In an interview with NDTV's Nitin Gokhale, former Army Chief General VK Singh has said he has no plans to join politics or contest elections against Congress President Sonia Gandhi. Below is the transcript of his interview:
NDTV: It's been more than a year that General V.K. Singh has retired as India's Army Chief. But controversies don't seem to leave him. He is at the centre of one controversy to the other despite him leaving the Army for more than a year ago. He is subjected to intense scrutiny for his pronouncements, his conduct, his associations. Thank you very much general VK
General VK Singh: Thank you, Nitin.
NDTV: We have spoken earlier when you were in service. But after getting out of service, after retirement as Army Chief, you still continue to be in intense focus of public scrutiny. What is it that makes you a controversial figure in many people's eyes?
General VK Singh: I really don't know if there is any controversy. But yes, I think some people deliberately want to create controversy. Others probably haven't seen people working on social forums. So they are intrigued and they think what actually is happening? I don't think there is any controversy. I decided that for 42 years I have taken from the society and this is give back time. So I have perceived a lot of things because 98% of the Army comes from the rural background. I picked up the causes of the farmers and it proved to be very fruitful. I have been talking to the youth. They are the future. The more motivated they are the better for the country. I have been trying to get the ex-servicemen together because I think we are a forgotten community. Unfortunately in the great nation of ours, soldiers don't matter.
NDTV: That's an important point. Normally the soldiers have tended to or even the Generals who have retired or even Admirals or Air Marshals have tended to fade away and have gone into their cocoon. You are perhaps one of the rare people of late who has still tried to do public service or at least try to give back as you said to the society. What are you doing in terms of ex-servicemen welfare or getting the ex-servicemen together?
General VK Singh: See, my aim was to get ex-servicemen under one umbrella. So last July we formed an organisation called Proud Citizen Soldier Front or Swabhimani Samaj Sainik Manch. The aim was that we come together under one umbrella, everybody under it, talk of macro issues.
NDTV: So some might then accuse you of trying to capitalise on your standing, your popularity for political end. Is that something you are looking at, a career in politics?
General VK Singh: Nitin, they have accused me of all kinds of things. I am actually not bothered about that. Okay, small minds only think of small things. You know why the soldier community is not being catered or cared for? They are not a vote bank.
NDTV: Are you trying to convert them into a vote bank?
General VK Singh: No, But I am trying to get them to speak in a voice that people listen. After all you just go back to the days when the postal ballot system was there. Whether it reached or not, nobody was concerned. In fact local politicians were very happy that some postman goes and dumps it to the nearest village or put outside the village or into a well. So I think the time has come that people realise that here is a lot of 60,000 people, well-trained, well disciplined, well motivated who must be used. And nobody seems to be wanting to do it because there is an apathy, there is a general feeling, okay, they have, I mean like that great minister of Bihar, I mean I am horrified. It is high time that the veterans voice is heard. If they become a vote-bank so be it. How does it make a difference?
General VK Singh: I mean you have got a jhuggi jhopri vote bank. Why can't the ex-servicemen vote bank be there?
General VK Singh: I mean why should it scare people?
NDTV: It does scare people but also what scares people is unpredictable nature of your trajectory post retirement, in the sense that you went to Anna Hazare, you associated yourself with him, you are still with him. What are the compulsions or let me say what is the vision you have in terms of associating yourself with Anna Hazare?
General VK Singh: You know the unpredictability is only in the mind and in any case, one of the things, which win you the war is the unpredictability.
NDTV: You are applying those principles here....
General VK Singh: No, no nothing like that. The thing is that I picked up the farmers cause because most of our soldiers come from that background. And then I decided that Anna who had been abandoned, by a lot of people and who is a genuine person needs to be taken up all over again, so that he can bring about a good change in the society. So I associated with him. We made a thing called Janatantra morcha and if you go to our website jantantramorcha.org, there are 25 doables that we have put out there, which will change the face of this country.
NDTV: Is fighting elections one of the doables?
General VK Singh: No, election is nowhere in our mind. We are into, with Anna. All that we are trying to do is create an awareness, create an awakening, that friends, time has come to wake up.
NDTV: That brings me you know one or two causes that you took up immediately after retirement. One was the nuclear power station in Haryana in which you are trying to oppose and you said 'we will gherao the Parliament', which was seen as something which is not in form, in the sense that the former Chief of the Army trying to undermine the temple of the democracy, something of that kind. What do you have to say about that because you have never spoken about it?
General VK Singh: See, I think people twist everything. Gherao does not mean that you are going to stand holding hand and encircle the Parliament. It just means that you are going to protest at the Parliament.
NDTV: Do you think if you look back at the last 2 years or 3 years as Army Chief, and now as a former Army Chief, for last one year have you been misunderstood in the sense that look at the defamation case against you for instance, which has been filed against you in a lower court, which goes on and on. And now we keep hearing various remarks from various people that you overstepped your brief or your authority as Army Chief in issuing that press release. What made you first of all issue that press release and where does the matter stand now?
General VK Singh: A thing comes in the press that Army is bugging. Army has got equipment to carry out surveillance and they are listening to all the conversations of political system and the Raksha Mantri. There cannot be anything more preposterous than that.
NDTV: Why did it come up?
General VK Singh: I am telling you, there was a person involved. The press release was issued after checking things. We checked up as to who was behind it and we identified the person, misunderstandings are created deliberately by people who hobnob with certain journalists, who seem to be having an axe to grind and there are some of them very prominent ones. Why the axe is there to grind, whether it is because they have been bought over or something else I really can't comment on. But it appears quite obvious. In this particular instance there was, you know, banner headlines. Army is spying, Army is bugging, Army is doing A, B and C. It was bringing down the image of the Army. Army of this nation does not do such things and to ensure that the image of the Army is protected we issued a clarification after checking details. If somebody thinks it is defaming I think he is out of his mind, totally out of his mind.
NDTV: But is there such a equipment available with the Army which was misused?
General VK Singh: That is what the whole funny thing about it. This equipment is with an agency called Defence Intelligence Agency, which is under IDS and not under the Army, and the person who was involved in it has been part of DIA. So he knew about this equipment and that is why he put out things this way. So I think people who are, who went by this and splashing the, and look at the papers, which splashed, and you will find the answer, which I have been trying to tell.
NDTV: But there is also the other controversy or other allegation which keeps coming up in certain section of the media about the so called Technical Support Division, which you seemed to have set up on your own initiative, no clearance, autonomous independent or even rogue, some people have called it. Misuse of money, initially it was 18 crores, now it is 8 crores. What is the truth behind the so-called TSD?
General VK Singh: See I have tried to clarify it once earlier. But I find same reports keep coming up. In fact this great paper called Indian Express had done the same report with just a minor variation of figure by the same reporter couple of months back. He has brought it up again, same thing no change in it, just a minor variation. So much for the journalistic talent that this paper has. TSD was set up after lot of discussion on the operational requirement. Lets understand it. It is in sync with the operational directive issued by the Raksha Mantri of this country.
NDTV: The same Raksha Mantri
General VK Singh: The same Raksha Mantri. I can't you know verbatim, tell you as to what the operational directive is, but this was the requirement of the operational directive. The thinking on this started with my predecessor. It was implemented when I came. Okay, it was called TSD for the want of a name, which will give it a certain amount of anonymity. It has got nothing with the technical work. It is all human intelligence.
NDTV: It was supposed to be ultra secret, low profile
General VK Singh: Not secret...
NDTV: Low profile perhaps....
General VK Singh: Absolutely low profile. And it was the part of the Military Intelligence, controlled by the Military Intelligence, not by the Chief of Army Staff. I mean some people have gone totally bonkers, out of their mind and it has been done deliberately. Because they couldn't find anything or somebody has fed them, these great people that I spoke of. So they said okay, lets blow it up. And it is all vested interests. Let me also assure you one thing, if they had not tinkered with the organization, a lot of things that are happening on our borders today would not have happened and that's a guarantee I give.
NDTV: Please elaborate, you mean when you say on the border was this agency designed to look at our adversaries or their weaknesses, something of that kind?
General VK Singh: This agency was totally designed to look across the borders. It had nothing to do with the internal, except if it found an external link, which were doing things here. Except that and that too providing information of that to the required quarters.
NDTV: But that is now have been wound up. So do you think that our capabilities have been reduced?
General VK Singh: It has. If the Raksha Mantri has given you a directive and you are not following it and you are, you have gone into a cocoon by seeing ghosts, then there is something wrong.
NDTV: What about the charges of embezzlement and misuse of funds? How does one sort of reconcile with that?
General VK Singh: Nitin, the unit is there. There is a Director General of Military Operations who gives them money. They deal with it. There is a procedure. I am quite sure you can find what is there. Now for a paper to say 8 crore is missing, have they seen the logbooks? Have they gone through the details? They haven't. No, I think lot of things that this paper has been doing is totally wrong.
NDTV: Lets move away from this paper. But generally the feeling among a lot of people and ex-servicemen was that, as a Chief and also as the serving Chiefm and then now as the former Chief, you have tended to speak something, which is not exactly in what is called in sync with the tradition and norms of the military leaders. Is that what you...
General VK Singh: Tradition and norms of the service tell you to speak the truth, be upright about it. Not hide facts or take advantage of the system for the furtherance of your own rehabilitation later on. That is what the service norm is. Unfortunately people have forgotten this service norm. Had they all adhered to the service norm we won't have the problems that are afflicting our Armed Forces today. How many people stood up to say, look here, this type of equipment that you are getting us is bad. We are not going to take it. How many people did it?
NDTV: That brings me to what you wrote to the Defence Minister that time and that letter came into the media. You were accused of leaking it for your own advantage. But be that as it may, but what you said about shortage is, is something we must worry about?
General VK Singh: We must. That is why that letter went to the Prime Minister. Normally all Chiefs do write periodically to the Raksha Mantri, once in a while to the Prime Minister about the concern...
NDTV: Also that again you know, going back to the DIA, KAS and also the TSD as well as the snooping equipment. The DIA handled the so-called equipment for bugging or whatever is there...
General VK Singh: Not bugging, see they have got equipment, which has got limited range
General VK Singh: It is supposed to be deployed
General VK Singh: ... in areas, which are, which allow them access to listen to things across the border...
General VK Singh: ...or into terrorist effected areas
NDTV: So that is the equipment, which is there and you say it is with the DIA, not the Army
General VK Singh: Yes
NDTV: Was this brought up in any of the highest forums of the Military Chiefs or other Raksha Mantri, that you know this is not with us, we should have it or something of that kind or was it...
General VK Singh: No
General VK Singh: No, see what has happened is when the restructuring took place and the IDS was made, that was the time DIA appointment came up and the assets that used to be under the Army Sig Int...
NDTV: The single unit you mean, the single intelligence
General VK Singh: Yes it was, it is the tri service organisation
General VK Singh: You have got Air Force, Navy, Army, all three combined, it used to be under the Army, it went under DIA
General VK Singh: so all these resources and assets went under DIA. This particular technical cell, functioning from the adjunct of the NSA, had pointed out that this gentlemen who was the DG of DIA had made wrong purchases, purchases in excess of permission given or without permission...
NDTV: I see...
General VK Singh: It had come up, it had come up to the Chiefs of Staff Committee but somebody glossed over it
General VK Singh: Okay. They just...
NDTV: That's, that's the serious charge...
General VK Singh: It is...
NDTV: And, and this happened when you were in service?
General VK Singh: Yes
NDTV: I see
General VK Singh: So...
NDTV: It was covered up in the Chiefs of the Staff Committee?
General VK Singh: It was...
NDTV: ....ohh, that's very serious
General VK Singh: It was covered up.
NDTV: Right. But now looking forward what are your plans for the organisation you have formed with Anna Hazare, one and two, how do you deal with the attention of these cases and these allegations and these charges? Are you sometimes worried about the, you know, the unnecessary attentions that crop up because of these cases?
General VK Singh: No, I know that these cases have been put to harass me. I wouldn't be surprise if somebody else also starts some other case, if this finishes somebody else will start. This is all designed to create harassment, and one has to be mentally strong to take it on, where is the problem? So...
NDTV: What about the organisation with Anna Hazare, what is, what are your plans?
General VK Singh: Organisation with Anna Hazare, Jantantra Morcha is doing well. Our jantantra yatra has tremendous response across the country. We have got 60,000 volunteers who are willing to give one year of their life for this cause and that is to create that awareness in the country as to what true democracy implies.
NDTV: Will Jantantra Morcha then look at individual candidates and sponsor them, or you know approve them? Is that something you are looking at?
General VK Singh: Jantantra Morcha will support people's candidates
NDTV: But how will you decide on people's candidate?
General VK Singh: People will decide.
General VK Singh: People will decide. All that we are saying is the system today requires good people. It is not my belief that all people in politics are bad, 80% people are good
General VK Singh: It is only 20% people who twist the system. With this 80% people and the other people in the society if we can bring about a change, I think that change will be for the better
NDTV: Okay, one final question, there was this report I think you were not in the country that time, that you were going to stand for elections against Sonia Gandhi in Rai Bareli. What's that all about?
General VK Singh: I think, I think, I think it is the somebody's ripe imagination, putting out things and I believe India Today is one of them in this, which came out with this funny report....
NDTV: No, I saw it in couple of other agencies also
General VK Singh: After that they start catching on
General VK Singh: So there's nothing in it
NDTV: There's no truth to it?
General VK Singh: No truth at all, because I don't know who has started it
General VK Singh: And as part of Jantantra yatra I haven't even visited Rai Bareli, but think I should now
NDTV: You should, okay. But okay one more additional question. I said final question at that time, are you against the Congress? Because that's the feeling in the ruling party, the ruling ministers, ruling party ministers keep saying that he's now trying to get back at us because he, we didn't give him what he thinks was justice
General VK Singh: I am against nobody. I am for a better India. If people are not providing that leadership and that vision and working for better India, I am against them. They can be from any party
NDTV: On that note General thank you very much for your time
General VK Singh: Thank you
NDTV: It's always a pleasure