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.