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Wednesday, 21 December 2011

From Today's Papers - 21 Dec 2011

AFSPA extended in Assam for another year
Bijay Sankar Bora/TNS  Guwahati, December 20 The Central Government has extended the enforcement of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, in Assam by another one year notwithstanding the marked improvement of security scenario in the state with a number of insurgent outfits coming over for dialogue with the government during the last couple of years.  AFSPA, whose continued enforcement in Northeast and J-K has become a matter of debate in the country, was first imposed in Assam in 1990 and since then it has been in force in the state through yearly extension.  With the fresh extension, entire Assam has once again been declared a disturbed area despite CM Tarun Gogoi’s claims that the situation has come back to normal in the state in view of peace process going o with several insurgent groups, including a faction of the ULFA.  The level of violence in Assam has come down by at least 50% this year after a number of militant outfits, including factions of the ULFA, NDFB, several tribal and Adivasi militant groups coming forward for negotiated settlement of the problem by giving up the path of violence. However, security agencies and state police force are apprehensive of Maoists trying to strike roots in the state while the hardliner faction of the ULFA is trying to set up coordination with Meitei insurgent groups such as PLA, PRE-PAK and UNLF from Manipur.
ISI honey-traps Colonel in Dhaka, probe ordered
New Delhi, December 20 A Lieutenant Colonel of the Indian Army has been honey-trapped by a woman mole allegedly planted on him by Pakistan's ISI. The officer was doing a staff college course meant for mid-level officers in Dhaka.  The officer has been recalled and a court of inquiry ordered, a senior functionary confirmed here tonight. The Lt Colonel was on a 10-month course at the Military Academy of Bangladesh and has been recalled midway and attached to a unit in Delhi till the probe is over. Officers of India and Bangladesh routinely undertake exchange visits for study purposes under a set programme involving the two countries.  The case came to light when the officer from one of the infantry regiments himself told the Indian High Commission in Dhaka that he was being blackmailed by a person of the ISI.  According to initial reports, the officer met the woman in question at a party in September. After a few weeks, he was reportedly confronted by a man who posed as an ISI agent and said he had tapes showing him (the Lt Col) with a woman. The agent reportedly offered the Indian Lt Col a way out and asked him to spy for Pakistan. — TNS
Naval might reflects mounting geo-strategic challenges Prez says oil exploration activities will have to be protected
Ajay Banerjee in Mumbai  December 20 Faced with a melange of geo-strategic challenges including tackling piracy on high seas, maintaining security of the sea-lanes of communication for cargo-laden ships to pass freely and warding off sea-borne terror attacks, the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard today showcased their combined strength and capability.  India’s sea-based capability is being tested almost on a daily basis as it spreads a strategic footprint to match its rise in the global power-game.  With the iconic Gateway of India and the Taj Mahal Hotel — the same one which was target of the attacks by Pakistan-backed terrorists during the November 2008 incident — forming the backdrop, President Pratibha Patil sailed in a ship INS Subhadra off the coast of Mumbai to carry out what is called a ‘Presidential fleet review’. The exercise has the President reviewing the sea-going fleet and the compliment of air-borne assets and this was the tenth in Independent India.  Today, a flotilla of 81 Indian Navy and Coast Guard ships was lined up in neat rows out at sea for the President to review in the two-hour-long ceremony. The Navy’s air strike power was showcased as the newly acquired MiG 29 KUBs flew just 200 metre over the President’s reviewing ship. They were preceded by the sea harriers.  The MiG 29s will be the deck-based fighters for the Admiral Gorshkov, a sea-borne aircraft carrier, that is slated for delivery from Russia in December 2012. At present, these aircraft are based on land in Goa. The sea harriers are deck-based on the INS Viraat, the lone aircraft carrier of the Navy. A total of 44 choppers, reconnaissance planes and fighters were on display.  Patil, in her address, termed the Navy as “most capable in the region” and said it was “destined to grow even further”. The President went on to elucidate: “India has significant maritime interests.” Without naming China with which India has had a face-off over oil-exploration in the South China Sea off the coast of Vietnam, Patil said, “The oil exploration activities off our coast and at sea are of significant economic importance. Protection of our offshore development areas is a major pre-requisite for our nation’s development”.  The INS Airavat, which was involved in a duel with the Chinese, was on review today.  The warships reviewed included India’s only aircraft carrier, the 30,000-tonne INS Viraat, besides the frontline destroyers along with the newly acquired stealth frigates. Another crucial component on display was landing ships which carry armed troops and combat vehicles to land them very close to shore without having the need to berth a jetty or dock.  The Navy also showed how it manages its supply lines by using specialised ships for its missions, some of which are in faraway areas. Survey ships, fast attack crafts, missile corvetts, offshore patrol vessels, submarines and training ships came under the review.  The President, who is the Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces, was accompanied by Defence Minister AK Antony, Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma, Army Chief Gen VK Singh and IAF chief Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne besides a host of Indian and foreign dignitaries. Among those invited was the Defence Attache of China, sources said.
Army officer allegedly assaulted by BSP supporters
KANPUR: Sunday night turned dreadful for a lieutenant in the Indian Army. He and his brother were brutally assaulted by drunken men, said to be supporters of BSP. His ordeal continued throughout the night.  The Army officer was denied help by the police. Instead of taking action against the drunken hoodlums, the Naubasta police roughed up the lieutenant and his brother and put them into the lock-up.  Apoorva Narain is posted at Pune. He had come to meet his parents and siblings, who stay at Keshav Nagar in Naubasta.  On Sunday night, his younger brother Shani and his friend Kushagra were on their way back home on a two-wheeler. As they entered Keshav Nagar, two drunken men, who were in a car, hit their motorcycle and injure them. An argument ensued. As some locals tried to pacify them, the drunken men in the car became more enraged.  Sensing trouble, Shani apprised his brother Apoorva about the issue. The lieutenant rushed to the spot and tried to sort out the issue but he too was assaulted and threatened with dire consequences by drunken men.  The police reached the spot and instead of rounding up the drunken men, roughed up Apoorva and his brother Shani and took them into custody. The cops allowed the drunken men go. They took the Army officer and his brother to Naubasta police station and put them in the lock-up. "They also allegedly snatched the mobile phone and other belongings of Apoorva and asked them to compromise on the matter by paying a sum of Rs 75,000 to an accused identified as Deepak Katiyar, who by then had reached Naubasta police station with a group of local BSP leaders," a family member said.  "The cops snatched Lt Apoorva's mobile phone and thrashed him at the police station in front of them when he refused to pay Rs 75,000," the family member added.  "The cops did not listen to my credentials and instead termed my claims fake when I told them that I am a commissioned officer posted in Pune in Indian Army. Influenced by local BSP leaders, they later put me in the lock-up whole night and kept pressurising me and my family members to pay a sum of Rs 75,000," said Apoorva while talking to TOI.  "Even though I was in Army uniform, I was subjected to worst form of humiliation," he added. The policemen wanted to lodge an FIR against me and my brother stating that we were involved in a case of loot, where we had looted a gold chain from drunken men. When I opposed it, the police asked me to compromise and pay a sum of Rs 75,000 to the accused," Lt Apporva added.  They released me on Monday morning. However, that wasn't the end.  On Tuesday, the victim went to Naubasta police station to register a case but the police officials did not register a case. He alleged that the police had been siding with the accused Deepak Katiyar, who had been accompanied by local BSP leaders at the Naubasta police station on the day the incident had occurred.  Deputy superintendent of police Balwant Chowdhary said that those found guilty would be punished.
Army man to face enquiry for being 'honey-trapped'
The Indian Army has ordered an enquiry against an infantry officer who had been allegedly honey-trapped in Bangladesh and then blackmailed by Pakistan’s ISI, which wanted him to do its espionage job.  The officer, a lieutenant colonel whose name has not been disclosed, was undergoing a staff college course at the Military Academy in Dhaka.
Sources said on Tuesday a woman approached the officer at a party in Dhaka two months ago. Subsequently with alleged tapes of the officer and the woman together, some ISI agents blackmailed the officer, sources added.  The officer reported the incident to the Indian high commission in Dhaka and was immediately recalled. A senior officer is heading the army enquiry team.  The army rules prohibit any officer from having intimate relations with anyone other than “permissible people”. This is the second time in the recent past that a senior officer of the Indian armed forces has been “honey-trapped”.  Early this year, the Indian Navy dismissed Commodore Sukhjinder Singh, posted in Russia to overlook the retrofitting of aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, for allegedly having intimate relations with a woman there.  However, it could not be proved that his links with the woman had had any impact on the aircraft carrier project, for which the Russians had several times hiked the cost of repair and overhaul.  Last year diplomat Madhuri Gupta had been charged with handing over sensitive documents to Pakistan when she was posted in Islamabad.  There too the ISI was involved and Gupta was said to be having a liaison with a Pakistani.
Army’s daredevil acts to attract youth
The Indian Army is on a persuasion and responsiveness mission and will soon showcase its adventure activities in various cities to attract the youth to join the Army. Various adventure activities that will be displayed including daredevil shows by motorbikers, para-motoring and parasailing.  Sources revealed that in accordance with the Southern Command’s media plan, a ‘Defence Awareness and Motivation of Youth’ programme will be conducted in Andhra Pradesh in the last week of December 2011, and the first week of January 2012, at prime cities of the state.  Officials maintain that the youth, the target audience being high school and college students, can be inspired by showing them a glimpse of the “Army life” and the associated “adventure activities.”  The Army personnel will showcase audacious motorbike acts. The acts will be performed by the Corps of Signals. Para-motoring will be done by the Parachute Regiment and parasailing by the Army Ordnance Corps.  In addition to these, an Army dog show will be held by the Remount and Veterinary Corps. Beating Retreat by the Navy Band will also be held as part of these events.  Selection from jan. 2 to 7  An Army recruitment rally for the posts of various trades will be conducted by the Army Recruiting Branch, Trimulgherry, Secunderabad, between January 2 and 7, 2012. Candidates from the Telangana districts of Hyderabad, Adilabad, Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Medak, Warangal, Ranga Reddy, Nalgonda, Mahbubnagar and Khammam can take part in the rally. The venue will be Prakasam Stadium, Kothagudem, Singareni Collieries, Khamman.  For eligibility, candidates must be born between July 2, 1994, and January 2, 1988, (17 years and 6 months to 23 years). Their height should not be less than 162 cm and weight not less than 48 kg. Their chest should be a minimum of 76 cm with a 5 cm expansion.  Interested candidates must report at the venue in the morning along with educational documents and eight passport-size photographs.
Auditor slaps Indian army over delay in gun deals
NEW DELHI — India's national auditors on Tuesday blasted the military for dragging its feet on the procurement of modern artillery pieces, saying delays had denied the million-plus army crucial firepower.  "The abnormal delay in procurement of new guns has not only impacted the operational preparedness of the army but also resulted in substantial cost over runs," the Comptroller Auditor General said in a report unveiled in parliament.  "Also, procurement of these guns is not in sight in the foreseeable future," it said, referring to negotiations to acquire some 700 artillery pieces that have been dragging on for the past 15 years.  The auditors said the Indian army was still armed with "obsolete technology of 1970s vintage".  The Indian military has not bought modern artillery since the 1980s when a bribery scandal erupted involving the Swedish armament firm Bofors.  Bofors was accused of paying bribes of $1.3 billion to secure the sale of the artillery, though the company and all those accused have always maintained their innocence.  Then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was voted out of office in 1989 largely over the Bofors deal.
Our basic problem is lack of manpower: Milind Tungar
A gold medalist in defence and strategic studies from the University of Pune, 1992, Maj (retd) Milind Tungar has been part of the army operations on the borders as a captain and major from 1996 to 2004.  Presently, he is the deputy director of the department of Sainik Welfare, Pune, and also serving as the zilla sainik welfare officer. Soumabha Nandi spoke to him about the limitations and achievements of zilla sainik welfare office (ZSWO), Pune.  What have been the achievements of ZSWO, Pune, in the last one year? Given the constrained manpower, we have done pretty well till now. We have taken initiatives to complete the construction of four military hostels in Jalna, Mumbai, Thane and Akola. Apart from that, we have also constructed ‘mahasainik halls’ in Ahmednagar, Kolhapur and Jalna. However, our biggest achievement in these two years is the construction of a training centre in Kolhapur that trains aspiring candidates to join the armed forces.  What are the limitations that the department faces? The basic problem is lack of manpower. One officer is compelled to look after two or three posts.Officers are unwilling to join the department owing to the poor status and salary granted by the government of Maharashtra. The ranks of major and lieutenant colonel are equivalent to additional collector or additional superintendent. But in our department, they are placed below the tehsildar.  In other states, these ranks get the status equivalent to deputy collector. Besides, the salary is also very less compared to other states. In other states, officers of the department are paid around Rs50,000 where as in Maharashtra, they receive around Rs15,000.  Haven’t you taken this matter to the government? Repeated complaints and applications have been sent to the central and the state government but things continue to remain the same. Though assurance is provided every time, implementation process is delayed to a large extent. As a result, officers opt for fruitful offers made by private firms or our sister departments. Thus, the ZSWO suffers largely.  What amendments would you like the state government to make? Firstly, the salary and the status have to improve. Besides, the selection process is a prolonged one. Officers who join the ZSWO have passed entrance exams like the National Defence Academy, Indian Military Academy and UPSC. It is meaningless to make them reappear for MPSC exam as the entire selection process takes about eight months. There should be a special committee for the selection of these officers, which would fasten the process to 30 days.  What other projects does ZSWO plans to undertake in the coming year? We are planning a multi-purpose hall in Parvati with a seating capacity of 500 people. This hall would facilitate war widows and ex-servicemen to get together and share their problems and joys every month. We are planning to start the work by January and complete it by December 2012. Apart from this, the renovation of the military hostel in Parvati, which was constructed way back in 1957, is also on the radar.

Shortage of armed forces firing ranges: Antony
New Delhi: The Indian armed forces face a shortage of field firing ranges (FFR) to practice the use of weapons with the number dwindling from 104 to 66 in the last decade, parliament was informed Monday.  Defence Minister A.K. Antony said in written replies in the Lok Sabha that 38 FFRs were deleted from the list in 2009 due to their not being available after denotification on account of being declared wildlife sanctuaries or not being renotified by the state governments.  "The number of FFRs has declined in the last decade from 104 to 66 (12 acquired and 44 notified). Thirty-eight ranges have been deleted from the list of FFRs in 2009 due to their not being available (due to denotification) on account of being declared as wildlife sanctuaries or to their not being renotified by the state governments," Antony said.  He said FFRs are required to be renotified from time to time by the respective state governments after clearance from the ministry of environment and forests has been received.  "Due to the increase in population, spread of habitation and development, encroachments, areas are being declared as wildlife sanctuary/reserve forests, and environmental pressures, the state governments are often disinclined to renotify ranges in their jurisdiction," he said.  Concerted efforts are being made at all levels to ensure timely renotification of the denotified ranges, the defence minister said, adding that one-time compensatory afforestation charges, as required by the respective state governments, have been paid in case of many ranges to ensure their long-term renotification and continued availability.  "In addition, efforts are on by the army to impress upon the respective state governments and ministry of environment and forests the need for renotification/acquisition of FFRs," he added.

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