Friday, December 23, 2011

HOW MS BRANCH PLAYS WITH CAREERS OF OFFICERS


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

VICTORY, DHAKA, SURRENDER, JACOB




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

A GENERAL'S COURT MARTIAL


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.

Some argued that the punishment awarded was disproportionate to the sections under which the General had been convicted, others held the belief that he was a scapegoat in the alleged "war between the Generals'.

The facts would have been clearer had the media covered the trial on a day-to-day basis. Sometimes facts can be stranger than fiction. The eventual finding of the court and the sentence awarded can be quite surprising once one has seen the trial unfold.

The first case which comes to mind, in this regard, is that of Maj Maneesh Bhatnagar of 5 Para, who was tried in N Area, for refusing to obey a direct order to attack a feature during the Kargil operations. I started covering the trial on day to day basis and very soon others in the media fraternity followed suit. It was definitely uncomfortable for the Army authorities, but then court martials are open proceedings unless explicitly held in-camera.

And as the trial unfolded, the principal charge of disobeying a lawful command looked weak. There began a discussion on what exactly 'attack' means in military parlance and what is the nature of 'assault'.

Eventually, Maj Bhatnagar was found not guilty on this count and everyone thought he would get away with some nominal punishment. But the court found him guilty of acts prejudicial to good order and military discipline. An omnibus of charges which can be levelled for virtually any adverse act ranging from refusing to salute to refusing to wish 'Good Morning'. Maj Bhatnagar was dismissed from service.

Several scribes inside the court were stunned. But to be truthful, I had a inkling of what was in store for him. The Army would not let him off so easily for all the "tantrums" he had thrown during and before the trial. No one liked the way he was telling the truth. 'This was not done', was the common refrain.

So before we all castigate Lt Gen Aavdesh Prakash and hold his responsible for many of the ills affecting the Army and the role he played in Sukna scam, let's ponder a bit and let's not jump to conclusions; even though a GCM has found him guilty.

The main charge against him regarding Sukna scam has not been sustained during the trial. He has been found guilty of misusing his position and intent to defraud. His advocate gave out a detailed statement later in the day, which has not been carried by any newspaper or news channel. In all fairness, his version should have been given publicity. The same is reproduced at the end of this blog.

The trial, which had so many three star Generals as members, must have been fair. We cannot really expect six or seven Lt Generals to be biased in togetherness, especially when another General is facing a trial. At their level of seniority and experience, every step is taken after due deliberation.

But the law can be a complex thing to handle. And military law is no exception. And Judge Advocates may be in a position to maneouvre a trial since regular officers who are members of the GCM are often not very conversant with the provisions of CrPC, Prevention of Corruption Act or obscure provisions of Army Rules and Army Act which sometimes come into play in a trial.

However, it is true that Lt Gen Prakash could have been easily given rigorous imprisonment along with dismissal but perhaps his brother officers spared him this ignominy. Military justice can be compassionate at times.

STATEMENT BY COUNSEL OF LT GEN AVADESH PRAKASH

COURT MARTIAL FINDS LT GEN AVADHESH PRAKASH FORMER
MILITARY SECRETARY NOT GUILTY IN SUKHNA LAND SCAM CASE

General Court Martial presided over by Lt Gen Phillip Campose GOC 12 CORPS found Lt Gen
Avadhesh Prakash, former Military Secretary NOT GUILTY of the charge pertaining to Sukhna Land
Scam case.

Lt Gen Bikram Singh Army Commander Eastern Command had convened GCM for the trial of former
Military Secretary which assembled on 27 Jun 2011 at Guwahati and concluded on 02 Dec 2011.

The GENERAL Officer was tried on four charges and the main charge was under Section 13(1)(d)(ii) of
the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 pertaining to Sukhna Land Scam case and he was found NOT
GUILTY of the charge on merit.

He was also tried on three more charges; one under Army Act Section 45 (unbecoming conduct)
whereas two were under Section 52(f) (with intent to defraud). All the three charges were basically
for misuse of official position for which he has been found guilty and awarded the sentence of
DISMISSAL from service. The truth is that as per official records, he never misused his official
position.

The trial was conducted without giving full opportunity to him to defend himself effectively. The
Court did not allow him to examine eight witnesses in defence and produce documentary evidence.
As a matter of fact the trial was without jurisdiction and had no authority to deal with the case.
When PLEA TO JURISDICTION was raised under Army Rule in Jun 2011 also, the Court did not allow
him to examine witnesses in defence. The conviction is not based on facts and law.

The findings are contrary to record of the trial proceedings which will be challenged in an
appropriate court of law.

COLONEL SK AGGARWAL , RETD
ADVOCATE
DEFENCE COUNSEL
09815558983
FLAT NO. 504/BLOCK NO. E-9
GH NO. 79
SECTOR-20
PANCHKULA-134116 HARYANA


Friday, November 25, 2011

SHOOTING ITSELF IN THE FOOT-ARMY STYLE


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?

No better example of the same than the needless controversy which has arisen out of a media briefing held by GOC 1 Armd Div at Patiala. The briefing was to explain the importance and significance of the presentation of Standards to five armoured regiments of the Army at a solemn ceremony at Patiala by the President and the Supreme Commander, Pratibha Patil.

All was well until the Army circulated a press release at the venue which mentioned the operational commitments undertaken by each of the regiments ever since they were raised. In the case of 6 Lancers (which was raised as 6 Armd Regt), participation in Op Blue Star was mentioned as one such commitment.

A factual statement, no doubt, as there were several dozen units which took part in that operation, some at the forefront, and, others at the fringes doing internal security duties. But insensitive to mention in a state where Op Blue Star of 1984 is associated by many hardliners as not with militants occupying the holiest of holy shrine of the Sikhs, thus desecrating it, but with an invasion of the shrine and occupation by military boots, violating it's sanctity.

Not surprisingly, journalists not familiar with defence beat and ways of the Army, who were attending the briefing, pounced upon the word Blue Star and cornered the GOC 1 Armd Div over the participation of 6 Lancers. To them it meant that 6 Lancers has stormed the Golden Temple and was at its forefront. The GOC, apparently, going by news reports, denied that the unit had participated in Op Blue Star, thus contradicting the press release given out in this regard.
And this came out in next mornings news reports. Quite apparent that the GOC reacted in a knee-jerk fashion, not expecting this reaction and not knowing what had been put in the press release. But the damage had been done.

Now, the damage control party in HQs Western Command came into action. And, accordingly, the PRO Defence issued a clarification dismissing the news reports and clarifying the issue. In the clarification lay the admission that the unit was indeed part of the larger sphere of Op Blue Star, hence the misunderstanding.

But there was an inherent contradiction in the statement, incorrectly drafted, which denied and yet admitted in the same breath. No wonder it was hastily withdrawn when someone pointed out the mistake. Thus giving more gist to the incorrect reports which were to be countered and further fueling the controversy.

There are several things which the Army should have done and not done, but then it would take too much time and space to write all about that. The aim is not to pinpoint individuals who faltered. The point is that media management in the Army, or for that matter in Navy and IAF, is still being done at an ad-hoc level whereas this is a specialised field. It is sad to see the Army floundering in such simple issues which could have been handled with tact and finesse.

Here is the full text of the clarification which was withdrawn unceremoniously:

*********

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

THE WAR OF GENERALS GETS UGLIER


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!

Be that as it may, I am disgusted to read open allegations being made about how Gen JJ Singh, now the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh, was guided by religious sentiments in ensuring that Gen VK Singh retires on a certain date so that another Sikh, Lt Gen Bikram Singh could become the COAS. What were earlier insinuations have now become open allegations. Assisted no doubt by the fact that the government has had a very dim view of the protestations of Gen VK Singh about the change of his date of birth.

I would not go so far as to say that the directions for unleashing this mudslinging campaign against Gen JJ Singh have come from the very top. But what I would certainly like to believe is that the spin doctors who are managing the media campaign in favour of Gen VK Singh's assertions have now decided to take off their gloves and brace themselves for a knuckle fight.

It is a matter of time before the mudslinging acquires another dimension and also involves mediapersons of different media houses. For all we know the spin doctors may start targetting those journalists who are not taking a stand in their favour in the age-issue.

Be that as it may but the fact remains that the reputation of a former COAS is being trashed as it it were of now value. Gen JJ Singh is perhaps keeping mum because of the Gubernatorial appointment he holds but the fact remains that it has now been decided in principal to malign him and to attribute pro-Sikh sentiments to him. The fact that he was the first Sikh COAS is now being used to denigrate him.

If there is proof of him having deliberately run down Gen VK Singh then go to court and get it decided. It will give the Governor a chance too to rebut the arguments and defend himself. But what some of these uniformed spin doctors are not realising is that such malicious campaigns are harming the organisation more then any individual. Not only are you running down a former COAS but you are also casting an aspersion on the reputation and character of a current Army Commander just because he is a Sikh.

These are dark days for the senior leadership of the Army. It may just slip into an avoidable free fall if the war of words escalates and the mud-slinging attains a momentum which becomes difficult to control. The government needs to look at these developments seriously and needs to check them. An institution which has several hundred years of proud history must not be held to ransom by a few individuals who have their own personal priorities fixed firmly in their sights.

Service before Self must not change to Self before Service.




Friday, September 23, 2011

HANDLE RELIGIOUS ISSUES WITH CARE




In a secular country like ours, where we not only have a secular but, also, apolitical defence services, it is extremely important that religious sentiments of personnel are adequately addressed and handled.

As is evident in the letters displayed above, there has been a situation in 40 Arty Div in Ambala where a JCO has refused to comply with orders regarding his 'choti'. In such emotive issues it would not be advisable to allow situation to reach a stage where a JCO writes a letter directly to the GOC of a Division and refuses to follow instructions of his immediate superior.

But this has happened. And there is a history to it. It is not as if the Army has overnight woken up to the fact that this JCO has been sporting a 'choti' for the last 27 years out of a total career of 28 years.

The problem has emanated as usual from the unit level. This JCO was serving in 3 Field Regiment when he entered into a tiff with the CO. The issue was mishandled at the level giving the JCO enough reason to complain against the CO in the chain of command. The issue was further mishandled at the Brigade level thereby forcing the Subedar to write to GOC-in-C seeking his intervention and failing that, seeking interview with the then COAS, Gen Deepak Kapoor. Needless to say, neither materialised.

So, again, as usual the Army chain of command resorted to the problem with a short-sighted way. They posted out the JCO from the regiment to a ERE posting in 40 Arty Div. Everything was hunky dory as the JCO reconciled to facts of life in the Army and continued to go about his job.

It was at this stage that he declined to clear some bills which he perceived were not truthful in nature. The bills were of a Brigadier in the formation. And then came the get-together at the JCOs Mess on 15th August as as tradition warrants, officers of Div HQs were being hosted by the JCOs.

It was here that the GOC reportedly caught sight of the JCOs choti. And as per the JCOs, instructions were passed out to ensure that it went out of sight and accordingly a letter was issued by the Battery Commander to the JCO.

Pushed to the wall, and knowing what had triggered this reaction, Subedar Shukla fired-off the letter to the GOC pointing out several things and hinting at many others. Besides, of course, seeking an interview with the new COAS, Gen VK Singh.

And then, to ensure maximum effect, the news went to the media. Both print and electronic. And now the Army went into damage control mode. Someone used his brains in Corps, Command and Army HQs and decided not to go into a knee jerk reaction.

As of now an uneasy calm or truce prevails between the JCO and the powers that be. But it has all the potential into developing into a ugly situation.

The Army may be well within it's right in asking the JCO to do away with the tuft of hair on the back of his head. But then in today's world this has to be done with tact and care and seeing the profile of the individual. With the history of confrontation in the unit behind him, it would be obvious to any dunce head that the JCO would rebel. Yet, no care was taken to handle the situation with care.



Thursday, September 22, 2011

THREE COMMANDS DISCUSS JOINT TARGETS

In a important step towards jointness, a joint training review conference, involving two Commands of the Army- Western, South Western- and Western Air Command of the Indian Air Force, concluded at Chandimandir yesterday.

The war game was attended by a wide cross-section of high ranking officers and observers from participating formations, as also from the Army HQs, the neighboring Northern and Southern Commands, Army Training Command and Army War College, where tactical, operational and strategic concepts are evolved and refined.

The primary aim of the conference and brainstorming session was to synergise the operational philosophy amongst the land and air forces for the integrated air-land battle in various sectors, synergise their training requirements and validate certain important issues of the transformation of the Indian Army into a networked force.

In the current year Western Command has conducted two major training exercises with troops, involving the Army and Air force. The first exercise VIJAYEE BHAVA was held in Rajasthan in May 2011, followed by PINE PRAHAR, held in Punjab in June 2011.

It was in this context that the joint review was held in Chandimandir over five days. In the course of this review, the participants also discussed various contemporary issues, notably joint targeting plans and transformation synergy between theatres.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

THEY ALSO SERVE


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.

Any positive portrayal of our defence services is welcome. Anything which brings forth the dedication and devotion of our men and women in uniform, and which motivates youngsters to join the services is indeed the need of the day. Flying is a glamourous profession, and dangerous to say the least, and it is no surprise, therefore, that movies capitalise on this twin attraction when they choose the role to be played by the main lead of the movie.

There are commercial concerns when a movie of this nature is produced and one cannot expect it to provide a 360 degree view of the life in IAF. But I have often wondered why we never see the television or print media focus on the other branches of the air force who too play a major role in the defence of the country. The branches which ensure that the pilots who fly the sorties are able to do so in full safety and with full back-up.

I intended to do so several times, but have, unfortunately not been able to beat the red tape. In fact, I tried thrice in past two years and have failed on each time. And not because of some bureaucrat sitting in South Block. But because of a obstinate Group Captain sitting in Vayu Bhavan. Anyway that is another story.

What we need to see on the screen is not only the swash buckling presence of a fighter pilot in flying overalls or a G-suit but also the men and women who remain behind the scenes, unseen. Those who maintain the aircraft, keep them flying fit, and ultimately sign the crucial form which allows the aircraft to be taken to air. The men and women in the ATC or the fighter controllers who normally just get a split second or two in the footage in any movie featuring the IAF. They deserve more then that because they do a lot. They are our heroes too. I remember reading a quote, "True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others, at whatever cost".

The Met branch, the armaments section, the flight safety wallahs, the logistics squadron, the missile squadron the accounts and education branches. There are many more, which I may miss out in mentioning but what I intend to say comes out loud and clear. They are not just filling the blanks. They perform an important task. And their need for recognition must be acknowledged. They are not going to say so in these many words, they are not going to ask for publicity.....they don't need it. But we, in the media or in the film industry, owe it to them.

This can only happen if the media attempts to do such stories. For example, a perfectly good story can be made on how the transport aircraft of the Chandigarh Air Force Station are kept in perfect flying condition by the technical officers and men. These aircraft are a lifeline to our troops in ladakh. How this lifeline is kept well-oiled and functioning can make for a good story.

I am quite sure someday we in the media will think in this direction and that may provoke the film industry to make a film showing the exploits of the IAF like the ones made in the West......Saving Private Ryan, Pacific, Thin Red Line etc. And then, the canvass will be wide enough to portray a complete IAF ......

And though we may get disheartened by the mindless opposition to such projects by stuffy Group Captains sitting in Air HQs, we must not lose hope..... and keep on trying. As I will do.....for the fourth time.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

CHANGES IN ARMY AFTER JAN LOKPAL BILL

Courtesey Virendra Singh:

Changes at Regt Level:-

(a) All offrs especially COs and above will use only one Sahayak that also only for making offrs uniform.

(b) The CO Memsahib will return the mess cook back to the regtl mess and will start cooking, washing.

(c) The garden will be manicured by the offr and memsahib

(d) The regt fund acct will be audited by the LAO

(e) No CSD profit will be taken to the regt fund/ mess fund. The rules of percentage written by the stupid British will be changed and the old regt fund rules will be burnt at Ramleela Maidan after Anna vacates it.

(f) COs/ offrs will return all the regt properties like Tv, fridge, and cutlery back to unit.

(g) All offrs taking tpt allce will not use mil veh for conveyance from residence.

(h) Offrs who have unknowingly taken tpt allowance and used conveyance will repent and will make a draft of the amount illegally taken by them and will give the cheque to Anna at Ramlila grnd.

(i) No veh will be modified. If at all a veh is to be modified offr will pay it from the pocket and will not use regt fund.

(j) COs will not use Acs in the office. It is not auth and we will not use it.

(k) If we use it at home we will connect it only through a meter and will never send a JCO with rum bottle to MES.

Changes at Bde and above:-

(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.

(b) If IAS lobby do not listen to us we will org a Darna at Ramlila Maidan and sort them out. Few from “ WE GNRS” who are specially qualified sorting out IAS baboos and their help will be solicited.

(c) For regt reunions the tickets for the Sahib and Memsahib will be paid by the offr himself. If any Bania offers to do that he will be shot.

(d) Brigs and above when visiting any station will not stay in hotels. They will stay in the mess guest rooms and will dine with the mess members.If forced to stay in a hotel offr will settle the bill directly with the hotel.

(e) Offrs will pay the mess bill in reality and not with a cosmetic touch.

(f) Brigs and above traveling by air will not expect a capt/maj to come to air port and bribe people and get the VIP launch opened. It is
authorized only for army cdrs and above (not even DGs) and we will satisfy with what is authorized for lesser mortals. (g) No senior offr will take rations directly from sup. We are all Anna’s soldiers and will be truthful and will get the normal rations from QM store.

(h) Chicken for the parties will be purchased and will not be adjusted in the rations.

(i) The present day culture of having ASC/AOC/EME COs more close to the General ship will stop. The fighting unit COs will always get love , affection and priority.

(j) The GE will be shown his way.

(k) If Italian marble is required for the toilets the offr will pay for it.

(l) Offrs with genetic “Italian” hatred will use Indian marble.

(m) Guest room toiletries will not be stolen. If any items are used we will pay for it.

(n) The sanitary napkin placed in the room will be used only if the lady requires it in an emergency. We will not carry it home for the daughter or grand daughter.

(o) The Maj Gens will accept JCO LO and the practice of detailing local staff offr( Honorable Batman to Memsahib) will stop immediately

Sunday, September 4, 2011

ARMY'S DOUBLE STANDARDS ON WITHHOLDING PROMOTIONS


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.

Accordingly a Court of Inquiry was ordered to probe into the affairs relating to the Adarsh scam and the principal officer facing the brunt of the inquiry was Maj Gen RK Hooda who was the latest officer to have demitted the office of GOC MG & G Area and was now serving in Army HQs. He was approved for the rank of Lt Gen, but because he was facing a Court of Inquiry he was put under a Discipline and Vigilance (DV) ban and his promotion put on hold. All this was perfectly by the book and this was how things happened.

In due course the inquiry got completed but in the meantime, Maj Gen Hooda attained his age of superannuation and had to retire from the service in the same rank. The Army Chief has recently made some statement in Poona regarding the culpability of Maj Gen Hooda fixed by the inquiry but that is not the crux of our story.

What we need to focus on is that in yet another case involving a Maj Gen, the Army did not follow the rules and in fact let him get away virtually scot free to his next rank.

Lt Gen SA Cruz was serving in the rank of Maj Gen in HQs Western Command in Chandimandir as MG (Medical) when a Court of Inquiry was ordered against him by HQs Bengal Area. The genesis of this inquiry lies in days when the General officer was commanding a military hospital in Panagarh and the allegation of private practice levelled against some of his subordinate doctors. Now, after a stay in the high court had been vacated and the two officers court martialled, evidence had come forth incriminating the General and so, to investigate the allegations and give him a fair chance of defending himself, the Army ordered a Court of Inquiry against him.

The General, like Maj Gen Hooda, was approved for the rank of Lt Gen but in his case, no DV ban was put on his promotion. He was allowed to pick up his rank in complete disregard of rules and precedence and today he is serving as Deputy Chief of Integrated Defence Staff (Medical) in New Delhi.

I am told this this is not an isolated case in the Army where rules are bent to favour a few. There are enough examples which go on to show how some officers manage to get away while others suffer. Why this happens is not known. I had sent a query to the Army but they did not bother to reply.

And so while the Army goes about boasting about how the General found partially guilty in the Adarsh Court of Inquiry has been punished by not allowing him to pick up his next rank, it is conveniently not addressing why yet another General facing an inquiry has been allowed to get promoted.

Silence is not going to make the questions go away.

Monday, August 29, 2011

WHEN COMMON SENSE APPEARS TO BE UNCOMMON




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.

As you will make out by seeing the accompanying documents, this story is about Sapper Lenin Chakraborty, serving in a engineering regiment, who was put through a summary trial and sentenced to 14 days RI for taking part in auditions of 'Indian Idol' while he was on leave.

There are some Army instructions on taking part in reality shows on television and it was quite evident that the Sapper would have to be disciplined for not having informed his superiors and taken their permission before embarking in the talent contest.

However, in an act which can be called a 'legal suicide', the unit of the jawan first punished him without specifying the exact law which he had violated, thus giving him an opportunity to go to the Armed Forces Tribunal in appeal. Then, it proceeded to tie itself in more knots by writing a letter to the Jawan warning him about his seeking legal redress without permission for superior officers and then directing him to withdraw the petition within a specified period of time.

That such an order is illegal in the eyes of the law goes without saying.

Perturbed by the punishment meted out to him, and perceiving it to be wrong, Sapper lenin, wrote to the Colonel Commandant of Bengal Sappers, Lt Gen Gautam Bannerjee, for redressal of his grievances. Now, this gave an opportunity for Lt Gen Bannerjee to give a piece of his mind to the young soldier on matters of military discipline and the cardinal mistake that he had done by writing to a senior officer.

Then he compounded the matters by pointing out that Sapper had been punished for his "arrogant behaviour" and that he "indicated signs of being AWL (absent without leave) while on leave". Now that is as good as it could get for the legal remedy available to the erring Sapper. Arrogant behaviour can hardly be a cause for a Summary Court Martial and the law would be hard pressed to find a clause in the Manual of Indian Military Law which permits court martial of a jawan for "indicating signs of being AWL while on leave".

Not surprisingly the Sapper seems to be getting some sympathy from the tribunal and the Army is on the receiving end.

What all this brings to fore is the fact that military officers are quite ignorant of law. And in the changing environment where recruits are graduates if not post-graduates, especially in technical arms and services, such ignorant officers end up harming the service rather then helping in imposition of discipline.

The case of Sapper Lenin Chakravarthy should serve as an example for all those who take such cases lightly. In fact, it should be made into a precis and disseminated to all units so that the Commanding Officers can learn what not to do in a situation like this.

Friday, August 26, 2011

WHO GIVES A DAMN ABOUT LAW?


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.

I would certainly be taking the application to the logical conclusion and will exhaust every means available to eclicit a response, but that is besides the point. The moot point is why should the official car of the Army Commander be adorned with such a plate in utter and complete contravention of law? Is this going to percolate down the chain of command? Are we going to have Corps Commanders too going around with KHARGA 1, WHITE KNIGHTS 1 and Divisional Commanders going around with BLACK ELEPHANT 1, ACE OF SPADES 1, COCKEREL 1 and what not?

There are flags, star plates and pennants which adorn vehicles of officers of flag rank. These are meant to inform the observer about the rank and position of the officer travelling in it so that suitable compliments can be paid. What else is needed? The Army Commanders vehicle already has a very distinct flag with Ashoka emblem, three stars and formation sign on it apart from the star plate which has three stars on it. If someone still does not recognise the vehicle then clearly something is wrong with his or her eyesight and adorning the vehicle with WESTCOM 1 is not going to help.

Next, some eccentric commander would want to have stars on the sides of the vehicle also because there are no such distinctive feature there. And not to forget the top of the car AND the bottom for whoever is looking!

Surely there are more important things which should be occupying the mind of a formation commander then just adorning his vehicle with heraldry?

There have been some examples of funny displays in days of yore. But those have not been in any violation of law. There was one Brigade Commander who used to have the star plate displayed on the forehead of his horse when he went riding. Another Brigadier I know had a Jawan running after his horse bearing his pennant! Having a star plate on the golf cart is not even worth discussing here, it is so common.

But violating the Motor Vehicle Act is something else. No one has the right to so that. These staff cars bearing WESTCOM 1 and WESTCOM 2 should be challaned by the traffic police as they break the law with impunity. The Panchkula Police and the Chandigarh Police will soon have to answer some uncomfortable questions even if the Western Command chooses to remain silent. The media will be on the lookout.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Air Marshal NAK Browne will be the next Chief of Air Staff


Vice Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal NAK Browne will be the next Chief of Air Staff on the retirement of Air Chief Marshal PV Naik from government service on July 31, 2011.

Born in Allahabad on 15 December 1951, Air Marshal NAK Browne was commissioned into the Fighter stream of Indian Air Force on 24 June 1972. With about 3100 hours of flying to his credit, he has had a varied operational experience that included flying Hunters, all variants of MiG-21s, Jaguars and SU-30s.

An alumnus of National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla, Pune, he is a Fighter Combat Leader, who has also served as an instructor at the Tactics and Air Combat Development Establishment (TACDE) - a premiere flying establishment of the IAF and the Tri-services Defence Services Staff College (DSSC), Wellington.

A graduate of the Air Command and Staff College, Albama, USA, he had trained with the Royal Air Force (RAF) in the United Kingdom, on Jaguar aircraft and went on to command a Jaguar Squadron subsequently.

During his long career spanning 38 years, he has held various operational and staff appointments that include - Joint Director at Air War Strategy Cell at Air Headquarters, Chief Operations Officer and Air Officer Commanding of a SU-30 base, Air-I at New Delhi based Western Air Command (WAC) and Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Intelligence) at Air Headquarters.

He was also responsible for establishing the Indian Defence Wing in Tel Aviv, Israel in April 1997 where he served as the Defence Attache till July 2000. From March 2007 to 31 May 2009 he functioned as the Deputy Chief of the Air Staff (DCAS) at Air Headquarters and was responsible for lAF's major Modernization Programmes.

Before taking over as the Vice Chief of the Air Staff (VCAS) at Air Headquarters on 01 January 2011, he was the AOC-in-C of Western Air Command, lAF's most vital operational Command. Under his command and personal supervision, the first ever landing of an AN-32 (fixed wing aircraft) took place at Nyoma, advance Landing Ground (ALG), located at an altitude of 13,300 feet on 18 September 2009.

Air Marshal Browne is recipient of Param Vishist Seva Medal (PVSM), Ati Vishist Seva Medal (AVSM), Vayu Sena Medal (VM) and is appointed as one of the Honorary ADCs to the President of India.

Married to Kiran Browne, they have a son, Omar, a fighter pilot in the IAF and a daughter Alisha, who is working with a multinational company.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

EXERCISE VIJAYEE BHAVA SNAPS



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.

PAK GENERALS ON DAMAGE CONTROL SPREE


Following in the footsteps of the Pakistan Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Khalid Shameem Wyne, has also embarked on a tour involving meeting the officer cadre to take stock of the situation following the US military's covert strike on Osama Bin Laden in Abottabad.

Addressing the student officers of the Command and Staff College in Quetta, General Khalid Shameem Wynne, a four star General, said that the defense forces of Pakistan are well equipped, highly motivated and fully capable to all dimensions of conventional and unconventional threat posed to security and integrity of the country (as reported by Inter Services Public Relations or ISPR). Given the fact that what happened in Abottabad has caused much shame and consternation among Army officers, this is a typical PR statement which does not have any bearing on what the General might have actually said during his meeting with the student officers.

The important thing to note is that the senior leadership of the Pak Army is worried enough to undertake such meetings with junior officers. The last time this happened was in the aftermath of the humiliating defeat suffered by the Pakistan Army in the 1971 war. The then COAS had also undertaken such addresses and was booed in one of them. Does this signify a crises in leadership as far as the top echelon of the Pak Army is concerned? The image of the COAS may well have taken a beating. And this may result him in not getting another extension this year-end if he does not handle his Corps Commanders with care. He managed to get an extension last time because the US was supporting him. This time around with the Osama fiasco, this might not happen.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

ANOTHER GENERAL GETS REHABILITATED


After doing his bit in the service of the nation by giving residential plots to Messers Deepak Kapoor and VK Singh, Haryana Chief Minister has now rewarded yet another retired General.

And this time he has given the command of an institution which faces repeated allegations of corruption and nepotism in the state and is facing several court cases concerning irregularities in selections.

Pls read the sarkari press release down below:


Haryana Governor, Mr Jagannath Pahadia administered the oath of office and secrecy to Lt. Gen (Retd.) D.P. Vats, former Director and Commandant, Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC), Pune as Chairman, Haryana Public Service Commission here today.

Haryana Chief Minister, Mr. Bhupinder Singh Hooda was present on the occasion.

Dr.Vats was born on April 16,1950 at village Thurana in district Hisar. A graduate of Pt. BD Sharma PGIMS, Rohtak, he was commissioned into the Indian Army in August 1975. He had done his MS (Ophthalmology) from AFMC, Pune in 1982 and received training in Anterior Segment Surgery at AIIMS, New Delhi in 1992 and in Eye Banking at LV Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad in 1998.

Lt Gen D.P. Vats is decorated with Param Vishist Seva Medal in 2011, Sena Medal in 2003, Vishist Seva Medal in 1999, COAS Commendation Cards in 1996, 2005 and 2008 and GOC in C (WC) Commendation Card in 2001 for exceptionally meritorious service and contribution towards patient care.

He has held various prestigious positions including Associate Professor in Ophthalmology at AFMC, Pune from 1995-2000, senior advisor in Ophthalmology at Command Hospital (WC) from 2000-2002, senior advisor and consultant in Ophthalmology at the prestigious Army Hospital (R & R), New Delhi from 2002-2006, Commandant, AFMSD, Delhi Cantonment from 2006 to 2008, Commandant, Command Hospital (Southern Command), Pune from 2008-2009 and Major General (Medical), Headquarters, Southern Command.



Monday, May 2, 2011

AIR CMDE SC CHAFEKAR TAKES OVER THE COMMAND OF 12 WING




Air Cmde SC Chafekar took over the Command of 12 Wing, AF from Air Cmde Rajeev Sachdeva who stands posted to HQ IDS as ACIDS (ICT) New Delhi on promotion as Air Vice Marshal.

Air Cmde Chafekar was commissioned in 28 Dec 82 into the IAF. During his service spanning over 28 years, he has more than 7000 hrs on various types of aircraft which includes Otters, HT-2, HPT-32, Avro (HS-748), Kiran and AN-32. Air Cmde SC Chafekar is an alumnus of Defence Service Staff College.

Air Cmde SC Chafekar has served all over the country and specializes in Air Maintenance. He is a Qualified Flying Instructor with over 2500 instructional hours. He has held three important portfolios at AF station Chandigarh. He was the flight commander, has commanded the 48 Sqn and now is the Air Officer Commanding which is a rare feat. He was Chief Operations Officer of Asia’s biggest Air Force Station Agra. During his last tenure as CO of the 48 Sqn, he executed trial landing at three ALGs namely DBO (16200ft), Nyoma (13500ft) and Fukche (13500 ft); DBO being the highest airfield in the world. He has also done a stint as PD Ops (T&H) at Air Headquarters (Vayu Bhawan) where he was incharge of IAF transport fleet before taking over command of 12 Wing, Air Force.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Surviving a missile and an Air Marshal


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.
At that point of time Wg Cdr Chafekar was attempting the first landing by a fixed wing aircraft at the newly established airfield in Kargil in 2002.

Let's recall that unfortunate incident in slight detail. As is the wont in this country, any important event has to be hijacked by the powers-that-be. And so this pioneering flight to Kargil had to have the then AOC-in-C, Western Air Command, Air Marshal VK Bhatia, on it. But the Air Marshal was not satisfied by being just the passenger on board. Or for that matter being just a co-pilot. He took over as the Captain of the aircraft and Wg Cdr Chafekar became the co-pilot. Flt Lt V Awasthy was the navigator. On approach to the runway, which was a bit tricky and since the Air Marshal was not familiar flying in this area, the aircraft strayed over to the other side of the LoC and was fired upon by a Pakistan Army unit with a missile which hit one engine.

The aircraft managed to land in Leh and the incident was kept under wraps for a few days. I was then working with the Hindustan Times in Chandigarh and found out about it a couple of days later. My Editor asked me to double check on it and by the time I did so, Gaurav Sawant, then working with Indian Express broke the story.

I was packed off to Leh in double time and what followed was a series of stories with Lt Gen Arjun Ray, the then GOC 14 Corps, saying a couple of things about Air Marshal Bhatia, on record. He was peeved with initial attempts by the Air Marshal to try and fix the blame on friendly fire from Indian Army on peaks around Kargil. I enjoyed doing the stories because Lt Gen Ray could be quite colourful when he wanted to prove a point. Ultimately, he stopped only when the Army Chief asked him to pipe down in interest of harmony among sister services and I got another story to do in Leh. The shooting of LoC-Kargil, the JP Dutta movie on Kargil conflict had started and Lt Gen Ray's son was an Assistant Director in the movie. So Dutta had all the facilities of the 14 Corps at his disposal (also with Army HQs permission) and I had access to an exclusive story. Both, Lt Gen Ray and me, were happy to move on from Chafekar-Bhatia episode.

But to come back to the main story, there were unfortunate attempts to frame Wg Cdr Chafekar and to insinuate that it was he who had erred. But Air Chief Marshal Krishnaswamy, the then Air Chief, intervened and made sure the Court of Inquiry made the right recommendations. Wg Cdr Chafekar, thus escaped through the skin of his teeth, while Air Marshal Bhatia was sent at a significantly lower post of Inspector General Flight Safety while retaining his perks and privledges as a C-in-C. Interesting to note that someone who violated flight safety was made in-charge of it. But that's another story.

And so Wg Cdr Chafekar went on to become Gp Capt, command a squadron in Chandigarh, made some more pioneering landings in DBO, Fukche and Nyoma and now comes back as Air Cmde to the same station.

Here's wishing him more safe landings.






Thursday, April 28, 2011

Crises of Leadership





A lot has been written about the controversy surrounding Gen VK Singh's date of birth so there is really no need to get into all that once again. Except perhaps to recount the latest revelation that an MP has written to the Defence Minister citing the General's year of birth to be 1949 and not 1951 as he is claiming or 1950 as is mentioned in some records. And the MP has obtained a birth certififcate from the Kirkee Cantonment as a proof of his assertions.





It is unfortunate for the Army's senior most officer to be embroiled in such a controversy at a stage of his career. It is also unfortunate for the Army as a service to see it's chief being involved in a unsavoury controversy.





The Ministry of Defence is trying to solve this 'age-old' mystery but given its incompetence in resolving it before the Chief came to hold this office, not much speed should be expected from it this time around.





However, General VK Singh has to accept the blame partly for precipitating this crises. It was widely believed that the entire thing had been solved to his satisfaction. And then came the RTI application and the Army's super cleverness in referring it to the Law Ministry. Reminds me of the couplet by Majaz:





"Meri himmat dekhna, meri tabiyat dekhna





jo sulajh jaati hai guthi, phir se uljhata hun main"





If Gen VK Singh had acceeded to the solution found when his predecessor was holding the office then he should step up and say that I am satisfied with the solution found and that I accept it.





If he was unhappy with the solution propounded at the time, he should have made sure it was solved to his satisfaction before he assumed office of the COAS. Now, at this stage, when he is half way through his tenure, to let this crises take over the centre stage when there are more pressing issues at hand, is simply not done.





All he had to do was to have stepped forward and issued a statement saying that he is happy with what the organisation decided for him. But his very silence means that he is not happy and that he feels that he has been wronged. That may well be true, but he should have thought of all this before assuming the highest office of his service. Personal organisational grievances at the level of COAS do not augur well for the image of the service for which he is the custodian.





And if worst comes to worst, what if it is proven that his real year of birth was 1949 and that he was never eligible to become the COAS? Imagine the catastrophe it will be for the service? What disgrace? And what punishment can one inflict upon a COAS who may have indulged in such a thing, even if it was way back in his career?





For all the spin being put out by the official spin doctors of the Army, the Additional Directorate General of Public Information (ADGPI), the Army Chief's image has taken a battering, and so has , by default, the image of the Army.





Had this happened with a junior ranked officer, even if his rank was that of Lt Gen, a court of inquiry would have taken place and a result had withing a span of few days. However, nothing of the sort can be done with the COAS because of his rank. And, ultimately, the call has to be taken by the MoD.





It is very important not to sully the image of the COAS but if there is enough evidence at hand that the office of the COAS has been sullied by an individual, then expemplary action must be taken.





Only Gen VK Singh knows the truth. And if there is not a single shred of evidence against him then he should simply state the facts to the Defence Minister and insist, nay demand, on a quick resolution in interest of the service. But if there is even an iota of truth in the allegations against him, he should quit. This is the least he could do to save the image of the service.

























Saturday, April 23, 2011

General-ul-Musalmeen?



Lt Gen SA Hasnain recently took over as the GOC of 15 Corps and even before he could fly the Corps flag on the bonnet of his vehicle, the print media got a bee in its bonnet.
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.



Is all this propaganda (yes, it is propaganda) going to help in the Army's role in the valley? The lovers of the first-Muslim-General-propoganda-campaign feel yes. On ground, it will be difficult to quantify. Lt Gen Hasnain is going about doing his job in a dispassionate manner, like he did in his previous assignments in the troubled region. He is not holding on to his religious identity just because he is the GOC of 15 Corps, just as one would expect a soldier of the Indian Army to do.



So is it just the sentiments of some journalists and pseudo-journalists or is there a larger game plan behind it? I would hesitate to call it a game plan but then there definitely seems to be a purpose behind it, mis-interpreted.



The fact that the Army is tacitly supporting such religion-based coverage is obvious because they have not objected to it. The sad institution called ADGPI would have been snapping at the heels of journalists had they felt that this was something which the Army really does not care having written about. But the fact that no letters to the Editor have appeared in the newspapers makes it apparent that they are OK with it. And in certain instances, it even appears that they might have given a encouraging nod for such coverage. Lt Gen Hasnain has done a good job in the past without all this stuff being written about him and by all indications he will do well in his present assignment too, even if the print media decides to clap their hands in merriment because he is a Muslim.






Thursday, April 21, 2011

A General Conspiracy?



Amidst all the news reports about the Chief of Army Staff, Gen VK Singh's date of birth, the Chief himself has maintained a stoic silence. Very apt too, because it would be beneath him to join publically in what may eventually turn out to be a ugly affair.
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.