Atanu Dey has an idea that could transform India – compulsory national service.
Imagine India requires two years of military duty upon finishing high school or reaching the age of 19, whichever comes first. In these two years, every able bodied 19 year old is taught, among other things, discipline, hard work (both manual and intellectual), taught to live in a standard of material wellbeing that is common to all irrespective of how rich or poor their parents are, and so on. Imagine that after a couple of months of boot camp, they are assigned to work in all parts of India–mainly rural. Those who are literate, are assigned tasks that involve teaching the illiterates. Those who are from a farming background, teach urban kids how to work in a farm. All kids are given some physical training, sports training. All the camps are mixed in terms of language and economic status of the participants. Basically, an egalitarian society for just two years.
It need not be called military service. It can be called National Service. Part of the training can be military too. But not necessarily. Each batch could take up some project or the other. It could be irrigation canal building, or road building, or some other infrastructure project. You could involve volunteers of all ages to associate themselves retired people, professional people, NGOs. Professionals, such as teachers and doctors, could take a few months off to help coach these 19-21 year olds.
In all, tasks that require a disciplined force of workers can be assigned to these National Service task force. At the end of these two years, some valuable lessons can be expected to be learnt by all.
How much would it cost? I would estimate that it should not cost much at all. The National Service Task force should be required to build and grow whatever they need. The first batches can start by building the housing that will be needed. They can also start the irrigation systems, the farms, the workshops that will be needed. Basically, they will build the infrastructure as they go along. In computer terms, they will do a bootstrap start.
Once they finish their 2 years, they can go off and do whatever they were to do go to engineering schools, medical schools, work in farms, or go back to their villages.
I can even imagine that there is a part two to this National Service. NS Part II is a short duration of, say, only 3 months. That you have to do if and only if you graduate from college and you are between the ages of 25-28. So you come back and be a ‘facilitator’ or a teacher to the NS people because you have gained an educationin engineering or math or history or whatever. So NS-II is only for those who are the lucky ones to have been able to get a college degree. So once you finish your college by say age 25, you have three years in which to serve your 3 months of NS-II.
So that is the bare outline of this compulsory quasi-military service. It is something that would lead to nation building on a scale that would transform India within a 20 years. What do you say?
The transformation of India has to come from within, and who better to do it than all of us living in India. We have to help build the New India. Getting Indians to do national service would create a heightened appreciation of the realities of India, keep more of them in India, and get solutions to the problems that we face. It is also a bottom-up movement, which is important. Many countries have compulsory military service – in India, we need a mandatory “national service.”