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Monday, 9 January 2012

From Today's Papers - 09 Jan 2012
Pak govt finds way to check army, judiciary
Makes it mandatory for judges, military officials to declare their assets
Afzal Khan in Islamabad

The Pakistan government, pushed on the backfoot by the army and the Supreme Court on Memogate, has hit back by making it mandatory for all civil servants, judges and military officials to declare their assets. Parliamentarians are already required to do so. The cabinet has approved an amendment to this effect in a draft bill.

A judicial commission appointed by the Supreme Court and a Parliamentary panel, packed with members of the ruling coalition, are both investigating ‘Memogate’ even as President Zardari has refused to make any submission to the judicial commission. Yesterday, he said he would abide by the verdict of the Parliamentary panel.

In a country with one of the lowest tax:GDP ratios in the world, tackling corruption has been confined to political speeches. Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf had, however, set up an Accountability Bureau which was used more to intimidate rival politicians. Nor did Musharraf , who had declared ownership of as many as eight houses and sale proceeds from a 50-acre plot given by the government, follow up with subsequent declarations.

Prime Minister Yousaf Reza Gilani and his spouse, own neither a house nor a car and till 2010, did not have a ‘Tax Number’ (PAN card in India) either. Nor did their three sons have a number, indicating that they presumably were not paying any tax. The Prime Minister, finally, did pay his taxes last year, but it was a ridiculously low amount of Pakistani Rs 7,600, much less than what an ordinary government employee pays here.

Even main opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, who comes from one of the richest families and lives in an estate spread over several thousand acres near Lahore, paid only Rs 5,000 as tax in 2008 on his return from exile. Last year the figure rose to Rs 2.5 million while his brother and the Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif paid double that amount. The government move to rein in the military and judiciary came after several ministers complained that while politicians were being accused of corruption, bureaucrats and judges were amassing wealth and yet escaping scrutiny and media glare.

All lawmakers and ministers are required to file annual returns to the Election Commission on assets and liabilities. In reality, however, the Commission does not have any agency or mechanism to scrutinise the returns.
Reduced Pak Rangers’ presence along border concerns BSF ranks
Force apprehends increase in smuggling
Vijay Mohan/TNS

Jalandhar, January 8
Reduced deployment of its Pakistani counterpart, the Rangers, across the fence has further made border security during this crucial phase of the democratic process here a dicey affair.

The Border Security Force (BSF) has stepped up vigil along the international border with Pakistan in view of the forthcoming Assembly polls in Punjab. Pakistan Rangers has seven battalions deployed across the Punjab Frontier. With heavy commitment of Pakistani forces in its volatile North-Western region, the Pakistan force deployment along the international border with India has thinned out. While the number of battalions remains the same, some elements from these battalions have been redeployed elsewhere, thereby reducing their strength by about 25 per cent, BSF officials said.

“This is a matter of concern for us as reduced presence of Rangers results in lawless elements across the border becoming active and creating problems,” Aditya Mishra, Inspector General, Punjab Frontier, said.

“Keeping in view the elections in the state, we have stepped up our surveillance operations and have devised appropriate counter measures to meet the situation at hand,” he added.

The BSF is apprehensive that low surveillance and limited checks on the other side could result in an increase in attempts to smuggle in weapons, narcotics and unaccounted or fake currency.

Besides boosting manpower at border outposts and increasing border patrols, the BSF has brought in more hi-tech surveillance equipment to combat hostile climatic conditions like dense fog and low visibility that is widely prevalent in winter months.

About 200 hand-held thermal imagers have been made available while battlefield surveillance radars to provide early warning about human movement have been deployed at strategic locations. Some other “old but time-tested” measures are also being adopted to track movements and check any infiltration.

Mishra said the higher level of alert stems from two major apprehensions, the first relating to recent reports cautioning the establishment about the possible attempts at revival of terrorist activities in Punjab and the other about political disturbances in Pakistan that could spur terrorists there to carry out random or unorganised attacks.

According to BSF officials, firing of a few rockets from across at Indian posts in Punjab about two years ago, was the handiwork of such terrorists.

The BSF will be deploying 62 companies for polling and internal security duties in Punjab. It is also planning to hold border meetings with the Rangers as the state goes through the near-month-long poll phase to take up various issues.

The BSF is also apprehensive of an increase in instances of smuggling of fake currency and weapons from across the fence. This morning, a small cache of arms, including six handguns, a pump-action shotgun and ammunition, was recovered by one of its battalions from a field close to the fence near Ferozepur.

About three days back, there was reportedly an infiltration attempt wherein the BSF had to open fire.

Though deployment of Rangers may have generally thinned out across the frontier, there are a few pockets in sensitive sectors like Ferozepur, Amritsar and Gurdaspur where, according to some BSF officers, the presence and activity of the Rangers has gone up. The BSF is paying close attention to riverine areas along the Sutlej and the Ravi in these sectors that are difficult to guard.

Cross-border inequation

    The BSF has stepped up vigil along the international border with Pakistan in view of the forthcoming Assembly polls in Punjab.
    With heavy commitment of Pakistani forces in its volatile North-Western region, the Pakistan force deployment along the international border with India has thinned out.
    While the number of battalions remains the same, some elements from these battalions have been redeployed elsewhere, thereby reducing their strength by about 25 per cent.
Not just you, even BSF jawans face bad work conditions

New Delhi, January 8
Even as stress-related fratricide incidents continue in paramilitary forces, a government study has found more than 70 per cent of BSF personnel were under-sleeping and facing abusive and harsh behaviour from their seniors.

The study chronicles many damning revelations on the state and fitness of BSF troopers, who guard two of the most crucial Indian frontiers along Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The first-of-its-kind study on 'Emotional Intelligence and Occupational Stress' of BSF jawans and officers also narrates various reasons for the "high" stress the troopers, deployed along inhospitable and risky locations, face.

"The study shows that the overall levels of stress are quite high in the force. This study itself is just a beginning, touching the tip of the iceberg.

“It did not have the required time and very accurate tools to measure the stress levels in the force. Still, it is indicative of the problem being faced (by the BSF)," the report, recently submitted to the Home Ministry, said.

“More than 70 per cent report not getting adequate rest and sleep and the number is larger for the Other Ranks (jawans and constables). Many mentioned getting as little as four hours sleep on a regular basis. Such physical exhaustion and sleep deprivation leads to chronic stress and affects performance badly,” the report said.

The 136-page study also found that an average BSF jawan has to face bad behaviour, abusive language and that he fears a syndrome - not to commit a single error.

A total of 161 jawans and officers out of the 1.7 lakh personnel from both western and eastern frontiers took part in the study which was done to suggest measures to tackle fratricide and suicide cases in the forces.

Senior IPS officer and Inspector General in the BPRD, Manoj Chhabra conducted the study. The Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD) is the apex body under the Home Ministry for undertaking development projects in subjects plaguing the Indian police forces.

The study, released recently by Home Secretary RK Singh, found that the present number of psychiatric cases were not a true reflection of the ground realities.

"These cases only reflect the persons who have broken down, but there are a large number of persons who are suffering badly and may be heading towards a breakdown immediately. There is an urgent requirement of providing trained counsellors and psychologist/psychiatrists who can handle the issue in a professional manner," the report said.

Boss isn’t always right

“Many Other Ranks have responded that the seniors are often unduly harsh, abusive and sometimes even sadistic. While they do not expect all their grievances to be addressed by the superiors, they are often hurt by the approach of the seniors who treat their grievances as complaining, whining and attempts to avoid work," it said.

Almost half of the respondents mentioned that they were stressed out due to the constant fear that even a genuine error will be treated as negligence and they would be punished.

There is no job where mistakes are not made and human beings will sometimes make mistakes but living in constant fear of this does not bring out the best. Rather it brings a no-risk-no-initiative approach. "Everyone is constantly covering his backside," it said.

"Many mentioned that the seniors are always ready to suspect them and there is no trust. They will believe outsiders and rumours rather than the jawans. Constant suspicion and fear does not augur well for the organisation. A more calibrated 'trust, but verify' approach is required to get the best out of the force," the report said.

Leave and let live

The study also found that leave were the biggest reason after sleep for stress in 67 per cent of jawans and 50 per cent of subordinate and senior officers.

"There are many issues mixed here. It is not just the amount of leave but the fact that it is not granted when required. It is obviously not possible to satisfy all, but the dissatisfaction levels are very high. Further, there is a widely held perception that the system is not implemented fairly, favouritism is rife and some get it as and when they want it and others don't, even when the need is urgent," it said. — PTI

Stressed on the front

    70% jawans sleep for just 4 hours
    Leave - less and not when needed
    Abused by bosses, allege jawans
    Favouritism is rife, feel jawans
    Constant fear that even a genuine error will be treated as negligence. This leads to a no-risk-no-initiative approach
Army-CAG dispute puts CSD canteens on stake
New Delhi: To find out India's largest retail outlet, you should check out the Ministry of Defence in Delhi's South Block, where the humbly named Canteen Services Department or CSD is headquartered. The CSD is a wholesale agent, which buys directly from manufacturers and selling to 4000 Unit Run Canteens of the armed forces all over India.

According to RTI documents accessed by CNN-IBN, the Unit Run Canteens have run up profits of at least Rs 300 crore on a turnover of Rs 8000 crore in the last decade.

Now the official government auditor, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), wants to audit the accounts of the canteens.

The CAG says the canteens use government infrastructure, sell items at prices fixed by the Defence Ministry and are run by government personnel. Therefore the canteens are a government department.

But in a detailed note to CNN-IBN, high level army sources, dealing with this issue, said URCs are beyond the purview of the CAG.

The armed forces said Unit Run Canteens (URCs) are private ventures of the armed forces, which are wholly funded by individual regiments with officer and jawan contributing. The canteens buy items of daily use from CSD by advance cheque and sell the items to armed forces personnel wherever posted and the profits fund welfare programmes for armed forces personnel.

The Supreme Court in a judgment in April 2009 ruled that URCs are private ventures. But a cabinet note of August 1976 described the profits generated by canteens as non public funds and therefore outside government accounts. It said no money from the Consolidated Fund of India was going to the URCs.

But the CAG is standing firm, saying that money from the Consolidated Fund of India goes to the URCs. Senior army officers, however, say this money is a commercial loan not a grant. Last year around Rs 200 crore was paid back to the Consolidated Fund.

The armed forces are now reportedly considering a range of options including shutting down the URCs altogether and creating and funding their own NGO for the purpose. It would offer the same services as the URCs minus of course the headache.
'China did not expect India to give up so easily in 1962'
NAGPUR: China did not expect India to give in so easily in the 1962 war, so much so that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) overran Indian posts and reached deep into Tezpur in the plains of Assam, said Colonel (retd) Abhay Patwardhan. He was delivering a lecture as part of a series organized at the Dharampeth College of Arts.

Even fifty years after the war, scars of the debacle remain fresh and the ex-serviceman came up with some rare declassified documents related to the war. Addressing a small audience of mainly senior citizens, Colonel Patwardhan showed a letter citing an admission by then Chinese Premier Chou En-lai to a veteran journalist. Chou En-lai had gone on record saying Chinese leaders were surprised at the feeble resistance of the Indian Army.

Patwardhan, now a defence analyst, also showed a telegram shot off to US President John F Kennedy by Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, in which the latter pleaded for more help from the superpower. As the PLA was over running post after post, Nehru sent the frantic cable depicting the situation and asked for jet fighters and transport planes to stem the Chinese tide.

Nehru's telegram mentions India was grateful for the help it earlier received from the US. He says that Bomdila, the headquarters of North Easter Frontier Agency (NEFA), was already surrounded by the Chinese and Indian forces amounting to two divisions (18 infantry battalions) were fighting a grim battle. Nehru had expressed uncertainty about how many of them would be able to find their way back safely to the Corps headquarters in Tezpur. Nehru added for emphasis that the Chinese forces were heading toward Leh and there was nothing to stop them after that.

Patwardhan brought memories of the war alive with his presentation to an audience that might have only heard radio broadcasts as teenagers as that time. A 1971 war veteran himself, Patwardhan was 15 years old at the time. He also showed a picture depicting an Indian jawan cooking in a makeshift kitchen, showing how the Army was low on rations besides other equipment.
Suicides continue to plague Indian army
A recent report issued by the Indian defense ministry indicates that around 780 of the country's soldiers have committed suicide since 2005.

According to experts, the growing numbers are due to the rigors of dealing with protesters in the Indian-controlled Kashmir and the remote northeast.

The Indian army has mainly been used for guarding restive borders, quelling civil riots and rescuing operations during natural calamities such as floods cyclones and earthquakes.

Analysts believe that Indian forces are under tremendous stress, which is a result of low morale, bad service conditions, insufficient home leave and low pay.

“The soldiers are over-stretched by continuously being in the field with hostile conditions. They are not able to go and see their families. They are living in areas where people do not perceive them to be their own people,” political analyst Sheikh Showkat told Press TV.

“All this has landed them (the soldiers) to psychological stress. The psychological stress makes them go for killing each other or committing suicide.”

A study conducted by two Indian psychiatrists, shows that 38.56 percent of Indian forces are schizophrenic, 14.17 percent suffer from alcohol dependence syndrome and 9.8 percent are struggling with depression.

Experts say unless the service conditions of Indian forces are improved the suicides will continue unabated resulting in a demoralizing trend in the Indian army.
PM should scrap military delegation's visit to China: BJP
NEW DELHI: Demanding Prime Minister's intervention to cancel military delegation's visit to China, BJP today alleged that the decision to go ahead with it after Beijing denied visa to a senior IAF officer from Arunachal Pradesh was an "insult" to Indian soldiers.

Terming the government's decision as "shocking", party spokesperson Tarun Vijay wondered if "China will now decide India's foreign policy.

"Will China now influence our policy towards our armed forces?...It is humiliating for Indian soldiers from Arunachal Pradesh. It will be demoralising for other officers from the region," he said.

The BJP spokesperson also chose to attack the government over the age row involving the Army chief V K Singh.

"Government insults and humiliates not only the army chief but army soldiers. Indian soldiers are being humiliated under this government. We want that the Prime Minister should rectify it.

"Why should we send the delegation to China, when that country does not allow visa to an officer from Arunachal Pradesh? Tomorrow if our Prime Minister is from Arunachal Pradesh and China refuses to give a visa to him, will we send a delegation to that country minus the Prime Minister. A soldier's honour is not less than that of the PM," he said.

The BJP leader said that he spoke to Defence Minister AK Antony this morning who told him to meet him tomorrow. "Possibly, the Defence Minister does not have full information about it," he said.

Vijay said the the officers on Special Duty of Minister of External Affairs S M Krishna explained to him that the officer was dropped because China issues stapled visas to residents of Arunachal Pradesh, which India does not accept.
Loot of Army Land

A senior Ministry of Defence official okayed a controversial decision to transfer 4.84 acres of defence land worth Rs.15.78 crore to a private trust in Jodhpur. As Additional Director General in the Directorate General of Defence Estates (DGDE), Ashok Kumar Harnal represented his department on a committee in 2007 that green-lit the transfer of land to the Major Maharaja Hari Singh Charitable Trust (MMHSCT), belonging to the erstwhile royal family of Jodhpur. The land has been set aside for commercial development.

Harnal was appointed director general of the Defence Estates Department in 2010 and was, ironically, given the task of cleaning up the scam-tainted organisation. He did not return calls and did not respond to a questionnaire from India Today.

The deal was done in violation of not just the defence ministry's 'Acquisition Custody and Relinquishment Rules' but also a 1997 government order which explicitly states that defence land cannot be transferred or leased without approval of the Union Cabinet and no land can be declared private except through a court or government order.
In the April 2007 meeting, chaired by Rekha Bhargava, special secretary in the MoD, Harnal agreed that return of excess land need not be linked to withdrawal of court cases that the trust had filed against the acquisition of land by the DGDE. The minutes of this crucial meeting, made available to India Today, became the basis for the transfer of the land to the private trust.

Harnal's lies were nailed in two separate letters filed by his departmental colleagues in 2007 and 2011. On June 14, 2011, B.A. Dhayalan, joint director in the DGDE Pune office that oversees the Jodhpur circle, questioned the transfer on the basis of the minutes. "The local military authority has handed over the land pockets without any government order/approval which appears to be a serious violation of existing land policy of the Government of India, MoD," the joint director noted in the letter to Harnal. "Land measuring 4.84 acres in Khasra No. 426 of village Jodhpur was considered as excess land and was handed over to the trust by army authorities without government orders." Dhayalan notes that the trust did not present any clear proof regarding its ownership of the land; besides, the plot was neither identified nor demarcated.

"It is a land scam where the local military authorities colluded with the defence estate officials to hand over land to a private trust without any legal sanction for it. The allotment must be immediately cancelled," says Kirit Somaiya, a member of the BJP's national executive body.

The case dates back to 1976 when the army acquired 296.2 acres from the mmhs trust for its use. In 2001, the trust challenged the land acquisition in the Supreme Court and said the army had illegally occupied its land. The revenue department said it did not have village survey records to back the trust's claims. Six years later, however, the trust found a votary in the defence estates department.

Harnal, who was in charge of acquisition and hiring of land in the dgde, argued that the cases of the trust's court matter and the land exchange were not related. He also clarified that "for return of excess land, no government order is required". He suggested measurement of the exact location of the excess land with the help of revenue authorities of Jodhpur. A board of officers from the Headquarters Jodhpur Sub Area, which included a representative of the Defence Estates Office (DEO), passed an order in August 2007 to hand over the land to the trust. The land was transferred on August 23 that year. However, an additional 1.6 acres had already been given to the trust by the army in 2006 without involving the DEO. No board was held and no taking-over certificate was issued.

The DEO, Jodhpur, discovered this transfer and sent two reminders to the army in 2008 and 2011. Both went unanswered. Defence estates officials wonder how the army took the unprecedented step of handing over defence land to a private trust. "The army is not conversant with land matters nor are they the appropriate authority," an official noted.

Two months after this surreptitious transfer to the trust, another DGDE official questioned the act. Meena Sharma, an assistant director in the DGDE headquarters in Delhi, wrote to the Director Planning (Lands) that manages army land, asking whether defence land had been handed over to the trust. It requested the army to issue instructions for all proposals for land exchange to require the approval of the defence ministry.

The letter came even as the trust put up further claims for 18.68 acres of land from the 296-acre parcel it gave up in 1976.

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