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Wednesday, 13 August 2008

From Today's Papers - 13 Aug

Taliban blow up Pak air force bus

Islamabad, August 12
The Taliban today blew up a Pakistan air force bus, killing 14 persons, mostly airmen, in the northwest city of Peshawar, in retaliation against the ongoing military operation against militants in the country’s restive tribal area. The PAF vehicle was headed to the provincial capital of Peshawar when it was attacked on a bridge on Kohat Road. Ten of the dead and five of the injured were PAF personnel.

TV channels reported that 14 persons, including a young girl, had died in the attack. IGP Muhammad Naveed Malik said in Peshawar that 13 persons were killed and 11 others injured. He said the death toll could rise as some of the injured were in serious condition.

The bomb was planted under the bridge and triggered by a remote-control as the vehicle was passing over it. — PTI

Army not so happening for women
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 12
Even as the government is considering a demand to grant permanent commission to women in the armed forces, a startling reality is facing the Army. No more than 50 per cent of the women who qualify for the short service commission end up joining the force.

The remaining just does not avail of the chance and vacancies remain vacant, especially in the areas which entail field postings in the Army. These are non-combat areas, said an official, but are the frontline postings.

The latest matter cropped up in the last course at the Officers Training Academy, Chennai, when 75 vacancies for women were to be filled up. About 100 women qualified and only 42 joined leaving 33 available posts vacant. Sources said this occurred as more women opted for similar streams hence there were more women vying for less number of posts.

The preference of most of the women was Army Education Corps, Judge Adjutant General Branch, Army Ordnance Corps, Army Supply Corps and the Intelligence Corps.

There were no takers for the Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers (EME), the Engineers and Signals. With such lop-sided preference in seeking streams within the Army there was no option but to let posts go vacant, said a sources.

All three least preferred streams entail movement with the brigades and in remotest possible locations. The Signals, the EME and Engineers move with the frontline forces be it on the border, Northeast or elsewhere in Kashmir. The other streams that got preference do not entail many filed postings but are rather “urban” postings in the commands.

The procedure of taking in women for the short service commission is such that those who qualify are asked for their preference. The options were clear and hence the other qualified women were not even invited for training.

This is unlike the Indian Military Academy where all trainees are allocated the regiments on set patterns. That is a mix and match of preference of the cadets and also the availability of vacancies.

Meanwhile, its is learnt that the Army has okayed a plan to have permanent commission for women in the Army education corps and also JAG branch.

Fiscal situation may hit 6th Pay Commission

Hopes of 4.5million Central government employees to have decent arrears due to 6th Pay Commission may get shattered. Worsening fiscal situation of country may force government to defer payments of arrears due to pay hike..

WORSENING FISCAL situation of government on account of farm loan waiver and high global crude prices may hit the recommendations of long awaited Sixth Pay Commission of 4.5million central government employees. The sixth pay commission had recommended a 28 per cent hike in the salary of Central government employee, after BN Srikrishna committee has given its report on pay settlement on March 24 this year.

It appears that mounting burden on the fiscal position may force government to defer the payment of arrears from January 01, 2006 to January01, 2008, that is two years from the original recommendation of the commission. It means that for all practical purposes the sixth pay commission may become effective from January 01, 2008. However, for the employees who have retired in between intervening period government may bring some relaxation.

Here is the nitty gritty of pay panel, which may suggests deferment

The recommendation of sixth pay commission would cost Rs 12,561 crores in the year 2008-09, but the pay panel have suggested some measures, which would have saved Rs 4,586 crore in the year 2008-09, and hence burden on government exchequer on account of the pay panel hike of 28 per cent salary would cost Rs 7,975 crore (Rs 12,561 crore-Rs 4,586 crore = Rs 7,975 crore) in 2008-09. Apart from that arrear payment from January01, 2006, would have additionally cost Rs 18,060 crore as one time burden. So total burden on government exchequer in the year 2008-09, would have been Rs 26,035 crore (ie Rs 7,975crore+Rs 18,060 crore = Rs 26,035 crore).

This arrear payment of Rs 18,060 crore appears to be a stupendous amount to a government who is struggling to keep it finances intact. The coffer of government, which is draining out due to populous loan waiver scheme and high cost of oil import (and not able to pass that burden to consumers), may appear bit stretched and put the question on finances of government. Major International rating agencies are tracking each steps of government and are now threatening to downgrade the India’s sovereign ratings to risk grade, which may have long-term implications on country.

It was expected that the recommendations of new pay and its arrear payment from the effective date of January1, 2006, would have cost 0.4-0.5 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to government exchequer. Though the burden on government finances due to the sixth pay commission was lesser as compare to the earlier pay commission the fifth pay commission but, it appears that government may take cue from boiling crude, which is playing a see-saw game in the price range of $120-$130per barrel also.

On one hand government is making people to enjoy cheap gasoline through subsidy and on the other hand it is trying to take away some ‘considerations’ from its employee itself. But the question remains is cheap oil is being enjoyed by Central government employees only? Are rich Industrialists are not enjoying same cheap petrol/diesel/cooking gas?

Government has announced farm loan waiver of Rs 60,000/- crore on the proposition that the additional revenue collection out of taxes from corporates and public and government will able to cover the cost of farm loan waiver. However, it became a debated topic as how government will be able to generate the additional revenue when growth is being sacrificed to bring down the inflation below 12 per cent. Government policy to tackle inflation at the cost of growth may dampen the additional revenue generation as slow down in economic and industrial production activity may have direct bearing on collection of taxes.

Arrears of salary a big fuss for government it may be a topic of big debate why the pay panels in India are taking such a long time in fixing the wage of government employees? Why the issues of payment of arrears are coming? Is it not possible to pass on the benefits of increase in salary as and when due? Why there should be Centralised system of wage negotiation even in government employees? Why the settlement of wage should be done after a decade? In this fast moving world when every thing is possible in minutes why government is not coming out of this old system of revising remuneration of its employee? There is no dearth of talents in Central governments services which should be utilised to come out with a solution of all this haphazard practices. There should not be a deferment of employee expenses for several years. Government should thank its huge battle of employees who have not demanded interest on their pay arrears which otherwise would have caused another Rs 1500 crore at a conservative rate of eight per cent.

Though severe strain on government finances may force government to take such harsh measures like deferment of arrears of pay panel but, seeing the huge work force of Central government it may be a tough task for government. More so since the legislation makers may themselves may get affected after such step.

India, Singapore ink pact for joint army training

India and Singapore on Tuesday signed a bilateral agreement under which their armies will conduct joint training and exercises in India.

The agreement takes forward a pact the two governments signed on Oct 13, 2003 on defence cooperation and seeks to provide facilities in India to the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) for joint military training and exercises.

Defence Secretary Vijay Singh signed the agreement on behalf of India, while Permanent Secretary (Defence) Chiang Chie Foo was the signatory from the Singapore side.

The training and exercises involving both armour and artillery would be carried out at the Babina and Deolali ranges in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra respectively.

“Such exercises were previously conducted on the basis of an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) the two countries entered into in January 2005, which was extended from time to time, the last being up to June 2008. Future joint training exercises would be conducted under the provisions of this bilateral agreement,” a defence ministry spokesman said.

The agreement provides for the temporary basing of a detachment of SAF personnel for a maximum period of eight weeks, up to two times a year. However, small SAF detachments not exceeding eight personnel may be allowed to be stationed with their equipment in India.

“Besides the bilateral agreement, associated protocols on training, administration and logistics, as also on financial arrangements were also signed. The agreement comes into effect from today (Tuesday) and shall remain in force initially for a period of five years,” the spokesman added.

The Singapore official also called on Defence Minister AK Antony to discuss matters of mutual interest in the defence sphere. He also met Indian Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta, who is the current chairman of the chiefs of staff committee, and Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor.

Hawks Built in India Cost Less: Defence Ministry

By vivek raghuvanshi

NEW DELHI - India has built the British Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) at facilities of state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) at rates nearly 20 percent less than those built by BAE Systems, said a senior Indian Defence Ministry official.

The first HAL-built Hawk is ready for delivery to the Indian Air Force on Aug. 14, the official said, adding that the cost of the HAL-built Hawk is about $14.2 million per aircraft while the Hawks built by BAE cost more than $20.2 million.

As part of a $1.7 billion contract signed between HAL and BAE in 2004, 66 Hawks were to be acquired for the Indian Air Force: 24 would be supplied in fly-away condition and the remaining 42 are to be assembled and license-produced at HAL. The entire project will be executed in eight years.

In June, HAL also bagged an order to build an additional 54 Hawk AJTs for the Navy and the Air Force.

So far, BAE Systems has flown in 12 Hawks to India. The aircraft are stationed at Air Force Station Bidar, in the southern state of Karnataka. All 24 Hawks were to have been delivered by June, but that schedule has been delayed.

Soldier commits suicide in Himachal Pradesh Tuesday, August 12, 2008 13:44 [IST]

Shimla: An Indian Army soldier killed himself in Himachal Pradesh, police said Tuesday. Lance Naik Arvind Kumar Pandey, 31, shot himself with his service rifle Monday morning in the hill town of Kasauli, Assistant Sub-Inspector Rajinder Singh Chauhan told IANS.

The victim's body was sent to his ancestral village in Uttar Pradesh after a post-mortem examination. The cause of the suicide has not been ascertained yet.

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