Friday, January 27, 2012
This is the time of the year when distinguished service awards are doled out along with the gallantry ones. The term 'Yellow Fever' denotes the colour of the ribbons of these medals.
While the gallantry awards are more or less fair (some suspicion arose with Siachen fake killings and Ketchup Colonel scams but that is over), the distinguished service awards can make one laugh by their very predictable nature.
There was a time when the award of Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM) and Ati Vishisht Seva Medal (AVSM) was done with some degree of selectivity. Not anymore. And this is not a sudden development. It has evolved over the past two decades at least. Army Commanders and heads of services seem to have a divine right over PVSMs. Rarely does one find a Army Cdr or a head of arms/service who retires without the quintessential PVSM. Take a look at the list of awardees this year.
PARAM VISHISHT SEVA MEDAL
1. IC-25434L LT GEN SHANKAR RANJAN GHOSH, AVSM, SM, ADC, MECH INF
2. IC-25457M LT GEN VIJAY KUMAR AHLUWALIA, AVSM**, YSM, VSM, ADC, ARTY
3. IC-25538M LT GEN RABINDRAN KRISHNA SWAMY, UYSM, AVSM, VSM, INF (RETIRED)
4. IC-25544A LT GEN VINOD NAYANAR, AVSM, ARTY
5. IC-25808W LT GEN DUSHYANT SINGH CHAUHAN, AVSM, ARMD (RETIRED)
6. IC-25812Y LT GEN SUBRAMANIAN RAVI SHANKAR, VSM, ENGRS
7. IC-25815M LT GEN GURDEEP SINGH, AVSM, VSM, ARTY
8. IC-25816P LT GEN BIKRAM SINGH, UYSM, AVSM, SM, VSM, ADC, INF
9. IC-25833P LT GEN GOVINDA MOHAN NAIR, AVSM, SM, VSM, INF
10. IC-25901X LT GEN KAIWALAYA TRIVIKRAM PARNAIK, UYSM, YSM, INF
11. IC-27038N LT GEN ANAND MOHAN VERMA, AVSM, SM, VSM, INF (RETIRED)
12. IC-27203N LT GEN SHRI KRISHNA SINGH, UYSM, AVSM, INF
13. IC-27215H LT GEN NAND KISHORE SINGH, UYSM, AVSM, VSM, INF
14. IC-27258X LT GEN RAJINDER SINGH, UYSM, SM, MECH INF
15. IC-27606N LT GEN AJAY KUMAR SINGH, AVSM, SM, VSM, ADC, ARMD
16. IC-27616X LT GEN KONGARA SURENDRA NATH, AVSM, VSM, MECH INF
17. IC-27679A LT GEN NARESH CHANDRA MARWAH, AVSM, INF
18. MR-03301P LT GEN GOPALA KRISHNAN RAMDAS, SM, VSM, PHS, AMC
19. MR-03449N LT GEN KUNWAR KARNI SINGH, SM, VSM, AMC, AH (R&R)
Look at the number of Army Commanders and equivalents. It's not that I am targetting these awardees. They may well be deserving. What I am driving at is the bigger ill. Is it mandatory for Army Commanders and heads or arms/services to be awarded PVSMs?
It is quite obvious that they have had a distinguished service, which is why they have achieved that appointment in the first place. Just holding that appointment and completing their tenure should not be a reason for them to be doled out PVSMs. They must show what extraordinary achievement they have had for them to be awarded or the awarding authority must show reason why they have been awarded that decoration at this stage of their career.
The same goes for the AVSMs also. Take a look at the list:
BAR TO ATI VISHISHT SEVA MEDAL
1. IC-25141A LT GEN DEEPAK RAJ, AVSM, SM, MECH INF (RETIRED)
2. IC-27264L LT GEN AVINASH CHANDER SONEJA, AVSM, VSM**, INF
3. IC-27793X LT GEN JATINDER SINGH, AVSM, SM, INF, NDA, KHADAKWASLA
4. IC-27990A LT GEN MUNISH SIBAL, AVSM, INF
5. IC-30137F LT GEN SUKHRAJ PAL KOCHHAR, AVSM, SM, VSM, SIGS
6. IC-30503A LT GEN JAI PRAKASH NEHRA, AVSM, INF
ATI VISHISHT SEVA MEDAL
1. IC-27290M LT GEN RAMESH HALGALI, SM, INF
2. IC-27352F LT GEN MANJINDER SINGH BUTTAR, VSM, ARTY
3. IC-27767W LT GEN PRADEEP BHALLA, VSM, ADC, AOC
4. IC-27942A LT GEN NARENDRA BAHADUR SINGH, VSM, EME
5. IC-30089M LT GEN NARENDRA SINGH, SM, VSM, INF
6. IC-30118W LT GEN ANJAN MUKHERJEE, ARTY
7. IC-30342H LT GEN ABHIJIT GUHA, ARTY
8. IC-30392N LT GEN RAVIKIRAN PRABHAKAR DASTANE, VSM, ARTY
9. IC-30482P LT GEN VINOD BHATIA, SM, INF
10. IC-30507W LT GEN SANJEEV CHOPRA, SM, INF
11. IC-30683N LT GEN RAMESHWAR YADAV, VSM, INF
12. IC-30722F LT GEN VIJAI SHARMA, ENGRS
13. IC-30783Y LT GEN ANIL MALHOTRA, ASC
14. IC-31327A LT GEN RANBIR SINGH, SM, INF
15. IC-33914K LT GEN VIJAY KUMAR PILLAI, SM, INF
16. IC-31638N MAJ GEN OM PRAKASH, SM, INF
17. IC-34356A MAJ GEN NAVKIRAN SINGH GHEI
18. IC-34392L MAJ GEN GURMIT SINGH, VSM, INF
19. IC-34402K MAJ GEN GHANSHYAM SINGH KATOCH, VSM, INF
20. IC-34424H MAJ GEN SUNIL KUMAR GADEOCK, INF
21. IC-34454A MAJ GEN GURDEEP SINGH, INF
22. IC-34600P MAJ GEN SAMIR KUMAR CHAKRAVORTY, SC, SM**, INF
23. IC-34605N MAJ GEN RAKESH SHARMA, VSM, INF
24. IC-34775X MAJ GEN RAVINDRA VASANTRAO THODGE, SM, VSM, INF
25. IC-34890X MAJ GEN SRINIVASAN LAKSHMI NARASIMHAN, VSM, INF
26. IC-35789K MAJ GEN RANJIT SINGH, VSM, AEC
The point here again is not to judge these officers listed above but to question the system of awards. Here again AVSMs seems to be the exclusive preserve of the flag rank. And this while countless deserving officers are fobbed off with COAS or VCOAS or GOC-in-C Commendation cards.
It was not so always. I know of instances where JCOs and ORs have been awarded AVSMs at least for exemplary services. But those days are gone.
I am sure there would be many within the defence services who would like more transparency when it comes to handing out the distinguished service awards. I am not even delving in the issue of Sena Medal (Distinguished Service), an award which did not exist till a few years ago. That itself is a separate topic of discussion. And the Yudh Seva Medal Series too.
The govt must not allow these awards of the defence services to fall into the same category as the Police Medals and Padma Awards series which command little respect in the society at large because of the politicking which goes with them.
A medal which a soldier wears is looked at with respect by the average citizen.
It must be earned......not doled out.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Even as the war for succession for the next Chief of Army Staff is still on, the Army's Judge Advocate General (JAG) branch has landed in a controversy over the next Judge Advocate General. The present JAG retires on January 31 but the one anointed to be the successor may not be able to take over because of a stay on his promotion by Kolkata bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT).
Brig PS Rathore, currently serving as Deputy Judge Advocate General (DJAG) in South Western Command in Jaipur has been approved for the rank of Major General. But a petition against him is pending in the Kolkata AFT which had last month put a stay on his promotion. That stay order has not been vacated as yet. On top of that, the petitioner against Brig Rathore, Lt Col Mukul Dev, has filed a contempt application in the Kolkata AFT seeking action against the Army authorities for de-classifying Brig Rathore's promotion board result inspite of the stay order of the AFT.
The genesis of this mess lies some years back when Brig Rathore was serving as DJAG Central Command in Lucknow and Lt Col Dev was posted there as AJAG. To cut the story short, things were not good between them as one thing led to another, Lt Col Dev was shifted to a non-criteria appointment, a Part-II order was issued when, perhaps, it should not have been, and as a result of all this brouhaha a Court of Inquiry was ordered.
The CoI found several officers blameworthy, including Lt Col Dev and Brig Rathore. However, inexplicably, while Lt Col Dev got 'Severe Displeasure' from the Army Cdr, Brig Rathore did not get any punishment.
Lt Col Dev's promotion prospects got affected because he had not been adequately exercised when he had been moved away from the appointment of AJAG and then, of course, because of the punishment.
Consequently, he moved the AFT which passed the orders which have been enunciated above.
One would expect the JAG officers serving at senior appointments to be well-versed with the law so that such situations do not arise. But apparently, all is not well in the JAG Branch.
The JAG is also the principal legal advisor to the Army Chief. And with the present one retiring, the new one will not be at hand to help the Chief in any legal imbroglio of the organisation. Something for the Army Chief to chew on while he fights a personal legal battle over his date of birth.
Thursday, January 5, 2012
Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major (retd), had a word of advise for General VK Singh, Chief of Army Staff, the other day. Speaking to a newspaper over phone from Bangalore, the former air chief said he was of the view that the General would be better off if he took off his uniform before taking on the government in court over his age issue.
While no one can deny that as an individual, Gen VK Singh has the right to every legal recourse available to him, the fact remains that for a man in uniform who is at the apex office of his organisation, rights can often get limited. Not because of law, but because of tradition and a sense of honour or 'izzat', which the General himself has evoked in his confrontation with the establishment over the age issue.
It is already looking pretty bad with the Army Chief having filed a statutory complaint over the controversy. And it will look worse if he goes to court in uniform. And while the General may say this is all about 'izzat' and 'integrity', the fact remains he will have much more of both if he does this while out of uniform.
Enough has been written ad nauseum over how the disparity over the age came up so we can skip getting into that because everything is well documented. No one can deny that the disparity should have been corrected many, many years back. But now the issue is of the COAS taking on the government over this alleged anomaly.
For many years we, who have been associated with the defence services in one way or the other, have laughed at the feeble attempts of those in the IAS or the IPS to 'correct' their age while at the fag end of their careers or when they have reached the top. To see the COAS do the same is painful to say the least. irrespective of the merits of the case, it still looks suspiciously as if he is trying to get extra mileage. He has said categorically, he is not doing so, but public perception is fickle, sadly.
The government too should try to look at the situation from the General's point of view. Being pig-headed will not do anybody any good. This should not degenerate into a slugfest. The Army is the last bastion of integrity in this country, and if it falls, all will fall.
And all those politicians who are jumping in to help Gen VK Singh do not understand that they are doing more harm then good. Capt Amarinder Singh's letter should also be seen in this context, though he may have written it with all the feelings of an ex-Army Officer. And the fact that he had to issue a clarification that he wrote it in his personal capacity, shows that his intentions were taken amiss by the 'party high command'. And I am attaching a copy of his letter, which is doing the rounds in the media, to show that it was written on the letterhead of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee. So much for "personal capacity".
Air Chief Marshal Fali Major may indeed have a point. If convictions are strong enough then perhaps the right thing to do may be to quit and then fight the good fight.