Corps of Signals 100th Anniversary
1911 - 2011

Photographs and Report on 14th Reunion at Jablapur: 13- 15 Feb 2011

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Remembering Lt Gen Balaram: Scarcely one sees a Signal of officer of his calibre

A true Role Model for the youth of the Nation
Maj Gen Balaram succeeded Maj Gen Mohinder Singh as Commandant Defence Services Staff College (DSSC) Wellington in 1982 soon after we reported for the staff course. Maj Gen Mohinder Singh used to run DSSC with a firm hand. For mid career young officers it was a great achievement to be selected for the course and a feather in one's cap to be graded DS (Directing Staff) material. Gen Mohinder Singh's legacy was that officers must be taught to obey rules and regulations scrupulously and any deviation or slackness would invite adverse comment / negative marking. The introductory talk by the BGS to us was overawing. It was the jewel which crowned the very surgically precise joining instructions which we had received earlier. Constantly improved over years of feedback and experience, the DSSC joining instructions are a role-model of outstanding staff work and minor SDs. Everything in them is well thought out. Detailed instructions & guidelines are articulated in well formed centre headings, group and para headings, using words & language which leaves no room for doubt.
The list of Donts spelt out by the BGS in his welcoming speech was exhaustive. It made us white uniform walllahs sit up and re-think whether we were really going to enjoy a year's sabbatical from the navy. We had all dreamt of a welcome break from the tough navy life and a year of regular family life in the exotic surroundings of a beautiful, quaint old hill station in the Nilgiris where time is reported to stand still.
Soon we began to reminisce about our initial days at NDA and about taut army discipline once again You see, the naval service is quite informal in many respects. One does not have to stand to attention all the time while speaking to senior officers; passing salutes are generally exchanged only upto noon and when they are, it is not necessary that you have a cap on your head, and so on. The coastal climate does not encourage one to invest in three-piece suits or many silk Saree's for the spouse....We felt a wee bit stifled at regimented routine and the lack of creative freedom.
But our fears were short-lived. Maj Gen Balaram came on to the scene without a swagger and swatch. A quiet unassuming, studious looking senior officer, he quietly observed the daily life for a couple of days and then made an unforgettable speech which showed how humane and perceptive he was. We took our seats in the main auditorium well before the appointed time, decked in our Sunday best, dreading what was to come. Though young in service, we were well-aware that traditionally a new hand at the helm always meant an across-the board tightening-up in any service. There was an unusual silence as we awaited the customary pep talk and a pronouncement of a fresh list of dos & don ts by the new commandant.

But what he said that evening remains forever etched in my memory. He spoke in fatherly terms and advised us to make use of the opportunity to spend a year with our family in that wonderful place to renew bonds with family and make new friends. He advised us to study hard, think creatively, question the 'greens' (the staff solutions) and come up with better ones. In our spare times we should play hard and utilise the recreational facilities of the institution to the fullest. He told us that our Directing Staff were mature senior officers who knew how to recognise the potential in us and that we should not be too-conscious of our gradings by them. We should consider them our gurud who were there to guide us to develop skills and abilities to become assets as future staff officers in higher formations.

He informed us that recognising that we were all fairly senior and mature officers, he had issued a specific directive to his staff earlier in the day. The staff were there to assist and guide us to develop our full potential. Henceforth, they were required to minimise the burden and routine chores of 'personal adm' from our shoulders so that we could devote our energies to the primary task of studying. He streamlined the requisitioning of transport to ferry the sick and the womenfolk from far off residential areas like Gorkha Hills and ensured easy access to medical facilities for the families so that we did not have to absent from class for these purposes. The doorstep supply of service rations and daily necessities from the market (Needs, near MRC) etc etc also became well organised and left the men-folk with more time and energy to think and turn in better solutions.
Above all (and this was a stunner) he said he had issued instructions that no one in the college had the power to say 'No' to the mature and responsible officers undergoing staff course. The buck for turning down a request for a sudden trip to Coimbatore to receive a family member, to take a couple of days leave to see an ailing parent, to requisition transport etc etc stopped at the Commandant's desk. If you got a No, it meant that it was his considered decison as head of our family and must be obeyed. All other officers of the DSSC had the power only to say YES and with that was implied their responsibility to ensure that students never faced problems - personal or professional.
It was a great thought. We worked hard and we played hard. Personally, I felt that the overall quality of our professional output notched up many times.
I practiced his philosophy about the power to say no in subsequent life and always had good results. It was a facet of leadership that he had passed on to us.
In the evening of his life sometimes I met Gen Balaram in a seminar or in the lawns of the Delhi Gymkhana Club. It was always an honour to re-introduce myself every time and to thank him for that unforgettable year in DSSC. Ever the courteous and caring senior officer, he never forgot to enquire about my well-being and about my family as if he knew them. Though in failing health himself, he always said that although he was not sure what he could do for me, I should feel free to call on my former commandant for a helping hand.
If memory serves me right, once after his retirement he was hand-picked by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to personally assess the ground truth and give her a factual account of what had happened in Orissa - I seem to recall that it was a case of starvation deaths or atrocities on dalits and that the administration was trying to cover it up. She probably trusted the General's sense of fairplay and his integrity to put in a true report of the reality as he saw it.
As a naval officer I salute my old commandant. I am fortunate that I got a chance to meet him. May his soul rest in peace and may his spirit guide us to develop our faculties for original and creative thinking. Perhaps I may yet invent a follow-on to the famous Balaram aerial!
Best regards,
Arun
(Cdr Arun Saigal)

Is there any Serving Signal Officer of his Calibre?
Lt General Balaram was only vice chancellor of the oldest university of Haryana who practised austerity and bridled the unbridled in the university whether in the teaching fraternity or in the categories of employees. He was the administrator who suspended an IAS Registrar Rajiv Arora and got his almirahs broke open in his absence where some important files were locked, just a few days before the expiry of his three year tenure. The Fauji Balaram was the VC who denied access to university auditorium to the then Prime Minister late Chander Shekhar who was to address a workers rally in the presence of the then Haryana CM Om Prakash Chautala. Although the District Magistrate used his special powers and acquisited the auditorium. The hand-over and take-over was done by the junior officers of the university and the district administration. Unlike today's vice chancellors in the country, Lt. General Balaram made his way to Delhi to attend a meeting and did not bother even to receive the PM at the helipad in the university sports grounds itself.

Balaram used to walk to his office and back on Thursdays during the Iran-Iraq war to save petrol, a call given by the union ministry those days. He could venture sliding beneath his official car to repair it during the lunch break and then board it after stretching his safari suit which could be seen with torn stitches under the cockpits. He never availed any free medicines from the University Health centre , rather he was the VC who paid a cheque of five thousand rupees to the university in lieu of the reimbursement of medical bills despite the repeated requests to the contrary from the then SMO Dr Mrs S Maleyvar.

He was so popular amongst teaching fraternity and also amongst employees that on his retirement, a ceremonial departure was performed by pulling the ropes tied to his car and a send-off was given at the Oasis at Karnal after which his convoy was escorted upto Delhi by the representatives of teachers and employees. His last words of advice to the university people were : 'Save this prestigious university from unscrupulous people if you can, let it flourish to blossom fully
Lt Gen Balaram

4 comments:

  1. 1.RESTORATION OF COMMUTATION AFTER 13 YEARS:
    THE PURCHASE VALUE IS RECOVERED IN 12 YEARS ,HENCE FULL PENSION BE RESTORED AFTER 12 YEARS[ LIKE STATE GOVERNMENT]KERALA HIGH COURT PASSED JUDGEMENT OF RESTORATION OF PENSION AFTER 13 VIDE OP NO: 2448 OF 1996. KINDLY ISSUE IMPLEMENTATION LETTER WITHOUT DELAY
    2.ADDITIONAL ENHANCED PENSION TO COMMENCE FROM 65 YEARS:
    THE COMMENCEMENT OF ENHANCED PENSION IS 80 YEARS,WHICH IS INCORRECT. THE LIFE EXPECTANCY IS TAKEN AS 67 YEARS BY GOVERNMENT THAN FULL PENSION SHOULD COMMENCE FROM 65 YEARS,WITH 10 % INCREASE EVERY 5 YEARS SPAN.
    3.MERGER OF DR ON ATTAINING DA SLAB OF 50% AS WAS IN 5th CPC
    4.DA SHOULD NOT BE TAXED:
    IT IS UNJUSTIFIED. BY TAXING DA EMPLOYEES ARE DENIED THEIR LEGITIMATE RIGHT TO FIGHT INFLATION
    5.STANDARD DEDUCTION REINTRODUCTION : IT WAS APPLICABLE FOR SIX DECADES BUT WAS TAKEN AWAY BY EX FM PC.IT IS UNJUST AND UNDEMOCRATIC AND SHOULD BE RE-INTRODUCED
    6.PAY COMMISSION EVERY 5 YEARS ;
    EARLY SETTING OF PAY COMMISSION PAY COMMISSION W.E.F 1/1/2011 THAT IS EVERY 5 YEARS:
    PSU HAVE PAY REVISION EVERY 5 YEARS ,SAME SHOULD BE FOR GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES AS
    INFLATION GALLOPS QUITE FAST
    7.GOVERNMENT SHOULD NOT FILE APPEAL AGAINST CAT DECISIONS:
    PENSIONER ARE OLD & SICK .ONCE CAT HAS GIVEN ANY RULING IN FAVOUR OF PENSIONERS THAN GOVERNMENT SHOULD NOT APPEAL. BE FRIENDLY TO PENSIONER.
    8.IIMPLEMENT CAT DECISION OA 655 - 2010 OF 1/1/2011 IN FAVOUR OF PRE-2006 ;
    IT SHOULD BE IMPLEMENTED FORTHWITH & GOVERNMENT SHOULD WITH DRAW APPEAL.
    9. ONE RANK ONE PENSION ;LETTER OF IMPLEMENTATION BE ISSUED WITHOUT ANY DELAY.
    10.PENSION IS DEFERRED WAGE:
    HENCE ALL ALLOWANCE APPLICABLE TO SERVING SHOULD BE GIVEN TO PENSIONER TOO LIKE HRA,TRANSPORT,CHILDREN,LTC EXTRA DEPENDING UPON BASIC PENSION OF PENSIONER
    11.PROVIDE BASIC INCOME TAX EXEMPTION TO SENIOR CITIZEN UP TO 5 LACS;
    IN FY 2004-05 SR CITIZEN WERE GETTING TAX BENEFIT TO TUNE OF RS 20000/ AS COMPARED TO OTHER CITIZENS,IN 2005-2006 OTHERS WERE RAISED TO IOOOOO & SR TO 185000 SO ACTUAL RELIEF CAME TO 12000 INSTEAD OF 20000.THERE AFTER REDUCED FURTHER EVERY YEAR & NOW DIFFERENCE IS ONLY 5000.
    THIS YEAR RELIEF INCREASED TO OTHERS BY 20000 AND ZERO TO SENIOR CITIZEN.COMPARISON TO 2004-2005 FOOD INFLATION HAS GONE 5 TIMES & MEDICAL 7 TIMES.HENCE GOVERNMENT PROVIDE TAX EXEMPTION AS 5 LACS
    12.PENSION TO BE 75 % OF BASIC PAY ;
    INDIAN ARMY IS ON DESIGN OF BRITISH ARMY. TILL 1955 ARMY PENSION WAS ON SAME LINE. BUT CIVIL BABU'S TOOK IT AWAY. IT SHOULD BE RESTORED AND BE PAID AS PAR WITH BRITISH COUNTER
    PART i.e 75 %
    13 UN FORTUNATELY NO ONE LOOKS AFTER PENSIONER WELFARE & PRESENT DAY SERVING FORGET THAT THEY TOO WILL RETIRE & FACE AGONY

    WITH BEST WISHES & WARM REGARDS

    COL LAMBA

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