Gen VK Singh's legacy
By Lt-Gen Harwant Singh ( Retd )
Much has been written in the press and much more discussed on TV channels as to Gen VK Singh’s legacy. Equally there have been controversies and allegations on his conduct, relations with the MoD and with senior officers within the army. It is time to examine the issues in their correct perspective and close this chapter of accusations and counter charges.
First take his age imbroglio. There is overwhelming documentary evidence to establish his date of birth as 31 May 1951. Making him agree (on a false promise to set right the error) to 1950 date of birth at the time of his promotion to the ranks of maj-gen and lt-gen was a fraud played on him. Age (date of birth) has no relevance or consideration for promotion. It comes into play only at the time of appointment as corps and army commanders. It is a case thoroughly mishandled by the MoD, more so the RM, and ducked by the highest court. Whether he should have gone to court on this issue is debatable.
In the case of alleged bugging the RM’s office and tapping of MoD telephone lines there were dark hints that army chief was behind all this. Detailed investigations revealed that it was a deliberate lie planted in the press to defame the army chief. Same turned out to be the case of a coup that never was. Obviously the finger of suspicion in planting these stories in the press, point in the direction of the MoD.
The offer of bribery in the case of purchase of Tatra vehicles, he took the right course in informing the RM. Once the case is reported to the RM, it was for him to proceed in the matter, irrespective of what, according to him, the army chief said. Incase the army chief did not want any action in the matter, why should he take the trouble of bringing it before the RM! For some TV anchors to contend that he should have called the military police and had the officer arrested, only shows how naïve they are: not aware of even the basic laws of this country.
The other insinuation has been that he wrote to the PM highlighting crippling deficiencies of arms and equipment in the army and then leaked it to press. Firstly there is no impropriety in the chiefs writing to PM. Infact it is their bounden duty to bring such important and pressing issues to the notice of the PM. In the instance case army chief had earlier apprised the RM of these issues in much greater detail. The more important and perhaps dangerous development is the leakage of this Top-Secret letter to the press. Aiming the arrow of suspicion towards the army was deliberate and part of the continuing campaign to discredit the army, more so the chief.
CBI enquiry has established that the letter was not leaked by the army, but who leaked it, is yet to be determined. It is a Top-Secret letter with direct bearing on national security and leaking it is an act of treason. The possession of such a letter is an offence and therefore, the press should be put in the dock on the one hand, and on the other made to disclose the source of the leak. Obviously those behind this leak are so powerful that CBI just cannot come out with the source of leakage. Bitterness, if any between the Army HQ and MoD was entirely the latter’s creation.
His issuing a show cause notice to 3 Corps commander is another instance where it is being projected as a kind of bias against the officer and then making a reference to it during a press briefing. Firstly it is the officer himself who first went to the press with the show cause notice, secondly this notice is based on a court of inquiry into a case of some wrong doing by the intelligence unit directly under HQ 3 Corps and has come to Army HQ through and with the recommendations of Eastern Army Commander. Finally it is being alleged that he has issued the notice while there is only a week or so left for him to retire. Army chief holds the baton till he actually hands over charge to the next chief and so it should be with every government servant.
He has been able to bring to the forefront of national debate the murky working of the defence Public Sector Units (PSUs) as also MoD’s (Defence Production) direct involvement in the deep rooted corruption that exits in these units. The blatant over pricing of equipment being supplied to the army by defence PSUs stands exposed. He also mounted a crusade against corruption within the service and brought to book a number of senior officers.
Gen VK Singh leaves behind a legacy of soldierly conduct, probity and forthrightness. He has decidedly done well by the army and left it in good shape. He has made the task of the new army chief that much more precise and clear cut.