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Tuesday, 30 August 2011

From Today's Papers -30 Aug 2011



Army Chief refuses to bury row over his age, files complaint

Wants Defence Minister to re-examine case; ministry has to file reply within 90 days Ajay Banerjee/TNS  DoB Issue AK Antonyn The development comes a month after the government declared that the year of Army Chief’s birth was 1950 and not 1951 as he had claimed n In his 500-page complaint, General Singh has asked Defence Minister AK Antony to take a decision on his date of birth purely on the basis of merit and available evidence n The controversy on VK Singh’s age surfaced in 2008 when he was considered for appointment as the Eastern Army Commander.  New Delhi, August 29 Showing his unwillingness to give up on the age issue, Army Chief General VK Singh has filed a statutory complaint with Defence Minister AK Antony seeking a re-examination in the matter.  The development comes a month after the government declared that the year of his birth was 1950 and not 1951 as he had claimed.  In a first by an Army Chief, Gen Singh on Friday filed a 500-page complaint with the Defence Minister, asking him to take a decision on his date of birth purely on the basis of merit and available evidence. In his complaint, Gen Singh has annexed all the previous correspondences with the ministry on this issue.  However, Minister of State for Defence MM Pallam Raju, while talking to reporters today, said: “Where is the controversy? The ministry has looked into the issue and has given an opinion. I think the view taken by the ministry is known.”  As per Army rules, the reply to the complaint must be filed within 90 days of it being received by the minister's office. Meanwhile, Defence Minister AK Antony refused to comment on the issue.  The Defence Ministry had on July 22, decided to fix Gen Singh’s date of birth as May 10, 1950 on the basis of opinions given by the Attorney General and the Law Ministry. The controversy on VK Singh’s age surfaced in 2008 when he was considered for appointment as the Eastern Army Commander. The Adjutant General's (AG) branch - the official record-keeper for salary and pension - has been following 1951 as Singh’s DoB, while the Military Secretary branch, which looks after promotions and postings, shows it as 1950. VK Singh is slated to retire on June 1, 2012, but if the other date of birth is accepted, he may remain in office for another ten months.  Sources in the ministry indicated that the entire controversy over the Gen Singh’s age has started affecting the image of the Army.  Last week, the Prime Minister refused to accept a memorandum from a group of MPs, who wanted his intervention in the matter. The PM told the delegation, who wanted the government to re-examine the Defence Ministry's decision, that the Army was a professional organisation and politicians should not get involved in the affairs of the force.


Antony demands definite deadlines to install electronic ‘eyes and ears’

Ajay Banerjee/TNS  New Delhi, August 29 Angered over the inordinate delays in the post-Mumbai-attacks coastal security plan, Defence Minister AK Antony today did some plain speaking and asked for definite timelines for major projects and unresolved issues.  Sources said Antony chaired a meeting of all the 18 or so stake holders in the coastal security architecture and asked them for detailed explanation on the delays in setting up electronic ‘eyes and ears’.  He was not happy at the way MT Pavit sailed into Juhu, Mumbai, undetected earlier this month and let his displeasure known. This was the second review of the security plan within three weeks.  On August 10, Antony was informed by the Navy that no critical equipment had been okayed post Mumbai attacks without which it was impossible to pick out such ships. The Navy is heavily dependent on other agencies for coordination and even basic flow of information needed to tackle threats to the coastline.  Sources said Antony - who is all-powerful in the ruling UPA setup - made it clear that the equipment should be in place as it was the only way to watch the 7,500-km Indian coastline.  At the meeting today, Antony was apprised that shore-based radars and electronic surveillance to track rogue ships approaching the Indian coast was non-existent.  A Rs 132 crore project to have 84 automated identification system (AIS) stations to electronically track incoming ships and boats is making progress. Trials of the first phase are scheduled along the Gujarat coast next month.  It will take another eight months for the entire lot to be fitted by a European company and this is handled by the Ministry of Shipping. The critical issue is having uniform transponders on all boats of fishermen that are less than 20m in length. Antony wants the cost-sharing (Rs 5,000 each) sorted out between the Home Ministry and Agriculture Ministry (Fisheries Wing).  A transponder will constantly emit a signal for the ground based AIS receivers to pick up. At present, ships that are more than 20m in size have transponders.  Another key issue is that coastal states do not have adequately trained staff to man the 380 or so marine police boats. The states wanted a dedicated training academy as the Navy and Coast Guard have their hands full.  During Antony’s review, the lack of coastal radars emerged as the biggest sore point. The chain of coastal radars was originally cleared in February 2001 by a group of ministers. Fast-changing technology ensured the requirements kept changing over the next few years without the radars ever getting installed. Post-Mumbai attacks, the project was revived. The Rs 602 crore project is yet to kick off on the ground.


Technical fault defers trial of Agni-II

Balasore (Orissa), August 29 The trial of nuclear capable Agni-II intermediate range ballistic missile, slated for today from the Integrated Test Range off the Orissa coast, has been deferred due to a “technical problem”.  “The launch of Agni-II mission is postponed due to a technical problem,” a senior ITR official said here.  The indigenously-made surface-to-surface missile with a strike range of 2,000 km was to be test-fired from the ITR at the Wheeler Island in the Bay of Bengal, defence officials said.  The mission was part of a user-trial by the Army and the Strategic Forces Command would have conducted the test.  However, the next date for the trial has not been decided, they said. — PTI



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