Tuesday, April 9, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Putting the record in correct perspective

The views expressed by Lt-Gen Harwant Singh in his article (March 27) are of a highly irresponsible nature, to say the least, and not expected from an individual of his experience and knowledge of the defence services.

Air Marshal Bhatia is the senior most functionary of the IAF, after the Chief of Air Staff (CAS). Anybody detailed by the latter to conduct the court of inquiry would have been junior to the former. The CAS was aware of this and must have good reason to detail Air Marshal Manjit Singh Sekhon for court of inquiry. The mandate given to Air Marshal Sekhon may have been just to bring out the facts and leave the apportioning of blame to the CAS himself. Given the sensitivity of the case, the CAS must have been kept informed of the direction the court of inquiry was proceeding. If the CAS still directed Air Marshal Sekhon to continue and complete the court of inquiry, should he have disobeyed the orders of his Chief? General Harwant Singh may like to answer this.

The writer has made very strong allegations against Air Marshal Sekhon, touching on his very character. Indeed such observations about a very senior officer of acclaimed high calibre and potential are most shocking. How can anyone in his right mind allege that an officer of the rank of AOC-in-C will cook up the findings of a court of inquiry to further his own ambition? Does the General not know that the court of inquiry is subject to close scrutiny by the CAS, and possibly the Ministry of Defence before it is finalised and that any irregularities or suspicious findings would be immediately detected?


There has been any number of instances and even fatal accidents — from Packet and Dakota days — as a result of Air Force aircraft having entered wrong valleys or prohibited areas due to navigational errors. The terrain looks totally different from the air than what it looks from the ground. When the ridges and peaks are covered by snow it can be quite difficult to distinguish ground features and many landarms look similar. While operating these modern aircraft with higher speeds, even a small error in flying or navigation can take you miles off the track in a very brief time span.

Though the Air Force authorities have been tightlipped, it is learnt that Air Marshal Bhatia was physically flying the aircraft at the time of the missile hit and that his reactions and his communications with the crew before and after the missile hit are all recorded on the cockpit voice recorder. Surely, the court of inquiry headed by a highly experienced Air Marshal with more than 8200 hours of flying experience is better equipped to determine whether the aircraft could have strayed across the LoC or not than the General with his imaginary knowledge of aviation.

It is highly unlikely that the aircraft piloted by Air Marshal Bhatia could have been hit by a Pakistani shoulder fired missile by infiltrators inside the Indian territory. To the best of my acknowledge, the Pakistani infiltrators or militants as we call them have not been issued such missiles.

The tenor of the article indicates that the writer has been influenced by someone very close to Air Marshal Vinod Bhatia. Indeed, the writer appears to be acting as a spokesman for him. I am not against Air Marshal Bhatia but I am sad to see the General most unfairly maligning the character and integrity of one Air Marshal and absolving the other of any blame. A fresh court of inquiry is in progress. Let the Air Force and the Ministry of Defence do their job.

Meanwhile, the authorities must probe the leak of the confidential letter of Air Marshal Sekhon to the then Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, a letter that did not result in any favours for Air Marshal Sekhon nor did it harm anyone else. For a confidential letter that lay ‘dead’ for six months to suddenly surface immediately after the court of inquiry proceedings were submitted — apparently to take the heat off the AN-32 missile hit — is a coincidence that may reveal serious shortcomings in the handling and security of our sensitive correspondence.


Moral turpitude

This refers to Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia’s letter (April 1). Mr Hari Jaisingh did not comment on his conduct as the Vice-Chancellor expect mentioning in his article (March 29) that keeping in view the nature of the charges levelled against him, he should have gracefully bowed out.

Today, no constructive activity is taking place in the university. That is why, “most centres of higher learning today have become arenas for intrigue, groupism and undesirable activities.... the sycophancy culture has spoiled the academic atmosphere. How can teachers motivate students and help sharpen their powers of observation and original thinking if they become part of the country’s sickening political culture”? I agree that most of the teachers are more interested in making money through private tuitions than in training the youth on right lines.

B.M. RAWLLEY, Fazilka

A good team

After a long spell of ineffective, imbecile and status quo Chief Ministers, a new Chief Minister has taken over the reins in Punjab. He is comparatively young, well read, well versed with modern techniques of management and leadership. Above all, he has a service background. He served in the Sikh Regiment and saw the 1965 War from close quarters.

Naturally, he has constituted a good team. People’s aspirations from his team are naturally high. The officials have to provide honest, efficient and unbiased administration. It is a life-time opportunity for them to show the way to their political bosses for taking the correct decisions. I am sure, they will not deviate from the righteous path.

If they fail now, people will lose faith in them also. Wish them best of luck and full support.

Brig K.S. KANG, Chandigarh



Corruption: arrest the new trend

During the last few years, a new trend has started in dealing with corruption cases, exposed by the media on the ruling partymen. The powerful politician or a minister would call the corrupt official and ask him to return the bribe money to the victim and the case is closed without even issuing verbal warning to the erring officer.

As soon as the Congress party came to power in Punjab, a similar case was reported in the press from Gurdaspur where a partyman requested the politician to get his money back from a police official. The case was summarily dealt with and disposed of. This trend, if allowed to persist, will prove counter-productive. The government, therefore, must ensure that corrupt officials, irrespective of their status, are prosecuted and made accountable for their acts of omission and commission.

Col KULDIP SINGH GREWAL (retd), Patiala


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