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be proper to use the Army "against our own people." His offer of all support to the home ministry by way of training and logistics did not go down well with Chidambaram. While the book is silent on the fallout of this brief encounter, VK Singh remained virtually a persona non grata with the political and bureaucratic establishment. Describing the functioning of the Army HQ, VK Singh says pushing files is never an exhilarating job for a soldier. "But pushing files where it is a foregone conclusion that everything you try to do is going to be mired in red tape the moment it leaves your desk can numb the brain." As far as the world of the babu was concerned, each requirement of the military was a 'file' and it did not matter if the item needed by the Army was worth one-millionth of what an aircraft or ship would cost. It would have to go through exactly the same process and would take a minimum of 36 months, if everything went well. Defence budget get a sizeable chunk of money allotted for acquisitions and other projects year after. Not once had the Army been able to fully utilise the allotted funds and at the end of the year the unutilised money would be re-appropriated by the government. In financial year 2010-11, the full amount was utilised for the first time since independence, much to the surprise of the Finance ministry. Emboldened by the success, VK Singh decided to leave nothing to chances in the 2011-12 budget and had fresh proposals in place well before April. The political executive, aware of the Army chief's game plan, quietly posted out the Joint Secretary (Acquisition) and the post was kept vacant for seven months. All proposals sat in files that were not even opened, for no one else in the ministry could initiate the process. The new incumbent took two months to go through the accumulated files and nothing moved for nine months. Allotting funds for defence liberally and ensuring they are not utilised is "the biggest con that is played on the people of the country," the General says. The book abounds in interesting anecdotes, some amusing, some hilarious. VK Singh was in the habit of partridge shooting for the table. Yogja, his younger daughter, showed him a draft letter she had written to be sent to Maneka Gandhi, complaining against her father's habit which she found objectionable. A compromise was struck that no meat will be cooked in the Army chief's kitchen and Yogja will not forward the letter to Maneka. At a training session, on the subject of morale, a soldier was asked to explain the difference between 'fear' and 'panic.' Saab, phear dar hota hal. Ye hamare level pe hota hain. Panik unche dar je ka dar hota hain jo officer level pe hota hal. (Fear means being afraid and it happens at our level, to soldiers. Panic is a higher level of fear which happens to officers). VK Singh comments sadly that procurement and acquisitions had made the armed forces "the cash cow" for successive governments and it proved beyond his power to put an end to it because of the lack of support and cooperation of the PMO. VK Singh ends his autobiography with an apt quote from Winston Churchill which meant a lot to him. "The only guide to a man is his conscience; the only shield to the conscience is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions. It is impudent to walk through life without this shield, because we are so often mocked by the failure of our hopes and upsetting of our calculations; but with this shield, however the fates may play, we march always in the ranks of honour." [This is an excerpt from Sam Rajappa's article for 'The Weekend Leader' published Dec 2013 ... Ed} Rose Bowl January 2014133

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