Military & Aerospace

Denigrating the Armed Forces : a dangerous agenda
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Issue Vol 25.3 Jul-Sep2010 | Date : 06 Oct , 2010

Although considerable blame can be apportioned to India’s inept political leadership, it is the deadly combination of scheming bureaucracy and patronage hungry media that is responsible for the sordid ongoing campaign to discredit the military.

Bureaucracy’s Hostility

As regards bureaucracy, its main agenda seems to be to maintain its monopoly on governance in India. Naivety of political leadership was exploited by the bureaucracy soon after Independence to strengthen its stranglehold by putting the fear of military take-over in the minds of gullible leaders. The role of bureaucracy deserves thorough scrutiny to understand reasons and the modus operandi. Bureaucrats’ demeanour of self-importance is a façade to hide their acute sense of inadequacy. Commonly referred to as ‘one-exam wonders’, they suffer from acute inferiority complex in relation to specialist cadres. With respect to the calibre of highly professional service officers, they feel ill-equipped. It gives rise to intense dislike of the military.

“¦ different agencies shows the military at the top and other bureaucratic institutions at the bottom of peoples choice for probity, loyalty and selflessness. Sadly, instead of improving the image of bureaucracy through constructive measures, certain elements are stooping to despicable levels to sully the image of the services.

Recently, Minister of State in the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions informed Rajya Sabha in a written reply that as on 31 March 2010 eighty four IAS officers and thirty three IPS officers were facing trials on criminal charges in CBI cases. He also revealed that twenty-one cases were being investigated against IAS and six against IPS officers by CBI. Further, investigations were in progress by the CBI against fifteen IAS officers and one IPS officer under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The above mentioned number of cases is alarming when considered in the light of the fact that CBI needs prior sanction of the Government (that is bureaucracy) to launch proceedings against Joint Secretaries and above. And, it takes decades for such a sanction to materialise.

Every survey carried out by different agencies shows the military at the top and other bureaucratic institutions at the bottom of peoples’ choice for probity, loyalty and selflessness. Sadly, instead of improving the image of bureaucracy through constructive measures, certain elements are stooping to despicable levels to sully the image of the services. Every opportunity is exploited to show the military in poor light as if to convince the countrymen that the military is equally bad.

Political Neglect

Generally, political leaders are inclined favourably towards the soldiers. However, their ability to deliver is stymied by their inability to comprehend even simple issues concerning the armed forces. Unlike advanced countries, any political leader can be appointed Defence Minister in India. He may have neither the knowledge of military matters nor urge to learn them. His inadequacy results in total dependence on the bureaucracy. Consequently, bureaucracy gets to call the shots.

Additionally, failure of Indian political leaders to identify themselves with the soldiers stems from two distressing realities. One, soldiers do not count as a meaningful vote bank and can be ignored as they carry little political relevance. Secondly, political leaders have no progeny or family member in the services. Their total focus is on grooming their offspring to take over reigns of their respective political parties as most political parties have become family enterprises and are highly profitable as well. Therefore, they neither have interest in soldiers’ service conditions nor empathise with them.

Media’s Penchant for Sensationalism

Mushrooming of media, both print and electronic, has intensified fight for sensationalism and patronage. Unfortunately, standard of journalism has fallen to abysmal depths. When a leading media house invited a vicious and remorseless enemy like General Pervez Musharraf and groveled before him, it marked the lowest depths to which media could stoop. Instead of castigating him for Kargil war, non-release of numerous Indian prisoners of war rotting in Pakistani jails and barbaric treatment meted out to Lt Saurabh Kalia and his patrol, he was treated as a peace loving guest. For media men, Lt Saurabh Kalia was just another officer killed in remote border areas, unrelated and unconnected to them – disgracefully, we get stirred only when tragedy strikes us personally.

“¦ there is a trust deficit between the bureaucracy and the military. Considering soldiering to be a lesser career, no bureaucrat sends his progeny to the services.

Indian media is afflicted with the twin virus of commercialisation of intellectual honesty and craving for official patronage. As per the reports appearing in the press, a committee appointed by the Press Council of India has found that both print and electronic media have been resorting to unscrupulous and dishonorable practice of presenting ‘paid for’ material as editorial or independent content, thereby misleading gullible public. Most abhorrently, many media personalities distort facts and present them in a manner favourable to the officials. They covet official rewards (Padma Shree to Rajya Sabha nomination) through such subjective reporting. As the services cannot oblige them in any manner, the media has no hesitation in targeting it.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Maj Gen Mrinal Suman

is India’s foremost expert in defence procurement procedures and offsets. He heads Defence Technical Assessment and Advisory Services Group of CII.

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