Out of line: an army under fire - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Friday 10 December 2010

Out of line: an army under fire

Despite troubling questions about the internal health of India's best-respected organisation, nobody from within the army is speaking out about the need to confront and fix the problem.

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 11th Dec 10

On 27th April 2007, while a dazed United States military was being battered by the resurgent insurgency in Iraq, a mid-ranking US Army officer, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yingling, published a brutally frank assessment of the failures in American generalship that had led to the bloodying of the world’s most powerful military machine. Writing in the “Armed Forces Journal”, a private magazine focused on defence, Yingling urged the US Congress to fix accountability for the debacle in Iraq, lamenting that, “As matters stand now, a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war.”

Yingling’s article raced across army chat rooms, combat bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, and military seminar halls. Hard-hitting, incisive, and loaded with statements like, “The intellectual and moral failures common to America's general officer corps in Vietnam and Iraq constitute a crisis in American generalship”, the analysis pushed America’s senior military leadership towards acknowledging, confronting and acting to fix the problem.

India’s armed forces, alas, have neither a Paul Yingling nor a culture of interrogating and addressing serious internal problems. With revelation after damaging revelation --- including financial misappropriation, sexual misconduct, fake encounters and influence peddling --- placing troubling questions over the internal health of India’s most well-respected institution, not a single serving officer has thrown out a Yingling-style challenge.

Rot at the top?

This silence has endured even through the recent revelations about the improper allocation of multi-crore apartments in Mumbai’s tony Colaba area to a bevy of generals and admirals. The Adarsh Housing Society affair, which has riveted the country, is not just about the apparent abandonment of ethics by 3 service chiefs and 5 officers of three-star rank. Even worse, it is about the alleged subversion of army postings to keep Major General Tej Kishen Kaul in Mumbai so that he could keep the file moving while a succession of key military commanders in Mumbai and Pune were handed out flats, allegedly in exchange for their silence.

“Corruption exists mainly within the senior ranks”, avers Major General Afsir Karim, a retired paratrooper with a reputation for probity. “Bad apples manage to get into the organisation… after all, the (military’s) selection system has no psychological check for integrity. As they rise and start getting the opportunity to make money, they surround themselves with a coterie of staff officers and subordinates who are quickly subverted… the corrupt pull each other up within the system. And from them the rot spreads to other parts of the military.”

Echoing this assessment is a former army commander, well known for ramrod honesty, who ran afoul of his boss after instituting an inquiry into evidently corrupt purchases of equipment. He describes the insidious disillusionment of idealistic young officers who gradually realise that the values that were catechized during their training are hardly reflected in day-to-day unit life.

In their training academies, officer cadets are indoctrinated with Field Marshal Chetwode’s motto: “The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time. The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time.”

But, on being commissioned into their units, these young lieutenants often encounter a different reality. An increasing number of units in peace stations focus less on training than on “career-enhancing” activities like officers’ mess parties and ladies’ club functions, which commanding officers believe would please their bosses or, even better, their bosses’ wives. Meanwhile youngsters who are posted to the field, or to counter-insurgency operations, come up against a pressure-cooker insistence on success at all costs; after all, the promotions of bosses all the way up the line hinge on operational accomplishment. With so much at stake, fake encounters and false reports are desperate options for creating an illusory world of success.

"Five-star" culture

Old-school generals say that this new environment of flexible morals and professional dishonesty has inevitably spilled over to the handling of money. Traditionally indifferent even disdainful towards money, senior officers are now developing a yen for what the military has always disparaged as the “five-star culture”.

“The military had a culture of its own and never felt the need to imitate civilian lifestyles”, says General Karim. “You met civilians, even socialised with them, but you always came back to your mess life. Today, many senior officers want a lifestyle that cannot be supported by military pay and allowances.”

Rising alongside the appetite for money, has been the opportunity to gather it illegally.

“The money that an officer handles rises exponentially as he is promoted up the chain”, explains a former army commander who prefers to remain unnamed. “With defence budgets boosted by a growing economy, each of the six field army commanders oversees budgets today that are in the hundreds of crores.

Take the example of the Udhampur-headquartered Northern Command, where the commander, a lieutenant general, controls an annual budget of Rs 2500-2700 crores. Large chunks of this are spent at his sole discretion, including “special financial powers” for Rs 100 crores, and another Rs 15-16 crores for obtaining intelligence about militants.

“I could simply order my staff to give me Rs 20 lakhs to pay a political source for important intelligence”, says the former army commander. “I wouldn’t need to provide proof that I had handed over the money to anyone. I could justify the expenditure simply by stating that I needed a political perspective.”

Such opportunities for corruption abound. Northern Command’s budget for rations is about Rs 700 crore per year, with another Rs 100 crore allocated for hiring civil transport. The budget for operational works, i.e. constructing bunkers, lighting and temporary housing, is over Rs 250 crores. And, inexplicably, Northern Command has retained with itself --- despite several attempts to transfer this responsibility to New Delhi --- the job of buying rations for troops deployed on the Siachen Glacier, an annual expenditure of some Rs 40 crores.

Other formations handle smaller budgets. But all these contracts come loaded with the potential to explode into public scandals.

Lieutenant General RK Nanavatty, who headed Northern Command at the start of this decade, and was feared and respected for his unwavering rectitude, says that he could see the current crisis coming: “I have always said that the biggest danger for our army was the gradual degradation of moral values. I could see morality eroding and this worried me because trust is the basis of military functioning.”

Time for action

A key concern amongst soldiers, serving and retired, has been the military’s lame defence in the face of credible allegations of wrongdoing like those around the Sukhna Land allocation and the Adarsh Housing Society scam. Many believe that frankly acknowledging the problem and taking exemplary action against corruption would protect, perhaps even enhance, the military’s public image.

“Why should we wait for the civilian agencies to prove criminal guilt?” asks a former army deputy chief, Lieutenant General GD Singh, widely respected for his integrity. “We have our own code of conduct, which does not rest on court orders or judgements. When an officer is clearly corrupt, we should ostracize him from our community; none of his peers should even speak to him; he should be treated as a pariah.”

Considering that officers who were commissioned in the mid-1970s are generals, admirals and air marshals today, it is a paradox that the military often blames the changed background of those who now join as officers for the decline in values and standards. Far more likely, say the more discerning observers, is the “osmosis of values” that stems from increased interaction --- across all ranks --- with society in general. This takes place in many ways: cantonments, earlier located well outside towns and cities, are now almost indistinguishable from the rapidly expanding civilian colonies that have surrounded them. The army’s growing counter-insurgency commitments brings soldiers into close contact with civilians, and with the institutions of governance. Meanwhile, the growing reach and intensity of the electronic media beams the civilian world into the remotest military outposts.

Most officers today are keenly aware of the world outside the barracks and are deeply cynical about the declining mores of civilian institutions. Officers, and even soldiers, ask: with the political class, the bureaucracy, the judiciary, the police and even the media deeply compromised, how can they point a finger at the military, an institution synonymous with honour and sacrifice? But underlying that question is a more troubling one: with corruption everywhere, is it possible for the military to remain unaffected?

The current army chief, General VK Singh, publicly declared while assuming office last April that restoring the army’s “internal health” would be his focus. The general has his task cut out for him.


  1. Well endorsing your view,i would say that Indian armed forces had a very high reputation among people of India,but this has somewhat deteriorated in past years.This is probably because people are more aware as well as corrupt today than earlier days.Government should understand that at least armed forces shouldn't come under the wave of corruption.A corrupt Army can never be good for the nation.

  2. Thank you for bringing us an insider's perspective. Solving or getting a handle on corruption within the armed forces without complementary effort and success in our civilian institutions will fail. We need not just a few good men and women but millions of them all over India in all sectors.

  3. Its not systemic to the Indian Military alone the rot has set in at the political level which has been triggered by the Indian socio-economic situation which is the contributing factor... as we got independence we neglected to discard the disgusting culture of the "RAJ".. which Nehru&co should have set in motion...

  4. Easier said than done. No officer in India is allowed to speak out on military matters without prior approval from the government.

    As far as internal issues are concerned, I don't think the top brass approve of dissent. In the rat race for promotion, one bad report is enough to damn you. Ask me. I know from personal experience.

    The powers that be refused to expunge an adverse report calling me disloyal because I had opposed a scheme to favour a friend of the boss. A blemish free record of having being at the head of my class for 20 years was insufficient when weighed in the balance. Never mind that the gent who finished me off was kicked out not later for an unrelated act of moral turpitude.

  5. Col. Shukla -

    Excellent article sir.

    You capture the cynicism that precedes the moral decline of our officer corps very well. I am sure you know how hard the cynicism can be on a an officer who is in the rank of Major or the equivalent. And then the path of least resistance beckons... Peace postings, UN secondment.. all beckon. And as one progresses.. the enticements are higher. Maybe looking at the emoluments of a jawan or fresh officer will be something to be considered..

    This sitution is tragic, but true.

    You have the opportunity for being the Yingling for us, since you are now on civvy street. But you also know that one article most probably wont work in our society.

    I just hope that you will take up this cause and write more and in more detail about this, for the men that you commanded and for the institution that shaped you.

  6. Excellent article by Col Shukla. The image of the Army has taken a beating. I sincerly hope action is taken against the Generals involved in the Sukhna and Adarsh society scam. I often wonder how Gen Deepak Kapoor and Gen NC Vij made it to the chiefs post. They have shown conduct unbecoming of an officer.

  7. Corruption in Army, corruption in Politics, corruption everywhere in India.....

    If you agree.....then you just have victimization phobia....

    If not...then you are just a caveman!

  8. Sir, Your article is well researched and hard hitting. While it is stating the obvious, the articulation of it is the first step to eradicating the rot. I hope powers that be, take notice, organise internal debates and provide our forces the perspective that shall help them in the process of self healing despite the deleterious social atmosphere that they have to endure.

  9. Wow, Colonel sahab. Wonderful, brilliant and great analysis. And unfortunately, as a cog in the system, my appreciation remains anonymous-but will make sure that the groups to which i belong get to read this.

  10. Dear Ajai - very well put across.As i understand, there are two levels of dissent.In the first case, the individual will not be a party to any act which is detrimental to good order and discipline of the service.He will say "this is where I get off".In the second case,he will say "neither will i do a wrong thing or let you do it" - there are very few in this variety. Juniors are scared of dissent due to variety of reasons - ACR,promotion,appointment,career progression,tradition etc. The system itsel does not tolerate any direct dissent, especially from the juniors. This state of affairs may have been ok when there were very few officers who strayed from the righteous path. Today its a different scenario.The officer corps has a lot of soul searching to do and come up with a system which allows health dissent.I also wrote about Adarsh in my blog.

    Capt MV Prabhakar IN

  11. It’s remarkable how all military men in India – the layabout brass-head, the straight-laced professional, the ‘thinking’ soldier – talk of problems in the armed forces in identical terms. The usual suspects behind all the problems are ‘lack of integrity’, decline in ‘moral values’, ‘osmosis of values’ from the society, ‘five star’ culture and so on: abstractions that can’t really be caught hold of and wrestled down. Corruption always exists ‘only at the top’; it is ‘restricted’ to ‘certain’ parts of the organization. So, Broadsword follows a well-trodden path here.
    Could the biggest reason for all the rot in the system be that no rigorous professional standards are applied to officers? If such standards were laid down and enforced, maybe these gentlemen would be too busy achieving them to run around trying to please their bosses’ wives. What the forces are losing to an ‘immoral’ and ‘materialistic’ society could, in great part, be recouped through a tighter professional focus and accountability. Of course, it is unlikely that the uniformed fraternity would bring this calamity upon itself, and even more unlikely that a clueless Ministry of Defence would wake up to the idea. In the meantime, y’all can wallow in the warm fuzziness of generalities like morals and values, choosing not to look at things that can actually be done to halt the slide.
    The prescient General Nanavatty (whom you quote in your article) once said of the state of the Army that ‘things will get much worse before they get better’. We are now witnessing the forces getting worse, without the foggiest notion of when they will get better. Warming up to quotes, JFC Fuller said (as quoted by Paul Yingling) that the three common characteristics of great generals are ‘courage, creative intelligence and physical fitness’. Leave alone the first two; look for just the last one in your generals, and gauge their greatness.

  12. Dear Sir,

    In the 2 years I have been following your blog, I believe this is the first time, you have addressed the 'uncomfortable' softer issues concerning the armed forces - head on. Your point about the five star culture echoes something Gen. Sundarji had pointed out around 25 years back in this letter to his fellow officers.

    However, he was referring to it in a different context - sycophancy. What you said in one of your previous posts that foundations of the armed forces is strong, is something I would like to believe. However, what irks me the most is the persistent denial, claims of being 'holier than thous' and a self-defence-bordering-on-justification of wrong doings by citing examples of how low their civilian counterparts have stooped to (and they are still way better than the civvies). Graft in civilian public life is anyways a given. And when we say that armed forces is one of the most honourable and respected institutions of Indian public life, the last thing we expect from our men in uniform is lame comparisions with civilian corruption and attempts to hide behind the veneer of patriotism.

    Right from Army's refusal to let CAG audit the Unit Run Canteens which get funds from CSD (http://tehelka.com/story_main48.asp?filename=Ne041210Cheap_booze.asp) to denial of subsidized liquor being sold in open market is a manifestation of this attitude. What probably started as pilferage of rations and fuels has, over the years, led to kickbacks in defence deals.

    I hope that the Chetwodian credo is redeemed before its too late.


  13. If u dare Colonal Shukla, ou can find so many people in army involved in Corruption. I have a friend who is a contractor, he tells me often how the have to pay money (sometimes he meets personally to high ranked army people) to get the papers signed and pay bribe.

  14. One of the reasons for the 70's brigade going awry could also be the fact that their children are seeing the world differently. They need more money, have more demands, education has to be in premier colleges abroad etc. Once they start working they earn more and the parents are then exposed to the "five star culture". Just a viewpoint.

  15. Indian Army is suffering from a typical peace time affliction. For most part, it has become a gymkhana with its exercise and clubbing routine. Of course, there is the career and the financial business to attend to with all that mandatory sucking up to the seniors and going through catalogues to shop for the latest guns and gizmos. Indian army is in search of a peace time role beyond policing border states and disaster relief.

  16. Corruption exists everywhere in India. You HAVE to be corrupt just to live. How we tackle corruption is the first question we always ask. The second should be where do you start?

    The political class is orders of magnitude more corrupt than the military. How can you expect to fix the military through a diseased system of governance? This will simply empower the most corrupt within our society?

    The military has always followed orders. Fix their leaders, and you will fix the problem.


  17. Proud of the Army12 December 2010 at 07:23

    Ajai, you just laid out a litany of complaints that we all know about, the military has sections deeply corrupt and entrenched with arms mafia and what not as well.

    But its vast young men and women, its combat soldiers are still not corrupt and will fight, despite pompous 5 star generals and admirals and air marshals.

    But the point expected of you is to be beyond the 12th class + degree pass journalists like Aroor etc, you are an ex military guy yourself, what is expected are solutions. So please write a follow up, noting how the Army can restore its internal health. Not just lay out the reality, which of course by itself is a big achievement as most journalists dont even have the guts to do that, but more is expected of you

  18. The number of corrupt people in the Army ranks is mind boggling, even if it is by far a minority, its still far too many. What is a bigger problem is the issue of closed ranks, closed minds. Defence personnel are almost xenophobic in defense of their institution and practises. Ask any guy who has had to deal with some of the Army brass in procurement about how rude, condescending they can be, when they want their own way. Usual practise in military is to also blame the bloody civilians, for everything, hence the "corruption is everywhere" what can we do. Just because others are corrupt one need not be corrupt. That is a sad excuse to allow the corrupt to flourish

  19. Well you already "Paul Yingling" the Indian Army. Good luck with all this. I hope that people concerned read your articles. If not, publish a book!

  20. Col Shukla, I totally endorse the views of "Proud of the Army". As one with inside knowledge, and broader exposure after leaving the army, I'm sure your can do better than the other self proclaimed experts in indian defence journalism. A comprehensive paper laying out the route to salvation would be much appreciated. We all know of several ills that plague the system, from the flawed assessment system to abolition of AWWA, ladies social networking, to (can it be said!!) streamlining and legitimisation of sahayaks. As an ex-fauji, you will be able to put down in black and white the steps we need to take, while those of us serving cannot. For reform to work, however, the first step is for our two-stars and above to acknowledge that something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

  21. Several valid points in this blog post. All, however, is not lost. I must confess to not having direct experience of how it works in the Army. As one who has served at the cutting edge of the light blue sister service for over two decades, I can assure you that the morale and commitment in the fighter sqns is second to none. As a youngster, I spent a large proportion of my 'BC' time cursing anyone above 1 star rank, but over the years I have come to realise that the quality of our top leadership is actually not bad. They also struggle to make headway in a bloated and bureaucratic system, and have, against all odds, managed to raise the equipment and training standards over the last couple of decades. That is not to say that the odd senior officer still exists who seems totally misguided in his focus, but the days of Sikand and MM Singh, seem to be thankfully over. As someone has pointed out, what we lack is the strategic vision to revamp our entire system to ditch our Raj-vintage accounting and administrative procedures. Our professional and tactical acumen and skill have kept pace with modernized equipment, but our support setup is still mired in the "power of denial" legacy which Indian babudom has made an art form. Once we restructure that in keeping with the times, we will climb out of the hole we have dug ourselves into. Cheers.

  22. y focus only on the services? y should not the corrupt civil links also be punished?

  23. Fortunately Forces are the last citadel, where corruption is trying to enter. Now onwards the corruption itself will be unfortunate enough.

  24. This really mak me feel ashamed about my army not because they are involved in such corruptions activities but because the care takers of Army decipline and values are just sitting like lame ducts without acting or may be looking for similar opportunities for themselves. I dont know what they are waiting for to really start this cleaning process. I know even with obselete weapons we have chance of winning the next battle but with such culture we will surely mess up things. Good luck India......

  25. Interesting reading. To me the most important part was this -
    ----India’s armed forces, alas, have neither a Paul Yingling nor a culture of interrogating and addressing serious internal problems. ----- not a single serving officer has thrown out a Yingling-style challenge. -----
    Paul's comment about the non accountability of bigwigs in grave matters and inordinate fastidiousness in dealing with even minor indiscretions of juniors makes me introspect.
    It seems to be the same in India. The 65 Indo-Pak war saw India going in for a cease fire since Gen Chaudhary told the PM that India's ammo had almost finished and cease fire would be a good option. The situation on ground was otherwise, with Pak being in much more dire straits.
    Surprisingly, it is not that serving officers are not taking up cudgels against their own system, anywhere in India.
    In UP, the serving IAS officers( and I think retired too )do an annual secret voting on the 'top 3 most corrupt IAS officers in state'. It is handled by a serving Jt Secy - Vijay Shankar Pandey. Bravo.
    I am aware of the difference of rules in which IAS officers can have an association, whereas army officers are not. Also, their promotion rules do not put them so much at the mercy of the system that is the maddening case in the army.
    But rules never held a determined man, a man with his soul on fire. Successive Chief election commissioners kept blaming the official rules. Then came a TN Seshan, who worked with the same rule book and made Indian elections a matter of study for the world. Municipal commissioners keep cribbing about their lack of power and interference by politicians in removing illegal encroachments. Then a certain Mr Chandrashekhar came in and changed things drmatically. Read more
    about him here -
    Even to the most cynical, Chandrashekhar is what a bureaucrat can and should be. He changed sleepy Thane into a city with wide, clean roads. In two years, he did an encore in Nagpur. No new rule book for Chandrashekhar. Same as was for his predecesors, and successors.
    The fault dear Brutus is not in our stars. It is in ourselves that we are underlings.
    I am not offering solution, only some food for thought.
    I end by re-iterating what I have done at many forums i.e.retired officers and everyone else can only add to the din. The problem will can only be tackled by some serving people. We will have to get a Paul Yingling, a TN Seshan, a Chandrasekhar. A dabang who doesn't buckle under but says - 'hum kaun se good boy hain ki ap thookte jain aur hum ponchte jain'. He hits back.

  26. if the most trusted are corrupting then with whom we may expect.
    i think no code of conduct for the officers, only belows suffer

  27. Dear Friends,

    A lot of discussion has been generated on the topic of corruption. The arguments have been very forcefully put. However could any one answer the following questions:-
    * When a politician becomes corrupt no eyebrows are raised. When a bureaucrat becomes corrupt no eyebrows are raised. When the police becomes corrupt no eyebrows are raised. Why should it matter if members of the armed forces become corrupt? Why this “holier than thou attitude”?
    * The country is going to the dogs. So be it. Is it the responsibility of people of the armed forces alone and no one else’s? Why should we worry. Even if we worry, who cares?
    * A soldier pays a bribe where ever he goes. Wants to admit his child in a school – pays a donation, wants to know when is the next hearing in a court, pays bribe, wants to get a birth certificate, ration card, driving license pays bribe. Why should he not demand a bribe when an opportunity arises? Everyone is doing it. With what face can anyone ask him to carryon paying bribes to others and not ask when his turn comes?
    * What will happen if the members of the armed forces become extremely corrupt? You think the country will go back to slavery? Will it fall apart? Our neighbours will attack and occupy our country?

    I have been in the civy street for a decade now. Being a military system integrator our job becomes very simple when some one becomes CO! No not Commanding Officer. CO in the corporate lingo means “Commercially Open” haha. Take it from me. Learning to be corrupt is not very hard to learn. It will take a little getting used to. There will always be a first time. However slowly but surely we all will learn to be shameless. Once we learn how to suppress our conscience things will be smooth. There after it will all be bliss. We will have a jolly good time!

    You do not agree? Say why.

  28. Bloody whole squad is out of squad!

  29. Well said. But let me ask you one question - which generation did the maximum damage to the armed forces' reputation?

    Mine and all these Generals, Admirals and Air Marshals. We brought in the Five Star Culture. We showed the younger generation the way to climb the ladder by means which are considered fair in the civil life but not in uniform.

    Let not people who have abused the Institution of the Chief of the Army Staff when they were Chiefs not get away lightly.

    The rot must be stopped. Sadly the old adage "use the stick where it matters" should be remembered!

    But will we in uniform? That is a moot point to be discussed by my generation which has made us come to this pass

  30. Ajay sir, well I shall not comment on your well researched article, but would add a few lines for all of us to probe. When the source is contaminated can we have a clean pail of water? Secondly all this can only be cleaned when we start speaking out while in uniform and not when out of it...like it or not even in the corporate one cannot speak out or wash dirty linen in public, moreover against one's own boss. So corruption, rank structure, etc etc are just a mere point of discussion, it can only be tabled when we can really do something about it. Even a cup of tea from the unit langar(cookhouse) tantamount to corruption, since we are not authorised to have even a gram extra to our authorisation of 14 gms per man per day...good luck

  31. You are right. Corruption has gnawed out the innards of the Armed Forces at a much greater scale than known. Having said that let us examine what the Govt has done. They have ensured that only third rate men join the Armed Forces.That too in minute quantities. Everybody is keen to import sophisticated toys worth billions of dollars. But what about the man behind the machine. Only horses can be trained not donkeys.Now we recruit donkeys and claim with our superior training they will become winning race horses. we are unto pre- 62 mind set. We are accepting the fact that we can only defend against the Chinese and announcing it to everybody. Well typical fort mentality for we are peace-loving. But the Chinese also know this. If they decide to revise the lessons they taught us won't they plan for it?We can see that planning in their strategic doctrine being implemented in Tibet and all around us.With our politicians and supporting babus and media we should expect no better.They say they are seeing everything and assure us there is no problem with China whereas the Chinese announce that there is a problem. They are prepared for a life in exile with their stashed millions. I pity the ordinary citizens who will have to suffer for the actions of their leaders..

  32. Dear Ajai,

    please read the American Book Crises in Command of the Vietnam-War Era. And then please articulate what we should and can do to redeem the situation. Thanks for the writeup.

  33. Corruption in the Armed Forces is to be expected in a country where those who do not earn more than what they are paid from their jobs are looked down upon and the potential for 'upar ki kamai' decides marriage alliances. That the Armed Forces held out for so long against corruption is an indication of their moral strength and professionalism. Why dosen't our society do some introspection about how shamelessly corrupt or tolerant of corruption we have become ? Also, the civilian administration in our country has spread like a shadow over specialized areas where they have no business to be in, administration of education and military being the two most prominent examples. Let the HRD ministry be run by professors/intellectuals/scientists and the military by the soldiers working under the supervision of the political class that represents the will of the people rather than un-accountable civil servants.

  34. Kudos to another great article. Corruption within the Army (in particular) is far more epidemic but the word does not get out for various reasons. Take a few examples :-

    A large proportion of MES funds for maintenance of military accommodation is spent on upgrading comforts for officers, and in particular commanders of military stations and formations. Intelligent RTI queries will reveal the same. Almost all MES work estimates include a 40% escalation clause which is exercised always and the spoils are shared with the commanders and MES staff who process the sanctions.

    All formation commanders and commanding officers spend money from liberally regimental funds on providing themselves perks like sprucing up their official residences, paying for their phones and phone calls, paying for their parties ('official entertainment') and what have you. IS THIS NOT CORRUPTION. And the rot goes on - if he could do it, I'll do it better...

    Please check with the Chief himself on this one - each Court Martial or disciplinary action instituted against officers of flag-rank (Brigadiers and above) has been at the behest of an anonymous (or pseudo-anonymous as the Army loves to paint it) complaint. NOT ONE WAS TRIGGERED BY AN INTERNAL VIGILANCE MECHANISM.. NOT EVEN ONE !!!

    And what is worse, again an RTI query would prove the same, the Courts Martial are especially harsh when punishing Other Ranks but when it comes to officers cadre, the sentences are benign. What penalty does a dismissal of an senior officer impose beyond taking away his pensions / retiral benefits when he has made his Crores in corrupt deals for which he stands punished by mere dismissal. Check how many Brigadiers and General officers have gone to prison for corruption ???

    There's so much more.... the stench is overpowering. And I gotta leave something for next time.


  35. Apropos my previous raves and rants...

    The Other Ranks today pay for favoured postings - its commonplace amongst the Records Offices of the Services (ASC, EME, AOC, AMC etc. A significant No of pensioners on retiring end up paying a small percent of their long-outstanding dues as facilitation and liaison fees at the time of final settlement of their accounts during their 'discharge drill' at the Regimental Centres.

    Other Ranks frequently bribe their way at Transit Camps to get a few extra days of leave or deferred journey despatches. The corruption is systemic.

    Recruitment scams are an evergreen source of income. We look for scams during Army recruitment, but these are even more prevalent in recruiting civilians for serving in MES, Military Farms and other services (EME, AOC, RVC), civil conservancy staff at various military installations..... Gosh it is endless.

    Most senior officers build houses / flats in metros and bigger cities while in-service and use their clout hire them out to the MES as 'MEO' hired accommodation that is thereafter allotted to officers or Officers' Messes as alternative accommodation to tide over shortages. The benefits are considerable - assured generous rent, no hassles of tenant eviction and - the best part - the MES is contractually bound to maintain this accommodation out of Govt funds and in the process it spruces it up. What's a few Lakhs of good tiles, electrical fittings, wall finishes, bathroom fittings.... !!!!

    Ah yes the Auditors..... The Defence Audit folks (all 100% of them) skim-off a 4% cut of ALL expenditure that units and formations incur from Govt training and office contingency grants. This 4% margin is probably an outdated figure, its probably 6% now, and is in-built into the prices quoted by Govt contractors and suppliers.

  36. sir nice article.
    but the now time has come to clean the system{armed forces} the way a staircase is cleaned ie from the top.our present chief is gud but the next and generations to follow?
    we seriously need to change the reporting system of ACRs and yes if we don't do it now let us be ready to face a bloody defeat in the next battle..

  37. During the course of one s service life where and when does corruption starts. It is not that when offrs become generals that moral turpitude sets in.The tendency and aptitude for corruption is always there and execution starts at the very first opportunity one gets. Instances are galore and can be readily adduced- misuse of vehs/resources,misuse of manpower,misuse of one's appt for personal benefits,double standards are increasingly and easily shadowing the soldierly ethos of our great army.The need is to nip the bud right at the unit level and make examples of such depraved characters so that rot can be curbed at the incipience itself .

  38. Dear Ajai,
    Good article, expected from old colleague. It is time now to touch upon all the issues that is retarding the Army from the corruption not to mention the Adarsh. As per the latest report the US think tank , think very high of Indain Generalship and that is true to certain extend in the CI grid with young officers doing g8 job , the latest example of sacrifices and valor of Lt from 15 Marathas. We need to touch upon our selection system, the inset psycophancy of our middle amd seniors, our promotion policies and interference of senior officers in promotions of their regimental officers and their stooges.------------------ Col Pradeep Dalvi


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