MATTER OF CHARACTER
Whether or not the BSF constable Tej Bahadur Yadav was right in taking his complaint against inedible food public is open to question. He certainly breached discipline. No uniformed force anywhere would allow its members to so embarrass it. By making a public to-do about inadequate and ill-cooked food, Yadav exactly did that.
Yet, nothing can be gained by harping on the breach of discipline, as Yadav’s superiors seem to have done. Nor should anyone try and score political brownie points from it. For, it is not a political but a character issue. Now, as the defenders of our national borders and keepers of internal order we might hold our armed forces and paramilitary services in high esteem. But the truth is that they too are Indians, cut from the same cloth from which the rest of us are cut. Their character cannot be any different from people in all other walks of life.
Admittedly, as elsewhere, there are surely people of high character and strong moral fibre among the uniformed forces as well. Not unlike other professions, stray individuals, however, do not constitute the collective character of any organisation. The collective character of the uniformed services too is rotten—as it is of other civilian organisations.
We do not have to enumerate various cases of corruption and malfeasance over the years in the armed forces. Recall how a former Navy chief became a billionaire by turning into an arms agent. And how a former Air Force chief is currently facing bribe charges for shoddy procurement. People living near cantonments are familiar how rations and rum meant for the service personnel is sold on the cheap by middlemen.
The truth is that the armed forces are no less corrupt than, say, the babudom in any state or Central government. Only difference being the extent of opportunity and the internal mechanisms for investigation and punishment for wrongdoing. The armed forces have relatively a clear-cut and shorter process for examining and penalising wayward conduct.
Having said this, there is no condoning the provision of lousy rations to jawans guarding the country’s borders under the most trying of conditions. Diversion of rations for lining one’s own pockets reveals a particularly inhuman insensitivity towards men who put their lives on the line to safeguard national security. But, if the truth be told, the practice has been rampant all along. And not just in the BSF, but in all other paramilitary and armed forces.
Officers in charge of procuring raw rations, or uniforms and other such materials, generally receive a cut from contractors, who then sting on both quantity and quality. The malaise permeates right down to the people hand-picked to do the actual cooking. The result is that the food served is inedible. One has to wade through a bucket of dishwater what is passed off as fish curry to find a piece of fish or to locate a piece of meat in what is apparently supposed to be mutton curry. Chappatis are less than half-cooked because someone is stealing on firewood/gas cylinders, etc. Why stop at only the quality of food? In all other respects too members of the armed and paramilitary forces are not above temptation like other civilians.
Frankly, no religious, social and cultural organisation has sincerely undertaken to build national character. Unless there is a general moral rejuvenation there can be no hope for the country. Even for the rule of law to prevail it is crucial that men and women whose duty it is to enforce the law bear good moral character. What we need above all else, therefore, is a moral revolution.
Meanwhile, how disciplined are members of the armed and paramilitary forces ordinary people discover daily when they break traffic rules with impunity. A small, everyday occurrence, which nonetheless tells a lot about their faith in discipline.
GEMS FROM MR PRIYANKA GANDHI
Why does Robert Vadra, whose only claim to public attention is that he is the son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi, feel the need to express himself on public matters, especially when he is not known to possess any sort of expertise? The other day he used social media to rant against demonetisation, only to invite a flood of hostile retorts from all and sundry. Some claimed he was doing so in order to argue in case of arrest in connection with various land scams, that his criticism of notebandi had resulted in his arrest.
But the fact is that Mr Priyanka Vadra, who has gotten enormously rich post-marriage, comes across as a not very bright in real life, and would have been still selling cheap thali-katoris had he not married where he did. If you were his well-wisher you would strongly advise him to keep his trap shut and continue to wallow in then ill-gotten wealth but to do so in complete silence.
Builders, crooked builders. Do not expect them to change even if new regulatory checks are on way to tame their overweening greed. Take the latest heist. A well-known builder in Gurgaon has devised a new way to diddle his clients. He has levied what he calls “common corridor” charges. A modicum of common sense would tell you that when you buy a flat you also pay for the approach, without which it is physically impossible to access your flat. Worse, the building is two-decade old and till now there was no such “common corridor” charge.
Clearly, the builder relies on the helplessness of individual flat-owners to be able to mount a legal challenge to this unheard of excess. The irony is that the tagline on his letterhead reads, Creating Lasting Values. Lasting values, my foot!
A VERY ‘GOLDEN’ POLITICIAN
Notebandi is slowly receding into the background, but stories spawned by it still raise eyebrows. For instance, bullion traders in and around Karol Bag in central Delhi cannot stop marvelling at the extent of black money hoarded by a prominent UP leader, who had origins in a nearby resettlement colony. Apparently, on the night of 8 November and the entire morning of 9th, a number of bullion dealers were engaged in gathering as much gold ingots they could lay their hands on for delivery to a confidant of the said UP leader. Literally, bagfuls of gold were delivered in exchange for bagfuls of scrapped currency notes. Notably, bullion shops in Karol Bag were among the first to be visited by taxmen following the announcement of demonetisation on 8 November.