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Monday, 12 September 2011

From Today's Papers - 12 Sep 2011








Army contention on age of Chief fallacious: MoD

New Delhi, September 11 The Defence Ministry has told the Army headquarters that it is “completely fallacious” to contend that anomaly in General VK Singh’s date of birth exists only in one branch of the Service.  “Both on facts and in substance, it cannot be stated that there were no anomalies in the records and it is completely fallacious to state that there was ‘only one omission’ in one branch,” the Defence Ministry said in documents obtained through RTI.  It has been contended that the issue pertaining to confusion over Gen Singh’s date of birth is due to the Military Secretary branch, which, on the basis of his UPSC form for entry into the National Defence Academy (NDA), has recorded May 10, 1950 as his date of birth.  The ministry said an earlier RTI reply, in which the Legal Adviser (Defence) had accepted Army Chief’s age to be May 10, 1951, had to be “abrogated” as Army’s Adjutant General’s branch “had not provided full facts” before the officer.  The Defence Ministry said it had been stated by the Attorney General that the amendment of the date of birth was not “legally tenable” and the issue could not be reopened at this stage on any basis whatsoever. — PTI

Court martialled female IAF officer commits suicide   Read more at:

Bhopal:  Former Indian Air Force officer Anjali Gupta, who was the first woman to be court martialled by the IAF, committed suicide in Bhopal on Sunday, police said.  Gupta ended her life by hanging herself to a ceiling fan at the house of a relative in Rohit Nagar area, where she was staying, they said.  She was alone in the house when she took the extreme step, police said.  Former flying officer Gupta, who had accused her senior officers of sexually abusing her, was dismissed by the IAF in February 2006 after she was found guilty on seven counts ranging from indiscipline, insubordination to financial misappropriation.   Read more at:

Defence ministry flouts norms for BEL

Tomorrow, defence minister AK Antony is poised to violate the ministry of defence’s own procurement rules by awarding government-owned Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) a Rs 1,800-2,000 crore contract for an electronic warfare (EW) system for the army.  Bypassing the army’s written reservations, the MoD is citing security considerations to hand BEL this single-source purchase.

An EW system electronically scans the enemy’s radio, radar and data emissions to gather intelligence. At key moments in battle, it broadcasts powerful electromagnetic surges to cripple the enemy’s electronics and communications.  The MoD’s apex Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) meeting tomorrow will rule on the procurement of ‘Track and wheel-based EW systems’, mounted on armoured vehicles for India’s mechanised strike corps. The MoD plans to categorise this acquisition as ‘Buy Indian – BEL’. The Defence Procurement Policy, or DPP, has no provision for such a category.  The categorisation process is crucial, as it decides whether the MoD will buy the equipment in question off-the-shelf from the global arms bazaar; buy technology and build it in India; or develop the equipment in India. Accordingly, the procurement is categorised as ‘Buy global’; ‘Buy & make’; ‘Buy & make (Indian)’ or ‘Make’. When the MoD wants Indian companies to compete for a particular contract, it is categorised as ‘Buy Indian’.  BEL has campaigned hard to get this massive contract without competition. Backing it is the MoD, which owns BEL. They argue that EW systems are so secret that Indian companies such as Tata Power and Larsen & Toubro cannot be trusted with these. Backstopping that argument is a letter from then Deputy National Security Advisor Shekhar Dutt (who, as defence secretary, enjoyed a close association with BEL) on reserving such systems for the public sector.  This viewpoint is hotly contested. A P J Abdul Kalam, as Defence Research and Development Organsiation chief, gave a private company -- Tata Power (Strategic Electronics Division) or Tata Power SED -- a key development role in the Samyukta, India’s first homegrown EW system.  Also opposing this viewpoint is the army’s top acquisitions manager and deputy chief, Lt Gen J P Singh. He has consistently told the MoD that competitive bidding will get the army better EW technology at cheaper prices than a contract gifted to BEL. Business Standard has learnt the army sent a strong letter to the NSA’s office, arguing that security is not an issue and asking for an appointment to make a presentation to the NSA.  But before that appointment could materialise, say senior MoD sources, freshly appointed defence secretary Shashi Kant Sharma hurriedly convened a meeting in early August to recommend that the DAC clear the single-source award of the tender to BEL on September 13. Lt Gen J P Singh, who was not in town, could not attend that meeting. In his place was the army’s vice-chief, Lt Gen A S Lamba, who rubber-stamped his okay, ignoring the army’s long-held position.  Three serving lieutenant generals have told Business Standard that Lt Gen Lamba, known for a non-confrontationist attitude, is treading particularly carefully at the moment. He would be the senior-most candidate for army chief if General V K Singh were to resign over the snowballing date of birth issue.  Lt Gen Prakash Chand Katoch, who headed the army’s information systems branch, points out that the army buys EW systems from abroad. “So, why can’t private Indian companies be trusted to build them? Sheltering behind security to hand the order to MoD enterprises is unfair. The army insists on getting source codes from the vendors and, therefore, can easily superimpose the security algorithms on them. Get the algorithms from the DRDO, and ask the cheapest bidder to build the system. But BEL keeps trying to get a sweetheart deal for building the entire system,” says Katoch.  MoD, approached for a comment, has remained silent. In 2010, when the MoD first tried to hand BEL the contract for a ‘Track and wheel-based EW system’, Antony’s deputy, M Pallam Raju declared, “I think that we have a responsibility to the DPSUs (departmental public sector undertakings), since (their) ownership rests with the Government of India.”  The decision that the DAC takes tomorrow will resonate through the forthcoming award of Rs 20,000 crore worth of EW development contracts in the next five to seven years.  In the balance are orders for new EW systems for mountains, each worth Rs 1,000 crore. Seven to eight EW systems will be bought for deserts/plains, each worth about Rs 1,000 crore. The army will buy an unspecified number of heliborne EW systems, each worth about Rs 500 crore. The precedent set tomorrow could apply to all of these.  In any case, say private Indian vendors that want to offer their own EW systems, being nominated for this first tender will allow BEL to cross-subsidise its bid for all the others.

Emergency measures: Army joins dengue fight on Sharif’s request

LAHORE:   Pakistan Army has set up medical camps in Cantonment and Defence Housing Authority to provide medical facilities to dengue fever patients.  Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had earlier requested the Armed Forces to assist the civil administration in its campaign against the spread of the disease. A separate unit has been established at the Combined Military Hospital to provide treatment facilities.  The Higher Education Department set up 33 camps in the city on Sunday to spread awareness about the virus. Students and teachers at these camps will distribute pamphlets containing information about the symptoms of dengue fever and prevention strategies.  Speaking at a meeting of the special emergency committee set up for eradication of dengue virus, Sharif directed Health Secretary Jahanzeb Khan to immediately contact the High Commissioner of India for assistance with the import of insecticide approved by the World Health Organisation for fumigation. He also directed the health secretary to discuss the possibility of technical assistance for controlling the spread of the virus with the Sri Lankan High Commissioner.  Sharif said private hospitals should provide free-of-charge medical treatment to dengue fever patients and laboratories should charge reasonable fees for blood tests. He directed a committee consisting of members of National and Provincial Assemblies from the city to hold talks with hospital and laboratories administrations in this regard.  The chief minister asked the Health Department send psychiatrists to provide counselling to dengue patients at the city hospitals.  He said funds had already been released to the town committees to purchase more spray machines so that the fumigation campaign could be made effective. He directed the officials concerned to immediately supply 200 kg insecticide to each town committee.  Earlier, town committees’ chairmen informed the meeting about the steps they had taken to control the spread of the virus.  The health secretary said most of the 2,994 dengue fever cases reported so far were from Lahore. He said additional diagnostic kits had been arranged at the Ganga Ram and the Lahore General Hospital.  LGH reserves a building for dengue patients  The Lahore General Hospital has set aside its phase-II building for dengue fever patients. As many as 50 people have been hired as dengue workers to assist with the hospital’s efforts against the virus, Post Graduate Medical Institute Principal Prof Dr Tariq Salauddin said on Sunday. He was speaking at an emergency meeting of the administration.  He said 10 diagnostic kits were installed at the hospital to provide diagnostic services. He said more than 6,000 patients were visiting the hospital everyday though it had a capacity for no more than 800 patients. He appealed to the people that there was no need to panic if someone near them was diagnosed with dengue. He said it was a curable disease.

Shahid Kapur's Mausam look gets him 1006 letters from defence students!

Shahid Kapur’s dedication towards Mausam is paying off quite amazingly well!  Apparently, the actor had devoted full two years of his life while keeping all his other projects on hold only to achieve the perfect look for his character in Mausam and to finish shoot for this film across two years — is getting a lot of praises from young students of National Defence Academy.  Shahid sports an Air Force uniform and the classic moustache with aviator glasses.  Apparently, the students of the National Defence Academy which trains students for Army, Navy and Air Force have given double thumbs up for Shahid’s look as an Air Force pilot in Mausam.  The students are writing letters to him saying how much they appreciate his look.  Some letters have gone beyond appreciation, with boys thanking Shahid for their uniform a style statement, which is apparently getting them attention from girls.  The Mausam team has received a whopping 1,006 letters addressed to Shahid so far and still counting.  The official spokesperson confirms, "Yes, it is an overwhelming response that we have received. We are honoured and humbled at the same time to know that the youngsters are appreciating the character and Shahid's look in the film. His uniform, his moustache his aviator glares everything.  Mausam releases in theatres on September 16, 2011.

Meet the Victor of Basantar- Lt General WAG Pinto

When a celebrated army general's motto in life is 'Bash on regardless', you can almost smell the gunpowder in the air. Of course, gunpowder and action have been the leitmotif of 87-year-old retired Lieutenant General WAG Pinto's 40-year-old illustrious career in the Indian army which culminated in him becoming the Eastern Army Commander.  Now settled in Pune, Pinto, better known as the Victor of Basantar for leading the army's 54 Infantry Division to victory in what is arguably the country's most famous ground battle, has recently released his memoirs in a short, crisp book titled, Bash On Regardless.  Pinto, who by his own admission is intellectual and flamboyant, has never hesitated to walk the talk. Nowhere was this more evident than in the Battle of Basantar in the 1971 Indo-Pak war in which Pinto directed his troops to attack the enemy from behind resulting in a resounding victory. In what is an Indian army record, Pinto's division won as many as 196 gallantry medals in just 14 days of fierce fighting. These include two Param Vir Chakras and nine Mahavir Chakras.  The general's book penned with characteristic wit and humour explains this battle vividly. It also captures the high quality of leadership exhibited by him.  When Pinto saw the enemy firmly ensconced in an area called the Supwal ditch across the Basantar river, he decided to daringly cross it at night to attack the enemy from behind. The general's daring plan paid off. The Pakistanis panicked when they saw Indian foot soldiers and a tank regiment cross a makeshift bridge.  They counter attacked our 45 tanks with 90 tanks. In the legendary battle that took place on the morning of December 16, 1971, young, 2nd Lieutenant Arun Khetrapal covered himself with glory when he single-handedly destroyed half a dozen enemy tanks, before dying a martyr's death. Khetrapal was awarded the Param Vir Chakra posthumously.  "Khetrapal was an unusual lad. Completely unafraid of the consequences, he was a part of a regiment that had exquisite, gunnery skills. This is why I had the confidence to attack the enemy with just one tank regiment," recalls the general.  Consequently, Indian forces destroyed 66 Pakistani tanks and established complete control over the Basantar river and the Supwal ditch. For a man who has led so much from the front, the general has a simple definition of leadership. He says, "To begin with, a good leader must have a strong personality and a good sense of humour. He must be able to inspire his men to do what he wants them to do."  Admiration for Pinto is evident in this foreword written by Lt Gen (retd) BT Pandit in the book. Pandit writes, "Even in stressful situations, he (Pinto) retained and exhibited a unique sense of humour. He was a role model for all of us."Pinto's book is available at Manneys Book store in Pune Camp.            

Ex-servicemen protest against corruption in armed forces

The Bhrashtachar Virodhi Manch, an organisation of ex-servicemen in Pune, took out a rally on Monday to protest against the alleged corruption prevailing in the armed forces.  A large number of ex-servicemen gathered at the statue of Mahatma Gandhi near Pune Railway Station and started a rally towards the collector’s office. The group carried placards and banners denouncing scams like Adarsh housing society and the Sukna land grab scam, that allegedly involved armed forces personnel.  In the public meeting held in front of the collector’s office, Lt Col (retd) Suresh Patil, chairman of ESBVM, demanded that the army be brought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. He alleged that big corruption prevailed in defence land, ration and other dealings related to the Indian Army.  Cols (retd) Gulabrao Jadhav, Anand, Sunil Kasture, Majors (retd) Ashok Sartape, Jahangir Mulla, Akbar Shaikh, Prabhakar Kondhalkar and many other ex-servicemen took part in the rally to show solidarity with the cause.


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