Military & Aerospace

Taking Union Cabinet For A Ride – and getting away?
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 08 Jul , 2018

Why do MoD bureaucrats continue to degrade Armed Forces status, rank, pay and equivalence? This can be easily gauged from the article by IAS officer Diplai Rastogi titled ‘The belief system, and some truths’ published in The Hindu on June 30,2018, wherein she describes the IAS cadre as: meant to serve, but do not; not trained to handle vast sums of money and human resources; egoistic belief of intelligence-experience but people only fears their power to benefit / damage; distribute largesse they don’t own; thrive on mismanagement and chaos; no long-term vision and subservient to authority; exploit systems for benefiting self and friends; policy of drift to remain relevant; expand own sphere, not efficiency; most pompous, officious and ill-bred; no stake in country – kids study abroad, niche of luxuries created for oneself; no empathy with larger population; too powerful to be annihilated.

The irony is despite these traits, the MoD is manned exclusively by IAS.  But that is not all; NDA II has played musical chairs with three defence ministers solely dependent on these bureaucrats. No move has been made to reorganize MoD and inject military professionals. The much brouhaha of lateral joint secretary level entry into ministries deliberately sidetracked MoD, even despite MoS (Defence) briefed PM Modi his pet project, ‘Make in India’ remains in limbo due unaccountable MoD bureaucrats. Budgetary allocations for defence are lowest since 1962 but Defence Minister Sitharaman pulls woll over the eyes by saying there is no dearth of money and publicly rubbishes Parliament’s Standing Committee Report on pathetic state of Armed Forces presented in Parliament.

Media now reports over Rs 2 trillion to construct four railway lines to Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh will be paid from defence budget, not by India Railways; this despite lakhs of civilians and tourists that will travel same lines. Whether rumours of benami properties of Sitharaman and her spouse owning properties  in Secunderabad Cantonment are correct or not but Sitharaman has granted free civilian access to all 62 military cantonments, overlooking Official Secrets Act, CrPC and High Court orders. Her logic she consulted military is irrelevant because neither she nor military can supersede these provisions. Defence Estates (whose disbandment was recommended by CAG in 2013 being the most corrupt part of MoD) has been empowered further, with an eye on defence lands and bungalows in cantonments. The fact that Defence Estates have been granted NFU with retrospect from 2016, concurrent to opening cantonments to civilians indicates something amiss.

After all it is all about defence land and bungalows, money and votes. Army’s Advance Base Workshops have been taken over by MoD already and some 20,000 acres land of military farms is up for grabs. Sitharaman’s promise that opening of cantonments will be reviewed after 30 days has obviously been dunked. But lo and behold the Cantonment Boards manned by IDES have arbitrarily put up boards for management of traffic, laying down timings etc without any reference to military authorities. Traffic management is not even part of charter of duties of Cantonment Boards, but mere fact they took this arbitrary action indicates they have blessings of Sitharaman. Such actions are raising questions whether Sitharaman is on the take and was this the reason to select a chief three down so he keeps mum?

In keeping with IAS characteristics described by Dipali Rastogi above, MoD bureaucrats have fully supported gross functional and financial irregularities of Armed Force HQ Civil Service (AFHQ-CS) in  their cadre restructuring based on deliberate misrepresentation of facts to the government; posts of seven new principal directors, in addition to the four existing ones, and 36 new directors have been sanctioned for the AFHQ-CS cadre without any functional requirement being expressed for them by the Armed Forces. The Army has represented, saying, “Creation of these unwanted/surplus posts is not only a violation of PMO’s directive on ‘minimum government and maximum governance’, but also a drain on public funds and a recurring loss to the state”. The cadre restructuring implies serious functional problems. AFHQ-CS, raised in 1986 as internal Group B secretariat support cadre for Armed Forces has already expanded to some 3,000-strong.

As expected, MoD has scoffed at the representation of Armed Forces, saying the “financial effect is not much”, the cadre restructuring is “already approved”, and there is no question of civil-military rank equivalence. Incidentally, MoD had issued a letter in October 2016 equating a Two-Star military officer with a principal director in AFHQ-CS, a One-Star military officer with 25-26 years of service equivalent to a director with about 14 years of service, and a Colonel/equivalent to a joint director in the AFHQ Civil Service. Later, MoD was forced to withdraw this letter. With respect to the recent AFHQ-CS restructuring, Armed Forces have contended that 44 posts of MTS (safaiwalas/cleaning staff) have been shown as surrendered to project that the proposal for additional higher posts in the AFHQ cadre was “financially neutral”. “But these safaiwala posts are neither part of the AFHQ cadre, nor do they exist on the ground … they have been outsourced,” says the letter.

But this is not the only instance of MoD-MoD-CS have been lying. Section Officer (SO) Entry was stopped by government in Central Secretariat Group B cadre 2003 onwards having found it detrimental to smooth administration and cadre management based on recommendations of a government appointed committee. But AFHQ cadre instead of discontinuing SO Entry, increased the intake from 20% to 50% by AFHQ cadre officers by attending meetings with DoPT and UPSC officials faking as MoD officers – stating that SO Entry is required by Service HQ without Service HQ even knowing about it, as revealed in response to RTIs. .   AFHQ-CS officers have been falsely certifying to UPSC and DoPT on behalf of MoD that changes in their Service Rules have been viewed and endorsed by all stake holders, without even Service HQ knowing about the changes (MoD letter ‘Website Certificate – Amendment to AFHQ Civil Service Rules, 2001’ dated October 17, 2017, File No. A/21403/CAO/R-II refers).

Above irregularities have serious adverse financial and functional implications; which disturb established working environment and functional equations, no matter the excuses by MoD. The whole issue actually stinks. It is no more a question that the restructuring has been approved by the Union Cabinet. Instead the question is can the Union Cabinet put up with it being lied to by the MoD? It definitely requires the PMO to step in and order an independent inquiry while withholding implementation of the cadre restructuring of AFHQ-CS till the inquiry is completed. The question also is that wasn’t the defence minister in know of this case which is out in the newspapers, and if she has done nothing about it, is she supporting the AFHQ-CS despite their lies against the interest of Armed Forces – similar to her support to Defence Estates?   The lid over corruption in MoD has always been kept tightly shut because the beneficiaries are common. Politicos are lured on pretext party funds or start with small-scale individual benefit albeit a lawmaker even for one day is authorized Rs 84,240 pension for life, what to talk of what he / she makes during service. Any whiff of scandal is acted against swiftly.

Take the recent arrest of Chief Engineer R K Garg ,CE Kochi, IDSE by CBI; caught red-handed  for taking bribe of 83 lakhs for award of contract. The news says that some Rs 5 crore have been caught at various places. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Should the CBI conduct thorough investigation, they could latch on to at least some of the activities of Garg that the Deep State is hinting at: Rs 8 crore traded for post of ADG (NEI) , ADG (N) and ADG (Coast Guard), plus Rs 5.2 core bribe to MoD to support these placements; Rs 38 crore in NFU scam of wrongly promoting SE AS Chief Engineer and loss to tax payer;  Rs 6 crore to MOD for issuing unauthorised posting as CE Goa and another post not sanctioned;  Rs 22 crore for setting aside implementation of Sheketkar Comittee report already accepted by Cabinet (reduction in IDSE senior SE, CE was recommended by Sheketkar Committee); for all black money mentioned, monthly hafta given by GE, CWE, CE; Rs 35 lakh special repair to official residence by faking fire incident at Delhi; amassing property worth 1200 crore. The important point is all this money is appropriated from poor work / mismanagement in budget of tri services at the cost of facilities approved for soldiers approved by the government.

The requirement here too is of impartial inquiry. The moot question is that while Garg would be fixed for sure, will the bureaucrats taking massive bribes be prosecuted, Garg’s case only being one amongst hundreds? MoD needs to be restructured to include adequate representation from Armed Forces. The AFHQ-CS cadre needs to be combatized, with their posts in Services HQ and ISOs replaced by employing ESM and non-empanelled officers, resulting in considerable financial savings to the government. In response to the free-run given by the government to MoD in pursuing a policy against the Armed Forces, a very learned scholar responded “Vinash Kaley Vipreet Budhhi”, but then he was only endorsing what Chanakya had said about not respecting your own military. Whether PM Modi and RM Sitharaman understand this or not is the question.

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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

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army.

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18 thoughts on “Taking Union Cabinet For A Ride – and getting away?

  1. Nice article, really fond of wrting. It is now clear that writing articles in the public domain does not resolve issues. There is need to approach the courts to correct these anomalies. But who will take the trouble? It’s much easier to write and then forget about it!!
    I joined a NGO whose primary objective is to bring transparency in governance. We found the same sort of situation in the municipal corporation, district offices and even at the level of State Government. It is impossible to convince the civil administration tha ..

  2. How many scams will it take the likes of RM and PM to admit that they are helpless for acting against this Mafia or they just prefer to turn their head and pretend not to see. The answer my country men lies with you.

  3. It is now clear that writing articles in the public domain does not resolve issues. There is need to approach the courts to correct these anomalies. But who will take the trouble? It’s much easier to write and then forget about it!!
    I joined a NGO whose primary objective is to bring transparency in governance. We found the same sort of situation in the municipal corporation, district offices and even at the level of State Government. It is impossible to convince the civil administration that their methods lead to nothing but corruption and that there is no semblance of governance in the city.
    Hence, we have resorted to court action with the result that we now have the following cases in courts/tribunals: two in SC, five in HC, two with CCI and 3 in NGT. Since 2007, final judgements have come in two cases in our favour while all interim judgements are also in our favour. It has helped in exposing corruption and improving governance. Of course, it is axiomatic that the bureaucracy has no clue of governance.
    Approaching courts means hard work, commitment and alertness and importantly patience. No political party wants to reform the legal system for quick and just judgements. They want to arbiter all cases, which is what is happening now because 90% of the time, the citizen opts to go to the politician for justice (which he gets at tremendous cost in terms morality) but is quick.


  5. A very comprehensive piece .Brings out several faults,shortcomings and weaknesses in the national structure wherein the civil bureaucrats ,despite poor or little knowledge of matters military are calling the shots.Slowly and steadily the military is being sidelined ,both directly and indirectly .Time is not far off when the nation will pay dearly for the continued lapses that have being committed for past few decades against strengthening our military might .Strong Military Leadership at all levels is the need of the hour .It is the best defense against our adversary both external and internal.Unfortunately ,the political leaders and bureaucrats dread that position and fearfully view that possibility as a personal threat more to themselves than to the nation.The expansion of Para Military Forces is more to counter the ‘fear psychosis’ that has gripped the political leaders and bureaucrats ,particularly due to the long prevailing rule of military law in Pakistan . Much has been written about all these critical issues that have weakened our defense forces not only in terms of arms and equipment but more importantly the morale of the fighting soldier and his critical leadership at all levels .The article is a wake up call for the nation and all those directly responsible for the safety and security of the nation and also for strengthening the military might and its critical leadership at all levels.The concerned political leaders,bureaucrats and military leaders need to seriously review the issues highlighted and more importantly do some personal introspection and soul searching not for their own safety and welfare but for the fate and destiny of the nation which they continue to misguide !

  6. The article above has been quite forceful in highlighting the corrupt practices being followed by the Political-Bureaucrats nexus that prevails. A well written article, but would it see the light of day in the corridors of PMO and MOD. I doubt it. No politician has the time to read such long articles, leave aside understanding them. They will want their secretaries (IAS) to put up a synopsis of this for them to read. A very conscientious politician may direct his Secretary (IAS) to present the articles gist in 5 mins.
    I say this with assertion, having been in the MOH during my days in service. Not a fly moves without the approval of the Secretaries.
    This article will NOT see he light of day in the corridors of power.
    A more proactive and an assertive action is required to place the Bureaucrats at bay.
    Perhaps the ESM lobby may be employed under guidance of the serving, to file cases highlighting corruption and unethical practices. The Media needs to be roped in to highlight the serious state of affairs in the MOD.
    Col Arun Malhotra

  7. Corruption in MoD and their games were known for long time. What was not known complacity or ignorance of political masters in present dispensation. The nation, including armed forces, had become jubilent after May 2014 elections. It was an end of desperaty despondent situtation and rise of promises of corruption free and armed forces friendly government. First Diwali visit of PM to army camp reassured initial expectations. Initial appiontment of part time RM was accepted as starting point. But musical chiar race was not expected. Similarly, initial news of PM insisting biomatric attendace in offices and reporting of IAS officers to office in time, working late etc made good PR stories without able to take charge of them. Allowing MoD to deceive Cabinet and letting it get away speaks its own story.

  8. Douglas MacArthur said,”I am concerned for the security of our great Nation; not so much because of any treat from without, but because of the insidious forces working from within.” And that is exactly what you have highlighted so well Sir.

    A myopic vision towards national interests & national security and being allowed to be controlled by bureaucrats has made the present Government look weak, wishy & washy. It is a self created quagmire and they really need more than the proverbial straw to get themselves out of it.

  9. Why Crib…… The CDS and equivalent service entries are slowly becoming Last Ports of call …… Just Raise the Intake to 28 years and see the Fun begin !!!!! Most got caught Young …….

  10. The sad state of affairs in the country is solely due to the Mandarins of the IAS. They are an organisation that has let the country down in all spheres. They are freebooters, infact its they who guide the new ministers in the ministries on the technique of making money and getting away with it. The state of India’s Defence Forces is poor because of them. They face no accountability issues, their promotions come for free, they perhaps haven,t heard of the word called integrity. In real sense they are actually a dump, a disease and a malaise that needs to be quarantined and defanged.

  11. This a clear politico military tip off . People providing secretarial services cannot visualise ground situation. I don’t understand why the Ministry is at the mercy of bureaucrats, off late I read “how would one feel interacting with a IAS who lead the animal husbandry department and posted in MoD as a secretary ” that is the irony . Army officers generally Colonels retire young why can’t they be absorbed for secretarial services once they hang there boots . There experience will count towards decision making capabilities and project management in a larger way. The other cadre of short service officers is available off the shelf for such services . It seems AFCS is running a parallel Defence organisation compromising the national security and its affairs . The officers who have kept hands on equipment and boots on ground are a better option to reduce this tiff . The government might see a political gain/mileage because of its agenda of generating employment. With the present scenario the Defence forces are being looked as a liability keeping aside the overall security situation and treated as expendable . The cadre restructuring is in pipeline , major capital acquisition are stuck , NFU is not finding its way , litigations are increasing , An unhappy defence Force of the country is a serious issue because the moral of the forces have been continuously hit . It’s time for paradigm and instant action on the above issues .

  12. In fact, nobody is concerned about the nation or the national security in this country, everybody is out grabbing land or any asset of Govt/def they can lay hand on. Country or the def can go to hell, let anybody come n rule it and they will lick and find a place for themselves. Why Mughals/Mohammedans and then Britishers came here, this was the reason. We r too mean and selfish.

  13. Gen Katoch’s pertinent observations make for extremely dismal reading.Nothing much can expected from the PRESENT DISPENSATION or even those to come in the future. The aggressiveness of babudom is growing like an incurable cancer and is posing a dire threat to strategic aims of the country. There seems to be no antidote. Unless the veterans, so full of indignation and sharing angry missives among themselves, take the initiative to come together on a public platform. I have highlighted this problem a number of times in the columns of the IDR and Salute magazine. The year OF infamy 1962 is being REPEATED WITH A VENGEANCE. Veterans should now heed THE WRITING ON THE WALL.

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