It is interesting to see the furore in the media over the Padma Bhushan awarded to the controversial hotelier, Sant Singh Chatwal. And this brings to mind the military system of dispensing distinguished service medals and commendation cards. Why the media does not question these, is beyond my comprehension. One of my former Editors, Kanwar Sandhu had once written about the "yellow fever'" (given the yellow colour of the distinguished service awards) that afflicts officers once they reach a certain rank. He remained the object of hate amongst the "yellow fever biradari" for quite some time.
The fact of the matter is that PVSMs and AVSMs are doled out in ample quantities as per a well laid out system and of course the likes and dislikes of the chain of command. Very few of AVSMs and VSMs are truly deserved. Now, SM (D) is also being doled out to all and sundry who have nothing to show by way of actually doing anything distinguished. So what is the SOP for awarding these medals? Is there any policy at all? Why are PVSMs doled out to every head of arm or service regardless of any good he may have done at all? Who has ordained that each head of arm and service will be given a PVSM? All Army Commanders too get it once the reach that coveted rank. And now UYSMs are being handed over for counter-insurgency ops. Lt Gen RK Swamy, Chief of Staff Southern Command has got it for some good that he did as GOC 16 Corps. These UYSMs, SYSMs and YSMs were put in place for regular ops and not CI ops. But maybe someone was able to convince the Army HQs that since there is no likelihood of a war taking place in near future why waste these perfectly good awards which will fetch the awardees much needed extra points when the selection board takes place. Again no one raises a question, no one puts in an RTI application.
And then there are those ubiqutous commendation cards. With the COAS and VCOAS commendation cards being handed about like toffees, the less said the better abou the GOC-inC commandation cards. I know of officers who have nearly a dozen such awards. A dozen, no less. And for what? For playing golf, for sucking up to the bosses and for running around for the memsahib, perhaps? And all this at the cost of hundreds of deserving officers, JCOs and ORs who have really done something to get these cards.
This is a bigger scam than the civilian awards. The common man takes it for granted that the civilian awards are manipulated. but he does not yet know that so is the case with military awards too. And very soon, this misconception of his will be cleared. And the military may end up with more egg on its face.