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The Leh Episode
|by Kusum Choppra|
This is being written not merely as a journalist, but also as a woman who has been wife of an Army officer and mother of another one.
The Army has been in the news lately, for not altogether positive reasons; today (May 31, 2012) a new chief takes over under the shadow of all the hell let loose by the General Scorned who went several steps further than any scorned woman.
Gen. V K Singh denounced the system he had himself presided over as chief before he had made it fashionable to pull out corruption charges against all and sundry, a la Team Anna. One wonders: was the charge against those trucks somehow because he did not get as much as he had demanded or because a rival brand offered more?
Now as he drags his wooden protesting feet out of office, he fires some more shots in passing. To further demoralize whatever may be left, or to encourage his successors to be more damaging? Is this guy in the pay of any of our aggressive neighbors, by any chance?
In the entire noise made over the infamous Leh incident, there was little said about the genesis of the spat: the lady wife.
What was she doing at a post virtually under the nose of two aggressive neighbors, triggering off an ugly spat? When wives of officers are allowed to make such excursions, they are also expected to follow some niceties, including making themselves presentable before the sahayak enters the officer’s quarters or wait till after; instead of triggering off such incidents, if those reports are actually true?? One can only wonder.
Another key element to the Leh episode is the level of jawan – officer antipathy. What is the cause of this? Is it merely the lack of discipline that triggered it off? Or do the causes lie deeper?
Perhaps it begins at the recruitment level itself. As the Army becomes increasingly technology based, more and more technically qualified persons make it onto the ranks. In fact, today most jawans are graduates. On the other hand, the crossing lines for officers seem to have been lowered, since fewer candidates show interest in a uniformed career. Thus instead of the upper and upper middle classes, we see a more democratic make up in the officer ranks.
But this democratic trend has a fall out as well. There is little difference in the qualifications of the officers and the men, no matter the great difference in their trainings. But how many officers do actually live up to their training and their duty, instead of splitting hairs over their privileges and perks and post retirement benefits? Plus of course the corruption which has become embarrassingly open?
Very often pals try their luck at the CDS exam, only to have one get through and the other not? If the not is sufficiently motivated, he will try to get into the Forces, by hook or by crook, even without the officer rank, which can be earned later in service.
But until it is earned, the not carries a chip on his shoulder at being given orders by those whom he considers his peers, guys-just-like-him, whom he grew up and studied and played with!! And then, resentment runs high.
Extremely sad state of affairs, which the Forces have to find ways of dealing with to stave off any repeats of Leh.
How much of Leh, one wonders, was thanks to the Army Chief Gen. V K Singh, who set the entire Army a terrible precedent by taking the government of India to the court over an extra year in service?
It is an open question still what Singh hoped to do in that extra year which he had not been able to do during his term as Chief? Or what perhaps was lined up for him in that extra year in terms of orders to be signed for some massive consignment of hardware for the Army?
The precedent set by the chief is going to have an unhappy fallout, unless action is taken right now.
The Leh episode cannot but be labeled MUTINY, for which, under the Army Act, the unit can be disbanded and all the men and officers sent right back home. Surveillance will continue and a new unit can be raised immediately.
Stern action against indiscipline, without waiting for committees and enquiries, a media trial or attempts by various MPs to get their own caste or community boys off the hook etc etc., is a must to stem future mutinies in our Army No. 1.
As laxity creeps into all areas of public and private life, discipline is the need of the hour. And where else can we make a start but with the most disciplined force, the Army, which must be seen to be doing its clean up act after the spate of scams that have marked the Singh era.
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