[section_title title=Gen VK Singh in Retrospective]
Most organisations, like the 1.3 million strong Indian Army, are populated by good and not so good men. Former Army chief, General VK Singh is an example of a good man in the Army, known for his honesty, forthrightness and being a good peacetime general. The assessment is based on performance as a chief of Army Staff. At the same time, Gen VK Singh has been projected as most controversial chief ever. Like everything out there, most opinions are divided over many aspects of his tenure.
Year of Birth (YOB) aspect is the one which has been generated by Gen VK Singh. He was right on the part that his age should be as per his certificates, but was wrong on the procedures. He filed his year of birth wrong in his NDA form and the clerical error carried on till he realised that he will become the Army general with a limited tenure. What went further wrong was his acceptance of his wrong year of birth for the sake of Army promotions (not just his) without a written commitment that it will be corrected at a later date. At the same time, his non acceptance would not have changed the status of his YOB, which he found out when he took the issue to Supreme Court. Supreme court frowns upon date of birth related changes and the reason can be read at Birth date change becomes difficult for government servants (September 26th, 2011). The Supreme court rulings, the counter arguments from Army MS branch and the meeting with the political representative for amicable solution did not stop General VK Singh from approaching the Supreme court. General Singh’s game plan for Supreme Court that he is not asking for extended tenure was interesting.
The second controversy that is of making by General VK Singh is the disclosure to media about a Rs 14 crore bribe offer by an Army Ex – Military Intelligence Officer Lt-General Tejinder Singh. For a conservative Army which believes that media is a bad thing, what General Singh did was nothing short of a Public relations disaster. Going to media was probably not wrong, but it could have been said more differently or elaborately. In his speech at parliament, the Defence Minister had pointed out that he told Gen VK Singh to give it in writing, which Gen Singh refused. The disclosure by Gen VK Singh on TV Channel was for nailing Lt Jen Tejinder Singh, but the brunt of it was borne by the Defence Minister. While analyst debated if mere reporting by service chief was enough for Defence Minister to take action, Gen Singh was equally responsible for insubordination by not giving a written complaint, as asked by the Defence minister. This has also boomeranged on Gen VK Singh and later he was found telling the news channels that Defence Minister did what he could and he himself took steps on it. So if what Gen VK Shingh claims is right, then what was the need to go to press after an year? Both the Defence Minister and General VK Singh appear to be covering up their omissions.
The investigations resulting by the intended consequence of the disclosure of bribe by Lt Gen Tejinder Singh on behalf of Tatra Trucks has also not made much headway. The overcharging by Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) is not a breaking news and Defence Public Sector Units (DPSU’s) are known to have over charged without meeting the desired indigenisation targets. How else they have presented huge dividend cheques to the Government of India every year? DPSU’s and Ordinance Factory Boards (OFB) have already been maligned for their quality control. So what is new when Army Chief says that BEML is over charging, when it is a folk lore? BEML CMD VRS Natarajan’s tenure and plot allotments are not exactly direct concern of the Army, but definitely Gen VK Singh’s concern as a citizen of this country are valid. The impression that something about BEML should be done has already been in doing. The institution was set up to eliminate corruption and ensure indigenisation, which it seems to have partially achieved. The MoD is already in works to restructure its cold war era institutions.
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