Custom Search Engine - Scans Selected News Sites


Tuesday, 6 September 2011

From Today's Papers - 06 Sep 2011






Lt Col convicted for selling weapons illegally

Vijay Mohan/TNS  Chandigarh, September 5 A lieutenant colonel was held guilty as the first in a series of general court martials to try officers for alleged irregularities in sale of non-service pattern (NSP) weapons concluded today.  He has been awarded a severe reprimand and loss of one year’s seniority for the purpose of promotion, sources said. The court verdict is subject to confirmation by the convening authority. The trial, presided over by a brigadier, was held at Bikaner military station.  The Army had ordered trial by court martial of close to 30 officers. Some of these trials are already underway at different military stations. Names of several senior officers, including those of major generals and brigadiers, figure in the case. Those facing court martial so far are of the rank of Colonel and below. Officers have challenged the proceedings against them before the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT).  A large number of officers and ex-servicemen had reportedly sold off their NSP weapons, procured from ordnance depots at concessional prices for personal use, to civilians at higher rates. The weapons include pistols, revolvers, shotguns and rifles of different calibres that are obsolete.  A PIL filed in Rajasthan High Court had alleged these weapons were falling into hands of people with dubious credentials. Further, these officers had not taken prior permission from competent authorities before selling the weapons.  In view of this, the Army had initiated a court of inquiry (COI) in the matter. It was conducted by Maj Gen B.S. Daulta, then General Officer Commanding, 16 Infantry Division. Investigations were carried out by military intelligence and it forwarded a four-volume 339-page report to the presiding officer of the COI.  Documents attached with the petitions filed before the AFT reveal that the military intelligence had complied a list of 113 weapons that were disposed of. The persons “involved” in the sale of weapons include three major generals, six brigadiers and three women, presumably wives of officers. Some names figure several times in the list.  In their petition before the tribunal, some of the accused officers have claimed the said weapons were sold on cash payments by the ordnance depot on basis of allotment by the director general ordnance services (DGOS). They have alleged that the particulars of all the officers and weapons are available with them, yet on pretext of non-identification, some officers have been left untouched, which appeared a deliberate attempt to hide their identity. Also, no action has apparently been initiated to identify them even after three years have elapsed.

Knight in shining armour

by Suresh Chander  I love the army stories, Nana.” That was the youngest of my grandchildren interrupting my narration of events when we were surrounded by 20-30 elephants near the foothills of Bomdilla, a few months after the Chinese war. Our grandchildren were listening to every word with rapt attention. I continued with details that are likely to tickle the imagination of the children.  “I turned down the hurricane lamp and tucked in the mosquito net to sleep for the night. Just then the sentry on duty shouted that our camp of about 70 men was surrounded by elephants. There was massive trumpeting and the elephants menacingly kept coming closer. The brave jawans promptly lit five-six stacks of fire that kept the elephants at bay.”  The little ones are fascinated by these stories and want to know every detail - including uncomfortable information. Their favourite was: How many enemy had I killed in various wars? I skirt these as skillfully and truthfully as I can and explain that most battles and skirmishes take place at night and with bullets flying all over, it is difficult to tell who hit who. Some times my wife plays the spoil sport by saying that Nana has never even fired a shot in anger. They are, however, too engrossed to pay attention to such comments. At the end of each story, they make me feel as if I am the most decorated war veteran to have graced their young lives.  Growing children love guns, tanks, horses and outdoor activities. I have been taking them to regimental get-togethers. They are thrilled by the tank rides, or merely feeding carrots to the horses and watching the training of dogs. There are, of course, stories of my army life connected to each activity that I am delighted to tell them that they never tire of listening . Their Nani keeps accusing me that my tales keep getting more and more colourful. She is obviously jealous of the attention that I get. Anyone will tell you that the real life happenings can hardly be interesting unless peppered and padded at the right places.  My daughters, having been brought up on similar fodder, mostly set the children up to tell the various stories: How I shot the neighbouring battalion’s mascot in the wilds of Nagaland , mistaking it for a genuine wild boar; or when I was trapped with six Jat jawans in a blizzard at 16000 ft. It was then up to me to make some faux pas into a heroic deed — somewhat like slaying a dragon by default.  In due course the inevitable happened. The Growing joy of our lives were sold on the Army. I too was convinced that I would again join the Indian forces if I were to re-live my life again - a far cry from my earlier shaky conviction. Imagine if I were to tell my grandchildren in their tender years that I was an investment banker at Wall Street and narrate stories of my encounter with financial gurus like Warren Buffet or Carl Icahn or incidents of financial upheavals and meltdowns and millions that I made. No sir, I would never get the attention of the little ones and the feeling of having been a “knight in shining armour”.

India may start army supplies to Bangladesh

One of the issues that may be taken up during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Bangladesh visit is closer defence ties between the two countries.  India is, for the first time, open to even supplying military hardware and spares to its eastern neighbour. Government sources said apart from closer army-to-army contacts, India may supply spares and undertake repairs of armoured corps' equipment.  India has never supplied weapons to Bangladesh - as Dhaka has not made any queries recently - since its independence war of 1971. But Dhaka recently hinted that they needed spares and ammunition for their artillery guns and tanks.  The Bangladesh government largely purchases small weapons, mortar, air defence artillery, artillery guns, main battle tanks, F-7 fighters and frigates from China.  The other major suppliers are Russia (MiG-29 fighters), the United States (helicopters), the UK and even Pakistan.  Dhaka also wanted closer cooperation in training and increase in bilateral contacts.  During Indian army chief General VK Singh's five-day visit to Dhaka last June, the Bangladesh military leadership said the reciprocation from the Indian side to training courses in Dhaka was less than that of Bangladesh's in Indian defence colleges.

India tells China to stop infrastructure work in PoK

NEW DELHI: India has asked China to stop its infrastructure development activities in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, even as it keeps a close watch on Beijing's "rapid" development of strategic roads, railway lines and airfields in Tibet as well as along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).  Defence minister A K Antony, in a written reply to Lok Sabha on Monday to a question posed by 18 MPs, said, "Government is aware that China is undertaking infrastructure projects in PoK. We have conveyed our concerns to China about its activities in PoK and asked them to cease such activities."  This comes after senior Indian Army commanders recently warned that India not only faced the threat from Chinese troops along the LAC with China but it could well extend to the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan due to the expansive Beijing-Islamabad military nexus.  Apart from the massive build-up of Chinese military infrastructure all along the 4,057-km LAC, especially in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), there is growing concern about the Chinese People's Liberation Army troops actually being stationed along the volatile 778-km-long LoC between India and Pakistan.  Antony, on his part, said, "China has also been carrying out rapid infrastructure development in TAR and in areas along the India-China border. It's carrying out construction of strategic roads, railway lines and airfields close to the LAC, which has improved its military capability."  As earlier reported by TOI, this includes five fully-operational airbases, an extensive rail network and over 58,000-km of roads in TAR. India is now belatedly taking steps to strategically counter China's build-up, which ranges from deploying Sukhoi-30MKI fighters in the North-East to plans to raise a new mountain strike corps after raising two new mountain infantry divisions, with 1,260 officers and 35,011 soldiers. While the 56 Division has its HQ in Zakama (Nagaland) under the Dimapur-based 3 Corps, the 71 Division at Missamari (Assam) falls in the operational command of the Tezpur-based 4 Corps.  Do you like this story? Post a Comment Follow this topic

Nobody's baby: The offset orphan

Ajai Shukla / New Delhi September 06, 2011, 0:16 IST  As this newspaper reported last week, the ministry of defence (MoD) is backtracking from its defence offsets programme. Its resolve to jump-start indigenous defence production through offsets has been broken by a cartel of foreign arms merchants. The vendors’ specious argument, which the MoD has inexplicably swallowed, is that Indian defence companies cannot absorb the billions in offsets that will arise from our weapons purchases over the coming decade, the biggest overseas arms buying spree in history. Indian defence companies have protested otherwise, but the MoD is not convinced. The inevitable speculation that the MoD has been bought over is too charitable. The reality is even more damning: rather than seizing the opportunity that offsets provide – which would require clear thinking and the setting up of functional structures – the ministry would rather neuter offsets to the point of irrelevance.  Defence offsets, for latecomers to this debate, are a form of counter-trade in which global vendors who win Indian defence contracts worth Rs 300 crore or more must invest 30 per cent of the contract value into India’s defence industry. From 2011 onwards offsets can also be discharged in civil aerospace and internal security.

Offsets are almost universal, with over 130 countries demanding offsets in overseas defence purchases. Most of these, notably Israel, Turkey, Malaysia and South Africa, have well-established offset authorities that articulate exactly what they expect from an offset programme. But India’s MoD is unique in leaving it all to the vendor. The Defence Procurement Policy of 2006 (DPP-2006), and its subsequent amendments, does not enjoin the MoD to specify the offsets it wants; or to nominate an Indian company as an offset partner. The foreign vendor decides whether to buy cast iron pipes from India (passing them off as battleship components) or high-end software engineering. South Block’s only demand is: please tell us how you will discharge your offset liability.  This appalling disinterest stems from a fundamental flaw in our approach to offsets. The first is the view, rooted in years of technology sanctions, that anyone who sells India high-tech weaponry is actually doing us a kindness. Flowing from this deeply subservient perspective is the notion: don’t make specific demands; whatever those kind people give us is good enough. Consequently, nobody has ever enunciated the aim of India’s offset programme. Is it to boost defence manufacture; or to get access to high technology; or to ensure life-cycle support for the weaponry that we buy? Your guess is as good as mine.  This fatal flaw can be redeemed in the forthcoming amendment to the offset policy, which the MoD has almost finalised. Introducing a one-sentence objective – “the aim of India’s offset policy is to…” – would introduce clarity that is sorely needed.  Without an articulated aim, it is unsurprising that no MoD department takes ownership of offsets. The Defence Offsets Facilitation Agency (DOFA) is a man-and-a-dog backwater that denies responsibility for anything more than “facilitation”. Justifiably so, for it does not have the staff, the wherewithal, or the mandate to examine offset proposals, scrutinise their financial viability, audit their discharge or endorse their successful completion. That leaves to the Acquisition Wing the key decision about whether an offset proposal is acceptable or not. As this newspaper’s recent reporting on offsets has highlighted, the Acquisition Wing takes the approach: don’t let offsets derail procurement; accept whatever offset proposal the vendor offers.  Take a look at the opportunities that are being lost. It is projected that India will spend $45-50 billion (Rs 2,07,000 - 2,30,000 crore) on overseas weaponry this decade, with offset requirements of 40 per cent (the MMRCA contract is actually 50 per cent). That means $20 billion (Rs 92,000 crore) worth of offsets must be discharged over the next 15 years or so, which is the period in which these contracts will be discharged. Indian industry must, therefore, absorb $1.33 billion (Rs 6,100 crore) in offsets each year. To place that figure in context, Peugot will invest Rs 4,000 crore in its automobile factory in Sanand, Gujarat. Over the next decade, the IAF’s 10-year modernisation programme will see the production in India of the MMRCA; the Indo-Russian fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) and multi-role transport aircraft (MRTA); the medium transport aircraft (MTA) that will replace the Avro; Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd’s intermediate jet trainer (IJT), the Sitara; National Aerospace Laboratory’s Saras light transport aircraft; the Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) and Medium Combat Aircraft (MCA); and a range of new helicopters being developed by HAL, such as the light combat helicopter (LCH). Setting up each of these production lines will take tens of thousands of crore, including the R&D base, the testing facilities, and the ancillary suppliers that come up. And this is just in aerospace. Indian CEOs wonder: where is the difficulty in absorbing Rs 6,100 crore a year?  The MoD also seems to have forgotten that Indian companies exported over $60 billion (Rs 2,76,000 crore) worth of engineered goods last year to the US alone (commerce ministry figures).  The MoD has much to learn from developing countries with far less clout than India, who have translated offsets into huge strategic leverage. Turkey used technology obtained from offsets to develop a component for the American F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, eventually becoming the sole source for that component. When the US cut back Turkey’s role as a supplier, Ankara – in a riveting David-and-Goliath struggle that caused a 17-month delay to the F-35 programme – halted supplies until Washington came into line. Ankara demonstrated how offsets could translate into a critical role in a global supply chain.

Give all benefits to ex-short service commission officers: Court

By Pritam Pal Singh, IANS,  New Delhi : In a ruling that will benefit Short Service Commission (SSC) officers in the armed forces, the Delhi High Court has said that those officers who are forced to leave before completing their tenure due to disability and poor health are eligible for all medical and insurance benefits.  The court was hearing the petition of Sagrika Singh, who joined as SSC officer in the Indian Army Feb 2, 1999, and was attached with the Army Medical Corps but was denied medical and insurance benefits on the ground that she had not completed her tenure. Her SSC stint was cut short by kidney failure.  Directing the ministry to provide all benefits to the petitioner, the court, in its 23-page order, said: "Mandamus is issued to the defence ministry to pay the sum assured to the petitioner...and needless to state the petitioner would be entitled to simple interest on the said sum (Rs.10 lakh) at the rate of eight percent per annum reckoned from a date three months after the petitioner raised a demand."  The division bench consisting of Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Rajiv Shakdher said: "The Army Group Insurance Fund (AGIF) was established with the approval of the government. The main object of the fund is to cater to the socio-economic needs of the army personnel and their families by providing insurance cover."  The court pointed out that the objective of the AGIF disability scheme was to provide financial benefits to individuals whose service was cut short due to invalidation or release on medical grounds before completion of the terms of engagement or service applicable to that rank.  "The terms of engagement of the petitioner required the petitioner to serve for 14 years subject to fulfilment of the prescribed eligibility conditions. The only reason which resulted in the tenure of engagement being cut short was petitioner's failure" to be in the required medical condition, said the court in its judgment Aug 29, made available to IANS Sep 3.  The petitioner said that after she joined the service she was granted extension by another five years. She became eligible to be considered for further extension in service by another four years, but prior to expiry of the period of five years, it was detected that one kidney of the petitioner was malfunctioning.  In the year 2009 upon examination by a medical board it was opined that the petitioner had a malfunctioning kidney and thus she was placed in permanent low medical category with disability assessed at 100 percent.  Since one condition of grant of extension in service was that the person ought not to be in low medical category, the petitioner was denied extension and released from service.  The bench observed: "Enrolled in the Indian Army as a SSC officer, the initial term of her engagement was of five years and the petitioner had a right to be considered for extension in service, firstly for a term of five years and thereafter for another term of four years. Petitioner's right was to be considered for extension in service. The army authorities were thus under an obligation to consider the said right of the petitioner."


No comments:

Post a Comment


Mail your comments, suggestions and ideas to me

Template created by Rohit Agarwal