Saturday, April 19, 2008

Challenging Concerns Combating Cancer and Commanding

Medical report
With me posted as FCE commander in Mhow. Jeet my wife was still in Delhi with the children, Kalpana in JNU doing her final MA in French and Ranjit in Eleventh at Army Public School. I had managed to retain the accommodation at the SP Marg officer’s enclave Block 12/ 474 with some difficulty. To add to our mutual worry and problem she was also not well. Both of us were in mental trauma, she had been advised surgery for a suspected tumour in the abdomen I can still not forget the adjective used 'Tennis ball Size' to describe the tumour by the Doctor who had examined her at MH Delhi Cant. I had in desperation called her to Mhow to discuss the future course of action.

The family on a short visit to Mhow

Genuine grudge
Jeet never failed to remind me that I had abandoned her way back in 1959 though it was true her grudge genuine, yet I have often wondered if she ever realised the trauma that even I had to suffer leaving them behind. Possibly the plethora of letters she did receive from me during the periods of separation were not poignant enough to convey my feelings or did the contents made the separation just a bit more unbearable for her. I do know however that waiting for her infrequent letters was a torture enough which was lessened only when I was handed over the then so familiar an envelop which contained her letter even though the euphoria lasted for a short time it is what sustained me during that difficult period at Tawang where I had been moved as the Sparrow of 7 Infantry Brigade from the Regimental HQ at Tezpur.

Family station sans family
Even later I left her many times due to the exigencies of service to fend for on her own and bring up the two growing children who needed the love and care of both the parents. At times we had to live separated by choice due to the children's education when we could visit each other only for short periods also at times it was she who abandoned me leaving me distraught and brooding in my bachelor’s quarters while posted in a family station sans the family. Now she was returning back to Delhi both of us having mutually agreed that she should face the ordeal of the operation albeit alone due to the urgency and the fact that I could not be away from the college at that time. I do wonder now as to what could have been more important to me at that time than her well being and the need of moral support of my presence at the time of the operation.

Heading to Indore
On the drive from Mhow to Indore airport she in the back with another lady who had taken a lift with me in the front with the driver both of us in silence buried deep in our own thoughts; my helplessness and her apprehensions. The seating arrangement in the car and the presence of another person precluded any exchange of last minute words of consolation.

Deafening silence
There was another reason for the deafening silence between the two of us as she had been waiting, in my room in the bachelor’s quarters, sitting with this uninvited guest, for me to pick her up. She with her own worries, I was no where in sight the time for her flight to Delhi approaching naturally she was getting tense and justifiably upset with me. I was all this time stuck in the Commandant's office who was interviewing the foreign students of the faculty with me in attendance. The Commandant though aware of the fact that I was to see- off my wife was in an expansive mood enjoying his interaction with the students from Africa, Iran and Afghanistan in the process honing his already considerable diplomatic skills. I was all the time on tenterhooks covertly looking at my wrist watch, calculating by the minute diminishing gap in the travelling time from Mhow and the Checking- in at the airport. I desperate for an opportunity to get away and having reached the cut- off stage ultimately asked to be excused which he graciously granted. I rushed to the waiting wife to be greeted with frozen looks that made me quickly sink way down in my ammunition boots.

Brave face
On my prodding the skilled driver kept the accelerator pedal pressed to its maximum travel and made the Ambassador fly onwards, we did make it to the Airport in time for check- in but only with a whisker. Once at the Airport and with her realising that the time to leave me behind had finally arrived I did notice a thaw in her till now rather sour expression. Waiting for the Aircraft coming from Bombay to land, both of us distraught she held to my hand as a desperate gesture, eyes brimming with tears. I equally emotionally charged with a turmoil brewing inside, yet presenting a brave face to keep her morale up added to the fact that I was in uniform and as such had to keep a brave face for the benefit of the public at large.

Flight announcement
The Public Address system came to life crackling and in a tinny voice announced the arrival of the flight from Bombay. Soon the Boeing 737 landed with the characteristic roar of its twin jet raced the full length of the tarmac stopped with an effort at the very end of the short runway took a U turn and slowly taxied to the parking bay a short distance away from the terminal. Once again the PA came to life this time announcing the departure of the flight to Delhi and advising the passengers to board. The terminal came alive with the passengers rushing to line-up carrying the in-cabin baggage in both the hands all in a hurry to reach Delhi before others.

Tearful farewell
With tears streaming down her cheeks Jeet bid me a silent farewell no words exchanged the hand slowly and reluctantly withdrawn from the comfort of my grip and joined the line to face the daunting prospect of facing a major operation alone. Leaving me she slowly walked out of the terminal and trudged towards the plane and to an uncertain future. My eyes followed her each step desperate but unable to do any thing to mitigate our mutual apprehensions. I was still tied to her with an invisible elastic band which was getting stretched as she approached the Aircraft to finally break once she entered the door and disappeared from my view. Possibly she was the last to embark and soon the door shut with a bang breaking my contact with her.

Sane decision
As the staff car with me drove out of the Airport the Boeing also took off, flying low overhead with the two turbines whining at full power. I watched in a pensive mood from the window of the car its steep climb the visible effort to break from the shekels of the gravity pulling it towards the ground and become a free bird once again. Soon it took a sharp turn and headed towards Delhi, taking all that mattered to me with it leaving me forlorn worried and with an empty feeling inside. On my way back to Mhow I did take a sane decision and rang her up at the earliest to defer the operation till I could be with her at Delhi.

Brig Lakshman Singh, VSM (Retd)

Posting to Mhow as Faculty Commander

The posting to MCTE Mhow in 1979 as the Faculty Commander FC&VE was the highpoint of my instructional career. It was even to my own eyes a bit unexpected especially with a plethora of average grades collected by me in all the Corps courses attended. It was no small wonder; I did manage to make a success of it. Possibly it is not the grades on the courses but the application of the knowledge and experience gained in various situations reaction to the problems faced and the attitude when things got difficult and the horizon bleak overcast with dark-grey and threatening clouds.

The tenure as Faculty Commander in MCTE considered a hot seat by some of my predecessors was not an easy one. MCTE was a mine field to be traversed most carefully inhabited by highly ambitious and furiously competitive young staff, young student officers the young and pretty wives and senior officers living some reason or other separated. There were also some passengers both in staff and the students who had their own agenda and well thought-out plans to achieve the same. The place had its own dynamics, the air perpetually bristling with palpable energy of all frequencies across the spectrum.

I did identify the problem as to why the "Faculty Commander's chair" had become so hot for the previous occupants who not only found it difficult to manage the highly qualified and ambitious faculty as also the nearly rebellious students branded as an undisciplined lot. The Key lay to get out the mindset those training institutes, colleges; universities are not for the students but for themselves and the staff, to some how solves the administrative, personal and domestic problems of the student officers, a misunderstood lot, and win their confidence. Though students they were still officers and needed to be treated to as such. For me it became an exercise in human relationship and personal management.

Convocation Signal Officers Degree Course

Student assignments
In case of the teaching faculty problem was of the lack of planning at the faculty HQ level with the teaching assignments being given in an ad- hoc manner; with the help of my able Senior Instructor Lt Col Daspal it was soon sorted out even though still heavily loaded at least now they knew as to what was required from them.

Enduring Friendships
Perhaps it was due to this that I did make some enduring friendships. The tenure enriched with me more than 300 friends some now senior officers or doing equally well in civil life who recognise me at airports seminars and social occasions, approaching with a smile. Even some Foreman of Signals students who have risen to officer ranks also coming and greeting me when we meet on social occasions. It more than compensates for the hazardous journey through the so called mine field that I did manage to traverse with fortitude, patience and skill; some inherited others acquired.

Lt Gen MS Sodhi So-in-C with the Commandant visiting the MCTE TV Studio at FCE

Meeting the College HQ requirements of using the FOS (Foreman of Signals) students for the Adm Wing requirements in afternoons, running of the ‘Annexe’ the MCTE Club and the organising of the entertainment evenings both my responsibilities as also my insistence in strictly following the orders emanating from the HQ on holding the PT and Drill parades for the student officers was a different issue and was the cause of my running battle with the Deputy Commandant and at time creating difficult situations for even the Commandant.

Reposing faith
My young staff officer; earlier Capt Sunil Arya and later N V Pandey had to bear the brunt of these demands on daily basis which they resisted with my my unambiguous directions backing them. I am glad Arya made it to the rank of Brigadier, Pandey as Maj Gen had the privilege of being the Deputy Commandant of MCTE. Once again they proved the faith that I always reposed in my young officers. At that stage of service they are happy to learn, especially if being guided, and work whole heartedly in delivering the goods rather than harbouring any long time ambitions which quickly grow as one advances in service.

Brig Lakshman Singh, VSM (Retd)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Silent Protest against Recommendations of SCPC at Chandigarh

The silent event for persons living at Chandigarh and surrounding areas would be held at 1100 h on Sunday 27 April at the War Memorial located at the Bougainville Garden in Sector-3, Chandigarh.

The modalities would be as under:
  • All assemble outside the Garden at 1100 h.
  • All ranks, their spouses and families are requested to attend.
  • Officers and JCO’s are encouraged to wear regimental or any military neck-tie.
  • All ranks should wear medals – miniature medals for officers and full medals for PBOR. Regimental caps may also be worn.
  • All are requested to wear a black band on their left sleeve.
  • The proceedings will be in accordance with military ethos and discipline. There should be no slogan shouting and there will be no speeches.
  • Carrying of placards is discouraged. Static banners may be displayed at the venue, if considered absolutely essential.
  • All are encouraged to carry a candle, a flower or a bunch of flowers, which may be placed at the designated place at the Memorial.
  • After the assembly, at a signal by the organisers, individuals or small groups, not exceeding six, will move inside the Memorial and place their flowers/candles at the designated place and then move to the central area in front of the Memorial. This will be a continuous process. When all have assembled in the central area, a gong will be sounded for all to stand at attention and observe two minutes silence. At the end of two minutes, the gong will be sounded again to signify the end of the silence period. Thereafter, all will disperse in an orderly manner.
  • The media is being invited to attend in strength and cover the event fully.

    The overall aim is to convey the concerns of the veterans, through the media, at the grossly anti- services bias of the Pay Commission.

    Similar, or locally modified events, at maximum cities and towns, preferably on the same date, may be organized to get maximum impact.

    This is for information of all Retired Officers, ESM and Veteran Organistions in India to coordinate the silent protest. For those organisations abroad a letter to Indian Consulate be handed over to lodge our protest.
  • Appeal to Member of Parliament

    Mr Pawan Kumar Bansal,

    I write this on behalf of the retired defence personnel and their families, who form the constituency you as Member of Parliament represent. As a Minister of State for Finance, you would have heard the story projected by the 6th Pay Commission. I would like to apprise you of the way the Commission has dealt with us.

    Successive pay Commissions have been dealing an unfair hand to the defence services. In that sense 6th Pay Commission has merely followed the same line. Not only has pay and allowances been repeatedly axed, compared to civil services, even the status of defence officers has been systematically, repeatedly and by design, lowered over the years.

    No one from defence services was taken on the 5th Pay Commission. Not even on the staff of nearly 150 assembled to assist the Commission to work out the nitty-gritty of the report. Even when a Committee of Secretaries was constituted to examine the recommendations of this Commission, your ministry declined to take a member from the armed forces, but took one from the police! It is no better now. We wonder if the Chiefs will agree to this charade!

    You may be aware that a maj-gen holds rank higher than a brigadier and yet the 5th Pay Commission gave brigadier higher pension than a maj-gen. We spent three years in the Punjab High Court, to get this distortion corrected and when corrected, the government has gone to the Supreme Court to sustain this absurd position. If the 4th Pay Commission gave rank pay to officers ( upto the rank of brigadiers ) the government deducted the same amount from the basic pay of concerned officers. Instead of accepting the mischief and correcting this injustice with good grace, the case has been placed before the Apex Court where again, instead of a general order, individual cases appear to be under consideration. Since then a large number of affected officers have died and some others have resigned themselves to this callous attitude of the government.

    When lowering the status of army officers had become a practice, the Chairman Chiefs of Staff committee in 1981, lodged a strong protest with the RM. Babus named the Indian army, an ‘army of occupation’ to justify lowering its status. 6th Pay Commission has further lowered the status of officers, other than those of service chiefs and army commanders, through the medium of pay etc. The divide and rule policy is fraught with grave consequences.

    ‘One rank- one pension,’ demand of defence retirees is essentially because of their peculiar service conditions. Almost all political parties supported this and some included it in their election manifestoes. Besides some PMs, the President of India, addressing the joint session of Parliament had committed to implementing, ‘one rank- one pension.’ This demand has been given a final burial by the 6th Pay Commission.

    A Committee of secretaries has been constituted by your ministry to look into the military’s case. Here a word on this ultimate solution the government seems to find in ‘committee of secretaries’ may be helpful. A committee of secretaries was formed to select an engine, between two contenders, for the Vijanta tank. During its deliberations it surfaced that none of them even knew the difference between a crankshaft and camshaft of an engine! So why have a committee whose knowledge of hardships of military service and the risk factor is near zero! We do expect you to put an officer from the armed forces on this committee.

    In the military, early retirement is necessary to keep a youthful profile, extremely limited promotions is a service imperative and travails are innumerable and inherent to the service. All of these have to be compensated. No other service stands comparison with military service in this regard, so why apply a common yard stick.

    In every democracy, military service is considered a special calling and treated as such. In the US the maximum pension admissible to a civil employee, under the Federal System, is 60 percent of average of last three years pay. In the military it is 75 percent of the last pay drawn. The life time retirement ( discounted ) benefits of a soldier after 20 years service, in the nineties, was $ 89,500/ while that of a policemen and federal service employee was $ 24,000/ and 18,300/. Iraq war has resulted in further increase in emoluments of soldiers. In the US where an average citizen is most conscious and demanding of his rights and privileges, the nation considers it the soldier’s right and privilege to better pay and perks for a hard, risk filled life and a truncated career. So is the case with most other democracies. Why is it so different in India!

    In India the sum total of pay ( as also pension ) and allowances of a civilian employee, across the full length of service, works out to far more than what those in uniform get over their full span of service/pension. While the distortions brought about by the 6th Pay Commission are far too many to list, for one, why keep Military Service Pay outside the basic pay (because it is not an allowance specific to any area or condition ) and introduce such a large disparity between officers and troops in this case. Why cold shoulder middle rung officers! Such glaring anomalies and distortions have to be addressed.

    Perhaps we have reached a state where few want to join the defence services. Our military academies are running well short of capacities. Poor response to entry into engineering services in the army, has brought the Training Institute for them under threat of closure. When very few want to join the defence services and those already inside want to quit, government is unconcerned and conscription is not an option as our RM said a few days ago, why not outsource National Security! There are many in your ministry who would see merit in this proposal and find it financially a cheaper option!

    We are aware of your outburst against what you termed as ‘fauji raj,’ but hopefully, that was not the result of a deep seated bias but an aberration and your sympathies and support continue to be with defence services. We do have high hopes in you and that using your good offices, you will see that justice is done and an officer from the forces is made a member of committee of secretaries.

    Lt Gen Harwant Singh (Retd)

    One Rank One Pension: Myth or Reality?

    If the UPA government wanted to "encash" the 6th Pay Commission recommendations in the run- up to the general elections, the move seems to be boomeranging in its face.

    Rattled by the growing unrest in the armed forces and police forces over the paltry hikes, the government now appears to have taken a decision to set up a high- powered empowered committee, comprising the finance, defence and home secretaries, to look into the anomalies and grievances of the uniformed services.

    Govt panel to look into pay anomalies of forces?

    Comment: SCPC has let down the 21 lakh ESM. The "one rank one pension" which was promised during elections was truly a gimmick and a ploy to assuage the voting population. 2008 has been declared as "Year of ESM" by RM. Is there still any hope for the ESM? Will the empowered IAS Committee go into the long felt need of ESM?

    ESM meeting at Balasore

    Statesman News Service
    BALASORE, April 13: “Despite numbers of provision such as employment and welfare schemes for ex-servicemen and their family members, they are yet to reap the benefits to the fullest as we lack strong legal action for its violation,” opined former Union minister of state for defence Brig KP Singh Deo. He was addressing a massive gathering here on the occasion of the first annual meeting of Indian Ex- services League (IEL) of North Orissa chapter.

    Observing that several schemes for the retired defence personnel and their wards are not implemented properly, he stressed on formation of a statutory body like a commission backed by power to monitor the community problems and welfare measures.
    Noting further that the ex-servicemen are languishing after retirement in the want of reemployment, he demanded a clear policy. As per records, there are 21 lakhs ex-servicemen and each year nearly 70,000 are added to this figure, he pointed out.
    "The recommendations of sixth pay commission for defence sector are not encouraging," he said and informed that he has personally apprised the commotions pertaining to demands and anomalies within the recommendations to the prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Mrs Sonia Gandhi and defence minister Mr AK Antony.

    Underscoring the need for one rank- one pension policy, he said: “The long-standing demand- one rank one pension still remains unresolved. Whether a person retired from a particular rank 50 years before or now all should get same pension like the parliamentarians get”. Similarly, he also pointed out the service incongruity in civilian and defence sectors. He urged upon all ex- servicemen organisations to raise voice in a democratic manner.

    Speaking on the occasion, Major General (retired) SD Mohanty lamented on the alleged apathetic attitude of government in implementing the ex- servicemen welfare schemes and rued "it is ridiculous when we claim the second largest defence force in the world and ignore their genuine problems". Among others, Major General (retd) RK Sahoo, the patrons and chairman of advisory council the IEL north Orissa branch, Group Capt (retd) J Brahma, the state president of IEL, Mr Maheswar Behera, Mr Manoj Se and Mr Pratap Biswal spoke to the occasion.

    ESM hold Rally at Balasore

    Comments: There is urgent need for all ESM and Veteran organisations to come under a unified umbrella to ensure our voice is heard. Democracy is only vibrant if voice of the Public are heard by the Government. Our Socialist Government is truly not democratic in so far as welfare of the underdogs are concerned.

    Tuesday, April 15, 2008

    Truly Amazing Kindness

    Love and compassion of a mother extended to an orphaned animal

    We thank Brig PT Gangadharan (Retd) for sharing this wonderful award winning picture. Truly out of the world. An eye opener for Nature Lovers and Animal Right Activists.

    Spooks Silence Reputed Military Historian

    Dear Friends,

    It is now over about six months since I sent you my last update. Of course, some of you must be keeping abreast of the latest developments through the newspapers. The controversy concerns my book India’s External Intelligence– Secrets of the Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) that came out in June 2007. Based on a complaint from RAW, the CBI registered a FIR under the Official Secrets Act against me. They searched my house and questioned me subsequently. My plea for anticipatory bail was heard in the Sessions Court in Tis Hazari on 26 Sep. After over a dozen hearings, the case plea is still undecided. However, on 11 Apr the court has agreed to the CBI’s plea for the hearings to be held ‘in camera’. This will ensure that the media is kept out.

    Another sinister development is that the CBI has filed a complaint in the court of the Metropolitan Magistrate on 9 Apr, giving out a gist of the charges against me. They followed this up with a charge sheet that was filed at 1600 hrs on 11 Apr. The next three days being holidays, I have still not got a copy of the charge sheet or the order of the sessions Court regarding in camera hearing. Hopefully, I should be able to get it on 15 Apr, when the courts open.

    Some of may have read Indian Express of 10 Apr, which gives certain information given in the book that CBI considers ‘Secret’. Click link given below. Rajeev Dhawan, a senior advocate of the Supreme Court has written a forceful article in the Mail Today on 13 Apr (click active link below). He has made a very apt comment on the role of the bureaucracy.

    Quote: They are not really concerned with contents of the book. They want to silence and pulverize General Singh and any body like him into submission. Government servants are like a club. The club interacts with each other. They develop friendships and animosities which are carried over into their retirement; and, who knows, perhaps into their next life. Unquote

    We have seen how the bureaucrats have treated the Armed Forces in the report of the Pay Commission. What is happening to me and others like Ujjal Dasgupta is a manifestation of the same hostility and ill will that the bureaucrat harbours towards the soldier. (I was tempted to use the word Babu but desisted, not wishing to sully the memory of some of our veteran freedom fighters such Kunwar Singh and Dr. Rajendra Prasad for whom the prefix was used in British Times). There have been several instances of severe damage to national security in recent years such as the loss of computers with sensitive data in SAG, a DRDO unit; the escape of Rabinder Singh (media reports suggest that more than 60 others were part of the network); and the purchase of radio equipment of doubtful security by the SPG, brought out in my book. There are several officers named in my book who appear to be corrupt. No action has been initiated against any one in any of the cases mentioned above. The reason is not hard to fathom– soldiers are not part of the ‘club’.

    I understand that we are planning a vigil at India gate on 27 April to bring out the injustice being done to soldiers. I think pay is just one of the things we should highlight before the public. What about the gradual and steady denigration of the status of the soldier since 1947; the loss of many service privileges due to lack of knowledge by the bureaucracy (priority in litigation, protection from prosecution when operating in aid to civil power, representation in court by persons other than an attorney, exemption of court fees on powers of attorney, exemption from tolls etc); the refusal to honour the war dead (there is no land for a war memorial, but there is for a police memorial) etc. I think we need to bring out all these issues before the public, highlighting the role of the soldier in maintaining the integrity of the nation not only against external threat but internal disorder. Would democracy have survived In India if the Indian soldier had emulated his counter parts in our neighbouring countries? The public must be informed of the stranglehold of the bureaucracy and how it has demoralised the soldier to such an extent that he no longer has any faith in the Government. Does it not ring an ominous bell for the future?

    Maj Gen VK Singh (Retd)

    Media Coverage:
    What the CBI calls Official Secrets
    CBI to charge ex- RAW Officer
    Stop the prosecution of Maj Gen V K Singh: Official Secrets Act should be scrapped as well
    CBI Charge sheets Former RAW Officer V K Singh
    Indian Intelligence : Why top officials are upset with a new book
    The Blinding Curtain

    Comments: The Official Secrets Act enacted ages ago is presently used to whip the recently enacted Right to Information Act out of shape. Sample India's Contradictions in the new found Information Age. Spooks and spies need a training institute to impart professionalism into the art, instead of getting confused with wine, women and money laundering.

    Lessons Learnt: The Defence Forces should deter officers moving to Intelligence Spooky Agencies which is likely to seal their fate, curb their freedom under the garb of vital National Interests and made scapegoats of others folly. Even one found carrying a camera in the Airport, can be booked under the Official Secrets Act of India.

    Sunday, April 13, 2008

    Opportunity through insight

    MHOW Oracle comes true

    Dinner Night in the HQ Mess MCTE
    Lt Gen Khanna, Maj Gen Surjit Singh on his left and Brig SK Dovedy on his right, the author on extreme left

    Stranger's call
    A hundred Rupee Note did get exchanged from my hand to his; was it at his request or due to the empathy, his penury and destitution being so transparent and his efforts to dress as he was making it obvious that he had seen better days, that I felt for him? Did I consider him to be source of of wise counsel or prophetic opinions?

    Selection Board
    It was a few days after my appeal for having been passed- over had been rejected by the authorities that be, and I had reconciled to the fact but not Jeet, who in the meantime, had packed the house and decided to bid farewell to Mhow with or without me, that we were sitting together in the veranda of our beloved hutment, both in silence, possibly contemplating the next step and the future plans, that I noticed an elderly gentlemen dressed in suit and tie standing at the gate and beckoning me.

    From a closer look he appeared to be pretty down at heels, his clothes had certainly seen better days and a bit desperate from his demeanour. ‘I can feel some vibrations’ he sad and pleaded ‘please let me come in I have some thing to tell you’. His being a stranger and me not being sure as to what he could have to tell me opened the gate of the compound and rather reluctantly let him in. It transpired that he had a claim to have some ESP (Extra Sensory Powers) at his command, though not a believer in ESP or astrology, possibly remembering my earlier encounter with the Oracle from Nathang, way back in 1970 at Lungthu in Sikkim; I let him have his say.

    Reading the lines
    I now do not recall if he held my hands or looked at the lines in my palm but he soon declared that I would get my next promotion very soon. Though his prediction was pleasant to the ears, I was convinced that it was pure hogwash, especially with the rejection- slip to my appeal safely locked, from the eyes of Jeet, in my briefcase. I responded by telling him that there was no chance of his prophesy coming true. He still insisted, was quite adamant and positive about it.

    Fortunately for me he was right and I was wrong in my thinking: to mine and everyone’s surprise the next Selection Board, strangely based on the same old, my earlier Annual Reports and with no fresh inputs, cleared me for the next rank. However, the damage had already been done in nullifying the advantage of the two years anti- date which I had due to my technical qualifications. Perhaps it benefited some individual or individuals, yet I have no regrets.

    Lt Gen Khanna the So-in- C on a visit to Faculty with the Commandant Maj Gen Pental, Lt Col VA Subramanyam the SI in background and Capt AJS Lamba

    Signal Officer in Chief
    The prophesy by the Oracle of Mhow came cent percent true unlike the prediction by the Oracle of Nathang which was only fifty percent correct, in that Banker, did not make it to Lt Col, while in his case the prophecy in respect of then Maj Gen V C Khanna along that made about me also came true. I do not remember as to who had apprised me of this, but it is also a fact that at that time it was Maj Gen J Mayadas who was the favourite and centre of all attraction, so obvious when both of them had together visited MCTE for some function, to be the next So-in-C. However, it was Khanna who to every one’s surprise, shock and awe, got promoted to Lt Gen and took over as the next So-in- C, on retirement of Lt Gen RP Sapra.

    Brig Lakshman Singh, VSM (Retd)

    Link: Signal Officer Narrative 1971

    The Army employs a system of annual appraisals which are called Annual Confidential Reports (ACR). The ACR is produced annually to a timetable depending on rank and performs two functions: It tells the individual honestly how he/ she has done during that period and leaves them in no doubt how to improve their performance. When placed with the individuals other previous ACRs it becomes the raw material used by selection boards to assess potential for promotion, training and appointments. Along with the ACR is tagged the Annual Medical Report.

    Newly commissioned army officers will not be subject to the annual confidential report for the first nine years of service. It was found that the "zero error syndrome" was creeping in among the young officers anxious not to mar their career profile by taking risks. Therefore, under this plan, officers will not be assessed in the first two years of their service. Thereafter, for the next seven years there will only be a "unit assessment card", which will be done by the officer's peers within the battalion.

    The ACRs and Medical Reports do not generally represent the true picture of the Officer especially from rank of Brig to Lt Gen as all are branded "High Profile". The Medical Standards need to be made more stringent to knock out the flab. Fifty percent of the Generals are medically unfit but due to their rank influence they retain SHAPE One category till retirement and most of them aspire to serve and retire in Delhi, as per statistics.

    Ideally there should be no representation on ACR's, however, erroneous one surmises it to be. Showing of ACR to concerned officer is not prudent unless a feedback system is evolved to evaluate leadership traits. What we heard from media reports in Maj Gen AK Lal's case was that, subordinate officers ACRs were discussed by his family members. This surely is an unwelcome trend. The sanctum and confidentiality of ACR must be scrupulously preserved at all times.

    Veteran victory and honour for religious tradition

    Five WW II turbaned Veterans including me were refused admittance to the Lounge of Newton Legion Branch, Surrey on Remembrance Day in 1993 - even though they were invited guests. The door was barred to them unless they agreed to remove their turbans - something that observant Sikhs would never do, and even though advance clearance for dress to be worn was obtained from Parade Commander Newton Legion. Because of the ill-treatment meted out to the Veterans, a number of white Ministers, MLAs and Councillors scheduled to make speeches inside the Lounge, refused to enter in protest and walked away.

    Public insult, embarrassment and humiliation of invited World War Veterans being extremely serious, the issue was picked up by local, national and International media, spreading all over the World. Not only that, it also was discussed in the Canadian Parliament, British Columbia’s Legislature and Surrey City Council and unanimously passed supporting the Veterans and condemning the Newton Legion President’s undesirable action.

    Being fully involved in the episode, I spearheaded it. I wrote personal letters to the Queen, Governor General and many other dignitaries, giving full details of the incident and my views on it. The Queen very kindly sent my letter to the National Headquarters of the Royal Canadian Legion for action, who immediately amended the Legion Bylaws, permitting turbaned Veterans in all 1720 Legion Branches across Canada. Later, when I met the Queen at Victoria on August 20,1994, she asked me about the progress of the Legion’s turban issue. I thanked her for her intervention and said that the issue was resolved immediately by amending the Legion’s unscrupulous bylaws. She was though pleased to know that but remarked “ But they should not have treated you in the manner they did in the first place“. Due to intensive pressure from the Royal Canadian Legion, the three levels of Governments and the public at large, Mr Frank Underwood, President Newton Legion apologized unconditionally to the five Veterans on BC TV on December 1, 1993.

    Having seen me handling the case in question, in Indian media, Reeta Sharma International Reporter of Chandigarh English Tribune came to my house in Surrey, Canada. She interviewed me on the incident for over two hours. She sent her Story to Chandigarh Tribune for publication. Her story as published in her newspaper on July 29, 1994.

    Lt Col Pritam Singh Jauhal (Retd) WW II Veteran

    Reeta Sharma (Reporter) says: THE 73-year-old War Veteran Pritam Singh Jauhal would put many lazybones to shame. Once offended and humiliated, he fought the battle of his pagri, symbolic of his honour and religion like a warrior.

    Lesson Learnt. The five pillars of self- discipline are: Acceptance, Willpower, Hard work, Industry, and Persistence. If you take the first letter of each word, you get the acronym "A WHIP" — a convenient way to remember them, since many people associate self- discipline with whipping themselves into shape. Our bureaucracy needs a high dose of discipline to be injected into the system to enable them comprehend the ethos of a serving or a retired soldier.


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