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Wednesday, 6 October 2010

From Today's Papers - 06 Oct 2010

Centre ends disparity in disability pension
New pension rules to benefit those who retired before 2006 Vijay Mohan Tribune News Service  Chandigarh, October 5 Orders have been issued to revise the disability pension and special family pension of Central government employees who have retired prior to January 2006, thereby bringing in the much sought after parity with the pension of those who retired in or after 2006.  Orders issued by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievance and Pensions on September 30 state that after the pension has been calculated in accordance with the new rules, the new pension would be paid.  The new benefits would be granted with effect from January 1, 2006, the date of implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission. Since the aforementioned ministry is the nodal authority for formulating pension policies for all Central government departments and agencies, the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Railways are also expected to soon implement these orders with relevant.  With this, the pension of all pre-2006 retirees in receipt of disability, extraordinary or liberalised pension will be fixed as a percentage of the new post-2006 scales, rather than the old formula entailing basic pension multiplied by 2.26.  The new rules would also be in line with the judgment of the Supreme Court in D.S. Nakara’s case, which ruled that the formula of pension calculation has to be the same for all employees irrespective of the date of retirement.  Under the new rules, the family pension of a deceased employee who was not holding a pensionable post would be 40 per cent of the pay in the pay band plus grade pay or minimum basic pay, while in cases where the deceased was holding a pensionable post, the pension would 60 per cent of the pay in the pay band plus grade pay or minimum basic pay.  Disability pension would comprise a service element of 50 per cent of the minimum pay in the pay band plus grade pay or minimum basic pay plus disability element of 30 per cent of the same minimum basic pay for 100 per cent disability.  The service element would be reduced proportionately if an employee does not have qualifying service for full pension.

Review WW-II veterans’ pension 
Kochi, October 6 Armed Forces Tribunal, Regional Bench here has set aside a Defence Ministry order refusing to grant pension to second World War veterans and directed the Centre to reconsider the whole issue 'afresh' within four months.  "It is only just and proper that the government should consider the whole issue afresh considering the fact that the veterans of World War II are a vanishing class," the bench held.  The bench, comprising Justice K Padmanabhan Nair and Lt General Thomas Mathew, in a recent order, ruled that even if they were not entitled to pension, "the Union of India should consider some financial assistance so as to enable them to lead a respectable life." — PTI

New salary scheme for paramilitary troops unveiled
  New Delhi, October 5 The government has brought more than eight lakh personnel of paramilitary forces like the CRPF, the BSF and the NSG under a new “charge-free” salary scheme that entitles them to have concessional loans and hassle-free withdrawal of salaries.  Under the new scheme, the spouses of these men and women in uniform will be provided with free “add-on ATM cards” which will enable them to withdraw money and carry out financial transactions while the earning member of the family is posted far away along the border or in Naxal-hit areas of the country.  The country’s largest banker, the State Bank of India, recently launched a unique paramilitary salary package on the lines of a similar facility for the armed forces - the Army, the Navy and the Air Force.  The new scheme will entitle paramilitary jawans to enjoy “charge-free” facilities like zero balance account, free ATM-cum-shopping card without an annual maintenance fee and freedom to draw their salaries from the nearest SBI branch or an ATM of any bank, while being deployed away from their parent units. — PTI  WHAT THEY GET      * Zero balance bank account facility     * Free ATM-cum-shopping card     * Free multi-city cheques, DDs, Internet banking     * Loans at special rates     * Spouses to get add-on ATM cards 

  Going obsolete IAF modernisation is imperative
  It has been pointed out by numerous defence analysts also in the past, but when the chief of the Indian Air Force, Air Chief Marshal PV Naik, himself admits that 50 per cent of the equipment — including fighters, radars, transport aircraft and air defence weapons — was either obsolete or obsolescent (becoming obsolete), it is a matter of grave concern. This is an unfortunate consequence of the ill-advised policy followed by the political leadership in the wake of the Bofors scandal in 1990s to put a virtual ban on all acquisitions. Later also, enough money was not earmarked for purchases and this caused inevitable delays. Such equipment cannot be procured off the shelf. As such, it will be several years before the shortfall can be met. The IAF chief is optimistic that the obsolescence level will come down to 20 per cent by 2014-15. That will be possible only if amends are made immediately.  He has bravely underlined that despite this shortcoming, the IAF was capable of handling threats. That can perhaps be done, but that will take a heavy toll on its glorious men. In modern warfare, bravery of the men has to be matched by the excellence of their equipment. Having to make do with Russian-origin air defence systems such as the OSA-AK and Pechora and the shoulder-fired Igla missiles, which have been in service for more than two decades, the world’s fourth largest air force is certainly handicapped. Equally serious is the shortage of 600 pilots and over 5,000 persons below officer rank.  On the other hand, China has been making big strides on the defence front. So is the case with Pakistan which may otherwise be on the verge of bankruptcy but has been modernising its defence forces on priority. India can ward off any foolhardy misadventure only if it keeps its powder dry and is battle-ready for every multi-front and multidimensional war.

  Attacks on NATO trucks Fight against terrorism may get derailed 
The US threat that the routes passing through Pakistan to Afghanistan will not be used for supplies to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan if Islamabad does not fully cooperate in preventing Taliban attacks on NATO trucks highlights the increasing tensions between the super power and its “ally” in the war on terror. As a result, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan is feeling emboldened. Taliban militants set on fire over 36 NATO vehicles in south Pakistan on Friday alone. The latest such incident occurred on Monday. The extremists have claimed responsibility for what they did. This is quite disturbing for those engaged in fighting terrorism.  One of the factors affecting Pakistan’s relations with the US is the continuing drone attacks on the militants’ bases in Pakistan. In September alone 21 such attacks were carried out. It seems the US is not as successful in eliminating Pakistani Taliban bases as it claims. Increasing Taliban assaults on Afghanistan-bound NATO trucks passing through Pakistan provide proof of this ugly reality. These militants targeted this year as many as 55 NATO convoys, with 22 attacks occurring last month.  Despite their love-hate relationship, Pakistan has been getting considerable US military and economic assistance in the name of fighting Al-Qaida-Taliban militancy. The US feels it cannot eliminate the Taliban menace from Afghanistan if Pakistan’s cooperation is not there. The US problem is getting complicated with China fast increasing its presence in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. This factor has emboldened the Pakistan Army, which has come out almost openly in opposing the US drone attacks. After the Pakistan Army earned accolades from the masses for its role in handling the flood-caused crisis, it does not want to be seen as siding with the US on the issue of drone attacks. It seems to be finding virtue in opposing the US. This may ultimately help the Taliban and Al-Qaida strengthen their bases in the Af-Pak area, derailing the drive against militancy. The world community cannot afford to ignore this alarming development.

Yes, we trained ultras against India: Musharraf
  Washington, October 5 Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf has admitted that Pakistan had trained underground militant groups to fight in Kashmir, the first such admission by a top leader of the country. Musharraf's candid remarks came days after he announced his return to active politics from London where he has been living in self-imposed exile.  "They (underground militant groups to fight against India in Kashmir) were indeed formed," Musharraf told German magazine Der Spiegel in an interview.  Asked why did Pakistan train militant underground groups to fight India in Kashmir, the former President said Nawaz Sharif's apathy to the Kashmir issue was one of the reasons, so was the fact that the world had turned a blind eye to the dispute. "Yes, it is the right of any country to promote its own interests... when India is not prepared to discuss Kashmir at the United Nations and is not prepared to resolve the dispute in a peaceful manner," Musharraf claimed.  "The (Nawaz Sharif) government turned a blind eye because they wanted India to discuss Kashmir," he said.  Musharraf indicated he had no regrets for the Kargil intrusion, that led to an armed conflict with India in 1999, and argued that each country had a right to promote its national interest. Musharraf slammed the international community, particularly the West, for persistently ignoring the Kashmir issue, and for singling out Pakistan for all blames.  "The West was ignoring the resolution of the Kashmir issue, which is the core issue of Pakistan. We expected the West- especially the United States and important countries like Germany -to resolve the Kashmir issue. Has Germany done that?" the former Pakistan military ruler asked. Musharraf launched his political party the All Pakistan Muslim League in London and announced his intention to contest the 2013 election. "The West blames Pakistan for everything. Nobody asks the Indian Prime Minister, why did you arm your country with a nuclear weapon? Why are you killing innocent civilians in Kashmir? Nobody was bothered that Pakistan got split in 1971 because of India's military backing for Bangladesh. The United States and Germany gave statements, but they didn't mean anything," he said.  Musharraf, who overthrew Sharif's government in a bloodless coup in 1999, had, also as the Army chief, presided over the Kargil misadventure that had threatened to scale up into a full-fledged war between India and Pakistan. Musharraf charged the international community of courting India for strategic deals, while treating Pakistan as a rogue state.  Everybody is interested in strategic deals with India, but Pakistan is always seen as the rogue," Musharraf said.  The former Pakistan ruler also said the worst blunder of the US would be to quit in Afghanistan without winning."Then militancy will prevail not only in Pakistan, India and Kashmir, but perhaps also in Europe, the United Kingdom and in the United States. That's my belief," he said. — PTI

Burmese in India denounce military junta election
Nearly 2,200 political prisoners are serving under detention in Burma and there is no hint from the military junta that they might be allowed to participate in the election. CJ: Nava Thakuria   Tue, Oct 05, 2010 12:11:04 IST Views:      12    Comments: 0 Rate:  1 out of 5 2 out of 5 3 out of 5 4 out of 5 5 out of 5 3.5 / 2 votes            Latest World News :  Honouring Suu Kyi to condemn military election in Burma EXILED BURMESE living in India, have denounced the forthcoming general election on November 7, 2010 arguing that the exercise ‘will not bring any freedom to the people of Burma’. The exiled Burmese came out with a strong statement that the proposed election in Burma (Myanmar) would only legitimize the military rule, which has already earned a notorious name for human rights violation.  “The election will enact the 2008 Constitution, which not only contains many undemocratic measures including giving the military effective veto power over decisions made by the new parliament and government, but also depriving people of their basic human rights by stipulating ‘exception clauses’, and preserving draconian laws that explicitly prohibit freedom of speech, association, and assembly,” said M. Kim, an India based Burmese pro-democracy activist.   The activists also anticipate that the November 7 polls will ‘not be free or fair under the present regime and unsatisfied ambience’, as thousands of democracy activists have been imprisoned, intimidated, tortured or put to death for demanding justice, peace, human rights in the Southeast Asian country.   Speaking from New Delhi, Kim informed that ‘nearly 2,200 political prisoners are serving under detention in Burma and there is no hint from the military junta that they might be allowed to participate in the election’.   Meanwhile, on 141st birthday of Mahatma Gandhi (2 October 2010), Burma Centre Delhi had submitted an appeal to Sonia Gandhi, President of All India Congress Committee seeking her support in ‘restoring peace, justice, democracy and human rights in Burma’. The letter, endorsed by 44 Burmese organisations in India strongly argued for immediate release of Nobel laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi with other political prisoners.   “On this auspicious day, which marks Gandhiji’s birthday and also recognised as International Day of non-violence, we together with other Burmese organisations in India would like to seek your kind attention on the struggle for restoration of peace, human rights and democracy in Burma by non-violent means,” said in the BCD letter.   Suu Kyi is a recipient of Jawaharlal Nehru's Award for International Understanding (by India) and is regarded as a living symbol of Gandhiji's satyagraha movement. Suu Kyi was put under house arrest for 15 out of the last 20 years. She and her political party, National League for Democracy, have already been barred from participating in the forthcoming November 7 general election in the military ruled country.   Suu Kyi’s speeches in various occasions clearly reflected her deep respect to Gandhiji’s non-violence method of struggle saying, “If we consider a country like India which was very much influenced by Gandhiji’s non-violence philosophy you can see how clear the military has kept away from politics. India has had many political upheavals and it has faced many problems and it probably will have many problems to face in the future. But I think the seed of non-violence that was planted before independence has helped them a great deal in resolving the problems in a democratic way as is possible under the circumstances.”   The Burmese groups including All Burma Democratic Lusei Women Organization, All Burma Monks’ Representative Committee, Chin Human Rights Organization, Women League of Burma – India,  Shwe Gas Campaign – India, All Kachin Students & Youth Union, Arakan League for Democracy – Exile, Burmese Christian Association, Burmese Women Union, National League for Democracy Liberated Area, Zomi Women Union demand that ‘all political prisoners, including Suu Kyi, Khun Htun Oo and Min Ko Naing must be released before the election’.   More over, inclusive dialogue with key stakeholders from democracy groups and ethnic nationalities, including a comprehensive review of the 2008 Constitution must be convened and systematic human rights abuses and criminal hostilities against ethnic groups, political activists, journalists and civil society must be stopped, they pointed out.   The Burmese activists, though they were ‘deeply upset with the Government of India for accepting Burmese military ruler Than Shwe as a state guest in last July’, they still maintain hope that the largest democracy in the world would ‘play a crucial role in the process of national reconciliation and restoration of democracy in Burma’. They even urged New Delhi that it should not ‘endorse Burma’s military constitution and elections’, as it would only lead to entrenchment of military rule in the country.

Prince William undertakes first rescue for RAF
October 06, 2010 02:12 IST Tags: Prince William, Royal Air Force, Liverpool coast guard office, Search and Rescue, Ministry of Defence Share this Ask Users Write a Comment Click!  Britain's Prince William [ Images ], who is second in line to the throne, has successfully undertaken his first mission as a Royal Air Force search and rescue helicopter co-pilot, lifting an ill worker from an off-shore gas rig, his office said on Tuesday.  28-year-old Prince William was among the crew of a Sea King helicopter called to a rig in Morecambe Bay, off the coast of northwestern England [ Images ] on Saturday. A spokesman for the Prince said: "Prince William is pleased finally to be able to contribute to the lifesaving work of the search-and-rescue force. He is proud, after two years of intense training, to be able to serve in one of Britain's foremost emergency services."  Weather conditions were described by the Sea King's crew as being, "squally winds, which produced some moderate turbulence around the rig's helicopter landing platform." Squadron leader Dave Webster said the Prince performed "exactly as we would expect anyone new qualified to perform and to the standard that is required." He said, "the landing did have some minor complications caused by some moderate turbulence around the superstructure of the rig and the helicopter landing platform. It was nothing that they were not prepared for and nothing that had not been covered in their training."  It said the royal's Sea King helicopter, call sign was scrambled by the Liverpool coast guard office, and took about half an hour to fly to the rig from the crew's base at RAF Valley, in Anglesey, north Wales, on the Irish Sea coast. The ill man was quickly assessed by the RAF Winchman before Prince William and his team successfully transferred him over water to a helicopter landing site just a short ten-minute flight away, from where he was taken to Blackpool Victoria hospital by ambulance.  The Ministry of Defence released footage of the rescue and images of the Prince discussing the mission with the captain of Rescue 122 as they landed back at base. The Prince has described Search and Rescue as the "perfect opportunity" to serve the forces operationally, having been unable to deploy to Afghanistan for security reasons whilst serving in the Army as a lieutenant in the Blues and Royals.

Pvt sector to develop Rs 10,000-cr army communications network
Ajai Shukla / New Delhi October 06, 2010, 0:47 IST  Industry consortia to be formed to develop high-tech system.  In a giant first step towards bringing India’s reputed Information Technology (IT) industry into defence production, the Indian Army has approached six private sector IT majors to develop a high-tech communications backbone network for it.  The army’s communications chief, Lt Gen P Mohapatra, revealed today that the army had sent out security-classified “Expressions of Interest”, or EoI, for developing a Tactical Communications System (TCS), which will provide a robust, snoop-proof, mobile, cellular network for the Indian Army’s voice and data communications during battle.  The EoI, which Business Standard has reviewed, has gone out to at least five private companies: Tata Power (Strategic Electronics Division); HCL Infosystems; Wipro Technologies; Rolta India; and L&T. Another potential candidate, Tech Mahindra, was ruled out as it did not qualify as an Indian company because of a foreign holding component higher than 26 per cent.  In addition, three public sector undertakings — Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL); Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL); and ITI Ltd — have also received the EoI.  In the 16 months since the TCS project was sanctioned by the apex Defence Acquisition Council on May 18, 2009, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has tried to hand over the project without bidding to defence PSU, Bharat Electronics Ltd. As Business Standard reported (March 3, 2010: MoD sidelines pvt sector in crucial defence project), the MoD cited “communications secrecy” as the logic for handing over the project on a plate to BEL. After protracted internal debate, MoD decided to allow the Indian private sector to participate, with the Defence Research and Development Organisation developing the secret algorithms required for encoding communications.  Recipients of the EoI say the TCS development and production will cost up to Rs 10,000 crore. But the TCS is only a foot in the door for the private sector. CII Director-General Chandrajit Banerjee estimated today that there were about Rs 30,000-40,000 crore worth of defence electronics systems in the pipeline.  Recipients of the EoI must respond within two months (it was issued on September 24) giving out details of the consortia they create for the TCS project; their technology development plans; development milestones; and time schedules. They must also spell out their estimated capital expenditure for designing and developing a prototype system. Based upon this, MoD will select two companies, which will each build a prototype of the TCS. The better of the two will manufacture the seven TCS systems that the Indian Army needs.  The EoI places the TCS project in the “Make” category of the Defence Procurement Procedure of 2008 (DPP-2008). Under this, the MoD will fund 80 per cent of the development costs, while the selected company (termed the Development Agency, or DA) will fund the remaining 20 per cent. The “Make” procedure mandates that at least 30 per cent of the system must be indigenously developed. However, one of the companies that have received the EoI confidently claims that it will develop at least 70-80 per cent of the system in India.  In a bold departure from its earlier practice of selecting the lowest bidder, MoD has indicated that indigenisation and technological quality of the product would be considered in choosing a Development Agency. The EoI states: “The contribution of the Indian industry in acquiring and developing Technologies in critical areas shall be a key criterion in assessment of various proposals (sic).”  Intriguingly, MoD has issued EoIs in the TCS project only to companies that fulfilled the criteria developed for nominating Raksha Udyog Ratnas, a concept that MoD went on to reject. These criteria, which are mentioned in the EoI, include registration at least 10 years ago as a public limited company; FDI holding of under 26 per cent; annual turnover of at least Rs 1000 crore; a minimum credit rating of CRISIL/ICRA-‘A’; and a positive net worth and profitable operations in at least 3 of the last 5 years.  The TCS project is India’s second project under the “Make” procedure, after the Future Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) development project (Business Standard, August 9, 2010, Indian industry at landmark defence tender). But MoD sources, pointing out the significance of the TCS, say: “The FICV is just a standalone armoured vehicle. In contrast, the TCS is a network-centric backbone that connects crucial systems in the electronic battlefield; it connects the sensors, the shooters, the decision systems and the command hierarchy. It is the backbone for everything.”

Govt plans cheap home loans for paramilitary staff
 In an effort to make home ownership easier for paramilitary personnel, the Central government is planning to launch a scheme under which home loans are made available to them at concessional rates.  “The scheme will allow a soldier from a paramilitary force to avail cheaper home loans at least two years prior to his retirement,” a senior home ministry officer told Hindustan Times.  The official added that the government is formulating the exact modalities of this scheme, such as loans rates and tenures and has initiated talks with several banks for its implementation.  “The State Bank of India has in-principle agreed to be part of this scheme,” the official said.  In fact, SBI has already been closely associated with the armed forces. The bank had recently launched Defence Salary Package (DSP) for the Indian Army whereby it aims to open close to 12 lakh accounts of Army personnel under the scheme.  The DSP offers free drafts, cheque books, fund transfers and ATM cards to the soldiers of Indian Army to any of SBI Group’s over 15,000 branches.  The scheme also offers home, auto and personal loans to Army personnel at 25 basis points lower than the floor rate.

The sense of defence
 India’s callous disregard for external security translates into outdated defence equipment and planning myopia on procurement
On Monday, Indian Air Force (IAF) chief P.V. Naik said that half of its equipment and systems are obsolete. This is perhaps unique: No other country close to India in terms of size and economic development shows such callous disregard for external security.  The air force is not the only branch of the Armed Forces that is confronting outdated equipment. Even the army faces the same issues. The latter’s quest for an artillery mainstay continues, as it has for the past 10 years.  Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint  Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint Naik was careful to play down the problem. He said the rate of obsolescence would come down to 20% by 2014-15. He also said there was no problem in securing the country’s air defence. But then he is the air chief, a person not accustomed to demoralizing citizens and troops. But there is no gainsaying that India needs to spend more and more quickly if the state of defence preparedness is not to suffer.  A look at the spending numbers shows the problem. Nominally, India’s defence expenditure, anywhere from 2% to 2.6% of gross domestic product (GDP), is higher than China’s (around 2% of its GDP). In contrast, Pakistan routinely spends more than what India does. But these measures say little because “defence expenditure” is a catch-all figure that includes salaries of soldiers, government agencies involved in defence projects, paramilitary forces and other expenditure. Seen purely in terms of capital expenditure, that is, on acquisition of new equipment, India is a laggard, and China, which in GDP terms spends less than India, is actually a bigger spender on this count.  This is the nub of the problem. India’s perspective planning for equipping itself and then implementing those plans is, to put it mildly, dysfunctional. China, in contrast, not only plans well, but also ensures that there are few gaps between such plans and their execution. Today, defence procurement is an area where honest civil servants and ministers fear to tread. By definition, this space then gets filled by crooks of all kinds. Defence minister A.K. Antony’s recipe of “going slow” may, for the time being, ensure that “sweet” deals are not executed, but it is also haemorrhaging security.  One can always say that over the long run, all these wrinkles will be ironed out, as the air chief said with respect to obsolescence coming down by 2014-15. The problem, however, is to remain ready in the short run, that is, here and now. That is where India’s condition raises serious concerns.

FGFA, nuke sub on discussion table at Indo-Russian talks
PTI | 06:10 PM,Oct 05,2010  New Delhi, Oct 5 (PTI) Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) deal worth USD 25 billion and leasing of Akula-II nuclear submarine are likely to top the agenda when India and Russia hold their annual talks on defence cooperation here on Thursday. Defence Minister A K Antony and his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov will meet here for the 10th India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC) to discuss a range of issues. Serdyukov, who will be co-chairing the Commission along with Antony, will arrive here tomorrow accompanied by a large delegation of Russian defence ministry and industry representatives. The IRIGC-MTC, headed by the Defence Ministers of the two countries, was instituted in the year 2000 with an objective to further the bilateral defence cooperation. Nine meetings of the Commission have been held so far, in New Delhi and Moscow, every alternate year. The two Defence Ministers are also expected to discuss regional and global security issues. "Since the establishment of a strategic partnership between the two countries in the year 2000, the two governments have steadily developed and strengthened bilateral cooperation covering a range of areas, of which defence forms a significant component," a Defence ministry statement here said. The two countries share a vibrant and a multifaceted military technical cooperation which includes not only supply of defence equipment and systems, but also collaboration in Research and Development and production. As far as FGFA was concerned, India plans to get 250 of the fighter jets for the Air Force, while the nuclear submarine will be leased by the Navy for 10 years to train its personnel before INS Arihant indigenous submarine joins the fleet. Among other issues that is expected to come up during the talks include co-development of a hypersonic BrahMos missile, a joint venture between the two countries. The two countries have already developed a BrahMos supersonic cruise missile for the Army, Air Force and Navy. The two sides also have agreements for India to produce T-90 tanks for its army under licensing. India would be having 1,640 T-90s in service by 2020. Recently, India's HAL signed a contract with the Russian Rosoboronexport for joint development of multi-role transport aircraft.

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