"Steal from the Solder" is a story that appeared in the recent issue (dated Aug 27, 2008) of Outlook magazine, India's leading news magazine. It just made me feel so much better when I read it.
I used to go for practice runs inside Leh, during the run up to the GTM marathon and would regularly bump into Army jawans. Some of these guys were interested in distance running, and I would ask them why they were not participating in GTM, as I am sure the organisers would be more than willing to encourage them to participate (in return for some support on logistics & medical front). But these guys told us that they would not get any leave for these kind of things and that the Jawans were not encouraged to take up these activities (And then I realised that its only the Officers who are given facilities, support and concessions, to take up active sport during their army stint, the poor Jawan has no god fathers).
But during one of our discussions with these Jawans they also mentioned that most of the stuff esp. butter and Ghee (hydrogenated oil)and fresh vegetables sold in the Leh markets was pilfered goods (diverted to the open markets by high ranking officials of Army to make a quick buck) and that this has been continuing for years. He actually asked to visit the market and to check the food stuff that was being sold (as it would carry a stamp that its meant for military supplies) and to my horror it was true. I also noticed that lot of army jackets, shoes, etc were being sold through proper shops in Leh (and I ended up blaming the Jawans, assuming that they would have sold their new gear to supplement their meager income). But after reading the article in Outlook I realised that the equipment and gear being sold in the market was not through these poor Jawans, it is the high ranking officials (from the army) who are doing it.
When I heard about the sale of supplies meant for the army being sold in the open market, I felt so responsible for not allowing it to continue this way and especially being a part of the media industry, I felt this deserved a sting operation. But, when I returned from my Ladakh trip, this somehow slipped my mind (and I did not end up talking about it to any of my print and/or broadcast jurno friends, to check if such a story would interest them). Guess its so very convenient for all of us to forget these things. The Outlook story mentions that raids where conducted by Local police in Leh to unearth the massive scam which is to the tune of Rs.5000 cores (10 million makes a crore) and that the Army was cooperating fully with investigations. Nice to see that we still have systems in place to check these kind of activities and everything does not have to depend on sting operations or media to be unearthed.