Friday, September 30, 2011


I've never been a very big fan of Gen JJ Singh. Even when he was the Western Army Commander and I was working with Hindustan Times in Chandigarh, I had a few run- ins with his MGGS who used to be very unhappy with my news coverage. And then there was the famous crying incident which took place when he held a press conference after his elevation as COAS was announced and every effort was made by his staff to persuade me not to write about it. I went ahead while my counterpart in a national daily wrote such a glowing piece that it seemed that it was not the General who had shed tears but the Pakistan COAS!

Be that as it may, I am disgusted to read open allegations being made about how Gen JJ Singh, now the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh, was guided by religious sentiments in ensuring that Gen VK Singh retires on a certain date so that another Sikh, Lt Gen Bikram Singh could become the COAS. What were earlier insinuations have now become open allegations. Assisted no doubt by the fact that the government has had a very dim view of the protestations of Gen VK Singh about the change of his date of birth.

I would not go so far as to say that the directions for unleashing this mudslinging campaign against Gen JJ Singh have come from the very top. But what I would certainly like to believe is that the spin doctors who are managing the media campaign in favour of Gen VK Singh's assertions have now decided to take off their gloves and brace themselves for a knuckle fight.

It is a matter of time before the mudslinging acquires another dimension and also involves mediapersons of different media houses. For all we know the spin doctors may start targetting those journalists who are not taking a stand in their favour in the age-issue.

Be that as it may but the fact remains that the reputation of a former COAS is being trashed as it it were of now value. Gen JJ Singh is perhaps keeping mum because of the Gubernatorial appointment he holds but the fact remains that it has now been decided in principal to malign him and to attribute pro-Sikh sentiments to him. The fact that he was the first Sikh COAS is now being used to denigrate him.

If there is proof of him having deliberately run down Gen VK Singh then go to court and get it decided. It will give the Governor a chance too to rebut the arguments and defend himself. But what some of these uniformed spin doctors are not realising is that such malicious campaigns are harming the organisation more then any individual. Not only are you running down a former COAS but you are also casting an aspersion on the reputation and character of a current Army Commander just because he is a Sikh.

These are dark days for the senior leadership of the Army. It may just slip into an avoidable free fall if the war of words escalates and the mud-slinging attains a momentum which becomes difficult to control. The government needs to look at these developments seriously and needs to check them. An institution which has several hundred years of proud history must not be held to ransom by a few individuals who have their own personal priorities fixed firmly in their sights.

Service before Self must not change to Self before Service.

Friday, September 23, 2011


In a secular country like ours, where we not only have a secular but, also, apolitical defence services, it is extremely important that religious sentiments of personnel are adequately addressed and handled.

As is evident in the letters displayed above, there has been a situation in 40 Arty Div in Ambala where a JCO has refused to comply with orders regarding his 'choti'. In such emotive issues it would not be advisable to allow situation to reach a stage where a JCO writes a letter directly to the GOC of a Division and refuses to follow instructions of his immediate superior.

But this has happened. And there is a history to it. It is not as if the Army has overnight woken up to the fact that this JCO has been sporting a 'choti' for the last 27 years out of a total career of 28 years.

The problem has emanated as usual from the unit level. This JCO was serving in 3 Field Regiment when he entered into a tiff with the CO. The issue was mishandled at the level giving the JCO enough reason to complain against the CO in the chain of command. The issue was further mishandled at the Brigade level thereby forcing the Subedar to write to GOC-in-C seeking his intervention and failing that, seeking interview with the then COAS, Gen Deepak Kapoor. Needless to say, neither materialised.

So, again, as usual the Army chain of command resorted to the problem with a short-sighted way. They posted out the JCO from the regiment to a ERE posting in 40 Arty Div. Everything was hunky dory as the JCO reconciled to facts of life in the Army and continued to go about his job.

It was at this stage that he declined to clear some bills which he perceived were not truthful in nature. The bills were of a Brigadier in the formation. And then came the get-together at the JCOs Mess on 15th August as as tradition warrants, officers of Div HQs were being hosted by the JCOs.

It was here that the GOC reportedly caught sight of the JCOs choti. And as per the JCOs, instructions were passed out to ensure that it went out of sight and accordingly a letter was issued by the Battery Commander to the JCO.

Pushed to the wall, and knowing what had triggered this reaction, Subedar Shukla fired-off the letter to the GOC pointing out several things and hinting at many others. Besides, of course, seeking an interview with the new COAS, Gen VK Singh.

And then, to ensure maximum effect, the news went to the media. Both print and electronic. And now the Army went into damage control mode. Someone used his brains in Corps, Command and Army HQs and decided not to go into a knee jerk reaction.

As of now an uneasy calm or truce prevails between the JCO and the powers that be. But it has all the potential into developing into a ugly situation.

The Army may be well within it's right in asking the JCO to do away with the tuft of hair on the back of his head. But then in today's world this has to be done with tact and care and seeing the profile of the individual. With the history of confrontation in the unit behind him, it would be obvious to any dunce head that the JCO would rebel. Yet, no care was taken to handle the situation with care.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


In a important step towards jointness, a joint training review conference, involving two Commands of the Army- Western, South Western- and Western Air Command of the Indian Air Force, concluded at Chandimandir yesterday.

The war game was attended by a wide cross-section of high ranking officers and observers from participating formations, as also from the Army HQs, the neighboring Northern and Southern Commands, Army Training Command and Army War College, where tactical, operational and strategic concepts are evolved and refined.

The primary aim of the conference and brainstorming session was to synergise the operational philosophy amongst the land and air forces for the integrated air-land battle in various sectors, synergise their training requirements and validate certain important issues of the transformation of the Indian Army into a networked force.

In the current year Western Command has conducted two major training exercises with troops, involving the Army and Air force. The first exercise VIJAYEE BHAVA was held in Rajasthan in May 2011, followed by PINE PRAHAR, held in Punjab in June 2011.

It was in this context that the joint review was held in Chandimandir over five days. In the course of this review, the participants also discussed various contemporary issues, notably joint targeting plans and transformation synergy between theatres.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


The Mausam lead pair, Shahid Kapur and Sonam Kapoor, were in Air Force Station, Chandigarh, the other day to promote their latest film. Based on the Indian Air Force and shot at various air force stations in the country the movie has Shahid essaying the role of a pilot who flies Mirage-2000 aircraft. As expected there is a romantic angle to the movie but that is something which need not be discussed in Reveille.

Any positive portrayal of our defence services is welcome. Anything which brings forth the dedication and devotion of our men and women in uniform, and which motivates youngsters to join the services is indeed the need of the day. Flying is a glamourous profession, and dangerous to say the least, and it is no surprise, therefore, that movies capitalise on this twin attraction when they choose the role to be played by the main lead of the movie.

There are commercial concerns when a movie of this nature is produced and one cannot expect it to provide a 360 degree view of the life in IAF. But I have often wondered why we never see the television or print media focus on the other branches of the air force who too play a major role in the defence of the country. The branches which ensure that the pilots who fly the sorties are able to do so in full safety and with full back-up.

I intended to do so several times, but have, unfortunately not been able to beat the red tape. In fact, I tried thrice in past two years and have failed on each time. And not because of some bureaucrat sitting in South Block. But because of a obstinate Group Captain sitting in Vayu Bhavan. Anyway that is another story.

What we need to see on the screen is not only the swash buckling presence of a fighter pilot in flying overalls or a G-suit but also the men and women who remain behind the scenes, unseen. Those who maintain the aircraft, keep them flying fit, and ultimately sign the crucial form which allows the aircraft to be taken to air. The men and women in the ATC or the fighter controllers who normally just get a split second or two in the footage in any movie featuring the IAF. They deserve more then that because they do a lot. They are our heroes too. I remember reading a quote, "True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others, at whatever cost".

The Met branch, the armaments section, the flight safety wallahs, the logistics squadron, the missile squadron the accounts and education branches. There are many more, which I may miss out in mentioning but what I intend to say comes out loud and clear. They are not just filling the blanks. They perform an important task. And their need for recognition must be acknowledged. They are not going to say so in these many words, they are not going to ask for publicity.....they don't need it. But we, in the media or in the film industry, owe it to them.

This can only happen if the media attempts to do such stories. For example, a perfectly good story can be made on how the transport aircraft of the Chandigarh Air Force Station are kept in perfect flying condition by the technical officers and men. These aircraft are a lifeline to our troops in ladakh. How this lifeline is kept well-oiled and functioning can make for a good story.

I am quite sure someday we in the media will think in this direction and that may provoke the film industry to make a film showing the exploits of the IAF like the ones made in the West......Saving Private Ryan, Pacific, Thin Red Line etc. And then, the canvass will be wide enough to portray a complete IAF ......

And though we may get disheartened by the mindless opposition to such projects by stuffy Group Captains sitting in Air HQs, we must not lose hope..... and keep on trying. As I will do.....for the fourth time.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Courtesey Virendra Singh:

Changes at Regt Level:-

(a) All offrs especially COs and above will use only one Sahayak that also only for making offrs uniform.

(b) The CO Memsahib will return the mess cook back to the regtl mess and will start cooking, washing.

(c) The garden will be manicured by the offr and memsahib

(d) The regt fund acct will be audited by the LAO

(e) No CSD profit will be taken to the regt fund/ mess fund. The rules of percentage written by the stupid British will be changed and the old regt fund rules will be burnt at Ramleela Maidan after Anna vacates it.

(f) COs/ offrs will return all the regt properties like Tv, fridge, and cutlery back to unit.

(g) All offrs taking tpt allce will not use mil veh for conveyance from residence.

(h) Offrs who have unknowingly taken tpt allowance and used conveyance will repent and will make a draft of the amount illegally taken by them and will give the cheque to Anna at Ramlila grnd.

(i) No veh will be modified. If at all a veh is to be modified offr will pay it from the pocket and will not use regt fund.

(j) COs will not use Acs in the office. It is not auth and we will not use it.

(k) If we use it at home we will connect it only through a meter and will never send a JCO with rum bottle to MES.

Changes at Bde and above:-

(a) All att vehs and pers will be detached immediately. We will live with WE auth and will fight with stupid IAS baboos to change the WE.

(b) If IAS lobby do not listen to us we will org a Darna at Ramlila Maidan and sort them out. Few from “ WE GNRS” who are specially qualified sorting out IAS baboos and their help will be solicited.

(c) For regt reunions the tickets for the Sahib and Memsahib will be paid by the offr himself. If any Bania offers to do that he will be shot.

(d) Brigs and above when visiting any station will not stay in hotels. They will stay in the mess guest rooms and will dine with the mess members.If forced to stay in a hotel offr will settle the bill directly with the hotel.

(e) Offrs will pay the mess bill in reality and not with a cosmetic touch.

(f) Brigs and above traveling by air will not expect a capt/maj to come to air port and bribe people and get the VIP launch opened. It is
authorized only for army cdrs and above (not even DGs) and we will satisfy with what is authorized for lesser mortals. (g) No senior offr will take rations directly from sup. We are all Anna’s soldiers and will be truthful and will get the normal rations from QM store.

(h) Chicken for the parties will be purchased and will not be adjusted in the rations.

(i) The present day culture of having ASC/AOC/EME COs more close to the General ship will stop. The fighting unit COs will always get love , affection and priority.

(j) The GE will be shown his way.

(k) If Italian marble is required for the toilets the offr will pay for it.

(l) Offrs with genetic “Italian” hatred will use Indian marble.

(m) Guest room toiletries will not be stolen. If any items are used we will pay for it.

(n) The sanitary napkin placed in the room will be used only if the lady requires it in an emergency. We will not carry it home for the daughter or grand daughter.

(o) The Maj Gens will accept JCO LO and the practice of detailing local staff offr( Honorable Batman to Memsahib) will stop immediately

Sunday, September 4, 2011


When the Adarsh scam came to light, and there was great dirt flying about, most of it directed in the direction of the Army's top brass, serving as well as retired, the Army went into damage control mode. And quite rightly so. It was the need of the hour to save it's reputation and the COAS himself gave went to his anguish over the fact that the highest office of the service too was under the scanner.

Accordingly a Court of Inquiry was ordered to probe into the affairs relating to the Adarsh scam and the principal officer facing the brunt of the inquiry was Maj Gen RK Hooda who was the latest officer to have demitted the office of GOC MG & G Area and was now serving in Army HQs. He was approved for the rank of Lt Gen, but because he was facing a Court of Inquiry he was put under a Discipline and Vigilance (DV) ban and his promotion put on hold. All this was perfectly by the book and this was how things happened.

In due course the inquiry got completed but in the meantime, Maj Gen Hooda attained his age of superannuation and had to retire from the service in the same rank. The Army Chief has recently made some statement in Poona regarding the culpability of Maj Gen Hooda fixed by the inquiry but that is not the crux of our story.

What we need to focus on is that in yet another case involving a Maj Gen, the Army did not follow the rules and in fact let him get away virtually scot free to his next rank.

Lt Gen SA Cruz was serving in the rank of Maj Gen in HQs Western Command in Chandimandir as MG (Medical) when a Court of Inquiry was ordered against him by HQs Bengal Area. The genesis of this inquiry lies in days when the General officer was commanding a military hospital in Panagarh and the allegation of private practice levelled against some of his subordinate doctors. Now, after a stay in the high court had been vacated and the two officers court martialled, evidence had come forth incriminating the General and so, to investigate the allegations and give him a fair chance of defending himself, the Army ordered a Court of Inquiry against him.

The General, like Maj Gen Hooda, was approved for the rank of Lt Gen but in his case, no DV ban was put on his promotion. He was allowed to pick up his rank in complete disregard of rules and precedence and today he is serving as Deputy Chief of Integrated Defence Staff (Medical) in New Delhi.

I am told this this is not an isolated case in the Army where rules are bent to favour a few. There are enough examples which go on to show how some officers manage to get away while others suffer. Why this happens is not known. I had sent a query to the Army but they did not bother to reply.

And so while the Army goes about boasting about how the General found partially guilty in the Adarsh Court of Inquiry has been punished by not allowing him to pick up his next rank, it is conveniently not addressing why yet another General facing an inquiry has been allowed to get promoted.

Silence is not going to make the questions go away.