Monday, January 16, 2012

Is the General willy-nilly dragging the office of COAS to the streets?

Just after the army day celebrations on 15 January 2012 - the Indian Army chief has done a commando action by filing a writ petition questioning the government's decision to treat his date of birth as May 10, 1950 instead of May 10, 1951 as claimed by him on the basis of his matriculation certificate and other documents.

What is the chief trying to achieve through this open display of defiance? The general is flogging a dead horse – the discrepancy in his age did not hold any of his promotions, the government even overlooked it when Gen VK Singh was to become a four star general, the highest that an officer can achieve in his career. Nobody in the army ever raised the issue of him being a ‘fraudulent entry’ on the basis of wrong declaration of age in his NDA entry form. Then, why is Gen VK Singh bent upon following a dangerous course of action?

Is he aware of the fact that his action may help him “restore his honour” but in the process destroy  the basic tenets of the civil-military edifice in the country.What happens if the government sacks Gen VK Singh for defiance? And if this action of the government eventually leads to mass scale discontent in the country, let alone in the army, it may even lead to a regime change in the country! Willy nilly the office of the chief of Indian Army will then be involved in the political change in the country. If such a scenario was to play out on the national stage – it will mark the death of the apolitical character of the armed forces.

And what happens if the chief’s claims about his age are proved wrong? There are sources that state that the Army chief also appeared for the 35th course NDA examination- which he could have done only if his date of birth was 1950, incidentally the same date appears in his NDA entrance form for the 36th course that he actually took admission into. Obviously this is the origin of the age row.

The final question is moral- if the chief would have raised the issue of resolution of his age row at the time of his appointment as corps commander or the COAS - he would have put his own benefits at stake. That would have been honour indeed. But Gen VK Singh backed out then.

In his defence, terms being used are “duress” and “emotional blackmail” to justify his acceptance of 1950 as his date of birth. Do these terms allude to qualities befitting a soldier who the nation can trust for fighting the enemy? The line of succession argument offered by some is flimsy, since all officers at the highest level choose the best out of those who are equally deserving. Of course it is every chiefs prerogative to influence the line of succession and there is nothing unusual if Gen JJ Singh in his wisdom did so. In fact senior officers always influence the promotion of officer’s right from the rank of Cols when the pyramid becomes steep. Gen VK Singh has instead chosen the time to challenge the government at a time when it is going to affect him the least - and his juniors the most.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Excellent analysis, but you are presuming a lot of things like series of defiance, affect on juniors and ultimately regime change. And, what is that "fraudulent entry"? I myself never filled up any form till graduation (out of fear of rejection) and, at times, i found even my name spelled differently. This is what really happens in most parts of the country. And even if you point out that to people, they have this attitude of taking things easy. For example, in Delhi, people are not even able to pronouce "Satyendra", they pronouce it as "Satender"! What would you do to these people? They even type this name in important documents and when pointed out, they say nothing is going to happen. What would you do? You keep arguing with people but they will not change. Army being a disciplined institution, an officer will never argue with anyone except for matters most important for the country. So, there are things which happens beyond "professional" system.

    About affect on promotion of juniors, he has nothing against Vikram Singh. In fact, in his petition in the Court, he has promised that he intends to retire on date fixed by the government. Then, how is procedure of promotion going to be affected?

    We should realize that Armymen are groomed in different environment. In normal circumstances, people don't even look at the murder taking place before their eyes, on the other hand, armymen go all-out to kill enemy. What is that psychology? Is it mere professional compulsion? No, it is not. It is their ego that swells when they encounter an enemy. Same ego of General Singh has surfaced against a politician heading the ministry. He waited for six long months before filing a petition. Now, govt is giving a weird argument that NSA and others were looking into the matter! It is hillarious argument.

    So, in my opinion, Gen. Singh has done nothing wrong. It is the politician sitting in the mind of otherwise 'considerate' Antony that has created mess out of nothing.

  3. Dear Atul,
    Here the DOB is really a red herring to say the least. Why should the govt. be so rigid when it comes to an appeal by COAS, no less, not to effect a change in DOB of COAS on the basis of factual/true documentary evidence? Gen.V.K.Singh is a govt.choice to begin with. When the govt. can have him for two years, there is no reason not to have him for three years as well unless there are extraneous reasons for the same or some changed circumstances. They can choose to come out with reasons in public/court. Instead all types of explanations irrelevant to the case is offered- in this instance by Pallam Raju the minister of state, Defence.
    In the dramatic best-selling memoir Woodward and Bernstein published in 1974, "All the President's Men", when the authors confront the mystique informer ‘Deep Throat’ in a sequence to seek the source of bugging in Watergate, he had one, now famous, answer: “ follow the money”.
    Here too, I’m tempted to follow the above advice. Money is the key.
    In the article published in purple berets, I had mentioned that contrary to the real world functioning as we see; it is in fact controlled by 200 odd rich people of the world. That is likely to be true in the case of present row of DOB of COAS.
    Consider the following scenario:
    1. The arm merchants have to push a big deal to Indian Army. The big commissions to congress party (read Gandhi family), ministers’ bureaucrats, lobbyists, sundry brokers are held up because of one VK Singh.
    2. The next likely successor has already been/likely to be compromised but he has to take over to do the needful job.
    3. The arms merchants have given their ultimatum to congress bosses who do not want to miss out the funds badly needed for election. Further head of states of the sellers are also putting pressure to avoid unemployment in their country and improve their fiscal deficit.
    4. COAS has not acquiesced since he has already taken a stand to remove corruption in the army.
    In the final analysis the arms merchants will now try to buy out the judiciary and COAS will lose the case. Further, thereupon, on the grounds of lack of mutual confidence in each other he will be relieved of his command under Army Rule.
    PS.Finally where is the ""satyamev Jayate" disappeared"? It is still on the Ashoka emblem & all the court premises and will be certainly hovering over the judge's head when he gives the judgement of this case!
    Mohan Iyer