New Delhi: Army Chief General VK Singh is set to retire with all guns blazing and leaving behind a trail of controversies. General Singh, who fought a bitter war with the Central Government over his real date of birth and even moved the Supreme Court on the issue and then alleged that he was offered bribe by a former Army officer to clear the purchase of sub-standard Tatra trucks for the forces, has dropped another bombshell with a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in which he has mentioned that the Army is ill-quipped to fight a war and defeat the enemy.
While the revelations by the Army Chief in the letter dated March 12, 2012 are explosive, the General has also come under fire. Many in the Congress and Opposition are asking for the Army Chief's sacking for what is being seen as a breach of protocol and the leak of the "secret letter". The leak led to uproar in both Houses of Parliament with the Opposition parties demanding an investigation into the matter.
"As the Army Chief he should have kept it limited to the Defence Minister. There was no need to drag it to the PMO. This can be seen as breach of protocol," sources said.
Defence Minister AK Antony told Parliament on Wednesday that the leak of General VK Singh\'s letter was worrying.
Defence Minister AK Antony hit out at the Army Chief and told Parliament on Wednesday that the leak of the General's letter was worrying, but insisted that neither the national security nor the modernisation of the defence forces would be compromised.
While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wanted the government to clarify, the Samajwadi Party and Janata Dal United (U) went to the extent of demanding that the Army Chief should be removed. Indian Overseas Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi even called General Singh a frustrated man.
"He did not get an extension even from the court so it may be a frustrated mind's utterance," said Ravi while referring to the age row case in the Supreme Court where the General was forced to accept his date of birth as May 10, 1950 in the official records instead of May 10, 1951 as he had been claiming.
Raising questions on the Army Chief's conduct, JD(U) leader Shivanand Tiwari said, "It's a matter of concern. The fact that he has written to the PM shows he is trying to clarify his position. The Army Chief's conduct is now doubtful. It seems that he is lying. Now that he has got involved in the controversy he is trying to pass the buck."
Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad even alleged that General Singh was preparing for a political role after retiring from the Army. "The Army Chief is frustrated. He wants to contest elections," said Lalu.
General Singh's letter had raised the sorry state of infrastructure in the armed forces in the country with the Army Chief pointing out the tank regiments lack ammunition to defeat the enemy, the air defence is almost obsolete and the infantry is falling short of critical weapons.
He underlined that the country's security might be at stake due to the critical shortage of ammunition. The letter, sent to the Prime Minister's Office, had asked Manmohan Singh to 'pass suitable directions to enhance the preparedness of the Army'. The explosive letter comes amidst claims made by the Army Chief that he was offered bribe to clear a deal for sub-standard vehicles in the Army.
General Singh wrote that the Army's entire tank fleet was devoid of critical ammunition to defeat enemy tanks. He also added that the air defence was '97 per cent obsolete and it doesn't give the deemed confidence to protect from the air', the infantry had 'deficiencies of crew served weapon' and lacks 'night fighting' capabilities and that the Elite Special Forces were 'woefully short of essential weapons'.
General Singh also pointed out that the 'hollowness' in the system is a manifestation of the procedures and processing time for procurements as well as legal impediments by vendors.
General Singh also mentioned that the work quality was poor and there was a 'lack of urgency at all levels' on matters of national security.
This is a worry for General Singh as he was entrusted with preparing a comprehensive transformation study to modernise the Army some years ago. As the GOC-in-C (Eastern Command), Singh, then a Lieutenant General, had prepared a detailed report on modernising the force.
General Singh feels such shortcomings erode the Army's preparedness considering two "inimical neighbours" and the "reality of large land borders".
Meanwhile, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has begun its investigations into the bribery allegations levelled by General Singh against a former Army officer. The agency is expected to meet General Singh when he returns from an official tour in Srinagar on Friday. A tape of the alleged incident whose veracity is to be determined is currently with the agency.
General Singh has alleged that a former Army officer offered Rs 14 crore to him to clear the purchase of sub-standard Tatra trucks for the forces. The CBI as part of its probe is also expected to look into all aspects of the Tatra Vectra deal as part of the investigation including its complex shareholding pattern.