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Saturday, 15 November 2008

From Today's Papers - 15 Nov


6thPC: Update on the Rank Pay showdown

At the beginning of this month, the three Chiefs met with Expenditure Secretary Sushama Nath to discuss the four core demands of the armed forces. Nath later briefed Pranab Mukherjee on this meeting.

Anyway, during the meeting between Nath and the three chiefs, the definition of Rank Pay came up. She indicated that there had been a Cabinet decision in 2000 which stated that Rank Pay did not form part of Basic Pay. In response, the Chiefs told her that if such a decision had indeed been taken, then the affected party, i.e. the services, were neither consulted nor made a party to the decision. And that even if such a decision had been taken, the Services Instructions issued by the MoD were not amended, adding that amendment of Service Instructions was a mandatory requirement, since it involved restructuring of the pay of service officers.

The contents of the GoI letter of 2000 (which Nath was referring to) with regard to Rank Pay were scrutinised during the meeting. It emerged that the contents of the letter were "entirely in consonance" with what the Chiefs were saying. The 2000 letter says "Rank Pay will be taken into account for determining their entitlements to such of those financial benefits, concessions, etc, including retirement benefits as are directly related to the basic pay or their pay scales."

Will be reporting more about this meeting on my channel shortly. Timings will be posted ahead.

6thPC: Update on Military Service Pay (MSP)

In the early November meeting (see previous post) between Expenditure Secretary Sushama Nath and the three service chiefs, Ms Nath stated that "rank pay now forms part of the MSP". The chiefs, backed by DG (MP&PS) Lt Gen VK Chaturvedi, Chairman PARC Rear Admiral S.A. O'Leary and ACAS Accounts Air Vice Mshl Baldev Singh argued that Military Service Pay (MSP) was meant to be "compensation for the intangible disadvantages of military life experienced by Services personnel over their entire career". They further added that MSP was a new pay element, and was totally de-linked from the pre-revised pay structure. It was because of this that no arrears had been paid on the MSP, the chiefs indicated, and therefore for the bureaucracy to use it "as an edge or as a replacement of rank pay" was incorrect.

According to sources, Ms Nath then indicated that "all ranks are beneficiaries of MSP". The Chiefs told her that in the case of a Lt Col, even considering MSP, his total emoluments were lower by roughly Rs 5,000 in comparison to a civil officer who was drawing les than him in the pre-revised payscale regime.

At this point, Gen Deepak Kapoor emphasised that their concerns stretched beyond the monetary benefits that were implied. He said it was primarily "a question of status and esteem". He added that if rank pay was to be withdrawn, it should be merged back into scale where it originally belonged and nowhere else. He indicated that using MSP as compensation implied nullifying the intended benefits of the revised pay scales.

P.S. In response to one of the commenters -- it's true that pensionary benefits for PBORs have been reinstated, so it's down to three core armed forces demands. All three continue to hang fire. Watch Headlines Today and stay tuned for updates.

National Interest

National Interest? What is that? Whose interest does it comprise? Of the governments? Or the people? The government comprises of the politicians and bureaucrats. The former do not have too much of time to spare from trying to hold on to power and their vote banks. That is why we see that the parliamentary vote on an issue like the nuclear deal is ultimately decided by regional players with handful of MPs, based on petty personal issues.

The bureaucrats - the so called steel frame. They too are busy trying to buttress the powers that be, conniving to ensure hefty raises in their salaries, cushy post retirement slots, or maybe a ticket for the next election.

And what about the people? The 'Janta Janardan'? The majority is too busy trying to eke out a living, and those who have the means, are equally busy enjoying the fruits of their wealth.

Every issue is therefore viewed through narrow prisms of the viewer's convenience. Opinions on issues of national interest, such as the fight against terrorism, depend on which side of the saffron curtain the viewer stands. My terrorist is innocent, yours is a threat to our survival. Influx of illegal immigrants - wink wink nudge nudge - get them their voter's I cards.

The utter demoralisation of the ultimate instrument of the state does not cause a raised eyebrow - let alone any concern. After all, they are not a vote bank, nor a vocal liability. Inconvenient chiefs, drawing attention to the unfair deal meted out to their commands can always, push coming to shove, be replaced by more pliable amenable incumbents. And the Group of Ministers will decide on their grievances - ultimately. Meanwhile, they will not stop dying out there in the distant lands of Kashmir and Assam, fighting our inconvenient wars, looking after our National Interest.

Jai Hind.

Naxals fire at IAF chopper
Engineer killed; 55-60% turnout in first phase
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

Raipur, November 14
Chhattisgarh went to polls for the first phase amidst incidents of violence in Naxal-infested areas of Dantewada and Bijapur in the Bastar tribal belt.

An IAF helicopter was shot at, killing flight engineer Mustafa Ali. The MI-8 aircraft was on way from Pedia to Bijapur, carrying injured BSF jawans and electronic voting machines along with election officials on board when helicopter was fired at with automatic weapons.

In another incident, a CRPF man was killed and four other security personnel sustained injuries.

Reports of several incidents of violence by Maoists were received from Bastar area where polling was said to very low as compared to that in other parts of the state. Political observers said the low turnout was likely to benefit the ruling part in the state.

The elections in Chhattisgarh is a key test for the Congress, which is fighting the ruling BJP in the elections.

In all, 55 to 60 per cent of the 64-lakh electorate in the 39 assembly constituencies exercised their franchise to decide the electoral future of 379 candidates in 10 districts. “The overall approximate polling in the 39 constituencies was around 55-60 per cent,” chief electoral officer Alok Shukla said.

Sources said as far as polling percentage goes, the worst was the Bijapur district, which recorded lowest percentage of voting. In fact, not a single was cast in five polling booths of the Bijapur constituency.

The Naxals also looted EVMs of 21 booths due to which polling could not be held in 21 booths in the Bastar region. Re-polling will be held in these areas.

The IAF sergeant was killed when a Mi-8 helicopter, which he was flying, was fired at with a light machine gun during take-off.

The incident took place in Pedia polling booth under the Bijapur Assembly segment.

Officials said the IAF helicopter had flown in from Bijapur district headquarter to pick up polling officials. The Naxals fired at the chopper from a close range with the LMG and in the fire a bullet hit Ali.

No other person was injured in the firing, a senior police official said, adding that the helicopter, instead of landing at the Bijapur district headquarter landed at Jagadalpur DRDO airport.

In order to conduct free and fair poll in the Naxal-infested region, 10 choppers had been deployed. In the Bastar region, 40 helipads were made and since November 9, the choppers undertook 217 sorties in the affected zone.

Officials said a head constable was shot in Korenar village under Bandher police station in Kanker district. The CRPF was attacked when security persons were returning back after scheduled polling time.

Of the 39 Assembly segments, which went to polls today, 12 Assembly segments were enlisted as very sensitive Assembly segments. The first phase of polling was held amidst a large presence of security personnel of the central police forces and the state police force.

The Naxals also kidnapped and later released five poll officials of Cheetalnar polling booth under Konta Assembly segment. They took away the polling officials to some unknown destination and released them after scheduled polling time was over.

During the first phase of polling, Bijapur district recorded 16.34 per cent, Dantewada district 40 per cent, Naraynpur district 36 per cent, Bastar district 55 per cent and Kanker 50 per cent.

Meanwhile, there was heavy turnout of voters in Rajanandgaon and Durg districts.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh is contesting from Rajnandgaon and leader of opposition and Congress leader Mahendra Karma is pitted against Manish Kunjam of the CPI from Naxal-dominated Dantewada constituency.

Some other heavyweight candidates include Assembly Speaker Premprakash Pandey from Bhilai and Congress leader Motilal Vohra’s son Arun Vohra from Durg City.

India Wants UN Force Off Somalia
After its Ship is Refused Protection

By Dipankar De Sarkar

Just days after foiling two attempted hijacks by heavily armed sea pirates off the coast of Somalia, India has called for a United Nations peacekeeping force to patrol the increasingly dangerous Gulf of Aden in the Arabian Sea.

The Indian call - made Thursday at the twice-yearly Council meeting of the International Maritime Organization in London - is aimed at bringing current disjointed security patrols of individual countries under a unified command.

Senior shipping sources said the move follows a recent refusal by a Western naval patrol to protect an Indian merchant ship that felt “vulnerable” to attacks on what is perhaps the world's most dangerous stretch of water.

“When the Indian captain asked for protection, he was asked, firstly, about which flag he was flying, then about the nationality of his crew, and finally about which cargo he was carrying,” said Shipping Corporation of India Chairman S. Hajara.

When informed that it was an Indian ship with Indian seafarers, the captain was told that he could not be provided immediate protection, Hajara, who is part of the Indian delegation to the IMO Council meetings, told IANS.

The 950-km stretch, straddled by Yemen on the north and Somalia on the south, is part of the vital Suez shipping route and patrolled by a multinational anti-terror naval task force comprising warships from the US, Britain, Germany and other countries.

India chose to stay out of the force because it is not under UN control and its call for UN leadership and coordination at the IMO Thursday received the backing of a large number of countries, said Shipping Secretary A.P.V.N. Sarma.

“We urged the IMO Council to consider recommending to the UN the formation of a UN peacekeeping force under a unified command in order to prevent attacks in the area and provide assistance and security to international shipping irrespective of flag and nationality of seamen,” Sarma told IANS.

With at least one Indian ship passing through the Gulf of Aden every day, many of them carrying oil, India is particularly vulnerable to piracy in the region, which is fuelled by terrorism and the conflict in Somalia.

It has had to rely on unilateral action so far, and attack helicopters launched from an Indian warship Tuesday helped save an Indian and a Saudi Arabian ship from piracy off the Somali coast.

With more than 32 ships - from all nationalities - having been hijacked in the area this year alone, New Delhi is considering a proposal to deploy additional naval support for its merchant ships, sources told IANS.

At least four warships are needed to protect Indian ships, they added.

Britain Could Send 2,000 More Troops
to Afghanistan: BBC

Britain could send a further 2,000 troops to Afghanistan next year in response to an expected request by the US under its next president, Barack Obama, the BBC said Friday.

The broadcaster said ministers were considering sending reinforcements to Afghanistan, following requests from Afghan leaders.

The British government insisted after talks in London Thursday between Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Afghan President Hamid Karzai that troop levels had not been discussed.

It has repeatedly indicated that, as the second-largest troop contributor with 8,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, Britain would like to see other NATO countries supplying more troops.

The ministry of defence said it had not received a request for extra troops.

After the talks in London, Karzai said he told Brown that all efforts were being made "to bring violence down" after the Afghan foreign minister urged Britain to send in more troops.

In a BBC interview later, Karzai praised the contribution of British troops in southern Helmand province. "They have suffered, they have sacrificed lives in Afghanistan. The Afghan people are very grateful for what Britain has done in Afghanistan."

"If we need more troops to add to security, to close the borders... (to) the entry of extremists and terrorists, the exit of narcotics, well, yes, bring more troops," Karzai added.

A total of 124 British servicemen and women have so far died in Afghanistan. An opinion poll published Thursday showed that 68 percent of Britons would like to see troops come home within a year.

Malegaon probe: Purohit emerging as a key link?

Nehal Kidwai, Rashmi Rajput

Friday, November 14, 2008, (New Delhi)

During his narco-analysis test in Bangalore last week Lt Colonel Prasad Purohit, the first serving Indian Army officer to be held in a terror-related case, confessed to his role in the Malegaon blast.

Sources told NDTV that Purohit confessed that he wanted to take revenge against a particular community. These tests, though not admissible in court, could throw up vital clues for investigators.

Purohit revealed that sadhvi Pragya Thakur and Swami Dayanand Pandey, who are now under arrest, were also involved in planning the attack. Purohit met the sadhvi through Pandey.

He also said that Pandey was also involved in the Ajmer and Nanded blasts where more than 500 people were trained to carry out the attacks.

While narco-analysis tests are not admissible as evidence in a court of law, some of what Purohit said about the role of Dayanand Pandey has been corroborated by the ATS in court.

Pandey is now emerging as a key link as the ATS told the court that Pandey fixed the meeting between Purohit and Ramji Kalsangra. The ATS also said that Pandey told Purohit to arrange for explosives and received money from Abhinav Bharat treasurer.

The revelations could help piece together the Malegaon puzzle . However, it will have to be backed by hard evidence in court.

Army provides space to anti-nationals?

An army truck used to convey poppy husk to militancy-hit J&K? Why did not the army foresee that the brand new trucks being delivered to it could be misused for such purposes? What if arms and ammunition have been conveyed on earlier occasions?.

IT IS very dangerous, apart from the point of view of the security of the country, when an army vehicle is seized by the police. Yes, the Punjab Police has seized an army vehicle. The truck, belonging to the Indian Army, had been allegedly loaded with 18 bags of poppy husk. It was seized in Patiala’s Rajpura town. The truck, driven by a civilian driver from Madhya Pradesh, was headed for Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), according to the police.

A police officer said, “We stopped the Indian Army truck for scrutiny at a police checkpoint after getting a tip-off from our source. On checking, we found 18 bags of poppy husk weighing around seven quintals (in the truck).” The driver, Mehboob, a resident of Jabalpur town in Madhya Pradesh, has been arrested for further inquiry.

There is a truck manufacturing unit in Jabalpur and brand new trucks are delivered at Jammu and Kashmir for deployment by the army in the state; unfortunately not a single representative from the army accompanies the trucks being delivered to the militancy-hit state.

The brand new trucks no doubt bear the registration mark and number of the Indian Army; but when no army representative accompanies it, the security aspect is exposed.

Says Anil Gupta, “Who is responsible if any untoward incident takes place and we lose people? This is something our government as well as the army takes casually.”

Rajesh Jamwal asks, “What is wrong with our army? Why is it packing off its men to hell? The army on its own provides an opportunity to the enemy of our country.”

Defence authorities and manufacturers (of trucks) should look into the security aspect seriously and ensure that such blunders do not recur. An inquiry should be conducted into this case. There is a possibility of the involvement of some more people. Before they inflict more harm on our country and our people, they should be arrested and dealt with under the law.

British troops out of Iraq by end of 2009: Iraqi official Agence France-Presse
Saturday, November 15, 2008 (Baghdad)

All British troops will be out of Iraq by the end of next year and a controversial Iraq-US security pact is likely to be approved by Baghdad this weekend, Iraq's national security adviser said on Friday.

Radical anti-US Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, meanwhile, announced the activation of a new militia against the American "occupier," and urged Muslim countries to join in protests against the proposed security accord.

Baghdad has been racing to secure separate agreements with both Britain and the United States to replace the UN mandate currently governing the presence of foreign troops in the country, which expires on December 31.

"By the end of next year there will be no British troops in Iraq. By the end of 2009," security adviser Muwafaq al-Rubaie said, adding that negotiations between London and Baghdad on the pull-out had begun two weeks ago.

In an interview, Rubaie was upbeat on prospects of the Iraqi cabinet approving the military accord with Washington this weekend.

"I honestly believe we have reached now a very good text... And this text will secure the complete, full, irrevocable sovereignty of Iraq," said Rubaie, who is also Baghdad's chief negotiator on the security pact.

"I believe, I hope, that the council of ministers will pass the new text Sunday and (then) it will be passed on to the parliament."

A British defence ministry spokesman in London said in response to Rubaie's comments that Britain has "no timetable" for the withdrawal of its roughly 4,000 troops in Iraq, the vast majority of whom are based in the southern city of Basra.

Explosive revelations of Lt Col Purohit

Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru | November 14, 2008 | 18:19 IST

The arrest of Hindu activists in connection with the Malegaon blast has put several investigating agencies on rewind mode. If the revelations by Lieutenant Colonel Srikant Purohit are to be believed then several bomb blasts in the country need to be reinvestigated.

MI stint helped organise blast, says Lt Col in narco test

Purohit, who was subject to a narco analysis test in Bengaluru, made startling revelations in which he claimed that self-proclaimed religious leader, Swami Amritanand Saraswati also known as Dayanand Pandey had masterminded both the Nanded as well as the Ajmer blasts.

Purohit was arrested by the Mumbai Anti Terrorist Squad for his alleged role in the Malegaon blast.

Sadhvi's father: 'Pragya's innocent'

Purohit claimed during the test that Pandey had taken his help to set up a terror wing. He further revealed that Pandey had introduced him to another accused Sadvi Pragya Singh. While introducing him to the Sadhvi, Pandey had asked Purohit that he should provide logistic support to carry out terror attacks in various places.

Purohit said during the test that Pandey had set up a terror wing with 800 men and he asked Purohit to help in the training process. He said the men were being trained to execute terror strikes in different parts of the country. Purohit said during the test that the idea was to give a fitting reply to organisations such as the Students Islamic Movement of India and also create a sense of fear among Islamic outfits responsible for spreading terror.

'You can't plan Malegaon blast in one day'

He further said that Pandey ran an ashram in Ahmedabad and provided shelter to several anti-social elements. These persons were used to carry out terror strikes in the country. He also gave information on the source of the explosives and also the funding for the terror strikes (source not mentioned as it would hamper investigation).

During the narco-analysis test, the investigators got a lot of vital information from Purohit and it was based on these results that the ATS managed to nab Pandey from Kanpur.

Coverage: Malegaon Blast Aftermath

US strikes inside Pakistan again, kills 12

PTI | November 14, 2008 | 16:20 IST

A fresh suspected United States missile strike killed at least 12 people, several of whom appeared to be foreign militants in Pakistan's restive Waziristan tribal region, in an overnight attack.

Four missiles struck a house in north Waziristan, a region said to be a stronghold of Taliban and Al Qaeda militants, who mount attacks on Afghanistan from the area.

Though there was no official word on the fresh attack, locals said that missiles hit the house of a tribesman Ameer Gul at a village Waladeen Budar, located between North and South Waziristan, near the Afghan border.

Soldiering Was Part of Guardsman's DNA
3rd-Generation Service Member Reunites With Granddad in Burial at Hallowed Ground

By Mark Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 14, 2008; B03

The military was in Kevin Grieco's blood; his father and grandfather had served. So when he decided to join up and become a third-generation soldier, it wasn't surprising, his wife said.

Yesterday, Grieco was reunited with his grandfather as he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The staff sergeant, 35, was killed Oct. 27 in Baghlan, Afghanistan, alongside Sgt. Nicholas A. Casey, 22, of Canton, Ohio, when a suicide bomber detonated explosives as they were preparing to enter a building, according to the Department of Defense.

"He wanted to do more," his wife, Rashmi, said in a phone interview yesterday. "He wanted to be a major general. He wanted to be an officer. He wanted a career in the military. He kept saying to me, 'Even if I have to die for my country, I will.' That's how he always looked at it."

More than 100 mourners gathered at Arlington to honor Grieco, emerging from a procession of cars and walking across the soggy grass of Section 60 of the cemetery. The day's persistent rain abated minutes before the mourners arrived, but the sky remained gray and forbidding.

Grieco was born in Frankfurt, Germany, the "Army brat" son of a now-retired colonel, his wife said. He was an Eagle Scout and a scoutmaster who loved the outdoors, she said. He spent 13 years in the Navy before enlisting in the Illinois Army National Guard in December 2006.

His wife said she wanted him to stay in the Navy because she thought it was safer than the Army. "But he just said, no, he wants to do more and more for his country," she said. She said he told her, 'Don't count on me retiring or anything, because I'm not going to retire.' "

The two met while line-dancing in Chicago in 2003. Grieco loved country music, and the India-born Rashmi aroused his interest.

"He was surprised to find an Indian girl line-dancing, so he was kind of curious," she said. "As soon as I saw him, I said, 'I'm going to dance with this guy.' "

So she asked him to dance. The two were married in April 2004 and lived in Bartlett, Ill., just outside Chicago, with their children, Joshua, 4, and Angeli, 2.

Rashmi Grieco said that she is proud of her husband but that when she thinks of him "as a husband, as a father, it hurts my heart" not to have him around.

"My son keeps calling him over the phone and says: 'Dad, I'm ready to go to the swimming pool. Where are you?' " she said. "And I couldn't take it anymore. I said to Joshua: 'Daddy's with God now. He's not coming.' And Joshua said, 'Can he at least say I love you?' And I couldn't hold it anymore. It broke my heart."

Grieco, who shipped out to Afghanistan this summer, was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 122nd Field Artillery, based at Sycamore, Ill. He is the 80th service member killed in Afghanistan to be buried at Arlington.

He wanted to be buried at the cemetery like his grandfather, John Grieco, who rests on the west side of Section 60.

"We were just here recently for his grandpa, and I couldn't even imagine that I'd have to come back for my husband," she said. "I feel like I'm walking in a nightmare right now."

During the service, folded flags were presented to Grieco's wife and parents, Linda and retired Col. Ralph Grieco. Afterward, family members lingered by the wooden coffin for more intimate goodbyes.

After they finished and moved back toward their cars, almost on cue, a light drizzle began to fall again.

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