Words hardly suffice to convey the sense of shock, nay betrayal, which runs through enlightened sections of society after disclosures that the Central Bureau of Investigation has unearthed a scam in key appointments at the “nursery” of the officer cadres of the Indian armed services.

True that, at the time of writing this commentary at least, no military official has been found to be involved in the scandal at the prestigious National Defence Academy, Khadakvasla, but that does not warrant any laxity on the part of the defence ministry in probing the matter fully.

Indeed for the minister, Mrs Nirmala Sitharaman, it poses an unusual challenge that puts to severe test her administrative capacities. The principal and senior faculty members at the NDA suspected to have secured key appointments through fraudulent means may all be civilians, but that does not mean the needle of suspicion bypasses top military personnel.

It is incumbent upon the government to order a high-level, comprehensive, inquiry and follow it up with reforms that prevent a principal, and other faculty members, being what in popular parlance would be slammed as “”fakes”. Not just fakes, but deceivers who have compromised the quality of future leaders in the Army, Navy and Air Force.

The NDA is a cradle. Young men still in “school” step out of civvy street to don the uniform and serve the nation. It is not just the profession of arms they learn at Khadakvasla but the “academics” required to handle modern weapons and systems, and the range of other duties they would be required to perform in future.

No doubt those skills would be honed when they move on to institutions of higher learning, but the basics will ever be critical ~ particularly qualities such as personal and professional integrity, camaraderie and discipline: lessons that are expected to be taught, and exemplified, by the instructing-staff at the NDA.

Can those lessons be imparted by persons whose own integrity and character is suspect? It is scary to try and imagine a military which is not grounded in the “basics” that would help them avert temptation, or wilt under the various pressures to which they would be exposed or subjected in the days ahead.

This is not to suggest that every man in uniform is a paragon of virtue, but to emphasise that the nation would be in an awful mess if the majority of “uniforms” were devoid of basic decencies. It is at the NDA that are taken the initial steps on the footslog to becoming “an officer and a gentleman” so there must be not short-cuts taken.

No routine probe will suffice, an Inquiry Board of top military officials and educationists is critical ~ a respected military veteran could assist in upholding the ethical muscle of the forces. The tainted at the NDA must be perceived as traitors, nothing less.