Sunday, 13 May 2012


In Part One, I had brought out the extent, ramifications and fangs of the cancerous rot in the army and its dangers to Indian nation. In this part, I would highlight its dimensions and manifestations with emphasis on how and when the rot started.

"----------Indian army functions in 'NO WAR-NO PEACE' environs-----No war for the Generals and No Peace for the Soldiers-----Generals have enough time to indulge in merry -making and Soldiers have No time to attend to their basic needs. Soldiers are getting frustrated and Generals are getting compensated for their inaction. Army is today commanded by Contractors, Arms dealers and manipulative bureaucrats---Generals have abdicated Generalship to them-----We sure have a rising storm of corruption--------"---------- My answer to a collegue during our discussion on "What ails the Indian Army", some 15 years back.

Let me, at the outset only, clarify that corruption in the army, as anywhere else, is incurable and cancerous because of a wrong treatment to eradicate it. Corruption is sustained because of its 'Top-Down' growth but 'Bottom-Top' approach to treat it. Unless one batters the head of a snake, it won't be killed; so is corruption. For too long, army had been sweeping under the carpet the misdeeds of her GENERALS. It is this serpentine head which General VK Singh had set upon to severe and hammer down, little realising that its head had a protective shield of its snake-charmer's box and its poisonous fangs were too strong for his guarded strike.

Many years back, almost 30 years, I had read CRISIS IN COMMAND by Richard Gabriel and Paul Savage, profiling the US army after Vietnam fiasco. The duo had identified the ills that had afflicted US army,then. I am constrained to point out that Indian army today is in the same boat, though the scenario might be different. All the votaries of HOLY COW image of ARMY or 'OUR GLORIOUS ARMY' must get out of their enchanted slumber and stem the rot.

It is truism that no subordinate can resort to corruption unless the boss was himself corrupt. We hear of cases in the civil walk of life where regular shares of 'hush- money' are distributed from top to bottom. Similarly, corruption has been institutionalized in the army and it runs exactly on the same pattern as in the civil walk of life. All the threads of this institutionalized corruption lead to Generalship of Indian Army. It varies from sale of liquor and CSD stores to foreign postings, courses and promotions. It is sad but true that Generals of the Indian army now-a-days face court martial and disciplinary action as never before.

Let it be absolutely clear to us that GENERALSHIP of the Indian army was no more an edifice of sanctity. Therefore, as ‘Generalship’ has gone astray, corruption has become a revered phenomenon in our so called ‘Glorious Army.’ There is no point ordering court martial of NCOs, JCOs, Majors and Colonels for acts of omission and commission. Army suffers from the ‘Top-down’ effect of this phenomenon. It is due to this that our army’s name has been muddied and we have lost credibility in the civil street. Yes, the ‘Generalship’ of the Indian army has lost its moorings of moral ascendency over their subordinates, thus loosening its own grip over the rank and file of the army. The ‘Generalship’ is disoriented and self centered. How else do you expect them to get involved in selling truck loads of canteen stores and liquor? How else do you see them hobnobbing with contractors and businessmen?

'Tehlka- expose' provided a glimpse of the rut that had set in the army. But no corrective actions were taken. The trouble with army’s remedial therapy is its lopsided focus. Instead of eradication of the disease, it lays emphasis on the treatment of a patient. How could it be possible when those who have to take action are themselves not worthy of holding such high ranks? The corruption in the higher ranks is deep and all pervasive. And every time a case is highlighted, there is an attempt to sweep the case under the carpet by allowing GENERALS to retire.It is this tendency to dither and sweep cases of corruption by very senior officers under the carpet that honesty has become a rare virtue in the army.

Some years back a Director General of Ordnance Services (DGOS) at Army HQ was accused of unfair practices in allocating ordnance contracts but he was allowed to retire quietly without any major action. Some time back, two Lieutenant Generals were easily let off for their doubtful roles in procuring rations supply for the army. A Major General recently was accused of disposing off truck loads of liquor in the civil market. Another senior officer, Major General AK Kapoor, as reported by the Magazine WEEK , has been accused of accumulating assets worth crores of rupees, while his family assets at the time of commission were just Rs 41000/-. It is investigations on him by CBI which led to Sukhna Land scam. List is endless; I have only highlighted some very recent cases. There is a general impression that inquiries are ordered only to sidetrack the main issue and save these officers. In the name of investigation and inquiry, law is allowed to take its own course, simply asking every one to go to sleep. It is this kind of sheltering at the highest level which has institutionalized corruption in the army.

The result of this institutionalized corruption is that people scratch each other's back and thus are protected and sheltered. As a result of this, corruption in the army goes on unabated and keeps spreading its fangs unchecked. We have different models of corruption from 'Ketch-Up Colonels' to 'Booze Brigadiers' through "Chicken Generals'. It is because of this philosophy of security amongst senior officers that a Major General had no moral compulsion to stop him from disposing off openly truck loads of liquor. The fact is most of the higher ranks in the army today are swamped by Generals and Brigadiers with questionable moralities. If there are some exceptions, they just confirm this rule.

The system of growth and promotion in the army has become such a rule that it follows a principle: IF YOU DO NOT TOE THE LINE, YOU ARE NOT GOING TO SHINE. The result is that those who dare to stand up against corruption are just shunned and shunted. Those of you who dismiss these cases of corruption as media creation and feeling that incidents have been blown out of proportions, are sadly mistaken. We all know there can be no smoke without fire and it is small drops that make an ocean. This is what has been happening over the years. More you ignore the minor cases, bigger becomes the scandal. Therefore, let us not be emotionally charged to overlook the acts of omission and commission by top leadership because it affects their moral authority. Once you lose the moral authority by such acts you can not check your subordinates who would indulge in such acts.

Have you people ever heard of Gresham's Law of Economics? It states unless managers of money keep a tight leash over it, BAD MONEY DOES DRIVE OUT THE GOOD MONEY. And result is the black money which controls the money market and makes an adverse impact over nation's economy. Apply this law to a hierarchical organization like army and you would notice that slowly and steadily, BAD LEADERS COULD DRIVE OUT GOOD LEADERS. The question now arises if it has happened in the case of Indian army? I don't know; I can not say. I can only do a reality check.

Military Engineering Services (MES), Defence Estate Department, Military Diary Farms, Army supply corps (ASC), Army ordnance Corps (AOC) and Medical Services have become notorious today for rampant corruption in them on account of award of contracts for construction or fresh rations or even local purchases of vehicular parts or medicines. Young officers learn wrong things in these arms and services and the vicious circle gets enlarged. The corruption is so institutionalized and organized that “honest shares” float up and down the chain of command and one can not catch anyone. The rules are bent very cleverly and intelligently. In most cases office of CDA (Central Defence Accounts) actively cooperates in this.

Army HQ is no less. Procurement of arms and equipment from foreign countries is already under question. One can quote ‘Bofors case’ or ‘Kargil Coffins’ case. Add to it now the case of Tatra-Vectra Vehicles. It must also be clear that quality of the equipment and weapon system is not being questioned but the procurement procedures which leads to extensive costs, not susttained in the open market price.

Almost all directorates at Army HQ deal in procurement of defence material. They deal with foreigners who throw baits. The junior officers do get lured if their senior officers were corrupt. Tehlka had highlighted this. It is rumored that MS branch has become notorious for granting return favors in lieu of cash and kind services provided by vested officers. It is alleged that foreign postings, transfers, promotions and prestigious courses all carry a rate. The case of Lieutenant General PK Rath, erstwhile corps Commander at Sukhna, provides a curious testimony to this.

You find officers who did not even have money to purchase a conveyance as a junior officer, suddenly becoming owners of palatial houses after becoming a Brigadier or Major General. Army personnel are openly deployed in the construction of the houses of these Generals and Brigadiers. Pliable chief engineers of MES/Engineer Corps provide all the necessary assistance. I am afraid most of the retired senior officers must share the blame because they too had indulged in such practices whether they were brigadiers, divisional, corps or army commanders or even as Chief. Some of them suddenly became owners of the property they could not have dreamt as young officers.

Senior officers have different rules for self and others. The light vehicles authorized at a formation HQ are generally earmarked for personal use of the Commanders as number one, two, three, four and so on. You will find generally the dividing line of institutionalized corruption is between the rank of Colonel and Brigadier. Double standards suddenly come to the fore. As Col Q works at a Command HQ, I know the case of a Vice Chief in 95-97 who begged director Lands, an IAS officer or a favor to retain his official accommodation beyond 90 days. Mercifully she only partially granted him the favor and mocked at him when he left her office.

As Colonel Administration of an infantry division, I had dug out a land scam case at Amritsar. It involved 5000 acres of land. It was a much bigger scandal than the SUKHNA Lake. The scam was so cleverly institutionalized that land was divided between Units and formations for cultivation. No one was supposed to give this land on CONTRACT for Cultivation. They were supposed to cultivate with troop labor and deposit 25% of the income in government treasury. But all of them flouted government rules for years.

Land used to be contracted to civilians and a board of officers was detailed to prepare fake proceedings to legalize as unit troop labor. These board proceedings, invariably used to be zero sum game for income and expenditure , while rate of contract used to be anything between Rs 3000/acre to 5000/acre per annum. The land allotted to units and formation by Division HQ varied between 100 to 200 acres. The court of Inquiry had raised pointing fingers towards many senior officers of the formation but ultimately the hammer fell only on CO ASC Battalion, while other s got scot free.

The point, I wish to make is about the methodology adopted by army to cover up its senior officers. As a consequence of this, I came into bad books and had to pay the price of a sealed career, despite promises of a competitive performance. No regret though, when I look at the way GENERALSHIP has earned a bad name. Least I can say that i did not expect two of my known friends to be involved in Sukhna Land scam case. But time and environments do take its toll and this is what might have happened to these two friends.

I saw the war as a very young officer. I have seen a bundle of lies being converted into heroic deeds. In fact, 1971 war must be seen as a start point in the down-slide of Indian army’s professionalism (Read ‘Top Brass by Brig HS Sodhi). And I can confidently say it was the starting point of ‘Ornamental Commanders’ who later multiplied in a geometrical progression and today rule the roost in the Indian army.

1971 Bangla Desh war introduced an era of ‘Ornamental Commanders’ in the Indian Army, first as a trickle through seventies then came a deluge in the late eighties and early nineties when militancy broke out in Punjab and J&K. Glamorized uniforms with flashy accoutrements and bawdy attachments became the order of the day. Host of gallantry awards were created to satisfy the hunger of all and sundry. Not only this, awards for the units were also devised. Thus decorated persons in the army began to multiply. Militancy in Punjab and J&K during this period proved a boon for the aspirants of gallantry awards. ‘Ornamental Commanders’ thus appeared on the scene.

There is a race for gallantry awards in the army, both by hook and crook. And they are awarded liberally. It is a clever ploy by units and formations to hide their misdeeds and shortcomings. It keeps the potential whistle blowers happy and amused, while Commanders have a rollicking time in merry-making and money-making. Behind the razzle-dazzle of most of the decorated chests, today lies the story of fiction unimagined. The craze for them has been institutionalized by the army in her daily situation reports (called SIT REPPS) in the valley.

One has to glance through one of the SIT REPS ( Situation Reports) to understand the theme. Army HQ has further strengthened the initiation of malpractice for gallantry awards by seeking proof of valor in the form of media reports, SIT REPS and video clips being attached with the citations. Most of the citations for the awards are exaggerated facts transformed into fictionalized truth.

Most often, genuine cases are overshadowed by fictional acts of gallantry. May be 5-10 percent cases are genuine but one can not distinguish as the dividing lines have blurred beyond recognition. Thus, army is churning out fake heroes, day in and day out. Awards are also gateway pass to higher ranks. It is these sorts of ‘Heroes’ who rapidly rise the ladder of hierarchy in the army.

Consequently, higher ranks today are swarming with ‘Ornamental Commanders’. Today, they crowd the top echelons of the army. ‘As one sows, so one shall reap’, goes the saying. And reap we do in the form of ‘spineless wonders’, who crawl when asked to bend by unethical bosses. The Governments of the day are party to such a rut in the army. During Kargil-99 and Mumbai 26/11 gallantry awards were distributed as if one is distributing sweets.

Awards are also gateway pass to higher ranks. It is these sorts of ‘Heroes’ who rapidly rise the ladder of hierarchy in the army. Consequently, higher ranks today are swarming with ‘Ornamental Commanders’. They crowd the top echelons of the army. It is a shame that a Chief of army staff (COAS) becomes a LMC (low medical category) for ‘hearing impaired’, just two motnths before his retirement. Sure, this impaired hearing must have been for a long time and the ear-drums might not have been damaged during his tenure as COAS. He might be legally right but was his action morally correct? How can such a COAS tick off his Military Secretary indulging in practices considered inappropriate?

How come Lieutenant Generals, commanding Corps and Command HQs, be judicious in their dispensation of justice if they themselves are found wanting in the very values they are entrusted to protect? Indian army suffers from ‘top-down’ effect of corruption. But, invariably, the approach to tackle is from the bottom. Thus, ‘big fish’ goes scot free, while small fish is netted and butchered. ‘As one sows, so one shall reap’, goes the saying. And reap we do, in the form of ‘spineless wonders’, who crawl, when asked to bend by unethical bosses. Accordingly, they are the benchmark of the conduct of the army. They are the people who led India into Kargil-99.

Their ethos and value system left much to be desired. By the year 1999, they had fully taken control of the Indian army. Its manifestations are Kargil-99, ‘Tehleka-Exposures’, ‘Ketch-Up Colonels’, ‘Booze Brigadiers’ and ‘Fake Siachen Encounters’. It was in the wake of tall claims of false victories in 1971 war that the trend had begun and such officers became instant heroes. Most of these officers became ‘Generals’ in later years. Slowly and steadily, their clan multiplied and by mid-eighties they were holding the key appointments in the army. I saw some of them as a young officer and faced them. They were self-centered, morally-bankrupt and professionally incompetent officers.

It is truism the dead do not speak but it is equally true of those who get killed or injured during unrecognized military ventures launched by their ambitious superiors that their records also do not speak. To my mind, come immediately the unsung and unknown dead soldiers of 4 MAHAR and 9 SIKH of Kayian Bowl Operation (Lipa Valley-J&K) of May1972. The ‘Lipa Valley/ Kaiyan Bowl’ fiasco of May 1972 was the outcome of the exaggerated boasts of these commanders that 4 MAHAR and 9 SIKH battalions suffered unwanted casualties of an undeclared war. Their sacrifices went unheard, uncared and unsung. I don’t think that the brave soul of Major Partap Singh Ganguli of 4 MAHAR would ever re-incarnate in flesh and blood to blare out the truth.

This happened because 1971 war led to the emergence of an officer corps who was infatuated to personal glory, higher status and unlimited personal comforts at the cost of butchered soldiers. It is their glamour world which matters: please forget about famous quote of General Chetwode, displayed in the Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun.

Today, the very first day a young officer joins the unit after training at IMA, all military ethos and moralities get knocked out when he sees every thing happening in an opposite way. These are the kind of officers who rise and become Generals in the army. This is the class of people who are the architects of Kargil-99. Till Kargil happened, Major General VS Budhwar and Brigadier Surinder Singh were the brightest sparks of the army, with both having foreign posting stints under their belts? Both were computer selected to carry out the toughest jobs. But while these two came under the scanner and became object of ridicule by the media, there were multitudes of people like them who got away.

In December 1971, I was with my battalion in Tangdhar sector (Near Chowkiwal) of North Kashmir. Our brigade had four battalions, three deployed in Tithwal-Tangdhar bowl and fourth in Nowgam Sector. If one considers the gains made in this sector in 1971 vis-à-vis the losses in terms of trained manpower and liabilities heaved upon the nation, one will find disgraceful and intolerable conduct had been fictionalized into a saga of glory and fame. By all accounts, it was a negative venture.

I can write a book on the personal conduct of these officers but military ethics prohibit me from doing so. I will only draw attention to those deplorable facts which helped them climb the hierarchal ladder. One can say today, after having matured in matters military in over three and half decades that the only purpose of these ventures was to seek glory and self-projection of the commanders. In no way, the territorial gains, made after senseless loss of lives of soldiers, contributed towards the local, regional and national objectives.

The causalities suffered by the Infantry battalions of my Brigade were not commensurate with the gains made. The brigade commander was an officer from the Corps of Engineers. He later retired as Quarter Master General (QMG) of the Indian Army. I had the opportunity to serve under him again in Tenga Valley (Arunachal Pradesh), where he commanded a mountain division. It was a sad thing to see him in that rank, after all the fiasco he created as a brigade commander, both during and after the war. But he had an ambitious divisional commander as his boss and four most pliable battalion commanders who were prepared to get their men slaughtered on ill-conceived, ill- planned and ill-executed military operations.

I know , the most pertinent question, now on everyone's lips would be if the situation can be retrieved? My answer would be to remain hopeful as my FTI Colleague Mr.Sanjeev used to say that we need to get highly qualified 1500 Leaders strategically for this nation and for detail visit You never know when the lord of truth, victory and honesty decides to strike and regain the lost glory and we must believe that every thing is in our hands,so that we can do it.

Best Regards,

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