Monday, December 17, 2012

SHOULD ARMY CHANGE IT'S RECRUITMENT POLICY?


The recent petition filed in the Supreme Court challenging the Army's caste, religion and region-based recruitment policy for its soldiers has not had the desired amount of discussion in the fora of defence intelligentsia. Though it is correct that this issue has been debated at many levels in the past, it may not be wrong to approach it once again in light of the petition filed in the SC and the importance given to it by the court given the fact that the Solicitor General has been asked to assist the court in the case.

In the immediate aftermath of the unfortunate events of the 1984 desertions in Sikh units, the Army did try amalgamation of regiments/units to a certain degree by changing the 'pure' composition of caste, religion, region based battalions to a 'mixed' composition. The experiment did not work out to satisfaction and was discarded in time.

At the point of time when the practice of mixed battalions was still in vogue, I chanced to speak to a second-in-command of a Dogra battalion who had a company each of South Indians, Rajputs, Jats and Dogras in the battalion. The officer was not very happy with the state of affairs. He felt that the effectiveness of the unit was reduced as a fighting force and that the essence of the Dogra Regiment was lost by having such mixed troops and in time of actual action there might be a loss of cohesiveness in the troops.

The option of having mixed fighting units with pan-India composition appears very reasonable to many, including the gentleman who has filed the petition in the Supreme Court. Arguments of such individuals often is that this system had been devised by the British for their use and efficacy in that day and age and in present day India there was no place for such a system.

However, the fact remains that despite India being one country, we are a country where language, culture and customs change every few hundred kilometers. Our uniqueness lies in the fact that despite our diverse nature we still retain our ability to bond with each other at the macro level.

Thus, when it comes to fighting, killing and dying for the country, Indian Army cannot be compared with other armies of the world where such regimental system does not exist. Everything which the British did was not bad and the basic framework which they have provided was based on their own experience in the British Army where they had region-based regiments which catered to that specific area only. It was a time tested system which was introduced with suitable amendments in Indian conditions.

The challenge to this system from external factors like sceptics going to the Supreme Court can be withstood but things may indeed change internally with the march of time. As the nation develops and better and more lucrative opportunities arise, young men may be lesser inclined to join the service. As it turns out, during the recent session of Lok Sabha Defence Minister AK Antony has admitted to a shortage of men in the enlisted ranks. This is the first time the MoD has publically accepted this fact.

Therefore, it will only be some years or decades down the line when the regimental system may have to be amended once the Army finds that it cannot muster adequate number of young men from the particular religion, caste or region to fill its vacancies in the various regiments. A case in point relates to the already existing crises in the Sikh Regiment and Sikh Light Infantry Regiment of the Army where the recruiters are facing difficulty in filling their quota. Alternate job preference, poor physical condition etc may be the cause behind it but this could replicate in other regiments too. The Maoist threat to turn of the tap of Gorkha recruitment in Nepal a couple of years back must also be borne in mind.

It is in this context that the Army may have to fine tune its policy in the years to come. As of now, however, the system is working perfectly fine. As the Americans say, 'If it ain't broken, don't fix it".

  

Saturday, December 8, 2012

AFT ORDERS MS TO APOLOGISE TO WAR VETERAN


Delivering a sharp rap on the knuckles for not adhering to a judgement given by it and causing undue harassment to a petitioner, the Kolkata bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal has directed the Military Secretary, Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain to express regret to the petitioner.

Giving its directions in a contempt application field by Col Arun Dattaji Patole (retd), naming the Military Secretary, Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain and the Chief of Army Staff, General Bikram Singh as respondents, the AFT bench has also come down very hard on the Col MS (Legal) for not taking the matter seriously. The bench has found his attitude to be "callous" and recommended action against him by higher authorities, if they so desire.

The genesis of the order lies in an order given by the bench earlier directing the MS to hold a special promotion board of the officer to the rank of Brigadier and intimate the result to him with complete reasoning. He was also directed to provide a personal hearing to the Colonel if he was not satisfied with the reply.

The Army did hold a special promotion board but communicated its result in a perfunctory manner without giving any detailed reasoning:

"I.  Ref WP 15548(W)|2OO3  filed by you in the High Court at Kolkata.
2 . Consequent  to  the relief granted by Kolkata High Court in WP 1,5548-w/2003  vide order dated 2 Feb 2, you were considered  as Special  Revielw  (Fresh) case of the 1971 batch of AOC by the No. 2 SB held from 06 to 0B Apr 2011,  under the previous system of selection  (value judgement) and not approved  for promotion  to the acting rank of Brig."

When the officer reminded the MS of the directions of the AFT bench and that he wanted an interview with him he received an arrogant reply which bordered on dismissive attitude:

"  In case you want to  have personal hearing you must intimate  the date so that date is fixed and case be
explained about non  empanelment along with  the reasons as directed by  the  Hon'ble Armed Forces
Tribunal.  lt is clarified  that you have to come on at your own expenses  for the said interview,  as no funds are allocated for  calling retired  officers for  personal hearing."

Clearly, not pleased with the action taken by the MS Branch in pursuance of the orders given by it, the Bench passed the following hard-hitting order.

 "We direct that MS, during his visits to various Command HQs. including Pune and Kolkata (where


the appricant  usualy resides)  must intimate the applicant  and grant all possible facilities  to give him a personal hearing in which all aspects must be explained  to  him in detail within the limits of security.  The applicant  should be apprised  as to why he was low on merit and whether ail points that were to be covered
have indeed been covered  while considering  his case in the special  board. subsequent  to such a personal  hearing,  it will only be appropriate  for the MS on behalf of the respondents to express  regret to the war veteran for the delay and agony thus caused.  Thereafter,  the MS shall pass a speaking  order in writing explaining  the detairs of the interview and the reasons  for non-empanelment  of the applicant  in the special
board that was conducted  on the order of this Tribunal".

Friday, June 15, 2012

WHEN MILITARY JUSTICE IS MISUSED TO SETTLE SCORES

I am quite convinced, that on the face of it, if all parameters are followed to the T, the military system of justice in our country can be the most fair. I know of countless instances where the system has delivered justice despite command pressures and has not succumbed to them. Yet, there are also numerous and, maybe more, examples which I can re-collect where the military justice has failed miserably in delivering justice and where personnel have been vilified and crucified for no fault of theirs.

This present example is also one of failure of military justice and one where the person persecuted was from that branch which is meant to help the Commanders mete out justice. The Judge Advocate Generals Branch is unfortunately rotting to the core today, because of which unscrupulous elements are having a field day being at the helm of affairs and running down honest and dedicated officers to settle personal scores.

In this instance, an officer has been hounded just because his immediate superior did not like him and was unhappy to have him serve under him. He not only managed to get him side-lined, at the cost of his career, but also got him punished when he resisted the attempts to fix his career.

And to utter disgrace to the uniform they wore, Commanders at various levels played an active part in allowing this travesty of justice to take place. The officer, Lt Col Mukul Dev, was punished while his superior, Brig PS Rathore, now the Judge Advocate General of the Army in the rank of Maj Gen, was allowed to go scot free despite being similarly indicted by the CoI.

I am reproducing below, the excerpts from the judgement passed today by the Kolkata bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal, after Lt Col Dev approached it for justice. It is an eye opener on how justice fails to deliver and how senior officers look the other way while careers of junior officers are destroyed.

Lt Col Dev and the acumen and perseverance to fight the injustice, but consider how many officers, JCOs and Jawans may be suffering for the same reasons and not having the wherewithal to fight the system.
Let's hope the present Chief of Army Staff, General Bikram Singh, is alive to the problems that plague the JAG Dept and takes steps to clean the mess.

EXCERPTS FROM JUDGEMENT OF KOLKATA AFT BENCH




25.       We have the following observations with regard to the manner in which this COI was convened, conducted, analysed and directions from the Army Commander was obtained which resulted in  different degree of administrative actions against some out of those who were held responsible in the said COI.
(a)   The matter was not at all that severe or grave administrative breach to initiate a COI. After all it was publication of Part II Order which is nothing but a statement of “Occurrence” that was done on 04.04.2009 and later cancelled after  it was found out by the  higher officials that a transfer of an officer could not have been done without the approval of the MS Branch at Army HQ.  The entire episode did not cause any loss of property, fund or moral fibre. It was, if at all, an incidence which could have been tackled within the space of routine administration. It definitely did not warrant a senior officer of the rank of  GOC-in-C to order a COI for such a mundane and routine administrative affair.
(b)   That apart by issuing clarificatory order dt. 2.4.09, the posting of the applicant in the Q (Land-2) Branch has not been cancelled or kept in abeyance. There has been remarkable departure from the sanction of the Army commander-in-Chief on the material points on which the COI was directed to be held and the convening order which only confined to “pint point the responsibility for the above publication” and not enquiring into the side stepping of the applicant. Therefore, the very convening of this COI could have been avoided unless there were different motives to be attributed by obtaining strength from findings of such a COI.
(c)   Coming to the COI itself, we find that convening order clearly spells out that the COI would also “pin point responsibility for above publication” of wrong Part II Orders. Our attention was drawn to Para 584 (c) of Regulations of Army 1986 which clearly gives out situations where Part II Orders are published.  Despite such directions of the convening authority in the said convening order, HQ Central Command, while replying to a query raised by MOD (AG) (their Note No. 48545/Stat/CC/1163/AG/DV 4(b) dated 25.08.2010 in Para 2 (ii) there of),  has stated that the subject COI pertains to only investigation of illegal publication of Part II Order and the terms of reference was to “Investigate the circumstances under which such Part II Orders were published”. This aspect of “ pin pointing responsibility …” has been omitted in their reply to MOD
(d)   It is evident from Para 3 (b) and (c) of HQ Central Command Note of even No. dated 02.11.2010 addressed to MOD (AG) that in the aforesaid reply HQ Central Command (DV) had not furnished full and complete facts to the MOD by not revealing one part of the convening order which was to “Pin point the responsibility for above publication”. Since the ibid query was required to be answered accurately; half truth answer in this manner would have given a different twist while MOD was adjudicating on the Statutory Complaint submitted by the applicant, who was aggrieved with administrative action taken against him.
(e)   We also noticed that the COI, in its opinion, has clearly given following facts based on its findings :-
(i)                 The Court felt that entire episode of wrong Part II Order was published due to ambiguous written instructions that were interpreted without efforts resulting in wrong Part II Orders.
(ii)               The COI held following officers responsible for this lapse. 
(aa)     Brig U.K. Chopra.
(ab)     Brig P.S. Rathore
(ac)     Lt Col Mukul Deb

(iii)             In addition, the Court held following officers responsible for  aggravation for the above lapse
(aa)     Col S.K. Malhotra
(ab)     Lt Col V.M. Singh
(ac)     Lt Col A. Bahukhandi

(f)     It is interesting to note that the opinion of the Court with regard to Lt Col Mukul Deb, who was punished for maximum severity, was responsible for a lapse of “not exercising caution” while initiating a noting. So were the other officers, who were blamed for “not exercising due caution”.  Brig U.K. Chopra and Brig P.S. Rathore were held responsible for the lapse for issuing vague instructions in transfer of Lt Col Mukul Deb and relieving him from the post of AJAG respectively.  Very strangely, these aspects were not indicated to the MOD by HQ Central Command in response to their query, which was raised while MOD was examining Lt. Col. Mukul Deb’s statutory complaint. 
(g)   The Notings on the file (19015/COI/MD/C/AG/DV merely relate to views of various Staff officers and their opinion and we shall not comment on them. We would however, like to point out our observations that the GOC-in-C in his direction on the COI has conveniently omitted the names of the two Brigadiers (Brig Chopra and Brig Rathore)  thereby keeping his administrative process incomplete. Ideally he, having found them being blamed for omissions/commisions  of lapses, the said COI, should have either dealt with them administratively  or exonerated them completely or partially by disagreeing on the findings of the COI with adequate reasons endorsed in his directions. Such incomplete administrative actions at the level of Command HQ by Army Commander is often not seen and indicative of lack of transparency and non-application of mind which create a ground for hostile discrimination on the part of the aggrieved officer.
(h)   The lapses pointed out in processing the file vide note dt. 24.8.10 & 18.2.11 (vide annexure-A24) have not been reconciled by the superior authorities.    
26.       In view of our ibid discussions and observations especially with regard to incomplete directions by the GOC-in-C, we feel that the matter must be brought up to the notice of COAS (Respondent No  2) as it is for him to direct completion of action as appropriate.  The COAS may also note that Senior Officers at that level must endorse their views on such enquiry reports in a transparent manner indicating their agreement or disagreement or partial agreement with adequate reasons.
27.       Brigadiers, who head branches in Command HQ do have important supervisory role in this case, but their failure, though pointed out by the C of I, has gone un-noticed by the GOC-in-C while giving his direction. The COAS must issue directions to rectify such lapses in HQ Central Command.
28.       We also find that that the GOC-in-C has partially agreed that the findings of the Court but has not mentioned his views with reasons for said partial agreement. Such actions create  doubts in our mind since they can never be termed  “transparent”. The COAS may also consider this aspect.  
29.       Considering the matter from all its angles, we are of the opinion that the  recordable censure of “severe displeasure” issued against the applicant is not only too harsh but totally uncalled for. As admittedly, the respondents have accepted that in the order dt. 20.3.09 the word “transferred” should not have been used and that it was used inadvertently. It is clear from the above discussion that by use of such word i.e. “transferred”, the entire misconception and misunderstanding started although the respondent authorities tried to rectify their alleged fault or mistake by issuing subsequent clarificatory order but without cancelling the same. Therefore, in our considered view, the alleged lapse of the applicant lies unsubstantiated. The respondents cannot also escape the liability of publishing an order which was couched in a confusing language.  It is also to be noted that apart from this incident, no other misconduct was alleged against him though the ld. adv. for the respondents has submitted that in another occasion the applicant was issued with a non-recordable warning for using foul and intemperate language against higher officers, which, however, is not under challenge in this case.
30.       We have gone through the show cause notice and the detailed reply  given thereto by the applicant. But in the impugned order dt. 29.9.09, there was no discussion of the points raised by the applicant in his reply to the show cause. It simply states in para 3 as follows :-
“3.        Apropos, I direct that my “severe displeasure (recordable)” be conveyed to IC 46298N Lieutenant colonel Mukul Dev, Assistant Judge Advocate General of Headquarters, Central command for the above mentioned lapse on his part.”

31.       In our considered opinion when by such recordable censure, the entire service career of an young army officer is going to be ruined, it should not be taken lightly and at least reasons for non-acceptance of the reply given by the delinquent officer should have been recorded, which is the basic principle of natural justice. The order is not at all a speaking order.  We, therefore, cannot sustain this impugned order and it is liable to be set aside and quashed. Consequently, the order dt. 21.2.12 rejecting the statutory complaint filed by the applicant against the impugned punishment order is set aside and quashed. The applicant on this issue stands exonerated.
32.       In this context, we also direct the COAS (respondent No. 2) to re-examine as to why the administrative action on the subject C of I has remained incomplete for nearly three years, in which two other Brigadiers, including respondent No. 5, were also investigated upon, apportioned some degree of supervisory lapse, but their names have been conveniently omitted from the directions by the GOC in C, who has not recorded any reasons for such omission, neither in his order nor in response to the MOD, when queried for by them, while they were processing the statutory complaint of the applicant. Actions like withholding information or not assigning adequate reasons while dealing with such cases especially, by senior officers compounds lack of transparency leading to denial of natural justice apart from the vices of not rendering public service in a holistic way.  The COAS shall look into this aspect objectively.
33.       In the result, the original application is allowed on contest but without cost. The impugned orders dt. 29.9.09 and 21.2.12 are hereby quashed. The applicant be exonerated of the charge levelled against him in the show cause notice dt. 21.8.09.
34.       Let the original records be returned to the respondents on proper receipt,.
 35.      Let plain copy of the order be handed over to the parties.



(LT. GEN K.P.D.SAMANTA)                                   (JUSTICE H.N.SARMA)
        MEMBER(ADMINISTRATIVE)                                    MEMBER(JUDICIAL)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

YET ANOTHER ARMY COMMANDER



Lt General SR Ghosh was in a unusually friendly mood while interacting with the media today, the day he hung his uniform in exchange for civvies. Nothing strange in that. There are many like him in the Army. Wary of media during their service, unlike many others who are not afraid to speak to media whenever required. However, Lt Gen Ghosh's tenure must rank among the tenures where the Army Commander kept away from the media like the plague. He must be having good reasons for it, I'm sure.

So when the opportunity came to visit Chandimandir and the Command House for the farewell of Lt Gen Ghosh, I decided to grab it with both hands. Much to the discomfort of several busybodies in Command HQs, as I was to learn later. But one could not care less for such bumblebees. So it was after nearly seven or eight years that I set foot in Command House. Last time it had been for the farewell of Lt Gen S Pattabhiraman, one of the most media friendly Army Commanders who came to Chandimandir and never got a single bad word written or said about him. Forthright and truthful, he need not have feared media.

The familiar spectacle unfolded with the same military precision as has been done on countless earlier occasions. The wreath laying ceremony at War Memorial, the inspection of Guard of Honour, the Buggy Ride, the high tea at Command House. Nothing changes.

Every occupant of the Command House wants to leave his or her mark and so did Mrs Bulbul Ghosh. She has her name imprinted on the glass wall of an air conditioned gazebo behind the house overlooking the lush green lawn. This time I did not get a chance to enter the house so I cannot comment on the improvements made therein.




But the most interesting aspect of the entire affair was the media interaction with the retiring GOC-in-C, Western Command. Somewhat reluctant to give a soundbite, yet the General did make his way where we requested him to come. It was there that the latent, pent-up fear of the media in some pompous souls finally arose from the dark depths it was nestling in.

A two star General, whose name I forget now, tried to interject and give his unsought advice on what kind questions may be asked of the outgoing Army Commander or rather what sort of questions may not be asked. He was visibly unhappy when informed that the media personnel present there were professionals who need not be told how to go about their task. This again was not quite to his liking and this was reflected on the contours of his face. He again said something about doing his job ( which I am sure should not entail speaking for his Army Commander) and this time he was firmly told to mind his own business. At this stage The Army Commander also restrained him else things would have turned decidedly ugly. The Army Commander then went on to answer the questions in good humour and with confidence.

Anyway, it was an interesting interlude to an otherwise dull engagement. 'More loyal to the King than the King himself', is a syndrome which afflicts almost every profession and the Army is not the only one.

Perhaps the most telling comment of the day was made by Lt Gen SR Ghosh. Army Commanders come and go, but you from the media stay, he said. That is right General. We have seen many come and go. Some with grace and humility, some with pompousness and hauteur. Change is the only constant. And I am already looking forward to the tenure of the new Army Commander, Lt Gen Sanjeev Chhachra, from Rajput Regiment. It will be an interesting next two years or so, I am sure. And maybe we get another chance to be at the Command House when he retires !  

Saturday, May 26, 2012

SHOW CAUSE NOTICE TO COL G SRIKUMAR OF MILITARY INTELLIGENCE

Here is the Show Cause notice given to Col G Srikumar, former Commanding Officer of 3 Corps Intelligence and Surveillance Unit and now posted in a Infantry Division, which lead to the eventual award of 'Severe Displeasure' to him by the Chief of Army Staff, General VK Singh.

The officer has approached the Armed Forces Tribunal bring these documents, thus, to the public arena. It is important to note that Para 3 of the Show Cause notice is missing which is a legal infirmity. Also, the mandatory 30 days reply period, which can be cut down to 15 days in exceptional cases, has been deliberately truncated to 10 days so that Gen VK Singh could award the censure before retirement.

Interestingly, the officer was on leave and has still been held responsible for an incident which took place in his absence! Should not the officiating CO be responsible for this? How have the BGS (Ops) and the Corps Cdr been held responsible for the lapse of a Havildar or at the most, the OiC of the raid? Is it a clear case of vindictiveness or that of instant justice? You decide.




Sunday, May 20, 2012

THE SILENCE OF THE GENERALS

One is a little perturbed by the relative lack of comment by retired senior Army officers in the various publications on the Nyoma incident and the implications/fall-out it has had on the service in particular and the image of the officer cadre in particular.

Ordinarily, the Generals-turned-columnists are rapid to address any issue in the public domain which pertains to the defence forces/Army, but this time around, their silence is deafening. Is it a studied silence or is it a case of closing the ranks in view of incident which they find is too shameful to refer to? In any case, many would take refuge in the plea that "it was too early to comment", or the more common "let the inquiry finish, let the facts come out". In many other instances where they are quick to write a 2000 word article, such pleas are curiously missing, even when circumstances say they could have been circumspect.

This post on the blog is not about the incident. The details have been in the public domain for a long time now and the bare facts of the case are known to all. How it happened, why it happened and how a cover-up was launched to pass it off as as a"scuffle". Motives are being ascribed to anybody who questions the official line, but then many of us are quite used to it and it now is a great source of mirth to us.

But the silence of the intelligentsia is indeed perplexing. It goes on to show, and, to me at least, prove that the retired officers think-tank pick and choose which issue they want to raise and which they want to conveniently ignore. Issues or incidents where there is very less scope for a damage control exercise, they just side-step with an ease which would put a Gentleman cadet on drill square to shame.

It was left to just two retired officers, Lt Gen Raj Kadyan and Lt Gen RK Sawhney to take up the barrage of questions on television while the regular faces on TV remained a safe distance away. Both officers did a commendable job, needless to say, in putting forth the facts as per their perspective.

But for an average person, a layman, so to speak, the view of the 'other side of the hill' is missing in this incident which took place at Nyoma. It should be interesting to note how the military intelligentsia reacts to this and what faults it finds or what recommendations it has to make. But sadly, we are bereft of their take on the issue at hand.

Reams can be written about the age controversy of the outgoing COAS, words in their thousands can be typed out in belittlement of the media when it takes on the wrongs that afflict the military today, scorn can be heaped page after page on the politico-bureaucrat nexus which is damaging the military, but stone deaf silence prevails when it is time to do some introspection on how a section of our officer cadre in the Army is treating our jawans.

Silence is the only recourse when the situation demands that some urgent analysis and introspection be done on the shortcomings of the training system and mentoring of our officers which allow aberrations to take place in individuals who mistreat their subordinates and assault their own CO.

Make no doubt about it, this silences impinges upon the credibility of the military intelligentsia who address the issues pertaining to the military in print and electronic media. Keeping mum will not help, hunkering down will not make the problem go away. And as Vinod Mehta says in his autobiography, "Credibility is like virginity, it can only be lost once".   

Sunday, May 13, 2012

AN ARMY OFFICERS VIEW OF NYOMA INCIDENT


I received the following letter on e-mail from Col SK Aggarwal, a former JAG officer and a friend since many years. I am re-producing it verbatim so that readers of this blog get an idea as to how service officers feel about this incident. (Pic courtesy Sulekha.com)

 "The clash which took place in 226 Field Regiment in Laddakh is a very serious matter which is being downplayed by Army as usual. Senior Army Officers in command will never learn a lesson from history. Thank GOD it was not an Infantry Battlion equipped with arms and ammunition. Otherwise many dead bodies would have been lying in the field to be air lifted.

The Commanding Officer Col Prasad Kadam and the Bty Cdr behaved immaturely considering themselves to be above law. If Sahayak had misbehaved with his wife, he should have placed the soldier under arrest, reported to CO and subjected to trial. He had no right to collectively beat him. It is nothing but collective insubordination and the unit should be disbanded .

All those involved in the offences should be attached to other units out of 3 Inf Div and subjected to trial by Court Martial. It is a classic case of command failure up the channel. Court of Inquiry is an eye wash and will suppress the truth and only some soldiers will be tried and awarded punishment and case closed. Thereafter Army Chief and Commanders will forget the case. They have forgotten how four officers including CO Col Sahota were killed in 8 JAT in 1986 and the case of Mutiny in GR Bn involving Maj Kukrety. 45 Armoured Regt clashes case involving a number of officers and others has still not been taken to logical conclusion even after more than one year. It still at the stage of recording of Summary of Evidence.

Such incidents are taking place because Officers are arrogant and COs are behaving like dictators. When matter is brought to the notice of Senior Commanders, they take no action. With rise in education standard of soldiers and changing socio-economic conditions. officers training system needs to be modified.

Colonial thinking has no place in today's Army. Unless the Army Officers change their mind set and misuse of manpower is stopped at all levels, such incidents will continue to happen. The morale of soldiers is lowest today and discontentment level is very high. The incident of 226 Field Regiment should be taken seriously and the unit should be disbanded without any exception. It is a wake call to Chief of the Army Staff and Ministry of Defence. Case should be thoroughly investigated and all guilty be accounted for. Those found guilty after trial should be subjected to exemplary punishment. Discipline cannot be compromised. With this incident image of Army has nose dived for which GOC 3 INF DIV onwards are collectively responsible and accountable."
 COL SK AGGARWAL, RETD
 E-9/504/GH 79
 SECTOR-20
 PANCHKULA
 HARYANA
MOB. 09815558983

Sunday, April 1, 2012

DISBAND THE DIRECTORATE OF PUBLIC INFORMATION




The events of recent days have led me to the conclusion stated by the title of this post. The Directorate of Public Information, set up under the aegis of Army HQs in the days following the Kargil conflict, and a successor to the mysteriously named Army Liaison Cell or ALC, has shot itself in the foot...... and with a deftness that defies logic.

The Additional Director General of Public Information (ADGPI), an officer of the rank of Major General, Major General SL Narsimhan and an officer on his staff, Col Hitten Sawhney, Director Media, both, find themselves at the short end of a defamation case because of a ill-advised press release given out by the directorate blaming a retired Lt Gen of several things.

It may indeed be a case of poetic justice, this defamation case, as the directorate had just gotten into a groove of shooting out legal notices to all and sundry at the drop of a hat or writing to or meeting editors of publications/channels after certain news reports appeared not to their liking. It is another matter that seasoned defence journalists were not intimidated by such ham handed actions.

The aim of the directorate, when it was established, if I am correct, was to ensure that the Army got it's point of view across to the media and acted as single window access for all the needs of the media when it came to doing stories on the Army. It did that job admirably well till about recently when it became a handmaiden for the office of the Chief of Army Staff. The failure of this directorate lies in not realising that it represents the Army and not just the Chief of Army Staff.

As the defamation case mentioned above goes to show, the directorate over-stepped its limits. There are ways and means to achieving an end but that does not include giving out direct, unsubstantiated allegations in press releases. That is not only shocking but unprofessional.

The directorate has always been at loggerheads with the official PR set-up of the Ministry of Defence, and it may indeed be a source of amusement to them to see the ADGPI and the Director media facing a defamation suit.

The Army would be well advised to do away with this set-up, which falls under the purview of the Director General Military Intelligence, and devise another outfit which comprises of professionals who know how to deal with the media. It is high time that the Army realises that dealing with the media and media requirements of the Army is a specialised job and it is not necessary that the Corps of Military Intelligence is best suited for it. And whoever gets this task in future needs to remember that individuals are not important, the service is.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

AT WHAT COST





I really did not think there would be a day when politicians would dare to publicly demand the resignation of the Chief of Army Staff. I certainly did not ever imagine that I would see on national television, politicians openly spewing venom against a COAS and accusing him of doing politics in uniform and having a desire to fight elections.

But all this has indeed happened. Articles have been written in the media which would have been unthinkable just a few years back, openly making strong allegations against the Chief of Army Staff. And it shows no sign of ending.

What started as an age dispute at a tactical level......has finally come down to bitter hand-to-hand fighting on the street. This is no longer a theatre operation. It has all the hallmarks of a fight for every street, every house, every room. And a Chief of Army Staff should not be taking part in fighting at this level.

But unfortunately, this has happened. The Chief of Army Staff has allowed himself to fall in the classical trap of listening to the wrong kind of advice from the right kind of people. And if he imagines that this is a personal fight, then he is wrong, I'm afraid. It was never a personal fight even when he dragged the government to the Supreme Court over his date of birth. Because once you assume the office of the COAS, your persona blends into the office you hold and they become one. It is impossible to make them appear as two. No matter how much you try.

I am also of the view that the COAS has not come into this fight with clean hands. He had concealed weapons which he has used and which show that there was malafide intention when it came to the line of succession. The complaint to CBI regarding Lt Gen DS Suhag proves that. As does the late reaction to the bribe offer. You cannot remain silent and then become vocal when the time suits you. You have all the time in the world to walk into a police station to register an FIR against a journalist when he claims that you were born in 1949 but you wring your hands in despair after being made a bribe offer.

There is no point discussing the leakage of letter written to the Prime Minister since it has been discussed at all forums ad nauseum. But it is quite clear who did it and why. But let's not get into it. It may have been a clever attempt but it backfired, as have many tricks backfired during the past few months.

The political leadership has once again proven to be weak. We always knew it but it is always painful to watch it again. Decisive moves earlier in the day would have prevented things from reaching such a passe.

The repercussions of this fracas will last longer than the tenure of the present COAS. The damage is permanent. A cost the country will have to pay.


(Picture courtesy India Today)

Monday, February 27, 2012

BRIGADIER GETS A BREATHER IN CORRUPTION CASE






Brig RS Rathore must be heaving a sigh of relief. He would have been facing disciplinary proceedings by now, had it not been for a last minute intervention from someone very influential who put a stop to the matter, for the time being at least.
Let's deal with the sub. without delay, as PG Wodehouse would have said.

Brig RS Rathore is posted as the Brig (A) at HQs 14 Corps. He had been attached to HQs 41 Arty Div vide orders of the DV Directorate in February this year for facing disciplinary proceedings regarding a case related to the time when he was a Colonel. However, the orders were cancelled on February 21 and the Brig was saved from the embarrassment for now.

There are whispers in the corridors of Sena Bhavan that the reprieve for Brig Rathore came at the instance of the newly appointed Judge Advocate General (JAG), Maj Gen PS Rathore, who allegedly initiated a noting sheet saying that the case needed to be re-looked. Incidentally, Maj Gen Rathore took over on February 18, just three days before the cancellation of orders.

The matter pertains to the days when Brig RS Rathore was the Commandant of COD Dehu Road, near Pune in 2007-09. The CDA reportedly detected a scam wherein fake bills had been raised for hiring trucks for the supply of ordnance stores to units across the country. The CDA is said to have detected that the same truck was showed to be in Guwahati and in Bhuj on same day. Some say the scam was to the tune of around Rs 15 crores.

A Court of Inquiry was ordered by GOC M and G Area in 2011 and it was conducted by the Deputy GOC. The CoI reportedly found Brig Rathore and one Brig Mohan and Col Tarsem Singh, who was Deputy Commdt, blameworthy. Brig Mohan has, in the meantime, taken pre-mature retirement.

However, the entire process has come to a halt following the withdrawal of orders of attachment.

It is surprising that the Army has gone slow in this case just days after the Supreme Court made a adverse comment on how an officer was allowed to go scot-free because the Army delayed his trial till the case became time-barred. Incidentally, the present JAG was the Deputy JAG of Central Command when the case of Col Rajvir Singh, became time-barred.

Friday, January 27, 2012

YELLOW FEVER STRIKES AGAIN


This is the time of the year when distinguished service awards are doled out along with the gallantry ones. The term 'Yellow Fever' denotes the colour of the ribbons of these medals.

While the gallantry awards are more or less fair (some suspicion arose with Siachen fake killings and Ketchup Colonel scams but that is over), the distinguished service awards can make one laugh by their very predictable nature.

There was a time when the award of Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM) and Ati Vishisht Seva Medal (AVSM) was done with some degree of selectivity. Not anymore. And this is not a sudden development. It has evolved over the past two decades at least. Army Commanders and heads of services seem to have a divine right over PVSMs. Rarely does one find a Army Cdr or a head of arms/service who retires without the quintessential PVSM. Take a look at the list of awardees this year.

PARAM VISHISHT SEVA MEDAL

1. IC-25434L LT GEN SHANKAR RANJAN GHOSH, AVSM, SM, ADC, MECH INF
2. IC-25457M LT GEN VIJAY KUMAR AHLUWALIA, AVSM**, YSM, VSM, ADC, ARTY
3. IC-25538M LT GEN RABINDRAN KRISHNA SWAMY, UYSM, AVSM, VSM, INF (RETIRED)
4. IC-25544A LT GEN VINOD NAYANAR, AVSM, ARTY
5. IC-25808W LT GEN DUSHYANT SINGH CHAUHAN, AVSM, ARMD (RETIRED)
6. IC-25812Y LT GEN SUBRAMANIAN RAVI SHANKAR, VSM, ENGRS
7. IC-25815M LT GEN GURDEEP SINGH, AVSM, VSM, ARTY
8. IC-25816P LT GEN BIKRAM SINGH, UYSM, AVSM, SM, VSM, ADC, INF
9. IC-25833P LT GEN GOVINDA MOHAN NAIR, AVSM, SM, VSM, INF
10. IC-25901X LT GEN KAIWALAYA TRIVIKRAM PARNAIK, UYSM, YSM, INF
11. IC-27038N LT GEN ANAND MOHAN VERMA, AVSM, SM, VSM, INF (RETIRED)
12. IC-27203N LT GEN SHRI KRISHNA SINGH, UYSM, AVSM, INF
13. IC-27215H LT GEN NAND KISHORE SINGH, UYSM, AVSM, VSM, INF
14. IC-27258X LT GEN RAJINDER SINGH, UYSM, SM, MECH INF
15. IC-27606N LT GEN AJAY KUMAR SINGH, AVSM, SM, VSM, ADC, ARMD
16. IC-27616X LT GEN KONGARA SURENDRA NATH, AVSM, VSM, MECH INF
17. IC-27679A LT GEN NARESH CHANDRA MARWAH, AVSM, INF
18. MR-03301P LT GEN GOPALA KRISHNAN RAMDAS, SM, VSM, PHS, AMC
19. MR-03449N LT GEN KUNWAR KARNI SINGH, SM, VSM, AMC, AH (R&R)

Look at the number of Army Commanders and equivalents. It's not that I am targetting these awardees. They may well be deserving. What I am driving at is the bigger ill. Is it mandatory for Army Commanders and heads or arms/services to be awarded PVSMs?

It is quite obvious that they have had a distinguished service, which is why they have achieved that appointment in the first place. Just holding that appointment and completing their tenure should not be a reason for them to be doled out PVSMs. They must show what extraordinary achievement they have had for them to be awarded or the awarding authority must show reason why they have been awarded that decoration at this stage of their career.
The same goes for the AVSMs also. Take a look at the list:

BAR TO ATI VISHISHT SEVA MEDAL

1. IC-25141A LT GEN DEEPAK RAJ, AVSM, SM, MECH INF (RETIRED)
2. IC-27264L LT GEN AVINASH CHANDER SONEJA, AVSM, VSM**, INF
3. IC-27793X LT GEN JATINDER SINGH, AVSM, SM, INF, NDA, KHADAKWASLA
4. IC-27990A LT GEN MUNISH SIBAL, AVSM, INF
5. IC-30137F LT GEN SUKHRAJ PAL KOCHHAR, AVSM, SM, VSM, SIGS
6. IC-30503A LT GEN JAI PRAKASH NEHRA, AVSM, INF

ATI VISHISHT SEVA MEDAL

1. IC-27290M LT GEN RAMESH HALGALI, SM, INF
2. IC-27352F LT GEN MANJINDER SINGH BUTTAR, VSM, ARTY
3. IC-27767W LT GEN PRADEEP BHALLA, VSM, ADC, AOC
4. IC-27942A LT GEN NARENDRA BAHADUR SINGH, VSM, EME
5. IC-30089M LT GEN NARENDRA SINGH, SM, VSM, INF
6. IC-30118W LT GEN ANJAN MUKHERJEE, ARTY
7. IC-30342H LT GEN ABHIJIT GUHA, ARTY
8. IC-30392N LT GEN RAVIKIRAN PRABHAKAR DASTANE, VSM, ARTY
9. IC-30482P LT GEN VINOD BHATIA, SM, INF
10. IC-30507W LT GEN SANJEEV CHOPRA, SM, INF
11. IC-30683N LT GEN RAMESHWAR YADAV, VSM, INF
12. IC-30722F LT GEN VIJAI SHARMA, ENGRS
13. IC-30783Y LT GEN ANIL MALHOTRA, ASC
14. IC-31327A LT GEN RANBIR SINGH, SM, INF
15. IC-33914K LT GEN VIJAY KUMAR PILLAI, SM, INF
16. IC-31638N MAJ GEN OM PRAKASH, SM, INF
17. IC-34356A MAJ GEN NAVKIRAN SINGH GHEI
18. IC-34392L MAJ GEN GURMIT SINGH, VSM, INF
19. IC-34402K MAJ GEN GHANSHYAM SINGH KATOCH, VSM, INF
20. IC-34424H MAJ GEN SUNIL KUMAR GADEOCK, INF
21. IC-34454A MAJ GEN GURDEEP SINGH, INF
22. IC-34600P MAJ GEN SAMIR KUMAR CHAKRAVORTY, SC, SM**, INF
23. IC-34605N MAJ GEN RAKESH SHARMA, VSM, INF
24. IC-34775X MAJ GEN RAVINDRA VASANTRAO THODGE, SM, VSM, INF
25. IC-34890X MAJ GEN SRINIVASAN LAKSHMI NARASIMHAN, VSM, INF
26. IC-35789K MAJ GEN RANJIT SINGH, VSM, AEC

The point here again is not to judge these officers listed above but to question the system of awards. Here again AVSMs seems to be the exclusive preserve of the flag rank. And this while countless deserving officers are fobbed off with COAS or VCOAS or GOC-in-C Commendation cards.

It was not so always. I know of instances where JCOs and ORs have been awarded AVSMs at least for exemplary services. But those days are gone.

I am sure there would be many within the defence services who would like more transparency when it comes to handing out the distinguished service awards. I am not even delving in the issue of Sena Medal (Distinguished Service), an award which did not exist till a few years ago. That itself is a separate topic of discussion. And the Yudh Seva Medal Series too.

The govt must not allow these awards of the defence services to fall into the same category as the Police Medals and Padma Awards series which command little respect in the society at large because of the politicking which goes with them.

A medal which a soldier wears is looked at with respect by the average citizen.

It must be earned......not doled out.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

NEXT ARMY JAG LANDS IN PROMOTION MESS



Even as the war for succession for the next Chief of Army Staff is still on, the Army's Judge Advocate General (JAG) branch has landed in a controversy over the next Judge Advocate General. The present JAG retires on January 31 but the one anointed to be the successor may not be able to take over because of a stay on his promotion by Kolkata bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT).

Brig PS Rathore, currently serving as Deputy Judge Advocate General (DJAG) in South Western Command in Jaipur has been approved for the rank of Major General. But a petition against him is pending in the Kolkata AFT which had last month put a stay on his promotion. That stay order has not been vacated as yet. On top of that, the petitioner against Brig Rathore, Lt Col Mukul Dev, has filed a contempt application in the Kolkata AFT seeking action against the Army authorities for de-classifying Brig Rathore's promotion board result inspite of the stay order of the AFT.

The genesis of this mess lies some years back when Brig Rathore was serving as DJAG Central Command in Lucknow and Lt Col Dev was posted there as AJAG. To cut the story short, things were not good between them as one thing led to another, Lt Col Dev was shifted to a non-criteria appointment, a Part-II order was issued when, perhaps, it should not have been, and as a result of all this brouhaha a Court of Inquiry was ordered.

The CoI found several officers blameworthy, including Lt Col Dev and Brig Rathore. However, inexplicably, while Lt Col Dev got 'Severe Displeasure' from the Army Cdr, Brig Rathore did not get any punishment.

Lt Col Dev's promotion prospects got affected because he had not been adequately exercised when he had been moved away from the appointment of AJAG and then, of course, because of the punishment.
Consequently, he moved the AFT which passed the orders which have been enunciated above.

One would expect the JAG officers serving at senior appointments to be well-versed with the law so that such situations do not arise. But apparently, all is not well in the JAG Branch.

The JAG is also the principal legal advisor to the Army Chief. And with the present one retiring, the new one will not be at hand to help the Chief in any legal imbroglio of the organisation. Something for the Army Chief to chew on while he fights a personal legal battle over his date of birth.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

GO HOME, THEN GO TO COURT




Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major (retd), had a word of advise for General VK Singh, Chief of Army Staff, the other day. Speaking to a newspaper over phone from Bangalore, the former air chief said he was of the view that the General would be better off if he took off his uniform before taking on the government in court over his age issue.

While no one can deny that as an individual, Gen VK Singh has the right to every legal recourse available to him, the fact remains that for a man in uniform who is at the apex office of his organisation, rights can often get limited. Not because of law, but because of tradition and a sense of honour or 'izzat', which the General himself has evoked in his confrontation with the establishment over the age issue.

It is already looking pretty bad with the Army Chief having filed a statutory complaint over the controversy. And it will look worse if he goes to court in uniform. And while the General may say this is all about 'izzat' and 'integrity', the fact remains he will have much more of both if he does this while out of uniform.

Enough has been written ad nauseum over how the disparity over the age came up so we can skip getting into that because everything is well documented. No one can deny that the disparity should have been corrected many, many years back. But now the issue is of the COAS taking on the government over this alleged anomaly.

For many years we, who have been associated with the defence services in one way or the other, have laughed at the feeble attempts of those in the IAS or the IPS to 'correct' their age while at the fag end of their careers or when they have reached the top. To see the COAS do the same is painful to say the least. irrespective of the merits of the case, it still looks suspiciously as if he is trying to get extra mileage. He has said categorically, he is not doing so, but public perception is fickle, sadly.

The government too should try to look at the situation from the General's point of view. Being pig-headed will not do anybody any good. This should not degenerate into a slugfest. The Army is the last bastion of integrity in this country, and if it falls, all will fall.

And all those politicians who are jumping in to help Gen VK Singh do not understand that they are doing more harm then good. Capt Amarinder Singh's letter should also be seen in this context, though he may have written it with all the feelings of an ex-Army Officer. And the fact that he had to issue a clarification that he wrote it in his personal capacity, shows that his intentions were taken amiss by the 'party high command'. And I am attaching a copy of his letter, which is doing the rounds in the media, to show that it was written on the letterhead of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee. So much for "personal capacity".

Air Chief Marshal Fali Major may indeed have a point. If convictions are strong enough then perhaps the right thing to do may be to quit and then fight the good fight.