Friday, April 12, 2013


Musings of a Veteran

I am a retired Naval Officer who has given more than 33 of the best years of my life to the Navy.

That is why I was shocked when I opened the newspaper this morning and read a headline NAVAL OFFICERS INDULGE IN WIFE-SWAPPING on page 11 of The Times of India (Pune Edition) Friday 12 April 2013.

A headline in another edition of the TOI says: Wife-Swapping Common in the Navy

This news item has flooded the print electronic and internet media and is being widely discussed on the social media like Twitter.

Click the url links below to read about the news item in the TOI and other newspapers and media:

While the matter will be duly investigated and law will take its own course, I am deeply pained and dismayed by all this and wish to put forth my views purely from the ethical angle.

It is sad that some despicable actions of a few black sheep tarnish the good name of the navy and hurt the reputation of all naval officers, serving and retired, causing all of us immense pain, shock and humiliation.

As far as the media is concerned, the way in which a broad brush has been used to paint the entire community of Naval Officers as an immoral depraved bunch of wife-swappers is most unfair.

I feel that media must use restraint and avoid over-sensationalizing such sensitive and delicate matters.

Please ponder and reflect on the deleterious effect such sensational headlines will have on the impressionable minds of young children of naval officers and on those students who want to make a career in the Indian Navy. And think about the detrimental impact on serving naval officers, sailors and their families.

In my more than 33 years of naval service I have not come across any instance of “wife swapping”.

Wife Swapping is certainly not rampant in the Navy.

Therefore, I think it is most unfair to make sweeping statements like “Naval Officers Indulge in Wife-Swapping” or “Wife-Swapping Common in Navy”.

The navy is a close-knit community. Inept handling of such delicate matters will lead to more dirty linen being washed in public which may adversely affect the morale of officers, sailors and their families.

Therefore, I would like to offer three suggestions:


The media is doing a yeoman’s service in bringing such issues to light and it is doing its duty by reporting news.

The media must give balanced in-depth coverage in a holistic manner reporting all aspects of the story and uncover all facts so that the truth is established and follow up this matter to its logical conclusion.

However, I feel that media could have used a bit of restraint and avoided over-sensationalizing the news by employing slightly less catchy headlines than “Naval Officers Indulge in Wife-Swapping” or “Wife-Swapping Common in Navy” which tend to tarnish the reputation of the entire service.


Wife Swapping among Naval Officers is tantamount to “Stealing the Affections of a Brother Officer’s Wife” which is strictly taboo as it violates the Naval Officers’ Code of Ethics.

Also, Stealing the Affections of a Brother Officer’s Wife amounts to conduct unbecoming of an officer and Wife Swapping among Naval Officers is an act which is prejudicial to good order and naval discipline.

I hope the matter will be dealt with in a fair just unbiased equitable and transparent manner and steps will be taken to ensure upholding of high ethical standards in the navy so that the good name of the service is not tarnished due to such unbecoming incidents in future.

In today’s world, of an alert mainstream media and an even more observant social media, it is necessary to keep everyone fully informed and updated, promptly and properly, about the progress of the case. Proper press briefings by well-informed officers may help. Navy must also learn to use the social media effectively. These steps of giving authentic information in a timely manner will help obviate rumours and speculation.

Care must be taken to avoid an impression being created that there is something to hide or that matters are being hushed-up or brushed under the carpet. Persons dealing with the media must be honest, candid and forthcoming. 


This is a Navy matter and so this issue must be resolved in an unbiased and transparent manner by the Navy. All sides must be heard and given equitable justice. Justice must be done and more importantly “justice must be seen to be done” to the satisfaction of all stakeholders including the media and citizens of this country.

It will be best if “welfare” organizations like Navy Wives Welfare Association (NWWA) are kept out of the ambit and not allowed to interfere. We do not know the actual facts, but purely on reading the news reports one may draw an inference that the “well-intentioned” amateurish ham-handed intervention by NWWA has boomeranged. NWWA does not have relevant expertise nor does it have any jurisdiction in the Navy Human Resource (HR) Management System and, therefore, NWWA should not have any role to play in the Naval Justice System.


The negative media coverage of this issue has tarnished the good name of the service and hurt the reputation of naval officers. This has happened probably due to inept handling of the situation and letting matters go out of hand.

All eyes are now on the navy leadership. The nation is watching. Let us see how they resolve this issue in a fair, equitable, just and transparent manner in the true traditions of the navy.

Also it is high time for the navy, and sister defence services, to introspect as to why such undesirable news of scams and scandals keeps appearing in the media with alarming frequency. When such negative publicity happens the entire naval community, serving and retired, feel humiliated. I feel that there is an urgent and inescapable need to implement the naval code of ethics throughout the service. I hope the navy ensures superlative conduct within the service and maintains its good image in the eyes of the citizens.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2013
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A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer and blogger. Educated at IIT Delhi, IIT (BHU) Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and an anthology of short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional  and academic research papers in journals and edited in-house journals and magazines for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing and blogging. Vikram Karve lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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Subhash said...

As you rightly mentioned, the merits of case may not be known until a fair appraisal is done, what is disheartening is the media coverage. Actually that is no surprise given the penchant of the media these days to hyperventilate at the slightest infraction and the general ignorance of the journalists concerned in the subject matter. The lesser the people pay attention to these news hounds the quieter this yapping will become.


Vikram Waman Karve said...

@ Subhash,
You are right. The less people pay attention, the less the media attention.
However, I feel that better media relations and prompt media interaction by the navy is a must in today's times to avoid such sensationalism.

Wizzy said...

Do you really expect the media to have ethics??
Our media is ruled by sensationism, gossip and blackmailing tactics. Most news channels are owned or controlled by political parties and indiviuals with vested interests. The so called journos are mediocre people who can be boughts for a few thousand rupees to cover some news WITHOUT ascertaining facts from both sides.
Its best to keep quiet and let things pass because nothing ever comes out of any inquiry. It is merely a tool to buy time till people forget the incident.
There is a lobby of media that is controlled by vested "foreign" interests and is out to malign the name of the ONLY PILLOR of our Democracy that has some standing in the society as an unbiased, morally correct organisation ie the armed forces.
The only way to stop such miscief mongers who spread romours without ascertaining facts or before any investigation is over, is to sue them for a huge amount in a court of law - and who will do that???... Time the armed forces dragged such elements to courts.

Vasu Iyer said...

Very well expressed Vikram.Being a retired Naval officer who has served with pride and honour in tbe fine service , I am totally appalled at the sensationalisation of such false news by the rating hungry media.

Vikram Waman Karve said...

Hi Vasu,
Yes, there is too much sensationalism in the media.
I feel the navy must respond promptly and properly to mitigate such incidents and contain the damage to service reputation.

Vikram Waman Karve said...

@ Wizzy - Thanks for your views. You do have a point. The best way to stop rumor-mongering is to respond promptly and be transparent