Friday, May 28, 2010


The ghost of Kargil is not going to go away. At least not until all those, who have escaped and evaded the responsibility of the intrusions and the subsequent inept handling of the situation, are held accountable for their actions.

On the face of it Brig Devinder Singh's case in the AFT may appear to be one of an officer who wanted to get his ACRs set aside and Battle Performance Report/Corps After Action Report amended. But the decision of the AFT forced at least one person to come out and speak in the public for the first time on a TV channel. Lt Gen Krishan Pal, former GOC 15 Corps, a man who many think should have been sacked along with the then GOC 3 Infantry Division, Maj Gen VS Bidhwar, but who instead got a Uttam Yudh Seva Medal.

One could almost feel pity for Lt Gen Pal as he went around defending his doctored Battle Action Reportand ACRs on Brig Devinder. The venom was clear in the speech and all that was required to complete the picture of hatred was frothing on the lips, but alas, Lt Gen Krishan Pal did not oblige.

To say that the former GOC 15 Corps was unrepentent would be an understatement. He was virtually dismissive of the AFT. He contended that he had not been examined by the AFT. Apparently he was under the mistaken impression a court cannot come to a conclusion without examining a witness and that since he had not been examined or given a chance to speak in the court, he implied that he does not respect the verdict. The least the AFT can do is haul him for contempt. The maximum that the government can do is to prosecute him for damaging the reputation of the Army in vengeful pursuit of his own agenda against a lower formation commander serving under him.

This clique of Generals, who have tried to push their acts of ommissions and commissions under the carpet, must be exposed. These holy cows must be put out to pasture.

And in this context, the role of General VP Malik, too needs to be examined. He cannot get away by claiming that the case of Brig Devinder Singh is one of personal conflict between him and the Corps Commander. And then he also tries to downplay the question of the Brig getting a VSM instead of a gallantry award by saying that it was he, as the COAS, who intervened and got him a VSM.

If incompetent people, who let the intrusions take place under their watch can be awarded Uttam Yudh Seva Medals and Sarvottam Yudh Seva Medals, then it is quite clear what kind of interventions were taking place from the Chief's office. He may be right that the after action report of the Corps HQ was compiled after he retired, but he could not have been oblivious to the fact that the Corps Commander had a bee in his bonnet about Cdr, 70 Inf Bde. And since he was taking such a personal interest in the higher direction of war, why did he not intervene?

And lastly, if Gen Malik thinks that he can get away from the ghost of the Kargil war by sacking one Brigadier and court-martialling couple of Majors, then he is sadly mistaken.

The nation has a right to know who failed them and the nation will know that in due course of time. The victories of Kargil will not be dimimished in any way if those responsible for the failure are identified before the nation. The nation cannot turn a blind eye to the faults of the higher commanders just because they choose to dove tail their failure by citing the bravery of the junior officers and other ranks. The fog of war is lifting......after 11 long years. And soon, all will be clearly visible.

To quote Bob Dylan:

How many times can a man turn his head

And pretend that he just doesn't see

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind

The answer is blowing in the wind

Monday, May 3, 2010

When will 4 Horse remove this murderer's name from its regimental crest?

I decided to blog on the above heading after reading a book by Lt General SK Sinha of the 'supersession' fame. Though the topic has never been far from my mind but the resolve to write about it as renewed after reading "A Soldier Recalls". In his chapter "Supersession", Lt Gen Sinha recounts how Gen KV Krishna Rao, who was a great friend of his, broke the news of his supersession by Lt Gen Arun Vaidya, in the most impersonal manner. He goes on to write that after he conveyed his decision to the COAS to resign from the Army and after the COAS had made the usual noise made about not taking a rash decision, Lt Gen Sinha decided to carry on with the agenda items he had for discussion with the Chief.

One of these related to the removal of the name Hodson from the regimental crest of 4 Horse.

I quote verbatim from the passage in the book, "The last case I discussed with him that day was the regimental crest of 4 Horse. This unit was raised by Hodson, an officer with a tainted personal record who had murdered the two hapless Mughal princes of Delhi in 1857 in cold blood. After Independence the name of the unit changed from hodson's Horse to 4 Horse, and so had the shoulder titles worn in the regiment. But the word 'Hodson' continued to appear in the regimental crest. I got Krishna's approval to recommend a suitable change of crest. This had to be approved by the President. Although a decision to recommend this change was taken and duly recorded, mistaken loyalty for regimental traditions has managed to prevail and to this day the change has not been effected".

Now, this book was written way back in 1991, and to my knowledge, the change of regimental crest has still not taken place and the name of the murderer continues to adorn the crest. 4 Horse is not the only regiment to take pride in its traditions and there are several regiments which still carry on with the symbols of the past British victories over native Indian princely states. But none have the name of a murderer and a philanderer written on their regimental crest.

There is certainly no harm in perpetuating regimental traditions. There are several cavalry and infantry regiments in the Army which have taken part in active supression of 1857 war of Independence. But these are only spoke of in hushed whispers in this day and age and they do not adorn the cap badge of every rank and file. The least that the armoured corps brass can do is to get this anomaly corrected, which Lt Gen Sinha tried to do even on a day when his dream of heading the Indian Army lay in ruins.

Can we expect the Colonel of the Regiment of 4 Horse, whoever that noble soul is, to initiate a corrective action. Sadly, no. that would be too much to expect from him. Not because of any personal flaw of character, but because of a flaw in the system which will look at him with suspicion the moment he tries to do anything of the sort.

On another day, we will debate how long the Highland bugle will form part of the regimental crest of several of our infantry regiments. and when will Battle Honours like Seringapatnam, Bharatpore and Sobraon be consigned to the dustbin of history....far-far from the honourable place they enjoy in the list of regimental victories.

But as of now, let 4 Horse get rid of Hodson's ghost.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


The Army, for some reason or the other, has been saddled with rather a unfortunate choice of PROs in the Ministry of Defence for the past several years. Apart from some notable exceptions where the person holding the office really did try to establish a rapport with the media and get the Army's point of view across, the average PRO has miserably failed to perform his task.
Yet again now, the Army has a PRO, who seems to have no inclination in getting about and performing his duties as per the parameters required by them. He has had an honourable career as an infantry officer and he must have been a very good officer and a soldier in the OGs, but he has unfortunately failed to get a grasp on the situation in the South Block.
While this blog is not against an individual, per se, iI would rather keep it that way, but still there are some examples which need to be cited as to how the mismatch between Army PRO and media can create bad vibes. This gentleman, holding the office right now, has been averse to the very presence of the media in his office. The first thing he did was to close the door to his office that remained open like those of PRO-Navy and IAF! I, fortunately, did not have to deal with him for long, but even in my short interaction, I realised that he was distinctly uncomfortable in the surroundings where journalists milled about in his office, which he shares with the APRO and the clerical staff.
Why have such an officer as the PRO in the first place who is uncomfortable with civilians? It is not his fault that he cannot mix-up with them. After spending a lifetime in the uniform, there are very few career soldiers who would be comfortable talking in an unrestricted manner with journalists. But then why did he volunteer for this job? Did he want a last posting in Delhi? Is that the only criteria left for appointing officers as PRO-Army in MoD? That you have got to be on the last leg posting after your career has come to a stand still? Why so? This appointment had officers who were promoted to the rank of Brigadier while holding this appointment, so what's wrong in getting someone who is still in reckoning for his next rank?
This way at least he will have his heart in the job and will not go about halfheartedly handling the media, as if this was the biggest punishment inflicted on him ever since he got commissioned in the Army.
This PRO, now, does not even want journalists to grab a bite in his office. The basic chit chats which take place over such informalities and which breed good relations and foster friendliness have been tossed out of the window. Had it not been for the good humour and affection of the DG (M&C) and the APRO, the Army would have been getting a lot of flak in print just because it is trying to put a square peg in a round hole.
It is hoped that the new COAS will take stock of this problem and do something about it. The Army needs to project its image in a positive mannr in the media and for that it needs a positive individual as the PRO. Not someone who is sour-faced and laced with a dour attitude.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Photograph of Western Army Cdrs self-styled badge

Here is a photograph of the Western Army Commander wearing his self styled badge on his beret. Note the difference when you compare it with the beret badge of the COAS. Eccentricities in uniform are common in defence services but only when those who practice them are of sufficient fame and prowess.

Lt Gen SR Ghosh can hardly put himself in category of Field Marshal Montogomery or Sam Maneckshaw when it comes to designing his own headgear accoutrement. And he wears it in the presence of the Chief! What affront!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


After the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence, which told the Army to give the same pay and perks to MNS officers as regular officers, the AFT too has spoken in their defence. The order giving them the same priviledges of rank as regular officers must have pleased the MNS officers and driven a stake in the heart of the AMC officers who were behind the entire unsavoury episode which forced an MNS General officer to go to court.These same AMC officers were behind the move to change the uniform of MNS officers from OG to the creamish coloured stuff they wear now, and they were behind the hideous 'safari suit' design of uniform which the MNS officers now wear. They could not bear the sight of MNS officers going around as equals.

A bunch of them said that wearing the OG uniform had given a superiority complex to the nurses and that they were not "behaving" properly. There may well have been some instances of such behaviour. But this view was propogated privately. Officially, a ridiculous explanation was forwarded that the patients were confused with the same colour uniform of doctors and nurses and that there was a a lack of empathy while dealing with patients. There were ways of dealing with these "facts" instead of treating MNS cadre like second grade citizens.

The superiority complex of AMC officers stems from a societal problem and is an affliction gathered from the civvy street. They cannot accept the changing dynamics of the society; nursing is no longer the kind of profession that they associate with through the years. They are better trained, better motivated and better paid all over the world. And they volunteer to serve in the Army in the most difficult areas as do the AMC doctors. So why deny them the perks and priveledges of the rank once it has been bestowed on them?

I have also heard the argument that the MNS officers have been going around getting married to PBORs and therefore lower the dignity of rank. This happened because often they came from the same social strata. And for this the Army has to think out a policy. You cannot stop any legal marriage. If you wish to put some restrictions for men and women in uniform getting married to ORs, then spell it out clearly in the regulations. Whisper campaigns are not a substitute for law.

Ultimately, it is all about being aware of your rights and asking for them. Maj Gen Usha Sikdar did not give up when she was not allowed to fly a flag and display a star plate on her car by a zealous Rear Admiral. She is an educated lady and an officer so she did so. Let us not forget that more and more well educated men are joining the Army as PBORs. Very soon they will be asserting for their rights too. It is better that the Army evolves with the time and comes out of its second-world-war-administrative-mindset and wakes up to the reality of the day. As Lt Gen Arjun Ray used to quote Bob Dylan when he was GOC 14 Corps, "The times, they are a changin".

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A self-styled cap badge (and other stories)

The other day I saw the Western Army Commander for the first time, ever since I joined my new assignment in Chandigarh. He was attending the function of War Decorated India and gave a typical patronising speech which serving senior officers give to retired personnel, completely forgetting that in a couple of years they too would be out of OG and into the civvy street.
But what struck me immediately as the fact that the Army Cdr, Lt Gen SR Ghosh, of the Brigade of Guards, had styled a completely new cap badge of General officers. He was wearing a metallic crossed swords and baton with the Ashoka lions on top without the oak leave crossed underneath.
Now, there have been examples of many eccentricities of Generals who wished to wear uniform patterns of their own kind, but Lt Gen Ghosh can certainly not claim to be in the same league as them and therefore take the liberty wich they took many many years ago.
Field Marshal Maneckshaw wore a side cap for the best part of his tenure as the Army Chief but then he was SAM and could do it and get away with it. As he told one officer whom he spotted wearing a sidecap in South Block, "Sweetie, I'm the chief and I can wear this cap, not you".
There is another celebrated General of the armoured corps who refused to wear campaign medals on his uniform (he liked to copy the Israelis) till he came before General Sundarji, the then COAS, who despatched him to wear the ribands before appearing before him again.
Again there was a corps commander from the Corps of Signals, who stopped wearing his corps belt and lanyard after being appointed to the general cadre. This, in any case, was laudable as there was a tradition in the past to do away with regimental symbols after assuming the staff rank of a Colonel.
But Sundarji did away with all that after he became the Chief. But it was Sam who insisted in wearing his badges of rank in the rifle regiment colour of black even after he became a
Field Marshal.
However, let me come back to the Western Army Commander's fetish for a unique cap badge. He, unfortunately, does not have the depth or the standing of the famous officers who made changes into their uniform, to fashion a cap badge of his own sort. The sooner he loses it the better or the media will have a new issue to come up with once it notices the lapse on a "lean day."

Friday, March 5, 2010


So once again the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence has trained its gun on the good old Batman, Sahayak, Orderly, whatever you my like to call him. I suspect the sister services have a hand in it. Since they don't have one, they do not want the Army wallahs to have one either.
My stand in the entire affair is biased. I was born and brought up in the Army with Sahayaks playing a major role in my upbringing, so try as I might, I cannot be a dispassionate journalist in this debate. And in any case there is no such entity as the unbiased journalist.
I think, the newspapers need to stop putting this news on the front pages. For once, lets thank the television channels for not raking it up on their news bulletins just because the news had hit the front pages of the newspapers.
I am quite sure the Army needs to revamp its PR set-up. The public information guys sitting in the basement of South Block need to be more accountable. Planting news is part of their job, I accept, but so is making sure that inconsequential pieces like the Sahayak one need not hit the front pages too. And all these stories are by those journalists who drink endless cups of tea and smoke unending number of ciggarettes in the offices of the public information wallahs.
I hope the COAS designate revamps this set-up. Sooner than later. There is more to media management than Sainik Samachar and Baatcheet.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Bravo Justice Mathur

Just a short post this time. Justice Mathur, the man hearing the petition by Lt Gen Avadesh Prakash in the AFT has made a statement which will echo throughout the ages. Commenting on the assertions of the counsel of the former MS that "this is the reward he has got for his VSMs and AVSMs", the good judge said, "these AVSMs, VSMs do not make you a holy cow". How true Justice Mathur. The problem is that too many bad eggs have got these so-called distinguished service medals, and the moment they get it, they think they are holy cows. Thank God he did not get a PVSM. But there is another medal which can be instituted given the number of corrupt Generals popping out of the wood: Param Bhrasht Seva Medal !

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The General Doth Protest Too Much

The Chandigarh edition of Hindustan Times has been quite charitable to Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi (retd), former Vice Chief of Army Staff. In that it has devoted nearly a quarter page to his article castigating the media and the defence minister....and oops, lest I forget....busybody bureaucrats in South Block who have nothing better to do than give juicy leaks to the media.
I have immense respect for the General with whom I have had the priviledge of interacting many-a-times when I was with Hindustan Times in Chandigarh. But unfortunately, I do not agree with what he has written today in defence of the Army Chief.
The questions which begs to be asked is....who brought things to this pass? Certainly not the media. It was not the media which prompted a cold war between the Army Chief and the Eastern Army Commander with the Military Secretary acting as a catalyst for the former. And it was certainly not the bureaucracy which asked the GOC 33 Corps to get influenced by the MS and agree to sign the NOC.
And aren't we....the horrible journalists sick and tired of the oft repeated assertions..... look how much money the politicians make, look how the IAS and IPS officers amass ill-gotten gains and look at our poor little scams which pale in comparision to Satyam, Harshad Mehta etc etc.
My take is.....either do not act like holy cows or accept the veneration and the consequent fall from grace which comes after being put on a pedestal by the nation. The simple fact is the Army, or rather, the defence services are the last bastions of propriety left in the mind of the citizens of this country....and that includes irresponsible journalists too. But with the Army officers increasingly falling prey to pleasures of easy money, especially the General cadre, alas, this gloss is fading.
As any informed person who has intimate knowledge of the Sukna affair knows, it is a war of the Generals. The one who was hunted earlier has now become the hunter...and he has struck back with a vengeance. Lt Gen Oberoi is right when he questions the monetary cost of the scam....virtually nil. No one would have bothered whether the NOC was given under duress from the MS or if a private builder was setting up a school based on fake papers had there not been icy relations between the Army Chief and the now COAS-designate.
And because of this, the actions of Army Chief, in recommending administrative action against the MS instead of the outright dismissal recommended by the Army Commander, must have seemed as a step to save the accused.
Frankly, I would love to read an equally voluminous piece by a retired three-star General, any General, on why the Army has not had a DG Ordnance Services for the past nearly two years. Why is it that scores of Major Generals of Ordnance are mired in one scam after another resulting in their non-empanellment for futher promotion? Why the ASC was emboilled in a similar situation in a couple of years earlier resulting in no officer occupying the appointment of DGST?
And lastly, in defence of the defence minister. Is he not the same person who stood by the Army Chief when he moved out the Northen Army Commander to Central Command despite the fact that there were very distrubing allegations levelled against the COAS? Wasn't he the one who turned a blind eye when virually all officers indicted in the tent and egg scam in Northern Command were given lesser punishments than what had been recommended?
I cannot and will not accuse the Army Chief of not telling the complete truth in this entire affair. But, to quote 'Yes Prime Minister'......"There's a lot of difference between not telling lies and not telling the truth".

Sunday, January 31, 2010

There are Many Chatwals in Military too

It is interesting to see the furore in the media over the Padma Bhushan awarded to the controversial hotelier, Sant Singh Chatwal. And this brings to mind the military system of dispensing distinguished service medals and commendation cards. Why the media does not question these, is beyond my comprehension. One of my former Editors, Kanwar Sandhu had once written about the "yellow fever'" (given the yellow colour of the distinguished service awards) that afflicts officers once they reach a certain rank. He remained the object of hate amongst the "yellow fever biradari" for quite some time.
The fact of the matter is that PVSMs and AVSMs are doled out in ample quantities as per a well laid out system and of course the likes and dislikes of the chain of command. Very few of AVSMs and VSMs are truly deserved. Now, SM (D) is also being doled out to all and sundry who have nothing to show by way of actually doing anything distinguished. So what is the SOP for awarding these medals? Is there any policy at all? Why are PVSMs doled out to every head of arm or service regardless of any good he may have done at all? Who has ordained that each head of arm and service will be given a PVSM? All Army Commanders too get it once the reach that coveted rank. And now UYSMs are being handed over for counter-insurgency ops. Lt Gen RK Swamy, Chief of Staff Southern Command has got it for some good that he did as GOC 16 Corps. These UYSMs, SYSMs and YSMs were put in place for regular ops and not CI ops. But maybe someone was able to convince the Army HQs that since there is no likelihood of a war taking place in near future why waste these perfectly good awards which will fetch the awardees much needed extra points when the selection board takes place. Again no one raises a question, no one puts in an RTI application.
And then there are those ubiqutous commendation cards. With the COAS and VCOAS commendation cards being handed about like toffees, the less said the better abou the GOC-inC commandation cards. I know of officers who have nearly a dozen such awards. A dozen, no less. And for what? For playing golf, for sucking up to the bosses and for running around for the memsahib, perhaps? And all this at the cost of hundreds of deserving officers, JCOs and ORs who have really done something to get these cards.
This is a bigger scam than the civilian awards. The common man takes it for granted that the civilian awards are manipulated. but he does not yet know that so is the case with military awards too. And very soon, this misconception of his will be cleared. And the military may end up with more egg on its face.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Have we heard the last of the MS saga?

I think not. this is not the last we will hear about this sordid affair. for the simple reason that it is the sympton of the problem and not the problem itself. The discord between the Army Chief and two of his Army Commanders (Lt Gen Panag and then Lt Gen VK Singh) will reverbate long after he ceases to be the COAS. The damage done to the institution is immense because never as any Chief been pilloried to this extent in the media and his reputation put in tatters before the average citizen of the country. But then, such are the consequences when you try to defend the indefensible and try to brush things under the carpet. Slowly, but steadly, more skeletons are going to tumble out. More scams are going to make their presence felt. And all this will be before the COAS, Gen Kapoor, hangs his uniform. For more, you will have to keep an eye on Headlines Today!!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Guys, I'm back. sorry for the immense gap between the posts. I am now better placed to update the blog and articulate what is happening in the defence establishment. From now on there will be regular updates on this blog. I do not intend to "break news" on this blog (because if I have anything of that sort it will go to the organisation I work for), but I would like to bring out an analysis of the developments which may differ from what appears in the mainstream media.

So the journey begins anew.....