Sunday, March 14, 2010

A self-styled cap badge (and other stories)

The other day I saw the Western Army Commander for the first time, ever since I joined my new assignment in Chandigarh. He was attending the function of War Decorated India and gave a typical patronising speech which serving senior officers give to retired personnel, completely forgetting that in a couple of years they too would be out of OG and into the civvy street.
But what struck me immediately as the fact that the Army Cdr, Lt Gen SR Ghosh, of the Brigade of Guards, had styled a completely new cap badge of General officers. He was wearing a metallic crossed swords and baton with the Ashoka lions on top without the oak leave crossed underneath.
Now, there have been examples of many eccentricities of Generals who wished to wear uniform patterns of their own kind, but Lt Gen Ghosh can certainly not claim to be in the same league as them and therefore take the liberty wich they took many many years ago.
Field Marshal Maneckshaw wore a side cap for the best part of his tenure as the Army Chief but then he was SAM and could do it and get away with it. As he told one officer whom he spotted wearing a sidecap in South Block, "Sweetie, I'm the chief and I can wear this cap, not you".
There is another celebrated General of the armoured corps who refused to wear campaign medals on his uniform (he liked to copy the Israelis) till he came before General Sundarji, the then COAS, who despatched him to wear the ribands before appearing before him again.
Again there was a corps commander from the Corps of Signals, who stopped wearing his corps belt and lanyard after being appointed to the general cadre. This, in any case, was laudable as there was a tradition in the past to do away with regimental symbols after assuming the staff rank of a Colonel.
But Sundarji did away with all that after he became the Chief. But it was Sam who insisted in wearing his badges of rank in the rifle regiment colour of black even after he became a
Field Marshal.
However, let me come back to the Western Army Commander's fetish for a unique cap badge. He, unfortunately, does not have the depth or the standing of the famous officers who made changes into their uniform, to fashion a cap badge of his own sort. The sooner he loses it the better or the media will have a new issue to come up with once it notices the lapse on a "lean day."

Friday, March 5, 2010


So once again the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence has trained its gun on the good old Batman, Sahayak, Orderly, whatever you my like to call him. I suspect the sister services have a hand in it. Since they don't have one, they do not want the Army wallahs to have one either.
My stand in the entire affair is biased. I was born and brought up in the Army with Sahayaks playing a major role in my upbringing, so try as I might, I cannot be a dispassionate journalist in this debate. And in any case there is no such entity as the unbiased journalist.
I think, the newspapers need to stop putting this news on the front pages. For once, lets thank the television channels for not raking it up on their news bulletins just because the news had hit the front pages of the newspapers.
I am quite sure the Army needs to revamp its PR set-up. The public information guys sitting in the basement of South Block need to be more accountable. Planting news is part of their job, I accept, but so is making sure that inconsequential pieces like the Sahayak one need not hit the front pages too. And all these stories are by those journalists who drink endless cups of tea and smoke unending number of ciggarettes in the offices of the public information wallahs.
I hope the COAS designate revamps this set-up. Sooner than later. There is more to media management than Sainik Samachar and Baatcheet.