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Sunday, 26 October 2008

From Today's Papers - 26 Oct

Ex-armymen face probe in Malegaon case

CNN-IBN

New Delhi: The crackdown on Right Wing activists in connection with the Malegaon blasts continues with speculation rife of another Sadhvi (woman saint) being arrested from Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh.

A team of the Anti-Terror Squad is camping in Bhopal, where some arrests are likely to be made. Some arrests are also likely from Nashik in Maharashtra.

Unconfirmed reports say police officials are questioning some retired army officials in connection with the blast.

The three suspects who were arrested on Friday by the ATS will be produced in a Nashik court on November 3.

While Shyamlal Sahu and Shivnarayan Singh were arrested in Indore, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur - who also goes by the name Poornachetanand - was arrested in Surat.

Investigations reveal that the trio had formed a group of sorts to counter attacks that were allegedly orchestrated by the Indian Mujahideen.

Sources say they also had a role in the Modassa blasts. The three had visited Malegaon along with the alleged mastermind Ramnarayan Singh, on more than one occasion.

They had conducted a recce of the area where the motorcycle with the bomb was parked.

The arrest of the Hindu activists is beginning to have its first political repercussion with the Congress using the issue in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh.

Youth Congress activists came out in large numbers on the streets of Indore to protests against the Bajrang Dal and the ABVP.

The protestors shouted slogans against Hindu organizations even as the police struggled to control the mob.

However, Bhartiya Janshakti Party president Uma Bharti has come out in strong support of Sadhvi Poornachetanand.

“This is a conspiracy against VHP and Bajrang Dal. Sadhvi Pragya is a religious figure to us and I appeal to all the media officials for not getting all these conspiracies to the public,” she said.


Troops in Siachen issued torn clothing: CAG
25 Oct 2008, 1617 hrs IST,IANS


NEW DELHI: Troops posted at the Siachen Glacier, once known as the world's highest and coldest battlefield where the weather claims more lives than combat, have been issued "partly torn" and recycled special clothing for the winters due to its untimely procurement, a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report has revealed.

"Army Head Quarters failed to ensure timely procurement of Special Clothing and Mountaineering items used in operational areas like Siachen resulting in stock out levels of these critical items being as high as 44 to 70%," said the CAG report, which was released Friday.

The troops posted at the glacier brave low temperatures like minus 40 degrees Celsius at altitudes up to 23,000 feet.

"To meet shortage of these items, army resorted to the unauthorised practice of issuing partly worn stores (PWS) to the troops in the glacier region. Such practice of recycling of special clothing items is not desirable on grounds of hygiene, operational suitability and overall morale of the troops," the report says.

The Indian Army deploys about 19,800 soldiers in the frigid Siachen Glacier area, which overlooks Pakistan and China.

The depots meant for stocking and distribution and to ensure ready availability of the right material at the right place and at the right time to the troops are suffering from persistent shortages.

"Thirty per cent of the user demands remained unmet, troops in the glacier region had to manage with old worn out clothing and there was high level of dissatisfaction amongst the troops about the quality of clothing supplied," said the report.

A user survey conducted by the CAG revealed that 50% of divisions or regiments were not satisfied with the quality and fitting of the clothing supplied.

The major dissatisfaction of the users was related to mismatch between trousers and shirts and their inappropriate sizes, poor quality of clothing with problem of quick colour fading, low usage life of boots against prescribed shelf life and lack of water proofing in caps.

Govt has failed Air Force, defence minister admits

Press Trust Of India

Bangalore: The Indian Air Force has a “serious problem” because the Government couldn’t supply it crucial radars and other equipment on time, Defence Minister A K Antony has admitted.

"I don't dispute the fact that because of our failure in providing necessary radars and other equipment to our forces, there is some serious problem. We are lagging behind," Antony said in Bangalore.

He made the statement after the Comptroller and Auditor General in a report on the Defence Ministry said the number of radars with the Air Force were inadequate for efficient surveillance of the skies.

Antony admitted the Air Force hasn’t had enough radars for 17 years, but refused to blame any particular government for it. "I am not here to sit in judgement over what happened in the past," he said.

"The process of induction of radars and other equipment started in 1991. There are various reasons (for the delay). In the last 17 years, we were not able to provide necessary air defence equipment to the IAF. But these were in the past. Now I can tell you, there are problems. I agree with you."

Antony said radars and equipment for the Air Force are now being inducted fast. "Most modern radars are being inducted. Now decisions are being taken and things are moving fast. For whatever happened in the past, I can assure you now things are in the current track to provide all armed forces and the IAF in particular, the most modern equipment they want.

“Within few years we will provide IAF with the most modern world-class radars. Money will not be a problem."

The CAG, in its performance audit, has said that the Defence Ministry failed to ensure timely acquisition, upgradation, replacement and modernisation of radars and associated equipment, leaving the country's air defence most ineffective.

The 2008 CAG report, presented to Parliament on Friday, said the IAF does not possess adequate number of surveillance radars needed for providing efficient and reliable detection capabilities for ensuring credible air defence of the country.


Pay hike controversy not good for nation

NDTV Correspondent

Saturday, October 25, 2008:

The armed forces have vigorously protested against the implementation of Sixth Pay Commission’s report citing gross discrimination.

They say the civil servants are misleading the government about the armed forces’ genuine representation. The lieutenant commanders are placed at lower pay band while equivalent civilians are placed in higher pay band.

The argument put forward by them is quite strong that a force that undertakes most challenging tasks is highly underpaid due to which the officials as well as the lower staff feel cheated and humiliated.

Also, their attempts to equate with civilians have always been given cold shoulders. To make their voices heard, the armed forces have tried out all available options. They rebelled, threatened and even pleaded.

One wonders if the entire turn of the events bode well for the nation?

Post your comments at http://www.ndtv.com/debate/showdebate.asp?show=1&story_id=514&template=sixthpaycommission&category=


Ex-servicemen want more pension

NDTV Correspondent

Monday, October 20, 2008 (New Delhi)

Ex servicemen are holding a nationwide agitation on Monday demanding better pension and benefits. In Delhi some of them who went on a hunger strike at India Gate were detained earlier on Monday.

They want a one-rank, one-pension policy which would treat personnel from all forces at par.

They also want a legislation that would make it mandatory on PSUs and Government undertakings and corporates that supply military equipment, to absorb all retired servicemen.

Post your comments at http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/ndtv/story.aspx?id=NEWEN20080069406


Sapped from within
National defence in the hands of amateurs
by Maj-Gen Pushpendra Singh (retd)

THOSE who forget history are doomed to repeat it! Only 60 years since Independence, our ruling establishments have already forgotten our millennium of subjugation. They are solely engaged in single-minded pursuit of pelf and power, which enables the loot.

Most often, Mir Qasims from within have opened the gates to foreigners. While Raja Puru fought Alexander valiantly, Ambhi of Taxila, allied with the Greeks to settle personal scores. The Kannauj Kings similarly aided Ghazni and Ghori. However, failure to keep pace with military technology led to defeat at Panipat, 1526. A view prevails that military domination is outmoded today. Hence, MoD-bureaucrats feel secure while continuing to diminish defence forces’ status and cutting edge. Such thinking is fallacious.

The Sixth Pay Commission fiasco revealed the purposeful machinations of MoD-bureaucrats to lower armed forces’ status, yet again. When the Chiefs protested, newspapers, once renowned for fearlessly frank journalism, carried explicit threats. Thankfully, many TV channels and intrepid journals defied MoD and exposed how babus tried to degrade two crucial ranks while ignoring A.K. Antony’s explicit orders. This had immediate ramifications in security-sensitive Kashmir at police chiefs’ and Corps Commanders’ levels.

In 1982, this writer was in Jammu and Kashmir, with a formation holding defences on the LoC. Two low-threat sectors were held by BSF battalions. The Commander had called an operational conference of all COs – then Lieutenant Colonels. However, BSF COs arrived late, sporting full-Colonel type rank-badges with attendant blue collar-tabs. Only the Commander’s tact and Army COs’ maturity prevented disharmony from affecting the LoC defence. Imagine the morale-impact on 3000 Army troops in this one brigade — replicated all across Jammu and Kashmir and Northeast. Clearly, defence of the Republic is inconsequential; only ‘putting-the-Army-down’ counts.

Not only degraded status and unchecked violation of warrant of precedence erodes the nation’s security. Defence officers in Services’ HQs are soul-destroyed by deliberate, humiliating delays in defence procurements and other decisions. Petty functionaries are encouraged to pose frivolous questions for delaying cases. During Narasimha Rao’s prime ministership, babus invented the perfect catch-22 situation. Service HQs had submitted the 5-year modernisation plan, but supremely insolent, MoD neither accepted it, nor offered any objections.

Then, modernisation cases were rejected, stating “the Plan was not approved”. Even cases to meet emergent operational developments were turned down, stating that “it is not included in the Plan”. Crucial capability-voids built up for 10 to 30 years. Later, most proved key deficiencies leading to 1999 Kargil LoC violations – and snuffing out 700 valiant young lives. Sadly, no bureaucrat or the Defence Minister has ever been held accountable for such lapses.

Today, the lack of aircraft carriers has hamstrung the Navy from acting effectively against Somali pirates. The indigenous nuclear submarine remains only a wish. Similarly, the Air Force is down to 34 squadrons and its transport fleet reduced by 40 per cent. The Army is no better off, with the successful trials for the 155mm Howitzer being nullified on specious grounds. The requirement had been articulated 15 years back. With a fresh RFP, the clock has been turned back 25 years. Indeed, over INR 18,300 crore was made to lapse in the 2002-07 Plan period and about INR 4,200 crore in the last financial.

Furthermore, unlike in any modern democracy, service officers are excluded from strategic and defence policy-making. The Chiefs are only invitees (rarely) to the CCS and the NSA has been a civilian since inception. National defence has remained in the hands of bumbling amateurs right from Independence and the results stare the nation in its face. In early October 1947, our first C-in-C (a Britisher) presented Nehru with a plan for Army modernisation. He turned it down disdainfully, saying that there was no need for any Army plan in Gandhian India. He had to eat his words only 15 days later as Pakistan attacked Jammu and Kashmir. Nevertheless, his government was once again criminally culpable of destroying the Army’s fighting capability – and the 1962 humiliation. However, neither MoD bureaucrats nor elected representatives, supposedly responsible to the people for national security, have ever committed a written directive to the Service Chiefs.

It is our national policy that every inch of our sovereign territory will be safeguarded. Yet in 1947 we lost POK, Gilgit-Baltistan. Then the Chinese swallowed Aksai Chin, built a highway through our territory while Pakistan illegally ceded 5000 sq km of our territory. While this is not medieval-style military occupation, it’s close. And it stems from military weakness fostered actively by MoD under bureaucratic control over the armed forces.

The internal security situation also is the worst – on the watch of civilian NSAs. In a third of our districts, Naxalites rule the roost. The Northeast and Jammu and Kashmir are insurgency-plagued and major worship places of all religions have been attacked! A siege mentality grips minorities, Christians, Sikh or Muslim — and the government is powerless to enforce the law.

Weakened armed forces are a strategic impediment even in 21st century. Debilitated Russia failed to prevent NATO from granting Kosovo independence. Further, the stark reality of Central Asian gas and oil pipeline by-passing Russia via Georgia confronted Putin, which was pre-empted by resurgent Russian power. Military resurgence also enabled effective intervention to prevent genocide of ethnic Russians in South Ossetia.

What about India? What more can we lose if our forces continue to be sapped from within? Well, Arunachal Pradesh, Kashmir, control over Tibet-origin river waters and ‘independent’ foreign policy — for starters!

Modern-day strategic strength derives from economic might and technological prowess etc. But military strength remains the key, enabling capability. Our civilian technological prowess is world-class. However, civilian-controlled DRDO has failed to deliver major strategic systems. Our much-vaunted economic strength is no match to China’s.

Two key prerequisites for economic well-being are energy and water. Take energy first. Implicitly backed by military might, China has clinched strategic deals for exclusive oil concessions from CAR, Venezuela and Africa, outstripping ONGC due substantively to our defence weakness. For decades China pursued its ‘string-of-pearls’ strategy to control energy-critical sea-links. Chinese Naval presence at Gwadar (only 180 NM from the Hormuz Straits) throttles India’s energy jugular. Similarly, bases at Chittagong and Sittwe (Myanmar) complete Chinese domination over Indian Ocean.

Water is the next4 crucial resource as our glaciers disappear. China controls two lifeline rivers: the Indus and the Brahmaputra. Instead of stressing our riparian rights in border talks, we are on the backfoot, contending against China’s specious claim over entire Arunachal Pradesh. Military weakness has also compromised an independent foreign policy vis-à-vis China more than the US.

One example: Tibetan-activists doused the Olympic flame in Paris — a movement of strategic significance to India. Nevertheless, we submitted to humiliating Chinese demands curtailing Tibetan demonstrations, and the world witnessed the unedifying spectacle of our National Security Advisor physically supervising the torch’s Delhi run.

To stem the rot in national defence, it is time Parliament institutionalised induction of service professionals at strategic policy-making forums. Also, we must induct a half a dozen eminent servicemen (retired) in the Rajya Sabha to enable Parliament to effectively oversee the nation’s defence and strategic interests.

Weaponised version of Dhruv showcased
Ajay Banerjee & Shubhadeep Chaudhary
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, October 25
In what signals a shift towards attaining self-sufficiency in defence production, the weaponised version of the indigenously built Dhruv helicopter was showcased for the first time here today, while the Defence Minister A.K. Antony assured: “All doubts about the light combat aircraft (LCA) have been cleared and it would be inducted by 2010”.

The Dhruv — that is currently being used under all conditions by the Army and the Air Force — will now get weaponised and clearance for manufacturing is expected by December 2009.

Reviewing the development of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited here, Antony, who was accompanied by the Air Chief Air Marshall F.H. Major and other senior officials of the Ministry of Defence, said the IAF would use the LCA in seven squadrons. The first two squadrons (20 aircraft in total) will be with the existing engine. For the next five squadrons, the IAF and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) will co-develop an engine that will power these aircraft. The new engines and the production of the LCA on the existing engine will go on simultaneously.

All this comes within weeks of Antony having expressed anguish that India was importing heavily to meet its defence needs.

The next big development is the weaponisation of Dhruv, HAL chief Ashok Baweja said the rocket firing capabilities were being tested. A weaponsied version was flown today. The chopper had been fitted with an electro-optical battlefield sensor and could “see” the battlefield from a distance. It will also have night flying capabilities.

The Air Chief explained that there was no glitch in weaponising the Dhruv. Some trials were over. The Army has expressed its happiness at the weaponisation as it often needs such choppers in insurgency-hit areas of Jammu and Kashmir and the North East.


IAF, Navy too take stick
Ajay Banerjee/Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 25
The CAG report said the Indian Air force has failed to formulate a long-term policy to train pilots. Separately, the CAG said the number of submarines with the Navy was way below the required level and this could impact operational preparedness.

The report said: “With serious slippage in the induction plan, the Navy is left with an aging fleet”. More than half of the submarines have completed their 75 per cent of the operational life. It suggested speeding up of the construction plan of inducting Scorpene submarines that were being built jointly by France and India. The first of the six subs was expected to be inducted in 2012. By then 63 per cent of the existing fleet would have completed its prescribed life, it said.

“The missile firing capabilities on three submarines are functioning at sub-optimal levels.” The CAG said the re-fit activity of the Navy was not efficient as all of the normal and medium re-fits had been delayed. On the Air force, it pointed out that the number of pilots trained between 2001-2006 was much lower than planned targets indicating an inadequate intake of pilots.

Army flayed for torn clothing to troops

New Delhi, October 25
Troops posted at the Siachen Glacier have been issued “partly torn” and recycled special clothing for the winters due to its untimely procurement, the CAG report has revealed.

“Army Head Quarters failed to ensure timely procurement of special clothing and mountaineering items used in operational areas like Siachen, resulting in stock out levels of these critical items being as high as 44 per cent to 70 per cent,” said the report. The troops posted at the glacier brave low temperatures like minus 40 degrees Celsius at altitudes up to 23,000 feet.

“To meet shortage of these items, the Army resorted to the unauthorised practice of issuing partly worn stores (PWS) to the troops in the glacier region. Such practice of recycling of special clothing items is not desirable on grounds of hygiene, operational suitability and overall morale of the troops,” the report says.

“Thirty per cent of the user demands remained unmet, troops in the glacier region had to manage with old worn out clothing and there was high level of dissatisfaction amongst the troops about the quality of clothing supplied,” said the report.

A user survey conducted by the CAG revealed that 50 per cent of divisions or regiments were not satisfied with the quality and fitting of the clothing supplied. The major dissatisfaction of the users was related to mismatch between trousers and shirts and their inappropriate sizes, poor quality of clothing with problem of quick colour fading, low usage life of boots against prescribed shelf life and lack of water-proofing in caps. — IANS

Gaps in Air Surveillance
We failed to provide radars to IAF: Antony
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, October 25
A day after the comptroller and auditor general of India pointed out that there were serious gaps in air surveillance of the country, defence minister A.K. Antony today admitted that the problem was due to a shortage of radars.

The defence minister said the problem of radar coverage existed in the IAF because of failure on the part of the government to provide necessary equipment to the forces. He, however, added that the process to make the equipment available was underway but would take some time. Also, the radars would be in place in the next three to four years.

Antony said, “I do not dispute the failure was on our part.” The IAF had recently said that it would acquire state-of-the art radars. The indigenous Rohini radar, developed by the DRDO, was acceptable as it was a very good machine, Air Chief F.H. Major had said a few weeks ago on the Air Force day.

On Friday, the CAG - in its report submitted to Parliament - said the glaring gaps existed in India’s air surveillance capacity due to a shortage of radars. The CAG report said India’s air defence system was operating on a model formulated in 1976 that urgently needed to be re-looked.

India is facing a 47 per cent shortage of radars needed to detect inkling aircraft, the report further says that the Government has not yet cleared any of the revised air defence plans of the IAF that were submitted since 1976, despite changes in the security scenario.

The CAG report says repeated delays in the tendering process and objections by the CVC on the purchase of Israeli radars have led to a lowering of air defence capabilities.

On top of that, the report says that IAF is not utilising the existing radar systems adequately. It says that the ‘watch hours’ prescribed by the government to keep external surveillance are not being met by the IAF and surveillance levels are as low as 4 per cent of the approved norms.


Onus on the rider, not the horse

Air Marshal R.S. Bedi’s article, “Babus vs netas” (Perspective, Sept 28) proves that he is highly critical of the bureaucracy and has castigated it as indecisive and inefficient. The bureaucracy is an active topic to be broached upon and invites hectic parleys when the question of fixing accountability arises.

The reason for this shift lies in the change in the political class which believes in power maximisation and not in policy maximisation. Sardar Patel had stated that it was due to the bureaucrats’ efforts that the country had remained united after the turmoil of Partition and that the integrity and honesty of civil servants was unquestionable.

However, today, we lack leaders like Patel. It is not the horse (bureaucracy) but the horse rider (politician) who needs a complete overhaul as the politician provides direction to the horse. Some changes as recommended by various committees would make civil services responsive as well as responsible.

These include reducing the recruitment age, increasing objectivity in examinations, stability of tenure, check on politically motivated transfers, giving annual performance targets to departments etc.

A housewife’s work is noticed only when she puts extra salt or chillies in a dish. Similarly, no one notices the work done by the bureaucrats as long as things go on smoothly. Once something goes wrong, they are blamed.

II

It is a fact that there is degeneration in the delivery system which is tightly controlled by the overbearing bureaucracy as brought out by the writer. There are many reasons for the downtrend, the foremost being the inadequacy in the lawmakers’ knowledge of the portfolio he has to head by virtue of his or her political position.

The lawmaker’s failure to attend to the system contributes to inordinate delay in the delivery system. The lack of control by lawmakers breeds lethargy and tardiness in the system which bureaucrats exploit. Some of them lack moral courage to stand by public interest for fear of retribution.

Some master the art of collaboration, thus damaging public interest. But all is not lost yet, though there is an imperative need to overhaul the system as recommended by various committees.

Needless to say, the bureaucracy is in poor shape. That’s why, numerous magisterial orders on sound and air pollution remain on paper.

All Chief Ministers should commission studies to find out the percentage of implementation of the orders by the District Collectors/ Deputy Commissioners orders and the reasons for their non-implementation. Marching orders should be served on those for proven inefficiency and incompetence.

Lt-Col CHANAN SINGH DHILLON (retd), Ludhiana

Pakistan violates ceasefire again in J&K

UNI | October 25, 2008 | 14:26 IST

The ceasefire agreement was yet again "violated" by Pakistan as bullets were fired from across the border on Indian posts at the Line of Control in Sabzian sector of bordering Poonch district in Jammu and Kashmir, sources said in Jammu on Saturday.

"The Pakistani troops fired indiscriminately from their post number 1080 on Indian posts of 4 Bihar Regiment and 192 Bn of Border Security Force in a bid to give cover fire to a group of infiltrators late on Friday night," sources told UNI, adding that the fire was retaliated during which the armed militants returned back.

However, there were no reports of any injury and casualty to any security personnel during the exchange.

For the last three months, Pakistan has committed ceasefire violations around 30 times in Poonch district alone in which three army jawans have been killed and five reportedly wounded.


Army to provide adequate forces for Jammu and Kashmir polls

October 25th, 2008 - 6:00 pm ICT by IANS -

Bangalore, Oct 25 (IANS) The Indian Army would provide whatever forces are required by the Election Commission (EC) to conduct peaceful assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir next month, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said here Saturday.”We will provide forces as per the request of the EC as we want free, fair, transparent and peaceful elections in the border state,” Antony told reporters at a news conference at the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) airfield.

Earlier this week, the EC had announced it would conduct polls in seven phases across the northern state beginning from Nov 17 and ending Dec 24. Counting of votes and results are Dec 8.

“Though the entire election process will be completed by December 31, we are leaving nothing to chance. EC will conduct the polls, while the state police will supervise law and order. The armed forces, including securitymen, para-military forces will be provided by us,” Antony said.

The staggered polling exercise for the 87-member state legislature will be held Nov 17 (10 seats), Nov 23 (six seats), Nov 30 (five seats), Dec 7 (18 seats), Dec 13 (11 seats), Dec 17 (16 seats) and Dec 24 (21 seats).

“Constant vigil, high alert and intense patrolling are being maintained across the international border to check infiltrations and movement of suspicious elements,” Antony added.

The defence minister was on a day’s visit here to review projects and progress made by state-run defence undertakings.

The minister watched a flying display of intermediate jet trainer (IJT), advanced light helicopter (ALH) called Dhruv and jet trainer aircraft Hawk, despite inclement weather and an overcast sky.

Sudden downpour and poor visibility prevented the light combat aircraft (LCA) from taking off.

Antony, who was accompanied by Indian Air Force chief, Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major, and Defence Research and Development Organisation Director General S. Natarajan, was also taken around the tarmac by HAL chairman and managing director Ashok K. Baweja for a closer view of the aircraft and copters at a static display.


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