Amid demands by political parties for the dismissal of the Army chief,the government has taken serious note of the fact that V K Singh’s letter to the Prime Minister was leaked to the media.
Defence Minister A K Antony has said “appropriate action” would be taken on this and also noted that the contents of Singh’s letter could not be a matter of public debate.
The contents of the letter rocked the Rajya Sabha with members terming it “disturbing” and “serious” and demanding the government take action against those responsible — “whatever position he holds”.
Responding to concerns expressed by members,Antony said,”I have made serious note of the observations… After consulting the Prime Minister and colleagues,we will take appropriate action.”
He confirmed the Army chief had written to the Prime Minister on March 12 drawing his “attention to issues related to national defence and security.”
He said: “These issues are under the consideration of the Ministry of Defence. By very nature of these issues,they cannot be a matter of public debate.”
Earlier,Antony met the Prime Minister over the issue. Home Minister P Chidambaram and Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma were also present at the meeting.
According to a newspaper report,the Army chief has contended in the letter that the entire tank fleet is “devoid of critical ammunition to defeat enemy tanks”,the air defence is “97 per cent obsolete” and the infantry is crippled with “deficiencies of crew served weapon” and lacks “night fighting” capabilities.
Gen Singh has also alleged that there is “hollowness” in the procedures and processing time for procurements as well as legal impediments by vendors.
The Army chief also requested the Prime Minister to “pass suitable directions to enhance the preparedness of the Army”.
Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley expressed concern that the letter had been leaked,saying matters which are supposed to be confidential are being shown to the media.
He told the Defence Minister if these leaks were permitted,there is no point in saying ”you do not want such matters to be part of any acrimonious debate”.
Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) said the fact that such a sensitive letter gets leaked is a matter of “utmost concern” and something that needs to be inquired into.
He said those responsible for leaks must be held accountable no matter what position he holds in the defence establishment and civil administration.
Pyari Mohan Mahapatra (BJD) said the government should take immediate action. “There is no scope for inquiry. It can take years. Whatever has to be done,it has to be done in hours not days,” he said,adding,”people who are to be sacked should be sacked” immediately under Article 311 B and C of Constitution.
Maintaining that Indian forces have never indulged in politics,JD-U leader Shivanand Tiwari said it would set a wrong precedent if such things were allowed and the government will have to take some tough steps in this regard.
During Question Hour,Tiwari said the Army chief should be dismissed.
Noting that some news reports related to defence preparedness were “extremely disturbing”,Jaitley said they raise question marks about the integrity of procurement and preparedness.
Assuring members,Antony said,”The government is committed to do all that is necessary for the security of the nation.
The government will do everything possible to ensure that our defence forces become the best fighting forces in the world.”
Expressing gratitude to the members of Opposition,Antony said he was “very very happy” to hear the observations of the Opposition leaders.
“This is a great tribute to out country. Whatever be our differences,when it comes to national security,we are one,” he said assuring members that the government is continuously taking steps to tighten loose ends in procurement process.
Antony said procurements are being undertaken under the integrity pact put in place three years ago,which covers a contract of even Rs 100 crore.
He said if there is any violation,actions like blacklisting and cancellation of contracts are taken.
Antony said the government will not leave any room for anybody to makes compromise over integrity and transparency and will take strong action against whoever is responsible.
“We will protect every inch of our motherland,” he said.