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Saturday, 31 May 2008

From Today's Papers - 01 Jun

Drunk jawans in jail for abduction

Guwahati/Jorhat, May 31: Five Assam Rifles jawans were arrested on charges of abducting a girl in Jorhat after high drama in the heart of the town past midnight.

As news of the incident spread like wildfire through the town this morning, activists of the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad gheraoed the main police station and staged demonstrations at several places, demanding stringent action against the jawans.

The five jawans, identified as Debendra Singh, Rajnish Kumar, Amrit Kumar, Harpal Singh and Suresh Raita, were sent to judicial custody after being produced in court.

Jorhat superintendent of police Deepak Choudhury said the jawans, who were in uniform, were waiting near a link road to the railway station at Dohaborachuck in a white Maruti Gypsy last night.

They were allegedly drunk and chased three girls and a boy who were returning home from a Bihu function around 11.30pm. “While two girls and the boy managed to escape, the jawans caught hold of the third girl and picked her up in the vehicle before speeding away along the Jorhat-Mokokchung road,” Choudhury added.

However, the driver lost control of the vehicle on a speed-breaker near the Buddhist monastery at Rajabari, about 3km from the abduction site, and the vehicle turned turtle. No one was critically injured and the girl managed to escape in the commotion. She took shelter in a house by the roadside.

Sensing trouble, the jawans got the vehicle back on its wheels and sped away.

A stallowner, Bibhuti Bhusan Adhyapak, who had withnessed the abduction, rushed to a police station. The police sealed all the entry and exit points to the town and gave chase. The jawans took a U-turn at Cinnamara when they saw a police checkpost ahead. They started fleeing towards their transit camp at Nephabari through a link road via Lichubari.

A police patrol, led by additional superintendent of police Mukul Saikia, accosted the vehicle near Assam Agricultural University. The jawans gave in, but not before a verbal duel with the police.

“They were put through a medical test and brought to the police station,” the Jorhat SP said. They were produced in the court of chief judicial magistrate S. Dey today and have been booked under Sections 34 (collective crime with a common intention), 366 (kidnapping) and 354 (criminal outrage of women) of IPC.

“I was so scared. I have been through hell,” the young girl, in her early twenties, told The Telegraph between sobs. “A hand clamped down on my mouth, cutting of my screams, and another pair of hands took hold of my legs, lifting me into the vehicle.”

The girls are from Sivasagar district and stay in Atiliagaon, half-a-km from the site of the incident, and study paramedics at Jorhat Civil Hospital. The boy studies there, too. An official at the Assam Rifles base in Jorhat said the jawans had illegally left the camp with the official vehicle. “They were on transit from Arunachal Pradesh to Manipur and had been put up at the Assam Rifles camp.” He said a departmental inquiry would be conducted.

The Jorhat SP said the jawans would be treated like ordinary criminals. “The Assam Rifles has also asked us to treat them like ordinary criminals,” he added.

IAF returns to highest airfield after 43 years
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 31
The IAF activated the world’s highest airfield, Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO), when an AN-32 from Chandigarh touched down on the unpaved airstrip today. This is the first time that a fixed-wing aircraft landed at DBO in 43 years.

Operations by transport aircraft from DBO will give a much-needed boost to providing logistic support to troops deployed in the forward regions in the Aksai Chin Sector. It would also enable troops to be airlifted out at regular intervals since roads and communication network in that area is very poor.

“At present, air maintenance is through helicopters, which are slower and have lesser payload carrying capacity or airdrops by AN-32, Air Marshal P.K. Barbora, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Air Command who was onboard the trial sortie, said. “After the successful first landing, we would be carrying out a study on how to optimise this new-found capability,” he added.

Stating that it was a pre-planned operation that had been conceived some time ago, he ruled out the possibility of any current international developments being the reason for this mission.

Located at an altitude of 16,200 feet near the strategic Karakoram Pass, just about 10 km from the Sino-Indian Line of Actual Control, DBO is an important Army forward post which links with the ancient Silk Route to China. The airstrip was build during the 1962 Sino-Indian conflict and three-engined Packets operated from DBO from 1962 to 1965.

Gp Capt S.C. Chafekar, Commanding Officer of 48 Squadron that undertook the mission, said extreme altitude and temperature were the major challenges they faced. Engine performance deteriorates in rarified air. “We touched down at 6.20 a.m. when the temperature was minus 8 degrees. We kept the engines running during our brief halt in case they failed to start up later,” he said.

Besides Group Captain Chafekar, the crew comprised Wg Cdr M.B. Aserkar, Wg Cdr S.K. Verma, Wg Cdr A. Ray and JWO R.N. Verma. “From terrain to the weather, the mission was full of challenges,” Gp Capt Chafekar said. “Extensive planning had gone into the mission and we were prepared for the worst-case scenario like the aircraft skidding on the runway or not being able to stop within the space available,” he added. The strip was 6,000 feet long whereas the ideal length required under the conditions was 10,000 feet.

General Officer Commanding 14 Corps, Lieut-Gen V.K. Ahluwalia said it was a Herculean effort by Army troops as well as ITBP personnel to prepare the landing strip for operations within two months. He said the achievement was a great morale booster particularly as troops could be airlifted now. Last year troops could not proceed on leave for several months at a stretch, as roads were inaccessible.

Regular operations to DBO are expected to commence by October this year. In winters, air maintenance is the sole means to sustain troops in that region. Since DBO is situated in a bowl, it would have little snow cover, enabling frequent sorties in winters. In winters, an AN-32 could ferry in over four tonnes of load and carry out 1.5 tonnes on the return journey.

NDA prepares cadets for modern wars
Adds Chinese, nuclear physics in syllabi
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Pune, May 31
Preparing the armed forces for possible battles in the future, the National Defence Academy (NDA) has changed the focus of its curriculum. The cadets are now taught foreign languages, including Chinese, besides subjects like nuclear physics, hydro-graphics and aerodynamics alongside other subjects.

All changes have been introduced in the past year or two. The change has come about after an expert committee recommended the shift in curriculum to bring in aspects that are more suited for the needs of the armed forces. The learning of Chinese language is of course due to the growing needs to keep abreast with the developments in China that has emerged as a major military power.

Nuclear physics and aerodynamics are needed when sophisticated missiles and ammunition are fired that are operated on computer-based systems. A virtual battle field that will have a high degree of automation and reliance on computer aids is going to be the next type war.

Commandant of the NDA Air Marshal T.S Randhawa said the changes in the curriculum had been made after the academic study review had a look at the syllabus. The group had professors from Jawaharlal Nehru University and also senior officers of the armed forces. The first half of the three-year course at the NDA is now devoted to academics while the second half has the focus on service subjects i.e. subjects that are oriented towards the armed forces and their needs in real time battle situations.

The process of giving laptops and providing on-campus connectivity is on. The boys will be able to just plug in their respective laptops in their classrooms and use them. These have been specially designed keeping in mind the needs of the cadets, said the Commandant.

Air Marshall Randhawa said they were getting cadets who were not very physically active before joining the NDA and it took some months to bring them to a level of physical activity and hone their abilities. He said till some years ago the boys coming into the NDA used to be active and had played sports in their hometowns.

However, the NDA cadets continue to meet the same standards as before there was no downgrading. He allayed fears that there was a shortfall in the number cadets joining the NDA. The academy was short of about 45 cadets at present, but this was a normal phenomenon. Every year there was a shortfall in January, however, in June this was covered up. Like this June, some 400 new cadets would be joining as against the quota of 300, he added.

On girl cadets at the NDA, the commandant said, “We should have girl cadets, however, no decision has been conveyed”.

Pakistan Permitted to Inspect Baglihar Dam: Official

by Muhammad Najeeb

India has agreed to Pakistan's request to inspect the Baglihar dam project in Jammu and Kashmir and the dates for this will be worked out soon, a Pakistani official said Saturday.

"The dates for the inspection will be worked out soon," the official told IANS after the first session of the four-day 100th meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) here.

There was, however, no confirmation of this from the Indian side.

Going into the meeting, G. Aranga Nathan, who is heading the 11-member Indian delegation, said the Baglihar project was not included in the agenda.

"We have a set agenda and would be going according to it," he told reporters.

His Pakistani counterpart Syed Jamaat Ali Shah agreed that it was not on the agenda but maintained that any issue can be brought up for discussion by either side.

"We are looking forward to taking up the Bghaliar issue in this meeting," Shah said.

The first session of the meeting concluded with both the sides expressing their satisfaction over the progress they had made. The meeting began with officials of the two sides cutting a cake to mark the 100th meeting of the commission.

The Pakistani official said both sides expressed their satisfaction over the exchange of information regarding flood alerts and other water related issues.

The PIC, a permanent commission between Pakistan and India, was established with the help of the World Bank after the 1960 Water Treaty between the two neighbours.

At least one annual review meeting of the commission is mandatory but on many occasions, the two sides have met more than once a year.

The meeting will continue till June 3 and the Indian delegation is expected to leave for home the same evening.

The Baglihar hydropower-cum-water storage project is being built on the Chenab river tht flows from Kashmir into Pakistan.

"The Pakistani team will urge the Indian side to give an exact date for inspection of the Baglihar project to determine whether or not the work is under way in accordance with the decision of the World Bank appointed neutral expert last year," said the Pakistani official.

Pakistan has raised concerns on the design of the project and sought modification on freeboard, level of power intakes, poundage and spillway.

After India's refusal to modify the design, Pakistan in 2006 sought mediation by the World Bank, which appointed Raymond Lafitte as a neutral expert to review the project and examine Pakistan's concerns.

In his Feb 12, 2007 report, Lafitte said that the Indian calculation on freeboard was inaccurate and said India should set the crust level at the lowest. He, however, rejected other objections by Pakistan saying India can go ahead with the construction of the project.

He directed India to reduce the freeboard by 33 percent from 4.5 metres to 3 metres.

While both sides claimed victory after the Lafitte report, Pakistan has been saying that it needs to inspect the project to determine if the expert's decision is being implemented.

"Now we want to ensure that the design is being modified and will be commissioned under instruction by the expert," the Pakistani official told IANS.

IAF Revives World's Highest Airstrip
after 43 Years

Leh (Jammu and Kashmir)
The Indian Air Force (IAF) Saturday achieved a major strategic feat when it landed an AN-32 aircraft at the Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) airstrip - the highest airstrip in the world.

The strategic airstrip, in the inhospitable Ladakh district in Jammu and Kashmir, is located close to the Line of Actual Control (LOAC) with China near the Aksai Chin area.

"History repeated itself when an Indian Air Force fixed wing aircraft (AN-32) landed at DBO, the highest landing airstrip in the world at 6.30 a.m. This is a twin-engine aircraft landing at DBO after a gap of 43 years," Air Marshal P.K. Barbora, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief (AOC-in-C), Western Air Command, announced.

Regular operations by AN-32 class of aircraft will be initiated in due course of time, Barbora said.

The crew members of the historic flight were Group Capt S.C. Chafekar, Wing Commander M. Aserkar, Wing Commander S. Verma, Wing Commander A. Ray and junior warrant officer R. Verma.

"The advanced landing ground (ALG), where the aircraft landed, has an unpaved surface and is located in the Aksai Chin area at a height of 16,200 feet (4,960 metres) near the strategic Karakoram Pass and very close to the Line of Actual Control with China," an IAF official said.

DBO is an important army forward area post on the ancient silk route to China. This base was built during the Sino-Indian conflict in 1962. Packet aircraft of the IAF operated from DBO between 1962 and 1965. In 1966, an earthquake caused some loosening of the surface soil, making this base unfit for further fixed wing aircraft operations.

The decision to re-activate the airstrip was made earlier this year during Barbora's visit to forward bases in Ladakh. The army and the IAF got down to repairing the airstrip and completed the job within months.

Landing at DBO will not only enable India to induct troops and improve its communication network, but also help in supplying the troops positioned there.

IANS | May 31, 2008

Antony faints at passing-out parade
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Pune, May 31
Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony today fainted during the passing out parade at the well laid out National Defence Academy at Khadakwasla. He collapsed twice within a span of a couple of minutes just as the impressive ceremony, during which 286 cadets passed out, was about to culminate.

After he collapsed, Antony, 68, had to be lifted from the parade ground by senior officers. He then stood near his car and watched the conclusion of the ceremony. Later, Antony was taken to the military hospital on the campus for treatment.

The minister is out of danger, said Col (Dr) Deepak Bahadur while briefing reporters about Antony’s condition. The minister’s scheduled interaction with the media was cancelled and the doctors put him under observation. Antony was latter referred to the Cardiac Trauma Centre at the Command Hospital, Pune.

The NDA is celebrating its diamond jubilee this year. Cadet Yamnam Romen Singh from a rural area of Manipur was awarded the President’s Gold Medal, indicating a shift towards cadets from the Northeast doing well at the NDA. The ceremony was witnessed by parents and families of the cadets besides senior officers of the Southern Command based in Pune.

About 14 cadets from Tajakistan and Bhutan also passed out today. The NDA has also witnessed a demographic shift as the number of cadets from rural background is rising. Last year, 25 per cent of the 296 cadets taken in were from the rural areas. About 10 years ago, the average used to be just 3 per cent while the urban cadets formed a large chunk.

Meanwhile, Colonel Bahadur blamed the minister’s condition on fatigue and lack of sleep coupled with a grueling schedule he had been keeping for the past few days. He returned from Berlin yesterday morning and was working through the day only to reach Pune past midnight and was at the parade at 7 am.

Minutes before his medical emergency, Antony had inspected the parade and told cadets that the government was aware of the tough service conditions and other problems. Several measures had been taken to bring about improvements, including new accommodation facilities and liberalised leave rules. The quality of life would be better, he promised.

Afghan army team visits IMA
Dehra Dun:
A 24-member Afghanistan Army Senior Command and Staff College delegation visited the Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehra Dun. The delegation led by Afghanistan Army Major-General Mohammad Zaman Waziri and other senior officers reached the IMA on Saturday. The team was briefed regarding the military training and other related activities carried out at the IMA. The delegation watched the movie “Making of the Warrior” at the Chetwode Hall and thereafter they drove around the academy campus. — TNS

Antony collapses at NDA parade, condition stable

Antony collapses at NDA parade, condition stable

Indo-Asian News Service

Saturday, May 31, 2008 (Pune)

Defence Minister AK Antony collapsed while taking the salute at the passing out parade at the National Defence Academy (NDA) in Pune on Saturday but quickly revived and insisted on staying on till the event ended.

He was then shifted to hospital, where his condition was described as stable.

The cadets of the 114th course were marching past when Antony suddenly slumped into a chair on the saluting dais. He got up but then fell onto the dais. An army officer immediately ran up and carried him to his car parked nearby.

By then, Antony had recovered and insisted on returning to the dais, where NDA commandant Air Marshal TS Randhawa had quickly taken the defence minister's place to ensure there was no interruption in the parade.

Antony ignored repeated pleas of doctors to get into the car and did so only after the last contingent had marched off the parade ground.

He was then taken to the Military Hospital at NDA where doctors conducted two ECGs, as also a blood test and a cholesterol test. The defence minister was advised six to seven hours of rest.

He was subsequently shifted to the Command Hospital in Pune and kept under observation in the cardio-thoracic trauma centre.

''There is no reason for any apprehension. He is completely ok. His hectic schedule, lack of sleep, dehydration and the scorching sun at the passing out parade led him to feel dizzy,'' Col. Deepak Bahadur, the physician who treated him at the NDA hospital, told reporters.

''The ECGs and other tests did not show up anything abnormal,'' Randhawa said, adding that the minister was being treated in line with his medical history.

''The minister had returned to New Delhi on Friday (after attending the Berlin Air show). He worked in office for an hour and then left for Khadakwasla (the NDA campus on Pune's outskirts), arriving in Pune late on Friday night,'' NDA public relations officer Major Pratap Singh, who carried Antony to the car, said.

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