Check exodus of technical manpower
Wg Cdr D.P. Sabharwal (Retd) Wars may be fought with machines but are won by the men behind them, is an age-old maxim whose wisdom can neither be negated nor denied. But that it can be ignored, is perhaps the notion many present day air force commanders seem to have. It is sad as it cannot be proved during peacetime that it can be ignored and in times of war it would be too costly in terms of lives and equipment lost. Driving a car is easier than maintaining it. Moreover, the car and its systems are relatively less in number and simple as compared to an aircraft. A modern day aircraft costing hundreds of crores of rupees is a very intricate and complex machine. To maintain it in a fly-worthy condition round the clock is a challenging if not daunting task. Therefore, the men entrusted with this task have to be fully fit physically and more so mentally. This however is not the case, if one looks at the number of technicians seeking pre-mature release. Technicians are among the most important assets of the air force, constituting almost 65 per cent of the manpower. For the past many years, they are leaving in large numbers. There are many important aspects linked to this that need consideration. Firstly, they are leaving in the prime of their lives, at an age of 38-40 years. Secondly, they are leaving after an experience of 20 odd years, which is too good to be lost. Thirdly, those who are leaving are no dead-wood. In fact they are generally the best. They are skilled and have enough confidence that they will be able to settle in another job outside. On the contrary those who are not confident of themselves prefer to remain in service, keep cribbing about the not-so-conducive environment and continue giving their second or third best to the organisation. There may be many reasons why technicians leave, but the sad part is the organisation is apparently not interested in knowing these. This feeling arises from the simple fact that there is no system in place to obtain the exit feedback. The air-warrior gives his unwillingness to continue in service almost 30 months before he can hang his uniform. During this long period, he is not interviewed by his immediate section commander or the commanding officer or any other specialist from higher echelons. He is neither advised nor counseled against leaving or continuing in service. He is just asked by Air Force Records Office, which he visits for final clearance, to fill a two-page performa stating his reasons for leaving. What happens to this lone performa, no one knows. Upward communication in any organisation, is as essential as downward communication for proper functioning and growth. In fact many organisations regard it more useful and value upward communication from its employees, since it is considered good for growth as well as employee morale. The defence forces, at one point of time, used to employ this method to great use. There used to be "barakhanas" (lunch or dinner with subordinates in their mess) and "welfare meetings" that were meaningful. Subordinates were made comfortable and coaxed to come out with grievances, small or big, relevant or irrelevant. The fact that they were able to do so in the presence of their commanding officer, considered to be the father figure, gave them a lot of solace and mental satisfaction. All this is being done today, but apparently without any heart and soul in it and merely as a formality on the part of seniors. Even subordinates tend to feel uncomfortable at such meetings and in fact, are reluctant to bring out irregularities or disturbing points for fear they may be harassed and victimised. Another important area in which the air force has not done anything except making cosmetic changes is related to security duties by highly skilled technicians. Imagine technicians who are paid Rs 25,000 or so per month are required to do night duties guarding buildings and hangers. How effective they are in performing such duties is anybody's guess, but one thing is clear. Professional security personnel such as pre-maturely retired army personnel can perform such duties more efficiently. Yet another important point is that technical airmen seeking pre-mature release make a beeline for clerical jobs, preferably in banks, while there is a great shortage of trained technicians in civil airlines. There is no cell in the vast Air Headquarters to look in to this aspect and do the necessary tie-up with Directorate General of Civil Aviation. The air force is going in a big way to modernise its ageing fleet. More complex and state-of-the-art aircraft would require trained and skilled technicians. Before the new aircraft arrive, the air force needs to modernise its thinking process, look into the reasons for the large outflow of the skilled manpower and take timely steps to arrest the trend. Only then will it be able to "touch the sky with glory".
CAG raps Navy for buying faulty copters
Rs 184 cr spent on 40-yr-old choppers;
Air Force slammed for putting Mi-17 on non-IAF duties Ajay Banerjee Tribune News Service Bad deal n The INS Jalashwa and six choppers purchased from the US beyond their lifecycle n No guarantee of support and replacement of defective parts. n The choppers are devoid of any weather or surface surveillance radar, which is most important sensor for such category of choppers. New Delhi, August 3 The Union Government has been slammed by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) for wasting huge funds to buy choppers for the Navy that had serious snags and delaying upgrade of fighter jets. In a severe indictment, the CAG report says six choppers acquired from the US for Rs 184 crore, along with the INS Jalashwa, were beyond their lifecycle and compromised operational effectiveness of the Navy. The choppers were built between 1961 and 1965 and decommissioned from the (US) Navy in 2005. To add to it, the airframe life of choppers was on the verge of ending. The Navy had acquired the copters in September 2007. The INS Jalashwa is a landing platform dock used for amphibious operations. The choppers are used to ferry troops. The CAG says these choppers were delivered with many defects. There was no guarantee of support and replacement of defective parts. Lastly, and crucially, the choppers were devoid of any weather or surface surveillance radar, which is most important sensor for such category of choppers. The CAG says the delayed upgrade of the Sea Harrier fighters at a cost of Rs 641.62 crore may not yield the desired results due to short residual life. The Navy will operate these aircraft for three more years only. The Sea Harriers operate from INS Viraat. “The upgrade programme does not encompass either modernisation of the existing equipment or procurement of updated versions of the same,” the report says. The CAG, after a performance audit, goes on to call the assets of the Navy’s aviation arm as “ageing and obsolete”. There have been significant delays in finalisation of the long-term acquisition plans. By 2012, its aviation arm is likely to achieve only 26, 33 and 63 per cent of the force levels required for long range reconnaissance, combat and anti-submarine warfare aircraft, respectively. The CAG has also slammed the IAF for not properly utilising the M1-17 choppers. “A large number of choppers have been assigned to civil authorities, counter-insurgency operations, United Nations missions. The helicopters are undergoing unauthorised modification for VVIP use. To be fully combat effective, the fleet needs to strengthen itself, in numbers and also quality,” the report said. Nearly, 78 per cent of IAF choppers have completed their prescribed life. Despite availability of funds and a specific acquisition programme, the IAF was unable to induct even a single helicopter between 2002 and 2007, the CAG noted.
Comic to immortalise 26/11 martyr
Tribune News Service New Delhi, August 3 The martyrdom of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan of the National Security Guards (NSG) will be immortalised in a war comic, The Braveheart of Mumbai, slated for an August 14 release here. One of the best-known faces of Operation Black Tornado, Major Unnikrishnan was killed while engaging well-armed terrorists inside the Taj Hotel in Mumbai on November 28, 2008. He was with the Army’s Bihar Regiment but was on deputation to the NSG. He was the team commander of 51 SAG, which was called in to flush out militants from the hotel. Author Aditya Bakshi said that the comic aimed to keep memories of national heroes alive. This is the third comic on real time war heroes being released by The Indian War Comics. Other two releases were on Paramvir Chakra awardee Capt Vikram Batra and Ashok Chakra and Kirti Chakra awardee Col NJC Naira.
Women in uniform Permanent commission marks a triumph
In a man’s world women have to consistently fight battles to get what should be rightfully theirs. Time and again they have to beat all odds to break the glass ceiling that men have created for them on grounds that are at best frivolous but otherwise reek of blatant gender discrimination. What else can explain the Army’s stubborn refusal to grant them a permanent commission? But now serving women officers in the Army have a reason to smile about as after seven years of legal battle the government has assured to give them a permanent commission in the legal and educational branches of the Army. Since a commission in the combat arms like infantry and armoured corps is still out of bounds for them, the government’s acceptance of their demand symbolises a limited, albeit, a significant victory. In times when women occupy unassailable positions of power in various domains, to deny them a proper role in the defence forces is not only illogical but also discriminatory. In fact, women in uniform may be in a minority but their presence is being increasingly recognised and accepted. Not too long ago, women in the Indian Air Force had won a long court battle that allowed them a permanent commission in all branches. The Border Security Force’s all-women battalion has even celebrated one year of its existence. What is also heartening is that women were part of the retreat ceremony at the Attari-Wagah border this year. The Indo-Tibetan-Border Police too has got its first women contingent. Why should the Army then have taken such an intransigent stance on women’s role? No wonder, the apex court pertinently enquired – if you can’t give permanent commission then why at all give short service commission to women in the Army? The Army which is besieged by shortage of officers should welcome women who have time and again proved their merit in various fields from business to banking to foreign affairs to politics. In a free democratic nation no one should be denied an equality of opportunity, more so on the basis of gender.
Pak Army as dominant factor Remote possibility of rapprochement with India
by Air Marshal R.S Bedi (retd) The recently concluded negotiations between the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan got stalled, ostensibly at the behest of the Pakistan Army. As soon as the Army realised that the direction in which the talks were heading was not in keeping with its thinking, the Pakistan Army Chief, Gen Ashfaque Parvez Kayani, hastened to meet Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari who had to postpone their previously scheduled meetings with India’s External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna in order to receive the General. General Kayani has, therefore, emerged as the most important player in shaping Pakistan’s foreign policy. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, notwithstanding his taunts about Krishna seeking advice frequently from Delhi during the course of the negotiations, had to hold comprehensive consultations with his Army Chief before meeting India’s External Affairs Minister. General Kayani, who has managed an extension in service for himself, is the key element in Pakistan’s power structure and controls the mechanism for taking decisions on major policy issues. He even summons the civilian bureaucracy to General HQs for finalising agendas, particularly on matters of foreign policy. Grant of a second tenure as Army Chief is not without reason. The Gilani-Zardari combine has managed to pre-empt the chances of military takeover and ensured mutual safety for the next three years at least. The Pakistan Army cannot escape the blame for the India-Pakistan talks getting derailed. Even when the talks were in progress, the Pakistan Army was playing spoilsport. It kept the LoC alive by intermittent heavy firing and infiltrating militants in ever-increasing numbers. Whenever an Indo-Pak engagement takes place at the political level, something untoward happens that stalls the talks and ensures that the status quo ante is not disturbed. The Army is constrained to hold the Indo-Pak normalisation process hostage. It cannot let its primacy slip away. India must, therefore, remain a cause for concern for the Pakistan Army. Surprisingly, India always appears keen to engage Pakistan in talks despite Islamabad’s repeated attempts to strike at it in various ways. It was Pakistan that attacked India in 1947, 1965 and 1971 without any provocation. The Kargil misadventure of 1999 was planned by General Musharraf at a time when Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was visiting Lahore for peace talks with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Could there be worse perfidy than this? If one is to consider the other means employed by Pakistan to destabilise India, the list is long and devastating. Attacks on Indian Parliament, Akshardham in Gujarat and the Mumbai terrorist killings in November 2008 are just a few examples of how provocative Pakistan’s behaviour has been all these years Pakistan has been exporting terrorism since the days of Gen Zia-ul-Haq with impunity. Despite promising repeatedly that it would not allow terrorists to operate from its soil, Islamabad has failed to honour its pledge so far. Pakistan’s proclivity to go back on its promise and deny its hand in most brazen acts of terrorism perpetrated by its state agencies bewilders India, to say the least. And yet India continues to show genuine restraint, extent of provocations notwithstanding. However, India is worried about its mounting security concerns. The military leadership in Pakistan has to be careful that it does not cross India’s threshold of strategic restraint. Pakistan may like us to believe that there is some sort of trust deficit between the two nations due to which their relations remain perennially tense. But the facts are different. Pakistan’s insatiable desire to cut India to size has led it astray on a path of compulsive hatred and animosity. The Pakistan Army in particular views India as its national enemy number one. It is not trust deficit, therefore, but the lack of strategic vision on its part due to which it continues to push India beyond a point all the time. Why does India fall in such honey traps and tow Pakistan’s line of trust deficit? It has been one-way traffic all the time. “Non-state actors” is yet another Pakistani invention. By calling its militants/extremists whom it provides all the succour they need as “non-state actors”, it washes its hands off any responsibility for their acts of subversion and mayhem in India. How can a government disown its responsibility when its citizens, operating from its soil and often under official patronage, try to destabilise a neighbouring country? How does India accept such ridiculous alibis from Pakistan? The problem with Pakistan is that it has not been able to reconcile itself to the asymmetries in our size, resources, population, GDP and comprehensive national power. India’s growing strategic capabilities, particularly after the civilian nuclear deal with the US and progressively increasing conventional force superiority should have convinced Pakistan about the rationale of India being the dominant South Asian power. But Islamabad refuses to see the writing on the wall. It continues to compete and seek parity with India. It fails to realise that it is an unequal match and, therefore, it is futile to aspire for parity. But as long as the military remains the dominant factor in Pakistan, the possibility of better understanding or any rapprochement with India is rather remote. It must be mentioned here that the Pakistan Government, a facade for a democratic dispensation, is in no position to take any action against the perpetrators of 26/11. The writer is a former Director-General, Defence Planning Staff
The armed forces are short of 14,244 officers, as stated by Defence Minister A.K. Antony in Parliament.
As the security environment throws up huge challenges, manpower issues continue to plague the armed forces, especially the officer cadre and some technical trades. The need to attract talent to maintain the forces’ cutting edge cannot be over-emphasised. Inadequate numbers blunt the cutting edge Brig Santokh Singh (Retd) Shortage of officers in the armed forces, particularly the army, which besides fighting six wars (including Sri Lanka) after the Partition, has been constantly involved in internal security duties is a matter of serious concern. Compared to other government establishments and the private sector, service conditions of the armed forces, which continue to receive step motherly treatment, are a lot more strict and difficult. Even the Supreme Court has opined that the government treats them as beggars. No wonder, therefore, that the well informed youth of today are not attracted to donning the military uniform, the prestige and love for it having considerably waned. A number of academies that came up in the 50s and 60s to train aspirants for getting a commission in the forces, have closed shop for this reason. Against authorisation of 23 officers, infantry units, for example, are having a posted strength of only 10 officers. Considering officers on courses, leave or temporary duty, those actually present in a unit at any one time are just five of six. This adversely affects administrative and training commitments. The situation gets accentuated for units deployed in operational areas like J&K. Substantially increased authorisation of 48 junior commissioned officers (JCOs) in a battalion is a welcome step to create more avenues of advancement for the ranks. For active operations, however, old, slow, less educated and less adventurous JCOs, at the fag end of their career, cannot fill the void in frontline leadership provided by young, dashing and adventurous officers. This is amply borne by the number of officer casualties during anti-terrorist operations. A colonel from 18 RR killed in June, a lieutenant colonel from of 37 RR injured on July 13, a major killed on July 14 and another major injured on July 15 are recent instances. As a tool of the government, the army is used in aid to civil authorities for all sorts of jobs, ranging from rescuing children from bore wells to combating natural calamities. It is now being considered to fight Maoists, which will further add to the demand on officer leadership for operations in a number of the Maoist affected states. Yet, the government seems to have a "chalta hai" attitude about the shortage of officers, perhaps in the belief that a conventional war with potential adversaries is a remote possibility. In this context, the leaders could do well to refer to erstwhile Deputy PM V. Patel's letter of November 7, 1950 (mentioned in Unsung Battles of 1962) to the Jawaharlal Nehru, wherein giving a detailed visualisation of China's long term designs in the region, he emphasised the need for preparing the country for a military threat from that quarter. Twelve years later in 1962, we got a rap from China, the obvious reson of which was the scant attention paid to his assessment and warning. The contents of that letter are all the more relevant now with resurgent China's emphatically increased assertions of its interests in Tibet, Arunachal and Ladakh, as also for its multifaceted collusion with Pakistan to change the balance of power with India. As regards Pakistan, its foreign minister Quereshi's consultations with Pak army chief a day before the July 15 meet at Islamabad and later his arrogant conduct during parleys, allegedly on behest of Gen Pervez Kayani who has now secured a three-year extension, represents the extent of the army's predominance in that country. Again, it is chiefly for the doings of its army that Pakistan has positioned itself as indispensable to the two world powers. To match this strategic success, the Pakistani army, having received massive US military aid may undertake any Kargil-like adventure to try and wash the stigma of its successive military defeats at India's hands. The ISI sponsored 26/11 strike in Mumbai may well be a feeler to gauge our capability and will to strike back in reprisal. As such, armed conflicts with our neighbours caused by a Mumbai like provocation or other geo-political reasons are a distinct possibility. In any case, the best way to avoid a war, as the saying goes, is to be prepared for it. The capability to hit or to hit back well, despite all what we possess in terms of armaments and equipments, calls for requisite leadership and that too in adequate numbers at the cutting edge of the armed forces. Unit commanders, as the proverbial wearers of the pinching shoes, should not just serve time to somehow complete their tenure of appointments, but formally represent in black and white about the shortages of officers. Such representations should then be processed up the channels for the services chiefs to ring the bell and ring it well in the concerned quarters to impress upon the government to make the armed forces effectively strong and kicking at the delivery ends. As a military power to count in the region, besides befitting our rising prestige and place in the international polity, we would certainly dissuade the adversaries from offending us at will. The need, therefore of attracting the aspiring youth to the armed forces by ensuring the warranted adequacy of pay, perks, pension and above all prestige for defence officers to be seen, heard and held in respect, cannot be over emphasised
2,000 additional troops for trouble-torn Valley Tribune News Service New Delhi, August 3 With no let-up in Valley violence, the Centre today decided to rush around 2,000 Central paramilitary force personnel to sensitive border areas. The Union Government, however, clarified that no additional Army troops were being sent. J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Monday had said that to strictly impose the curfew more forces were needed. A decision was also taken to re-deploy 3,200 personnel already posted in the state. More forces will be stationed in sensitive and troubled areas, where incidents of arson were being reported. Even today, the curfew remained in force in the Valley, with protesters refusing to budge. Back in the Capital, the Centre will apprise the Parliament tomorrow of steps being taken to bring the situation in the Valley under control. Home Minister P. Chidambaram is expected to make a statement in this regard tomorrow. More than 23 persons have been reported dead in violent clashes between the security forces and protestors in the Valley recently. Meanwhile, the BJP today sought an all-party meeting on the crisis to firm up a strategy to control Kashmir violence. The government is yet to respond to the demand. Yesterday, BJP veteran LK Advani had raised the matter in Zero Hour, demanding answers from the Home Minister. The Left also today shot off a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and asked him to send a parliamentary delegation to the Valley. CPM leaders in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha Sitaram Yechury and Basudeb Acharia will meet the PM on Thursday to discuss the issue. For its part, the BJP today said it was a mistake on part of the Centre to recall troops from Kashmir. Party deputy leader in Lok Sabha Gopinath Munde said the withdrawal of troops by the Centre was a costly decision.
‘Permanent Commission will attract more women to Army’ Garima Tripathi Posted online: Wed Aug 04 2010, 03:26 hrs Pune : The government’s positive response to the Supreme Court on the long-pending issue of permanent commission for SSC women officers has brought cheer not only to the women serving in the Indian Army but also to various defence coaching centres in the city, which feel the move will motivate more young women to choose a career in the Army. Col (Rtd) Prakash Khandekar, who heads Eagle Academy and coaches students for SSB interviews and training, welcomed the decision, which he said would prompt a number of young women to consider the Army as a career option. However, he added that permanent commission comes with its own set of demands and woman aspirants should be prepared to face it. “When you are serving a full-term, you need to be very responsible and consistent to rise up. It's like a pyramid-like structure – with a steep top – so you have to give your best,” said Khandekar. For 22-year-old Susan Verghese, who is currently undergoing a training programme for the Armed Forces from a city-based academy, the news cemented her dream to join the Indian Army. "It proves we are considered as fit and equal to men. It's reason for me to give my 200 per cent to my SSB interview in October," said Verghese, who is pursuing a master's degree in Defence and Strategic Studies from the University of Pune. Himani Sudumbrekar, who has cleared her SSB interview is awaiting the merit list that will be out in September. “It’s a positive step and Iike me, a lot of women were waiting for this,” she said. As of now, if and when implemented, the decision to offer permanent commission to SSC women officers will be applicable only in the education and legal branches. However, some like Rajesh Ramakrishnan of Cavalier India-Defence Career Training Academy is hopeful that the coming years will see women in combat branches such as infantry and artillery too. “Over the past few years, there has been a major change in the outlook towards the Armed Forces. Girls today are quite serious about pursuing a career in this field and enjoy their parents’ support too,” he said.
CAG finds lapses in defence wings
The CAG has found that the IAF is operating with just 74% of its operational requirements for helicopters Aman Malik New Delhi: The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has found serious shortcomings and irregularities in the operations and management of the military (Mi series) helicopters by the Indian Air Force (IAF), in the functioning of the aviation arm of the Indian Navy and in the supply chain management of rations in the Army. In a report released Tuesday, the CAG has found that the IAF is operating with just 74% of its operational requirements for helicopters. The report points out that up to 78% of the IAF’s helicopter fleet have already completed their prescribed life and that technological life extensions have been carried out on them for elongating their life. “Despite the availability of funds and a specific acquisitions programme, the IAF was unable to induct even a single helicopter between 2002 and 2007,” the report says. “This (deficit) has been exacerbated, in the recent past, by the substantial aid being given to civil authorities for counter insurgency and natural disasters, United Nations missions, requests from friendly nations and unauthorized modification of helicopters for VVIP use.” The report further points out that as a consequence of shortage of spares, 210 engines were sent abroad at a cost of Rs68.49 crores. Highlighting the shortcomings in the aviation arm of the navy, the CAG report says that on account of the high number of aircrafts undergoing repair and overhaul and because of the sluggish process in the acquisition programme, only 26% of the asset strength was operationally available. “Attack capabilities of the already depleted aircraft fleet onboard the (aircraft) carrier have been restricted in the absence of a fully functional radar and limited firing of practice missiles,” the report says while taking a grim view of the fact that is unlikely to have a new aircraft carrier before 2013. The report also highlights that even after two decades, the navy’s provisional requirement for 120 Advanced Light Helicopters has not been fulfilled. Commenting on the recent acquisitions that were finalized for the navy’s aviation wing, the report points out that six UH-3H helicopters acquired from abroad in November 2006, were “ife-expired and had many defects which would ultimately compromise operational effectiveness.” On the issue of supply chain management of rations in the Indian Army, the report says that the Army raises rations “n a normative basis rather than on real data.” he report finds that in the northern command, rations were issued after expiry of storage life and certain food testing labs have been rather liberal in extending the life cycles of samples. Even when it came to vendor registration and the tendering process for fresh foods, the CAG found that up to 86% of the supply orders were on the basis of tendering that involves only one or two vendors. In fact, as many as 33% of the contracts were awarded to the lone bidder.
Shortage of over 14,000 officers in defence services: Antony
Defence Minister A.K. Antony has said the Indian army faces a shortage of 11,500 officers. The Hindu Defence Minister A.K. Antony has said the Indian army faces a shortage of 11,500 officers. The three defence services are facing a shortage of 14,244 officers and the Coast Guard was short of 679 officers and over 2,500 personnel below officer rank, the Lok Sabha was informed on Monday. “The shortage of officers is around 11,500 in the Army, 1,507 in the Navy and 1,237 in the Air Force,” Defence Minister A.K. Antony said in a reply to a query. He added that the shortage of officers was “partly attributable to accretions from time to time, tough selection procedures, difficult service conditions coupled with perceived high degree of risk involved in recruitment and training.” He added that a number of steps to attract youth to join the Armed Forces have been taken, which include increase in tenure of Short Service Commission (SSC) officers from 10 to 14 years, increasing promotional avenues for officers by implementing the A.V. Singh Committee recommendations on the restructuring of officers cadre of the Indian Army and implementing the Sixth Pay Commission report. Replying to another query, Mr. Antony said the DRDO was facing a shortage of aeronautical engineers and the premier defence research agency requires 20 such engineers every year for the next five years. In reply to another question, the Defence Minister said there was no “significant deficiency” in the officers in the Armed Forces Medical Services and added that in the Army Medical Corps, there was a shortage of 388 officers.
Defence to get pan-India broadband network
3 Aug 2010, 0253 hrs IST,Joji Thomas Philip,ET Bureau Topics: NEW DELHI: India's defence forces will soon have a pan-India wireless broadband network. This was decided in a meeting on July 20 between the telecom and defence ministries, officials with direct knowledge of the development told ET. The telecom ministry has accepted the armed forces demand that one slot of pan-India wireless broadband airwaves be reserved for it. In the recently concluded auctions, Reliance Industries, which bought out Infotel, was the only player that bagged pan-India wireless broadband airwaves. The telecom department has also said that the armed forces can take a call whether to use WiMAX or the upcoming LTE technology for their pan-India wireless broadband network. The July 20 meet was attended by five representatives from the armed forces, including Lt General P Mohapatra, SO-in-C, and Lt Col VK Jain, officiating director — both from army headquarters, and the team of wireless advisers from the telecom department led by Dr Ashok Chandra. As against the telecom department’s (DoT) plan to award 10 MHz of wireless broadband frequencies, the defence has sought that this be doubled in line with what is being handed out to the winners of the recently concluded auctions. The telecom department is in the process of awarding 20 MHz of BWA spectrum to the two winners in each circle. DoT sources said that the armed forces demand for 10 MHz of additional broadband spectrum will be considered during the next round of meeting between both parties. In another related development, during the same meet, the telecom ministry had also sought that the armed forces vacate up to 65 MHz of 2G spectrum so that the government can meet its obligations by providing the minimum amount of airwaves to all existing telcos as specified in their licences. This comes as the future expansion prospects of new entrants and other mid-sized mobile operators are on a sticky wicket as a DoT study has for the first time confirmed that India has virtually exhausted its stock of 2G airwaves, the frequencies on which all mobile services are delivered today. The DoT requires as much as 85 MHz of 2G airwaves to ensure that all “existing” operators get the minimum amount of airwaves promised in their licence. ET has learnt that the defence services have told the DoT that they were open to releasing about 55 MHz of 2G airwaves. This will happen in a phased manner and will be linked to the completion of the alternate network that the DoT is building for the defence forces. The armed forces have also told the DoT that they will take a call on vacating an additional 10 MHz of 2G spectrum (so that the total amount they release is equal to 65 MHz ) after studying the matter internally. Officially, the allotment of 2G airwaves or ‘spectrum’ has been on hold for the past 18 months on the grounds that the communication ministry is yet to finalise a new methodology for awarding these airwaves. But telcos who having been waiting for months, are unlikely to get any 2G spectrum in most circles even after the new allocation methodology is finalised, unless the armed forces bail out the DoT. The armed forces support is therefore crucial since the DoT study, a copy of which is with ET, confirms there are no 2G airwaves available with it in the 900 MHz band, while only tiny bits are available in the 1,800 MHz. (The 900 MHz and 1,800 MHz are the two frequency bands in which 2G airwaves are present). According to the DoT, second generation spectrum is currently available with it in only 10 of India’s 22 circles and in these cases, too, little in most regions — for instance, Delhi has 3.6 units of 2G airwaves left while Mumbai has 2.2 MHz. Additionally, about 50% of the country’s 14 telcos have only the basic start-up 2G spectrum in many key circles, leading to a possibility of many operators being unable to expand their networks to cater to their growing customer bases. For instance, in the Mumbai circle, leading operators such as Idea Cellular, Reliance Communications (GSM), Tata DoCoMo, Aircel, Uninor all have only 4.4 MHz of airwaves, the minimum required to launch mobile services. While each of these mobile firms are awaiting an additional of minimum 1.8 units of 2G spectrum for their next phase of operations, the DoT study indicates that a mere 2.2 units are available in total. Similarly, in the case of say Maharashtra, where no 2G frequencies are available. Only eight telcos have startup airwaves, most of whom are also awaiting additional frequencies to improve the quality of services for their growing subscriber numbers.