Friday, November 12, 2010

Army’s Inverted Motto!! Is it Army’s alone??

by Lt Col K S Jaswal
Army’s motto – so sacred, “The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time. The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time."

Sadly enough such great mottos which were not ‘off the hat’, but backed-up with tremendously great and vast experience of those who coined them, are reduced to mere embellishments on the walls of historical monuments. The wherewithal to make them great enablers and live up to them is totally missing. The ‘missing’ if I may daresay, is a design of those in power – the legislature, for reasons we all are aware. The immediate reaction across all sections of society will substantiate this. On hearing the news of attack on parliament everybody very expectantly queried with deep optimism, “ Kitne dhoti wale marey?”. On being told none, there was utterly painful dejection.

At the outset, wish to mention – and am sanguine all will agree – that this inversion is all pervasive. But when an Institution so fondly revered like Army, gets tainted it is often excruciatingly painful – a pure human instinct – for it has been a role-model for the commoner and corporate alike.

I am extremely peeved like most of us, at the putrid and clichéd stance, “we will order an inquiry and severely punish the guilty”. For God’s sake please stop this nonsense and act to address the core of all this rather than manifestations alone. Exasperation across the society is at its’ zenith. Even the illiterate and the ill-informed and the down-trodden are well informed of the corruption – thanks to the media – are able to see through the sinister designs of those in the corridors of power, in the legislature, executive and tragically the judiciary too. The hydra-headed monster of corruption is not spreading, for it already has, but is now shaking the foundation of our nation. This is so because symptoms alone are being addressed rather than the disease and the innocence and tolerance of Indians is being taken for granted. Case after case of corruption is unravelling – for existence of it is already an accepted reality – the treatments are band-aid like. Alongside all this has also begun the deliberate exercise, the usual face-saving, esteem-saving, resignation-tendering, gimmickry that succeeds such events. Do not fool the nation – please, please please!!!

COAS Gen V K Singh, in an exclusive interview apparently in great anguish, has done it too. It is his duty undoubtedly, and there is no other choice left with him either. He is indeed extremely worried about the ethereal – the ‘MORALE’ which is the only battle winning factor – so his attempt to salvage the one million army from the labyrinth of corruption is totally justified. The last bastion of democracy too, is crumbling? Dangerously ominous is the juncture with the kind of neighbours that we have, and it portends a catastrophe for our country if we do not face the reality fast and set-out to eliminate the monstrosity wreaked upon us by the self-proclaimed custodians of democracy.

I was quite miffed with the COAS’s stereotype stance akin to the political masters. That there are black-sheep everywhere is true. But please modify the adage to current times. There are only black-sheep everywhere. May I request him to juxtapose the number of M&G Area Commanders besides other senior and junior officers involved, with the vintage of Adarsh, it would emerge that “Honesty is only a lack of opportunity”. The number of senior officers involved in recent scams has ten Generals. By simple arithmetic, the ratio is too high and the ratio of their influence on troops will be exponentially high. He mentioned that post Tehelka only Army punished the guilty. The General got away with equivalent to nothing. So I would advise the COAS to not use the past as a fulcrum to salvage the present. That benchmark is totally flawed. “Pigeon and cat syndrome”, aptly surmises the current scenario.

“Corruption too like all else is evolutionary”. There is a famous story we read in our school, of a man in jail who bites his mothers’ ear when she comes calling before he goes to the gallows for a murder. What did he say to his mother? “ Mother had you stopped me when I began stealing pencils and erasers, I would not have reached where I am today”. So indeed, those who were caught did not suddenly become corrupt overnight. Even the Tehelka General was a Brigadier when I had complained to the Army HQ of his stealing a ‘pen’ equivalent, but I was rebuffed for having complained as I was a junior officer. He rose to the rank of General soon after, only to be caught by Tehelka. Nepotism delayed his court-martial. By sheer quirk of fate, I was able to witness the proceedings and the final sentence which confirmed to me and all of us around, that the Army was running down fast towards its’ nadir. COAS also mentioned having exhorted his command to stand-up against wrong. Even his predecessors said this, but I and my family were literally victimized by social boycott by Generals and their cohorts.

Present COAS has a great opportunity, to usher in a Obama like ‘change’ for he is at the helm today. He only needs to introspect in retrospect with clear objective of a clean-up, irrespective of the collateral damage. Not only does he have a quantitative and qualitative experience, but he is the one who has seen the Force in the pre-capitalism as well as post-capitalism era. Not that his predecessors did not have this advantage, but they were overtaken by greed as it seems. I joined the army in 1984. In 1985 itself, me and most of my batch mates had started to see the ‘writing on the wall’. Not only did we see the inversion of the motto, but the exponential rate of inversion. When I could not endure it further after a brave fight – only to save the image of the organization to which I owe my life (I took up with two chiefs, two defence ministers, but alas! in vain it was) – did I quit in 2006 after 22 years. In the name of “regiment-ki-izzat”,” Army’s reputation, all that I saw was brushing aside, brushing under the carpet, victimization of the upright and righteous. I used to laugh at the concern of Chiefs that Army was not getting the right kind of officers and it was and still is short of about ten or eleven thousand officers. Oh God! how can the supposedly erudite, well selected Chiefs be so naive to ascribe all that to the socio-economic upheaval post-liberalization. It was painfully disturbing for all of us and some of our upright but wronged seniors. I do not need to tell the COAS about the small items analogous to ‘pencils and erasers’ of the man who was hanged in the story. But I want to definitely tell him something that will disturb him deeply, but he better face it now. He too has been a silent spectator to all the small things that have led us to this stage. It is difficult to believe that he did not see the writing on the wall. He may get away by saying that he kept quiet so as to reach the helm and then make the difference from the seat of power. But its’ too late now, but never too late, is what they say.

The disturbing thing now. It is a very deliberate analysis with no exaggeration ! The environment was so vitiated even in the eighties and fast deteriorating, that about 25-30% of the officers succumbed to pressures of the superiors and kept quiet, 55-60% colluded and the remaining 10-20% were the lucky ones to have been kept away – by divine ordination I presume – had morally upright superiors thus sailed through smoothly but only up to a certain level, where their paths crossed the second category, when they called it a day under duress and lived contentedly thereafter. In a nutshell we are now largely an Army of Gandhi’s Monkeys. I reiterate that I have reasons to believe that I am right in the estimates. A commonly widespread belief in the army is that you cannot go up without keeping quiet, without compromising on principles and without towing the lines of idiosyncratic superiors. Let me substantiate by quoting a General who once remarked off the record (in eighties!), that if he had the powers and the choice, he would promote all those who were rated average in the ACR’s for these were actually the officers who deserved to be promoted. He was actually, though indirectly, repulsive of the corrupt system of judging the officers.

There is further more dangerous deduction off this analysis. Our men look up to the officers as role models, and follow them. I will not deduce the number of men arithmetically, who are likely to be affected somehow, for I too dread to see it myself. But I surely have an advice here, whether he takes it or not. I am not pessimistic at all, but yet please try to maintain a cordial military relation with China and Pakistan, till you have been able to restore the morale of the forces. People may actually condone the Chiefs in Adarsh, but will not condone the officers in battle – remember US’s Viet experience? Our troops under the British in World War I and II did not do this, simply because the officers were honest, fair and upright, despite the burden of slavery. Naxalism – the dread we today face is also an off-shoot of this malaise in the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary.

The COAS howsoever determined, would surely feel short-changed in terms of time, resources, and the passionate will, to undertake the mammoth task of introspection and course correction thereafter. He will need a core team, with equal will, zeal, passion and rectitude to drive this mammoth task. I pity him at this juncture, and fear that he will end up as a failure or will end up coming up with a system which will further exacerbate the situation. How will he identify the team, what yardstick will he apply – seniority, experience, past record or what? Remember the number mentioned above.

Despite all the odds against them, I will still implore him and the defence minister – both of them are yet clean unless something falls out of the closet before they begin – beg them to pledge to start asap. Why I plead? My eyes moisten when I recollect the faces of thousands of men we commanded – the men who come from the rural heartland and hinterland. They are ready to die for their officers, for their comrades and for their country. They are the ones I exhort them to keep in mind when they embark upon this arduous journey, for they only will be the saviours of our nation when disaster strikes.

Leaders and Fellow Countrymen Beware!!! Cynicism on corruption!! Revolution on its way?!

CORRUPTION! CORRUPTION! CORRUPTION!.....all pervasive. I am sure all of us these days are wondering as to the state of our Nation. As said earlier, honesty is the lack of opportunity, implies that all of us are dishonest in some way or the other except the degree varies. Greed is a natural human instinct. It is the value system that they are brought up in and the strength of the system they operate which defines if they will be corrupt or not. Please ignore the technicalities, for my objective is not to nit-pick the issue.

People beware!!! Leaders will not listen, as they are too busy garnering votes for the next election, garnering funds for rallies, extorting corporates, and so much else. Who am I exhorting? well, those who seem to be the guardians of our society in whichever capacity, well that includes us the citizens. But I feel dejected to think if we can make any difference as we all are culpable enough at some stage or the other in our life. We often gloat on having got a job done for less than what my friend or the neighbour paid and grieve over when we paid more than them for any other.

Cynicism on corruption!! too seems to be all pervasive as the malaise itself or rather much more. Is it really true? I shudder to think if cynicism is holding sway. Deep down inside I am very hopeful that all of us are in fact right-thinking – so what if culpable of corruption under duress – and are sure that cynicism is only skin-deep. The dejection of having been victimized due to corruption is so intense, and so virulently vitriolic, that one feels like spitting and sh.....g’ the ones who indulge in it.

Hope the PM and his ilk will rise to the bugles of the CAG report on 2G, CWG, Land, MLA’s being purchased, Flats, IPL, Adarsh, Police flats et al. The spectre of corruption looms large, and is worrisome enough as even the last bastion of our democracy – the Armed Forces – too is a part of it. What happens when such a situation is reached – KRANTI or REVOLUTION!! Please see the history of revolutions. Capitalism has already started to catalyse the decadence. Please do not cherish the idea that public memory is short-lived. It is indeed not. The public’s will is not crushed by the systemic rot, it is restrained for the time being, as they have to get along to fend for themselves and their kith and kin. They too have a threshold limit, which the current state of our nation is attempting to breach. The revolutions were successful when the thresholds of all were aligned and breached. The widening gap in the Rich and Poor is a horrific situation which no nation can afford. Obama’s mid-term result is a case in point. Please do not derive solace from multi-party system of our democracy – it’s a mirage.

The COAS on television has dashed my hopes as I have started to become sceptical of his resolve, specially by, one, the Tehelka benchmark; two, by saying that I have asked my Officers and Men to stand-up against wrongs – seems naive to me, as all have been saying this all along and he better know the hierarchy well enough to think if people will stand up; three, that we are ready to face up to any challenge from across our borders and even on two fronts.

A parting advice: SEC has recently come up with 30% incentive to a whistle-blower from financial institutions. Monetary incentives only work, ideals do not fill empty stomachs and do not meet aspirations running high. This approach will be more cost-effective for the Army Chief, while he and his core team undertakes the task.

Why should the Army's Motto not be of all our countrymen?

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