The Weekend Leader - Adhocracy reigns

Former army chief J J Singh worked out the plans to make way for Bikram Singh to take over

M G Devasahayam


Vol 3 | Issue 10

As is well known, bureaucracy is an organization of non-elected officials of a government or organization who are rule-bound and function under institutional norms and standards. Adhocracy operates in opposite fashion and cater more to individual or group agenda rather than functioning under institutional norms and standards.

In the last few years, Indian Administrative Service, the bulwark of India’s bureaucracy, has been mutating itself into an agenda-led adhocracy. This ‘liberalisation’ agenda, co-promoted by Government, Multi-National Corporations and India’s Corporate Sector, include 100 percent FDI by real-estate; land-grab license for SEZ; surrendering tribal forests to mining giants; billions worth of nuclear bonanza and feeble civil liabilities for energy behemoths; ramming GM-cotton and food down people’s throat; mortgaging India’s farming to US interests through ‘Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture’ and ‘Agriculture Cooperation and Food Security’ MoUs; globalizing retail trade and grand entry of foreign universities into India!

The age controversy of Gen. V K Singh may open a Pandora’s Box

This agenda is in vast variance with the ‘growth aspiration’ the country started with at independence. In the vision of the Father of the Nation, Independent India would be sui generis, a society unlike any other, in a class of its own.

Gandhi’s India would not go for gigantic, FDI-funded development projects and large-scale industry and mining, typical of market-led growth under capitalism. Instead, India would pursue an equitable, participatory, small-is-beautiful, need-based, inclusive, balanced development while conserving nature and livelihoods. It is to nurture this socio-economic ethos that IAS was established and covenanted in the constitution.

The present-day neo-liberal agenda is just the opposite, seeking an India of market-making MNCs, millionaires and billionaires, a middle class of 300 million providing that market and the rest of 800 million Indians surviving as barely literate, malnourished multitude. This agenda is being driven by a new breed of adhocracy within the IAS that has come about through inbreeding and rank favouritism.

Ever since UPA government under Manmohan Singh assumed power (2004) two kinds of adhocracy have been shaping up. One was born of the ‘clan-within-clan’ inbreeding being practiced by a ‘linguistic-parochial’ group that at one point of time occupied almost every top-job in Delhi’s corridors of power.

The other is the ‘loyalist-core’ put together to implement the neo-liberal agenda. With the active participation of PMO patriarchs, spread of ‘clan-within-clan’ adhocracy was fast and furious capturing several key positions of ‘might and money’. And barring honourable exceptions, other coveted positions went to agenda-men anointed by the ‘Moneyed and the Mighty’.

Bureaucracy was meant to administer through laid down rules. The ICS was called the steel frame, precisely for this reason. ICS men viewed any deviation from the rules as a misdemeanor. Its successor, the IAS endeavoured to keep up the standards. Though there were hiccups, the bureaucratic system by and large ensured that men/women with merit were not denied their due place in promotions and postings.

Adhocracy on the other hand is being nurtured through blatant violation of processes and procedures to ensure that the top positions of Government, Joint Secretaries, Additional Secretaries and Secretaries, are held only by the clansmen and their agenda-abiding loyalists. Such adhocracy, which is antonymous to rule-bound bureaucracy, has substantially skewed and compromised the decision making process and standards. The result is for all to see; policy failure in almost all fronts, suffocating corruption and near total collapse of governance.

As if by intent, adhocracy seem to have permeated the Army Headquarters also as it did in the civil citadel. Sometime in 2005, out of the blue, the then Chief of the Army Staff (General JJ Singh) initiated the unique ‘look down policy’ to determine the ‘line of succession’ to the top position in the Army.

He was not looking for immediate succession but was looking deep-down to the year 2012 and found one favourite - Brigadier Bikram Singh. The Chief also realised that events and dates relating to the then Major General VK Singh, who was sure shot to become Army Chief in 2010, needed to be manipulated if Bikram Singh was to succeed him in 2012!

Once this sub-agendum was set, things started moving. Someone in the MS Branch ‘discovered’ VK Singh’s UPSC application form mentioning 1950 as his year of birth and this was the ‘brahmastra’ to be used to truncate and restrict VK Singh’s tenure as the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) to a two year period, so that the passage could be cleared for Bikram Singh to take over in May 2012. The massive documentary proof establishing 1951 as General’s YoB was ignored. A dismal charade of seeking ‘acceptance’ of 1950 from VK Singh as his YoB was played out.

But there were more hurdles. At that point of time, this favourite was not a front-runner as there were other officers ahead of him, who needed to be ‘eliminated’ at the COAS’s level itself with a bit of deft manoeuvring. A list was prepared, nick-named ‘Op MOSES’ which implied that the Chief would part the waters like in the ‘Ten Commandments’ for Bikram Singh to smoothly walk through! Like a family tree in reverse, Op MOSES listed few potential threats - Brigadiers and Major Generals of higher calibre - who were dealt with and pushed out one by one either through supersession and non-empanelment! For this purpose even ‘records of service’ were tinkered and tampered with and some even made to disappear.

The fallout of this crude manipulation indulged in by the military adhocracy was the sordid age-row of VK Singh that has rocked the nation. The actual DoB is a matter of record as rightly observed by the Supreme Court. But what is of concern is the manner in which the controversy was first stoked, then fanned and finally, brought into play. This calls for thorough investigation.

This is all the more urgent because it is alleged that TKA Nair, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister was behind this brazen manoeuvring. Well before the age controversy came out in the open, Nair is reported to have told his confidants that VK Singh had to go in May 2012 because the ‘Prime Minister had assured his wife that General Bikram Singh would be the next COAS’. Incidentally this gentleman was the chief mentor of the civil service adhocracy!

We have seen the neo-liberal agenda for creating and nurturing the civil adhocracy. But what is the agenda for the military adhocracy? This begs the question. But corruption and carpetbagging could be a possible answer. It is believed that there are IB reports about massive kick-backs in the still-born Eurocopter deal and a top Army brass has reportedly transferred 22 million Euros (Rs. 145 crores) to his relative in Paris through hawala post. But unfortunately for him the deal fell through and he had the consternation of returning the moolah! As if to compensate, this man was rewarded with a coveted civil position with powers to award thousands of crores worth of construction contracts! Now, with huge weapon/equipment purchase deals either being processed or pending in the Army HQ a pliable adhocracy is needed to serve the MNC agenda.

With the state turning into a non-functioning kleptocracy, corruption is the common denominator between civil and military adhocracy. Of late we have seen several cases of swindling and misappropriation in which General Officers have been court-martialed and dismissed from service. Many more must be lying buried.

Sensing danger the civil-military adhocracy has combined to hound out General VK Singh who does not fit into the adhocracy mould. Bulk of the media including ‘reputed’ scribes and defense analysts partnered with the kleptocrats in this despicable task, which indeed is the real tragedy!

(M.G. Devasahayam is a retired IAS officer, who had served in the Indian army before he joined the civil service. He had taken part in the Indo-Pak War of 1965 and counter insurgency operations in Nagaland. The views expressed in the above article are based on information from his sources in the defence establishment.)

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