Army’s ‘Chief’ Agonies

By Supriya Jha | Last Updated: Thursday, March 29, 2012 - 16:15
Supriya Jha
Crystal Clear

What would you do to lay your hands on 14 crore rupees!

“Almost anything”, would perhaps be the answer most of you would go with.

And if you happen to hold a powerful rank, fortunately or unfortunately, the shortest route would surely be under-the-table. The easiest part being that you don't even need to hunt for it, the moolah would be waiting for you at each turn, wrapped in the cloak of a deal, contract, scheme, funds etc. The big bucks will all be yours – you just have to assassinate the Gandhi within you! In simple words, you have to let go of any urge to follow the honest inner voice within, if you have any. This may sound completely wrong to you in theory, but honestly and practically, it's so damn general.

Unlike zoological dissections that seemed easier to me in theory than the act of actually running scissors through the fleshy thigh of a half dead frog, smarting in pain; the science of bribery is just the opposite to it. In theory, it’s completely criminal. Every government servant, from a mere sepoy in the Army to a cabinet minister, is made to take an oath of honesty and sincerity towards the job. But in practice, you don’t have to be an Einstein to know, what the ground reality is.

The recent furore generated by the Army Chief VK Singh’s claims of him being offered a bribe of 14 crores for a deal by a retired Lt Gen, speaks volumes about the enormity of this malaise called corruption. It’s not that we were not so corrupt before, but surely we were never so comfortable with the idea of giving and getting bribes. This is evident from the way Lt General Tejinder Singh reportedly reasoned with the Army Chief in the process of convincing him for the crores.

“He said, everybody takes it, what is your problem”, this is what the Chief was quoted as saying.

The saga of 14-cr bribe took no time to stir up a hornet’s nest and what followed was a flurry of allegations and counter-allegations flying thick between the Chief of Army Staff and Defence Ministry. Then came a list of what each should have done at that time. Instead of what should have been a war against corruption, the battle is being fought within.

What is being discussed is who was more wrong, VK Singh as that Army Chief who took one year to realise that he had been made a corrupt offer or the Defence Minister AK Antony, who reportedly held his head in his hands on hearing about it but did precious little saying that such people (who offer bribes) should be kept away from the Army. The dust hadn’t yet settled over the bribe row that another war ensued between the COAS and the govt with the Army Chief’s ‘top-secret’ letter out in the open with its acerbic contents on the country’s security. The letter sent to the PM on March 12 contains some shocking facts about our defence preparedness that are surely going to exhilarate our neighbours. You can be 100 % sure of elaborate ‘Dragon games’ being planned on our borders, when the Army Chief himself is reporting that 97 % of our air defence is obsolete and that our tanks are starving in need of ammunitions and that our elite forces are without enough weapons. And very ironically, this is the plight of a nation that has emerged as the world’s largest arms importer. It obviously points at an outdated and malfunctioning procurement process. It reminds me of the case of foodgrains that we produce in plenty and yet tons and tons of grains keep rotting in the open in the absence of sufficient storage techniques leaving millions starving! India definitely is a country of abundance, but its people in general live a life of scarcities. We spend a lot, but nothing seems to be yielding results. For example, the defence budget for this fiscal was pegged at a whopping 1.93 lakh crores, a hike of more than 17 %. But again, where are the results?

Well, coming back to Army chief’s sensational letter that exposed huge lacunae in India’s armour, what one misses is that the letter was sent on March 12, just 4 days before March 16, when Pranab da presented the annual budget. May be, the letter was written with an intention to fetch a hike in the funds for the modernisation of Army. So, all the presumptions about the letter being one of the revenge techniques by the Army Chief against the govt hold no ground. Yes, the timing of the leak does look dubious and many may suspect the Army Chief of leaking it to strengthen his side, which is a very serious matter and deserves a thorough probe. Now, the point to be noted is that, if a deal of 600 ‘substandard’ vehicles can fetch the Army Chief 14 crores, then there may be similar enticing offers for others for leaking ‘top-secrets’ to media and who knows, to enemies too! This is where we need to divert all our energies and focus – to weed out the traitors within. As Cicero said, “A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself.”

I being personally fond of the Armed Forces, of its decorum and decoration, of its heroism, desperately want it to steer clear of all such awful controversies and taints and get back to its clean and fierce form! Instead of being lost and trapped in the ongoing fracas over the letter leak and the bribe offer, what we need is to raise our alertness and watch out for the enemies within and outside. There may be hundreds of more such stunning pieces of news in the making; it’s time to avert them.

Not to forget, we are in the process of finalising a deal with Dassault Aviation of France, to get 126 Rafale fighter jets for USD12 billion. The government and the Armed Forces better be on the alert.

Because you know the enemies are watching!

First Published: Thursday, March 29, 2012 - 16:15

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