Un-soldierly act

Un-soldierly act

On the face of it, the age dispute surrounding army chief General V K Singh would appear to be rather silly. But in this case personal virtue is the issue: there is more than ample evidence to suggest that long before he was appointed general-in-chief, he was called upon to confirm whether May 10, 1950, was indeed his actual date of birth.

At least on three occasions in 2008 he stuck to the position that 1950, and not 1951, is his year of birth. To be fair to Gen Singh, his original matriculation certificate does show 1951 as the birth year and that document is with the military authorities. What has suddenly come about that has made the general sit up and scream that he was not born in 1950 but a year later? Was the 1950 entry a simple error or is his claim now that he was born in 1951 an afterthought aimed at gaining a year and with it some fat retirement benefits?

Gen Singh claims he is a man and soldier of honour. But his actions and words do not appear to be those of a soldier of integrity. For the better part of over a year, his time has been consumed by pursuing his age controversy – a scandal actually – with the government. This battle has distracted him from performing his duties as the commander of forces of whom the nation should justifiably be proud of. However, there are reports that point to a more sinister gameplan in which some actors in the government want to see him out early so that another general could replace him. There are also whispers that Gen Singh was not clearing some crucial, but questionable deals, or proving to be a stumbling block for the aspirations of a few not just in the army but also in the ministry of defence. On all these issues the government needs to come clean.

For nearly a quarter century now, the army has, sadly, not been led by thinking generals. The Kargil war exposed a leadership problem, not to speak of a rotting and decrepit institution being eaten away by the termite of corruption. Gen Singh's action to take the government to court over the age issue is a matter perilously close to insubordination. But the government too has not covered itself in glory. If the unstated objective is to appoint a more pliable person in place of Gen Singh, it would be doing a great disservice to the fighting men and the country.

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