A few years back, there were reports that Varun Gandhi was in support of reviving his father’s sterilization policy and advocated compulsory military service; no one was amused or interested in his ramblings. Even in a country like India where the interest among the youth for a military career is seen to be dwindling and many are opting for VRS, conscription seems like too extreme an idea.
The claims that this practice instills discipline, a sense of direction and even patriotism seem to pale when compared to the fact that it also goes against basic human rights and everything a democracy stands for. However, many democratic countries such as Austria, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Israel, Mexico, Norway, Russia, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey have policies supporting mandatory military service. Subjecting a child straight out of high school to military training seems almost cruel. 1-3 years of service is too long a time to dedicate solely to the service. The training they receive is rather basic and doesn’t really prepare him/her for a real war situation thereby throwing away the notion that such a practice contributes to the strengthening of a country’s defense or war readiness.
There are mixed reports with regards to the comparison of costs of professional armies and draft based ones. Germany chose to put conscription into abeyance to reduce financial pressure on the military. In Egypt too there has been a furor among the youth against this practice. Following Mubarak’s ouster, the youth of the country is coming forward to claim their rights. Many of them are using social media platforms to express their displeasure. For example- a young boy called El Dafrawy wrote the following statement on his blog in both Arabic and English:
I’m pacifist and anti-militarist, which means that the military activities including holding weapons and using violence contradict my beliefs. I’m a conscientious objector to the military service. I refuse to obey military orders and I consider all wars to be crimes.
The boy is merely stating his opinion. Also, military service is not the only way for the youth to contribute to the society. It will be a good idea to make volunteering compulsory for the youth during high school and even beyond, but the choice of where to volunteer must be their prerogative.
Any practice or policy however beneficial it may be will be perceived only as torture if it’s against one’s will. Also, stating that most of them will be grateful for the experience in the long run is simply wishful thinking. Yes, it may be true for some but for others it may destroy every ounce of patriotism. The youth must be allowed to make their own choices, the skills they may pick up via military training may also be acquired by simply choosing their own paths in life, learning from their failures and finding their own direction their own way.