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".