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Saturday, 31 December 2011

From Today's Papers - 31 Dec 2011
Defence Ministry rejects Army Chief’s plea on age
Tribune News Service  New Delhi, December 30 Rejecting the Army chief General VK Singh’s statutory complaint seeking an amendment to his date of birth, the Ministry of Defence has made it clear that it would not disturb the status quo at this stage. General VK Singh retires in five months from now - in May 2012. The Army Chief has the option of a legal recourse.  The opinion of the ministry has been conveyed to Defence Minister AK Antony who will then forward the same to the Army chief, sources said tonight.  In August, General VK Singh had filed a 500-page statutory complaint with the Defence Minister seeking a re-examination of his date of birth. The Army Chief in his complaint had asked the minister take a decision on his date of birth purely on the basis of merit and available evidence.  The compliant was the consequence of an order issued by the ministry on July 22. It declared that the year of General Singh’s birth was 1950 and not 1951 as he had claimed.  The ministry in its latest decision has attached the observations of Attorney General GE Vahanvati on the issue. The Attorney General had said there could be no change in Army chief’s date of birth.  He had opined that the chief’s complaint filed under the Army Act was not maintainable. The matriculation certificate could not be the sole basis changing date of birth at this stage.  The controversy on VK Singh’s age surfaced in 2008 when he was considered for appointment as the Eastern Army Commander. The Adjutant General's branch - the official record keeper for salary and pension - has been following 1951 as Singh’s DoB, while the Military Secretary branch, which looks after promotions and postings, shows it as 1950.
Was robbed during Army operation: Assam trader
Bijay Sankar Bora/TNS  Guwahati, December 30 A ‘counter-insurgency’ operation by the Army at the home of a businessman in Assam’s Jorhat city has landed the force in a soup with the police registering a case of robbery.  Surajit Gogoi alias Poona Gogoi, a former ULFA militant who surrendered in 1992 and started his own business, complained that 10 to 12 persons armed with sophisticated weapons arrived in a Maruti Gypsy and a Tata Indica and barged into Surajit Gogoi’s house on December 20 midnight. They took away three mobile handsets, a licensed .32 pistol, a passport, Rs 1.5 lakh in cash and other valuables, as per the case registered in the Jorhat police station (case no. 922/2011).  Gogoi also complained that the gang tied up his wife, two teenaged sons and a daughter and locked them up in one room and forcibly took away the items in his absence.  The Army has no jurisdiction to conduct counter-insurgency operations in Jorhat, Golaghat and Guwahati metropolitan districts without informing the local police.  The Jorhat police found out that one Sandeep Thapa, a havildar in the Army’s Intelligence Surveillance Unit under the 3 Corps headquartered at Rangapahar in Dimapur (Nagaland), had called up Gogoi’s parents in Himachal Pradesh at least twice from one of the three stolen mobile phones (no. 9706060977).  After the police probe, the Army issued a statement that it had indeed carried out an “intelligence-based operation” in Jorhat on December 20-21 “based on initial information forwarded by the police”, but the same did not go “as per norms”.  The Army said it was in close contact with the Jorhat police and was extending all cooperation to the inquiry. The Army also started an internal inquiry into the incident. It allowed the Jorhat police interrogate Havildar Sandeep Thapa.  Thapa named a few more Army personnel involved in the operation at Gogoi’s residence. The police team has recovered some items taken away by Army personnel. However, gold ornaments, Rs 1.5 lakh and .32 licensed pistol taken away by the “robbers’, as per the FIR, were yet to be recovered.
All five battle sites offend Anglo-Sikh War memory
Prabhjot Singh/TNS Garbage strewn in front of one of the memorials to the Garbage strewn in front of one of the memorials to the Anglo-Sikh wars at Misriwal village in Ferozepur    Ferozepur, December 30 Surrounded by heaps of garbage, cow dung and vegetative growth stands a memorial commemorating one of the Anglo-Sikh Wars fought in this area. Located in Misriwal village, it was recently renovated under a Central government-funded scheme for restoring dignity to all Anglo-Sikh War Memorials in the state.  There are five such memorials - Ferozeshah, Mudki, Saragarhi, Sabraon, Misriwal - and none is in any better shape. Central funds, however, helped raise new boundary walls, besides some urgent renovation work. The debris from the repairs, however, has not been cleared. The recently-renovated war memorial at Mudki The recently-renovated war memorial at Mudki. Tribune photos  The Misriwal War Memorial is a classic case of neglect. There is no approach road to the site that is 20 m off the main road. Unless one knows the way, it is impossible to locate the complex, as there is no indicator on the main road. A neon-lit signboard that greets visitors is blank, awaiting a brief write-up on the history. Other memorials too do not have such information.  The 10-foot-high brick-lime structure, even after renovation, is in a shambles in the absence of any attendant. A storm water gulley lies uncovered.  Further down the road is the famous Mudki War Memorial, which again is undergoing renovation. In the absence of any literature, and the information board being blank, a visitor is at a loss here too regarding the significance of the monument.  Unlike the other memorials, the Mudki memorial has been provided with accommodation for a full-time attendant. The huge triangular minar that symbolises triumph of the British over the Sikhs in the historic Anglo-Sikh War is often ignored by the Sikhs, says the attendant, Sukhdev Singh, for “Sikhs believe it symbolises their defeat at the hands of the British.” The monument was raised in 1870, almost 25 years after the war.  He adds: “Sikhs think the memorial was in fact built by the British to remind them of their defeat. They, thus, pay tributes to the Sikh soldiers at a gurdwara in Mudki raised in their memory. Outside the gurdwara, the history of the war is written, where the treachery of some Sikh generals that led to the defeat is highlighted. The gurdwara memorial also pays tributes to the valour and courage of the Sikh army that fought gallantly despite being outnumbered.”  Sukhdev suggests the government should post the complete history even at the memorial raised by the British and organise visits for students to all war memorials.  The Mudki memorial, however, does not have connectivity problems. It is situated on the main road and the tall monument is visible from a distance.  The Mudki gurdwara memorial had come up on a piece of land donated by a tehsildar, Bachittar Singh, in 1930. The “Nishan Sahib” that was initially 51 ft, is today 111 ft high. A mela is organised there in the Bikrami month of Poh. The gurdwara now also houses a degree college for girls and an English-medium school.  The Ferozeshah War Memorial too looks dilapidated despite the renovation. Located on a piece of land adjoining the village gurdwara, it now has a boundary wall and a gate. But in the absence of an attendant or information on the memorial, there is hardly any visitor.  The triangular memorial minar here too is as high as Mudki, but the limestone bearing the name and year of the Ferozeshah battle lies shattered.  The war memorial at Sabraon too is in similar shape.  At Saragrahi, there is only a gurdwara to commemorate the valour and sacrifice of the Sikh soldiers.  Director, Cultural Affairs, Karamjit Singh Sra said: “We are trying to work out a plan so that tourists and those interested in Sikh history could get a complete package of all war memorials and war museums in the state. Since I have also been named Director, Tourism, we will soon do something to address the problem.”
RWITC writes to Antony over Army fencing off a plot
Pune Members of Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) have written to Union Defence Minister A K Antony against the Local Military Authorities (LMA) action of fencing off a roadside open space, opposite RWITC, and causing inconvenience to its members.  A letter dated December 27, drafted by Advocate N K Bhog, RWITC member, and signed by 50 members, reads that the open space is being used by the public to park their vehicles during the day. The LMA had apparently fenced the road about eight days ago.  “The station commander has fenced off the portion with a no parking board for civilians. This is a clear abuse of authority by the Pune Cantonment Board president, who is supposed to ensure proper traffic management in the Cantonment. We emphatically state that the said portion of land is of no specific use for any Army activity,” the strongly worded letter reads.  Spread over 111 acres, the land was leased to RWITC by the defence authorities through a deed in 1907.  The serving officers of the Indian Army who get posted to Pune get service membership at the club. However there has been an ongoing dispute over the memberships given to retired officers.  “Over 300 ex-servicemen have been offered the membership of the club at Rs 10,000 against the actual membership fees of Rs 7.5 lakh. The Army is taking revenge for not increasing the number of memberships to retired officers,” said Satish Maneshinde, member, RWITC.  In an official reply, HQ, Southern Command said, “An attempt is being made by RWITC Pune to grab 65 acres of defence land, costing over Rs 1,000 crore. The Club is aided by Mr Srinivasan retired DGDE( Director General Defence Estate), who was the original architect of Adarsh building.”  “The Club has violated several Cantonment by laws. Presently, Southern Command is also in the process of auditing all its land holdings and strict action will be taken against any violations. Army has only taken control of its assets to avoid illegal claim by RWITC,” he added.
Government no to army chief plea for DoB change
India looks set to get a new army chief in the new year. The defence ministry has rejected army chief Gen VK Singh's statutory complaint to change his date of birth (DoB) from May 10, 1950 to May 10, 1951. Under the circumstances, Singh will retire in May on turning 62.  A statutory complaint is a provision extended to army personnel that requires the ministry to reply to the issues raised by them within 90 days.  The controversy - first reported by HT - arose in May 2006, when two different DoBs for Singh were detected in the records of the MS branch (1950) and those of the adjutant general (1951), the army's record-keeper. The MS branch is responsible for the promotions and postings of army personnel.
The army chief's application form for admission to country's premier defence training school the National Defence Academy has 1950 as his year of birth, but the year is 1951 in his matriculation certificate.  Four former chief justices have given opinion in support of Singh's claim. The law ministry has rejected his plea thrice.  Had it been accepted, the army chief would have got 10 more months in office. Eastern army commander Lt Gen Bikram Singh will be the top contender to replace Gen VK Singh.  A public interest litigation on the age issue is pending before the Supreme Court. Gen Singh has the option of approaching either the apex court or the Armed Forces Tribunal.
PLA delegation in India, Army team to visit China in Jan
New Delhi, Dec 28 (PTI) As part of confidence building measures (CBMs), a 29-member Chinese army delegation undertook a four-day visit of India which will reciprocate by sending an army team led by a Major General next month.  "A 29-member Chinese army delegation was on a four-day visit here as part of annual defence exchanges between the two countries," sources told PTI here today.  The Chinese delegation held talks with their Indian counterparts here and then proceeded to Agra to see the functioning of the parachute units deployed there, they said, adding the team left for Beijing today.  The two countries had decided to enhance defence exchanges as part of CBMs during their Annual Defence Dialogue (ADD) held earlier this month.  The Indian team under a Maj Gen will visit military facilities in China from January 10-13 and interact with their Chinese counterparts, they said.  The decision to exchange these delegations was taken by the two countries before the ADD held on December 9.  India and China have exchanged three military delegations this year after India broke the ice by sending a delegation under a Major General in June.  During the talks, India also proposed to set up a Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) venue along Uttarakhand-Himachal Pradesh stretch of the Sino-Indian border as part of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) between the two countries.  So far, the two sides hold meetings at regular intervals at three such facilities in Kibithu in Arunachal Pradesh, Nathu La in Sikkim and Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir.  The need for such a facility was felt as there is no such venue in the central sector of the 4,057-km long Line of Actual Control (LAC) between the two countries.  The proposal is being considered by the Chinese.

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