G RAMACHANDRA REDDY
The government&’s purported leak to the media of the findings of an internal enquiry into the activities of the army&’s Technical Service Division to undermine the position of General (retd) VK Singh, former Army Chief, has provoked an unseemly controversy. The report indicted the TSD, alleging that it has been making “payoffs” to certain politicians and NGOs.
The government&’s immediate provocation to leak the information was General Singh&’s participation in an ex-servicemen&’s public meeting in Haryana. He has also shared the dais with Narendra Modi, the BJP&’s prime ministerial candidate. This government is seemingly in a state of panic. On his part, General Singh has gone public on the role of the TSD in making payoffs to politicians and NGOs in Jammu and Kashmir.
General Singh, while admitting the payoffs, has, however, qualified his admission by asserting that such payments were nothing new. “They were going on since the inception of the Republic and there is no personal or political gains in the payoff&’s.
They were not bribes in the strict sense of the term and they were meant for the stability and social harmony to win the hearts and minds of the people under the overall umbrella of Sadhbhavana (social harmony). It was part of a larger game-plan and two major achievements were cited in pursuance of its objectives viz., (1) successful conduct of the panchayat election in 2011; and (2) the sudden end to the stone-throwing saga in 2010.”
Notwithstanding the perceived intentions of the scheme, Gen Singh&’s outburst through the media has sent the wrong message to Pakistan, to the separatists in Jammu and Kashmir in particular, and to the global community and human rights groups in general. It has tarnished the image of the Army though it has been playing the role of an honest broker of peace.
The episode also conveys an important message to the country ~ Democracy and periodic elections are by themselves not a “stabilising force”; the payoff is distributed liberally at the cost of the honest tax-payer. This is reminiscent of the controversy a few months back when Tarun Tejpal and Ashish Nandi landed themselves in an awkward situation when they remarked that corruption is a stabilizing force for the disadvantaged sections of society to be united in the cause of the nation.
While I congratulate General Singh for his courage to take on the corrupt system, he needs to be “responsible” in the matter of going public on the Army&’s covert operations. The former Army chief was also accused of “inconsistency” in the matter of his date of birth and the unsuccessful legal battle.
However, the latest controversy has brought into the public domain the “mass deception” that was perpetrated through the secrecy of the TSD&’s activities, masquerading as covert operations. After all, people have the right to know, if not influence, the policies of the government they elect. And the right to know is not the same as the Right to Information under the RTI Act 2005 which is accessed by those who are in the minority.
Allotment of secret funds (black budget) to the police, the Intelligence Bureau, State intelligence units and financial intelligence units under the Union finance ministry is not uncommon. The question is whether they have been put to right use, indeed to develop “sources” who provide information on crimes, tax evasion, terrorist offences etc. At any rate, the Army is not the right institution to carry out this peace-time task of Sadhbhavana (harmony) to win the hearts and minds of the alienated youth of Jammu and Kashmir. The IB and the State Intelligence agencies can carry out such activities.
The IB can be strengthened and expanded towards this end and if IPS officers are not competent to do this specific job, an Army General can be chosen to head the IB or be appointed as an Additional Director to look after the affairs of J & K. The IB needs to have a legal anchor and be accountable to Parliament. Doubts will linger as to whether public funds are allotted to the Army to keep its officers contented or to keep the alienated youth of Jammu and Kashmir satisfied. A better option to woo the state&’s alienated youth is to provide 2 per cent reservation in public employment under the Union of India, say in the paramilitary and the police. Public employment is a tangible asset that is more secure and less prone to abuse like public funds. The details of the 2 per cent reservation can be worked out by experts keeping in view that reservation does not exceed the outer limit of 50 per cent.
There is no long-term vision and strategy to address the alienation of youth in Jammu and Kashmir. Any major concession, such as reservation in public employment, needs to dovetailed with resettlement of Pundits. The State of Jammu and Kashmir is not the jagir of a few political parties or the separatists. It is part of the Indian Union.
Some of our intellectuals and Generals, who participated in television debates, have criticised Gen Singh for his political ambition. There is nothing wrong in nursing political ambition. First, he has not been “convicted” in the courts for any offence. Second, politics is not the “propriety concern” of the professional and crime-tainted political class or a few families that control political parties. There is an exodus of retired All-India Service officers joining political parties. Why are eyebrows raised when Army Generals enter the world of politics? A better alternative to curb this exodus is to amend service rules, and deny pension and other benefits to retired government servants who join politics.
There must be a judicial enquiry into the leaks as well as the veracity of payoff&’s alleged by General VK Singh.