Samba Spy Scandal

The Security

It is a popular belief among the Indian public that its army is a very clean and honest organisation. They look at the army with awe and reverence. But paradoxically the amount of corruption prevalent in this so-called clean organisation if allowed to be exposed fully, would make the `mafias' hang their heads in shame. However, an iron curtain is drawn to keep the army affairs secret from the public. Of course, in the army some of the people are very honest, upright and clean but exceptions cannot be termed as rules; corruption stems from the top and percolates to the lowest echelons. The best use is however, made by those who belong to its technical branches where there is plenty of scope to reveal the Indian character. To quote an instance: who does not know about the Indian General a GOC of an infantry division, who was removed from service along with many of his technical advisors, a couple of years ago. He was accused of misappropriation and misuse of vast public funds meant for the improvement of India's defence work in the Northern Sector. He is alleged to have made a glass-house on the banks of the fames Chenab river, and indulged in sprees of naked dances. But one thing clearly goes in his favour, that he did it not for himself alone but made the others share the joys equally, and that he had the guts to do so openly, in defiance of any danger from the government. Many dare not do that. Anyway there is a popular saying in the army: an elephant may pass undetected and instead a needle may get stuck. But in most cases how dare even a needle get stuck! The saying goes: When the beloved is incharge of the police station then who is there to be afraid of ?

Apart from intelligence work, I was entrusted with security jobs also, specifically the security of material. If one is to do the job sincerely then it becomes a highly thankless one.

The high level security was however, not under my scope and purview as I was a mere speck in a dust storm. I had to placate were specific instructions to check and report upon the alleged underhand deals of selling damaged vehicles' spare parts en route jammu and Pathankot. In order to do my job I created a network of informers all along my areas of responsibility.

The Army Supply Corps (ASC) convoys carry provisions for the troops deployed in forward areas. Such provisions are held by the forward depots and are further supplied to the troops. The provisions consist of a variety of stores such as coal, POL, cement rations etc. Some of these stores used to get diminished in quantity, through underhand deals, by the time convoys unloaded at the destination. The pilferage which took place (and who knows it must still be happening) was not in the form of a few odd bags of cement, rations or a couple of litres of POL. The ASC did believe in disposing of the entire load of a certain vehicle which may vary from three to tem tons or the entire POL tankers of three thousands litres capacity. The price of such stores was just nominal; clean and straight, one rupee a litre - thus leaving a vast margin of profit to the purchaser. Both parties were happy in their own ways. They had mutual love and affection. It became known during the course of investigation that the selling agent parted with a fraction of the money to please the in-charge at the unloading station / depot. Such amounts had already been settled through prior negotiations. But the bigger share went to the person who exposed himself to risk in contacting the purchaser and selling the material.

Initially, when I was told by my informer about these nefarious activities, I refused to believe it, but got a real shock when I saw it for myself. I immediately reported the matter to the Brigade Commander and to my OC at Yol. I was directed to impound such materials.

Such directions were wrong. It, by no stretch of imagination, fell under the scope of my duties. My task, being in the Intelligence and Field Security, was simply to locate the source and the place of pilferage: That I had done religiously. But I had to accept the directions even if reluctantly, as that meant exposing my men and myself to the offenders, because orders in the army are obeyed and not open to any just and reasonable arguments.

I was however, ensured help of the Military Police (CMP), whenever required.

There were only three NCOs with me in the Hqs. I could not nor did disturb the men already deployed on the border outposts (BOPs) along with the Border Security Force (BSF). The NCOs, viz. Havildar Puran Chand who, on posting, was replaced by Raghubir Singh, Ram Sarup and Naik Jagdish Chand were excellent and experienced in their job. But the same was not true when it came to policing and catching people. And why only the NCO, I myself was blank on that issue.

Though we were able to impound the vehicles selling the military stores to the civilians, I could not bring the culprits to book. I was unable to retain the evidence. Thrice, it so happened. My men, who did the job in pairs, caught the culprits, but the latter escaped clear, as one of the pair would leave the other alone in order to inform the CMP. By the time the CMP would reach the spot, the driver, after intimidating the loner with the help of his civilian friends, used to disappear. The civilian party would remove the unloaded little quantity of stores to a safer place. Under the circumstances, without any witness and the material for evidence, the vehicle numbers that were noted, were of no use. We had no jurisdiction over the civilian. To check and interfere with them amounted to stirring up a hornets' nest. But there was one advantage; such persons were identified. I informed the local civil police about their activities.

The efforts were not half-hearted, but misdirected, ill-planned and prematurely enacted. This was due to lack of experience and ignorance of the job in the intelligence personnel trained entirely for jobs other than policing. However, these attempts, though failures, gave much-needed experience for future attempts, although, at the same time, it reduced the chances of success considerably. I and my men were exposed and there was a general alert among the offenders, who had switched over to more discreet methods of operations.

The major causes of failures were: premature raids, lack of strength to hold the offenders, uncertainty of the place and distance, speed with which the CMP could be summoned to the disturbed spot, presence of civil police to deal with the civilian and finally to immobilise the vehicle at the spot. The responsibility to affect these measures was ostensibly a complicated one.

I held a conference with my NCOs at length and devised a workable plan. According to this plan, selected places were to be kept under watch discreetly only during the convoy timings and from a concealed place, with full care, to avoid any alertness on the part of civilians. On detection of any underhand deal, one of the two persons was to leave instantly to inform the CMP and the civil police. The second person was to keep a vigil without interfering with the offenders' activities, till sufficient material was unloaded and then, if possible, to remove the ignition key of the vehicle, stealthily.

The act of pilferage was performed with great dexterity by ASC drivers. They would take the vehicle off the convoy under the pretext of a mechanical breakdown; then off the highway to a pre-selected hiding place and carry out the dubious transactions under the most favourable conditions. But the same could not remain a secret for long.

The incessant efforts at last bore the desired fruit. The opportunity was seized when one of the vehicles of the convoy first halted and then drove on to hide in a brick-kiln called `Jai Jawan' ironically and paradoxically true to its name, for it apparently flourished on the magnanimity of the army Lawans!

The vehicle was impounded with great precision and speed while the coal was being unloaded. The owner of the brick kiln and the driver were caught while exchanging money. Mr. Handoo the Assistant Sub Inspector of Samba Police Station, a shrewd and intelligent officer, proved of great help in initiating the case against the civilian defaulter. The ASC driver of the vehicle was arrested, brought to the brigade Hqs and later on handed over to his parent unit from where he was finally shunted out from the army by a court martial.

This tight sequence of fool-proof vigilance brought many offers to me, in the form of vast sums of money. In exchange, I was asked to lift the security curtain and to let the drama go on. I scornfully rejected those offers. `I am not the seed to grow in water'was the reply conveyed along with a request to the gangsters to stop their criminal and immoral acts. However, it was only after a couple of more such raids that these activities were checked to some extent.

It is only one side of the multi-faceted story, of corruptions that breed, get shelter and flourish in our so-called honest and clean organisation.

Then there was the dirty business of selling and exchanging the damaged vehicles' spare parts while the vehicles were being evacuated from forward areas to OTG Pathankot.

In difficult terrain, when a vehicle meets with an accident, it is not recovered but written off as beyond economical recovery, Although it is written off on papers, it is salvaged and sold. Where the money goes, remains a guess.

Is it the end? Surely not; not even the beginning. There was the case of RSSD Pathankot. It's a rail-head where the stores meant for Northern Command are unloaded. Tens of wagons carrying coal enter the heavily guarded siding and, after all the strict checks, leave empty. But at times, despite all eye-wash called checks, one odd wagon conveniently comes out minimum with two third of its load and, at a preselected place, is unloaded and the contents sold. Similarly the POL tankers are unloaded in 200 litres barrels. There is a space provided inside a barrel over and above 200 litres capacity, mainly to safeguard against escaping gases. If a barrel s topped it contains an extra ten litres. And where thousands of barrels are filled, the deal becomes reasonably profitable. Of course to write off vast quantities as leakage on papers, is a matter of privileged routine. If this can be done then no one dare raise an accusing finger when CGI sheets and the like, part of the defence stores are utilized in making trunks and like things of utility for personal use at a much lower level in the chain of command. One need not ask how are these then counted? These are counted because such stores are committed - on the ground. It is a different matter if the ground where these are committed is not the one for which these were meant. In any case how does it matter; who dares to challenge the probity of Indian army affairs? Would that not harm the security of the nation!

A ditch-cum-bundh, an artificial obstacle, was being constructed in the Samba Sector. The construction of pill boxes on the Ditch-cum-Bundh (DCB) and certain strong points was the task entrusted to an Engineer Regiment.

One day, when I had gone to visit one of the BOPs, I found a large, mixed working party of Engineers and Infactry in Tarna River. The party was busy making flower pots. I also found some cement slabs meant for the pill boxes. When I questioned the in-charge of the work site, I was told about the nature of the task. It was to prepare slabs. And the party in-charge was quiet when asked about the flower pots. I got suspicious and kept the site under watch for about one month. During that period, the slabs and the flower pots were prepared in the ratio of one to two. The pots were subsequently transferred to various army institutions, offices and finally to the houses of high ranking officials of the Northern Command. I thought the matter over with serious concern and realised that, apart from sheer misuse of manpower, the act amounted to playing with the lives of men and indirectly constituted an offence against the security of the nation. As such, it had to be reported. Before doing so I went to probe further. To my horror, the dastardly acts that I found through one of my highly reliable informers were enough to shatter the nerves and make a person insane. I at once reported this to my officer commanding.

The strong point, the name of which can not be revealed due to security reasons, was supposed to be of a certain length. Half a kilometre was however missing from the total length on the ground. It was not that someone had removed it, but at the time of construction the length was left less.

To construct a yard of DCB costs thousands to the exchequer. And, if miles of it can be reduced on the ground, for who will go with a tape to make sure of the length, then no business can be more profitable. The cost of a pill-box constructed on the DCB is a little over six thousand rupees, whereas a pill-box in the depth cost around four thousand. If there were to be twenty pill boxes and twelve of them were to be constructed on the DCB and eight in depth, then, while keeping the number intact, the ratio was reversed on the ground, but not on the papers. Then hundreds of cement bags were shown as `set in' and destroyed by a board of officers, but in fact those were sold in the black market to civilians. Lacs of bricks were purchased from the local brick kilns but not more than half were ever lifted by the purchaser. Cement proportion for the pill boxes was supposed to be in the ratio of one is to three. In fact it was not even one is to five. Probably that had to be done otherwise from where would the cement have come for making flowers pots. Thus, under those circumstances a defence work which was being constructed as protection against a medium gun shell would not sustain, in practice, the impact of 81 mm mortar bomb.

What could be more preposterously murderour, profane and an act of devilry? Besides playing with the lives of innocent soldiers, it manifestly amounted to stabbing the nation in a broad daylight. Was there anything, that anyone could do against such patriots? No, surely not. Who could do anything to such people who were the prot ges of very senior officers of the Indian Army.

The report, though turned down initially by the officer commanding, was later, on my persistent goading and supplying more information forwarded. No action however, was ever taken and who was to take the action when the Commander of that Engineer Regiment was very close to the Army Commander. It was widely rumoured that a beautiful house for the Army Commander was constructed at Dharamsala by the commander of the Engineer Regiment concerned, making every use of the resources at his disposal, inclusive of the manpower.

Later there was a CBI enquiry against the Regiment. But nothing was known to me about the outcome of the case. The institution of CBI enquiry itself confirms that no action was ever taken by the army authorities concerned on my reprts. On the other hand, I earned a title for myself - "Most Dangerous." The remark was conveyed to Brigadier SKA Borwanker, by the commander of the Enfineer Regiment concerned, during one of the conferences. The same was communicated to me later on, and I had reciprocated with a broad smile.

I had caught one JCO carrying ammunition while he was proceeding on leave. The JCO was distantly related to the GOC of my division. So the General, naturally, was interested in saving him. Hence, the General tried to pressurise me and went even to the extent of saying, the ammunition was planted by my men. I did not yield to the pressure. My men could not plant the ammunition that had markings of the lof of ammunition belonging to the JCO's unit, nor was there a motive for my men to do so.

`Then why, where was the motive for the JCO to carry ammunition?', asked the General.

`May be for fishing. How do I know?' I had replied.

But there were no fish in Rajasthan according to the General and rightly so. But probably the General did not know, or he did not want to know, nor was I prepared to speak in the face of stiff opposition, that such ammunition and even the arms were used by the dacoits! From where did the dacoits procure army weapons and ammunition? So was not the ammunition carried by the JCO meant to be sold to such dacoits? A General Court Martial (GCM) was held to try the JCO. Every material evidence, including the recovery of ammunication was produced before the court, against the JCO. But the GCM trying him could not find him guilty! He was acquitted. There was a retrial and again acquittal!!

Such were the army courts. As a result of my efforts, I fell from the pedestal of esteem of my GOC.

Preface | Temporary Duty | The Move Order | The Train Journey | The Reception | The Army HQ | Close Arrest | The Interrogation | Background | The Intelligence | The Security | The Devil | The Confession | The Foundation Stone | The Great Detectives | The Corroborations | An Approver | Confrontaions | Hibernations | Leading to the Trails | Fairy Tales | Into the Fire | Army Procedure | As a Winess | Meeting with Family | Habeas Corpus | Death of Democracy | The Trial | Prosecution Case | The Defence | The Press | Rebuttal | Aftermath | Mystery | Postscript | Annexure I | Home |