Friday, December 23, 2011
It has been known for a while now that all is not well in the Military Secretary's (MS) branch. It has been suspected for some time now that wrapped in secrecy, despite tall claims of transparency, the MS branch utilises the opaqueness to play with careers of officers. Why and at whose bidding, it is not known. But it may vary from case to case. And now it stands utterly and totally exposed. By none other than the Principal Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal.
The bench of Justice AK Mathur, Chairperson of the Tribunal and the administrative member, Lt Gen SS Dhillon, have blown the lid off one of the worst kept secrets in the Indian Army. That all is not well in the MS Branch and a comprehensive review of how it functions is the need of the hour.
The scathing indictment of the most important branch of the Indian Army, as far as the officer cadre's career is concerned, came as a result of a petition filed by a Brigadier of the Corps of Engineers. Brig VG Gole, of June 1979 seniority, was shocked when he found out that he had not been empanelled for promotion in the selection board held for the rank of Major General in late 2010. As an officer who had been getting consistently good ACRs, he could not fathom why he was not selected.
And then he found out the reason. To his shock he came to know that the IO portion of his most recent ACR has been effaced, or removed from records in the selection process, as a result of which he fell back in the comparative merit. Why? Because of the following explanation given by the respondents when he filed a case in the AFT:
"A reply has been filed by the respondents contesting the position and took resort to a policy decision at Para 137 of Army Order 45/2001/MS which gives them power to efface the assessment if it is found that the ACR of the incumbent is grossly inconsistent or with inflationary/deflationary/ subjective reporting. This effacing could be done after due approval of the Chief of Army Staff. In this case, the ACR was found grossly inconsistent, therefore, IO’s
assessment was expunged after approval of the Chief of Army Staff".
When the bench called for the records to see if this was true, they found out that this was not so. The decision to efface had been made arbitrarily. The bench found out that:
"We called upon the respondents to produce the original record before us and after perusing the record, we are constrained to observe that the powers exercised by the respondents is arbitrary. We have seen the ACR record of the petitioner from 2006 to 2010 and we find that during this period
he has earned seven ACRs and has not secured less than 8 marks in any of the qualities mentioned in the ACR. We also found that the IO’s assessment in the ACR from January, 2009 to June, 2009 has been totally effaced. We do not know how much marks were given by the IO but at least we have seen the RO’s assessment in which petitioner was given 8 marks in 5 qualities while in the remaining 12 qualities he has obtained 9 marks. Subsequently, even in the ACR from July, 2009 to November, 2009 he has received almost 8 or 9 marks. From February, 2010 to June, 2010, we find that petitioner has again secured 8 & 9 marks in all the qualities. The explanation given by the respondents is hardly satisfactory. Learned counsel for the respondents has produced before us a minute sheet to justify their stand, but we regret to say that it is a totally arbitrary and if we may say malafide in law also".
The bench found that there was room for investigating into how and why the officer's career had been adversely affected. They asked for the officer responsible to be pinpointed and ordered that the Brigadier be considered afresh for promotion notwithstanding his impending retirement and also imposed a cost of Rs 10,000 on the respondents.
"It speaks volumes that such kind of illegality can be committed against an officer. This is a serious matter and we are constrained to observe that it requires deeper consideration by the higher authority and they should pinpoint the officer responsible who has played foul thereby affecting the career of the officer. We allow this petition and expunge the effacing of the ACR of the petitioner for the period from January, 2009 to June, 2009 given by the IO. The marks should be restored back and petitioner should be reconsidered for promotion to the post of Maj Gen in accordance with rules. The impending retirement will not come in the way of consideration of the petitioner for promotion to the post of Maj Gen. The petition is allowed with cost of Rs 10,000".
If this is how the MS branch functions and if this is how the Chief of Army Staff goes about rubber stamping the illogical and illegal decisions of MS branch put up to him, then it paints a sad picture indeed of the Army hierarchy. How many such cases may have gone unnoticed in the past? What about the time when the AFT was not there? Such cases would drag on and on and the officer's career be marred for ever by the time he got relief, if any. Criminal, to say the least.
The officer holding the Military secretary's appointment at the time when this particular case took place is answerable to the entire officer cadre of the Army. He should be held responsible and action taken against him for such illegal action. And Chiefs of Army Staff must sign on the dotted line with their eyes open. Regimental loyalties must not come in the way of being fair to those who serve under the COAS. To say the last.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
During his tenure as the Governor of Punjab, Lt Gen JFR Jacob (retd) had the above photograph displayed prominently on a wall in his office. And once, when I went to interview him for a story, he took me close to it and asked me to observe the photograph closely.
When I could not find anything out of the ordinary, he pointed out the face of a lady who seemed to be struggling to break through the Admiral and the Air Marshal while the Instrument of Surrender was being signed by Lt Gen AAK Niazi in the presence of Lt Gen JS Aurora. "She's Mrs Aurora. She insisted on boarding the chopper and coming to Dhaka to witness the surrender," he told me with a grin.
And I looked carefully and, yes, indeed. Mrs Aurora wanted to be a part of history. Lt Gen Sagat Singh is looking at her and Lt Gen Aurora too seems to have noticed her presence and is looking towards his left shoulder. The Sikh officer behind Mrs Aurora seems to be very amused with her frantic efforts.
The fact that Lt Gen Jacob had a not-so-high opinion of his GOC-in-C, Lt Gen Aurora, is not a secret. And conversing with him brings this out. But Lt Gen Jacob never openly said anything inimical about his former Army Commander. It could come in hints, subtly but never explicitly. But his book, Surrender at Dacca, makes it very clear how he felt.
Lt Gen Jacob also did not share the adulation that many in the Army, and out of it, had for Field Marshal Sam Maneckshaw. He accepted that Sam knew how to go about building his image and that he had a way of chatting up to the average officer and jawan, but he did not have much to say about his operational efficiency and capacity of higher direction of war.
This too came out in his book and more so during various conversations with him. Lt Gen Jacob stood by Sam when the latter was the Commandant of the Staff College and got into trouble after a Court of Inquiry was initiated against him. Jack Jacob insisted he refused to expose against him and thus saved his skin. But he was dismissive of the tale that Sam called Indira Gandhi "Sweetie" while refusing to carry out operations against Pakistan in the first half of 1971. "Can you imagine anyone calling Mrs G Sweetie," said an incredulous Jacob dismissing it as a tall story.
Lt Gen Jacob has steadily positioned himself as the main architect of the victory against Pakistan in Bangladesh theatre of operations. For the past several years, ever since his book came out, he has been repeating the fact that Dhaka was not the main objective and that it was he who managed the operations so well that India got it's victory.
For anyone familiar with military functioning, the role of Chief of Staff of a Corps or a Command, is well known. In operations the role may indeed be enhanced to a greater degree, but it still beats the imagination to think that the Army Chief by-passed his Army Commander while giving direct instructions to Chief of Staff Eastern Command, then Maj Gen Jacob, to do certain tasks.
However, there is one task which he certainly accomplished with great aplomb and that was obtaining the signature of Lt Gen Niazi on the Instrument of Surrender. Lt Gen Niazi was expecting negotiations of a ceasefire and not a surrender.
Here again, while recounting the story, Lt Gen Jacob could not help forget a unpleasant memory. Maj Gen GS Nagra, GOC of 101 Communication Zone had already entered Dhaka and was sitting with Lt Gen Niazi "cracking dirty jokes in Punjabi" when Jacob entered the room.
Nagra knew Niazi from the time when he had served as Military Attache to Pakistan when Karachi used to be the capital of that country. And both were old friends from the days of the IMA. He reached Dhaka using his old connections, a jeep and a white flag after the ceasefire. However, he was sent packing out of the room by Lt Gen Jacob.
And while Niazi complained that Jacob blackmailed him into surrender by threatening to let loose the Mukti Bahini on Pakistanis holed up in Dhaka, Jacob denied any such thing. Be that as it may, he certainly completed the required task and managed to line up Pakistan Army for a guard of honour at the surrender ceremony.
With almost all principal characters of the drama which unfolded in Command HQs, Eastern Command, in Calcutta, having passed away, with the exception of Lt Gen Jacob, there is no voice to the contrary on all that he claims. Sam Maneckshaw kept his silence, though Jacob's book came out when he was alive and that is that.
In the larger picture, this was the Indian Army's finest hour. Many performed their tasks beyond the call of duty, those in the field and those on staff. In wars and battles it is common place for commanders to get accolades for victories and many-a-staff officer has not got his dues. Maybe Lt Gen Jacob feels that he deserved greater recognition for his role and was denied what he should have got.
But as the French say, C'est la Vie.....That's Life.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
No sooner had the news come out that Lt Gen Avadesh Prakash (retd), former Military Secretary, had been found guilty by a General Courts Martial (GCM) in Shillong and awarded the punishment of dismissal from service, that the inevitable debate began in media and military circles.
Friday, November 25, 2011
Is there any training programme where Army officers dealing with media are trained to commit faux-pas and put their foot in the mouth? Why can't a simple issue be handled easily without getting into tangles and then further pushing themselves into a morass while trying to extricate from half-truths and cover-ups; which were not needed in the first place?
CLARIFICATIONS ON THE NEWS ITEM PUBLISHED IN CERTAIN NEWSPAPERS ON 25 NOV REGARDING PARTICIPATION OF 6 LANCERS IN OPERATION BLUESTAR
Chandigarh: 25 Nov 2011
Reference the news item published in the 25 Nov edition of Hindustan Times, Daily Post ,Punjab Kesri (Hindi language Patiala edition)and certain vernacular press regarding the participation of 6 Lancers (earlier known as 6 Armoured Regiment) in operation Bluestar. It is clarified that the news items are presumptive and factually incorrect. As previously stated by GOC 1 Armoured division in his interaction with the media on 24 Nov, 6 Lancers was never actively committed in the clearance operations undertaken under operation Bluestar, as inferred in the media reports. The regiment was raised in Feb 1984 and in Jun 1984, was deployed in Sunam, District Sangrur of the state of Punjab for protective internal security tasks under the aid to civil authorities. As per normal army operational procedures all troops committed in aid of civil authorities in the state of Punjab were deemed to be operating under operation Bluestar thus leading to this mis-interpretation.
Friday, September 30, 2011
I've never been a very big fan of Gen JJ Singh. Even when he was the Western Army Commander and I was working with Hindustan Times in Chandigarh, I had a few run- ins with his MGGS who used to be very unhappy with my news coverage. And then there was the famous crying incident which took place when he held a press conference after his elevation as COAS was announced and every effort was made by his staff to persuade me not to write about it. I went ahead while my counterpart in a national daily wrote such a glowing piece that it seemed that it was not the General who had shed tears but the Pakistan COAS!
Friday, September 23, 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
The Mausam lead pair, Shahid Kapur and Sonam Kapoor, were in Air Force Station, Chandigarh, the other day to promote their latest film. Based on the Indian Air Force and shot at various air force stations in the country the movie has Shahid essaying the role of a pilot who flies Mirage-2000 aircraft. As expected there is a romantic angle to the movie but that is something which need not be discussed in Reveille.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
(a) All att vehs and pers will be detached immediately. We will live with WE auth and will fight with stupid IAS baboos to change the WE.
Sunday, September 4, 2011
When the Adarsh scam came to light, and there was great dirt flying about, most of it directed in the direction of the Army's top brass, serving as well as retired, the Army went into damage control mode. And quite rightly so. It was the need of the hour to save it's reputation and the COAS himself gave went to his anguish over the fact that the highest office of the service too was under the scanner.
Monday, August 29, 2011
It would have been hilarious had it not been so infuriatingly stupid. The story which I am about to recount shows how certain officers in our Army, right through the spectrum of seniority, are not only ignorant of military laws but are also brazen enough to go about showing it for all to see. Not realising, therefore, that the times are changing and the average Jawan is not a class 5 pass out anymore.
Friday, August 26, 2011
Frankly, it was quite expected. HQs Western Command has not replied to a RTI application filed by me asking how and why has the vehicle registration plate been removed from the staff cars of the GOC-in-C and replaced by a plate saying WESTCOM 1 and WESTCOM 2 respectively.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Thursday, May 12, 2011
Photographs released by the Indian Air Force of the Exercise which is taking place in Rajasthan involving 2 Corps and elements of Western Air Command. Lt Gen SR Ghosh, Western Army Commander, got to take a joyride in a Jaguar in the exercise.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Monday, May 2, 2011
Sunday, May 1, 2011
Air Commodore SC Chafekar takes over as the Air Officer Commanding of 12 Wing in Chandigarh on Monday, the 2nd May. He is the second Commanding Officer of 48 Squadron who takes over as the AOC Chandigarh in succession. But what brings to mind is his remarkable escape, first when the AN-32 which he was co-piloting was shot at and damaged by the Pakistan Army near Kargil, and his subsequent escape from efforts to blame him for the fiasco.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Apparently the print media was very taken in by the fact that he was the first Muslim General to get command of the Corps in two decades. It is a fact, yes. But apparently this has set off a series of journalistic orgasms which do not look like abating anytime soon. It has spread to a pink papers and now to full page coverage, and it may eventually reach a climax with some magazine devoting several pages to the phenomenon.
All these publications who harp on the Corps Commanders religious identity as their news peg do not waste any time to get on to his professional accomplishments as soon as they throw the first fact on the face of their readers. But unfortunately, all pails in face of the Muslim-Kashmir-General combination vomitted at the very outset. And this is doubly unfortunate for the General who is a outstanding soldier whose military career has not flourished just because he commanded a Brigade or a Division in the valley.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
While murmurs of a conspiracy can be heard in the corrdidors of power, there are more important questions to ask. If, like the reports suggest, the COAS had in 2009 agreed to accept the decision of the then Chief, why is the age issue being raised now? Would it be proper for the government to address the issue afresh at this stage, thus affecting the entire line of succession of Chiefs, so to speak? And, lastly, but more importantly, who is the issue being raised through the backdoor via a RTI query?
To begin with, Hindustan Times has brought out a letter written by Gen VK Singh in 2009 to the then COAS pointing out that the matter ends as far as he is concerned. But then the wording of the letter is very clever. It clearly brings out that the matter has ended at the directions of the COAS. It also goes to to say that the MS has clarified that the matter is dealt with AG. Now, it is in public domain that as per AGs records the General was born in 1951 and not 1950.
It would not be out of place to suggest that the letter written by Gen VK Singh in 2009, in his capacity as Eastern Army Commander, was in reply to one written to him by the COAS, Gen Deepak Kapoor. The tone certainly suggests that. But the Hindustan Times has not obliged us by getting that letter, if it exists.
This now brings us to the issue of the government re-opening the issue of Gen VK Singh's age at this late stage when he has finished half his tenure. However, it is not clear why the General did not get this anomaly corrected in the early part of his career? We certainly know that he tried to do so for the first time in 2006 and all that which followed, but what about when he was a subaltern or a Lt Col, Col, Brig, Maj Gen? Indeed if he had raised the issue at any of these stages of his career, the matter would have been sorted out by now. This does not take away his right to raise the issue in 2006 but it does give raise to a lot of questions. Also, why was the matter not settled once and for all when he was to be appointed as the COAS? The government should have taken legal opinion and ended all speculation instead of waiting for a RTI query to pop up when the General has already served more than a year into his tenure.
This brings us to the very suspicious looking RTI query. From what we can gleam from our sources, the query emanates from Kolkata and is written by a civilian gentleman. A very innocent query seeking to know the date of birth of some Generals. But for the curious route the answer to the query takes, all would have been well. The Army could have responded decisively by saying that the Gen VK Singh's date of birth if X or Y depending upon the record they hold. In which case, as the letter written by Gen VK Singh indicates, it is the AG who would be the repository of the correct age i.e. 1951. But the Army instead refers the letter to the Law Ministry. Which then says that the 1951 date should be taken into account as it was in his matriculation certificate. Maybe the Army PIO was treading carefully. Maybe he was trying to stir a hornet's nest. Maybe something is afoot.
The other affected party in the case, Lt Gen Bikram Singh, the present Eastern Army Commander, really does not have much to say at this stage. He is next in line to the COAS but this would be confirmed only when the ACC confirms it. Till then he has to sit tight and expect the best.
I have a feeling that Gen VK Singh is going to get this issue sorted out once and for all despite whatever undertaking he may have given to the previous COAS (at his directions). It may not look good on paper but this exercise will have to be done and, if Hindustan Times, is to be believed the government has started doing just that.
This sort of a thing has happened in IAS/IPS many a times. Perhaps it was just a matter of time before it happened with the Army.