Friday, March 28, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Revamp HP machinery

I agree only partially with the views in the letter “Need to ITise Himachal” ( March 19). For the new regime in the cash-strapped state (already reeling under a loan burden of Rs 15,000 crore with an unhelpful government at the Centre), it would be both unnecessary and impracticable, at such an early stage, to computerise official records and go high-tech like Andhra Pradesh or Karnataka. Instead, the top priority for the government should be to “reorganise” the state administration so as to fulfil the promises made in the election manifesto. That essentially entails restructuring, streamlining and carrying out a thorough review of the administrative machinery and re-evaluating major policy concerns. The grain should be separated from the chaff. The deadwood, the corrupt and tainted elements must be immediately removed, at least from key roles. The new government must earnestly get serious about setting things right. Leaders must themselves scrupulously set a personal example of what they would like the followers to do. Performance and merit must be instantly recognised and rewarded publicly. Then alone can the state be pulled out of the dismal political and sordid economic morass.

When in power, no matter to which party they belong (barring a few honourable exceptions), the politicians ruled the roost solely to fill their own coffers. The bureaucracy (ever busy grinding its own axe) blindly followed the political masters and churlishly parroted their views - both sane and profane. It is precisely such a nefarious politico-administrative duo, which can hijack any well-established system. The mess we find ourselves in today is the natural end-product of such an admixture of the wily politician with a corrupt bureaucracy. None, therefore, need be surprised.


The new government would do well to initiate measures to curb, control and eliminate corruption from the state. It must focus on improving the basic human needs such as food, drinking, water, education, health and sanitation, roads and other communications, creation of jobs, environmental protection etc so as to provide an efficient, honest and transparent administration. Women, elderly people, children and the handicapped require special attention. There is an urgent need to revamp the economy. The state must generate its own income from tourism, hydel projects and by harnessing natural resources abundantly available. This will help in ending the endemic habit of rushing to the Centre with a begging bowel. Once the state economy is back on the rails, it will be very easy to switch over to e-governance.

Brig GOVIND SINGH KHIMTA (retd), Shimla

Unreasonable criticism

This refers to the article “Problems of defence” by Lt Gen Harvant Singh (retd) and the letters by Col D.S. Cheema (retd), Brig K.S. Kang (retd) and Brig H.S. Lamba (retd).

It is a pity that people like Brig Kang and Brig Lamba prefer to continue to live with their tunnel views of the defence related (and perhaps also of other aspects of life) issues and hence have no right perspective of such issues. And that is why they like to criticise, mostly in an unreasonable and unfair manner, whoever says something with honesty, courage and conviction. We have been talking of a defence university on the pattern of many other countries of the world. I am afraid the Kangs and the Lambas have the potential of killing the concept effectively and they cannot tolerate an open debate.

I have been keeping track of what Col Cheema writes for the past few years and I am admit what he writes is well conceived and based on facts, which has rightly earned him a place amongst the defence analysists of this region. I endorse his views on the damage the bureaucracy has done to the defence services and that the Generals write generally without a purpose.

Let the clan of the Cheemas flourish. They deserve bouquets, not brickbats.

Brig MANJIT SINGH (retd), Rahon

It’s shocking!

I must congratulate Col D.S. Cheema for airing the views of thousands of middle-level serving and retired officers of the armed forces. Many of us are still in a state of shock when during the thick of the Kargil war, our honourable Chief of the Army Staff made a pathetic picture of himself by confessing at a press conference that “we will fight with whatever we have.” He did not elaborate on his statement because he was still in uniform. The ink in his pen has indeed started flowing profusely after retirement and maybe, he is not in a position to call a spade a spade.

As far as the genesis of the problems faced by the armed forces is concerned, the responsibility squarely lies with the corrupt and selfish generals, bureaucrats and politicians, in that order. The nation must do something about it before it is too late.

Col H.P. SINGH (retd), S.A.S. Nagar

Defence experiences

It is very illuminating to read views of Col (retd) D.S. Cheema “‘General’ problems of defence (March 22) , Major (retd) Dalip Singh Ghuman “Bureacracy and defence” (March 18), Brig (retd) H.S. Lamba “Buying small arms” (March 22). Readers now find more and more information on defence matters being contributed by retired defence personnel out of their rich experiences gained during their long defence careers.

The curtness and frankness at a talk delivered by Khushwant Singh at the Defence Services Staff College in 1991 comes to mind. He said that there is a vast gulf of incomprehension, mutual ignorance and distrust among the general public, the media and the armed forces, and also between the military and the bureaucracy. There is an apparent paucity of even common military knowledge, not to say any specialised knowledge of the armed forces. We seem to mix up secrecy with security on account of lack of perception and dichotomy between information and secrecy.

The random observation of General S.F. Rodrigues, a former Chief of the Army Staff, “good governance is our business as well” led to pilloring him in Parliament in 1993 and it was classed as a “one-time” observation. The kind of sycophancy plaguing our political leadership seems to have taken its tolls in the defence forces also.

Modern and hi-tech warfare is no longer a simple affair which can be left to non-professionals. We are seeing this happen in the on-going conflict in the Gulf region. In order to be abreast with the geopolitical milieu we have to revamp our defence organisational structures. Our Ministry of Defence continues to function separately from the three defence headquarters. We have no integrated defence apparatus to bring about efficient assimilation. Consequently, over Rs 300 crore is spent on maintaining and running the secretariat of the Ministry of Defence. The appointment of Chief of Defence Staff is much delayed. Let us look at the geopolitical and threat perceptions objectively and reorganise our defence strategy.

Let us not follow a school of thought which holds that problems, if they are not solved, are superseded — tomorrow’s problems will obliterate today’s. We have tools of modern management like “Management by objectives” and why not apply them at all levels of our defence planning, organising and implementation.


Flawed nuclear doctrine

Having exploded its first atomic device in 1974, India dithered for 24 years to go fully nuclear in May 1998 and further took almost four and a half years to set up a nuclear command authority (NCA) and pronounce an eight-point nuclear doctrine which includes a “no first use” clause for nuclear weapons.

Our potential nuclear adversaries in the subcontinent are Pakistan and China. The most serious and immediate nuclear threat is from Pakistan, which during the past four years has on more than one occasion, threatened to nuke India — first during the 1999 Kargil war and recently in the year 2002 eye-to-eye military confrontation. In the Indo-Pak nuclear scenario, the no first use clause places our country at a tremendous disadvantage vis-a-vis the nuclear doctrine of Pakistan.

We have given to Pakistan the first option to nuke our country in time, space and mode whatever suits Pakistan. That is, in a future Indo-Pak war, India would wait for Pak nuclear bombs to hit us. Since India and Pakistan being neighbours have a long common border, the distance of Indian strategic targets from the Pak nuclear tipped missile launch pads is so short that India would not get any time for a retaliatory nuclear attack.

Second, the advantage of element of surprise in a warfare has been completely surrendered in favour of Pakistan.

Third unlike conventional weapons, nuclear bombs cause widespread catastrophic destruction due to heat, blast and radiation effects and can wipe off big cities and atomic power stations and dams in one go. Therefore, after suffering very heavy and widespread losses, our NCA may get incapacitated and we may not be able to retaliate.

Fourth, it is reported in the media that Pakistan is in possession of 30 to 40 nuclear bombs and requisite missile delivery systems. Keeping in mind the various factors, Pakistan won’t hesitate to nullify our nuclear arsenal and command and control structure by launching its very first nuclear strike in a massive way.

s India’s NCA has political counsel and executive counsel coordinated by the National Security Adviser, which is thus multi-layered and, therefore, it would entail a long time for decision-making whereas the Pakistan nuclear command structure is military dominated headed by a military dictator who has the nuclear button in his hand. Therefore, India’s nuclear doctrine has many chinks.

Since the matter relates to our national security, it is expedient to have a pragmatic nuclear doctrine which should encompass a quick decision-making process, a proactive mindset and resolute foreign policy. It is vital to scrap the “no first use” clause of our nuclear doctrine, simplify our nuclear command structure and fill the outstanding post of Chief of Defence Staff. Our nuclear arsenal should be deployed in a “launch on warning” mode to thwart the evil intentions of our adversaries.

Wg Cdr GURMAIL SINGH, (retd), Chandigarh

Well done, Delhi!

I am immensely heartened to note that the Delhi Government is appointing mobile magistrates to challan persons throwing filth on roads and at public places. In Western countries no one dares to throw even a piece of paper or a fruit skin on a road or outside one’s residence or shop. I suggest that laws be framed to improve the sanitation standard which has deteriorated markedly. It will certainly change the face of India to visitors from foreign countries.

Dr HR KHERA, Pathankot


Hamare bas mein nahin hai

The holy city of Amritsar has become more like a danger zone, thanks to the Punjab State Electricity Board authorities. At every nook and corner of the city, one can see bare electric wires running at high-voltage dangling around loosely even in the thickly populated areas.

The transformers, which have been fixed up inside various residential colonies, give out sparks day and night. The “fireworks” create much inconvenience for the people, particularly at night, when at once the sleep gets disturbed by sudden explosions or voltage fluctuations. Sometimes sparks trickle down and fall on the road where someday or something might as well catch fire.

Particularly in one of the lanes close to the Mall Road, where a transformer has been giving out such nasty sparks for the last few weeks, the area residents have been lodging complaints, but to no avail. Invariable reminders have gone unheeded.

The main areas like the Lawrence Road are no less privileged. One can see bare electric wires running right through the whole stretch, sometimes even brushing the heads of passers-by. It was shocking to see the other day a rickshaw-puller falling unconscious after receiving an electric shock from one such wire on the Lawrence Road. Neither the police nor the PSEB came to help him as he was left to fend for himself.

And then there is no use going to the PSEB offices for grievance redressal. They say “Hamare bas mein nahin hai!”

DIVYA A, Amritsar


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