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.


  1. Every one wants to remove Corruption in India, but this is applicable for others and not for themselves. How can you change your date of birth? The matriculation date is the only document regarding the proof of your birth date. Why there is a dispute? Why long presentations? RTI applications and fudging of records? I am sure if the educational records of the present Chief are checked, it may show the correct age is 1952 not 1951. What the Government will do? Enough is Enough?
    Let the Parliament passes a law, that no more amendments in age will be accepted and matriculation certificate or the age as mentioned in the Voter's list will be considered final for all times to come.
    On a lighter side, the change in age may not lead to two siblings taken birth in 100 days difference, defying all laws of gestation.

  2. Following up on Guneet's observation, there was a case some years ago when an elder brother became younger to his younger brother. All because he was hankering for lt gen rank. Another one tried his best; had he succeeded he would have become COAS!
    It should also be checked if Gen V K Singh was eligible to apply for NDA if born in 1951.
    No "rebirths" should be considered once an officer has been commissioned. Such matters should be sorted while still under training.
    A man who can malign and courtmartial younger colleagues on frivolous grounds can do anything. In anycase the earlier he retires the earlier he may become governor of a state! Some solace that.

  3. The above photo of Lt. Gen Bikram Singh and not of the present Chief Gen V K Singh !!