Thursday, April 5, 2012

The General as Whistle-blower

The general confusion regarding General Singh's comments is a little perplexing. Yesterday, reading Praveen Swami's article on defense acquisitions and military preparedness in India, I realized that a lot of people were in panic mode. (Swami's article serves to reassure those questioning the country's perceived instability vis-a-vis China, and to debunk the notion of progressive increases in budgetary defense spending.) What is at issue here, however, if not in the media then certainly in parliament, is the locus standi of the general - can the chief of the armed forces make public statements about the state of the nation's military without prior sanction and permission from the civil authorities? While MS Yadav, Laloo Yadav, Sushma Swaraj et al seem to be vehemently against the perceived "insubordination" of the general, several military men are all too aware of the internal contradictions of military hierarchy and see the general's outburst as an opportune moment to publicly scrutinize the corruption that is strangulating military expenditure.

At another level, it is also about the political class's intolerance for whistle-blowers. While "quick action" in some form (cosmetic or otherwise) necessarily follows a media expose, the discussion in political circles necessarily centers on the audacity of the whistle-blower and possible punitive treatment. This hypocritical mentality is deeply rooted in legislative bodies. The Karnataka assembly's report on the "porngate" scandal is an exercise in self-justification and media-bashing. While the former ministers caught on camera watching a porn video on one of their mobile phones have more or less been exculpated (spam video, etc.), the majority of the report is apparently dedicated to criticism of the media's audacity in publicizing the event and focusing on the errant ministers rather than the business of the house. Yet again, one media channel in particular has been singled out for harsh criticism. The whistle-blower is always the main problem in political circles, not the act of corruption or misconduct itself.


Ten Homes said...

You see where the Generals gripes draws empathy from me is the way these IAS babus have cornered everything. It sucks. Its not a level playing ground, it creates a sense of horse play and smacks of gross step motherly treatment from IAS fellows to rest. Look at the power sharing structure. You see there is one COAS (Army Chief) but he not even a cabinet ranked secy, whereas there were, in my time, at least 6 IAS cabinet secy and a Chief Cab Secy IAS gent on top. These babus are trying to malign the COAS (who is accredited w/US Army Rangers degree, which one step away from being a SEAL) and at the same time trying to get Anthony to toe the line. Bloody Home ministry babus and MoD babus are doing the 'Yes Minister' routine to manipulate the highly decorated officer and a very honest politician.

paritosh Tomar said...

as far as making statements about the state of the country's defence preparedness is concerned, the general cannot do that. however, he hasnt made such a statement. the letter he sent to the PM (which is a routine exercise) has been leaked. however, this event, seen against the backdrop of the age row, the unfolding of the adarsh scam, allegations of the tatra scam and others does show the corruption that has seeped into the armed forces. a lot of mudslinging seems to lie ahead. the General's task is not going to be easy at all.

Arjun Rajkhowa said...

As you rightly pointed out, there is clearly a civil structure versus military structure dynamic at work here. In his recent interview, the general pointed out that he had been promised at various stages in his career that the recorded age would be revised. He had accepted his promotions on the basis of these bureaucratic promises of revision, with the ultimate outcome that we recently witnessed.

The corruption is, in fact, really deep. Today's report on the CAG's old assessment (which was ignored by parliament last year) re-emphasizes the point.