It is a small mercy that the outgoing UPA government — which, by all accounts, faces an almost certain defeat in the just concluded elections — ultimately refrained from taking some questionable decisions it seemed determined to see through just before its departure. Among these was its resolve to foist on the country a first Lokpal of its choice. However, wiser counsels prevailed later.
What has frustrated the lame duck government a lot more is that it had to beat a retreat on its last-minute manoeuvre to appoint a judicial commission to investigate the “snoopgate” affair in Gujarat that could have embarrassed the BJP’s prime ministerial nominee and Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi. In the midst of the government’s desperate efforts, the young woman who was allegedly “snooped and spied on” and her father petitioned the Supreme Court that they wanted no inquiry. The solicitor general informed the court that the government had dropped the proposal.
Against this backdrop, it is deeply regrettable, to put it no more strongly, that the Manmohan Singh government has wantonly rejected the most important and innovative recommendation of the Naresh Chandra task force, appointed by the government itself because of the imperative to reform and revamp Indian security, external and internal. Yet, after inaction on the report for two years, it has suddenly consigned the key recommendations to the dustbin.
To be sure, the government has accepted a large number of the task force’s relatively minor suggestions, and some of them would surely be beneficial. However, what good is that when the most useful and urgently needed recommendation for promoting inter-services cooperation in the military has been brushed aside casually?
After deep thought, the task force had recommended that a four-star general (or an officer of equivalent rank) should serve as permanent chairman, with a fixed tenure of two years, of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CSC). The proposed scheme clearly provided that the permanent chairman of the CSC would have no say in operational matters of the three services but would be responsible for bringing about the maximum inter-services coordination and cooperation. The areas for this are vast and include supervision of the two tri-services commands that we have, integration of the special forces of all three services, fixing the priorities in the military’s procurement, integration of supplies and so on.
The damaging consequences of the present arrangement — under which the most senior of the three single-service chiefs presides over the committee of chiefs until his retirement — have been obvious for too long. Not only is the tenure of the chairman usually short continued…