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Trashing India's honour

Last updated on: February 1, 2012 19:52 IST

Trashing India's honour

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What kind of a nation have we become where the commanders of the country's armed forces and satellite mission are trashed without a whimper, asks Tarun Vijay.

Like Draupadi disrobed and appealing to the mighty warriors sitting silently in the Kaurav Durbar, veteran space scientist G Madhavan Nair issued a letter to the prime minister of an ancient civilisation, saying -- 'Please restore my honour.'

The chief of the army staff of this billion plus-strong nation, publicly asks -- 'Why is the government doing this to me? As if I am a Pakistani?'

What kind of a nation have we become where opposing an anti-national movie by a director who falsifies history, fuelling mistrust in the already divided Kashmir valley becomes a sacrilegious act; while the commanders of the nation's armed forces and satellite mission are trashed without a whimper?

Firstly, the United Progressive Alliance government compelled a highly decorated serving army chief to go to court to seek redress on a routine issue. This has happened despite his continuous pleas for the last two decades to correct his date of birth on the basis of impeccable proof.

Earlier, the government dropped an Indian Air Force officer from a China-bound delegation to accommodate Beijing's obstinate stand on Arunachal Pradesh.

Thus, the Raksha Mantralaya has failed in defending those who defend us all.

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Image: Army chief General V K Singh at an Indian Peace Keeping memorial in Colombo, Sri Lanka
Photographs: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters

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Is this the way a government should treat a highly decorated army chief?

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When Vijay Kumar Singh was admitted to the National Defence Academy, his father Major Jagat Singh had sent the correct birth date, as mentioned on his Class XI mark sheet.

In all military records, formally maintained by the Indian Army's official record keeper, the Adjutant General's Branch, General V K Singh's date of birth is recorded as May 10, 1951.

His decorations, citations, promotion letters and autobiography, as is officially required by the army, all bear May 10, 1951 as his birth date.

Still, for years the correction that was required was not done due to the government's apathy and negligence. I have seen the papers and also the expert opinion of former Chief Justice of India R C Lahoti favouring General V K Singh.

Former army chief General Shankar Roychowdury has also supported General Singh. Yet the army chief is publicly admonished by the government through the charade of ordering the Adjutant General's office to have the date of birth 'tampered' with and record the wrong one in its place.

Is this the way a government should treat a highly decorated army chief? Is there a mysterious reason behind this episode? To accommodate a favourite, perhaps?

Or is there some manipulation by an arms dealers' cartel? The government is tying itself up in knots and more questions are being generated.

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Image: Army chief General V K Singh at an Indian Peace Keeping Force memorial in Colombo, Sri Lanka
Photographs: Dinuka Liyanawatte/ Reuters

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This government has lost all sense of balance and grace to govern

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Another unsavoury controversy involves senior scientists from the Indian Space Research Organisation, seriously damaging the reputation of one of the country's best and highly respected institutions.

While the humiliation of the army chief and the senior air force officer has dented the image of the armed forces and has lowered the morale of our soldiers, the ISRO controversy, blacklisting top scientists who have given their best in scientific achievements, is a clear signal that this government has lost all sense of balance and grace to govern.

It has failed to uphold the Constitutional principles of law, justice and fairness and has systematically ruined the institutions that have held aloft these basic foundations.

The nature of the agreement between Antrix, ISRO's commercial arm, and Devas Multimedia on S-band allocation remains shrouded in mystery. There is a strong speculation that the government is trying to hush up the matter by inventing some scapegoats and then carpeting it in the name of secrecy.

Nobody knows how the deal was arrived at, how was the valuation done. Almost exactly a year ago, on February 17, 2011, in a hurriedly called press conference Union Law Minister M Veerappa Moily had announced the Cabinet Committee on Security's decision to annul the controversial deal between the Indian Space Research Organisation's commercial arm Antrix Corporation and Bangalore-based Devas Multimedia.

No reasons were given except that the government would not be able to provide the orbit slot in S-Band to Antrix for commercial purposes, including for its existing contractual obligations, in view of strategic requirements.

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Image: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi
Photographs: B Mathur/ Reuters

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If the agreement was right, why was it hurriedly annulled?

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As media reports revealed, under the deal Antrix was to provide 70 MHz of the scarce S-band space segment to Devas for its digital multimedia services.

This was to be done by leasing 90 per cent of the transponders in the satellites GSAT-6 and GSAT-6A that are proposed to be launched by ISRO.

Devas, in turn, was to pay Antrix a total of $300 million over 12 years. The agreement was signed on January 28, 2005. Consequently, the Department of Space got Cabinet approval for the building of GSAT-6 at a cost of Rs 269 crore (Rs 2.69 billion) and GSAT-6A at a cost of Rs 147 crore (Rs 1.47 billion) under the commission's delegated powers.

There were complaints about the manner in which the deal was entered into, and the way in which it was being operationalised. It was found that the Department of Space got the approvals for building the satellites without making any reference to the fact that they were to be utilised primarily for Devas' benefit.

If the agreement was right, why was it hurriedly annulled after the media and Opposition outcry?

If something went wrong, why were the details not revealed in spite of having formed several committees to probe the 'scam'?

In the Rajya Sabha, I asked the prime minister pointed questions regarding the deal and the answer given on August 4, 2011 by Minister of State, PMO, V Narayansamy on behalf of the PM, skirted the whole issue.

My question was:

There was a Parliament's Committee on Estimates to study Antrix-Devas deal chaired by Congress MP Francisco Sardinha.

What happened to it?

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Image: India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle C-12 blasts off from Sriharikota near Chennai in 2009.
Photographs: Babu/ Reuters

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We look like a rudderless 'Scamistan'

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A high-powered committee headed by Planning Commission member B K Chaturvedi to review the controversial Antrix-Devas deal submitted its report to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The prime minister asked Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrashekar to make recommendations on the follow-up action within 15 days after examining the report. What happened to it?

What were the recommendations and the outcome of it?

Then suddenly we saw the government blacklisting four eminent scientists. Is that a punishment?

Did the government find out that these scientists were the real scamsters? Could they have done what the government found was wrong, on their own, singlehandedly?

Has the government any answers to the issues raised by Madhavan Nair in his 'restore my honour' letter to the prime minister? Why did the government give signals to review its decision to blacklist the scientists?

Do we know who Madhavan Nair is? He is an internationally renowned technologist in the field of rocket systems who made multi-stage satellite launch vehicles a possibility, achieving self-reliance through swadeshi technologies.

As project director, he was responsible for the launch of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle used extensively for launching Indian remote sensing satellites.

He was director of ISRO's largest R&D Centre, the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, and helped develop India's Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle. As director of ISRO's Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre, he played a central role in the design and development of the crucial cryogenic engine for GSLV.

And this is the man being projected by this government as a key person in an ugly scandal. Why can't the government come out clean and with firm facts and transparent details?

The principle this government seems to be applying is -- all are bad except me and mine. And as a result of its confusion, India's image and its top professionals are being trashed, making us look like a rudderless 'Scamistan'.

Tarun Vijay is a Bharatiya Janata Party member of the Rajya Sabha. The views expressed here are his own.


Image: Former ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair with a miniature of India's first unmanned moon mission 'Chandrayaan-1'
Photographs: Babu/ Reuters

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