‘It is a fight for principles’
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I went to the Supreme Court on the date of birth issue because it was a matter of principle. Even in the Supreme Court I submitted that I did not wish to extend my tenure. In a way, the Supreme Court did not pass any verdict. It said that it had no objection on the age as recorded, and there was no conflict with the government withdrawing its order (that had rejected Army Chief General V K Singh's statutory complaint on the age issue). And since the petitioner has withdrawn the petition, the case stands withdrawn.
People in the Supreme Court are stalwarts. What were their thoughts, their reasoning and logic, is best known to them. But the fact remains that the Supreme Court had formulated a rule on matters related to age, and that remains applicable to everyone. As for the retirement, I had stated earlier that my tenure was fixed till May 31 by the government, and I will retire on May 31. The fight was not over the tenure, but for a principle.
The first thing that I want to make clear is that the Army never takes any action that is against the government. Second, we do not possess anything for which we have to snoop. And, snoop for what? When there is coordination between the government and Army, what is the need for surveillance? But the media ran a concocted story to malign the image.
As for the two vehicles in question which were said to have been parked outside the defence ministry and which were used for surveillance, what would you say if someone noted down your vehicle number from somewhere and flashed it in newspapers as being engaged for surveillance? Does that really mean you were snooping? You will say that your vehicle was parked at that place. The vehicles whose numbers were noted down, did they carry the surveillance equipment? If the vehicle in question was a normal detachment, which happens to be a counter-intelligence detachment, that vehicle comes there daily. Had there been any equipment inside, there should have been something peeping out from somewhere. And, if the Army had something like that, the IB (Intelligence Bureau) would have had an account of it. There was nothing like that.
That raises the question as to who is behind this story. When we tried to find out, we found nothing in intelligence, only in the media. From there we gathered that some of our own retired personnel were briefing the media. Some of them have connections with foreign arms suppliers. Who said what is not known, but I know that there is a link there.
The Sukna scam
One corps commander had said that the Army must acquire that land (in Sukna) for security reasons. The second corps commander came, and he too repeated the same for six months — that the Army should take this land from the government. Later, within a month, he does a complete U-turn. We found something suspicious and investigated. Army Headquarters was briefed about the shortcomings, and a court of inquiry was instituted. My responsibility was to take it to a logical conclusion by exposing the erring personnel and to take action against them.
I would like to say that our defence minister took the right decision and did not accept the recommendations of the Headquarters that came to him. He said stern action should be taken against those who were guilty.
I have always had good relations with everybody. Perhaps there were some differences with General Kapoor (then Army Chief) on the Sukna issue as General Avadesh Prakash (then military secretary) was involved.
Adarsh housing scandal
The Army did not expose the Adarsh Society scam, it was exposed by the media. Our duty was to only hold an inquiry and find out who was guilty, and whose fault it was that Army land got transferred to a private builder or to a society. There were many people involved. It is not that I took special interest in this matter, but I did all that should be done within Army rules.
Then appeared the news that I did not agree with the government and had said on behalf of the commanders, specifically the Army commanders, that the Army should not be sent in Naxal-affected regions. But this is not true. We were asked to examine the situation and suggest to the government whether the Army should be engaged in this. Like a true professional we suggested that Naxalism was a socio-economic and governance problem. The tribals in these regions are probably in the same situation as they were before Independence. Naxals exploit this fact by contrasting the development in cities with their plight. All we said was that law and order should be strengthened and development should be undertaken to deal with this problem. Secondly, they are not demanding a separate country, they are fighting for their rights. The Army is the last solution. I am happy that the home minister accepted this.
Cleaning up the army
When I became Chief of the Army Staff, the biggest challenge that I faced was how to strengthen ourselves. We undertook a 'transformation study' and identified many areas of improvement. Slow speed of modernisation was the second challenge. There were many things that were stuck in pipelines. The problem — which I consider to be the core of an organisation — was that our values, our image had taken a beating because of certain incidents that had happened. People felt that corruption had risen in the Army. It takes a long time to improve one's image.
As far as middlemen go, the government had taken a decision long back against their intervention. It was a government decision and it was our duty to abide by it. What we did was to ensure there was transparency in all purchases, whatever be the procedure, so that everybody knew what was going on. It should not happen that two years down the line we say that the purchased items were of poor quality or that the guns that were purchased should not have been purchased in the first place.
The reports of a retired Army person's attempt to offer me a bribe have come to the surface. I would like to explain the situation. There is a person, who has recently retired, who makes an offer, while in the middle of a conversation, that if I do something, I may get something. If you have not heard this kind of thing before, you will get startled, you will not understand what the person is suggesting. That is what happened. I asked him to leave before something else happened. Later, I reported this incident to the defence minister. The defence minister buried his head in his hands in shock. He said that we should keep such people out.
The way that person presented it was that this much money will be paid if that file was cleared, that what is your problem when everybody takes it. In a way, this was an indirect method, and probably that is why he was not arrested then.
I started out thinking that I will clear all the mess during my short tenure. But it is very difficult, because the way this thing has infiltrated into the system like a cancer, it requires major surgery. Between the defence minister and myself, it is very clear that we will not let anything happen that allows such things to grow. It will take time, but I hope that if we proceed according to the system, we can reach a situation where we can say that we are not letting such persons function.
When we got the Bofors gun, we also got the technology with it. But all these years later, we are not able to manufacture them in the country. When we analysed the modernisation of our artillery, we found that many of us in uniform were also behind the mistakes. Time and again you will say that we need this caliber, then that one. Delays are bound to happen if you do not account for the total global production. Then contractors and vendors will compete with each other for your contracts. Fingers will be raised, some will approach the court, and someone will say that a particular broker had got a commission.
After the Bofors case, everyone in the administration of the procurement process now tries to ensure that their name doesn't get dragged in into any scam; there should not be any deal that can get one involved, say, 10 years down the line. In the process, things got relaxed, people got slow and extremely cautious. When we analysed, we found that even though we have the technology and drawings, nobody is thinking about them.
When we checked with the ordnance factories whether they can work on it, they said yes. They produced a gun and 450 rounds have been fired from it as well. The Bofors gun made indigenously is successful.
We came out with a good defence procurement procedure. But if we get the JSQR (Joint Services Qualitative Requirement) itself wrong, then we will not get the thing that we want. Nowadays arms are similar worldwide. But if you demand a weapon that can fly, also work underwater and go under the ground, you cannot get such a weapon. You have to keep the available technology in mind. Many a times we commit a mistake on this front.
The second mistake that we in uniform commit is that our tenders are small. We finish our task and forget about it. The next person comes, and what he does is that he finds fault with it. We reorganised the department dealing with it to remove shortcomings.
The biggest difficulty is that the requirements of the Army, among the three armed forces, are high. We need more things, we need different items. But these do not cost as much. It is possible that while our one project costs Rs 500 crore, only one or two items of the Air Force may cost Rs 4,000 crore. There are several files. One may be worth Rs 4,000 crore, another Rs 3,000 crore and some may be worth Rs 500 crore. All files take the same time, irrespective of whether these involve a small sum or a very large sum. Now, if you have 10 cases worth Rs 500 crore each, it is going to take longer. That is why the Army lags behind.
But I would like to point out that, for the first time in the history of the Army and MoD, in 2010-11, the entire capital budget for procurement was exhausted. We faced some difficulty in 2011-12. One hundred and six proposals were put forward at the beginning of the year, but their progress slowed down. The system of administration is such that no work can progress even if one of the subordinates is absent. Work was slowed for six months. When we tried to push it with the new man, it took some time. I guess we could have exhausted the entire capital budget this year too had we not lost those six months.
Our ordnance factories could not utilise their capacities because we could not fix responsibility. There were many mistakes. We used to give them one-year targets. We never told them what we need for the next 15 years. If you don't tell your annual requirements for the next 15 years, they cannot plan their development either. There was a lack of coordination between the ordnance factories and us. What they were doing was only partly known to us, and what we required was only partly known to them. But things are improving now.
The foreign trucks (Tatra) currently used by the Army were chosen a long time ago when the need for a high-mobility vehicle was felt. This truck was selected as a high-mobility vehicle and the procurement was done through a defence PSU. But it was not being manufactured within the country. Nobody looked into the fact that a subsidiary purchases it from the original factory and that subsidiary then sells it to to the defence PSU, which in turn gives it to the Army. Obviously, it costs more. We have about 7,000 such trucks. No infrastructure was created for their maintenance. Any company, say Tata, will have a service centre for its trucks. Your truck can be serviced there. It was not done. This was a fault that should have been rectified earlier, that we have tried to do so now. We have asked them to first service those 7,000 trucks. We have to call personnel from Czechoslovakia for servicing right now. We should have our own trained personnel for it.
Plans for army
The jawans join the Army young, retire early and leave for homes. In such circumstances, how can we help them? For this purpose we have started a scheme to get them higher degrees from Indira Gandhi National Open University. The initiative was given a lot of emphasis. Currently, about four and a half lakh personnel are enrolled in this scheme. Recently we received a proposal on how to benefit personnel coming from rural areas, who own small agricultural plots, and who have a farming background. Under this proposal, if we could train them in organic farming, this foundation (Morarka Foundation) will procure their produce from their fields. I believe this is a scheme that will benefit a large section of the Army. Once they are trained, after they retire, they would not be worried about selling but would be sure that someone will purchase their produce for three or even four times premium.
We have taken the transformation process within the Army to a certain level. If I had enough time, I would have wanted to take it to the stage that I wished. I'm hopeful that the process that we have initiated will be completed without fail. My message to the Army and its soldiers is that we must always work for the interests of the Army. Wherever we go, we can proudly say that this Army is for the country and the country is supreme. We must have a passion, a drive that whatever we do is within the value system of the Army.
Translated from the Hindi by Ravish Tiwari; Courtesy Chauthi Duniya
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