Ex Servicemen used as conduit for corruption and bribes by the MOD
After General VK Singh had taken over as Chief of Army Staff in 2010, a retired Lieutenant General, whose name figures in the Adarsh Society Housing scandal called on him at the office ostensibly to discuss developments in Kashmir. After the polite conversation, the retired intelligence chief asked him about the pending heavy vehicle contract and blatantly made it clear that there was Rs 50 crore for him in cold cash if the Rs 400 crore deal was awarded to an East European manufacturer instead of Indo-Russian joint venture. The retired general was immediately escorted out of the Chief’s office and was declared persona non grata. The ex-serviceman was not the first or the last of his kind as greed seems to be good for Army’s top brass.
On Tuesday, the CBI registered a case against a former Army Vice Chief Lt General Noble Thamburaj for allegedly conspiring with a builder Kalpataru over a select piece of Pune Cantonment defence land. One of the companies of the same builder is also under the CBI scanner for illegally obtaining prime defence land in Kandivili in Mumbai with the support of former minister of defence production Rao Inderjit Singh and former Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor. The CBI has already registered a preliminary inquiry into the Kandivili land deal last month and moving towards registering a proper case.
After Mumbai’s Adarsh Housing scandal, involving two former Army chiefs and one former Navy chief among others, and Sukhna land scandal, which led to court martial and dismissal of former military secretary Lt Gen Avadesh Prakash, these two illegal land deals have taken the Army’s morale to a new low. From the unsavoury sagas of Ketchup Colonel, Booze Brigadier and Ration General, it becomes quite evident that Indian military is going through marked deterioration of human resource and character.
To top it all, there is growing politicisation of the Indian military for promotions, lucrative assignments and post-retirement jobs. The rot within the Indian defence establishment is clearly evident from the retired officers who liaison for defence contractors at golf courses and bars in Lutyen’s Delhi to ex-generals and admirals being employed by hardware dealers for lobbying in South Block.
In public perception the image of an Army officer is hardly different from that of an untrustworthy police officer. It is evident from these scandals that significant section within Army is out to make a quick buck and would do anything for few pieces of silver. This mindset goes right to the top, as otherwise, how one justifies that no less than five top generals including Kapoor and Thamburaj were declared low medical category for disability pension and IT rebates. Before the health of Indian Army deteriorates further without the help of Pakistani ISI or Chinese MSS, it is time that the UPA government intervened to stem the rot.
Fortunately, South Block has defence minister AK Antony and Army Chief Gen V K Singh at the helm of affairs at this crucial juncture. Both are above board integrity wise and cannot stand corruption. While swift action and stringent punishment act as a strong deterrent, it is time that the military mounted strong vigilance on its men and started the weeding out process at an early stage.
The promotions and postings process must be made totally transparent through technology with any interference from ruling party politicians or influential arms dealers. Promotion should be based on merit and not seniority as is the case now. Postings to big cities should be rotated fast so that an officer does not develop vested interest. There should be consolidation of defence lands sprawling all over the country with land records updated so that unscrupulous Army officers cannot illegally pass it on to builders.
While it is impossible to isolate or insulate military personnel from increasingly money oriented Indian society, it is important that military ethos is maintained or professionalism will be hit hard in the services. It is important to drive home the fact that the government takes special care of the armed forces through dedicated hospitals, housing, primary and secondary education and recreation facilities.
The average facilities provided to an Army Colonel, equivalent to a director level officer of central government, are far above as compared to his or her government counterparts. Same holds true for higher ranks. Yet there is increasing tendency within the armed forces to get attracted to money through illegal means or hardware deal making. The prevention exercise has to start from the top as the trooper on the border or the Line of Control looks towards the top brass as idols. Otherwise, all the respect won by those armed forces personnel who gave up their lives will be lost and Indian borders will be at peril.
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