In the recent past, the Indian media has had a field day covering the shenanigans of Booze Brigadiers and Ketchup Colonels (incidentally the Army tried to reinstate him some time back) in gory detail. These kerfuffles, from Tehelka to fake encounters, referred to individual transgressions and were dismissed by many military officers and veterans as mere aberrations and not truly reflective of the organisation.
The military also moved in quickly, delivering justice promptly by awarding punishment to these individual officers. These punishments were aimed to reinforce the impression among the media and the public that everything was hunky dory with the defence services. The favourable comparison with the more corrupt civil setup also helped the military in crafting this message. This is desirable as well, because the military, as the final instrument of the state, needs that aura to implement the state’s will in extreme situations. Imagine the situation when the military is brought out to quell a public disturbance and the larger public treat the military with impunity and contempt.
Notwithstanding this, unlike the common man, it is important for the government to realise that all is not well with the military. Such transgressions by military officers, although acted upon swiftly by the military justice system, are not the end of the story. Little do the government and military realise that these incidents are mere symptoms of a larger malaise, not the disease itself. The real issue is of an organisation suffering from a severe erosion in its values, which no one is willing to seriously address — neither the military hierarchy, nor the civil bureaucracy and the political executive.
Now comes an actus reus where not one single individual, but 43 military units in Delhi have caused a loss of nearly 10 crore to the state exchequer.
The Indian Army has drawn excess liquor in Delhi to the tune of Rs 27 crore, causing the government a loss of over Rs 10 crore in taxes.
The Canteen Stores Department (CSD) depot and the Delhi Area failed to exercise built-in checks and withdrew excess liquor, mostly rum, to the tune of Rs 27 crore in the last one-and-a-half year. This resulted in the loss of over Rs 10 crore in taxes due to the price difference between the Army’s subsidised booze and market rates. “Had the Army not overdrawn and sold liquor, most of which is smuggled out in the civil market, the government could have got Rs 10 crore as taxes. Everyone is looting the system,” said a senior Army official.
Around 43 Army units overdrew about 1.12 lakh cases of liquor, according to top sources in the Army. Sources said that the CSD depot and the Headquarters (HQ) Delhi Area kept issuing liquor to the units without verifying if it was within permissible limits.[Mid Day]
The question is not about the gravity of the offence or the justifications being put forward to explain this loss to the government. Some scapegoats will be found and punishment awarded to them. However this case is not about individuals but the complete military system indulging in financial and ethical impropriety with impunity. When only individuals are discussed and targeted, the larger issue of decay in institutional values slips past unnoticed and unactioned.
At the heart of the problem lies the simple fact that in the defence services today, adherence to values doesn’t matter, only prompt delivery of results does. It would not be incorrect to state that a large share of hierarchy of the Indian defence services (honourable exceptions do exist) is today made of officers, whom Jack Welch had classified as “Type 4s”.
Type 4 is the toughest call of all: the manager who doesn’t share the values, but delivers the numbers. This type is the toughest to part with because organizations always want to deliver and to let someone go who gets the job done is yet another unnatural act. But we have to remove these Type 4s because they have the power, by themselves, to destroy the open, informal, trust-based culture we need to win today and tomorrow.
Jack Welch has a simple prescription for resolving this knotty issue that eventually helped GE become such an admired company under his leadership.
We made our leap forward when we began removing our Type 4 managers and making it clear to the entire company why they were asked to leave — not for the usual “personal reasons” or “to pursue other opportunities,” but for not sharing our values. Until an organization develops the courage to do this, people will never have full confidence that these soft values are truly real.
There are no softer options. A systemic cleansing that demolishes the feudal culture and colonial mindset of the defence services is the only way out. Can the government rise to the occassion and develop “the courage” that Jack Welch speaks of — of initiating a comprehensive military reform process?