CROSSING SWORDS….. AT WHAT AND WHOSE COST ?
CROSSING SWORDS….. AT WHAT AND WHOSE COST ?
Dr K Prabhakar Rao
It is a very sad situation in the country where Army Chief General VK Singh and Ministry of Defense are at logger heads. Gen VK Singh had a problem with his date of birth as recorded in his service records. That could not be solved for more than thirty eight years. It is rather very strange. The General rose from the rank of a 2/Lt to the present rank under stiff competition. He held various important positions as senior officer before he became a General and Army Chief. It is extremely strange that he could not get his problem settled wielding such a great influence at senior ranks and particularly as Army chief. This is clear indication of mutual relationship between MOD and Army Chief. He expected that he would be able to get his grievance sorted out as Army Chief. The clash with the government came up when he knew that he had to retire in May this year as the date of birth was not corrected by the government that would have given him more time to continue to a tune of a year. He has gone down the Indian history as the first Army chief who dragged govt to the court for not settling his grievance to his satisfaction. How bad it is? It is also very sad that MOD could not settle the matter amicably and was dragged to the ultimate. This is a clear indication of red tapism among civilian Babus ( Senior officers of civilian cadre) and the existing strains in relations between Army and the Civilian ruling class.
In democracy, civilian rule is supreme and this is accepted and there is no doubt about it. At the same time, Army and other Defense services like Air force and Navy are required to be handled with great maturity and caution and care. The usual attitude of ‘I am the boss here’ should not be allowed to creep in among the civilian class. But it looks that this exists. On the other hand, there is always a grievance among the defense officers about the pay structure and equivalence of ranks, promotion avenues between service ranks and civilan cadres.An average IAS officer reaches cadre of Joint Secretary while in Army rarely an officer attains the rank of a Major General. What a disparity indeed! This has been a great heart burning for defense officers. The strains between Civilan cadres and army officers have been existing right from the days of General Cariappa ( Later Field Marshal), the free India’s first commnader – in- Chief. There should not be any scope for mistrust between them. This was surely lacking in this case. It has become a very sad episode in Indian history that could have been easily avoided by the government.
Every one knows about stiff competition in Defense services and particularly at very senior ranks among Major General , Lt General and Generals rank . The rank of General is the most coveted one and the officers of rank of Lt General of arms like Infantry, Armoured corps and Artillery aspire to become the Army chief. Usually the left over time for these officers is short and many retire before reaching Generals rank due to age factor. It is usual practice to select army chief from the group of army commanders and vice chief. There is a rat race among them and cut throat competition. Every one plays his cards to succeed and grab the rank. In present case if the army chief General VK Singh was allowed to continue with changed date of birth it would have spelt doom to many senior officers who would probably retire or left with very little service that becomes a liability for selection. Government surely wants the army chief to serve for some substantial period so that he can contribute to the system and establishment and ensure continuity. Thus some effective Lt Generals with very little service left will be surely not given a chance to become chief and they have to hang uniform. It will be a blow to them. For army personnel rank is ultimate and there are instances when officers collapsed and died after hearing that they were not approved to next rank. This phenomenon is common to all uniformed services including Police and Para military forces. Retirement of General VK Singh would be surely a boon to some of the officers waiting for promotion. The matter was finally settled by Supreme court that gave verdict in favor of government and it had to accepted and was accepted by the General. The verdict must have caused happiness to many waiting Generals. No comments can be made on this aspect as the verdict was from the highest court of the land. The entire episode has left deep scars and proved that all is not well between the government and Defense services..
The controversy hardly settled and General VK Singh in next salvo revealed that he was offered Rs 15 crores bribe some time ago by a person representing a company if he accepted substandard Military trucks of Tatra make. This was a bomb shell on the limping government of Dr Man mohan singh. The ruling party received good beating in recent elections particularly in UP and it was a great shock to them. The General said that he already brought the fact to the notice to minister of Defense. There was great commotion in parliament and DM Antony had to cut a sorry figure. A CBI probe has been promptly ordered by the government. The belated revealing of the charge by Army chief was contested by some quarters and some argued why Army chief did not book a case against the person who offered him bribe. Army chief squarely blamed a retired Lt General who represented the company for sales who denied the allegations and even slapped a defamation case against the Army chief in a court. It is also learnt that conversation between Army Chief and the Retired Lt General was taped.
As if this was not sufficient, a letter written by Army Chief to Prime Minister Dr Man mohan singh was leaked to press. The Chief reportedly wrote that Indian army was poorly equipped and had no ammunition for artillery. Its weapons like artillery including air defense were very old and not fit to counter the. enemy. On the whole the General gave a very poor picture of war preparedness of army to counter enemy threat. This was a serious blow and entire nation reeled under the blow. Indian neighbours received the required intelligence free of cost and the morale of Indians went into their boots. The capability and competence of army to win wars has become doubtful now. With such revelations a section of members of parliament have started demanding sacking of Army chief. Army Chief said that whoever leaked the letter committed high treason and should be punished accordingly. Some quarters also question the wisdom of army chief over his letter to the PM. It should have been routed through MOD. A probe has been ordered into the leakage and the reputation of the govt nose dived Mr Antony declared that Govt had full confidence in the service chiefs and their integrity. It already suffered after the sacking of naval chief some time ago on discipline grounds. They do not want to buy problems by sacking the army chief now. The poor state of equipment in army was already highlighted by some earlier reports and thus govt went into defensive mode. It was caught on wrong foot. It is also believed that reported tape contained vital information on some persons in high office and influential quarters and this has been a worrying factor to the govt for going strong against the army chief. They like to play safe till he retires smoothly in May this year. The washing of dirty linen in public has become order of the day and national security has been adversely affected. The prestige of Army has been eroded while the ruling party already lost credibility to rule as it has become limping duck. What sad state of affair!---------------- Note: Content of this blog post is writer's personal opinion and may not be SanghParivar.org or Sangh's view.