– Probe indicates Indian army in desperate bid to cover up financial scams, breach of discipline – Corruption engulfed Indian army suffers loss of 100 crore rupees – 6 top Generals, including current and former COASs guilty of gross embezzlements of Defense funds – Shady purchases, dubious spendings by top Indian Commanders put Indian security on stake – Army’s Northern & Eastern Commands, that deal with China and Pakistan topped in funds’ bungling – Indian army under immense criticism in Parliament after unabated breach of discipline – Constant incidents of soldiers, officers’ face-off, funds’ bungling forced Indians to go wild at LoC for face saving
NEW DELHI – Grappling with scam after scam; staring from the Sukhna Land Scam, going through the Adarsh Housing scam and reaching to the corruption episode at the army Recruitment Center, suffering from the syndrome of constant acute breach of discipline putting the world’s otherwise largest army; the Indian Army under immense criticism at the Indian Parliament as well in the national and international media, forcing the Indian army leadership to create hostilities at the Line of Control (LoC) and the recent eventualities that are constantly taking place at the LoC have nothing to do with any act by Pakistani troops on the border but the entire episode is based on desperate measures by the Indian Army leadership to escape the abovementioned criticism and to get away with the shady state of affairs, reveal the comprehensive investigations, carried out by The Daily Mail’s New Delhi Bureau.
According to The Daily Mail’s investigations, a recent internal audit carried out by India’s Defense Ministry revealed that the scrutiny of 55 items procured indicated that basic procedure of purchasing item from original equipment manufacturer was not followed and the credentials of the contracted supplier was doubtful leading to possible security risk.
These investigations further reveal that audit report on “Exercise of delegated financial powers of Army Commanders” carried out in Northern and Eastern Command of Indian army for the years 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 pointed out some operational items were bought from the gray market. Moreover, in most of the cases delivery schedule was not adhered to and the Army did not levy penalty for late delivery, the 115-page report said.
The Government of India sanctioned Rs 125 crore to Northern Army Commander, Rs 25 crore to Eastern Army chief and Rs 10 crore each to other four Army Commanders to buy operational equipment in case of any emergency so as to cut out delay in procurement.
However, delay in delivery of most of the items defeated the very purpose for which special funds were granted to the Army Commanders, the report said, adding the Commanders who are senior functionaries should not be burdened with the procurement functions.
The report said the loss to the exchequer due to embezzled amounted to Rs 103.11 crore while procuring items like battlefield mine carrying package, all terrain vehicle, hand held radio sets, spares for bulldozers, avalanche rescue equipment, snow mobiles, mobile EPABX, avalanche air bag, avalanche victim detector, combat free fall parachutes, GPS, three ton trucks and diesel generator sets.
The report also questioned the loss of more than Rs 30 crore worth of milk procured for troops in the Northern Command and said the mismanagement led to wasteful expenditure. The report said while some commands and units had excess milk supply, some other units and commands did not have milk supply at all.
Incidentally, the audit had conducted similar internal review of Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and procurement of food for its troops by the Army. Following these audits, Defense Minister AK Antony last month asked all the departments of the Defense Ministry including the three Services to appoint financial advisors to oversee major procurements and prevent any legal bungling and mismanagement.
The audit report also purportedly says communication equipment with Chinese components were acquired without following due procedure. However, Army sources said these were procured after thorough inspection of various aspects but added that the procurement “is under arbitration as the vendor was not able to reveal the Original equipment Manufacturer (OEM)”.
Taking a strong view of the financial mismanagement under its departments, India’s Defense Minister A.K. Antony decided to impose strict checks and balances on expenditure made under the special financial powers.
Defence sources said many of the acquisition cases mentioned in the audit report pertained to the Udhampur-based Northern Command while some pertained to the Kolkata-based Eastern Command.
Incidentally, India’s Army Chief Gen. Bikram Singh was heading the Eastern Command before becoming Chief of Army Staff (COAS) earlier last year. Army Chief General Bikram Singh, his predecessor General VK Singh and other top Generals embezzled over Rs. 100 crore of public money, the report reveals.
Not just has the money been wasted, but the audit also finds that guidelines to buy foreign equipment have repeatedly been disregarded, and equipment rejected by one part of the Army has been bought by another. In one example that goes beyond just the wastage of money, the auditor points to Chinese-origin communications equipment which was bought by the Generals, when they were commanders-in-charge of their regions, armed with special financial powers to make emergency purchases. In this case, the auditor found that even the Chinese-origin equipment was bought from agents rather than directly from the manufacturer as required, and despite the fact that similar Indian equipment would have been cheaper. “There is an apprehension that the stores have actually been purchased from the grey market and perhaps are of Chinese origin,” the report says.
The auditors also found that despite clear guidelines to source directly from manufacturers, most foreign-origin equipment have been purchased from Indian agents. In some cases, middlemen were used even though the original equipment manufacturer was present in India.
The report points out that High Resolution Binoculars were purchased by the Eastern Command at higher cost from an Indian agent when the original manufacturer was selling the same equipment at a lower cost.
In yet another major lapse, the auditors say that while the Army Headquarters rejected a certain make of bullet-proof jackets for troops because they were of a low quality, the same were purchased by the Northern Command.
Perhaps, most worrying is the fact that “none of the Army commanders have furnished complete data” of the purchases made by them to the auditors. The auditors noted that purchases took over a year to reach the Army and in some cases, the delivery took as long as three years. The report says that “the delay in utilization” suggests that “operational urgency for which stores” were acquired “could not either be addressed or there was no real operational urgency for the purchase of stores.” The report also observed that although auditors are posted in the commands, they are intimidated by military officers in command, who are also their reviewing officers.
The auditors have told the ministry that there is need for complete audit of all purchases made using the special financial powers of the Army Commanders, and have also suggested that “it would not be advisable to consider any proposal for enhancing the existing delegated (financial) powers. Whole system of delegated powers available to the Army Commanders needs to be reviewed.”
The Daily Mail’s investigations reveal that almost every month, some odd case of corruption in the Indian armed forces come to light, but involvement of the senior ranked army officers like Major Generals, Lieutenant Generals and full Generals in corruption cases have emerge as a matter of prime concern, not only for the whole Indian Army but for the countries in India’s neighborhood as well. It is due to this fact that over the years, the confidence of the soldiers over their military leadership has been dwindling because of their mall-practices, raping women, involvement in sex scandals, becoming party to land mafia groups and involvement in financial embezzlements.
What are the probable reasons for Senior Officers to embezzle?
1. Greed and selfishness
2. Inculcating and enjoying the Five Star culture and beget VIP status cum treatment (living literally free on the house) during service.
3. Own and buy a palatial house prior to retirement which costs about Rs one crore. (Adarsh Scam is a pointer- few cases have surfaced in Pune and other states too).
4. Lavish Family living styles and compulsion of favouring relatives with monetary aid.
5. Costly education for children. Capitation Fees for Medical and Engineering colleges.
6. Lack of Professionalism which tempts Senior Officers to take bribes from contractors and vendors especially those posted in AHQ and Delhi.
7. Skewed ACR system which encourages sycophancy and corrupt dealings. More corrupt the better the ACR rating and promotion (9 pointer guaranteed).
8. Fake Gallantry awards for promotion purposes.
9. Exploiting the junior officers to collude into corrupt activities.
10. Detection of corruption and embezzlement is difficult in a closed loop military environment. Lack of deterrent punishments for senior officers.
11. Peace time fatigue is ideal and provides a fertile ground to breed and plot scams which will enrich them. The Bureaucrats become godfathers of Senior Military Officers for protection.(Military scams like Tatra doing the rounds is a testimony).
12. Management and fudging of Military Grants, Regimental Funds and Canteen profits encourages senior officers to plan bigger money spinning rackets. (like CSD scam and NDA Scam).
13. Fudging Medical Records for promotions. Quid pro quo arrangements with Medical Authorities is common
14. Physically unfit Officers promoted based only on ACR.
15. Selection and appointment of poor quality leaders in the higher echelons by manipulating postings due to Political and Bureaucratic interference and compulsions is widespread and common.
The Daily Mail’s investigations reveal that while the Indian army leadership was being grilled for such high scale embezzlements and financial bungling, the institution was being hit by yet another menace and that was constant and increasing incidents of breach of discipline. Starting in March, the Soldiers- Officers face-off incidents in the Indian army touched the extreme heights in August last year when a severe stand-off erupted between officers and soldiers of an Armoured Unit after a soldier committed suicide at a military camp in the border district of Samba in the Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
Another incident of this kind took place soon after the officers and soldiers of an artillery regiment deployed in the Nyoma sub-district of eastern Ladakh had violently clashed with each other – which left the Unit Commanding Officer, two Majors and two soldiers grievously injured in May 2012.
The latest incident was triggered when a soldier, Arun V, who hails from Thiruvananthapuram, shot himself with his service rifle in the camp of the 16th Light Cavalry at Samba in the morning. He died on the spot.
Highly reliable sources told The Daily Mail that tension between the officers and the soldiers of the 16th Cavalry had been “simmering for quite some time” without any preventive or pre-emptive steps being taken. The suicide proved to be the tipping point. “Angry soldier, then ganged up to surround the officers and their residences in protest, leading to a prolonged face-off,” the sources said.
The gravity of the situation and the “complete failure of command and control” reached such a stage that senior officers, including the Commander of the Yol-based 9 Corps, Lt-General A K Bhalla had to rush to the spot to calm down inflamed tempers. All officers of the 16th Cavalry were subsequently moved out of their residences and attached to different messes as a precautionary move to prevent the trouble from escalating further.
There were even indications that two Army units had been rushed to Samba, which houses a Brigade and the armoured regiment, to control the situation. The Army HQ in New Delhi, on being contacted, said a court of inquiry had been ordered into the incident. “ it was really a very shameful and sad incident and clearly indicates the lose grip of Command in the area by the local commanders’, said Colonel H Sawhney, Director Media of Director General of Public Information (ADGPI) of the Indian Army, when contacted by The Daily Mail for comments over the issue.
All this does not happen if the case is of a simple suicide. Incidentally, Indian Defence Minister A K Antony is on the record to have told the Indian Parliament that as many as 1,018 soldiers had committed suicide since 2003, with the yearly toll regularly climbing over 100. Incidents of fragging (to kill or wound a fellow soldier) have also become a regular phenomenon in the 1.13-million strong Army.
A report by India’s Defence Institute of Psychological Research had earlier held that “perceived humiliation and harassment, over and above occupational and familial causes”, at the hands of their superiors often serves as the final “trigger” for soldiers in stress-related cases in the armed forces.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that with regard to yet another officers-Soldiers face off incident that took place in Laddakh, a cursory glance on reports of some major Indian newspapers and they all seemed to link the chain of events to some crucial factors viz., a series of rule breaches by officers, growing trust deficit between officers and jawans, failure of the command structure to contain rumor mongering, which can have disastrous impact in a crucial organization like army.
These crucial areas warranting immediate attention have been extensively and bluntly covered by `Indian Express’ in its report, which in fact, began with a declaration, “The violence at a Ladakh firing range, constituting one of the most serious discipline-related incidents in the Army in recent years, was the result of a series of rule breached by officers. Sources indicated a trust deficit between officers and jawans, including failure of the command structure, and a rumour about a badly beaten jawan dying that could not be contained.”
“The 226 Field Regiment had moved from Darbuk to the range for firing practice, and officers and men were staying in temporary tents. However, in a breach of rules, at least five officers also had their wives accompanying them. While families are usually invited for firing demos of artillery guns, wives and children are strictly not allowed at a firing practice session. Even at Darbuk, only a limited number of families are allowed, given that it is a designated “field area”. The Army says the wives were staying at a nearby GREF (General Reserve Engineer Force) camp.
On the said day, as the firing practice was on, the regiment barber, identified as Suman Ghosh, is believed to have entered a major’s tent. The sequence of events is unclear, but a version says that on seeing the officer’s wife in the tent, Ghosh ran out in alarm. Following this, the wife allegedly created a furor.
The major, along with two other officers, is believed to have then thrashed Ghosh, as well as denied him medical aid. This was a second breach of rules as in such cases, disciplinary action is taken while physical assault is forbidden. However, the matter was believed to have been sorted out following the intervention of Commanding Officer Kadam. Ghosh was sent for medical care to a nearby field hospital,” reported one Indian newspaper, Indian Express.
Another Indian newspaper, Mail today stated, “going beyond the cause reported by majority media behind this unusual incident i.e., alleged molestation of Major’s wife by a Sahayak (Orderly) leading to violent chain of events”, `Mail Today’ has used another version in its report, which yet again is a pointer towards “growing trust deficit, increasing gap between officers and jawans and breach of rules.”
“The sequence of events narrated by some other sources was that the firing practice session had turned into a family picnic and the orderly was ill- treated by the officers’ relatives. The soldier complained about this to his colleagues when he returned to the barracks in the evening. The troops went to the mess to complain but instead of lending Ghosh an ear, the officers thrashed him. This enraged the other soldiers who barged in and started raining blows on the officers, including Commanding Officer P. Kadam and five Majors. The latter, a Colonel, was camping in a nearby police guest house with his family. The soldiers chased the fleeing officers and ransacked a BRO guest house as well as other army complexes en route,” the Mail Today report said quoting official sources.
Coming back to `Indian Express’ report listing acts of rule breaches, it states, “In the evening though, things took an ugly turn when all the soldiers of the regiment (close to 500) returned to the barracks. A strong rumour spread that Ghosh had died after the severe beating. In a third violation of rules, the subedar major of the battalion — who is the representative of the troops — failed to quell these rumours.
Convinced that Ghosh had died, a group of soldiers went to the temporary officer’s mess and created a ruckus. As things started getting out of control and physical, Col Kadam, who was staying at the GREF camp, rushed to the spot to calm the troops. Here is when the fourth breach of discipline took place. Even as Kadam was reasoning with the troops, he was hit on the head by a stone thrown by one of the soldiers.”
The report though had also tried to trace the history of `226 Field Regiment and its acts of indiscipline”, thus pointing towards the fact that “trust deficit between the officers and jawans” has not remained a stray incident in the army.
“Incidentally, the 226 Field Regiment has had disciplinary problems in the past too. An inquiry had been ordered into allegations against the commanding officer of the same unit while it was deployed on the western frontier during Operation Parakram, following a series of anonymous letters,” the Indian Express report said.
`Times of India’ report also discussed these issues yet in a superficial manner.
“The Army also denied that the stand-off was still in progress with the jawans, who got agitated after sepoy Suman Ghosh was mercilessly thrashed by young officers for daring to complain about the behaviour of a major’s wife during the firing training camp at the Mahe ranges…..The startling free-for-all in the highly disciplined environs of the Army has sent shock waves down the ranks, with the episode being viewed as “a complete failure of command and control” in the unit,” the report said.
While giving a detailed account of incident and its background, `Times of India’ report also referred to a study which had also mentioned about the maltreatment of jawans by the officers, which is being described as a major cause behind this incident in all reports.
“Earlier, an extensive study conducted into the high suicide rate in the 1.13-million-strong Army by the Defence Institute of Psychological Research had held that “perceived humiliation and harassment” at the hands of their superiors often served as the final “trigger” for jawans to take their own lives,” the TOI report said.
Yet another Indian newspaper, the Pioneer, in Its report, quoting a senior officer wishing not to be identified, stated, “The Army’s inquiry would be basically to find out who triggered the capturing of armoury. It is to be found out whether the flashpoint came at the spur of moment or there were some hands behind to trigger it off.”
On this account even a “Mail Today” report can be referred to as it stated, “There are two versions on what triggered the brawl, which left a Commanding Officer, Major and jawan hospitalised. One is that an orderly allegedly molested a Major’s wife and the other is that all hell broke loose after a soldier was ill- treated by the families of the officers who were attending an annual firing practice session.”
Same report quoting an army official, who did not want to be quoted, said an acrimonious argument erupted between the officers and troops during the training session. “This snowballed into no- holds-barred fight during which fisticuffs were exchanged,” the report added.
The report even included the reaction of army veterans who, it said, reacted with shock at the incident. As per “Mail Today” report, Major General ( retd) Sheru Thapliyal, himself an artillery officer, said the unit should be disbanded.
“It is a clear case of command failure and the CO has no business to continue. The other person responsible is the Subedar Major — the senior most among the Junior Commissioned Officers ( JCOs) who has his ear to the ground,” the report quoted Major General (retd) Thapliyal.