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Friday, 9 September 2011

From Today's Papers - 09 Sep 2011






Oil, Civil Aviation, Navy & IAF singed by CAG reports

Tribune News Service  New Delhi, September 8 Although not as damning as some of the earlier reports, three CAG reports tabled in Parliament on the last day of the Monsoon session today, made the Government squirm again.  Describing the decision to place orders for 111 aircrafts for Air India and Indian Airlines as a ‘recipe for disaster’, the Comptroller & Auditor General’s long-awaited report, roundly criticised the Ministry of Civil Aviation for the ‘supply driven’ order. The decision, the report pointed out, was taken not by the airlines but at the ministry.  The original proposal was to buy 28 aircrafts and was first floated in 1996. But while the United Front and NDA governments failed to finalise the contract till 2004, the UPA government moved at lightening speed so that in a little over a year, the proposal to buy 68 aircrafts for Air India and 43 for Indian Airlines was formulated and approved by the Air India board, the ministry, the Planning Commission, the Public Investment Board and the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs.  The report also criticised the merger of the two national carriers and held the Government responsible for not allowing them a level playing field. Their most profitable routes were hived off to other airlines, records the report, and added that both the decisions, the purchase order and the merger, originated ‘from the top’ and not from the airlines.  Another CAG report pulled up the Petroleum Ministry for giving undue favour to Reliance Industries. It faulted the Oil Ministry and the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons ( DGH) for allowing Reliance to retain ‘the entire 7645 Km offshore block’ in the Bay of Bengal in contravention of the Production Sharing Contract. Reliance should have relinquished 25 per cent of the area as per the PSC, it stated.  The report, however, is silent on whether the Reliance claim of capital expenditure having gone up from the estimated US $ 2.4 billion in 2004 to US $ 8.8 billion in 2006 was unjustified or inflated.  In a third report, the CAG pulled up the Indian Air Force and the Navy for procedural irregularities, acquiring aircrafts without weapons, purchasing ineffective missiles and poor supervision in installing vital radars and aerostats causing loss to the treasury.


China not allowing Tibetan traders into India

Pratibha Chauhan/TNS  Shimla, September 8 Although Indo-Tibetan border trade resumed in 2004 along the old “Silk Route”, authoritative sources said not a single trader from Tibet had been allowed so far to enter India for trading.  one-way trade  n Not even a single Chinese trader has come to India since border trade resumed in 2004 n Every year, more than 20 Indian traders go to Tibet and bring back Chinese goods for sale in India n The trade has not really flourished with goods worth Rs 91.93 lakh being exported and goods worth Rs 76.61 lakh imported from China by the same traders last year. It was in 2005 that the trade was the highest when exports were valued at Rs 1.28 crore and imports were worth Rs 3.63 crore n The negative fallout of the red sander wood smuggling incident of last year has been that intelligence agencies have become more strict while issuing trade passes now  “Though traders from Kinnaur have been going every year, not even a single Chinese trader has come to India,” confirmed Sanjay Sharma, Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Pooh, the issuing authority for trade passes.  In sharp contrast, Indian traders, majority of them hailing from Kinnaur have been going across to Shipki village in Tibet with their cargo every year.  There are three routes, one each in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim, through which trading is conducted with Tibet and China.  “The reverence that Tibetans have for Dalai Lama is so immense that they embrace us and kiss our hands, all the time exclaiming how lucky we are to have been blessed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, leading a life in exile in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh,” said Jeet Ram, a resident of Dubling village. He went deep into Tibet on several occasions till 1986 and now, after resumption of trade, his son Bharat Bhushan goes to China every year.  “The trade was resumed in 2001, we kept waiting with garlands for Chinese traders at Chuppan to come to Kinnaur with their goods but our wait proved futile as no one was allowed to enter India by the Chinese authorities,” reminisces Pasang Cherring who, however, goes over to Tibet every year.  The traders say that the local residents revere the Dalai Lama but keep his photographs hidden for fear of repression from Chinese officials. One of them claimed that while there was no Buddhist monastery at Shipki, the one at Tholing, which was damaged earlier, had been rebuilt but no one was being allowed to pray and keep photographs of the Dalai Lama.  As per the Indo-Sino trade pact, Indian traders can carry 29 listed items that do not attract customs duty. They mostly carry rice, oil, gur, tea, spices, utensils and textiles.  “Interestingly we also carry the brocade and carpets made by exiled Tibetans residing in India back to their homeland where they are not easily available,” said Jeet Ram.  The quantum of trade between the two neighbours remains negligible mainly on account of security concerns on both sides of the border.


Fresh twist to Army Chief’s age row

Tribune News Service  New Delhi, September 8 Less than 10 days after the Army Chief Gen VK Singh filed an unprecedented statutory complaint seeking a review of his date of birth (DoB), Defence Minister AK Antony yesterday added a new twist to the issue, saying the Army Chief has got his last three promotions on the basis of the same DoB that he was now disputing.

AK Antony, a man who is normally reticent and has avoided commenting on the matter to the media, in a written statement in the Rajya Sabha, yesterday revealed that the Army Chief has been getting his promotions on the basis of the DoB of May 10 1950.  He said: “The date of birth of Gen VK Singh, Chief of Army Staff, has been maintained as May 10, 1950, at the time of his selection as Corps Commander in 2006 as well as his subsequent promotions as Army Commander in 2008 and Chief of the Army Staff in 2010”.  In 2006, the Chief was promoted from Major General to Lieut General and posted as Corps Commander of the Ambala-based 2 Strike Corps. His next promotion was in 2008 when he was made the General officer Commanding-in-Chief (GoC-in-C) of the Kolkata-based Eastern Command. In March 2010, Gen VK Singh took over as Army Chief.  Antony further said the General was left with eight months and 23 days of service as on date. (Retirement due in May 2012 as per May 10, 1950 date of birth). A different date of birth finds mention in certain documents, the minister replied to a query posed by Mohan Singh in Rajya Sabha yesterday.  Recently, Gen VK Singh had filed a statutory complaint in the matter, Antony’s reply said. Sources said that this answer in Parliament should not be interpreted as an answer to the statutory complaint. As per the Army Act, the statutory complaint has to be replied within 90 days and this case that would mean by November 25 2011.  The Army Chief has two sets of date of birth in records. The Military Secretary (MS) branch shows it to be May 10, 1950 whereas the Adjutant General's (AG) branch shows it to be May 10, 1951.  The two DoB’s have a 45-year-old history. The General, when he joined the National Defence Academy, had mentioned his DoB as May 1950 in his signed application that is maintained by the MS branch. Gen VK Singh’s matriculation certificate says his DoB is May 10, 1951. The Defence Ministry has rejected his contention on July 22 and Gen VK Singh, in response, on August 25 filed the statutory complaint under the Army Act seeking redressal.


Army chief was pally with US diplomats: WikiLeaks

CHANDIGARH: Even as the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General V K Singh continues to ruffle the feathers of Ministry of Defence over his age row, he had endeared himself with the US diplomats who assessed him as being "friendly and open", says a US cable leaked by WikiLeaks.  "He was unusually candid for a man in uniform and spoke without a note taker. It is unlikely that he will be as accessible or free to speak in his new position," says the cable dated February 26, 2010, a month before Singh was sworn-in as the new Army commander. The General had interacted with the US consul General at Kolkata during a 45-minute meeting, when he was the Eastern Army commander.  The confidential cable, leaked from the US Consulate in Kolkata, takes note of Singh's emphasis on India's ties with United States.  "He continues to speak fondly of his time at the US Army War College in Carlisle and welcomes closer US-India strategic cooperation," the cable says.  "He has a genuine soft spot for the Eastern Command, given his experiences as its commander and as one of its officers in the 1971 India-Pakistan War" the cable adds.  When Singh was probed on the Chinese border incursions, the cable says that he was more reserved on the sensitive topic. The US diplomats also described Arunachal Pradesh as 'the Indian border state'.  "While dismissing media hype over alleged Chinese border incursions into the Indian border state of Arunachal Pradesh, he (Gen Singh) acknowledged differences between the two countries on the matter. While more reserved on the sensitive topic, he hypothesized three areas of potential future conflict between China and India: clash of actual "hard" Interests (border, water, energy), regional ambitions, and global alliances.''  The cable adds, "He interpreted Chinese protests over Arunachal Pradesh as a not-so-subtle Chinese reminder to India of its presence in the neighbourhood and concern over improving India-US relations in light of US-India civil nuclear cooperation agreement."


'Army fighting fit, not out of shape'

NEW DELHI: None of the participants in a survey that seemed to indicate a worrying lack of fitness in military personnel were from the Army, says a statement issued by Army Headquarters. The statement was issued in response to a TOI report, 'Unfit Army? Survey finds 30% overweight' published on September 5.  "It may be noted that adequate focus is laid on the upkeep of physical fitness standards in the Army. Physical fitness schedules are existing and are strictly practised by all ranks in letter and spirit," said the statement.  Sources within the defence ministry clarified that while the survey, conducted by the ministry and the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, may have covered defence personnel, it did not include any soldiers from the Army itself. The survey report, titled 'Prevalence of hypertension in young military adults and its association with overweight and dyslipidaemia' was published in the latest issue of the Indian Journal of Medical Research. Its lead author, Dr Sougat Ray, did not respond to repeated e-mails sent by TOI seeking details of the 767 participants - 130 officers and 637 from other ranks.




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