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Tuesday, 28 December 2010

From Today's Papers - 28 Dec 2010

Premature retirees entitled to disability pension: AFT
Tribune News Service  Chandigarh, December 27 The Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has ruled that defence officers who seek premature retirement and were released before 2006 are entitled to disability pension. Allowing petitions filed by Brig SS Ahluwalia, Lt Col Karan Singh and Col Sushil Kumar Sawhney, the Tribunal observed that the benefits of disability pension have already been extended to post 2006 retired personnel below officer rank (PBOR), but the government has denied the same to those who retired before 2006.  The petitioners had been denied grant of disability pension on the grounds that they had sought premature retirement even though their disability was attributable to military service and their request for premature retirement was accepted on medical grounds.  The Tribunal’s order also made a distinction in circumstances of these cases with those in the case of Union of India Vs Ajay Wahi, rendered by the Supreme Court, on the basis of which disability pension was being denied to the officers.  The petitioners had contended that while disability pension was being paid to both pre-2006 and post-2006 premature PBOR retirees and also to post-2006 premature officer retirees, the same was being refused only to pre-2006 officers.

Adarsh Society fails to file reply  
New Delhi, December 27 Scam-hit Mumbai's Adarsh Housing Society has failed to file its reply to the show-cause notice served by the Union Environment Ministry asking why its 31-storeyed building at Colaba should not be demolished for allegedly violating green laws.  "They have not filed the reply," a senior Ministry official said adding the hearing of the case has, however, been scheduled for December 29.  The ministry had in its order on December 15 asked the society to file its reply by December 24 and made it clear that no further extension of time for filing the reply would be given.  Following a request, the ministry had last week allowed the officials of the society to inspect the original documents which highlight the alleged violation of green laws by the society.  The ministry has already given two extension to the society, which is in the eye of a storm for constructing the high-rise allegedly ignoring various norms, to file the reply since it slapped its notice on November 12.  The society had on November 24 sought four weeks' time but the ministry on November 29 agreed for a seven-day extension till December 7.  But before the expiry of the notice period, the society sought an extension of one more month, which was not agreed to by the ministry which gave just seven more days to it.  The society built the structure, allegedly violating the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification and environment by-laws.  Besides green law violations, the Adarsh Society is also facing a CBI case for "fraudulently" converting the residential block originally meant to be a six-storeyed apartment block in Mumbai's upscale Colaba for housing widows of Kargil war heroes. — PTI

CPI caution against use of foreign software
Sandeep Dikshit In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Communist Party of India has raised the issue of sensitive government departments opting for foreign software, with their attendant security implications, over indigenous solutions.  CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta alleged that tender specifications for three mega software projects were tailored to suit foreign multi-national companies and block Indian product vendors.  The three projects pertain to defence forces, the Indian Railways and the Power Grid Corporation (PGC).  In an earlier letter to the Prime Minister, he had highlighted three similar cases in the Indian Air Force, Coal India and Department of Posts as “examples for immediate action.”  On the high security defence projects, Mr. Dasgupta pointed out that both tenders – for Naval Aviation Management System and the Indian Army's Computerised Inventory Control Project – should be cancelled. The government should instead offer these projects for competition among Indian companies, with the intellectual property rights resting within the country.  In the case of the Army project, “the tender and selection process were designed in a manner that only foreign MNC products could be offered. All the participating Indian companies were offering products by MNCs with the source code resting with the foreign company. This way we increase the risk of letting out sensitive defence and country-specific secrets. These products will also be dependent on foreign multinationals for support and upgrades.''  “Further, in the event of sanctions being imposed on the country by a foreign nation that also happens to be the software supplier, the situation will be aggravated further,” warned Mr. Dasgupta while seeking Indian alternatives for the naval project.  The human resource management project of the Indian Railways will hold critical information about over 1 million employees. “For such strategic projects there should be healthy competition in the tendering process, not just restricted to products owned by foreign MNCs. Moreover, software products developed by Indian companies should be encouraged,” he wrote to the Prime Minister.  In the case of PGC, which transmitted nearly half the power generated in the country, the CPI leader said the tender evaluation criteria for automating all its critical business processes “smack of corruption.”  He referred to four clauses including two that state that the software vendor with the maximum turnover would be given the highest score. In addition, the software tender includes some “cleverly worded” clauses for the selection of a software implementation partner. These essentially imply that even if top Indian IT companies wanted to submit their bids, they would qualify only if they offered software products owned by large foreign MNCs and not Indian software products.

Arms and the man
By Shankar Roychowdhury Dec 28 2010  If wars can be classified as good, bad or indifferent in terms of their impact on the national psyche, then Bangladesh 1971 was a very good war for India and the Sino-Indian border war of 1962 a very bad one indeed. In 1971, all relevant factors — political, diplomatic, and above all the Indian military — meshed together perfectly to fashion a triumph of classic proportions over a traditional enemy; 1962 was just the opposite. Apart from spirited individual performances, the Army and its political guidance was like a badly synchronised gearbox that soon stripped its pinions and crashed. The Indian armed forces remember 1962 with mortification, and 1971 with triumph, which they commemorate as Vijay Diwas on the 16th of December every year. The particular confluence of circumstances, happenstance and personalities that brought both 1962 and 1971 about, are unlikely to recur. So after celebrating Vijay Diwas 2010, the 39th commemoration of “Victory in Bangladesh”, it would be appropriate to reflect on how far the Indian military has traveled since the Sela Pass in 1962 and Bangladesh in 1971, and its likely future azimuth.  Barring the first Kashmir War of 1947, China has been a constant background presence in all Indo-Pak matters, especially during India’s other wars with Pakistan. These have so far all been single-front affairs (notwithstanding Chinese expressions of solidarity for Pakistan in 1965 and 1971), but India’s worst case will always be the two-front scenario — a Pakistan-China combo, with an interlinked nuclear and now a cyber and internal security dimension as well, from covert operations sponsored by the Pakistan Army through its quasi-state jihadi stable. Such externally-sponsored conflicts are unlikely to be resolved by political dialogue or socio-economic initiatives alone. They will require hard and significant military measures to establish a stable environment for negotiated conflict resolution. This has been amply proven by the Indian experience in Jammu and Kashmir.  The role of India’s armed forces, though never officially formalised, has crystallised through prolonged deployments in wars, proxy wars, counter terrorism and counter insurgency, into the strategically defensive one of territorial, maritime and aerospace defence of the homeland. India’s armed forces are well trained and highly motivated professionals, who have performed outstandingly in every assignment in war or peace, both within as well as outside the country. But their military capabilities have not been kept in pace with the operational imperatives of their role, which demand a full two-and-a-half front operational capability across the entire spectrum of warfare. By that token, their current capabilities are definitely inadequate.  Morale is high, but weapons and equipment are obsolescent, and in many cases severely deficient and outmoded, leaving huge gaps in the performance envelope. Each individual service has its own tale of horrors, whether night vision devices, air defence weapons or artillery for the Army, submarines for the Navy, or the fast-depleting squadron strengths in the Air Force. The major reason for the wasting disease in India’s defence capabilities is the scant attention paid to indigenous defence research, development and production. The armed forces naturally require a high state of readiness at all times, but successive governments have consistently chosen the easier option of imports rather than bite the bullet and develop an indigenous defence industry.  A typical case in point is the impending purchase of the 126 multi-role combat aircraft for the Indian Air Force at an estimated cost of `42,000 crore, which cannot be seen in isolation from the agreement with Russia to produce the future fifth-generation fighter for the Indian Air Force as a joint venture expected to ultimately cost an estimated `1.5 lakh crore. The preliminary step was the `1,500 crore pact with Russia finalised during the recent visit of President Dmitry Medvedev to India. The two processes cannot be mutually exclusive. The proposed acquisition of 126 new Multirole Combat Aircraft (MRCA) is of course an urgent necessity for the Air Force, but has to be planned as a lead in series for the PAKT-50. The implications for selection of the MRCA should be obvious.  But even more important is the future of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas and the Indian aerospace industry. Pakistan is co-producing the JF-17 (also an LCA) with China to induct it into the Pakistan Air Force. How confident is India, specifically the Indian Air Force, about Tejas? How does it stack up against the JF-17? The bottom line is, can the proposed MRCA acquisitions be off-set to a greater or lesser extent by producing additional Tejas? Can immediate operational requirements be balanced against long-term development of indigenous aerospace capabilities? Can Indian industrial capacity deliver?  Questions are endless — from small arms to main battle tanks. Why German Heckler and Koch, Israeli Tabor or even the now ubiquitous AK-47 assault rifles and not the indigenous Excalibur developed by small arms factory Ishapore? Why not the Arjun Main Battle Tank (MBT) produced at the Heavy Vehicles Factory at Avadi (near Chennai) instead of the T-90 Russian tank? And then the biggest question: If Indian military equipment is perceived by the users as unreliable, maintenance-heavy and defect-prone, what punitive accountability for this has been imposed for systemic failure in the ministry of defence, the prime government agency under whom fall the Defence Research and Development Organisation and the ordnance factory board?  India seems to have become addicted over the years to a high-calorie diet of imports, taking a strange and even perverse pride in the dubious honour of ranking amongst world’s top 10 importers of weapons. Do such profligate imports reflect the true state of the country’s scientific and engineering capabilities? These are hard questions which need to be asked and firm answers obtained.  The year 2010 has not been a good year for the country. Gloom, despondency and bitter cynicism pervade the national horizon. Under these overcast skies, the story of victory in Bangladesh in 1971 told on Vijay Diwas every year needs telling and retelling, as a reminder of what the nation can achieve, should it have the will to do so.  - Gen. Shankar Roychowdhury is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former Member of Parliament

India, S Lanka to hold annual defence dialogue from next year 
Colombo/New Delhi, Dec 27 (PTI) As part of steps to strengthen their defence cooperation in the post-LTTE era, India and Sri Lanka today decided to hold annual defence dialogues and step up bilateral military exchanges between their armed forces. Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar, on a visit here, held a meeting with his Sri Lankan counterpart Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, during which the two countries decided to start annual defence dialogues from next year, Defence Ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar said. The mechanism of these talks was agreed upon during talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa during their summit meeting in New Delhi early this year. Kumar is on a three-day visit to the Island nation with an aim to enhance defence ties between the two countries. In the meeting, the two sides also agreed to hold a joint naval exercise in Sri Lankan waters in 2011, he added. In addition to the defence dialogue, the armed forces will also engage each other in Annual Staff talks. "The Indian Navy and Army will start holding Annual Staff talks with their counterparts from Sri Lanka from next year. In case of the IAF, it has been doing so since 2008," Kar said. During the meeting, the two sides also reviewed the ongoing military cooperation and the progress made in the field, including the help provided by India to restore the Sri Lankan airfields damaged during the over two decade long civil war with LTTE. "They also agreed that they shared common security concerns including the safety and security of sealanes of communication," he added. In 2010, there have been several high level defence exchanges between India and Sri Lanka with the visits of Army Chief General V K Singh and Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma to Colombo. IAF chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik is also likely to visit Sri Lanka next month. Kumar also called on Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G L Peiris and is also expected to call on President Rajapaksa tomorrow. At the talks, the Indian delegation comprises of senior armed forces officers and the Coast Guard and Sri Lankan side is represented by a number of its senior commanders.  Kumar arrived here early in the day for a visit during which he will also pay homage to the Indian peacekeepers who laid their lives during the Sri Lankan civil war.  As many as 1200 soldiers of the Indian Peacekeeping Forces were killed in the island''s north and east during battles with the LTTE in the late 80''s.  India is also expected to gift some military equipment such as shoulder-fired missiles and radars to its southern neighbour during the visit. .

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