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Monday, 21 February 2011

From Today's Papers - 21 Feb 2011

Jail for a Lt-General Armed forces must stem corruption 
In a rare case of its kind, a recently retired Lt-General has been cashiered from service and awarded three years rigorous imprisonment for committing irregularities while procuring dry rations. Lt-General SK Sahni, who was convicted in a general court martial, was, as Director General Supplies and Transport prior to retirement, primarily entrusted with supplying rations to Army troops, a majority of whom are posted in varied and daunting geographical terrains that includes glaciers, mountains, jungles and deserts.  It is not as if senior ranking officers have not faced court martial in India’s post-Independence history. Maj-General rank officers have been cashiered for professional misconduct during war and, on one occasion, a Navy Chief was dismissed for defying the government in a civil-military supremacy tussle. But this is the first time that a Lt-General has been awarded a prison term. While it goes to the credit of the armed forces that they have taken action against a senior officer, the incident nevertheless reflects a serious issue concerning the internal health of the armed forces. A number of Lt-General and Maj-General rank officers are facing court martial or been named in serious acts of impropriety that range from sexual misconduct, fudging encounters with terrorists and Pakistani soldiers alike, financial corruption and land scams. Sahni is the second Lt-General to be convicted in a court martial in less than a month. Only last month Lt-General PK Rath, a former Corps commander, was awarded a severe reprimand and 15 years loss in seniority after being convicted in a land scam. Another Lt-General, who held the critical post of Military Secretary, is facing a court martial.  For any country, a professional military force serves as the last and ultimate bastion. It is therefore paramount for a state to have an armed force comprising officers and men of character, integrity and honour. The increase in the number of incidents of professional, moral and financial corruption, especially in the higher ranks of the armed forces, notably the Army, is an issue of serious concern which India, with all its security concerns and foreign policy ambitions, can ill afford. This trend needs to be quickly stemmed lest it leads to a downslide.

Army to probe howitzer trial leak
Josy Joseph, TNN, Feb 21, 2011, 01.44am IST NEW DELHI: A Court of Inquiry, set up over the weekend to probe the leak of trial reports of an American artillery gun that Army wants to purchase, is set to investigate several Army officers on the suspicion of violating Official Secrets Act (OSA). In recent memory, military has not investigated a group of officers for suspected violation of the draconian Act.  Sources said the government was serious about sending a strong signal to arms dealers, that it would not let such manipulations go scot-free. Informal investigations by the Army headquarters show that the trial report was leaked at the behest of a major defence conglomerate which was initially in the race for supply of ultra light howitzers for mountain warfare.  The Western Army Command this weekend ordered a CoI under a lieutenant general to probe the leak of the trial report of M777 artillery guns, which the Indian Army wants to procure under a government-to-government deal with the US. The Director General of Rashtriya Rifles will head the inquiry, sources said.  The Army chief, and several others in the government and media, received an anonymous letter, with some three-four pages of the trial report, in recent days. The letter to Gen V K Singh warned him against the deal, saying it would defame him.  Sources in the government said the Army inquiry will investigate the entire issue with specific focus on possible violation of OSA. Under the draconian Act, condemned by rights activists, punishments can range from three to 14 years of imprisonment.  Photocopies of the trial report that the Army chief and others received did not contain the bookmark, meaning it was not the final report but a draft. Every final report of the Army carries an indelible bookmark.  An informal inquiry has already zeroed in on a recently retired brigadier, who was in the weapons and equipment directorate of the Army headquarters, and some officers of the artillery directorate. The brigadier, while in service, had asked for the draft report of the field trial for a single day. Officers in artillery directorate handling the trial sent the report to the brigadier without following due procedure, sources said. The inquiry showed that more than one officer was involved in leaking the trial report, sources said. Computers used by the trial team in Gurgaon and the northeast have been seized and sent for forensic examination.  What has angered the government top brass is the fact that the entire campaign against the FMS deal is suspected to be orchestrated on behalf of a rival artillery gun maker. "We cannot let such manipulations go on," said a senior government source.  It is after a very long time that the military is carrying out a CoI against several officers, suspecting them to have violated the OSA

Antony visits charitable boys hostel run by Army’s aid in Manipur
 From ANI  Leimakhong (Manipur), Feb 20: Defence Minister AK Antony visited a unique boy's Hostel-Disha, being run by the Army in Leimakhong in Manipur.   Taking time off his grueling two-day tour to forward and insurgency affected areas of the North-East, Antony on Saturday spent some time with the boys and wished them success in life.  The Chief of Army Staff Gen VK Singh, Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar, Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Bikram Singh and GOC 3 Corps Lt Gen NK Singh accompanied the Defence Minister.  The hostel is a modest effort of the Red Shield Division to reach out to all nine districts of Manipur and to bring bright and under-privileged children of the state under one roof to give them the much needed education and healthy upbringing.  The project has been fully functional from the academic year 2008-09.  Disha has 25 children who are selected from all districts of the state. It provides free education, food, stay, medical cover, personal kit and above all, affection. An elderly local couple has been appointed to run the hostel and to look after the children. And the children address them as 'Daddy' and 'Mummy'.  The Army has put in place facilities for all round development through games, sports, communication skills, visits, painting, computers and music etc. The students also have their own gymnasium, table tennis table and a basketball court.  The children living in Disha have been admitted into the Kendriya Vidyalaya, Leimakhong and have been assured of free education up to class XII.

Insurance cover for army personnel increased
 PTI Share  ·   Extending a better life insurance cover for its personnel, Indian Army has increased the Army Group Insurance Fund (AGIF) by Rs. 10 lakh and Rs. 5 lakh for its 35,000 officers and over one million jawans respectively.  “The government has taken a decision to increase the AGIF coverage for soldiers in the Army. Under the new scheme, the officers would avail coverage of Rs 40 lakh, while the same has been increased to Rs. 20 lakh for jawans,” Defence Ministry officials told PTI.  The premium amount payable by the soldiers has also been increased accordingly.  Now jawans would have to pay a minimum of Rs. 2000 annually while earlier they were paying between Rs. 600 to Rs. 1000.  For officers, the same amount has been increased from Rs. 2000 to Rs. 4000.  “It is the minimum deduction from the salary of soldiers and after the sixth pay commission soldiers are contributing even more voluntarily,” the officials said.  The decision, which would come into effect from April 1, was pending with the Ministry for quite some time.  Earlier, the officers were provided an insurance package of Rs. 30 lakh and for the Personnel Below Officer Ranks (PBORs), it was Rs. 15 lakh.  “The policy was pending with the ministry and its concerned department for review and the Army had mentioned few important points to raise the insurance limits,” officials said.  While counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and North-East region have always been a major task for the Army, its role during disasters and natural calamities across the country, has further increased the stress on its men.  “The soldiers posted in difficult terrain and elsewhere must believe that the organisation is taking care of the basic needs of his family.  “Besides, there are issues of rising prices and meeting the requirements of good education and health for the old parents. It takes out a lot of stress and even motivates him to perform better,” officials said.  Over the years, a number of new monetary measures have been initiated by the Indian army to ensure better life and facilities for the family members of its soldiers.  The focus has been mainly on ensuring good education for the children and re-employment of the soldier in case of disability during action.  Various options have been made available for the children from military background.  Along with education loans, soldiers get due assistance from Army Welfare Corpus in form of scholarship, tuition fee and higher technical education through educational institutions run by the army.  “There are provisions for covering the tuition fee and the cost of books for children pursuing professional courses.  “A significant amount is spent by the army in ensuring these measures. It is very important for the organisation to take care of the family members specially parents and children so that he can perform his tasks well,” officials said.

Indian Army personnel to get enhanced life insurance cover
 By Frontier India | February 20th, 2011 |
Indian Army personnel will now have a higher insirance cover. The Army Group Insurance Fund (AGIF) for its 35000 officers has been increased by Rs 10 lakh. The figure for the one million strong soldiers is Rs 5 lakh.  Under the new scheme, the officers will now avail coverage of Rs 40 lakhand Jawans will avail Rs 20 lakh. The premium amount payable by the soldiers has also been increased accordingly. The officers will pay Rs 4000 instad of Rs 2000 earlier. Jawans will have to pay a minimum of Rs 2000 instead of Rs 600 to Rs 1000 they paid earlier.  The premium is payable annually. The scheme will kickstart from April 1, 2011 onwards.  Indian Army soldiers have been fighting terrorism for past few decades. Government has rolled out various facilities for them. However, Indian Army officers have complained about their pay compared to their civilian counterpart.

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