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Saturday, 23 July 2011

From Today's Papers - 23 Jul 2011





2 Army officers killed in Siachen fire

New Delhi, July 22 Two Army officers, including a Major, were charred to death and four jawans injured when a bunker caught fire on the Siachen Glacier. Sources confirmed that Maj GS Cheema from the Armoured Corps and Lieutenant Archit Vardia from Corps of Artillery were killed in a fire that engulfed their bunker on Thursday.  Four soldiers were also injured in the mishap. Major Gurphej Cheema, an infantry officer with 13 Mahar Regiment, belonged to Damoolian village in Kapurthala. He leaves behind his wife Ranjit Kaur, year-old son Agamjot and his parents. Vardia was from Udaipur, Rajasthan.  The post is at an altitude of 18,000 feet on the northern part of the Siachen Glacier that has PoK to its west and the Chinese-controlled Shaksgam Valley to its north. The fire broke out in one of the new-model fibreglass huts, but these huts were not part of the DRDO project to provide insulated bunkers to soldiers on the icy wasteland.  Army sources said a court of enquiry has been ordered to trace the origin of the fire. The bodies of the officers have been brought down using choppers and will be flown to the respective hometowns.  This is the second fire incident in five years at Siachen, the world's highest battlefield. A Major and a Captain were killed in a similar fire incident in 2006.  Temperatures at the 70-km long glacier dip to minus 50 degrees Celsius in winter and are below freezing point even in summer. The bunkers are kept warm with kerosene heaters. (With PTI inputs)








Wounded Warrior hiring program lacks downside

It’s hard to think of very many government programs that simply don’t have a downside, but the current Wounded Warrior hiring program at U.S. Navy bases might be one.  “It’s part of our mission as a [Department of Defense] activity to close the loop for the folks who served our country,” Terry McLaughlin said. He’s the technical director of the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head Division, on the Navy base there.  “It’s very satisfying, and quite a bit of benefit to us as well,” he said.  And for the injured service members?  “When I was [recovering from being injured at the Navy base in] Norfolk, [Va.,] I signed up with Safe Harbor,” a support program for returning veterans, said Tina Whiteside, a former Army and Navy veteran who was injured in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as a petty officer first class. Safe Harbor referred her to the Wounded Warrior program.  “I applied for some jobs, but others just came up. I went to the Navy Yard and found out [the Wounded Warrior program] had been putting me up for jobs. I thought, ‘Wow.’”  The Navy feels the wow factor as well.  “They know our business, know the rules of the military environment,” McLaughlin said. “And we know they are going to behave in a military way, they’re going to show up, they’re going to work hard.”  McLaughlin said that although there are a number of projects to hire wounded warriors, his particular program is being steered out of NAVSEA, Naval Sea Systems Command.  “We want to hire 365 this year, one a day,” McLaughlin said of the NAVSEA goal. “Our goal at Indian Head is five. Indian Head has about 1,100 employees, and there are about 53,000 NAVSEA employees.”  So far, Indian Head has hired five wounded warriors, and is interviewing three, McLaughlin said.  “We might have 10 by the end of the year. We’ll see. We really believe in this,” he said.  Whiteside said the program was a pleasant surprise after her earlier experiences with making a transition from military to civilian life.  “After the first Gulf War [in 1991, in which Whiteside served as a sergeant in the Army], we got a little support, but nothing like we get now,” she said.  And she’s learning a lot on her new job, about patents and litigation and contracts that will serve her well in civilian life. She said she couldn’t talk much about her Guantanamo Bay duties, nor did she want to talk about her career-ending injury suffered there.  A native of Detroit, she said she is having an easy transition to Southern Maryland, partly because “there’s a lot less crime!” but also because “I’ve been kind of all over, so it’s really not much of a transition.”  She’s striving to be “stable” now and said she’s just grateful for all of the help.  “It was really great how Safe Harbor and Wounded Warriors were working behind the scenes to help me,” she said.









Exposed! The Rs750 crore Tatra scam

Top officials of BEML Limited, a Bangalore-based company, and the defence ministry have siphoned off at least Rs750 crore in bribes and commissions over the past 14 years in the purchase of components for Tatra trucks, backbone of the army’s artillery and transportation wings.  The Indian Army uses Tatra all-terrain vehicles to mount guided missile launchers and haul heavy artillery. It also uses these vehicles to transport personnel, supplies, tanks, ammunition, bailey bridges, and the like.  Flouting defence ministry guidelines, BEML, formerly Bharat Earth Movers Limited, a Rs3,500 crore company in which the government of India is the majority shareholder, has been buying components for the 6x6 and 8x8 trucks from a middleman in London.  The defence procurement guidelines clearly say all purchases should be made only from the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). But DNA’s investigations show that BEML, nodal production agency for the family of Tatra trucks, has been dealing with Tatra Sipox (UK) Ltd, which is neither the OEM nor a subsidiary of the OEM.  This racket has been in operation since 1997, according to documents in DNA’s possession. A former employee who held a senior position in BEML said that so far the company has completed transactions worth Rs5,000 crore with Tatra Sipox (UK) Limited, purported British subsidiary of Tatra Sipox a s (Slovakia), with at least Rs750 crore having been paid as kickbacks to BEML and defence ministry officials.  Senior advocate KS Periyaswamy, a shareholder of BEML, who sought the intervention of the president and a CBI probe into the Tatra deals, said: “At least 15% of the money sanctioned for the purchase of Tatra trucks is siphoned off as commission. Everyone from top to bottom gets their share. In my capacity as shareholder, I had highlighted this issue in the 2002 annual general meeting, but it wasn’t taken up.”  The deal worked so well for the officials involved that BEML signed another 10-year agreement with Tatra Sipox (UK) in 2003, four years before the first agreement ended, to increase the scope of the relationship. Since BEML doesn’t have the know-how to manufacture these trucks even 14 years after the deal was first struck, it sources components from Tatra Sipox (UK) and uses them for assembling the trucks.                          




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