Custom Search Engine - Scans Selected News Sites


Friday, 27 January 2012

From Today's Papers - 27 Jan 2012
Army Chief’s Age Row-Part 3
A matter of Honour vs Propriety
The Twist in the Tale
By Raj Chengappa, Editor-in-Chief
Deep in the bowels of South Block, there are two branches of the Army that have a key role in determining whether General Vijay Kumar Singh, Chief of Army Staff, was right in appealing to the highest court in India to have his date of birth corrected in the records.

The headquarters of both these branches in Delhi are walking distance from each other. Just two flights of stairs away to be precise. Yet the lack of communication between the two over Singh’s date of birth appears to have resulted in the most messy public confrontation between the Army Chief and the Union of India.

On the ground floor of South Block is the Military Secretary's (MS) Branch close to what is known as the Library Section. The MS Branch is responsible for overseeing all annual confidential records, postings and promotions of commissioned officers and maintains their personal files.

On the second floor is the Adjutant General's office that, among other things, is responsible for manpower planning, recruitment and storage of all records of Army personnel. Since there are over 1 million personnel in the Army, the records section is located in West Block No. 3 in RK Puram, around 9 km away.

Two don’t tally

The labyrinthine chambers of these two behemoths may hold the clue to why both these branches of the Indian Army have been maintaining different dates of birth ever since Vijay Kumar Singh was commissioned on 14 June 1970 — almost 42 years ago. While the MS Branch maintains that the Army Chief's date of birth is 10 May 1950, the AG's Branch in its records has it as 10 May 1951 — exactly a year's difference.

As had been mentioned in Part 1 and 2 of The Tribune series on the Army Chief's Age Row, there was a curious set of circumstances that led to two sets of dates being maintained by two major branches of the Army. This despite these two branches having one of the most elaborate systems of record keeping in the country, maintaining even the smallest detail of all personnel.

In the Army Chief's ‘Record of Service’ maintained by the AG's Branch, for instance, apart from his date of birth (shown as 10 May 1951), it has his educational qualifications, his date of commissioning, every single course he took, all his postings and promotions, the combat theatres he served in (over half a dozen of them), his marriage (to Bharti on 25 June 1975 in Bhiwani), his children (Mrinalini and Yogja with their date of births), his illnesses (among them a nasal allergy on 18 June 1991) and his awards and decorations (12 of them).

In Part 2, there is record of every financial transaction he has made exceeding Rs 10,000, including purchases of electronic goods or cars apart from land and buildings acquired.

Despite the elaborate records that the Army collects, when it comes to errors concerning the date of birth, there has been remarkably little dispute. On 17 November 2011, the RTI Cell of the Army in reply to a query stated that there have been only five cases of changes of birth dates of Army officers since 1947. Three of them were decided by a court order and in one case concerning a Lieutenant General, it took 36 years for him to get relief.

In Vijay Kumar Singh's case, as mentioned in the earlier parts of the series, the problem occurred right from the beginning when he claims he "inadvertently" entered his date of birth as 10 May 1950 in the original UPSC form that he had filled up while applying for the National Defence Academy (NDA) examination on 29 July 1965. The minimum qualification for entering the NDA is passing the Class X (matriculation) examination. But candidates like Singh who were appearing for theClass X examinations before the course began in July 1966 could also apply subject to them having provided proof that they had cleared the exams.

Elusive certificate

As proof of the date of birth, Rule 136 of the Army Manual states that the age recorded in the enrolment form of a person shall be in conformity with the date given in the matriculation certificate or equivalent examination. Or if no date of birth is shown on the certificate, then a school transfer/leaving certificate could be submitted or a certificate from the headmaster giving the exact age as recorded in the school admission file.

In Singh's case, as he was yet to pass his Matriculation, he states that his father, Colonel Jagat Singh, who was then serving at 14 Rajput Regiment, had his Officer Commanding issue a certificate that was submitted to the UPSC before he did the NDA exams in December 1965. Singh did his Class X Board examinations in March 1966.

In May 1966, the NDA results were declared ahead of the Class X results and Singh was among those who passed. As part of the requirement he states he submitted to the UPSC a provisional certificate attested by his school, Birla Public School, Pilani, that showed his date of birth to be 10 May 1951. On 18 June 1966, the UPSC sent him a letter pointing out the discrepancy in the date of birth as compared to the form he had filled up for the NDA examination and requested him to clarify the correct date of birth.

With his Class X Board examinations just out and the original certificate expected to come only after six months, Singh got his school principal to issue a Secondary School Transfer Certificate that certified that he had passed the X Board examinations and that his date of birth was 10 May 1951. He stated that along with a covering letter from his father he personally handed over the certificate to the UPSC office in Delhi on 29 June 1966.

Singh believed that the UPSC had accepted the change and hence he was permitted to join the NDA. As proof that he had delivered such a letter, in his statutory complaint to the Union of India in August 2011 (the first time an Army Chief had resorted to such a plaint), Singh attached a copy of the stamped receipt that the UPSC gave him.

Among the points made by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in its order of 30 December 2011 rejecting the Army Chief's statutory complaint was that he had produced no proof to show that the UPSC had issued a formal letter correcting the discrepancy. The MoD also pointed out that the UPSC in its files had no record of any communication it had with Singh or his father with regard to the matter.

Why the mix-up

So how then did the two branches of the Army, MS and AG, end up with varying dates on their records? The answer may lie in the numerous forms that the Army requires when a candidate is selected for the NDA and enters the Academy. This forms the basis of his future records. After passing the written examination, a candidate has to appear before a Service Selection Board (SSB) where apart from being interviewed by a panel of officers he also has to pass intelligence, psychological and physical endurance tests.

In Singh's case, since he had opted for the Air Force as his first choice, he was sent to the SSB in Dehradun. As soon as he arrived on 9 May 1966, as part of standard procedure, he was asked to fill up Form SP-103. This asked for details such as UPSC roll number, name, height, identification marks, date and place of birth, particulars of his parents, educational qualifications, references and home address. In that form Singh filled up his date of birth as 10 May 1951.

Simultaneously, another Form SP-44 is filled up by a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) that is to test the candidates. The data such as name, date of birth and other details are taken from the candidate’s UPSC form. In this form, Singh's date of birth is entered as 10 May 1950 reflecting what he had filled up in his original Application form. This form is also dated as 9 May 1966, the same day that Singh filled up his SP-103 form.

If the candidates were successful, as Singh was, the SP-103 form filled up by them were then sent for "verification of character and antecedents" to revenue and police officials of the district essentially the District Magistrate, the District Superintendent of Police (SP) and the SP (CID). Singh claims that since the SP-103 form also contained his date of birth these officials had verified it. But the MoD in its order pointed out that this was mainly for character verification and could not be taken as authentication of his birth records.

The SP-103 is sent to the NDA where it becomes part of the Dossier of the candidate. After completion these are sent to the IMA, where a fresh set of Dossiers are compiled. Singh joined the IMA in July 1969 and while filling up the forms in the 'Record of Particulars' Singh wrote his date of birth as 10 May 1950. He was then 18 or 19 years of age depending on which date of birth is considered and can no more claim to be a minor. In his complaint, he states that the instructions were to fill the application form "as per the UPSC application form.”

Mounting evidence

The General claims he then got the IMA to write to his school and have the correct date of birth attested. The MoD, in its order, pointed out that IMA records showed no such communication with the school or that it had corrected the records on the basis of such communication. The MoD also pointed out that the IMA's Dossier, Record of Particulars, Final Assessment and Confidential report also showed Singh’s date of birth as 10 May 1950, which indicated that no correction had been made.

Singh counters such statements by citing the fact that his ID card (IC 24173) issued by the IMA, which he has to carry throughout his years of service, has his date of birth as 10 May 1951. The MoD's explanation is that the data is taken from the SP-103 form which Singh himself had filled up when he went to the SSB. But the MoD is hard put to explain why there was no verification done by the IMA when its other records had a contradictory date of birth.

There is one more form that is critical to the entire row. When a candidate passes out of the IMA and is commissioned into the Army, he is assigned to a Unit. As soon as he reports for duty, he fills up an IAFZ-2041 form which is the basic ‘Record of Service’. The details filled up in the form are to be authenticated by an officer of the unit. In Singh's case he is commissioned on 14 June 1970 and sent to the 14 Rajput, an infantry battalion, stationed in Delhi and in his IAFZ-2041 form he writes 10 May 1951 as his date of birth and this is authenticated by his Unit officer.

No authentication

In its order, the MoD charges Singh with “not correctly representing his date of birth”. Relying on advice given by Goolam Vahanvati, Attorney General of India, the MoD points out that the annexure to the IAFZ-2041 states: “Officers will ensure that particulars given by them are correct and agree with those given by them in the original application for the grant of commissioning ie UPSC.” The MoD concludes that “in the absence of authentication of 10 May 1951 as the date of birth, its basis for the Record of Service cannot be accepted.”

All these forms and dossiers are then sent to the MS Branch where they become part of the record in a register. A copy is also sent to the AG's Manpower Planning Unit 5 & 6, which is the repository of all commissioned officers records. The AG's Recruiting Directorate also sends the SP-44 form to MS Branch.

Vahanvati in his advice to the MoD on 11 May 2011 pointed out that when Singh was commissioned, there were four documents that showed his date of birth as 10 May 1951. These are: SP-103 which he filled up at the SSB, the autobiography he wrote in the NDA, the Record of Service taken from particulars he had filled up and the school transfer certificate. Vahanvati points out that of these four documents, three had been written by Singh himself.

Of the documents that show his date of birth being 10 May 1950, two of them were written by Singh himself — the UPSC form and his dossier in the IMA. The note of commissioning dated 22 January 1971 also lists the same date.

To further disprove Singh's contentions, Vahanvati points out that within the AG Branch itself there are two sets of dates being maintained. He states that the AG Recruiting Directorate, which is tasked with verifying the date of birth, has a noting of 4 May 1971 that also shows the date of birth as 10 May 1950 — this is nearly one year after Singh gets commissioned into the Army. Vahanvati further states that in this noting "it is also confirmed that the date of birth and educational qualifications of the cadets submitted to the NDA were verified by the UPSC."

The MoD in its order mounts further evidence in the form of the mandatory Gazette notification with respect to the 45th Regular Course of the IMA that Singh belonged to. His date of birth in this vital document is recorded as 10 May 1950. The MoD points out that the file was initiated by the MS Branch, it was seen and vetted by the AG's Recruiting Branch, the Controller General of Defence Accounts (CGDA), and finally approved by the Ministry itself.

Further, the MoD points out that two of Singh's coursemates had queries about their date of birth and these were rectified. In the case of Baldev Singh Dhaliwal (IC24292), his date of birth was corrected and AK More, another coursemate of Singh, the CGDA sought verification of the date of birth as no indication was given in his application form regarding its verification. Significantly, the MoD adds, "No such observation was made" with regard to Singh.

The MoD's point was that if there was some ambiguity about Singh's date of birth record, it would have been pointed out then. When the MoD published the draft notification in the Gazette of India (No. 2558 dated 18 September 1971), next to Singh's name it showed his date of birth as 10 May 1950.

Singh's counter is that his commission was "provisional" as his matriculation certificate had yet to be submitted because of a peculiar turn of events. The original certificate, he states in his petition, went wrongly to his father's unit. As he had been transferred out, the postal department sent it to his village address where it lay till Singh went home in 1971 and discovered it. He said he promptly sent the original certificate through his company unit and after that his commission was regularised.

The MoD dismisses his assertion and points out that his commission in the draft gazette notification clearly mentions that he was a "regular commissioned" officer. Then, when the Army List 1974-75 is published, the most authentic document listing those who had been commissioned, Singh's name figures and his date of birth is mentioned as 10 May 1950.

Under Army rules, Singh has to request a correction within two years of its publication after which he forfeits the right to do so. The General makes no such official and formal request till 2006 by which time the MoD says it is too late to make any changes and his appeal had been timed out.
Army Chief’s Age Row - PArt 4
A matter of Honour vs Propriety
The General’s Gambit
By Raj Chengappa, Editor-in-Chief
“Requests for change of dates of birth of members of the defence services should not be encouraged. Only in very special cases the change be sponsored provided there is overwhelming evidence to show that the date of birth recorded in the services records is incorrect… Quite apart from the financial effect of such changes in dates of birth of officers etc they have certain far reaching implications affecting promotion…”

— Office Memorandum,
No 757/ D(MS) D(Coord) Ministry of Defence, 23 June 1954

“No requests for change of birth shall be entertained after the lapse of two years from the date of grant of first commission in case of commissioned officers…”

— Office Memorandum,
35 (1)/A/63 B, Ministry of Defence, 21 April 1964

Given the poor system of registration of births that existed soon after Independence, the Government of India thought it wise to pass tough rules governing requests for change of dates of birth. That included the Ministry of Defence which in 1954 passed an Office Memorandum (OM) discouraging requests for change of dates of birth. In 1964 it followed it up with another OM putting a strict time frame of two years from the date of grant of first commission within which the officer concerned could petition the Ministry for a change.

Chief of Army Staff General Vijay Kumar Singh's writ petition for reconciling his date of birth in the Army records in the highest court of the land may well be determined by these two office memoranda that apply to all armed forces personnel with no exceptions.

Time barred

General Singh was commissioned into the Indian Army on 14 June 1970 and if he had any issues with the correctness of his date of birth, he should have made a formal complaint to the Military Secretary Branch through his Unit by June 1972. He did not for the reasons outlined in previous parts of the series carried by The Tribune.

Even if the Army List of 1974-75 was published (which formally mentioned the commission of Vijay Kumar Singh and his date of birth as 10 May 1950) is taken as the final commissioning document, technically he would have had to make an appeal within two years of its publication.

By his own admission, in his statutory complaint to the Union Government and his writ petition, the first time he made an effort to amend his date of birth in the Army List was in 1985 when as a Major, he approached the Adjutant General Branch dealing with the records section.

According to Singh, he was not aware of the publication of the Army List when it came out as it was meant for restricted supply and not circulated at the Unit he was serving then. He also pointed out that since the ID Card issued to him by the Indian Military Academy (IMA) at the time of commissioning had his date of birth as 10 May 1951 he believed that his earlier efforts to get his date of birth corrected in the original UPSC Application Form had succeeded.

Singh states in his statutory complaint to the Government in August 2011, that in 1985, when a friend mentioned to him about the discrepancy in the Army List, he approached the AG Branch Manpower Planning (MP) 5/6 for help. He states that he was informed that as per their records his date of birth was 15 May 1951 and that "as they were the designated authority on these matters, therefore, I should not worry about the Army List and it would get automatically updated with corrected data."

MoD's counter

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) does not buy Singh's argument. In its order of 30 December 2011 rejecting the General's statutory complaint it states, "There is no record to substantiate this assertion. Therefore it cannot be accepted." Goolam Vahanvati, Attorney General of India, who was consulted by the MoD on the entire issue, in his advice given on 21 November 2011, is more scathing in his comments over the 1985 attempt stating, " If a person, as painstaking as the complainant appears to be in his efforts to 'rectify' his date of birth, knew that there was a discrepancy with regard to the Army List, surely he would not have left it at the level of an oral assurance and ensured that rectification did in fact take place."

Vijay Kumar Singh made his next bid to change his date of birth as a Brigadier in 2002 when he approached the Management Information System Organisation (MISO) wing that publishes the Nominal Roll of Brigadiers and above. In the Nominal Roll, his date of birth was listed as 10 May 1950. Singh states that he had forwarded a copy of his matriculation certificate to it. But in its order the MoD pointed out, "Here again, there are no records either with MISO or with the complainant to substantiate the assertion."

Yet it isn't as if the MoD is without fault. Singh points out that all his Confidential Records maintained by the MS Branch on which his promotions were based, have his date of birth as 10 May 1951 as do the awards and decorations he won from time to time.

The first time that the MoD officially acknowledged that there was a discrepancy in the records maintaining his date of birth was in 2006 when Singh was a Major General and had completed 36 years of service in the Army. The MS Branch had sent a proposal to the MoD empanelling Singh in the rank of Lieutenant General to be posted as Commander of 10 Corp. Such a procedure is followed as any promotion from the rank of Major General to Lieutenant General in the Army has to be approved by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) chaired by the Prime Minister.

The then Joint Secretary (G and Air), MoD, in a note of 23 April 2006 to the Army HQ pointed out that Singh's date of birth in the 'Nominal Roll' was recorded as 10 May 1950 whereas in the 'Paramount Card', which is a summary of his entire record of service, the date given was 10 May 1951. He also pointed out that the original UPSC application form for the NDA examination as well as the draft Gazette notification of the 45 Regular Course for IMA, which Singh was part of, gave his date of birth as 10 May 1950. The Joint Secretary wanted the note to reflect the correct date of birth.

On 3 May 2006, Lt General Richard Khare, the then Military Secretary, wrote to Singh stating these anomalies and ended by stating, "You are hereby requested that, in future, you may reflect the correct date of birth which is 10 May 1950… Alternatively, you may clarify the variance and the correct date of birth as known by you."

To this, Singh, who was then Chief of Staff at 15 Corps HQ, replied on 10 May 2006 starting with "My dear General" and explaining that as his Secondary School Certificate did not arrive till 1971, the AG's branch had marked his commission as "provisional." And on receipt of the certificate "the provisional status was removed" and his corrected date of birth was accepted by them.

Justifying the anomaly

Singh then stated that he was attaching the original certificate and a copy of the 'Record of Service' maintained by the AG's MP5 for his perusal. About the anomalies in the other documents, Singh wrote, "it is submitted that the date given in the UPSC form was filled as per details given by the school clerk and the same was subsequently maintained till the original certificate was received. In the absence of the original certificate the error made due to what the clerk gave continued. The correct date of birth has accordingly been mentioned on the CR's since submission of the original certificate."

It is in this letter he put down on record his efforts to get the date of birth corrected in 1985 and in 2002. He ended the letter by stating, "I have always retained the impression that the necessary correction would have been carried out by the MS Branch at the behest of AG's Branch. It appears that this impression has been wrong and a doubt has come up almost 35 years after submission of correct certificates. It is required that necessary corrections may now be made per records maintained by AG's branch."

Conflicting records

By making such an assertion, Singh for the first time put down in writing as to why he believed the discrepancy between the records of the AG's Branch and the MS Branch with regard to his date of birth came about. There was an indication that the late arrival of his certificate may have compounded his earlier request to the UPSC in 1966 when the discrepancy in his date of birth was first noticed. This may also explain why the IMA had conflicting records reflecting his date of birth that was then inherited by the two Army Branches, AG and MS.

From Singh's account in his letter to Khare he had sent his certificate to the AG Branch for correction of his date of birth a year after he was commissioned in 1970. Perhaps he should have submitted it to the MS Branch which had taken charge of his records after he was commissioned and was supposedly the sanctioning authority for making changes in the date of birth in the records.

In his complaint to the government, Singh states he met Khare, the then Military Secretary, after he sent the letter to him. According to Singh, Khare explained "the entire issue in detail. I was told that if my confidential reports reflected my date of birth as 10 May 1951, then I should have no reason for concern. I was told that all records will be checked again and the reconciliation will be carried out."

Singh states on the basis of this reassurance he did not pursue the matter further about correction of his date of birth at that time. Singh was then promoted as a Lieutenant General and posted as General Officer Commanding of the Ambala based 2 Corp. His apparent acquiescence during this crucial period is a subject of debate.

The MoD, though, has a different account of how Khare handled the matter after he received Singh's letter of 10 May 2006. In its order of 30 December 2011, the MoD states, "Records indicate that the case was examined in detail in the MS Branch. The MP Directorate, AG Branch informed MS branch that the service records of the Late Col Jagat Singh, the complainant's father, show that the Veteran Register did not have any details with regard to dates of birth of his children. Keeping in view the rule position that the date of birth entered in the Army List as verified by the complainants original UPSC application form, is to be treated as correct for the purposes of promotion and retirement and any change or correction of the date of birth in case of commissioned officers cannot be considered after a lapse of two years from the date of Commission, MS Branch, with the approval of the then Chief of Army Staff decided that 10 May 1950 was being considered as the complainant's correct date of birth."

Silence speaks

Khare then wrote a letter dated 21 August 2006 to Singh, who then had taken over as GOC, 2 Corp, stating, "After due examination of the case and in light of the rule position, facts brought out and documents forwarded by you along with the DO letter, we regret to inform you that the case for change/correction of your date of birth cannot be processed at this belated state."

There is a lull in the correspondence for over a year before Singh brings up the issue of the correction of his date of birth. In doing so Singh appears to have resorted to unusual tactics. He approached the AG's branch to officially clarify his age. Accordingly, in October 2007 Lt Col BR Chharang, AAG MP 5 & 6 issued a "To Whomsoever it May Concern" letter that stated "As per the records maintained by this headquarters, IC 24173 W Lieutenant General Vijay Kumar Singh, AVSM, YSM, was commissioned in the Indian Army on 14 June 1970. The date of birth of the General Officer is 10 May 1951."

Having obtained confirmation from the AG’s branch of his date of birth, he forwarded the certificate to Lt Gen P.R. Gangadharan, who replaced Khare as Military Secretary, and in his covering letter of 10 December 2007 he refers to Khare’s letter of 21 August 2006 rejecting his request to correct his date of birth and states, “You are kindly requested to reconcile your records to reflect the correct date of birth. It is also requested that henceforth my correct date of birth as per AG records may please be reflected.”

By then Singh is being considered for promotion to the rank of Army Commander to be posted as GoC-in-C, Eastern Army Command. His letter asking for his date of birth to be reconciled is brought to the notice of Bimal Julka, the then Joint Secretary (G/Air), who wants to know the reasons behind it and sends a letter to the Military Secretary.

On 20 December 2007 Gangadharan, the Military Secretary, wrote back to Julka, giving the background of the case stating, “In view of the above, his official date of birth continues to be entered as 10 May 1950.” From the records it appears that Singh meanwhile independently pursued the issue with the AG’s branch because sometime in early January 2008, Maj General SR Ghosh, the then ADG MP & P, puts out a detailed note stating that all records available in his office indicate that his date of birth is 10 May 1951.

The MS branch though remained unconvinced. On 21 January 2008, Gangadharan wrote to Singh, repeating the points as to why a change in the date of birth cannot be considered and stated, “We are constrained to maintain your official date of birth as 10 May 1950 and the same may kindly be reflected in all your records/documents. The AG’s branch is being accordingly intimated to amend the records being maintained by them. Please acknowledge and confirm your acceptance.”

Singh’s adamant approach though seems to have miffed the MoD which began to question the suitability of promoting him. On 21 January 2008, Julka wrote to General Deepak Kapoor, the then Chief of Army Staff, (COAS) stating: “ It is an oddity that the officer has continued to stand by a date of birth, which is not officially recognised and thereby revealing an attitude apparently questionable and not reflective of the qualities expected from an Army Commander. In view of this, the question of suitability of Lt Gen VK Singh as Army Commander calls for a revisit.”

Singh appears to have been conveyed the news of the displeasure his memos were generating in the MoD and that it may affect his chances of a promotion. For he wrote to Gangadharan on 24 January 2008 stating that, “I am constrained to point out that your letter raises questions of my integrity and hence I would like to clarify a few issues.” He then goes on to state that he never sought a date of birth change and all he was asking for was a reconciliation of records.

He ended on a conciliatory note stating: “I have total belief in the system as also great faith in the sagacity and wisdom of the organisation I have been serving. Therefore, anything which is required to be done in the larger interests of the organisation may be undertaken by the HQ.”

The MoD though remained dissatisfied with such a vague commitment. Singh in his petition states that “after a telephonic discussion with the then COAS” he sent a signal to the MS Branch the same day stating “whatever decision taken in the organizational interest is acceptable to me.”

From the exchange of cables that follows it is apparent that Singh pushed the MoD to make some commitment to go in-depth into his request for a change in the date of birth before he sends a final letter to the Military Secretary that “in view of the above constraint and in accordance with the discussion of date, I will mention the date of birth as directed.” That acquiescence which seemingly led to his promotion as Army Commander again became the subject of a raging debate.
Ashok Chakra for Army braveheart
THE HERO: Lt Navdeep Singh
THE HERO: Lt Navdeep Singh

New Delhi/Srinagar, January 25
Just five months in the Army, a young Lieutenant, who died after killing four hardcore infiltrating terrorists and saving his colleague's life in a fierce encounter in Jammu and Kashmir, will be conferred the highest peace time gallantry award Ashok Chakra posthumously.

The father of Lt Navdeep Singh, a third generation soldier, Honorary Captain (retd) Joginder Singh will receive the award from President Pratibha Patil before the start of the main Republic Day parade at Delhi tomorrow. Navdeep, who gunned down the terrorists single-handedly after he led from the front, was with "Veer Marathas" on the Line of Control (LoC) in Gurez Sector.

Kirti Chaktra, the second highest peacetime gallantry award, has been conferred on three Army officers including for Lt Sushil Khajuria from Grenadiers regiment posthumously.

The other two awardees were Lt Col Kamaldeep Singh of 18 Rashtriya Rifles battalion and Capt Ashutosh Kumar from Rajputana Rifles.

All the three officers were involved in anti-militancy operations in J and K. Nine other armymen have been given the Shaurya Chakra.

The Kirti Chakras and Shaurya Chakras will also be given away by President Patil.

Lt Navdeep, an alumnus of the Officers Training Academy (OTA), Chennai, was deployed with his crack team to foil infiltration attempts by hardcore terrorists from across the LoC. — PTI
War room leak: Navy ex-commanders seek bail

New Delhi, January 25
Two former Navy Commanders, arrested for their alleged roles in the 2006 Naval war room leak case, today sought bail from the Delhi High Court arguing they have been in jail for nearly six years without any trial due to non-framing of charges.

"Accused Vijender Rana (sacked Naval Commander) is in jail since his arrest on April 5, 2006. The charges against him and other five accused are yet to be framed by the lower court," counsel for Rana told Justice Suresh Kait.

The bail applications of Rana and Kulbushan Parashar, former Navy Commanders, are pending before the high court for the last two years, their lawyers said while seeking urgent hearing of their pleas. Besides Rana and Parashar, other accused in the case are sacked Naval Commander V K Jha, former IAF Wing Commander S L Surve, businessman Abhishek Verma and former Navy Chief Admiral Arun Prakash's relative Ravi Shankaran who has been declared a proclaimed offender. — PTI
India-Thailand sign defence pact
Tribune News service

New Delhi, January 25
India and Thailand today signed six accords, including one on defence cooperation, as the Southeast Asian nation acknowledged India’s credentials for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.

The other accords were: treaty on transfer of sentenced prisoners; second protocol to amend the framework agreement for establishing a free trade area between the two countries; programme of cooperation in science and technology; cultural exchange programme for 2012-2014 and an MoU between Chulalongkorn University and ICCR for setting up a chair at the India Studies Centre of the university.

The accords were inked after wide-ranging talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and visiting Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who will be the chief guest at the Republic Day Parade tomorrow.

Official sources said the two leaders discussed various bilateral issues as well as international developments.

A joint statement later said the two leaders unequivocally condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and stressed that there could be no justification for the menace.

Both sides expressed desire to further enhance their valued partnership and cooperation in the context of India-ASEAN relations.
Woman leads IAF contingent at R-Day parade for first time
A woman leading an Air Force contingent, a deadly missile covering 3,000km, a newly-developed UAV and recently acquired Super Hercules aircraft were among the firsts at the Republic Day parade here today when the country showcased its military might and cultural diversity.

Flight Lieutenant Sneha Shekhawat became the first woman to lead an IAF contingent in the 63-year-old history of the parade.
She was the face of elegance and confidence as she led the 144-member strong Air Force contingent marching to the tunes of its band playing 'Air Battle'.

The Agni-IV, successfully flight tested last November, stole the limelight as people cheered when the missile which can carry nuclear weapons was rolled out on the majestic Rajpath.

The Intermediate Range Surface-to-Surface Ballistic Missile mounted on a road mobile launcher was paraded by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

The elite organisation also put on display for the first time the 150 km range Prahaar Tactical Battlefield Support Missile and the Rustom-1 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).

Indigenously designed and developed RUSTOM-1, the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), was another eye-catcher at the parade.

The medium altitude long endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (Male UAV) has been developed by the DRDO with Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) in Bangalore.

RUSTOM-I, named after late Prof Rustom B Damania will replace or supplement the Heron UAVs in service with the Indian armed forces.

It has has the potential military missions like reconnaissance and surveillance, target acquisition, target designation, communications relay, battle damage assessment and signal intelligence.

Three of the six C-130J Super Hercules aircraft recently bought from the US was another first in the parade. The sixth aircraft was brought as late as November 2011.
Flypast enthralls audience
As always, the flypast signalling the culmination of Republic Day parade left the spectators -- from tiny tots to the elderly -- gazing at the skies with wonder-struck eyes.

They were spell bound as pilots from Indian Air Force did dare-devilish manoauvers in the sky, trying the difficult formations like 'Trishul', 'Big Boy', 'Arrowhead' and 'Vertical Charlie'.
This time, the new introduction in the fly past fleet was the C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, bought recently from the United States. The aircraft has created a record for carrying out the longest flight of nine hours and fortyfive minutes without refuelling.

A clear sky was what all the spectators wanted and the flypast began with three Mi-35 helicopters in a Vic formation followed by the three Super Hercules again in a Vic formation.

An an IL-78 flanked by two AN-32 and two Dornier trailed them in a Big Boy formation.

Next in line were the fighters -- five Jaguars followed by five MiG-29 flying in Arrowhead formation.

Then zoomed through the skies over Rajpath the three Su-30 MKI in Trishul formation. Once in front of the saluting dais, the Su-30MKI aircraft split upwards, making a Trishul in the sky.

The flypast concluded with another Sukhoi Su-30 MKI carrying out a Vertical Charlie manoeuvre over the saluting dais.
Defence ministry looking into data leak by naval officers
NEW DELHI: The defence ministry has sought details of the probe against four naval officers in the dock for allegedly divulging classified information and data on social networking and other websites.

The recently-concluded Board of Inquiry (BoI) at the Western Naval Command in Mumbai has recommended strong action against the four commander-rank officers (equivalent to Lt-Colonels in Army) from the naval technical branch.

The "punishments'', however, would have to be "approved'' by higher authorities. Dismissal from service, for instance, has to be approved by the defence ministry.

Naval intelligence sleuths had tracked the conduct of the four officers for quite some time before finally moving in to stop the leak of confidential information, which even reportedly included location of warships and their patrolling patterns, on sites like Facebook, as reported by TOI earlier.

The government has reasons to be worried about the present case since the CBI investigation into the infamous Navy war-room leak case of 2005-06 had held that as many as 7,000 pages of classified information from the naval war-room and IAF HQ air defence directorate were "compromised'' in the episode.

The case had created waves after it was discovered that some classified data stored in computers in the naval war-room in South Block had been stolen to help some arms dealers. It had eventually led to the sacking of three naval officers and an IAF officer.

The armed forces have been regularly issuing directives to their personnel to strictly refrain from putting sensitive information and service-related matters, like location of units or deployment patterns, on social networking sites.

Instructions are also in place to be extremely careful in the use of computer and digital storage devices after intelligence alerts pointed to an increase in leakage of classified data from defence establishments through the use of pen drives, removable hard disks, CDs, VCDs and the like.

Chinese and Pakistani online espionage agents have also being hacking into Indian computer systems over the last several years. For instance, an Army major's personal computer, on which he had stored around 2,000 classified and sensitive documents, was hacked from Pakistan last year.
Whose Honor comes First; Country’s or the Army Chief’s?

By Raj Kanwar

IAN India Correspondent

The ugly controversy pertaining to the date of birth of the Indian Army Chief General VK Singh has now reached the lofty portals of the Supreme Court. The main reason for filing this writ in the apex court is to restore what Gen.  Singh calls, “his integrity and honor” since the government has changed his date of birth. Gen. Singh claims that his real date of birth is May 10, 1951 whereas the government or the ministry of defense says it was May 10, 1950. If the 1950 date is accepted, then army chief will retire in May 2012, while his retirement will take place a year later if May 10, 1951 is accepted as the correct date of birth. The general, however, says that the dispute is not about his ‘tenure’ and that he has conceded that it is the government prerogative to fix the tenure.

Many of the serving and retired military and police brass feel uncomfortable at this unseemly controversy. By most accounts, the General’s version about his date of birth seems to be correct, and it is only the boorish nitpicking by the bureaucrats, both the civil and the army, that had unnecessarily escalated the issue and in the process tarnished the fair and unblemished reputation of the Indian army.

Defense ministry to be blamed

Many critics squarely blame the defense minister AK Antony and defense secretary Shashikant Sharma for creating an unseemly situation which has brought about an unintended schism of sorts between the army chief of the staff and the defense ministry. They solely hold the bureaucrats responsible for having dragged a simple matter of date of birth for the past three decades. It also emerges that there is more to the eye than what appears on the surface; there have been allegations that a powerful lobby inside and outside the government was bent upon ousting the general at the earliest as he had taken strong action against one of his predecessors and other senior army generals on charges of corruption and ‘unbecoming’ behavior.

There are many who though support general’s version on the matter of his date of birth but are critical of his decision to go to the Supreme Court on this issue. The general says, “It is matter of his integrity and honor”. Aloke Lal, a director general of police in Uttarakhand, has a different take on this issue. He says that the general has openly violated the credo of the Indian Military Academy which enjoins upon every alumnus to follow

“The safety, honor and welfare of your country come first, always and every time. The honor, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time.”

This credo is also called Chetwode credo since it was the Field Marshal Chetwode, commander in chief of the British Army in India in 1932 who had uttered these famous words. This credo is boldly engraved on the Chetwode building at the military academy.

The credo which every officer passing out from the Indian Military Academy remembers by heart clearly says that “safety, honor and welfare of your country come first, always and every time”. It will be worth noting that the credo puts the safety, honor and welfare of your country the first and foremost. However, in this instant case of date of birth, the general has put his own ‘honor’ above that of the country; this is surely nothing short of a blasphemy. In the process, the general has adversely affected the morale of the forces under him and has created on the one hand a wedge of sorts between the army and the ministry of defense or even the government of India, and on the other a heart burning amongst his likely successors. This certainly could not have been the general’s intention but it is certainly the result of his action to, what he says again and again, “vindicate his honor”.

Beginning with 15 August, 1947, there have been 25 army chiefs; the first two were British namely Gen. Sir Robert Lockhart and Gen. Sir Roy Bucher. Barring the first Indian army chief Field Marshal KM Cariappa, who had had a ‘uncomfortable’, to say the least, relationship with the then defense minister VK Krishna Menon, there are hardly any instances of open ‘skirmishes’ between the defense minister and the military brass. Perhaps a few of the succeeding 22 chiefs of the army staff must too had had differences of opinion on one matter or another with the bureaucrats at the defense ministry but never before such an ugly situation had arisen. No doubt, it takes two to tango and the current defense minister and secretary must also be held equally accountable for creating and fomenting the controversy on the date of birth of the chief of the army staff. The Defense minister too should share much of the blame for not being able to nip this controversy in its early stage.  So should the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself and his PMO must plead guilty to just remaining silent onlookers to this nitpicking over the date of birth of the army chief. They should have realized that the controversy could have an explosive spin off if allowed to be dragged.

At a news channel discussion on Friday night, at least two of the panelists squarely blamed the defense ministry for this avoidable mess and demanded that a court of inquiry should be held to determine why the bureaucrats in the defense ministry as also in the Military Secretary’s branch at the Army Headquarters had deliberately allowed to fester the straight forward issue of the date of birth of the army chief.

It is time that the Prime Minister took a personal interest and takes a call on this matter. In our system where the civil government is supreme, it is immaterial as to who holds the post of the COAS so long as he is appointed as per the well established procedures and traditions. But it is equally the sacred responsibility of the civil government to foster and develop healthy traditions between the civil government and the armed forces.
Age row: Supreme Court likely to hear Army Chief's plea on Feb 3

Read more at:
New Delhi:  The Supreme Court is likely to hear Army chief, General VK Singh's plea, who is battling the government over his age.

Last week, the court had dismissed the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that was filed in support of the Army chief. The PIL was filed by an association of ex-army officers.

General Singh took the government to court last week - the first serving military chief to do so - in the hope of establishing that he is correct in claiming that he was born in 1951, not 1950. Documents with the Army reflect both dates.

In a petition filed in the Supreme Court last week, he has asked for an explanation of why his claim that he was born in 1951 and not 1950 has been rejected by the Ministry of Defence.

The government says that documents that list the date of birth as 1950 trump the others. It also says that many promotions granted to General Singh used 1950 to establish his seniority. Going by 1950 as the year of birth means the General has to retire at the end of May; accepting 1951 as his birth date would qualify him for another year in office, though he has said in his petition that it is the government's prerogative to determine his tenure.

The Army Chief had met with Minister of State for Defence Pallam Raju who had publicly criticised him for setting an "unhealthy precedent" by taking his dispute to court. Defence Minister AK Antony had said he is "sorry and sad" about the government's dispute with the army chief about how old he really is.

Read more at:
Does General V K Singh know what he's up against?
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [ Images ] does not want to comment on the controversy over army chief General V K Singh's age because it is a 'sensitive issue.'

Union Defence Minister A K Antony is 'very sorry' about what is happening. Then why don't these two gentlemen at least ensure that the issue is settled with dignity, and the army chief's birth date is recognised as 1951 as per the official records?

For the government this was a small issue that should have been settled a long time ago, when General Singh wrote his first official letter urging the army and defence ministry to settle the discrepancy and recognise 1951, and not 1950, as his birth year.

It is clearly not a small matter for General Singh, as it calls into question his integrity and challenges his honesty.

There are no two views in the army about General Singh's integrity and capability. But despite not wanting to he was left with no choice by a determined government, but to approach the Supreme Court for a final decision.

There has been a major canard against the army chief, provoked by sections of the political and bureaucratic establishment. But the reasons for this remain unclear, not being touched upon even by the concerned media.

Lieutenant General Bikram Singh, who will likely succeed as the army chief if General Singh retires according to the 1950 date, has many supporters within the government and amongst retired army chiefs, a couple of whom have formed a bloc against the present incumbent.

There is widespread support within the army for Lieutenant General K T Parnaik of the Northern Command who has a chance of becoming the army chief if the 1951 birth date is accepted by the government.

The government is using the media to blame the army chief for the ongoing controversy, but the fact remains that it found its way into the public eye through deliberate leaks, and misinformation, by hyperactive, vested, interests.

No one in the army is happy about the manner in which the controversy was stoked and kept burning, and all would have preferred a quiet settlement of the issue between General Singh and the government.

But given the government's refusal to accept the general's school leaving records, and recognise his many attempts to get the discrepancy corrected, the choices before him became limited.

One was to resign and leave, and the other was to approach the courts in the hope that at least his name and reputation would be cleared.

Unfortunately, despite efforts to the contrary, the politician has managed to politicise the Indian Army [ Images ] leadership by embracing certain officers and working to install them in the top post.

The public might or might not know, but most officers in the army are well aware of the interests at work, and the kind of lobbying that is going on to ensure that General Singh is removed from the post.

Stories that the government might sack him appeared mysteriously in the newspapers and as all of us in the business know, these are usually deliberate leaks given out from time to time by so-called sources to keep the pressure alive.

Political governments have decimated all institutions, one by one. The police force, through the sheer political power of transfers and postings, has become corrupt and communal; the legislatures are packed with criminals; the media has lost its independence to the government and corporate nexus; with the defence forces surviving the disastrous consequences of politicisation to some extent.

It is unfortunate that here too issues are being made of non issues, to bring in officers more favourable to the political dispensation of the day.

The government could have easily, given the facts on the table, recognised 1951 as the birth year, saved face for the army chief, while giving him and the institution due respect.

General Singh does not have the reputation of a greedy, grasping, man. Far from it, and his word along with the records should have carried weight with the government.

Unfortunately, the pettiness of the ruling class has pushed the senior officer to a corner where not wanting to, he has had to approach the civilian courts as a last resort. It can only be hoped that he finds justice there, and can at least retire from the force with his respect and dignity intact.

There is a certain intolerance creeping into government that sees a contrary view as dissent, and reacts to it with a heavy hand. Any officer who does not agree with the often blinkered views emanating from the corridors of power is axed, as many will testify, with the result that most now hesitate to speak their minds.

This might make the politicians happy, but the fact of the matter is that they now rarely benefit from informed and impartial opinion.

In this particular case, however, it is more to do with getting a chief of their choice into government.

The poor army chief does not know what he is up against, as it is difficult to box at shadows and conspiracies that do not reveal themselves.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Mail your comments, suggestions and ideas to me

Template created by Rohit Agarwal