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Sunday, 20 February 2011

From Today's Papers - 20 Feb 2011

Old warbird to revive legacy of past operations

Tribune News Service  Chandigarh, February 19 As a part of the silver jubilee commemorations of the Army Aviation Corps (AAC), a Pushpak aircraft that once flew extensive combat missions during the 1965 and 1971 wars is undertaking an expedition to fly to all air bases across the country from which army aviators have operated.  The aircraft being used has been mustered from the Patiala Flying Club and reconstructed with the assistance of the Punjab government and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Dating back to the 1950s, the Pushpak was a two-seat light aircraft produced by HAL and its body and wings were covered with fabric rather than sheet metal. About 160 Pushpaks were produced and used as a basic trainer by the air force and flying clubs in the days of yore.  Air Observation Posts (AOP) were formed during the World War II primarily for observing and directing artillery fire. On August 15, 1947, No.1 Air OP Flight (Air Force) became the first AOP unit in India. These were initially equipped with fixed wing aircrafts like Austers, Krishaks and Pushpaks. Chetak and Cheetah helicopters were introduced in the early seventies. On November 1, 1986 AOP units branched off from the air force and the AAC came into being.

A first: Woman Army officer to get gallantry medal
Ajay Banerjee Tribune News Service  New Delhi, February 19 On February 25, only a day ahead of India observing the first anniversary of the attack on its officials at a guest house in Kabul, a woman officer of the Army would be creating history. Major Mitali Madhumita will become the first woman officer to get decorated with a gallantry medal and that too for her act of bravery during the same attack in Kabul.  Major Madhumita will be receiving the Sena Medal for gallantry at the annual investiture ceremony to be conducted at Hisar. Lt Gen SK Singh, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, South Western Command, Jaipur, will be presenting the award.  It was on February 26 last year that Major Madhumita, an Army Education Corps officer, displayed exemplary courage while rescuing injured officers as Taliban-backed militants attacked the Noor Guest House in Kabul. The attack venue was host to (Indian) personnel working at the Indian Embassy in Kabul. Nineteen persons, including seven Indians, had lost their lives then.  Being from the education corps, the woman officer’s primary job was to teach at facilities in Kabul -- women are not allowed in combat arms of the Army. On the day of the attack, Major Madhumita was the first officer to reach the guest house when suicide bombers attacked it. She was staying at a nearby guest house. Though unarmed, she ran close to 2 km to reach the spot and rescued her colleagues who were trapped under the debris.  Two Indian Army officers died on the spot even as Major Madhumita managed to rescue a few others of the Army training team who were buried beneath the rubble and rushed them to hospital. The award to her was announced on Independence Day last year.  Gen SK Singh himself has been awarded the Uttam Yudh Seva Medal for leading rescue and relief operations post-Leh cloudburst in August last. Then, he was the Corps Commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps. At the investiture ceremony, three Yudh Seva Medals, nine Sena Medals (gallantry), including one posthumous, two Sena Medals (distinguished), eight Vishisht Seva Medals and eight Unit Appreciations will be awarded. The lone posthumous Sena Medal for gallantry goes to Sepoy Jagtar Singh of the Punjab Regiment. The soldier died in an anti-terrorist operation at Kupwara (Jammu and Kashmir). His wife Ranjit Kaur, who stays at Saupur village in Ropar district, will be present at the awards ceremony.

First general to go to jail 
Jalandhar, Feb. 19 (PTI): The fate of retired Lt Gen. S.K. Sahni, the first officer of the rank of general to be cashiered and awarded a prison term, will now be decided by the army chief.  Sahni was yesterday sentenced to three years’ rigorous imprisonment and cashiered from service for irregularities in procurement of rations for troops in Jammu and Kashmir.  The 65-year-old, who was in the Army Service Corps, was found guilty of procuring sub-standard meat and dry rations for troops deployed on the Siachen and other high-altitude areas in 2005.  Sahni, since he has retired, cannot be sacked but could lose monetary benefits such as his pension and gratuity, besides his rank, medals and stars.  The general court martial report will now go to the army chief for confirmation and after that to the defence minister.  If they confirm the conviction and sentence, Sahni will be allowed to approach the Armed Forces Tribunal in Chandigarh for relief and may be the Supreme Court later.  In January, Lt Gen. P.K. Rath faced severe reprimand and 15 years of his pension benefits were withdrawn by a general court martial after he was found guilty in a land scam in Sukna, north Bengal.  Yesterday, the general court martial headed by Lt Gen. Jatinder Pal Singh held Sahni guilty in six of nine charges framed against him.  Sahni had retired in 2006.  Sahni has been under arrest for the past seven months since the trial started.  His plea for bail has been rejected.  A report by the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) that brought to light the ration scam had paved way for action against Sahni.  The report had revealed that soldiers were supplied wheat, rice, pulses and edible oil past their expiry date. The auditor had also found a lack of competition in filing of tenders for the purchase of ration.  The CAG report had pointed out that a single vendor had been bagging contracts for more than 36 per cent of the purchases. It also said that about-to-expire food items were bought at cheaper rates by contractors and then supplied to army units.  Another lieutenant general, S.K. Dahiya, was also indicted on corruption charges by an army court of inquiry. But only administrative action was taken against him.  Lieutenant general A.K. Nanda was accused of misbehaving with his technical secretary’s wife. A court of inquiry had recommended that the army “censure” him.

Defence Minister concludes NE tour
Source: Hueiyen News Service  Imphal, February 19 2011: Union Defence Minister AK Antony today visited Leimakhong Military Station on his last leg to Northeast tour and held interactions with jawans and officials of the Army.  The Defence Minister accompanied by Chief of Army Staff, Gen VK Singh, Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar, Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Bikram Singh, 3 Corps Commander, Lt Gen NK Singh and Sitanshu Kar, ADG (M&C) of MoD arrived around 12.45 pm at Tulihal airport by a special Indian Air force flight and proceeded directly to the Army station by chopper.  The visit was part of his two days visit to NE to review security arrangements and progress of infrastructure development for the Defence forces.  The minister was briefed by the GOC, Major Gen DS Hooda of the Red Shield Division there.  The minister appreciated the progress on various Defence infrastructure and security arrangements made by the Red Shield Division in the state of Manipur and lauded the efforts of all troops in maintaining the lowest state of violence in Manipur in the last few decades, a statement of the PIB (Defence Wing) Imphal said.  He also appreciated the projects initiated by the Red Shield Division for the people in the remote areas of Manipur, the statement added.  The PRO (Defence) Col Ajay Chowdhry stated that the minister visited 'DISHA' the boys hostel created by Red Shield Division for the unprivileged children.  There he gifted a 46" LCD TV to the hostel and complimented the COAS, Gen VK Singh for his vision and GOC 57 Mtn Div for constructing and running the hostel impeccably.  The minister had lunch with troops of the Red Shield Division in Leimakhong where he interacted very closely with the soldiers and enquired about their well being and what he could do for them as the Defence Minister.  The minister expressed his appreciation by complimenting all ranks for their efforts in making the visit a success.  The minister left Imphal for New Delhi around 2.15 pm concluding his two days visit to the NE states.

Army facing huge cuts after withdrawal from Afghanistan
The Army is to be cut by up to 20,000 troops, leaving it at its lowest level since the 1820s, under secret Treasury plans. Army facing huge cuts after withdrawal from Afghanistan The reductions would make the Army the smallest since the reign of George IV Photo: REUTERS Sean Rayment By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent 9:00PM GMT 19 Feb 2011  71 Comments  Senior defences sources have said that the Chancellor, George Osborne, supported by the Prime Minister will demand the cuts in a bid to substantially reduce Britain's defence budget.  General Sir David Richards, the chief of the defence staff, fought off Treasury demands for a 20 per cent reduction in the size of the Army during the frantic negotiations which preceded the publication of the Strategic Defence and Security Review last October.  However, the financial crisis engulfing the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is now regarded as so severe that, following Britain's withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2015, the size of the Army will be reduced to "circa 80,000", according to one senior defence source.  This would make the Army the smallest since the reign of George IV, when troop numbers were drawn down after the end of the Napoleonic Wars.  Mr Cameron accepted Gen Richard's argument that the Army could not be substantially reduced in size while troops were still fighting in Afghanistan, but there is now a growing acceptance within Whitehall that troops numbers will have to fall when the next defence review takes place in four years time.  Related Sources have disclosed that following the withdrawal from Afghanistan, defence chiefs will be under pressure to have a "fundamental look at Army manning given that the manpower is the main driver of expenditure".  One defence source said: "When Britain withdraws from Afghanistan in 2015, the Treasury will be knocking on the door of the MoD with a very big hammer – there will be a substantial reduction in troops numbers leaving an Army with a strength of circa 80,000. We will be moving into an era of sharing capabilities with our European allies. The days of being able to do everything are long gone."  However, another senior officer said that the cuts would be hugely damaging. He said: "Effect on morale? In my judgement it is enormous. If you survive an operational tour you will possibly lose your job post 2015, or your chances of promotion will be reduced in a smaller Army."  The funding crisis surrounding the MoD has in part been brought about by spending cuts and what defence secretary Liam Fox has described as a £38 billion "financial black hole" of unfunded equipment programmes.  More cuts and delays to existing equipment programmes will be announced in the next few weeks as part of the Planning Round 2011 (PR11). The cuts could see projects like the Warrior Armoured Vehicle Upgrade Programme being delayed further to save costs while other projects are cancelled or shelved.  Details of the new cuts can be revealed as the MoD starts to seek 17,000 redundancies – already announced in October's Strategic Defence and Security Review – across the three armed services.  The RAF, which will reduced its strength by 5,000 from 44,000 to 39,000 personnel, will be the first service to begin the process.  Pilots, air staff and ground crew will be told who will and who will not be eligible for redundancy packages, which in many cases will be worth tens of thousands of pounds.  As with all the services, the size of the financial package will depend on a number of factors including length of service, pay and current engagement.  The Royal Navy is to cut 5,000 sailors from its ranks, reducing the service to around 30,000 personnel, and its redundancy details will be announced in early April.  A large number of sailors who served on Type 22 destroyers and the aircraft carriers HMS Ark Royal and HMS Illustrious – which will be decommissioned in 2014 – are expected to apply for redundancy.  It is understood that no Fleet Air Arm pilots will be forced into redundancy even though the entire Harrier force has now been scrapped.  Every serving soldier will be allowed to apply for redundancy when the Army releases details of its programme at the beginning of May.  Around 7,000 soldiers will be axed through natural wastage and both voluntary and compulsory redundancies, a move which will reduced the strength of the Army to 98,000 troops, its lowest level for more than 150 years.  Members of the Royal Armoured Corps, the Royal Artillery, Royal Logistic Corps, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers as well as staff officers from the rank of captain to colonel in regional divisions and brigades are expected to be among those facing compulsory redundancy.  The Sunday Telegraph understands that defence chiefs will attempt to manage the process by seeking the cuts in multiple "tranches" of redundancies, between now and 2015 to lessen the "shock".  A spokesman for the British Armed Forces Federation, said: "The government needs to recognise that if it takes the Military Covenant seriously, it needs to treat members of the Armed Forces with fairness and consideration, taking into account the sacrifices that service personnel and their families make for their country.  "The Conservatives made a lot of noise before the election about how they would treat the Armed Forces if they got into government but so far all this talk has proved hollow.  "The Armed Forces need a clear and unequivocal statement about redundancy policy and we need it soon."  Patrick Mercer, the Tory MP and former infantry commander, added: “In the early 1820s we made the mistake of reducing the armed forces to a dangerously low level.  "Within a few years we were having to recruit and retrain to deal with the expansion of the empire - do we learn nothing from history?  “How many times has Afghanistan been “dealt with” before? The one thing we can be certain of with the Middle East imploding and threat diversifying, day by day, is that we will need more troops not less.”  An MoD spokesman said: “As announced in the SDSR, there are plans to reduce the Armed Forces by 17,000 personnel; 7,000 from the army, 5,000 from the RAF and 5,000 from the Navy.  “These reductions will be driven by the structural needs of the three services and will be achieved through a combination of natural wastage and statutory Armed Forces Redundancy Schemes.  “Work is still ongoing to determine from which areas of the services these reductions will come but there will be no impact on operational capability.”  * The last time the strength of the British Army hovered around the 80,000 mark was in the early 1820s.  The Napoleonic Wars had ended and the country, under George IV, entered a period of relative calm in international affairs.  However, there were still demands on defence resources. The British East India Company, which garrisoned the subcontinent, became embroiled in a series of clashes in Burma which became the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824-1826).  Although this conflict was largely fought by the East India Company, around 13,000 British troops were involved.  As the decade progressed a series of extra infantry battalions were also raised for the garrisoning of the colonies, primarily in the Caribbean and Canada.  The period of peace was not to last long – and was broken by a campaign in a now familiar part of the world.  At the end of the following decade, the First Afghan War had begun – a conflict which ended in disaster when a 16,000 contingent of the British Army, the East India Company and civilians were attacked at the Gandamak pass, as they retreated from Kabul. The only Briton to reach the safety of Jalalabad was Dr William Brydon.

J&K youths brave threats, weather for Army jobs
M Saleem Pandit, TNN, Feb 20, 2011, 01.02am IST JAMMU: Ignoring militants' warning against joining the Army and bucking conventional wisdom that Kashmiris hate the men in olive, more than 9,000 jobless youths thronged a recruitment rally at Manasbal Sainik School in Ganderbal district of Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday.  Giving out the number of aspirants, official sources said the enthusiastic youths assembled at the school since morning, some reaching the venue as early as 5 am, braving rain and sleet, with the hope of donning the uniform. A defence spokesman said a bigger response was expected on Sunday, the last day of the recruitment rally.  The drive is being held to induct soldiers from Srinagar and Anantnag districts. Similar rallies will be held for other districts of the Valley in the coming days, said an Army officer. This comes a month after a police recruitment drive in Srinagar city, where nearly 3,000 youths tried their luck.  This is not the first time that Kashmiri youths have responded to the Army's recruitment drive. More than 3,000 men filed in for a four-day recruitment rally near Rangreth in Srinagar on May 25, 2007. A recruitment drive in 2009 too witnessed a huge response, with over 8,000 men turning up, again at Rangreth.  At the Manasbal Sainik School, men in the 19-25 year age group jostled with one other to show their capabilities. Gulzar Ahmad Dar (22), an aspirant from Manigam, said, ``Since there are no jobs with the state government, I tried my luck with the Army but unfortunately my height failed me.''  Armed with his certificates, Altaf Ahmad Hakim of Bambloora village said, ``I have given up hope that our chief minister Omar Abdullah, whom we voted for, will provide jobs to Ganderbal youths. Even though I was not selected in this rally, I am hopeful that next time I will get the chance to join the Army.''  Ishfaq, a graduate from Anantnag, said: "Joining the Army has been a passion for me. There is a lot of unemployment here and the Army can give me the chance to earn a decent living.''  A youth from Thuru village in Ganderbal was optimistic about his chances. "I perhaps met the criteria and am hopeful of being selected,'' he said refusing to reveal his name.  Several militant outfits, including Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba, have in the past asked youths from Kashmir to stay away from such rallies and also threatened to kill family members of those who join the Army or other paramilitary forces.  The enthusiasm of the locals to look for a career in the Army is a far cry from when Kashmiris shied away from joining the security forces.

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