Thursday, January 19, 2012

Government's eroding credibility behind army chief's action

by Rajesh Kalra

January 16, 2012 would always be a sad day for the Indian democracy. It is the day the Indian Army chief, General V K Singh, dragged the Indian government to the Supreme Court over a controversy related to his date of birth. The general says his year of birth is 1951 while the government says it is 1950. This seemingly innocuous technicality is the difference between the general's retirement this year or a year later.

Many may think this is too trivial an issue to be dragged to the nation's apex court, but one needs to look deeper, for it has extremely dangerous portents. We have always prided ourselves as a nation whose army is completely apolitical and never challenges the democratically elected civilian government, who it reports to. We are not Pakistan!

General Singh's move would have given a jolt to this almost taken-for-granted scenario. To the common man and perhaps even external observers, it perhaps sows a seed of doubt. Is this relationship fragile? Of course, it clearly shows that the nation's top military man has lost faith in the government's ability to be fair and just, and that the bureaucrat-politician nexus that controls the defence establishments cannot be trusted by "those who lay down their lives for the nation."Yes, that has been the general refrain ever since the report emerged earlier this evening".

Alright, I may be unnecessarily harsh in my reading and could be premature with my prognosis, but an ostrich-like response would do us no good. And by that I do not mean to say that the Army is being politicised, but that the civilian government we have has lost credibility. The point is, would a services honcho have challenged a civilian government if its credibility was not under attack? Unlikely. A strong and credible government would have never allowed the situation to come to such a pass. It would have handled it a lot more maturely and a serving general would have never had the reason, nor the guts, if I may add, to challenge the very elected government that appointed him.

I am sure there would be arguments that it is a personal matter between the Army chief and the government and should NOT be seen as a fight between the Army and the government. Sure, but try telling that to the common man, sick as he is of the inept handling of a series of cases in recent years by the government. For him, it was the honour and dignity of the nation's top soldier that the government failed to protect.

Remember, it is the same government that has some of its ministers (Raja), senior functionaries (Behura), top politicians (Kalmadi) in jail for the corruption scandals it finds itself embroiled in. It is the same government that the common man feels has made corruption its byword and does not want to curb the menace (Lokpal Bill fiasco). It is the same government that has tried to undermine the prestige of independent auditor (CAG).  When a government that suffers such trust deficit is challenged by a man who holds the top position of the organisation that the common man feels is a shining beacon of India, it is easy to see who people believe.

It is important that the government realises the seriousness of what has happened this evening. We are fortunate ours is a disciplined army that never challenges the civilian government, but that can't be the reason to be complacent. There is general awakening all over, and if patience runs thin, as it so often does these days, the result cannot be too flattering. We want our nation to be a vibrant democracy where the Army always reports to the government we, the people, have chosen. But if this chosen government abdicates its responsibly, the very people who elected it will have no hesitation in looking at alternatives.

By the courtesy of Times of India. Please see

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