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Old 01-18-2012, 08:49 PM   #11
NikolaAAA

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Link The Officers mess

The Early Years

The age controversy that has the government in a bind now has its genesis in a UPSC form signed 47 years ago by a 14-year-old boy who aspired to join the National Defence Academy. As was the norm then, application forms for the military were filled by clerks and signed by students.

July 29, 1965: Vijay Kumar Singh, a Class X student of the Birla Public School, Pilani, signs on the UPSC form (5170), applying for the NDA course of December 1965. The form mentions his date of birth as May 10, 1950. While the form was signed by him, the officer has maintained that it was filled by a clerk in the school, as was the norm, and the incorrect year was a clerical error.

May 11, 1966: The medical examination report (FJ/6025/1 of AFMS, F 2) prepared by armed forces doctors before he joined the Academy records the year of birth as 1951.

June 13, 1966: The marksheet for Class X examinations is issued. It records the year of birth as 1951. This is also the document used to prove that he has passed the examination prior to joining the NDA.

June 18, 1966: Sri Krishan, Under Secretary at the UPSC, writes a letter to Singh (NDA/Dec 65/R No 1974/EV), pointing out that while the UPSC form has 1950 as year of birth, the supporting certificates attached to it record it as 1951. The letter asks Singh to clarify the date of birth. He replies 1951 may be considered as the correct year as the other date was a clerical error.

July 13, 1966: Singh joins NDA. The only available document with the Academy is a bio sheet (7103) of the cadet which mentions his year of birth as 1951. The detailed document was filled by Singh. As the school leaving or matriculation certificate was not available till then, this was considered his year of birth. The personal file written by him during SSB also records the year of birth as 1951.

June 1970: An identity card issued by the Indian Military Academy, which he joined after passing NDA, shows his year of birth as 1951. But a dossier filled by the Gentleman Cadet mentions it as 1950 and is also mentioned in the Academy‚??s final assessment and confidential report.

1971: Singh, who was then undergoing a young officers‚?? course, gets his matriculation certificate (22461). Issued by Rajasthan Education Board, it mentions year of birth as 1951. This is the certificate used for all records to determine date of birth. He submits it to the Adjutant General‚??s branch, the official record holder of the Army. The AG branch (MP 5) records 1951 as the year of birth.

The Long Silence

With 1951 recorded as the year of birth by the AG‚??s branch, all promotions, postings and personal records of the officer, including personal dossier, record of service and identity card, are issued with this date. All non-military documents used by him, including passport, PAN card and driver‚??s licence also have 1951 as the year of birth. As far as Singh was concerned, all records in Army files had his correct year of birth. He never received any communication from the Army on discrepancies, even though, as evidence later showed, the Military Secretary Branch did not update its records. Singh even made two attempts to get all records corrected and is assured they are up to date.

1985 and 2002: Singh says he made efforts to ensure his correct year of birth is maintained in Army records but was informed that since the AG‚??s MP 5 branch mentions 1951, nothing needs to be done. But in a letter dated December 20, 2007, then Military Secretary P R Gangadharan says no documents are held with the MS branch ‚?? which is in charge of postings and promotions ‚?? that shows any correspondence from the AG branch on the matter.

The Matter Resurfaces

Almost 35 years after he joined the Army, Singh learns there are two different dates of his birth in the records. While for over three decades, the Army makes no move to resolve the matter, just before he is set to assume the rank of Lt Gen and has a clear shot at becoming the Army Chief, the matter is brought to notice by the MS branch, which maintains 1950 as the year of birth.

May 3, 2006: Singh for the first time receives a letter from then Military Secretary Lt Gen Richard Khare, intimating him there are discrepancies in his records. While the AG branch has 1950 as year of birth, MS branch records show it as 1951.

May 10, 2006: Maj Gen Singh writes back to the MS branch, saying since the records in the AG branch were correct, he had the impression the necessary correction was carried out in the MS branch. He requests MS branch to correct its records.

December 20, 2007: Lt Gen Gangadharan prepares a detailed note, examining all records and past correspondence. The note recommends 1950 should be considered as the year of birth for ‚??the purpose of promotion and retirement‚?Ě. It is approved by then Army Chief Deepak Kapoor, sent to Defence Ministry.

A series of letters are exchanged between Singh and the MS branch. As Singh was set to take over as the Corps Commander, the matter is kept in abeyance. No commitment is given by Singh on the age issue and it is left hanging. In official records forwarded to the Defence Ministry, the year of birth is now 1950.

The Big Game

With Singh now approved to take over as Army Commander, the crucial step towards his appointment as the Army Chief, the Army seeks to put an end to the issue. In letters and phone conversations, Singh is told that unless he accepts 1950 as the year of birth, action would be taken against him. It would prevent him from becoming an Army Commander and would, in turn, make him ineligible to become Army Chief.

January 21, 2008: Singh is officially informed by Gangadharan that the official year of birth will be 1950 and the AG branch is being intimated to amend its records. This is done at a time when Singh is set to be posted as an Army Commander, a pre-requisite to the Army Chief‚??s post.

January 24, 2008: Lt Gen Singh, now the 2 Corps Commander, writes to Gangadharan saying he never asked for a change in his date of birth. Says he submitted proof of birth only once in his career and that was recorded as 1951 by AG branch. Says all official documents with him have that year. Not commenting on the Army decision putting 1950 as the year of birth, he writes that ‚??anything which is required to be done in the larger interests of the organisation‚?Ě may be undertaken by the Army HQ.

Within hours of the letter reaching Army HQ, an ‚??immediate‚?Ě message over the Army‚??s secure system is sent to him. The message, signed by K Purushotama (Deputy MS) on behalf of Gangadharan, says his letter is ‚??not in conformity with response asked‚?Ě. It says he should confirm acceptance of 1950 as the year of birth or ‚??action deemed appropriate‚?Ě would be taken. This is polite, military language that disciplinary action would be initiated, putting his appointment as Army Commander at stake.

January 25, 2008: Singh sends back a message on the same channel, says once again ‚??whatever decision taken in organisational interest is acceptable to me‚?Ě. Same day, Gangadharan writes a confidential note, saying the officer ‚??did not have any malafide intention‚?Ě in indicating his year of birth as 1951 and that he should not be considered ‚??blameworthy‚?Ě. It says he should be considered for Army Commander‚??s post.

January 30, 2008: Singh writes to Gangadharan and referring to the decision by the Army to take 1950 as the year of birth, says he will ‚??mention the date of birth as directed‚?Ě.

The End Game

The issue returned to focus in April 2011 after The Indian Express reported that a Law Ministry opinion in reply to an RTI query determined his year of birth as 1951. Three opinions by the Attorney General followed on the Defence Ministry‚??s request, all against change in date. After his statutory complaint was rejected, he went to court on January 16 this year.

Govt‚??s options

While the option of removing General Singh may not be exercised, keeping several factors, including legal hurdles, on mind, the government is believed to have laid plans.

* The most likely scenario, if Singh resigns or is removed from the post, is to make Vice Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen SK Singh, the acting chief. This is the norm in case the Army Chief is abroad or is on leave.

* The government would then move ahead with the selection process of the next chief as planned and appoint Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Bikram Singh.

* A less-likely scenario would be to appoint the senior most serving officer ‚?? in this case Western Army Commander Shankar Ghosh ‚?? as the Army Chief.
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