COMMAND AND DEMAND: AN OPEN LETTER FROM A CIVILIAN
I write with reference to the article 'Chain of command, demand' by Shekhar Gupta ( Ind Exp 4th. Oct 2008). Mr. Gupta has not only castigated the chiefs but also predicted dire consequences for them. Not difficult when your courage can bask in the knowledge that the armed forces cannot respond because of the various Acts. Fortunately, I also don't have to worry about these laws. Gupta has forgotten important issues and aspects of the whole affair. The present chiefs have less than 18 months to go. In 2010 you will have a brand new trio. If the chiefs were to go by what Gupta has implicitly suggested, three scenarios emerge.
Scenario 1: In the Golf Club at the 6th Hole (recall it is the 6th. Pay Commission). Says one chief to the others - what do we do now? The other says- arre bhai chodo na, ki farak pendha. We are out in 18 months and then we would be looking forward to becoming Governors/Ambassado rs etc. Let's sign on the dotted line. No one will remember this after one year.
Scenario 2: Same place. The chiefs say - Hey, we are a democratic country remember? So why not conduct a poll through Indian Express by email/sms. All officers and men will vote on – should we accept the 6th PC or not? One lucky officer and one lucky jawan will get a prize – not being posted to Siachen at all. After all, being a democratic government, Raksha Mantriji will congratulate us. See how they keep on saying – people supreme, people supreme. So for us, officers and soldiers supreme, no?
Scenario 3: The chiefs accept the proposals so as to maintain discipline and supremacy of the civilian government, but resign to register their protests. Sounds corny, but do you like it?
What would 'General' Gupta choose? Let us know. With reasons. Yes, the whole affair has been mishandled. But by whom? By the Defence Minister who was probably acting on the advice of his Defence Secretary. So let Antony start by booting his Defence Secretary out. But he can't.. As you have rightly stated a more powerful government and a defence minister who knows the difference between a human butt and that of a rifle may pounce on the services. But there also has to be an army then. Will we have an army in 5-10 years? Why is the armed forces pay always in dispute? Because the establishment mafia which includes netas, land owners, owners of assets and media want the country to be defended as cheaply as possible with the lives of other people's children. How many of these categories have their progeny in the forces? If MPs can decide their emoluments and civil servants theirs, why can't the armed forces do so directly with the political leadership? Why not make the Defence Ministry independent with its own budget like the Railway Ministry. We the people would contribute what it wants and we will pay only the difference to the Consolidated Fund (or is it Fraud) of India .
You have hit below the belt by stating that the present chiefs are not a patch on Thimayya, Maneckshaw, Lal, Sunderji, Tahiliani et al. But time and fate are great balancers – the army got the chiefs needed to deal with stalwarts like Patel, Krishna Menon, Indira Gandhi and Jagjivan Ram. Recall how Lt. Gen Thakur Nathu Singh asked Nehru how much experience he had as PM when the latter wanted Britishers to continue for 15 years after independence because Indian Generals did not have experience. That's why Indian Express also had a Ramnath Goenka during the emergency. Today, even a Major (sorry for the pun), let alone a General, is more than sufficient. We have a Defence Minister who will not last 10 minutes in a debate with a Powell or a Rumsfeld. The Chinese Defence Minister will eat him raw in less than a minute. Read the recent book by a former Expressman, Arun Shourie – Are We Deceiving Ourselves Again – of how an outstanding soldier – Mao - made Nehru look like a boy scout on his first camp. Even after 45 years the Henderson-Brookes Report has not been released.
In 1963, moving the first no-confidence motion after the Chinese debacle, Acharya Kripalani said 'I hope the Defence Minister can defend himself better than he has defended the nation.' Today, for the sake of the country I hope we can get one who can defend the nation and understands the blood group OG. Then he will have no necessity of defending himself. Has any babu spent 40% of his career in non-family stations? What happened to the grandiose plans of George Fernandes to send his secretaries to Siachen for a few days? Look at how your own comrades of the Fifth Column have dealt with the subject. For every article in favour of the armed forces, there are ten favouring the netas and babus. Not surprising since the armed forces do not give you licences etc. Look at the insipid and inane polls your paper carries – 'Is Naveen Patnaik ineffective' or 'Is the Tata-Singur affair harmful to West Bengal '? Perhaps the next important questions will be – 'Is the Ranbir-Deepika couple more romantic than the Saif-Kareena one' or 'whether Ganguly should be dropped'? How about one which asks – Shouldn't our soldiers be paid more than our netas, babus and police? Lastly, don't forget that the Chiefs are only fighting for scales from 2007, while the army has been short-changed from around 1957. So who is going to make up for those 50 years – Indian Express?
There are stated and unstated hints and fears that the armed forces have become too big for their boots. This morbid fear is because hardly any neta has ever served in the forces. Assuming that the country is worth taking over, they already have. They have been forced to wear big boots. They are fighting on the borders, fighting insurgency (police work) within the borders, handling floods, earthquakes, tsunamis (all civil work) and very soon will be asked to help in finishing the stadiums for the Commonwealth Games and even win medals. Where do you think the bands and mass parades/drills are going to come from? They run some of the best schools, best medical college (AFMC) and the best engineering colleges (one in Pune for their children and also the CME). Each of their institutions, from NDA to IMA to DSSC to AWC to NDC, not to mention HAWS and CIWS, is world class. Their cantonments have always been like Singapore , ie better than Shanghai . Last but not least, their daughters dominate Bollywood and beauty contests. Unfortunately the law does not allow them to get into media or they will beat you there also. They are effectively in charge without sitting in Rashtrapathi Bhavan or Race Course Road because the other arms of state have proved to be totally inept as epitomised by the Home Secretary who said on TV that he is learning and getting his on-the-job-training from every bomb blast. Perhaps the fees are being paid by the lives of the aam aadmis.
Gupta's article states that it is of national interest. I fully agree. I therefore reserve my right to send my response to the three HQs, the media and such other parties who are interested in national affairs. The present chiefs may not be Thimayyas or Maneckshaws, but let us see whether Gupta is a Ramnath Goenka, even when we don't have an emergency. Let's see whether this article is printed, even in a sanitized form.Yours faithfully,