Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The General Doth Protest Too Much

The Chandigarh edition of Hindustan Times has been quite charitable to Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi (retd), former Vice Chief of Army Staff. In that it has devoted nearly a quarter page to his article castigating the media and the defence minister....and oops, lest I forget....busybody bureaucrats in South Block who have nothing better to do than give juicy leaks to the media.
I have immense respect for the General with whom I have had the priviledge of interacting many-a-times when I was with Hindustan Times in Chandigarh. But unfortunately, I do not agree with what he has written today in defence of the Army Chief.
The questions which begs to be asked is....who brought things to this pass? Certainly not the media. It was not the media which prompted a cold war between the Army Chief and the Eastern Army Commander with the Military Secretary acting as a catalyst for the former. And it was certainly not the bureaucracy which asked the GOC 33 Corps to get influenced by the MS and agree to sign the NOC.
And aren't we....the horrible journalists sick and tired of the oft repeated assertions..... look how much money the politicians make, look how the IAS and IPS officers amass ill-gotten gains and look at our poor little scams which pale in comparision to Satyam, Harshad Mehta etc etc.
My take is.....either do not act like holy cows or accept the veneration and the consequent fall from grace which comes after being put on a pedestal by the nation. The simple fact is the Army, or rather, the defence services are the last bastions of propriety left in the mind of the citizens of this country....and that includes irresponsible journalists too. But with the Army officers increasingly falling prey to pleasures of easy money, especially the General cadre, alas, this gloss is fading.
As any informed person who has intimate knowledge of the Sukna affair knows, it is a war of the Generals. The one who was hunted earlier has now become the hunter...and he has struck back with a vengeance. Lt Gen Oberoi is right when he questions the monetary cost of the scam....virtually nil. No one would have bothered whether the NOC was given under duress from the MS or if a private builder was setting up a school based on fake papers had there not been icy relations between the Army Chief and the now COAS-designate.
And because of this, the actions of Army Chief, in recommending administrative action against the MS instead of the outright dismissal recommended by the Army Commander, must have seemed as a step to save the accused.
Frankly, I would love to read an equally voluminous piece by a retired three-star General, any General, on why the Army has not had a DG Ordnance Services for the past nearly two years. Why is it that scores of Major Generals of Ordnance are mired in one scam after another resulting in their non-empanellment for futher promotion? Why the ASC was emboilled in a similar situation in a couple of years earlier resulting in no officer occupying the appointment of DGST?
And lastly, in defence of the defence minister. Is he not the same person who stood by the Army Chief when he moved out the Northen Army Commander to Central Command despite the fact that there were very distrubing allegations levelled against the COAS? Wasn't he the one who turned a blind eye when virually all officers indicted in the tent and egg scam in Northern Command were given lesser punishments than what had been recommended?
I cannot and will not accuse the Army Chief of not telling the complete truth in this entire affair. But, to quote 'Yes Prime Minister'......"There's a lot of difference between not telling lies and not telling the truth".


  1. Col KDPathak (Retd)February 3, 2010 at 6:47 AM

    Apropos to Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi’s clarification and rationalisation attempt “What scam, and where?” The Defence Forces and the Army brass in particular have to put their organisations in order instead of justifying the increasing cases of omissions. The whole affair stinks of the unprecedented growth of over-ambitiousness in the Army. The desire to be in a high position is universal. But this trait always co-evolved with another human skill – the skill to make the best of lower positions in the organisation. This is unfortunately not the case with the Defence Forces brass now. The result of this rat race is that all services personnel continue to suffer from status anxiety even after their retirement. It explains the periodic planned leaks to the media about the details of investigations into the so called “Sukna scam”.

    The other glaring lacuna is that the Army Chief and his secretariat failed to feed the correct position of the case and put to rest the misconstrued deductions made by the media. In the current age of information technology, there is a need to correctly satiate the information need of the intelligentsia and the commoner. This weakness in public relations must be rectified immediately.

    Lastly, the malady of growing mistrust of bureaucrats by the Defence Forces must be treated with despatch. The IAS trainees should do an attachment of six months with Defence Forces units. This will integrate them with the peculiar service conditions of the Defence Forces and also prepare them to gel further during the Defence Services Staff College and National Defence College courses. Thus the nation would find a more informed and competent Defence Secretary.
    Col K D Pathak (Retd)

  2. Nothing underscores the moral bankruptcy of society more poignantly than the irony of questionable morality masquerading as divine piousness. Given India's climate of self-seeking and falsehood not many Indians have any right to sit in judgment over others.

    Attacking Army or its leadership is not different from raping a maiden in captivity. In any case to look upon the forces as a water tight compartment of purity in a cesspool of depravity is naive. And more unwise is to toss about filth in the vain hope of cleansing the polity.

    Is it a sin for a senior army officer to vote for a Mayo College in the neighbourhood? No Army land was involved. Are all command and corps headquarters located in solitary spots, away from civilian population? If not, then why this commotion about Sukna's solitude?

    Jitendra Kaushal

  3. The commotion is about a corrupt PSO. and no amount of fancy language about raping maidens in captivity etc is going to change that.

  4. Are you privy to some substantiated facts that the general public is unaware of? Why not in your plain language style tabulate those here? You will have our gratitude.

    Men of your mettle ought to make noises when bigwigs in New Delhi and state capitals gift away fiefdoms to the tribes of Ambanis and their ilk.

    Have you had a chance to see XI Corps HQ in Jalandhar? How would 33 Corps become any more vulnerable if a public school for children of servicemen comes up next door at Sukna?

    I trust the patriot in you will deem it fit to tabulate for the benefit of the less patriotic the sins of omission and commission of the corrupt coterie of generals. You owe it to Mother India as her conscientious son.

  5. Two wrongs do not make a right. If hqs 11 Corps is in the middle of a bustling city, one cannot allow the same to happen to 9, 10 or 33 Corps. Yes, I agree a school may not be that big a security risk and I am not even going into the merits of the Mayo Society charade etc etc.
    If you have read the blog carefully, I have said categorically that the NOC would not have even been talked about had it not been for the animosity between the big chief and the big chief to be. That is the bigger problem. You have correctly referred to the coterie of Generals.
    And we have not even gone into the realm of the misuse of Int funds talked about by the same court of inquiry. Unfortunately, the media got so much fixated with the MS, it has missed this aspect altogether about 33 Corps.

  6. Indian intellectuals' zeal-exceeding-judgment syndrome is a reflection of mental dishonesty. We underscore our honesty only by either flogging a fallen guy or making pious noises. The result - a polity sinking in the cesspool of corruption - is for everyone to see.

    I wish you success as a defence analyst and commentator.

  7. Maj Gen Nilendra KumarFebruary 5, 2010 at 7:46 AM

    There have been differences in perception between senior generals in the past many decades and even for centuries. That is not the point.The individuals may differ and disagree. This matter needs to be looked at on the merits of the lapse[s].If attachment on disciplinary grounds of Lt Gen Rath was called for then why was Lt Gen Awadhesh not attached?Why were their actions called as mere aberrations and attempt made to underplay the charges?What were the improprieties, or illegalities in Sukna land episode? Do they bring out lapses on the part of those held blameworthy and if so was the action contemplated against them fair and resonable?If the action ordered against the erswhile MS was proper then why did the chief later change it?To talk about the common corruption amongst the politicians and civil servant is wholly irrelevant and so is the blame being put on media.The armed forces and more particularly senior ranks in the Army need regular instructions in ethics and morality. This is a matter of routine in the American and other armies.

  8. Dear Gen Nilendra Kumar,

    Sir, don;t you think that in Indian Army law is still what the senior officers says, rather dictates. Why not we have competent officers in legal branch who can advice the Generals on the legal matter without any bias or personal interest.It is generally seen that JAG officers to get their own promotions and ranks give the legal advice as per the likings of the senior officers. If JAG of Eastern Command had given the unbiased legal advice, there would have been no so called scam.
    It is high time for the time to take brilliant officers from their own law school ( AIL) or best lawyers from the National law school, who are not concerned about their own rank and promotion but more bold to give the legal advice without any fear or pressure of the Senior Officer.