Former army chief General V.K. Singh’s life story right now can be divided into two parts—before and after retirement. If before the general was a soldier’s leader taking on the system, post-retirement he’s seen as a maverick on the warpath. For while most chiefs hang up their boots after retirement, maybe join a defence/corporate firm or think-tank, Gen V.K Singh has refused to sound the retreat. He’s been lending his weight to mass movements, making anti-establishment speeches and, even testing the political waters.
Men in the olive uniform believe that even after an officer retires, he carries a bit of the army with him. This belief is especially true in the case of retired army chiefs who are seen as carriers of the tradition. So the former general’s dabbling in various ‘causes’ is seen as a clear break from tradition. The general, of course, has his sympathisers, but there are now many who also question his conduct. First and foremost is the question: does it behove a former chief to invite criticism on a force which he served for 42 years? What does it say of a general who after years of service to the nation turns a trenchant critic of the system he was part of? Is Gen Singh at risk of losing the respect of his peers and juniors? Should he not be thankful the government has given him such a long rope? Will he only be remembered as the general who took on the establishment to get his birth date changed to get an extra year in office?
Former army chief General Shankar Roychowdhury told a TV channel recently that a chief, after he retires, should be very careful about what profession and activities he takes up. For if you enter politics, you don’t quite know which way you will be thrown.
The drama at the general’s official residence on Mandir Marg in Delhi, where his family detained a serving major alleging that he was trying to plant a bug in the house, is only the latest in his bag of ‘cry wolf’ controversies. As critics saw it, what seemed at first to be some sort of a genuine security scare moved swiftly in the public eye to a publicity event. The general, to be sure, did say: “I do not blame the officer or the organisation for which I worked for 42 years. I blame those who directed them to do that”. But the entire business of detaining the major in the lawn and calling the media to “interrogate” him raised more questions about the farce being enacted on screen, instead of security issues. In reality, it is the general who needs to answer why the telephone exchange—a secured communications network manned by 2-3 personnel from the Signals Corps—was not removed after the lapse of the mandatory 90-day period.
As per protocol, outgoing chiefs are allowed to avail facilities like secured communication lines, accommodation and Z-plus security for a maximum of three months. In Gen Singh’s case, the MoD granted him permission to retain his official residence for a year, after he had formally put in a request for it.
The peer review is not very flattering. Lt Gen Raj Kadiyan, ex-army deputy chief, says “although it’s a very minor incident, it hurt the army’s image. That said, Gen V.K. Singh’s personal and public image has also taken a beating”. Maj Gen (retd) Ashok Mehta, in fact, says “he should be thankful the government has given him such a long rope while taking advantage of the office. I am sorry to say this, but Gen V.K. Singh demerits the prestigious office of the army chief.”
Just days prior to the ‘bugging’ incident, the government had withdrawn his security cover as per procedure. He promptly blamed this on the establishment, that too for ‘highlighting’ the withdrawal. There is a strange persistence to the way the name V.K. Singh has been cropping up in news columns.
Apropos Knight Errant...(Jan 21), Gen V.K. Singh’s sins are few compared to some of his contemporaries. In our so-called civilised society, everyone fends for himself and the devil takes the hindmost.
J.N. Bhartiya, Hyderabad
Why the focus on protocol when it comes to the general and none so when it comes to someone like Robert Vadra?
Ashok Raipet, Secunderabad
Even a low-grade central government employee can’t do things “unbecoming of a government servant” post-retirement. Indian law is a cobweb, it traps only small insects. The bigger ones break the web.
V.N.K. Murti, Pattambi
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
He seems delusional. He doesn't want to let go off all the privileges he enjoyed. He is squatting in the official residence. He comes across as some in a big extended family did well and whole family is living off him. He is not someone who will go quietly. More embarrassment in store for Army in future.
A man protesting against corruption cannot afford to share a dais with Chautala or Badal. At best, it shows foolish naivety and at worst a compromised character. Reality may lie somewhere in between. Running with the hare and hunting with the hound is never a good idea to build a credible image.
VK Singh is now an IIndian Citizen and has all political rights .Why this Columnist is worried about it Markandey Katju was a Suprme Court Justice. While as a Judge itself he made perverted comments which ahv eno relationship with the CXas efor which he si delivering the Judgement.For5 example All Indians Foreigners bec uas eall of ourefathers had come froim far off countries and settled here.After retirement every alternate day he talks like SAKARA in the Sanskrit Drama Mrutshakatikam.IN that way VK singh is better.
The General has lost it all,how does he believe he will fight corruption in company of Chautala and his sons.His credibility stands damaged beyond redemption.
His association with Anna Hazare was late given the fact he had to retire from service before joining Anna,by that time Anna had lost his steam and gone underground.
The article was written to berate the General who spoke out about corruption in the Armed forces and the system was ineffective say reluctant to do anything.
Gen V K Singh is best advised to shut shop and enjoy his retired life
I don't believe the allegations of paid media at all.
I believe everyone has some sort of bias. But the consistency with which you just invent, and contort or just ignore, facts to come up with a predetermined conclusion., is quite pathetic!
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