Sunday, June 12, 2011

Army efficiency getting legally knotted?

ARMY EFFICIENCY? Or getting tied in legal knots
A HEALTHY scorn for red tape and legal nit-picking, decisiveness and a determination to get the job done were key elements of the “military efficiency” that used to be held up as a yardstick. Hence it must be a sign of changing times that the opinion of the Attorney-General was sought on the (still unresolved) controversy pertaining to the age of the army chief, and now a proposed change in promotion policy has been referred to the Solicitor-General for evaluation of potential legal fallout. True in times gone by senior officers were less prone to rushing to court ~ more recently the Armed Force Tribunal ~ to seek redress of grievances; true also that the army of yesteryear had greater faith in the propriety and sense of fair play of the most senior officers. Thus most of such issues were resolved in-house, even if not to everyone’s complete satisfaction: “putting in my papers” was the ultimate protest. This is not for a moment to join issue with the reported opinion of the Solicitor-General that there could be no ad hoc changes to the promotion policy for two and three star generals. The key words are “ad hoc”: in fact it does the reputation of army headquarters no credit that it did not come up with a comprehensive alternative to the two-stream policy ~ command and staff ~ that was introduced during the tenure of the previous chief. If that system is as discriminatory as is now being projected (not without reason given the “class consciousness” of the uniformed community), why were no serious objections raised at the time of its introduction? Is the Army a dictatorship or a banana republic, or has chamchagiri taken root in that section of South Block?
The Army is increasingly being enfeebled, not by the tardy pace of modernisation and re-equipment as it would have the ordinary Indian believe, but by personnel-related issues. Widespread is the feeling that promotion boards are not above board, that annual confidential reports are influenced by the level of “polish” applied to the senior officer (or his wife): mercifully political affiliation has not become a factor thus far, at least not overtly. Corruption was not the sole shortcoming on the “internal health” front the present chief had highlighted when he assumed that high office. Regretfully there have been few signs of the malaise being contained. Weaponry can be bought: honour, dignity and uprightness stem from within.
The Statesman Edits 30 May 2011

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