Tuesday, March 18, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



‘General’ problems of defence

When a former Deputy Chief of the Army Staff writes about “Problems of defence forces” (March 12), it raises expectations of a reader, more so of a reader from the defence forces.

It is well known that Generals get unending supply of ink for their pens only after retirement and write generally for many newspapers to bring out the evils of the system they were once a part of. Any one who has seen them functioning from a close quarter, when they were in uniform, knows it too well that, in fact, the Generals are a part of the problem facing the defence forces today. One can easily understand that it is one thing to relate the allotment of funds to the cost-effectiveness of the defence apparatus and to talk about the mismanagement of funds, but it is entirely a different ball-game to suggest pragmatic measures to rectify the system.

Unfortunately, most of the Generals, while in service, make compromises and bend backward to sing to the tune of the bureaucrat. They are castigated and humiliated by their political and bureaucratic bosses in every possible manner. Actually, the duo is able to ostracise the Generals and make them “impotent” as long as they remain in uniform.

That our procurement procedures are age old and prompt corruption, that DRDO scientists lack creativity and motivation (except a few islands of excellence), that the MES is a major drain on defence resources, that the Ordnance Factories Board is manufacturing substandard equipment for its captive buyers, that crores are misappropriated by different people at different levels, is well known to everyone who bothers to know. But what is not known is, first, what can be done about it and, second, even if someone finds a way out, can it be implemented in a country which lacks the political will to do so?


Some of the things which may help are: (a) Review systems & structure to cut down misuse and mismanagement at every level.

(b) Management of material is another area that calls for urgent attention. The total inventory of the defence services amounts to thousands of crores and the amount spent on the upkeep of this inventory adds to more than 1000 crores. Assuming the inventory carrying cost of 20 per cent, the national average as per the National Productivity Council being 25 per cent, it is obvious that there is something drastically wrong with our inventory management. A visit to the ordnance depots and Army base workshops shows idling waste and non-utilisation of plant, machinery and material handling equipment.

(c) Privatise the manufacture of small arms, ammunition and other weapon systems by getting rid of the yoke of secrecy. The Defence Ministry has recently taken a major initiative to involve the private sector in research, design, development and production of limited variety of defence weapon systems and equipment. Our DRDO should be ready to share the results of many years of effort by R&D labs in a selective and careful manner as a precaution against misuse by unscrupulous elements of society. DRDO definitely has a lot to do by way of introspection. Non-military and low technology military requirements must be offloaded to the private sector.

(d) Phase out the vehicles and equipment of ordnance factories origin in a planned manner. There is a need to take a hard decision and resort to surgery of defence production and ordnance factories most of which are not cost-effective and have been in existence due to the non-projection of the problem in a correct perspective.

(e) Disband the MES in its existing form and create a corporation by overhauling the present system so that responsibility and accountability can be fixed.

(f) Liberalise arms export.

May I suggest that when your newspaper publishes the views of Generals, it should also give a fair chance to junior officers who may have a better understanding of issues related with the defence of the nation because of the nature of their postings during service or because of their interest in the subject. Any one with the tendency of getting pressurised by the weight of the rank is advised to understand the concept of “Rank Inefficiency” (taken from the famous Peters’ Principle) so well known in the armed forces.

Col D.S. CHEEMA (retd), Panchkula

Shabby treatment

It was undignified on the part of the PS to the Punjab Chief Minister to slap, kick and abuse comedians Jaswinder Bhalla and Balmukand Sharma, particularly when their remarks, which angered him were not malicious or ill-natured.

Humour is the expression of what is funny and amusing in speech, writing and action, and tends to excite laughter. There is no joy without laughter, said Horace. Persons with a good sense of humour seldom lose temper while the humourless people are generally irascible.

I want to mention anecdotes about some great men, who, instead of flaring up, enjoyed the remarks made about them.

One day, Mirza Ghalib was sitting in a book shop. An Iranian youth came there and asked for his divan saying, “Een qurumsaaq khoob mey goyad” (This cuckold writes very good verses). The poet smiled and said, “Khuda kee qasam sachi daad aaj hee mili hai” (By God, I have received honest praise only today).

This amusing story was on the tongues of many people more than five decades ago. Once Jawahar Lal Nehru visited a mental hospital. While talking to a mentally deranged man, he said that he was the Prime Minister of India. “Before coming here, I also boasted of being this country’s premier,” the lunatic ejaculated. Nehru laughed and patted him on the shoulder.

One day, Shaair-e-inqilaab, josh Malihabadi went to see Maulana Azad, who was then Union Education Minister. He took some time to call the poet. It was a sweltering hot day. Josh wrote the verse: “Itna accha nahin hai khoon khaulaana/Phir kabhi milein gey Maulana” on a piece of paper and sent it to the minister. He immediately came out smilingly, hugged the poet and took him into his room.


More on Ghalib

In his letter “Ghalib and mangoes” Mr Bhagwan Singh (Qadian) has beautifully shared Mirza Ghalib’s wit and literary excellence. I am also reminded of a few interesting incidents from the poet’s life which I would like to share with the readers.

Once, after a literary assemblage at Ghalib’s haveli in Balli Maran, the guests, including Ghalib’s disciple, Moulani Hali Panipati, got up to disperse. The host accompanied them to the gate to see them off. Witnessing a few donkeys near the gate which opened in the narrow lane, one of the guests made a tongue-in-check observation. “Mirza Sahib, there are many donkeys in Delhi”. Ghalib shot back: “No sir, they have come from outside.”

At another occasion when Mohd. Ibrahim Zouq, a contemporary poet of repute and last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar’s mentor complained to the king about Ghalib’s sarcastic remarks about him (Zouq), Ghalib replied, “Rooe Sukhan kisi ki taraf ho to roo siah” (If one is casting reflection on another, his face be black). Zouq’s complexion being dark, the subtle accusing finger pointed to him to the literary delight of courtiers and poetry lovers.

Ghalib brought to bear on his couplets not only immutable diction and rhyme but also sharp intellect and saturated wisdom of the East. While writing to a friend to condole his wife’s death, he commented, “Roay to woh jise aap na marna ho”. (Only he should weep who is not to die himself”.)

P.L. BHOLA, GurgaonTop



MLAs: then & now

In the fifties and sixties after Independence, the MLAs of this region, which now comprises Punjab, Haryana, Himachal and Chandigarh, used to travel by buses to Chandigarh from their places of residence. Vidhan Sabha sessions were held twice a year and they used to continue for a couple of months. The Budget session, which usually began in March, was a little longer than the session held in winter. They were not given any vehicles nor were they given any police guards because they were popularly elected representatives of the people.

Now it is just the opposite. The MLAs are provided with vehicles and two guards each, although their work has decreased as far as the sessions are concerned. Now the sessions are held for a couple of days and the MLAs don’t get any time to air grievances of the people whom they represent. All they are interested in is helping their near and dear ones and, of course, themselves.

Has the state of Punjab become so rich that their elected representatives should live in a five-star culture? The common man’s condition has worsened with the rise in the prices of commodities and decreasing income. Every month a new scandal of corruption comes up. This has been happening for the last 40 to 50 years and nobody has been punished, may he be a politician or a babu.

In the sixties during the Chief Ministership of Pratap Singh Kairon, a majority of the ministers and MLAs were honest and dedicated to their cause. But corruption did start during his time because of his relatives and family members, who started collecting money by unfair means. During the Kairon regime, the bureaucrats were not given any vehicles nor any guards and more or less they were honest in their public dealings, but now everyday you read in papers about one babu or the other being hauled up for corruption and having assets disproportionate to their known sources of income.

There was news in the paper that India was the second most corrupt country after Indonesia in Asia. Every government coming into power for the last 50 years or so promised that corruption would be wiped out and transparency in public life restored. I have been watching this scene for the last 50 years, nothing seems to have changed. The common man is the worst sufferer because he has to bribe the patwari, the tehsildar, officers in charge of ration cards, police station etc.

So how does the government claim that it is getting rid of corruption from public life? In foreign countries there is corruption but it does not affect the common man. Here in India, it is the day-to-day functioning of the administration which produces black money, bribery and brutality and hence harassing the common man for no fault of his.

Jaspal Singh Mann, Mohali


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