The recent parliament vs. military cold war in India took the nation by surprise. From corruption to lack of preparedness, the controversy around the defense ministry and General Vijay Kumar Singh unearthed some defense-related issues in gory detail.
It all started with an interview the army chief, General Vijay Kumar Singh gave to the media. He revealed that he was offered a bribe of Rupees 14 crore. Since parliament was in session, BJP picked up the issue immediately are created halla over it. Then the media broke all its previous records of unethical journalism in covering the series of events that followed. The army chief's confidential letter to the Prime Minister about serious shortfalls in ammunition was covered exclusively by almost every newspaper and news channel. The debates ‘organized’ by the media were interestingly, centered only around who leaked the letter and not on the contents of the letter. Our heroes, the ‘intellectual’ TV anchors repeatedly yelled on screen to create sensation.
Gone are the days when journalists believed that matters of national security must remain outside public debate. Gone are the times when during Cuban missile crisis, on the request of President Kennedy, the US media successfully kept the country from panic. After all, TRP is more important than the nation itself. And in this case, TRP is spelt t-r-e-a-c-h-e-r-y. In this case, TRP means becoming informants of our not-so-friendly neighbors.
In-spite of 24 hour coverage of ‘the issue’, what is really interesting is the way our ‘intellectual’ heroes failed in identifying any of the real problems the series of events posed.
No journalist questioned the superiority of bureaucracy over the military. No journalist questioned why, 65 years after independence, the defense ministry of India is still controlled by the civilian bureaucracy alone.
Even the top military professionals have no say in formulating India’s security policy. Why are even junior-level bureaucrats allowed to issue instructions to army headquarters? The belief, that greater responsibility to the military would encourage them to seize power from democratic leadership, has denied the Indian military its due position in policy making. The military is integral to forming defense policy in the US and UK. Have we ever heard of a General there, trying to seize power?
No journalist questioned the lack of long-term planning in Indian defense. Most countries plan on a minimum five-year basis. We, on the other hand, plan on a yearly basis, owing to our long flawed budgeting tradition. By the time we finalize on our purchase orders, new decisions are made, reversing the previous ones.
No journalist pointed out the issues a jawan has faced over the past few decades, or will face after the fiasco the media has caused. For some time, we have been lamenting the dwindling status of the Indian soldier in society. The respect and glory associated with soldiering as a noble profession is diminishing, while our society is increasingly being driven by materialism. The media has successfully planted the seed of suspicion about the loyalty of these selfless jawans in the minds of ordinary Indians.
If not to the nation, if not to the people of this country, if not to themselves, every journalist who failed to identify the real problems and address them, is answerable to each and every soldier of India who chooses service before self. The sensation hovering around a measly 14 crore will soon be forgotten. The media will forget General V K Singh even before his retirement. But the damage they have caused to the image and the morale of the jawans of India, is everlasting!
Photo credit: Christopher Macsurak