THE MOVING FINGER WRITES
What is shocking about the charge made by Army Commander-in-Chief Gen. VK Singh against a retired Lt. General who offered him Rs 14 crore bribe for sanctioning purchase of 600 sub-standard military vehicles is not so much the offer per se but the latter’s cutting edge remark that “other people had taken money before and they will take money after” the C-in-C demitting his office. The implication is that corruption has long been endemic in top Army circles and the same would continue in the future. That a retired officer had the gumption and impertinence to make such a remark in front of a C-in-C shows the utter lack of fear among top purveyors of corruption that carries its own message.
Is the Defence Establishment crumbling? If that can be said of the nation’s sole security force, what would be wrong in presuming that the evil has spread across all departments both at the central and state levels? If that is the case what hope is there in the future for the country? Very obviously, the Indian Army is in a very bad shape and it would come as no surprise if it becomes totally demoralised. Immediate and stern decisions to revamp the Defence leadership, in the circumstances is very much in order. What Gen. Singh has done is to open a can of worms and it is now time for the government to control the damage that he has wittingly or unwittingly done before it is too late. There is no question but that corruption has been eating into the very vitals of administration in all its forms across the length and breadth of the land. We have been turned into a people without shame. The Aadarsh imbroglio is only the tip of the iceberg. Exposures of wrong doing in state after state has become routine.
In Andhra Pradesh among others even the Secretary of the Home Ministry has been detained. According to the Assamess paper The Sentinel (March 8) as many as 256 top officials have been charge-sheeted in Guwahati and they include 5 IAS officers. Included in the huge list are Finance and Accounts Officers, Executive Engineers, Directors of Education, Divisional Officers and a whole lot of others at all levels. It sounds incredible. Where does one begin one’s enquiries and where does one end? Criticising Anna Hazare’s plans for wiping out corruption in officialdom, Justice Markandey Katju, chairman of The Press Council of India sharply pointed out that the proposed Lokpal is unworkable for the simple reason that to keep an eye on around 55 to 60 lakh government employees in the country, including 15 to 16 lakh railway employees would require 55,000 Lokpals to redress the lakhs of complaints and where was the guarantee that in due course the very Lokpals will not, in turn, become corrupt?
More than 15 months ago, angered at the reluctance of many bureaucrats to declare their assets despite repeated reminders, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh had got their names, designations and departments posted on the official website of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pension. Some 851 officials above the rank of Under Secretary had been declared as defaulters. Have these defaulters obliged the Prime Minister by declaring their assets or are they still prevaricating? No one knows. The attitude, apparently, is one of chalta hai – anything goes. Even disobeying the Prime Minister. Nothing comes as a shock. If this kind of disobedience continues where will this take us?
Values are openly flouted. Can one believe that a total outsider, one Kripashankar Singh gets posted as Mumbai Congress chief and in a short time amasses so much wealth that the Income Tax Department feels compelled to take note of it? That this man feels compelled to resign from his post is another matter. Just as, if not more, shocking is the impertinence exhibited by one Anshuman Mishra – a UK based NRI – who wanted nomination to the Rajya Sabha by the BJP? Had it not been for the protests made by a senior BJP leader, Yashwant Sinha, he would have got away with his desire, to the total demoralisation of the party’s rank and file in Jharkhand! The sheer audacity of the man is unbelievable. His belief must have been that money not only makes the mare runs but can even get an NRI a membership of the Rajya Sabha.
But to come back to the Gen. VK Singh revelations. What comes out clearly is that bribery becomes possible only when the Army imports arms and other defence equipments from abroad. For too long has India been over-dependent on arms imports. As of now it is believed that over 70 per cent of its arms requirements are imported from abroad, which is a crying shame. Is India so technically week that it has to depend on the international bazaar for its security needs? Between 2007 and 2011 India became the world’s top importer and consequently – and concurrently – the top target for middle men to work at bribing or attempting to bribe the Army’s purchasing officers? Even China which once was heavily dependent on foreign equipment and was the biggest recepient of imported goods between 2002 and 2006 has now slipped to the fourth position. India is perilously lagging behind.
The time surely has come, sixty four years after independence was won to focus on building a robust industrial base for achieving self-reliance in meeting the wide ranged needs of the Armed Forces. Indigenisation should be aggressively pursued and private enterprenuers should be encouraged. Following the C-in-C’ revelations one understands that the Defence Ministry is coming out with its first Defence Production Policy (DPP) that aims to arrest the trend of imports and strongly pitches for a robust domestic industry? It is not only possible but has become absolutely necessary given the circumstances.
Meanwhile the government must lay down a law that prohibits retired army officers from working as agents or conduits for foreign arms manufacturers to sell their goods. Keeping the private sector out is patently silly. Investment capital should be easily available and all business deals must be open and transparent. All things considered, perhaps we have to be grateful to Gen. VK Singh for opening the Establishment doors for all to see what’s going on behind the scene. Importantly, those found corrupt must get their just deserts to the extent of life imprisonment. No less punishment would do, to carry the message that the government means business.