Ignroance with Arrogance


The Army has been having a series of close encounters of the adverse kind with the Comptroller and Auditor General. Latest in this long list is CAG’s castigation of “illegal use of defence assets in Pune”. Recently the CAG overcame strong objections by the Army and got its way in a long standing demand of auditing Unit Run Canteens (URCs), alleging widespread mismanagement of its funds. A related case, though an audit report by Controller of Defence Accounts (CDA) and not CAG, alleged ‘mismanagement’ of funds by Army Commanders while exercising their financial powers for purchase of emergently required stores.

Coming at a time when the image of public servants is at the lowest, any suggestion of deviation from or non-adherence to rules automatically implies corruption. And the conduct of Army officers at the senior most level has proven that they are no different from any other bureaucrat or politician when it comes to succumbing to greed. So for the public these are yet more instances of someone lining their pockets. While there may be some instances of that happening, the main issue here is more of ‘ignorance with arrogance’ on the part of the decision makers within the Army.

The actual problem is the ‘CO Sahib ka hukum hai’ syndrome that we all seem to suffer from. Within our own little empires, we all are ultimate monarchs. Minor rules can be twisted and turned around to suit circumstances. Need sofa for the ops room – tell the stationery contractor to buy it and bill it against expendables. Similarly, if equipment or stores are required, and the commander desires that they be bought, then buy them pronto, even if rules and procedures have to be twisted or ignored completely in the process. If an Army School cannot run from a government building, show the building as a recreational centre for troops in the papers. The underlying belief being that as long as we are ‘doing it for the organization’ its kosher. And that if we close our eyes and pretend, everyone else will believe in our fantasy world. Unfortunately, the blind and willing obedience of subordinates does not mean others outside our charmed circle will be willing to buy the stories as well.

Admittedly, the rules and procedures for doing things by the book are tedious and time consuming to say the least. Problem is that most commanders have neither the patience and sagacity to learn, nor the moral courage to admit lack of knowledge. Therefore they pass on the buck to others. Since most of us are not familiar with the tiresome procedures, and unwilling to invest in doing the required diligence, these shortcut subterfuges are indulged in. Also, since they are time consuming, results for procedurally correct actions would be visible much after the initiator’s short tenure would be over, denying him the credit. In an intensely competitive environment, where an incumbent has a very short time to show results, taking shortcuts by bending the rules is therefore a more attractive action.

Having grown up in this atmosphere people start believing that rules can be bent to cater for exigencies of service. We believe that rules are for fools, and as a commander at every level, we know what’s best for our command, and how to best spend the money that is ours to spend. We feel that our job is pass orders, and the job of our staff officers to find ways of doing it. So what if some rules have to be bent in the process. And no staff officer who is looking at moving up the professional ladder is going to turn around and tell his commander the possible adverse implications of bending such rules. In fact, they will run around behind LAOs and IFAs, curry favours with them and make them into demi gods, just so that the ‘hukum’ of their ‘akas’ can be carried out.

But who is to define where organizational interest end and personal interests start? Is the sofa in the ops room really in ‘organization’s’ interest? Or is it more for ‘projection’ of the CO before important visitors along his ACR channel who visit the ops room? Allied peril of this is that once you start financial creativity for the ‘organization’, you are just a step away from doing the same for your own self. Even if people who do that are one in ten, that is enough to vitiate the whole process.

Besides, irrespective of the beneficiary, flouting of rules leaves the organization open to scrutiny and questioning, and the resultant vicious circle of cover ups, appeasements and more improprieties. This ranges from the petty bribery of the Local Auditors for overlooking minor transgressions like running vehicles for tasks not listed in the officially allowed duties, to the major embarrassment of the CAG pointing out irregularities in purchases authorized by Army Commanders.

In this era of increasing transparency and accountability, there needs to be a change in this attitude. Instead of taking shortcuts around inconvenient procedures, commanders time would be better spent trying to get them simplified. Simultaneously, take up cases adhering to procedures, and push them through vigorously, raising hue and cry on delays along the line. More importantly, successive commanders must continue where their predecessors left off rather than scrapping old projects to initiate newer ones with their personal stamp. This would be ‘organizational interest’ in the true sense.

Else we will continue to face indignities of being caught on the wrong foot even while pursuing worth causes.

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3 thoughts on “Ignroance with Arrogance

  1. I agree wholeheartedly. We need to put an end to the culture of bending rules in ‘Organisation’s Favour’. This promotes the ‘Chalta Hai’ attitude, which also percolates in other spheres of operational culture.
    In Mig Sqns, no one was allowed to write a snag (i.e., put the aircraft ‘down’) after a sortie. You first called the Flight Commander, who would tell you whether to write the snag in the maintenance book. Many a time, he would tell you to back off, tell the Tech Offr to keep the aircraft only for the senior pilots, and then at the end of the day, ask the last pilot to enter the snag you reported first. Organisation’s interest, of course.
    We are also well versed with the rum-barter. Probably every fighter guy has the ‘Chakki’ of Jamnagar (Gujarat) in his house. This item is the lower portion of the mechanism used for grinding flour (or wooden replica of the same). This was sold only in terms of so many bottles of rum, you could not ‘buy’ it in cash. Besides being unethical, immoral and illegal, there was also the ‘liquor prohibition’ in place in Gujarat. You asked the seller to say his chosen price for it in cash, but he just wouldn’t sell it for money. Well, don’t have it then. Also, there are places, where maids work only for liqour (DSSC?). And all offrs comply. Time to get straight fellows.
    If a unit is not authorised for a camera, it buys it through bills for stationary; and when camera gets authorised, it buys stationary through bill for the camera. All this in organisation’s interest.
    We need to wake up indeed.

  2. A well written article, but is rather too realistic. Wakeup, ofcourse we need to, but it will not be an easy transition, especially when we are in a country where this is the accepted norm. The revealers i.e the CAG, IFAs, LAOs all are given in to seek favours and hunt for their pound of flesh even if you follow the laid down procedures. The delays involved and the uncertainities associated with every procedure in most instances compel commanders to disregard the rule book. As for personal greed, well that is a entirely different aspect. More often than not if a rule has been overlooked for good of the organisation the perceived offender is judged liniently. In cases of amassing personal wealth the system has usually been very harsh when caught. All said and done, though things are not going to transform in the foreseable future but yes higher echelons do need to strive hard to change and simplify procedures.

  3. Well written indeed, but there two major issues I have with the Author’s suggestions. Yes rules must not be broken and we must follow them all. If the rules say No then it should be a big No. That would be very simplistic. The rules say a bachelor is authorised 440 sg ft of plinth with xyz facilities. Very few get anything as authorised. Do they stop working? Well if all rules are to be followed they ought too, at the very first instance! The problem starts when we over do things and that is a value judgement few are willing to make. An Ops Room would be bereft of all embellishments if the Senior Commander says so in those many words! Why blame the subordinate ! As for cameras and such like minor items, if a 50X camera which can look the adversary in the eyes and makes life out in the field that much easier is available anywhere in the world and funds can be spared then archaic rules need to consigned to the bin.
    As early as 1995 the infiltrating terrorists were carrying third generation Night vision devices which we only read of in army journals & are yet to see in sufficient numbers even today. If we continue with these rules we would still be looking for a L1 to a RFP and buying chalk instead of cake !! This business of tenders and quotations needs a relook pronto. How does one compare A4 paper of one company to another and what is splitting when one requires tonnes of it through the year and DGS&D rates a slightly higher or comparable to market rates! Likewise sofa sets or curtains.
    These apparently minor problems are symptomatic of the Government decision making process. Does Corporate India ever negotiate its own tenders twice? And their own assets, buildings/ products are excellent and ours crack up first instance. Simply because a Corporate ”honcho” delivers else he walks…………. Mind you it is the same stock maybe a shade ”lower” !! But government administrative rules are made to shield the average not encourage excellence. How extensive was E Shreedharan’s rule book for Delhi Metro? I am sure not more than a average high school text book but his specifications would have run into many reams of paper ! And we have a world class product.

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