Col. Ganesan Satcos-Tamil Web Pages

Ablaze in a Blizzard

Ablaze in a Blizzard - Col.(Retd.) P. Ganesan

Madras Posting & the Promotion

The Madras Posting

I reported to CWE, Chennai in March 1983. Commander Works Engineers (CWE) Chennai was authorised one DCWE and he was there. About 6 months before a civilian officer was attached to CWE, Chennai for some purpose. Since there was no vacancy, the officer could not draw his pay, so special sanction was given to CWE, Chennai for 2 DCWEs. After the officer finished his work he had gone back to his parent unit. But the sanction given was not withdrawn. I was posted in that vacancy. Hence I had literally no work to execute. I started concentrating on my house construction using this leniency. My house site was at Anna Nagar, so I rented a house at Anna Nagar and planned the construction. The plot allotted to me by the Housing Board was 100ft by 51ft. at 943, H Block, 17th Main Road. I had Rs.30,000/- in hand and withdrew Rs.50,000 from my provident fund. With that amount I had planned to construct 1800 sq.ft. house. By the time I completed basement level all the money had been spent and nothing was left except my monthly salary. I wondered whether there could be any progress in construction with the monthly salary of a Major.

My wife and I with our children daily went to the construction site and sit on the basement and started dreaming on how the building was going to come up. Every month after the salary was credited I would buy one load of bricks and few bags of cement and erect 4-5 feet of wall and wait for next month salary. But I never had any self-pity and enjoyed that life also. Once there was heavy rain in Chennai and my construction site was totally under water. But still I went there with my children and started playing in the water and told my children that it was God's gift swimming pool. By Sep-Oct 1983 my promotion board was held and I was approved for promotion to the rank of Lt. Col. I wanted to go back to my Regiment. But another officer was senior to me and waiting for placement. Moreover I had not completed at staff-college. Div. Engineer Regiment CO was a prestigious appointment and hence it was denied to me. There was a vacancy of Lt. Col at Chief Engineer Chennai Zone. But they wanted an experienced officer. As there could be nothing to do, I had applied to HDFC Bank loan and was waiting.

In the meantime I was overnight posted to Delhi in the same appointment as existed at Chief Engineer Chennai zone. There appeared to be a suspicion that I was trying for Madras posting and hence was relieved immediately.

What could be done by me?

The Promotion

Not only I was denied posting to my Regiment but also was not retained at Madras. At that time, I had no money to proceed with the construction. So I exhausted everything and reported to Chief Engineer Delhi zone and assumed appointment as Senior Officer-Grade-1 (S O-1) 0n 09th May 1984. This move helped me in speeding up the HDFC loan and an amount of 50,000 was sanctioned. I took my Annual leave and came back to Chennai. I completed my house up to roof level and returned to Delhi.

The command of engineer Regiment was very prestigious appointment as mentioned earlier. But many officers took this as a green card for their rise to Chief of Army staff and literally sold the Regiment. Because of this nature ill-treating of subordinates was also taking place. Over all there was disturbance in the Regiments and Army HQ ordered a team to go into details and to suggest ways and means to improve the command. Earlier the postings to command were simply based on the profile of the officer with added advantage of staff-college qualifications. This led to unknown officers taking over command and trying to boss over by harassing their team and ultimately failed in command. So the fact finding team recommended that first preference to take command should be given to those officers who had served with them and approved for promotion irrespective of their profile. AHQ ordered to post such officers immediately if they had been denied based on the old policy.

4E R had three officers on promotion panel out of which I and an officer senior to me were approved. Since the present CO 4 E R had not completed his tenure the officer senior to me was given the option whether he would wait to take over 4 E R or accept some other Regiment. Waiting after approval was risk taking as one might get medically disqualified or change of policy. So he opted for other Regiment and moved.

Under such circumstances I was over night to be shifted. At the same time the CO 4 E R was detailed on a special mission and was asked to move immediately. Readers could now see now how the cosmic play demonstrated its power in one's life.

The cosmic force fired the last bullet, and I was posted as commanding officer 4 Engineer Regiment. The Regiment which was formed on 02nd June 1966 ultimately got a commanding officer who was part of the formation team.

The change of event

I had already put on the rank of Lt. Col on 09th May 1984 and was serving as SO-1 under Chief Engineer Delhi Zone. Now I had to move out. To earn a report one had to serve minimum 90 days. Here in Delhi because of my 2 months annual leave and leave of the initiating officer I was not eligible for a report. Hence a non-initiation report was to be initiated. My farewell was arranged as a simple Tea party on 31st October 1984 at about 09.30 hrs. All were waiting for the Chief Engineer to arrive.

At that time PA to CE came running with the news that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was shot by her personal body guard and probably she was dead. There was commotion & confusion and people were running here and there. I thought that this would create a lot of delay in my move and hence I got the relieving order without any Tea party. The news that Indira Gandhi was shot dead by a Sikh bodyguard raged the anger against all Sikh community and hundreds of Sikhs irrespective of their status were brutally murdered. My administrative officer Satnam Singh was poured kerosene and burnt alive. I was stunned to see the change of events.

The Disturbance

All over Delhi, the acts of looting, murdering and killing of Sikh community people were let loose and there appeared to be no law and order. But the Army could not keep watching and within 3-4 days the situation came under control. The Army had arranged a special courier flight AN-12 to Assam on 06th Nov. By that time the present CO 4 E R came to Delhi with 2 escorts as he was to attend a special course. He had handed over the Regiment to the 2nd in command. Since the train journey was totally disturbed he advised me to take the courier flight and took back the escorts also.

So I made arrangements accordingly and left Delhi on 06th Nov and reached Guwahati in the evening. A team of reception party under the Sub. Major had come to the Airport to receive their new Commanding Officer.

On 07th November 1984 I took owe as the 9th Commanding Officer of 4 Engineer Regiment.>/p>

The Regiment was at Tawang in an exercise and of course all the places and activities were not new to me and took over like a fish jumping into deep water.

Let me further dive into memories of the new Commanding Officer of 4E R.

The Command

Many commanding officers sold their Regiments, destroyed the future of few officers and men either to satisfy their ego or someone else ego. Many commanding officers functioned in such a way that the command appointment was a launching pad of their future irrespective of their capabilities. It all depended upon individuals.

As we all know I was not brought up to be an Army officer. I grew up to be a self-motivated individual and highly patriotic. I remembered the story of Raja Deisingh and Mohammed Khan in the battle with Arcot Nawab. Another story was like this; a young man went for soldier's recruitment as the country was facing enemy's threat. His young wife felt proud that her husband was going to fight for their country and bid him best of luck. After a day or two the man came back with drooping head. His wife who was waiting with Arthi asked him what happened. The man said that he was absolutely fit to join and cleared all tests. But he was asked one last question and that reply disqualified him. His wife was looking at him and asked him what was that question.

The last question was, "ARE YOU MARRIED". He said yes and the examiners said that a married man could not give whole heart and soul to his country as he would be thinking of his wife and children and hence rejected.

On hearing this, the more patriotic girl who was standing in front of the young man suddenly pulled the sword hanging in the waist of the man and killed herself and said that now you would go and could tell them that you didn't have your wife alive, hence you could give everything for the country as well! That was the culture I was brought up.


The readers would have observed that 4 Engineer Regt. and even the location Tenga were not new to me. So I started my work as a routine. Though the Regimental location was Tenga as affiliated Engineer Regt of 5 Mountain Division one Field Company was at Sela and another Field Company at Tawang. So I was moving up and down frequently.

A disciplinary case happened in the unit few days before I was joining. One jawan on his way along with a team to operational location (altitude-4770 metre) disappeared and the court of enquiry headed by a Brigadier declared him as a Deserter and closed file came to me for taking action. I called for details. The Field Company moved to Point 4770 for Defence works about a month before. As there was no road to this point it was 2 days marching from road head. There was a resting place midway for night halt. Complete movement including stores was by foot and mules. Working parties to the site and leave party from the site used to go then & there.

Once a party of 5 Jawans started from Tenga for the Pt 4770. They went up to a place near Jang by vehicle and from there started climbing the hill. A sapper by name Murugan was weak and was lagging behind. The team were to carry their own bedding, 7.62 SLR rifle and packed food for a day. By the evening they were near the staging camp and company rep came to meet them. Since Murugan was lagging behind, the company rep was told to go down and help Murugan. The coy rep went down some distance and returned to the staging camp as he could not find Murugan. The team and company rep came down searching for Murugan again and it was getting dark. They reported the matter to company commander and in turn to Brigade HQ. Next day the whole Brigade (3000 personnel) searched for Murugan and not a trace was found. The Div. ordered a court of enquiry and Command of 1 declared Murugan as deserter. The file came to me for tracing out Murugan and to recover Govt. properties like Rifle etc.

I started to go into the case in greater details.

<....The battle continues...>


Promotion to the rank of Lt. Col was the first selection grade and here after all promotions would be on selection only.

The Command of troops in war and peace is very sacred duty in a military officer career. It cannot be compared with any type of jobs. However the end result of a command appointment is the feeling that individual's conscience gives and not the award or reward which comes from spectators. Thousands of men's life and their future would be at CO's disposal. Utilisation of their will and skill for the safety honour and Integrity of this country will be at his hand.