pace. Your opinion will not have an effect if its so off the mark. Let’s not forget never wash your dirty laundry in public. Be careful in what you say or air your thoughts in the name of being personal vies!!!

  29. मेरा पुत्र , 2014 मे एयरफोर्स के लिए सेलेक्ट हुआ था,आल इंडिया रैंक भी achee थी, बहुत मेहनत की थी, 18 किलो वजन कम किया था, पर वहां जा कर उसका सपना टूट गया . वंहा उसको जो कमरा मिला उसमे खटमल ही खटमल थे, टूटी अलमारी, कुर्सी, छोटा सा कमरा , खराब बाथरूम, उसके पूरे शरीर पर खटमल के काटने की वजह से blood के निशान थे , बेडशीट भी blood के दाग से भरी हुई थी, आप आज भी अल्फा sqarden के कमरे देख सकते हैं, सरकार क्या कर रही है, कमांडर क्या देख भाल कर रहे हैं।
    2 सीनियर cadets को कुछ ज्यादा ही पावर देय रखी हुई है, जूनियर्स को तंग करना, फालतू की रंग्गिंग, देररात सोने ना देना, 18 ,19 साल के लड़कों में अकल ही कितनी होती है, इतनी पावर देना ठीक नही है, लड़को को टफ बनाने के नाम पर सब किया जाता है, रिफॉर्म्स तो होने ही chayeein
    Bse BA की डिग्री से के होगा,
    Nda basically आर्मी ट्रेनिंग के लिएए बना है, एयरफोर्स कैडेट्स के साथ , अलग तरह की ट्रेनिंग होने चाईए, लड़के का टैलेंट वहाँ, सब दब
    गया, बस YES SIR , नो SIR की ट्रेनिंग दी जाती, है,
    Evening में नाश्ता आता है, लेकीन जूनियर्स के हाथ कुछ खास नही लगता
    एयरफोर्स के cadets को fighter plane सिर पर रखकर नही उड़ाना, उनका दिमाग सीनियर्स कैडेट्स द्वारा , insult करके डाउन कर दिया जाता है,
    में माफी के साथ कहता हूं ,मेरा बेटा भी उन 16 -20 percent लड़को में था, जिसने nda छोड़ा, उसका कहना था, में जो सोच कर आया था, वैसा नही है nda में, एयरफोर्स cadets का mind develop करना चाईए, because उन्हें एक से एक टेक्निकल , सॉफ्टवेर वाले, plane फ्लाई करने हैं, toughness के लिए , tough ट्रेनिंग जरूरी है, पर किसी की insult कर एंड आत्मा पेर चोट तो नही करनी चाईए
    Nda में सब कुछ खराब नही है baas मॉडल पुराना है,
    Survival ऑफ थे फ़ितत्वस्ट वाला मॉडल चलता है, जब जूनियर्स ,सीनियर्स बनते हैं, वो भी आपने जूनियर्स से बदला लेते हैं,

    NDA हमारे देश का प्रीमियर institue है, traning देने वाले साहब बहुत achey हैं टैलेंटेड हैं, temporay पोस्टिंग वाले ऑफिसर्स के selection में सुधार की आवशकता है
    हजारो officer वहाँ से निकले हैं, और देश की सेवा कर रहें हैं, पर हर लड़का सिर्फ ईस लिया नही छोड़ता की वोह कमजोर हे, ट्रेनिंग मॉडल भी एक कारण है,

    ना की seniors की respect के नाम पर

    • Kamjor Dil walon NDA se door rahen. Hame rubber made officer nahi chahiye. Aap apnin kabliyat ke hisab se apna career banayen. Kisi ne aapko invitation nahi Diya NDA me aane ke liye. NDA is not a career. It’s a choice.

  30. Is the Gen an ex NDA? This article seems to be laced with inadequate knowledge of “what makes an ex NDA the officer he is” and some jealousy that we see in most non ex- NDAs!! This is not to say “all is well” but the inadequacies have surfaced for a variety of reasons incl failure to evolve with times, drastically inadequate budget and poor quality of instructors posted in etc. There is a need for thorough rehauling of processes and upkeep of infrastructure but these are small pinpricks. Some changes in balance between academics, outdoors and mil trg is also necessary. But the big picture is fine. Successes in battles and ops clearly point to the successful creation of leadership. No worry for the big picture, details need some finetuning. I speak from the experience of having been a cadet and a Sqn Cdr at NDA and DepCom at INA. NDA is an institution. Period.

  31. Several wars fought and won, exemplary lead from the front leadership in all contingencies, near six Sigma performance and delivery on all missions and national expectations…. What more can one ask for? And the author questions the nitty gritty that produces such leadership!! Perplexing indeed – to me appears nit picking for nitpicking sake. We have a time tested system, and prudence suggests that if a thing is working, Don’t touch it. Why indeed would you want to?

  32. Post retirement I realise that a General, even of the stature of an Army Commander is too small a fry in the national scheme of things, to really be able to do any worthwhile to change things. An Army Commander can be brushed aside by the political leadership, as though he does not matter.

    As regards ragging at the NDA, having been a part of the system, I can say that it develops strong bonds in later years. The seniors I cursed the most for literally torturing me when in the 1st term, became great friends, whom I could bank upon in later years. The system teaches you the limits of your endurance and hardens you to a degree.

    Academically, studying Maths, Physics, Chemistry etc while at NDA is a thorough waste of time. More time should be devoted to military training right one, instead of reserving it for the final year of training.

    Crumbling infrastructure needs to be taken card of. However the cabins are adequate. Most of us have attended reunions after retirement and stayed in the same cabins with our spouses. We can’t start comparing with private boarding schools where wards of the elite study. They in any case do not join the armed forces, as the salary and perks leave much to be desired on account of the attitude of the politico-beauracratic nexus.

  33. I agree with comments expressed by Col J K Achuthan above on General’s article.
    Ex NDA veterans, specially the ones who have done well professionally whether in service or outside should air their views dispassionately on this issue. It is very important for the Nation, that NDA produces good, honest and operationally oriented capable officers. I too, feel NDA curriculum needs a fresh look and the change will not come about easily. This topic needs to be debated more without any personal attachments or subjectivity.

  34. Disgusting and shameful story full of lies and deceit to disgrace such a fine institution
    Shane on you sir

    • The generals story is full of lies. The cdt who committed suicide was due to failed love relationship. No commandant was shunted out on charges of corruption. General go and have a look in IITs they r no match to NDA .there is always scope of improvement, but NDA even today is class apart The general should write articles after fact checks

  35. Sir, sad…people like you have been demeaning the forces….why did u not have these guts when u were in a posn to do something….u r a let down…

  36. Why single out appointment of only Commandant NDA. When we can follow the DOB criterion for higher leadership promotions, why question appointments of our Pre Commision training institutions and for that matter host of senior appointments / the so called advisors at Army HQ level.

    • Gen Panag sir, 1 question. What did you do about it when you were serving?
      Or is it another shameful attempt to attract eyeballs and stay relevant? Don’t write for the sake of writing please.

  37. The general has highlighted the sorry state of affairs. First and foremost the degree of JNU needs to be done away with and cadets trained for Btech degrees of a reknowned University. This degree may be completed three years at NDA and 18 months at IMA. Like naval cadets the army cadets must then be encouraged to complete Mtechs from IITs NITs and foreign universities.30 percent must be encouraged to complete phds during their service careers. Those retiring within 20 years must be nominated to IIMs to complete MBA s .Fully equipped academically majority would then be assets to the service and find well paid jobs on leaving service. Within service they should then design modernise upgrade equipment with lateral postings to Drdo ,defence ordnance and psus public and private companies.what NDA produces is Colgate shaving cream undergarments shoe thieves who rise to plunder toilet gear misuse funds meant for welfare till they are caught in adarsh scams ketchup scam medicines scams shoes scam food scam and false claims .

  38. What do u want then?

    Its the old school curriculum that has helped us to win wars multiple times. The more u sweat in peace the less you bleed in war. With so many adversaries near us, this training is only help us to win these wars. And if someone is not able to cope up, then he may lve and give chance to others. There are many waiting in line.

  39. Wonderful and “to the point”,.. covers everything and precisely. Need to look at the malice of posting the best as instructors based on flawed n inflated system of rating (under the garb of false sense of regimentation) is a case in point and aptlty high-lighted. To be frank sir ,never personally liked you but this one has made me your fan..a big salute to you sir..jaihind..

  40. Army Commander General Panag (Retd ) Sir,
    All institutions must keep up with times and NDA is no exception. There is no need to impart purely academic curriculum to give BA/ BSc/ BTech degree. Subjects as indicated by you could be part of the curriculum.
    While physical fitness is the need of the day, there should be zero tolerance to ragging.
    Administrative improvement could be done by appointing dedicated officers on the lines of revamping the BCCI ? Possible ?

  41. My adult son had applied to join the Territorial Army, a lateral entry for auxiliary service. He sailed through all the tests. Out of 90,000 applicants only 30 odd remained at the end of the SSB. My son’s batch mates were certain that he and a couple of others would be selected. On the last day the Camp Commandant said that none of them had been selected because the army didn’t want too intelligent guys! Apparently the army psychologist had flunked them because these professional adults were not the “yes men” the army was looking for. I think that the army and the nation were the poorer for this.
    Six of my classmates were officers, 4 in the army, 1 each in the air force and navy. Interestingly the guy who retired with the highest rank, was at the bottom of our class! What does one make of this?

    • Mr Chottebhaii let me.tell you that neither the nation nor the defence forces got poorer when your son was not selected for army and one thing let me.make you aptly clear that only just sheer intelligence is not required you need mental strength and courage to make decisions when odds are more and evens are nil.
      When an aircarft one engine stops working at that time an IIT tooper is not required but an officer who can aaply his training and make the aircraft land safely is required even if he was last in studies during school but he is the true hero who not only saved government property worth crores but also valuable live of civilians and immense collateral damage and hence will surely achieve the highest rank.
      An IIT topper will.not fly MIG 21 against F-16 because he will give an excuse that it is technically inferior in all aspects but then Offrs like ABHINANDAN sir is req and that is why in SSB it is said we dont require extraordinary students but an average student with an accumen to learn and adapt as per the situation.
      SO sir its a humble request not to make any comment on.the selection system.which is in place it has been the best since its inceptuon and has given great millitary leaders like Field Manekshaw.

      • Being an IIT topper does not automatically make one a coward ! If higher academic achievement is (as you so wrongly imply) a turnoff, then truly that organization would be stuffed with utter morons like you.

  42. The General shld chk facts before writing an article. Also having been an Army Cdr and in the decision process when in service it’s demeaning to write such an article based on half cocked info, basing it on gossip.. what a poor example of a General!!

    • Very rightly brought out Mr Sri. Lot of facts seems to be as per the General’s requirement.

  43. Indeed, the curriculum at NDA is quite a waste. They can easily lay a solid foundation in leadership, but they ( and IMA later) do nothing about it.
    But am surprised to hear the allegation on ragging and mistreatment. In my time (69-72), no one even touched me with a feather or abused me with MC, BC. Absolutely not. So, either things have gone downhill drastically later, or the report is wrong.
    Am also told the the author has been a senior officer sometime in the MT Directorate. If so, shame to have not felt the need then to do something about this.

    • , “of which 8 were spent as instructor in top leadership academies ” these are your lines . Sir you could have changed the training when you were instructor. Please don’t blame today’s generation for your ignorance . Thank you

  44. Sir, with all due respect to the service you rendered, I would like to ask,” what did you do about all these issues ?”
    If you did not do anything when you were in uniform, then beating around the bush is nothing but an attempt to try and show serving generals that they r not their job properly. Infact, it raises many questions about your own tenure if you understand where I am trying to hint.

  45. Wouldn’t fully agree with the General; if the NDA was that bad then across the three Services the bulk of the senior officers would not have been ex- NDA. I do agree that the infrastructure has declined in quality, but that is because of expansion of the intake without increase in facilities and proportional increase in budget.

  46. What was this great writer doing while he was a serving general. Now he has suddenly become a reformer.

  47. I am in agreement with Garga Das. Gen Panag spent 40 years looking after his own interests and ensuring he kept going up the ladder. Why did he not talk about the things he has brought out now during his service? Because he did not want to jeopardise his own career and promotion prospects? Incidentally, I am a product of the same Academy and am proud of how it turns out officers and gentlemen.

    • Well said ashim choudhary..i know of an army cdr who used to fly in service aircrafts to mumbai over weekends to meet his actress daughter and attend parties..passenger manifests can always be obtained by RTIs..there is degradation but not as grave as what he has brought out..ragging is in all military academies of the has even come down drastically since android generation has started coming is the tough regime which entails going to PT class at 6AM which causes drop out as the new generation is not used to this time table..check your facts seems to be an article desperately seeking relevance for self…or may be telling news channels that i am available if GD Bakshi retires from news media

  48. he is like a cat who feels like a lion. Has always been like that. He was far from being an inspiring figure or role model anyone would have liked to follow. While NDA continues to be an excellent academy, there’s of course, room for improvement.

  49. When looking for employment , the armed forces was one option , but due to minor physical and social handicaps , no serious puruit was made .Reading Panag’s critique of the system of education in the armed forces makes me shiver . In the movie , a few good men , William Santiago is murdered or to use the terminology of movie given a code red . I thought that was a work of fiction , now I am no longer sure .
    While in public everyone is singing paens to the system , in private some people have serious reservations about the system , and it is good that such reservations are aired , if nothing it will help the William Santiagos to avoid sure injury .

  50. The General is quite off the mark…….NDA may need some reforms with changing social theme , however it is not what the General speaks.

  51. When I postedthe link of an earlier article written by this author on whatsapp, a senior of mine replied “I refuse to read what he writes as it spoils my day.”

    Please take these words seriously as an advice because its worth its words in gold !!!!!!!

  52. A drop out rate of 16 – 20 % is unacceptable, all the more of it is being caused by ragging and similar practices. I am certain there must be other, better ways to “ toughen “ cadets, prepare them for the rigours of army life. There seems to be a great deal of sadism at work.

  53. The general is quite outspoken post his retirement,I wonder he retired as Army Commander and has put on 30+years of glorious service,what stopped him in airing these concerns and rectifying the problems while he was donning the generals uniform for good amount of 10+years alone,its a classic case of passing the buck,if could’nt do it when you could then shut up now & dont preach,this army has many flaws you are right about that sir & thats how megalomainacs like you have become generals…

    • A very poor comment! Those who have underwent the system in the National Defence Academy are best suited to comment on effecting improvements, with the benefit of hindsight and maturity. The NDA is undoubtedly a vital national asset and far ahead of other militaries in concept and inculcating ‘joint-ness’ seamlessly during operations. But there are areas which require urgent improvements to keep up with the times, especially in academic and technical education. General Panag is well respected for his professionalism and frankness. While in uniform, all of us have to air our views with restraint, and can write only in professional journals on tactical issues. A great military requires such thoughts to be aired for remedying obvious drawbacks which tend to get glossed over due to seniority, urgencies, and other such issues.
      – Col JK Achuthan (Retired)

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