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Updated: March 26, 2012 14:03 IST

It would have been disobedience if I had not accepted 1950, says Army Chief

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Chief of the Army Staff V.K. Singh. Photo: G. Krishnaswamy
The Hindu
Chief of the Army Staff V.K. Singh. Photo: G. Krishnaswamy

General Vijay Kumar Singh, the Chief of the Army Staff, who was recently in a controversy over his date of birth, speaks to Vidya Subrahmaniam on how “the drama” played out, the state of the Army, the Chinese threat and the Maoist problem.

After such a glorious innings in the Army, why do you have to make such a controversial exit?

I never got into any controversy. If you are talking about the age issue — I don't see it as a controversy at all — it should have ended when it came up first in 2006 because the rules are very clear. When you enter government service, it is the matriculation certificate that counts and there my birth year is 1951. The Army's Adjutant-General's branch, which keeps records, also shows the year as 1951. So where was the controversy? This is a manufactured controversy, created by people with all kinds of interests.

What kinds of interests and lobbies?

All kinds of interests are involved. Suddenly there was a blitz in the media and papers began to float around. Where did they come from? When you put your foot down and insist you want to institute good practices in the system, when you don't allow people to take the organisation for a ride, some people are going to be sidelined. This is one method of hitting back.

There is the Adarsh lobby, there are various lobbies of equipment dealers who realised we were not going to accept bad quality equipment.

You said in an interview that a lot of money was paid to orchestrate the controversy.

Yes, that is absolutely true. Some people went to the extent of fabricating a birth certificate. A lot of money exchanged hands for this.

Are some of these people serving in the Army?

Some are serving, some have retired. FIRs have been filed against some of these people. You will see in the coming months that things will slowly unravel. As time passes, we will know who the sutradhar of this drama is. I will come to know and so will you.

The Supreme Court observed that you twice accepted your year of birth — in 2008 and 2009 — as 1950. And if you allowed a senior to pressure you into committing a wrong, could the country have been safe in your hands?

When an issue comes up, and you are told this is the date we are going to mention, so please accept for now and we will sort it out later because right now the file has to go through, what do you do? At that level, could I have started a fight? No. So I said, you have given me your word, and here is my acceptance — it was a conditional acceptance.

But this assurance was not in writing, right?

When your superior, on whose orders you go to war, gives you an assurance, what are you supposed to do? Do you say, sorry, I don't believe you? Civilian life is different. In the Army you can be hauled up for disobedience. I had no choice.

When the government was unyielding on your year of birth, why did you not let the matter be? After all, you only had a year left?

This was never about my tenure. It was about principles. It is about establishing that the most authoritative document on date of birth is the matriculation certificate. My counsel told the Supreme Court that if the Government accepted 1951 as my year of birth, I'd quit immediately. What if it was my name that was changed? Should I have accepted it?

The accusation against you is that you accepted the wrong date of birth in order to use your seniority to get a promotion and then insisted you were a year younger so you could retire later.

That is absolutely wrong. In the Army promotions are not decided on the basis of the DoB. In our time we had different boards for different ranks – Lt. Colonel to Colonel, Colonel to Brigadier, Brigadier to Major General and so on. Your promotions are decided after you have been selected by the board and this is purely on merit. And then your seniority counts, which is already fixed at the time you pass out of the Indian Military Academy. DoB comes in only when you are due to become a core commander and here what is important is that you have a residual service of three years. When you become an Army commander, you need to have a residual service of two years. So where was my advantage? By agreeing to 1950, I was actually putting myself at a disadvantage.

What was the state of the Army when you took charge? And what have you achieved as you retire?

It saddens me that the only thing for which I get mentioned is the age controversy. When I took charge I had a vision, I had an agenda. There were problems in the internal health of the Army. We needed to restore the value system. The main question was how to transform the Army. We wanted it to be more lethal, more agile and a networked force capable of meeting all challenges. The other part was modernisation, which had a lot fo lacunae. Unfortunately, there was a lot of emphasis on the status quo. We have grown up from the Second World War in a particular manner, and we needed to change and reorient ourselves. Much of all this came out in a study which looked at the Army in terms of its operation, logistics and equipment available. We did sub-studies on all this and found the Army needed to change. I'm rather proud to say that we have done a great amount of work on the transformation. And I am sure my successor will carry on with the work.

The China threat?

China is a neighbour that has not yet settled its borders. It has made claims on certain parts of our territory and it has also done a great deal of infrastructure development in Tibet. We need to be prepared till such time as the borders remain unsettled.

How does it help China to go to war? And aren't there other ways to fight?

The space for conflict remains. After all, wars are an extension of politics. It is the settlement of an issue after political dialogue has failed and you resort to force to bring dialogue back to its place. I strongly believe that a fit army is like an insurance policy – you hope you won't need to use the policy but in case you do it should give the best possible cover.

We also did a lot of work for the jawans. The first thing we did was: In service I wanted a jawan to feel that he is an equal in every respect. We brought the quality and quantity of rations for jawans and officers to the same level. We did the same thing for clothing and also strongly pushed for accommodation upgrades. We gave an impetus to education so that when a jawan reitred he becomes capable of lateral induction into the para military forces and the armed police. After 15 years of service, a jawan is fit enough; if he is given lateral entry he'll feel valued.

It is believed you were resistant to the idea of sending the Army to fight the Maoists. Did Home Minister P. Chidambaram approach you on this?

The Maoist problem has become so large because we have allowed it to grow. It has to be fought politically, socially and in terms of the type of development we bring to impoverished areas. Where does the Army come into it? The Army should not fight its own people. We don't see the Maoists as a secessionist movement. That is why we have not gone into fight them. When Mr. Chidambaram asked me, I told him exactly this.

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All said and done the Gen should have fought his battle only after stepping down from this coveted post. He was equally good at mud slinging. This whole drama with our "Netas" (read it as our country's curse) and the Army General was not necessary. It has set a wrong precedent.

His execuse for accepting the DOB as 1950 is not convincing same as his reason for not filing a FIR for the bribe he was paid. There are many unanswered questions.

I salute him for his service to this country and we are indebted to him as the citizen's of this country.

from:  Raj
Posted on: Apr 10, 2012 at 10:59 IST

Nice work done General , we are with you , keep it up .

from:  Sanju Yadav
Posted on: Apr 9, 2012 at 12:10 IST

Excellent sir
we salute your commitment and integrity and whole INDIA is proud of you.
jai hind

from:  anand pathak
Posted on: Apr 5, 2012 at 20:17 IST

I don't know why this issue(DOB)came so late in media.When government chose any person for such a high prestige post,how they can be so careless.It reflects our system failure.After these happenings what our neighbours(Pak,China)will think.Now there is another interesting 'tatra truck' issue.We are revealing our weakness before whole world.This is not beneficial for our own country.I just want request to government as well as V.K. Singh to end these issue permanently.And let's work together to make our country great.

from:  Mukesh Chauhan
Posted on: Apr 4, 2012 at 14:14 IST

very clear thoughts...Indian army is not the tool that PC can use it anytime n anywhere (particularly against the opponents) as that like CBI.

from:  harshad
Posted on: Apr 2, 2012 at 18:28 IST

Everyone says about 'corrupt babus', 'corrupt Congress' and no one says about 'corrupt military officers' and the perks enjoyed by the army officers, vis-a-vis the civilian officers. Corruption is not any party's or group's monopoly - everyone does it. In the name of fighting corruption, no armed forces chief can question the civilian authority. When that happens, we are under military rule, which India does not want. Some people are under some phobia against Congress, and seems to believe that once Congress is voted out of power, India would turn into a glorious condition. India did not have such a decent PM for a long time, and no one seems to understand the way his plans could be limited by the lack of absolute majority for Congress.

from:  George Varghese
Posted on: Apr 1, 2012 at 16:10 IST

It is unfortunate that our elected representatives forget all the promises made to
the people at election time. Once they come to power they immediately transform
themselves as overlords and anybody daring to question or criticise them for their
lapses or misdeeds will be doing so on pain of privilege motion being brought
against them. They forget that the Army's main role is the safety of the country
against external aggression and coming to the rescue of the civilian population in
case of any major disaster like floods earthquake and internal security if it is
beyond the control of the civilian police.They have to keep themselves abreast with
the fast-changing developments in modern warfare. The Chief of the Army was
perfectly justified when he declined the request of the Home Minister to deploy the
Army against Maoist terrorists which will mean fighting against one's countrymen.
Let us do everything possible to boost the morale of the Army in the performance
of their difficult task

from:  T.S.SREENIvasan
Posted on: Mar 31, 2012 at 14:34 IST

My childhood aspirations were to join the Indian Armed Forces. My
childhood friend's Dad (who was in armed forces) once explained why he
didn't want his son to be in the military. How ever high your rank may
be in the military you will have to salute to the corrupt Babus of our

from:  krao
Posted on: Mar 30, 2012 at 22:52 IST

This is exactly what a true soldier does,be it a war front or corrupt system,always fighting for his honour and integrity..hatsoff...

from:  tarun
Posted on: Mar 29, 2012 at 13:28 IST

i salute you,our commander, from the depths of my heart.
what a courageous stand you have taken while remaining in office to
bring out the real truth and state of affairs in the open.reading this
article will make every humble indian citizen bow with respect to your
honour,the chief.once again hats off to you.

from:  sushilkumar
Posted on: Mar 29, 2012 at 13:06 IST

I disagree with the view that army should not fight its own people. Generally
army is called upon when law and order gets out of control and local police is not
able to contain it. This has been followed not only in India but in many places
like UK, USA, Germany.
If one goes by the logic of General, then one can also say how can police arrest
its own people. How can judges pass judgement against our own people? How
can we punish criminals(our own people) ?

from:  ram
Posted on: Mar 29, 2012 at 09:53 IST

On looking at these views , it is evident that general is fighting to get army cleaned of tainted persons . so he is coming under fire from various corners of power in bureaucracy and defence corridors to put system at unease predominantly adopted in malpractices at various levels.It is quite natural that people oppose change which hang swords on their heads when they are involved in it deeply.So possible orchestration and influence is appearing in picture. But general is an upright officer So he should go ahead with his agenda till and post retirement.Good job Sir.

from:  Anoop Verma
Posted on: Mar 28, 2012 at 20:12 IST

India's relations with neighboring countries may change in future which
may be positive or even negative. So, our country has to be well
prepared to face any kind of threat and for that our defense system
should be strong. General V K Singh has taken steps to transform the
Army and curb corruption. One has to appreciate his efforts and
encourage him instead of dragging him into some controversies.

from:  praveen b holeyachi
Posted on: Mar 27, 2012 at 23:24 IST

A true soldier(Officer) worth his salt has loyalty to his men uppermost and is willing to lay down his life for them. This is what soldering is and the true meaning of life for him. In so doing he takes risks at own peril to prevent his men falling into the hands of unscrupulous and scheming politically backed wolves in sheeps clothing who later are rewarded kickbacks and Governors posts by their political masters. Gen VK Singh has been a true soldier to the core, in turn paying a price, a small sacrifice for a brave soldier. Tiwari says Gen should have arrested the culprit and filed an FIR with no legal powers and no actionable evidence. Is Tiwari, while talking on behalf of the Govt, enacting in a TV comedy serial in front of the nation. Is this the Govt response on such a serious National issue.

from:  Parab
Posted on: Mar 27, 2012 at 10:37 IST

The lower and Middle order officers of our army are not getting involved in corruption charges, At the higher levels when these upstanding men are dealing with sleazy politicians and there backhanded babus that corruption charges creep in, So draw your own conclusions. We need the whole ministry of defence revamped. There should be a large and powerful uniformed presence there from all three services. we need the babus to deal with the armed services personnel with respect.

from:  Y Daver
Posted on: Mar 27, 2012 at 09:05 IST

It will be a grave mistake to think that Manish Tiwari of the Congress Party is a plain foolish person for asking why the Indian Army Chief did not go to a police station to file an FIR -- infact Manish Tiwari must surely be having a criminal intention and support from extremely powerful businessmen and politicians to deliberately malign the Army Chief. Think about it -- the state of affairs in the country is so bad that an apolitical Army's Chief himself is approached by powerful and probably dangerous criminals(surely these criminal lobbyists must be having political clout) and Manish Tiwari says that the Indian Army Chief himself must have gone to a corrupt police force which is directly under the control of the ruling party. This logic is not only absurd but criminal. The Congress party or any party at this time must be thinking only and only about getting to the root of the matter -- instead the ruling party at Center tries to malign an honest Chief of Staff.

from:  Yashwanth P
Posted on: Mar 26, 2012 at 20:29 IST

A typical interviewer. A typical Army chief. Hats off.

from:  Kalyan
Posted on: Mar 26, 2012 at 18:47 IST

Who said "Caesar's wife must be above suspicion"....
It seems our defense minister A.K antony knows everything about it along with other parliamentarian ......Now they will move around like head less chicken.....

from:  Hiranmoy Goswami
Posted on: Mar 26, 2012 at 17:18 IST

Till now it seemed that army was free from the grasp of political influence and dirty games,but it seem from Army chief that politician has a simple game plan that is "whether you are with us or get ready to get tainted". The roots of corruption has reached a depth that a chief is offered bribe.if these cases go unnoticed soon we will see the organisation been eaten by termites of corruption.Let the truth prevails.

from:  Anjney
Posted on: Mar 26, 2012 at 14:07 IST

Mr Tiwari says why Gen did not file complain when bribe was offered? If he would have done that than Mr. Tiwari will say ,he should have gone through proper channel. From this one can understand Tiwaris intellect

from:  Vinoo Patel
Posted on: Mar 26, 2012 at 14:03 IST

Our country is fortunate to have such Generals who has guts to stand alone on the value system. We are proud of you sir, very soon you will see the whole country joining you and supporting you. Its rightly said the 'The Truth Prevails'. This is what it takes to be a chief of Army staff.Long live General.

from:  Surpal Singh Deora
Posted on: Mar 26, 2012 at 12:50 IST

The age cotroversy is created by the earlier COAS and his tainted MS.They were supported by the bureaucrats with vested interests.A lacklustre and nonincomppop A K Anony presided over it by his inaction.Rather I will blame Antony for not taking any decision and prolonging the controversy.

from:  Navnith Krishnan
Posted on: Mar 26, 2012 at 12:37 IST

Thanks VK sir for your excellent sevice and wish u all the best for your futher.

from:  Sandeep Jadhav
Posted on: Mar 26, 2012 at 11:57 IST

we are so so proud of you sir

from:  kumar
Posted on: Mar 26, 2012 at 11:57 IST

The Army Chief is perfectly right when he says 'The army should not fight its own people.' There is police to deal with the people. The army has an image of respect as people fighting or dying for the country. The army is specifically meant to deal with enemy country. Naxals are not enemies of the country. They are the aggrieved people of the country. The result of corrupt politicians. It is a social problem.

from:  J.Narasimha Rao
Posted on: Mar 26, 2012 at 11:48 IST

Following is a very good answer from the army leader. It is pathetic that our political leader does not understand this in first place.
"The Maoist problem has become so large because we have allowed it to grow. It has to be fought politically, socially and in terms of the type of development we bring to impoverished areas. Where does the Army come into it? The Army should not fight its own people. We don't see the Maoists as a secessionist movement. That is why we have not gone into fight them. When Mr. Chidambaram asked me, I told him exactly this."

from:  venkat
Posted on: Mar 26, 2012 at 09:37 IST

It's a pity that it took an interview from the Army chief to establish the basic fact that seniority alone decides if you become the Chief of the Indian Army. I am sure many people in the media knew this and chose to impose on the people of the country that the General V K Singh wanted to stick on to power by conveniently using 1950 as the DoB to get to be the chief. I would respectfully request the media to go after the cohorts who engineered and orchestrated the defamation of a well meaning, able and probably the only no nonsense General we have seen in the last decade. I wish he could continue for another year as he is legitimately deserving of this. As for the Supreme Court, never has it happened that a UPSC declaration is used. Your DoB is as per your birth certificate. Interestingly, if it was not for the DoB, they would have found something else to pin him down and we would have still taken the bait.

from:  Jacob
Posted on: Mar 26, 2012 at 09:16 IST

Thanks Hindu group for sharing this valued information, lot of people like me were thinking in other direction, Also good work for putting news as it is and not adding spices like other news papers and TV do. I am no one to advise the Mr Singh but I think his real battle will start now, I request him not to sit down and lead retirement life reading news papers etc. but to fight, fight for the people of our country. These corrupt political system is harming us a lot and the day is not far when we will loose to country like China without even fighting a WAR.

Like a true Soldier, take the command and lead from the front.
I wish if these words from a commoner are put infront of the General and he can join and lead the movement already going on in this country.

from:  Rajat
Posted on: Mar 26, 2012 at 08:38 IST

The General should not have permitted in the first place the unnamed 'Sutradhar' to have his (her)way, and if under pressure, should have quit the post, after exposing the 'Sutradhar' instead of so belatedly and painfully trying to prove his righteousness, after knocking in vain the doors of the Supreme court. Courage to fight the evil(force)s, however powerful those forces might be, is the most powerful weapon of an army man.Sadly,and most unfortunately,this weapon was not used in an appropriate manner at the right time,when the 'Sutradhar' allegedly tampered with his date of birth! What a pathetic chapter in the glorious annals of the Indian Army!

from:  Shekar
Posted on: Mar 26, 2012 at 08:00 IST

Is anyone surprised? The final suthradhar is this Government, which is notorious in mudsligning any person who exposes the true nature of its governance or the final beneficiaries of under the table deals. General V.K. Singh we Indians are with you. Hope you continue your fight after retirement, as part of the Lokpal.

from:  Suresh Kumar
Posted on: Mar 26, 2012 at 07:46 IST

India needs disciplined generals like V. K. Singh as valued uncorrupt politicians. Good work general. Join Anna Hazare group. God Bless India and You.

Posted on: Mar 26, 2012 at 07:26 IST
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