Friday, April 13, 2012

Conspiracy Theory

This is not about the 1997 American action thriller starring Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts. This conspiracy theory is about the recent Army Chief and Government faceoff that has silenced India with awe and disbelief. Disbelief because, the people of this nation who are already reeling under the corruption menace involving most (not all) government officials, didn’t in their wildest dream expect a character assassination of the most respected arm of Defence, the Army. From officials of the highest rank to a peon, most in the government undoubtedly are corrupt. In fact, this has become more like a daily soap in which, every day there is a new minister or bureaucrat caught in a mega scandal. But how should people react when reports of a corrupt Army makes headlines in national newspapers? This is certainly no daily soap! Perhaps while people are already getting used to scandals involving government officials, and have left it to fate and the judiciary for justice, the news of scandals involving the army certainly dropped like a bombshell.

When employees in the government sector want to take up an issue/ concern with the government, be it with their salaries or any other crisis, they walk down the streets protesting against the issue. But it certainly isn’t the same for our defence forces. Even if they want to, neither the ‘jawans’ nor personnel in the military can rise up in protest against the Army Chief to fight corruption. Sadly, in spite of the muck at the top, jawans selflessly lay down their lives for the country, assuring its people a goodnight sleep. The politics being played out at the top level between the Defence and the Government bodies is belittling the work that our young boys and girls in the defence forces do to protect us. The only way we can thank our defence personnel for their selfless work is by continuing to support them. Salutations to each one of them!

The Showdown
Faceoff between the Army Chief and the Government started with the age row in which the Army Chief dragged the Government to the court claiming to be an entire year younger than that recorded in the official books. Rather than settling this age row by taking the government in confidence, the entire issue was sadly played out in public.

In a few weeks, out of the blues, the Army Chief revealed about the bribe of Rs.14crore that he was offered in Y2010 by the former Army Chief to clear a contract for purchase of sub-standard trucks. This was immediately followed by another blow in which a supposedly confidential letter to the Prime Minister of India citing deficiencies and obsolescence in our military capabilities got leaked through some unknown source, and subsequently also got played out in public glare. These revelations by the Army Chief didn't only put the Defence Minister and the Government in a tight spot, but people were clueless about what's going on with the defence arm that is responsible to protect them.

This was not less that there came another blow when a military coup rumour was in the air which reiterated about the unauthorised ‘movement of troops’ towards Delhi in January this year. Of course the Army Chief, Defence Minister, and the Prime Minister were quick enough to extinguish flames of this 'absolutely stupid' story. More importantly, it was very important for the media to stop dragging this issue in public. Thank God, the courts banned media from playing out the "movement of troops" story far too much. We cannot make 'breaking news' out of national confidential information for God sake. The executive, legislative, judiciary, media and the people are bound by secrecy, and we cannot resort to washing dirty linen in public by jeopardizing the national security of our country. Opportunism will not only deface us from the rest of the world but also make it easy for our neighbours to believe that India is not ready to defend itself and that we are a disintegrated lot.

Having said all that, it is so discouraging to see how we are so busy collecting hi-tech military artillery and equipments and even going breathless bragging about our state of the art military capabilities. Yes, we need to be prepared to defend ourselves 24x7, 365 days a year. But I also wish that we and the rest of the world that we are competing with also spend the same time and money to build relationships.

Post script
On the lighter note, I believe Bollywood Director-Producer-Screenwriter, Prakhash Jha, who is well-known for his political and socio-political films, must be following this story with magnifying glasses as it unfolds. You never know in a few years from now Prakash Jha will release a film based on the Army Chief-Government-Defence faceoff and call it 'Coup'. And like all his movies, this film would also gain from the controversy it churns out.

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