New Delhi, Sept. 28: It goes like (hic, etc!) “The Charge of the Booze Brigade”.
Army headquarters is readying to punish four brigadiers in addition to a major general who was court-martialled and sentenced to three years’ rigorous imprisonment last week on charges of filching army rum.
The punishment of the major general was “exemplary” and was said to signal a crackdown on corruption in the service.
This means that the number of officers worthy of being called “Booze Brigadier” has suddenly quintupled.
In December 2004, the army punished and sacked R.P. Singh on charges of smuggling canteen booze into the open market.
Singh, a 1971 decorated war veteran and the original “Booze Brigadier”, is still contesting the army decision in courts.
The news that there are now four more brigadiers facing similar charges has bureaucrats in South Block’s defence headquarters tittering.
One joint secretary remarked that the army has now grown in strength from a “Booze Brigadier” to a “Booze Brigade”.
Bureaucrats and senior army officers rarely have compliments to pay each other in private. The bureaucrats control the purse strings, complain army officers, when they do not know how to fight.
The army officers, the bureaucrats shoot back snidely, are better off chasing militants in the jungles than in budgeting because they will spend the cash on — guess what — liquid explosives.
The four brigadiers who are to face disciplinary action were all serving under Major General Gur Iqbal Singh Multani, the commanding officer of the Bareilly-headquartered 6 division.
He was sentenced last week after a court martial found him guilty of parcelling two truckloads of army whisky, rum and beer to his hometown in Punjab.
The brigadiers now being lined up for punishment commanded the four brigades in the division.
All are not guilty of the same charge, a source in army headquarters said.
The decision on what punishment will be meted out to each of them will vary.
Two are said to have arranged supplies of liquor or of cash to the cashiered major general.
Two others are likely to be let off with lighter charges because of the impression that they were simply acting on the orders of a superior officer.
At the time the case came up for hearing, army booze was estimated to be about 40 per cent cheaper than the price in the open market.
The court of inquiry has found that there is reason to indict the brigadiers.
Army headquarters is yet to decide whether the disciplinary action will involve court martial or whether it will stop at administrative action.