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Tuesday, 8 July 2008

From Today's Papers - 08 Jul

Terror visits Indian embassy in Kabul
Car bomb kills defence attache, counsellor, 39 others

The damaged  facade of the Indian embassy after a suicide attack at the site in Kabul on Monday.
The damaged facade of the Indian embassy after a suicide attack at the site in Kabul on Monday. — Reuters

Kabul/New Delhi, July 7
India’s defence attaché, a diplomat and three other staff members at its heavily fortified embassy in Kabul were among the 41 persons killed today, after a suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden vehicle at the mission gates during the morning rush hour.
In what comes as the first major attack on an Indian mission abroad and the deadliest suicide bombing in Kabul since the US-led NATO forces ousted the Taliban in late 2001, defence attaché Brigadier R.D. Mehta, counsellor Venkateswara Rao, two ITBP personnel, Ajai Pathania and Roop Singh, and an India-origin Afghan working at the embassy were killed. But Indian ambassador Jayant Prasad was unharmed in the attack that also left 141 persons, most of them visa seekers, injured.
The impact of the explosion was so huge that Rao’s body was flung over the roof and the embassy’s gates were blown away. Afghan interior ministry spokesman Abdul H. Ashiq said the bomb was placed in a Toyota Corolla car driven by the suicide bomber.
“There was a loud bang at around 8.15 am. Minutes later I saw cars with smashed windows, several damaged shops and wounded and dead people lying scattered on the road,” Danish Karokhil, head of the independent Pajhwok news agency whose office is near the Indian embassy, told PTI from Kabul.
No one has yet taken responsibility for the attack, suspected to have been carried out by the Taliban. A family of five waiting for visa at the embassy gates was among the dead, Karokhil said.
The Afghan interior ministry said a fifth dead employee of the Indian Embassy was identified as Niamutullah, adding that three Indians were among the injured. Seven Afghan guards deployed at the mission were also killed in the blast that damaged two Indian embassy vehicles. Some witnesses said the bomber was trying to target the two diplomatic vehicles as they were entering the embassy premises.
Wounded people lay on the road wailing for help amid blood and severed limbs as a cloud of dust and smoke billowed from the site after the blast. “People in the city are tense,” Aunohita, an Indian journalist, said, adding that the entire area around the embassy was cordoned off by US-led coalition troops.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in a statement that “we strongly condemned the terrorist attack on the Indian embassy and considers it the work of enemies of India-Afghan friendship”. Afghan foreign minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta visited the embassy soon after the bombing and said such attacks by the ‘enemy’ will not harm the ‘deep relationship’ between India and Afghanistan. — PTI

Ex-servicemen seek more pension, re-employment
7 Jul 2008, 0331 hrs IST,TNN

BANGALORE: Karnataka unit of the National Ex-Servicemen Coordination Committee met the CM and raised demands for better pension and re-employment options on Sunday. The ex-servicemen protested the 6th Pay Commission report and demanded implementation of a "one rank-one pension" model.
The unit's chief patron Maj Gen M C Nanjappa (retd) handed over a memorandum to chief minister B S Yeddyurappa. The demands include re-employment for servicemen who retire early and representation of ex-servicemen in the Pay Commission.
M S Haragaball, general secretary of the unit, pointed out that there is no representation for their community in the panel. Nanjappa said the chief minister assured their demands will be conveyed to the Union government. The CM also said the government plans to construct a war memorial in Bangalore. Before the memorandum was submitted, the members took out a march from Minsk Square to Vidhana Soudha. The protest was part of a national programme whereby units in other states too raised their demands.

Power at sea
Long way to go for a credible ‘Triad’
by Premvir Das

Recent reports reveal that the Russians will deliver a nuclear powered submarine of the Akula class to the Indian Navy by the end of 2009. Some have suggested that with the induction of this boat, to be named INS Chakra, as a successor to the Charlie class vessel leased from the former USSR in 1988, India’s nuclear Triad would be complete.
The acquisition of the submarine is, of course, to be welcomed; however, to claim that it would fill the missing gap in underwater nuclear weapon capability is highly ambitious if not outright incorrect. The Akula, though powered by a nuclear reactor, will come with conventional weapons only as, indeed, did the first Chakra twenty years ago.
It will have no nuclear weapon capability; it is naïve for anyone to have thought that the Russians, full fledged members of the NPT and the NSG could even dream of making those transfers to India. And, nuclear powered vessels are not, necessarily nuclear weapon platforms; there is a great bridge to be crossed.
There is need for us to be more accurate in looking at the military environment especially those elements which impact upon us directly. The question, therefore, that needs to be answered is what India will get out of this induction.
Induction of the Chakra in 1988 was a step in learning how to operate and maintain a vessel of the sophistication and complexity of a nuclear platform. This is how the Indian Navy entered the world of nuclear submarines.
The vessel was returned in 1991, as scheduled, but the three years of lease were a huge learning experience. People, including crews, going on board and coming off, had to undergo rigid procedures to safeguard against radiation, regular and continuous monitoring of waters around the submarine was carried out to see if discharges, howsoever meager, were not leading to contamination, plans and procedures were put in place and then exercised frequently to cope with unforeseen contingencies.
This was not enough. Mechanisms were established to review these drills and to modify and update them as necessary, and interactive structures were civilian agencies, including the port and district administration, were constituted to allay fears and suspicions quite normal in the context of nuclear reactors operating in close proximity of civilian populations.
All this was not easy. There were protests from environmentalists and other complications that had to be resolved. Meanwhile, training of crews, the first lot which sailed the vessel from Vladivostok to Visakhapatnam and two thereafter, continued apace and the efficacy of training was proved when a major accident at sea involving the reactor was successfully and competently countered.
Considerable all round expertise had been built up when the lease came to an end. In these intervening seventeen years’ much of it has withered away and been lost. We will, in effect, have to start all over again; training of some crews in Russia being only one small part of the much larger whole.
But there is, at least, the confidence that the route has been traveled earlier and when the new Chakra steams in a year and a half from now, it will be in waters that have been traversed before.
Frankly, the new Chakra does not bring in any more capabilities than the submarines in service already have. The Kilo class boats are equipped with the 300 kilometer missile and the Scorpenes will also have a weapon of the same capability.
The difference will lie in the greater endurance of the nuclear powered Chakra which will allow her to deploy at sea for much longer periods. The real benefits will, however, come elsewhere. It is more than likely that designers involved in development of our own ATV had much to learn from their association with the old Chakra and now that the programme has progressed considerably, presence of the newer and more sophisticated vessel will help them check out their own layouts and testing procedures.
Reportedly, the ATV platform could be afloat by 2010 and it will be necessary to subject the vessel to sustained and strenuous trials; data available through the induction of Chakra will facilitate this process.
Similarly, an entirely new set of technical and support facilities will need to be put in place for the submarine being acquired from Russia and these will also be useful for the vessel being built indigenously. So, it is a win-win situation.
This brings us back to the question of Triad capability. At present, delivery capability lies in aircraft of the IAF and the Prithvi and Agni series of land based missiles. Trials have been carried out with a Prithvi system fitted in a surface ship but credible sea based capability can only be provided from a submarine.
In our context, only the ATV can do this. A long range missile, with a nuclear weapon capable of being fired from below the water is needed. There have been reports that trials of underwater launch from a fixed structure have been successfully carried out. While this should be cause for some satisfaction much more remains to be done.
The Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) is about the most complex weapon system around and to expect that we have far advanced along that road will be naïve. In short, there is a long way to go before India will have a credible Triad capability.
Access to critical technologies, contingent upon lifting of sanctions, is essential for India to become a credible nuclear weapon state. Much more than tests of weapons which had been the focus thus far, development of delivery systems is now important. If we can have a nuclear submarine at sea with a proven SLBM in the next five years, it will be something to be very satisfied about.
The writer is a former Commander-in-Chief, Eastern Naval Command

Brig. Mehta martyr in terrorist attack: Army
ASIANAGE 07 July, 2008 06:58:09

July 7: The Indian Army on Monday reacted with shock to the killing of India’s defence attaché in Afghanistan, Brig. Ravi Datt Mehta, in a bomb blast on Monday. Officially, the Army stated that Brig. Mehta "was martyred in a dastardly act of terrorism". Brig. Mehta is the most senior officer of the Indian Army to be killed by terrorists in recent times.
Army sources said it was a distinct possibility that the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI along with the Taliban had planned the attack on the Indian defence attaché to instil fear with the purpose of curtailing India’s influence in Afghanistan.
Brig. Mehta was commissioned into the Army in 1976 in the Intelligence Corps and is survived by his wife and two children. One of his children is an Indian Air Force officer of the rank of Flight Lieutenant. His wife and children are currently in Afghanistan on a visit. Brig. Mehta had assumed the office of Indian defence attaché in Afghanistan in February this year. The Army described him as a very "bright and competent officer" who served extensively in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast.
India is involved in a crucial road construction project in Afghanistan and engineers involved in the project have also been targeted earlier this year by suspected Taliban elements. In April this year, two Indian civilian Border Roads Organisation engineers were killed in a suicide attack in Afghanistan. India is involved in the building of the 219-km-long Zaranj-Delaram Road in Afghanistan.
But it is the precise targeting of the car carrying the Indian defence attaché in Kabul on Monday that is the most obvious pointer to a specific plan by suspected Taliban elements acting in collusion with the ISI, sources in the Army said. Pakistan has been increasingly nervous about Indian help to Afghanistan — even if it is only civilian in nature — since Pakistan considers Afghanistan to be its strategic preserve and backyard, Army sources added.
During a visit to India in April this year, Afghanistan defence minister Abdul Rahim Wardak had stated that India had helped Afghanistan in all sectors including defence, even though India has maintained that there is no Indian military involvement in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is keen on sending its army officers for training in Indian defence training institutes and is also believed to have sought spare parts from India for its Soviet-era armaments.

With the Army's T-90 Main Battle Tanks (MBT) facing heat due to failure of fire control systems at very high temperatures, the government has floated Request for Information (RFI) for integrating air-conditioning system along with additional power source in its entire fleet of the Russian tanks.
"A large fleet of T-90 tanks would require to be fitted with environment control system with Auxillary Power Unit (APU), following Indian Army's decision to upgrade the T-90 equipment," top Army sources told PTI.
The failure of fire control systems and its computerised sensors and sophisticated panels were noticed during T-90 trials in Rajasthan deserts, where systems conked off while operating in temperatures over 45 degree Celsius, sources said.
Indian Army's major armoured forces concentration was in Rajasthan deserts and Punjab's plains, facing western frontiers with Pakistan, where temperatures during summer are usually quite high.
India had contracted to purchase 310 T-90 tanks from Russia in February 2001 in a $795 million deal. The first lot of 124 T-90s were picked off the shelf and another 186 imported in a semi knocked down condition for assembling in Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF) in Avadi near Chennai.

Printed from

Pay panel gives police force a raw deal
8 Jul, 2008, 0221 hrs IST,K G Narendranath, ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: The Sixth Pay Commission’s recommendations have the potential to do long-term damage to the morale and quality of the police force, by seeking to greatly widen the gap between the IAS and the IPS in terms of not only benefits but also seniority. Recruits to both services are selected based on a common test and not all IPS officers join the police because they couldn’t make it to the IAS. The government would do well to modify the recommendations and retain the existing parity between the two services.

India’s 2.2 million policemen constitute the first line of defence against not just crime, but also insurgency. They toil in the most dehumanising service conditions, with little recognition of their sacrifice either by the state or by the public at large, their good work overshadowed by a public perception of oppression, venality and inefficiency.

The IPS officers have the responsibility to champion their cause but have to do it without speaking out, as the law gags the service. But now that the Sixth Pay Commission (SPC) has dealt them a raw deal, the IPS Association has finally issued some resolutions.

Conventionally, the IPS officer has been treated as being lesser than his IAS counterpart of the same batch. While a large part of the discrimination is due to custom and the influential IAS cadre, pay commissions have merely endorsed it— at times, without even offering compelling rationale.

For the IPS, the issue has mostly been that of pride than penny, but for the millions of constables and inspectors who toil in strife-torn places/difficult terrain for 14 hours or more a day, away from their homes and families, the neglect is truly insufferable.

The SPC has brought the issue to the fore by greatly amplifying the slight edge the IAS has over other central civil services. Worse, it has made some proposals that would virtually widen the disparity. The SPC has proposed differing grade pays (GPs) — a new parameter in the pay structure — for the IAS and non-IAS officers. Importantly, it also said GP will decide seniority, which means allowances such as HRA and DA will be payable on GP.

Seeking to justify its recommendation for higher GPs for IAS officers in senior-time, junior-administrative and selection-grade scales as compared to non-IAS officers, the SPC referred to the “pulls and pressures” and “frequent transfers” IAS officers face during initial postings to “small places.”

This is quite strange. To begin with, the Indian Foreign Service has also been clubbed with the IAS by the SP for the higher GP and the above justification does not stand scrutiny here. Do transfers to small places and ‘pulls and pressures’ apply to them? And aren’t IPS officers posted to remote areas and subjected to these pulls and pressures, perhaps even more than members of the IAS?

Although the GP differential per se may not be big enough to cause heartburn (it is just Rs 700 even in selection grade scale), it makes a difference in the final analysis because sundry emoluments and seniority-enabled entitlements come with the GP status. If the SPC proposals are implemented, the career-long pay differential between IAS and IPS officials at constant prices and factoring in 8% annual interest would amount to Rs 63 lakh, as against Rs 3 lakh now, as per an estimate of the IPS (Central) Association.

However, what worry the police more are certain new issues of seniority that the SPC could cause. To begin from the top, the SPC has not recommended for the DG-Intelligence Bureau, the head of police in the country, the pay scale of Rs 90,000 (fixed), proposed for the Cabinet secretary and the chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Force.

Further, the director general of police in the state, who now has a primary status in state administration on par with the chief secretary and gets the apex pay of Rs 26,000 will never reach the proposed apex pay (fixed) of Rs 80,000 of the chief secretary/secretary to the government of India, if the SPC-proposed running pay bands and GPs are implemented.

The DG-state would get a total pay of Rs 71,270 only, while the chief secretary would draw Rs 80,000. This is because the SPC has recommended the pay band of Rs 80,000 for the DGs of BSF, CRPF, CISF, ITBP and SSB only— all posts located in central police organisations.

The lower pay for DG-state would impact his pension and other admissible allowances like gratuity and leave encashment also, which means it is not just a career-long disparity between him and the IAS officer of same batch, but also a life-long one.

Also, the disparity doesn’t end at senior-time level as appreciated by the SPC, rather it reaches up to the highest level. The GPs proposed therefore have the potential to make DG of police in a state “junior” to some seven officials in that state, who all could belong to his own batch. (Each major state has two cadre and two non-cadre chief secretaries, five or six additional chief secretaries who will also enjoy the pay scale of the chief secretary).

There will be only seven posts equivalent to the secretaries to the government of India (five DGs at the centre, one special secretary-internal security in the Union ministry of home affairs and one secretary-security at the Cabinet secretariat) that the IPS officials can aspire for if the SPC proposal is implemented. As opposed to this, there are over 150 posts of secretaries meant for the IAS officials.

The SPC has also not met the seemingly legitimate demand of the IPS community for abolishing the DIG rank, the existence of which causes an IPS official to take two more years than the IAS and other Group A services to reach the level of joint secretary.

The situation is such that while most Group A services are empanelled (selected) only once for the joint secretary scale (PB4 pay band proposed by SPC), an IPS official has to get himself empanelled thrice to become a joint secretary.

True, the problems arising out of the new GP are not specific to the IPS. They are common to all Group A services. But issues such as the delay in getting on to the joint secretary level are specific to the IPS and Indian Forest Service.

Another issue specific to the IPS is that its cadre is managed by the IAS, whereas all other Group A services — Indian Audits and Accounts Service, Indian Economic Service, Indian Revenue Service, Indian Postal Service etc.—are managed by their own cadres.

It also seems the IPS officers have a strong case when they allege, on the basis of experience, that the ministry of personnel is not exactly a neutral arbiter of personnel policies of the government.

Despite all its failings, the Indian police force deserves better treatment. Given the nature of his/her work, it is untenable a police constable is given a salary less than that of a postman. While the defence forces are given what is called military service pay (MSP) to compensate for the uncertainties, risks and hardships associated with their job, the police have no such special benefits.

Being the first responder at the time of disaster, the police are indeed taking a huge responsibility. Around 2,000 police persons lose their lives on duty every year. While the defence forces get (rightly) MSP across the board, irrespective of where they are located, the CRPF, over 80% of which are deployed in strife-torn areas, are denied any such differential treatment.

The SPC should have acknowledged this patent injustice and addressed it, given that the police have no right to agitate. Rewarding the police force adequately and giving it due respect should be integral part of the comprehensive police reform that we often talk about.

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