Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Humor in Uniform – “Northern” Naval Command

A Spoof


Many years ago  in the 1970– when I was “greenhorn Subbie” in the Navy  we had a senior who possessed a delightful sense of humour.

He would keep us regaled with his amusing observations and witty comments  sometimes laced with delicious incisive barbs and sharp satiric wit.

This witty raconteur was a true sea-dog  and whenever he spoke everyone listened with rapt attention.

Once during our customary make-and-mend elbow bending beer session in the wardroom he asked us: “How many commands are there in the Navy?”

“There are 3 Naval Commands  Western, Eastern and Southern Naval Commands,” we all answered in unison  referring to the 3 Naval Commands  Western, Eastern and Southern Naval Commands  which were the sentinels of the Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean respectively  the waters around the three seaboards surrounding the Indian peninsula.

“You are wrong – there are 4 Commands in the Navy,” the sea-dog said, “you have forgotten the most important Naval Command – the Northern Naval Command’...”

“The Northern Naval Command...?” we asked in surprise.

“Yes. The Northern Naval Command at Delhi. You will understand what I am saying when you grow senior in service,” he said  and he suddenly downed his glass of beer down-the-hatch and walked off.

Later when I was posted to Delhi  I understood what the old sea-dog” had meant.

Indeed there seemed to be more naval “brass” in landlocked Delhi  than on the high seas  or on the sea shores.

There were a large number of “landlubber sailors” who spent most of the naval career pushing files in Delhi  rather than sailing on the high seas.

These officers did go for sea tenures  but they just did the minimum specified sea-time required for promotion  and soon were back at their desks in Delhi.

Career-wise  these Delhi-Centric Sailors” did much better than the true-blue sailors slogging it out at sea  or working hard in naval dockyards on the seashores. 

If you were in Delhi  you were in the “know of things” – and it was easier for you to “work” the system and get yourself promoted.

For all you know  if this Delhi Centric trend continues  a day may come when the number of Navy Admirals sitting in Delhi may outnumber the number of Admirals posted all over in the rest of India 

(Maybe this is already true  especially after the implementation of AVS Part 2 Bonanza – which created a large number of Flag Rank vacancies – most of them in Delhi)

I realized that the power centre of the Navy was in Delhi  and sailors at sea did not matter much.

As I said  if you were in Delhi you were in the “know of things”.

To me  it seemed to be a “Delhi-Centric” Navy. 

The fact that the navy is associated with the sea was almost forgotten by these “Delhi-Centric Sailors” – since the blue sea was a long way off almost two thousand kilometres away from landlocked Delhi

The Navy fights its wars at sea – but – in peacetime – more internal conflicts, internecine battles and turf wars are fought in the power corridors of Delhi.

Also – what we found most amazing (and amusing) was the metamorphosis in senior officers when they got posted to Delhi. 

The same formidable fearsome “Tigers” who roared at junior officers and sailors on ships acted like servile timid sheep” in front of civilian babus and it was pathetic to see them grovelling even before section officers to get a file cleared (since their ACRs depended on it).

Soon –  I realized that this Delhi-Centrism applied not only the Navy but almost everything in India seemed to be “Delhi-Centric”.

Yes –  India is an increasingly Delhi-Centric Country even now.

Look at the electronic media, for example. 

Just switch on any mainstream news channel on your TV – and you will see how Delhi-Centric the news coverage is.

Delhi gets top priority in each and everything – sports, modernization, transportation, medical facilities, education etc – all schemes start from Delhi  whereas most of the intended beneficiaries may be located in remote areas of the hinterland.

This Delhi-Centric thinking seems to be the reason for many of our shortcomings and deficiencies.

Let us take the example of ex-servicemen (Military Veterans).

Whereas most of our soldiers come from rural areas  all Ex-Servicemen Facilities are concentrated in Delhi.

Retired Soldiers (ex-servicemen) are entitled to many benefits.

However most of these benefits remain on paper and cannot be availed of by the intended beneficiaries.

This is because most ex-servicemen live in villages and towns in rural or moffusil areas  and they have no access to the various facilities created for ex-servicemen like CSD Canteens, ECHS Hospitals, Social Amenities, Housing Schemes, Welfare Programs, Re-employment, Rehabilitation etc.

But if you live in Delhi  you have the best of CSD Canteens and Top Class Medical Facilities at the most modern Military Hospitals at your disposal. 

Since the decision making is centralized in Delhi  obviously the administration will be Delhi Centric.

If you live in Delhi you can avail of various Social Amenities, Ex Servicemen’s Housing Schemes and other welfare facilities since most of these are concentrated in the Delhi National Capital Region (NCR)

Even while serving  it is better to be posted in Delhi (or belong to Delhi) because you can get many things done through the “Delhi Network”.

Let me give you one more example of Delhi-Centrism.

I am of an academic bent of mind.

Long back  around 35 years ago in the early 1980 when I was posted in Delhi  I became a life member of an Academic/Professional Service Institution called the United Service Institution of India (USI).

USI  located in Delhi  had an excellent library which I fully made use of since I was an avid reader – and – I also attended many lectures, seminars and academic events organised by USI in Delhi.

After that  I was never posted to Delhi again  and my only connection with this august institution is the quarterly USI journal they send me by post.

The USI organises a number of academic events, lectures, seminars and has excellent facilities for study, research and recreation  but despite being a life member  I am deprived of the same since you can enjoy these events and facilities only if you live in Delhi.

Defence Services officers  serving and retired  live all over India.

So  I wrote to the USI a number of times asking them to open regional centres and organise events in other places too.

Sadly – I got no reply  and the USI continues to be purely Delhi-Centric.

It looks like living in Delhi makes you swollen headed too – your thinking becomes so Delhi-Centric that you care a damn about the rest of India.

I have realised that the Defence Services are getting more and more Delhi-Centric day by day – just count the number of Generals, Admirals and Air Marshals posted in Delhi – just see the Defence Facilities in Delhi NCR – and you will understand what I mean.

DELHI-CENTRISM  The Bane of India

Delhi has the best social infrastructure and excellent transport facilities like the Metro, the Best Airport and the best Railway connectivity. 

But the same cannot be said of most other cities of India.

Seeing the advantages of staying in Delhi vis-à-vis other places  I wish I had settled down in Delhi-NCR after my retirement as many of my friends and colleagues have.

This lopsided Delhi-Centric approach is having ramifications in other areas like politics too.

Centralizing and focusing on Delhi and neglecting other parts of the country has caused a sense of alienation  which has led to the rise of many regional and local political parties  and this splintering may not augur well for the unity of the nation as a whole in the long run. 

Maybe this Delhi-Centric mindset is a result of years of feudal administrative system and colonial rule which were exercised from the seat of power in Delhi.

The increasing disparity due to Delhi-Centrism is causing migration towards the relatively prosperous Delhi from impoverished rural areas and leading to increasing urbanization of India  which may not be a good thing in the long run. 

Delhi is the capital of India  and it can be understood that a capital must get priority  but the imbalance and disparity is too much and the gap is increasing day by day. 

This inequity causes alienation. 

To alleviate this problem  the rest of the country must be developed too.

What is the solution? 

Well – let me relate an anecdote which happened in the early 1980s.


Around 33 years ago  when I was posted in Delhi  I remember a senior bureaucrat who used to keep saying: 

“I will not entertain any DELHI-CENTRIC Proposals...”

He belonged to a Southern State and he was quite unhappy at being posted to Delhi  unlike most others who wanted to be in Delhi for all their lives.

Luckily  I had taken to him a project proposal which did not pertain to Delhi.

In fact – the project was in his home state.

He was delighted  and he recommended it with alacrity.

I think that is the answer to correct the imbalance:


Yes – let there be no more Delhi-Centrism  at least for the time being till those other underdeveloped parts of the country develop to a reasonable level.

Do you agree?

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1. This article is a spoof, satire, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
2. All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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