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Friday, 30 December 2011

From Today's Papers - 30 Dec 2011
Anglo-Sikh War Memorial in a battle for survival
Ferozepur, December 29 It is not only Guru Teg Bahadur Memorial Museum in the holy city of Sri Anandpur Sahib that is in a state of neglect, the only Anglo-Sikh War Museum at Ferozeshah, 30 km from here, also seems to have been confined to history.  The iron tripod bearing plaques that announce the mute testimony to the Anglo-Sikh wars fought at Ferozeshah, Sabraon, Misriwala and Mudki has rusted beyond recognition. Written in Punjabi, Hindi and English, it is a dedication of the museum to the nation by the late Congress leader Sanjay Gandhi "in the presence of Punjab Chief Minister Giani Zail Singh" on April 11, 1976.  The state of neglect is despite the Rs 85 lakh spent last year by the Punjab Heritage Tourism Promotion Board (PHTPB) on its renovation under a Centrally-funded scheme for "revitalisation" of Anglo-Sikh battle sites in the state. The work was undertaken by Lime Centre, New Delhi.  Both Guru Teg Bahadur Museum and Anglo-Sikh War Museum are under the administrative control of the Department of Cultural Affairs. Inadequacy of maintenance funds, shortage of staff, and lack of basic amenities at the sprawling complex are cited among the reasons for its neglect. This is in contrast to the SAD-BJP government having spent lavishly on raising new memorials to Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, Chhotta Ghallughara and Wada Ghallughara, inviting charges of adopting a "religious agenda" on the eve of Assembly elections.  Broken glass panes have turned the artistically designed double-storey memorial into a convenient nesting site not only for birds but also nasty brown wasps. The foundation stone too tells the tale of official apathy towards the building located on the Ludhiana-Ferozepur highway.  Some rare artefacts, including weapons, were stolen from the museum a few years ago. These have not been recovered thus far, though a police case was registered.  Till last year, the museum bore the look of a haunted place, with thick vegetative growth blocking not only its entrance but nearly the entire building. Fountains on the 4.5-acre complex had become dysfunctional. Cannons on display at the entrance rested on decaying wooden mounts and broken wheels. A visit by the then Deputy Commissioner of Ferozepur had led to the repair of cannon mounts as well as the sanction of a tubewell connection.  A new kitchen and dining hall were constructed on the premises six months ago, but the facility to serve visitors has yet to be put to use. Sources said the department had not been able to decide who would run the canteen. While the new structure has been built at a huge cost, no money has still been spared for the maintenance and upkeep of the main museum.  Paintings of Maharani Jinda, Sham Singh Attariwala, Faquir Azizudin, Dewan Mool Chand, Lord Hardinge, Lord Gough and Lord Dalhousie — main characters related to the two sides of the war — besides battle scenes, adorn the walls of the museum. However, the display would hardly enthuse a visitor, for the dilapidated or broken pieces of furniture lying in the exhibition hall hit the eye the first. Almost all paintings on display have been done by Kirpal Singh and Devinder Singh. The artefacts on display, including some weapons of historical importance, too are crying for attention.  Director of Cultural Affairs and Tourism Karamjit Singh Sra says there is a need for a "composite plan" for the upkeep of museums and memorials, without which some museums, including one at Sangrur, may be headed for closure.  "But we are working out plans to attract more visitors, by ensuring they get an informative glimpse of the history and rich heritage of the state in general, and Sikhs in particular," he says. Guided tours and arranging connectivity of the museum with nearby towns is among the proposals.
US to sell $30 billion of Boeing F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia  
Honolulu:  The Obama administration has finalized the sale of $30 billion worth of F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, boosting the military strength of a key US ally in the Middle East to help counter Iran.  Under the terms of the agreement, the US will send Saudi Arabia 84 new fighter jets and upgrades for 70 more.  The White House says the fighter jets will be manufactured by Boeing, and will support more than 50,000 US jobs.  The fighter jet sale is part of a larger 10-year, $60 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia. It also includes helicopters, a broad array of missiles, bombs and delivery systems, as well as radar warning systems and night-vision goggles.  White House officials announced the deal from Hawaii, where President Barack Obama is vacationing.
Queues throng day two of army mela in Margao
MARGAO: The second day of the three-day 'Know Your Army Mela' at Ravanfond, Margao, on Thursday enthralled locals and tourists alike, while chief minister Digambar Kamat praised the armed forces for their role in nation-building.  Organized to showcase the capabilities of the Indian Army to the people of Goa, the mela had some exciting adventure activities such as colourful motorcycle stunts, a dog & horse show, skydiving slithering, martial arts and band displays, besides a display of various weapons and equipment.  Commenting on how happy he was that the mela was being organized in Margao after so many years, Kamat said that Goa would always be grateful to the army for 'Operation Vijay' that earned the state liberation 50 years ago.  "I am happy that this event is taking place on the golden jubilee anniversary of Goa's liberation and I am sure that the public, especially youngsters, will be properly educated and become aware about the importance of the armed forces," said Kamat during his keynote address.  Before proceeding to review the weapons and equipment on display, Kamat distributed scooters to disabled soldiers and felicitated the family members of army martyrs. The highlights of the exhibition are the BMP tanks, bofors guns, radars, anti-tank missiles and grenade launchers.  Queues of people kept the mela busy throughout the day and the young and old could not hide their fascination with the impressive machinery and just "getting a feel of army life".  "The entire event was very informative but the tanks in particular were impressive," said Arkin Diniz, a tourist from Mumbai. Others, however, wanted more out of the event.  Dylan Marques from the UK said, "If the key purpose was to attract youngsters to join the army, then that was a bit lost. It could have been more engaging, more encouraging and there could have been more stalls with pictures and banners offering an insight into the everyday life of a soldier," said Marques, who is on a holiday in Goa and attended the event with his family.  The exhibition also reached out to ex-servicemen to update them on various post-retirement issues. Day three of the mela will have a display of martial arts such as Taekwando, Kalaripayattu (ancient martial art of Southern India practised in Kerala) and will close at 5pm.
We respect Kashmiris' concerns: Army
SRINAGAR: The Indian Army respects human rights and fully understands sensitivities of people in Kashmir, a top officer said on Thursday.  Lieutenant General KT Parnaik, General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Indian Army's Northern Command, visited the Line of Control (LOC) Thursday to review the security arrangements.  He was accompanied by Lieutenant General SA Hasnain, GOC of the Srinagar-based Chinar corps.  Parnaik also interacted with troops deployed in the LOC in the Baramulla sector.  "The army commander complimented all troops for their outstanding vigilance and state of preparedness throughout 2011. He also conveyed his appreciation for the manner in which the troops have respected all human right norms and ensured full understanding of the sensitivities of the awam (people)," a defence ministry press release here said.
India Plans Huge Investments In Defense Modernization
By Jay Menon NEW DELHI  The Indian government has plans to make big investments in modernizing different sectors of the country's armed forces.  "Now it is time to modernize, upgrade all the defense PSUs [public sector units] and ordinance factory boards," says M.M. Pallam Raju, minister of state for defense.  Raju says the government is investing a "lot of money and effort" to promote these facilities, which the country has developed over a period of time with "great tenacity." He says the amount of investment is going up and could be more than $945 billion [50 trillion rupees] as per security needs over next five years. The defense ministry is working toward parallel encouragement of the private sector to attain the goal, he says  "Unfortunately, as far as the army is concerned, we have been suffering because of cancellation of tenders due to black-listing of companies," Raju says. "There is a quest to modernize our artillery, so we hope that in the next couple of years we will make significant progress."  The government is also taking the issue of self-reliance seriously in the context of manufacturing artillery.  Forecasts for the Indian defense market are numerous and varied, but most project massive growth, especially compared to western markets. According to one forecast for 2011-2016 by iCD Research, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for all Indian defense expenditures is expected to rise to 13.08%. And while the country is eager to build its domestic industry, India remains one the world's largest importers of military hardware, relying on imports to fulfill 70% of its defense requirements, according to the November report.
India gets indigenous bomb disposal unit
PUNE, India, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- The Indian army's corps of engineers has taken delivery of the first six indigenously made, remotely operated vehicles designed for bomb disposal.  In 2009 the army ordered 20 of the ROV Daksh from the Defense Research and Development Organization, the government's main military equipment developer, a report by The Times of India said.  The Daksh has been designed and is being manufactured by a consortium of public and private sector businesses, led by the DRDO's robotics group at the Research and Development Establishment laboratories in Pune. Other companies include Tata Motors, Dynalog India, Theta Controls and Bharat Electronics.  "We will hand over the remaining 14 units of the order in a year's time," S. Sundaresh, DRDO's chief controller of armament combat engineering, said at a news conference following the handover to the army.  "The ROVs will be deployed in the northern and eastern command areas of the army and, based on the feedback, the DRDO will develop a further improvised variant called Daksh Mk-I," Sundaresh said.  Alok Mukherjee, head of robotics at Research and Development Establishment, said a basic ROV bought from the United Kingdom in 2002 cost around $335 million whereas the basic Daksh costs about $188 million. Around 90 percent of the machine is made in India.  "But the R&DE is providing added features including an X-ray investigation system and a mounted gun and the entire package costs $329 million," Mukherjee said.  Rakesh Bassi, director general of combat engineers, took delivery of the battery-powered and wheeled Daksh. He also monitored the field trials of Daksh at the military base in Nagrota in Jammu and Kashmir state in 2008.  "The army sought modifications in the ROV, like an additional camera in the rear, a cordless operating system and a carrier vehicle suitable for all-terrain operations. All these have been met by the R&DE," he said.  It was in the early 1990s when the Indian army started to think about using ROVs "following instances of indiscriminate use of (improvised explosive devises) by terrorists and anti-nationals. We had to acquire 45 such vehicles from the United Kingdom, while the DRDO was asked to develop the ROVs," he said.  The ROV includes a mounted shotgun to shoot open locks on doors and other objects. The X-ray system locates the bomb and the vehicle's gripper arm will handle the bomb to safely dispose of it. Operational distance is more than 1,500 feet in line of sight from the controller.  It also has a radio frequency shield that when turned on jams incoming remote signals sent by a terrorist operator of the bomb or from an automatic sender that would trigger the bomb.  Read more:
2011: Age controversy, court martial issues stung defence sector
New Delhi The age controversy involving Army Chief Gen V K Singh, court martial of three Lt Gen-rank officers in different scams, eviction of US companies from air force's combat aircraft deal and face-off between Indian and Pakistan navies in high seas marked the year 2011 for the Defence Ministry.  The successful launch of Agni-4 missile, dismissal of a senior navy officer in a honey-trap case and Islamabad's prompt return of an army chopper also made headlines.  The issuing of Initial Operational Clearance to the indigenous LCA Tejas in January turned out to be the biggest disappointment of the year and the IAF chief later said this was not the final clearance and the aircraft would have to undergo more tests to reach the milestone.  The raging controversy over Gen Singh's age started when the army on basis of an RTI application changed his date of birth from May 10, 1950 to May 10, 1951, which would have given him an extra 10 months in office.  Later, the Defence Ministry stepped in and on basis of two opinions from the Attorney General, on July 21 decided that May 10, 1950 will only be considered as Gen Singh's date of birth as he had agreed on it in written undertakings.  Soon after the ministry order, Gen Singh filed a statutory complaint with Defence Minister A K Antony against the government decision to treat May 10, 1950 as his date of birth, thus becoming the first chief of the 1.2 million-strong Army to do so.  A few weeks later, Antony said Singh's date of birth is May 10, 1950 and he will have to retire on May 31 next year.  The Sukna land scam continued to remain in limelight as former Military Secretary Lt Gen Avadesh Prakash and former 33 Corps Commander Lt Gen P K Rath, indicted by a court of inquiry (CoI), were punished by respective court martials.  While Prakash was recommended to be dismissed by the Army court, Rath was given a sentence for loss of 15 years of service along with loss of two years of seniority.  The case had come to light in late 2009 after a CoI was ordered to look into the issuing of a no-objection certificate (NOC) to private builders for constructing an educational institution.  Lt Gen S K Sahni was also ordered to be cashiered from service by a court martial in Jalandhar for his role in the ration scam.  Tensions rose high when an army chopper with four crew strayed into Pakistan in November along the Ladakh region but their prompt return by Islamabad in less than eight hours turned into a CBM between the two countries.  On modernisation front, the Army despite its Chief's commitment failed to induct any artillery gun as all proposals in this regard remained stuck due to one reason or the other.  The IAF got a new head in Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne in August.  The year began on a good note for the service with the induction of its first C-130J Super Hercules aircraft from the US but the last quarter saw a number of vintage MiG 21s along with other frontline aircraft crashing.  The biggest worry for the IAF came in form of crash of a Su-30MKI over Pune on December 13 after which the fleet of 130 such aircraft was temporarily-grounded.  Resuming its operations, ACM Browne undertook a one-hour sortie in the aircraft in Pune to assure the nation and the IAF about the immense capabilities of the Russian-origin air superiority aircraft.  The eviction of two US aircraft firms -- Boeing and Lockheed Martin -- from last lap of air force's multi-billion dollar combat aircraft deal also hogged headlines.  The Defence Ministry excluded them along with Russian MiG and Swedish Saab from the multi-role combat aircraft (M-MRCA) deal in April and shortlisted European EADS Cassidian and French Dassault Aviation for procuring the warplanes.  Commercial bids of the two companies were opened on November 4.  The IAF also signed a deal worth USD 2.1 billion to upgrade its fleet of 51 Mirage 2000 aircraft with French companies. First two aircraft have already reached France for the purpose.  DRDO tasted success in its efforts to develop long-range weapon systems for the Armed Forces after with the successful test-firing of nuclear-capable Agni-4 early this month.  The premier defence research agency is now working to launch the country into elite club of nations with Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) and is expected to test fire the over 5,000 km-range Agni-5 early next year.  The DRDO also for the first time launched the tactical 150 km-range Prahaar missile. Several successful test-firings of the Prithvi, Agni-2 and Shourya missiles were also carried out during the year by the Service.  The navy continued to do well in the filed of anti-piracy operations through out the year and foiled several piracy attempts in both Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden.  In February, the Defence Minister issued orders for the dismissal of Commodore Sukhjinder Singh, who was found guilty of having relations with a Russian woman during his posting in Moscow to look after Admiral Gorshkov programme.  On the India-Pakistan front, a face-off between warships of the two navies in high seas raised tensions followed by series of complaints by the two sides.  The videos of the face-off showing the PNS Babur brushing the Indian Naval Ship Godavari and damaging it during an anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden were a hit on the Internet.  Defence ties with China saw a slight improvement with both sides exchanging high-level military delegations and the resumption of Annual Defence Dialogue this year.  The Armed Forces were busy strengthening their positions along the Chinese boundary with the deployment of aircraft such as the Su-30MKI and the reactivation of airfields in that region.
PAC smells scam in army canteens after audit denial   Read more at:
A parliamentary panel has come down heavily on the army for not allowing audit of the unit-run canteens (URCs) while taking serious note of malpractices in ration supply for the troops.  The Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which had gone into the findings of the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) highlighting that the jawans were being fed food items past the expiry date, has given wide-ranging recommendations to streamline the supply chain management of rations in the Indian Army.  But the decision to not allow the URC audit was fiercely defended by army chief General V.K. Singh when he, along with senior defence ministry officials, appeared before the committee. There are 3,600 URCs in the country with a turnover of over Rs.8,500 crore.  The committee said it was "dismayed" to note that the audit was denied access to the URC records by the army headquarters in spite of repeated requests on the ground that the canteens were being run from a nonpublic fund.  The panel stated that the army resisted attempts to get the URCs audited overlooking the defence ministry's directions. "We fail to understand how the URC audit will be so intrusive as to have an adverse impact on troop morale," it added. PAC chairman Murli Manohar Joshi said these facilities, running on government land and by government employees, should be audited. All the three services had opposed the move.  The PAC also claimed that the ration supply chain was in a mess after the CAG highlighted several discrepancies in the system and cartelisation of suppliers. The committee backed the CAG findings, saying 74 per cent of fresh vegetables and fruits issued were not in accordance with the prescribed norms. The troops were being supplied food items even after their expiry date.  The panel expressed surprise that these dry rations were consumed by troops even six to 28 months after the expiry date.   Read more at:
Research on to develop lighter battle tanks
CHENNAI: Research is underway at the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) to develop light weight tanks for the Indian Army, said S D Dimri, Director General, Ordnance Factories, here on Wednesday.  He was speaking at the golden jubilee celebrations of the Avadi Heavy Vehicles Factory (AHVF).  Addressing mediapersons on the upcoming developments, he said the technology to destroy anti-tank missiles had been bought from Russia and the same, to be introduced soon, would be upgraded to suit the needs of the Indian tanks.� "The present tanks weigh around 45-60 tonnes. Technological superiority is increasingly going to be the decisive factor in future battles. The prediction is that future tanks would weigh less than 30 tonnes, mak- ing them light enough to� fly in fleets of C-130 transports, land on dirt strips,� and roll off ready to fight," Dimri said.  "The production of equipment at the Avadi Heavy Vehicles Factory works out to 25 per cent and this translates to production of� ` 2,600-crore worth equipment per year, whereas the total amount of equipment produced through all ordnance factories is `12,000 crore. Two more ordnance factories will come up in Nalanda (Bihar) and in Korba (Chattisgarh)," he added.  MC Bansal, Additional Director General, Indian Ordnance Factories, and MSN Rao, General Manager, AHVF, were also present.
MoD asks chief secy to put to rest Annandale transfer campaign
Upset over a signature campaign by some citizens and voluntary groups owing allegiance to Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) for transferring the historic Annandale ground to the state government, the Ministry of Defence has written to the state's chief secretary to put the ongoing "propaganda" to rest. Currently, the ground is in possession of the Army though the lease expired in 1992.  Highly placed sources told The Indian Express that the ministry in its letter dated December 3, 2011, told Chief Secretary Rajwant Sandhu to take steps before the campaign blows out of proportion.  The transfer of Annandale ground has been a bone of contention between the Army and the state government for several years with Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal taking it up with the then defence minister George Fernandes in 1998-99.  But the Army has maintained that it needs to retain the ground for strategic needs.
Two months ago, BJP MP and HPCA chief Anurag Thakur had sought people's support for transfer of the ground to the state government to build a stadium of international standards. This had triggered a public campaign with the Shimla district unit of HPCA starting a signature campaign by visiting schools and other public institutions.  "We have already collected 96,000 signatures. The target is to get 1 lakh signatures and submit a memorandum to the governor for taking up the issue with Union defence minister," said HPCA spokesman Mohit Sood.  But the signature campaign has not gone down well with the Ministry of Defence. In its letter bearing Do-No 22(5)/2011/D-GS-III dt 03,12,2011, the ministry claimed that the ground was of high importance for national security and it's use for the purpose of operations can't be undermined.  "Any change in the status of the ground will create serious impediments for Army helicopter operations, especially medium and heavy, flying from here. There will also be security implications for continued presence of civil and defence precincts, which is not desirable," wrote Additional Secretary (Defence) A K Bishnoi.  Sources in the government confirmed they have received the letter. "Even earlier, we have received some letters from the Central government rejecting the state's demand for transfer of Annandale ground," an official said. But the defence ministry feels its significance has been undermined. "It is used to conduct military maneouvers and mock exercises. But the biggest significance is that it is close to the international borders with China," said a defence ministry personnel.

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