Crumbling defences

The other Honest Singh:

Discretion, doubtless, is the better part of valour. A nation’s army chief who is the constitutional symbol of such valour and strength is, therefore, expected to exercise self-control and care. So what explains the Indian Army head honcho’s scam-salvo-a-day attack on the Government? Is he just a frustrated trigger-happy General out to settle personal scores or have political constraints imposed by a corrupt, inept regime broken the shackles of his self-restraint?

The extensive data in circulation about our defence capabilities as well as the threadbare debates that now fill the public space are quite unnerving. If the valourous General has shed discretion for whatever reason and ignited chain explosions, the loose cannons in the media are in full boom with caution and circumspection becoming cannon fodder for all. Many who cannot tell a toy gun from a torpedo are now the ones firing away happily as if they are experts on weapon technology. But the sad part is that real experts and retired army heads, some with dubious records of service or integrity, feel no qualms in sharing sensitive insights from their own stockpile of experience and confidential info in the name of enlightening the masses. India’s army and its skeletons are truly on a grand parade!

Well, while much of such intricate weapon stuff passes over our heads, the enlightenment that has, however, sunk in and knocked us flat is this: We are all sitting ducks. Now should we condemn Gen V.K.Singh for showing up the chinks in our armoury to real and imaginary adversaries or thank him for exposing us to ourselves? Clearly, sub-standard or obsolete equipment in our army is endemic, endangering the nation as well as those fighting for it in difficult terrain and conditions, which is a greater betrayal.

Obviously our enemies passing off now as peace-talk pals would not also be unaware of our (in)capabilities. But forget a war with them, these are times of proxy wars and home-grown terror. In this context, apart from the hi-tech jihadis, the Maoists too are reportedly quite ahead on weapons and gadgets. An ill-equipped army therefore, instead of being a source of safety, actually increases our vulnerability.

The key corroder is of course corruption. India is not lacking in defence allocations though there are always conflicting demands of increase and moderation. But being sensitive and of a highly technical nature, defence purchases are invariably couched in secrecy. Even an otherwise vocal CAG or other vigilance agencies tread carefully. But secrecy is only an alibi since many unscrupulous elements, national and international, dominate the armament industry and sacred security info is stock in trade for them. Clearly, grease is intrinsic for the smooth functioning of this lucrative business!

While the army on its part may indulge in sleaze by itself, the political factor is overwhelming given the shroud of secrecy and the sumptuous spread. An ‘honest’ Defence Minister is no insulation nor an honest Army head a deterrent. Both can be superceded by the high and mighty, despite the best claims of DM Antony about a fool-proof process. The army chief, certified for his integrity, at least had the mortification of bringing out the shady deals that he thwarted or failed to, to the knowledge of his minister and media, but unfortunate Antony, who too has a matching honesty certification, has no such comfort. The track record and tendencies of those above him, of Bofors, Q and 2G fame, are such. Also, as a UPA veteran, he knows when to wink and look away, a tactic that ‘honest’ men at the helm in the country have perfected. So just as PMO is different from PM and even Manmohan is distinguished from Singh when push comes to shove during scam time, the DM would have learnt to draw lines between DMO, AK and Antony. Still, the defence minister must make haste to shore up his defences adequately since his High Command is notorious for breeding scapegoats! Who knows which big guns will backfire this time, to his detriment?

The other Inside job:

The Indian army is not the only one imploding; An average Indian faces an increasing risk of his insides being eaten up by the monster among maladies, cancer. With close to six lakh deaths in its kitty in 2010, cancerous cells are waging a more potent war than the indigenous terror cells that our ill-equipped army are combating. With cervical and breast cancer taking the maximum toll of women and prevention an odd possibility, early detection becomes the key. But with men, the malaise is, well, man-made and easily preventible. Around 24% perish to oral cancer, often smoking their lives, or chewing their insides, out. Tobacco is to the Indian male what corruption is to the Indian polity!

Smokers confound my sanity besides clouding my vicinity. The prospect of kicking the bucket early seems no incentive to kicking the habit. It is a drag on the personal and the passive family’s health besides the purse and far outweighs the pleasure. Also, the urge for a fag takes precedence over every other priority; even important events, at home or office, involve smoky interludes, much to the irritation of all. Worse, smokers deem puffs critical for all biological activities, bowel to bed. From toilets at home to public spaces despite bans, smokers assault you everywhere, violating your basic human right to breathe easy.

It looks our internal defences need to be stepped up in many ways on a war footing!

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Sudhakar R