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Antony washes hands of age row in Army
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 29
Defence minister A.K. Antony seems to have distanced himself from the age row that has hit the Army after the transfer controversy and which could have an impact on who could be the next Chief of Army Staff once the incumbent Gen Deepak Kapoor retires in 2010.

Talking on the sidelines of a defence seminar here, the minister said: “There is no need for my intervention. The file has not come to me. There are set rules to deal with such issues, the services will settle the issue”.

The minister’s comments came even as three senior postings in the Army have been put on hold as a result of the age row.

The postings of Lieut-Gen V.K. Singh, who is at the centre of the controversy, to Eastern Command, Lieut-Gen P.C. Bharadwaj to Northern Command and that of Lieut-Gen H.S. Panag from the Northern Command to the relatively insignificant Lucknow-based Central Command are on hold as of now. They would come into effect once there is clarity over the real age of General Singh.

The controversy came to light when the records of General Singh’s date of birth at Adjutant General’s branch and at the Military Secretary’s branch were found to be different. General Singh, who at present commands the Ambala-based elite 2 Corps, would, in the normal course, have been the seniormost three-star officer when General Kapoor would have retired in 2010. The discrepancy in his birth date now seems to have put a question mark on that.

According to records with the Adjutant General’s branch, General Singh was born on May 10, 1951, while the records of the Military Secretary’s branch say he was born on May 10, 1950.

Incidentally, the Adjutant General’s branch maintains records of officers from the time they enter the National Defence Academy (NDA) or the Indian Military Academy (IMA) and the Military Secretary’s branch keeps records of officers’ promotions and postings.

Reports suggest that the age discrepancy was first pointed out to Antony who then asked for an explanation from the Army chief’s secretariat and which in turn sought an explanation from the two record-keeping branches.

Sources said the controversy would be sorted out soon as efforts were under way to trace out General Singh’s original Class 10 certificate to verify the exact year in which he was born.

General Singh was to move as an Army Commander to the Kolkata-based Eastern Command when its chief, Lieut-Gen K.S. Jamwal, retires in February-end.

In case it turns out that General Singh had given wrong age at the Adjutant General’s branch then he could lose out on the chance to be the next Army chief. In that case other Army officer, whose posting is also on hold, could emerge as the candidate for the post.

He is General Bharadwaj, who now heads the Leh-based 14 Corps and was slated to head the Udhampur-based Northern Command that is responsible for guarding Jammu and Kashmir.

This move has also been mired in controversy as the present Northern Command chief, Lieut-Gen H.S. Panag, is being shifted to the relatively insignificant Lucknow-based Central Command to make way for General Bharadwaj. That is also now on hold.

General Panag had talked to Antony to protest his transfer and the minister had promised to play the honest broker to resolve the issue. However, reports had said the officer would have to move to his new posting as it was a routine Army transfer.



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