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Saturday, 11 February 2012

From Today's Papers - 11 Feb 2012
SC upholds govt decision on Army Chief’s age
lGeneral’s DoB stays as May 10,1950; he’ll retire on May 31
lVK Singh withdraws plea
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, February 10
Army Chief General Vijay Kumar Singh today gave up his fight in the Supreme Court for getting his date of birth (DoB) in the official records “reconciled” after the government partly withdrew Defence Minister AK Antony’s December 30, 2011 order and affirmed its full faith in his (Singh’s) integrity and ability to lead the second largest Army in the world.

As a result of today’s development, Gen Singh’s DoB will stay as May 10, 1950 on Army records, and not as May 10, 1951, as claimed by him. Consequently, he will retire on May 31 this year.

Recording Gen Singh’s statement that “he does not wish to press the matter further,” a Bench comprising Justices RM Lodha and HL Gokhale clarified in its brief order that it was “disposing of” his writ petition “accordingly,” implying that it was neither withdrawn by him nor dismissed by the court.

The Army Chief had come to the SC, challenging two Defence Ministry orders issued on July 21 and 22, 2011 and another by Antony on December 30, 2011, fixing his DoB as May 10, 1950. The age dispute was the result of two branches of the Army maintaining two different DoBs of Gen Singh.

The portion of Antony’s letter withdrawn by the government pertains to the reasons for rejecting his statutory complaint against the Defence Ministry’s decision to maintain his DoB as 1950.

Today’s order was basically the result of the efforts by the Bench to offer an honourable exit route to Gen Singh. In fact, the Bench made it clear during more than two hours of arguments that it wanted to pass an order that would not have any adverse reflection on his conduct, commitment or integrity.

The apex court clarified that it agreed to hear the plea as it did not want to leave it to other forums such as the AFT because of several important aspects involved in the controversy — its ramifications, public and national interest, and the image of the government and the Army Chief.

Senior counsel UU Lalit, who argued for Gen Singh, threw up his hands after the Bench raised a number of probing questions. The all important question that possibly brought about the change in the counsel was as to why was he going back on his commitment given to the government at the time of his last three promotions, including to the post of the Chief of Army Staff, that he would abide by the decision of his higher authorities in matter of his DoB.

“How could you resile from that commitment? We don’t allow even ordinary litigants to go back on their commitments even in arbitration proceedings,” the Bench remarked. Although Gen Singh was also an ordinary litigant in the eyes of law, “We can’t shut eyes to the fact that you are holding such a high office,” the judges noted.

The Bench also asked him as to why he did not take to judicial recourse when the controversy cropped up for the first time a few years ago. It was not proper that he had come to the SC at this stage.

The Bench also pointed out that Gen Singh had left the DoB decision in the hands of the authority after giving it a good thought, and not in a hurry. He had also clarified that he was leaving it to the authorities in the interest of the organisation. The Bench wondered why he was raking up the issue now after rising to the “pinnacle.”

“With your stature and after reaching the highest position and getting all that one could aspire for and having given the commitment, why are you messing up things unnecessarily,” the Bench asked.

“Persons holding such decorated offices should not unnecessarily drag the controversy over age into public domain,” the judges opined. It also pointed out that Gen Singh had “restated and reiterated” that the authorities would take the final call on the DoB, but was reopening the issue “at this final stage”

The Bench said Gen Singh did not assert on the DoB at the time of the last three promotions as he would have “exposed yourself to some disciplinary action” then.

Several letters written by Gen Singh “do reflect that you have left on them to take a final call on your DoB,” the court noted.

The judiciary could not quash the government order declaring his DoB as 1950 unless it suffered from any perversity and required to be corrected by the court under the extraordinary jurisdiction available under the Article 32, which Gen Singh had sought to invoke, the Bench observed.

The Bench said the UPSC record and the Army List were the crucial documents to determine the DoB and both were against Gen Singh’s claim. While the UPSC form, filled in by him in his own handwriting, showed 1950 as DoB, the Army List also showed the same date. Lalit, however, said UPSC was bound to correct the DoB as per the matriculation certificate, which showed 1951 as date of birth. Besides the matriculation certificate, his client had also provided certificates from his school headmaster and the Army regiment of his father in support of the claim that the DoB was 1951.

The Bench then pointed out that all “entry-level” documents pertaining to the National Defence Academy (NDA), Indian Military Academy (IMA) and the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) showed his DoB as 1950. At this, Lalit said the admission form for the NDA was filled in by the teacher of his client as he was just 14 years old then and this mistake had to be repeated in the IMA and the UPSC to avoid confusion in the absence of the matriculation certificate which was not available then.

During the arguments, Gen Singh offered to quit immediately if the court declared his DoB as 1950. “Declare 1951 as the date of birth, I will go within 48 hours. I will go voluntarily or put in my papers,” counsel Lalit said.

At some other point, Lalit clarified that his client would retire on May 31 this year even if his DoB was taken as 1951. Lalit pleaded with the court to clarify that having the DoB as 1950 on the Army records should not create problems for Gen Singh as his DoB was 1951 on the passport, the permanent account number (PAN) issued by the Income Tax Department and some other documents. The Bench, however, clarified it was not in a position to do so as Gen Singh did not even want the court to record in its order that the SC was upholding the July 2011 orders of the Defence Ministry.
Full faith in Singh’s ability, says govt

At the end of two-and-a-half hour proceedings on Friday, the SC observed:

Gen VK Singh, Chief of the Army Staff, the petitioner, has approached this court under Article 32 of the Constitution challenging the order dated December 30, 2011, Memo dated 27.7.2011 and order dated 22.7.2011. By these orders, the petitioner’s DoB in the service records has been recognised as May 10, 1950.

The petitioner maintains that his DoB is in fact May 10, 1951 and must be treated as such for all purposes in the service record. A caveat has been filed on behalf of the respondent.

The matter initially came before us on Feb 3, 2012. In the course of the hearing, certain issues cropped up, principally concerning the decision-making process leading to the order dated Dec 30, 2011. The matter was adjourned for today. As soon as the hearing commenced today, the AG handed over to us a sworn affidavit filed by KL Nandwani, Deputy Secretary in the Ministry of Defence, on behalf of the respondent.

The affidavit is taken on record. It is stated in the affidavit that the order dated December 30, 2011 may be treated as confined to the order holding that the statutory complaint filed by the petitioner was not maintainable.

The second part of that order has been sought to be withdrawn. Now since the second part of the order of December 30, 2011 which deals with the merits of the adverse contentions raised in the statutory complaint have been withdrawn, the petitioner cannot be said to have any grievance concerning that part of the order.

The principal controversy accordingly now remains to the challenge to the memo of July 21, 2011 and the order dated July 22, 2011. By the memo of July 21, the respondent has annulled the order issued by the ADG dated Feb 25, 2011 and has reiterated that the petitioner’s official DoB will continue to be maintained as May 10, 1950. The order of 22.7.2011 that followed the office memo of July 21, 2011, while maintaining that the petitioner's official DoB continues to be maintained as May 10, 1950, declared that there was no reason for the government to consider effecting any change in the DoB of the officer as recorded.

We have heard UU Lalit, senior counsel for the petitioner, and AG GE Vahanvati and SG Rohinton Nariman. In the course of the hearing, the AG stated that the respondent, the Union of India, had not questioned the integrity or bonafide of the petitioner. He also stated that the contest of this petition by the respondent is on a matter of principle and it did not reflect any lack of faith or confidence in the petitioner’s ability to lead the Army.
SC verdict on Army Chief
Cong triumphant, BJP silenced
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 10
The Supreme Court’s order upholding the government’s decision on Army Chief General VK Singh’s age is a victory for the ruling coalition in general and Defence Minister AK Antony in particular. The same verdict has made the BJP, which had all along been attacking the government for “mishandling” the controversy, go into silence.

The Defence Minister responded to today’s developments in his inimitable style with strict instructions to his staff not to “display unnecessary exuberance” or tout the apex court order as a setback for the Army Chief.

“There should be no signs of visible celebration” was the message emanating from his office which was suitably reflected in the official reactions given by his ministry and the Congress.

While the Defence Ministry maintained, “We are happy that the issue has been finally resolved and controversy put to rest,”, Congress spokesperson Renuka Chaudhary said, “I am happy that the government and the Army are working in consonance. The matter is over. I don’t think any further comment is required.”

Despite its careful attempt not to go to town over the court verdict, there is no doubt that it has provided some breathing space to the beleaguered government.

Minutes before the apex court decision, BJP vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi held both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi responsible for the mess. He said, “It is a sad incident...An issue that could have been resolved sitting within closed doors has now been dragged in the open before the public. We hold the Centre, the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi responsible for the incident.”

Former Finance Minister Jaswant Singh himself an ex-Army officer, described the row as government “blunting the sword arm of the country” and dealing with the date of birth controversy in a “shabby and insensitive” manner.

Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley also had attacked the government saying, “Statecraft should have been used and this situation would not have come up.”

But the moment the Supreme Court disposed of General Singh’s petition, most BJP leaders became “busy” and inaccessible.
Defence Ministry ready with all options after SC order
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, February 10
Within hours of Army Chief Gen VK Singh “withdrawing” his petition from the Supreme Court, it has emerged that the Ministry of Defence will not ask the Chief to resign. Rather it will let matters be. The ministry is, however, ready with a contingency plan in case the Chief opts to quit.

As of now, Gen VK Singh can continue in service till May 31, 2012. Sources maintained the ministry had not interfered in the matter and would not do so even now. “We will go by the developments in the court,” said an official. The significance of the court order was such that no questions could be asked by various wings of the Army headquarters in future, he added. It was for the Chief to decide on his future course of action. He was welcome to continue, they said.

The Army Chief proceeded on a scheduled visit to the South-Western Command in Jaipur this afternoon and that was being seen as a signal that he would continue as usual.

Till the pronouncement of the court order, both the Army Chief and Defence Minister AK Antony were in their respective offices, which are situated just 50 yards apart on the first floor of South Block. Antony’s aides said though the minister had never spoken in public on the Army Chief’s age controversy, he was not happy the way the matter had gone all the way to the Supreme Court.

Sources close to the Army Chief said he would first study the court order and only then take a decision on his future course of action.

The Army Chief is slated to leave for the UK on February 13, while Antony will leave for Saudi Arabia the same day.

The Ministry of Defence is now working on various possible permutations and combinations in case General Singh quits or decides to continue in service till May 31.

In case the Army Chief quits, Western Army Commander Lt-Gen Shankar Ghosh will be the senior-most officer, followed by Central Army Commander Gen VK Alhuwalia and Eastern Army Commander Lt-Gen Bikram Singh.

Usually, the government goes by the principle of seniority while appointing Chiefs of the three services. But there have been two exceptions in case of the Army. Lt-Gen SK Sinha was overlooked by the Indira Gandhi-led government and Gen AK Vaidya appointed as the Chief. In the 1970s, Lt Gen PS Bhagat was superseded and Lt Gen TN Raina appointed as the Army Chief.

In the Army, the Chief retires at the age of 62, but a Lt-Gen retires at 60. This provision will be a game changer in case the Army Chief continues till May 31. In that scenario, Lt-Gen Ghosh and Lt-Gen Alhulwalia will superannuate, leaving Lt-Gen Bikram Singh as the senior-most officer in line to become Army Chief.
4 BSF officers killed in blast

Bhubaneswar, February 10
Four BSF officers, including a Commanding Officer, were today killed while two others were injured in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast by suspected Maoists in Malkangiri district of Odisha.

BSF Director General UK Bansal has rushed to the spot, which is next to the Balimela reservoir infamous for the deadly Naxal ambush in June 2008 when 38 Greyhound commandos of Andhra Pradesh police were killed when they were crossing the water body in a boat.

The BSF squad travelling in a jeep was targeted at Balimela culvert at around 1 pm in the Janbai area of the district, under Chitragonda police station, 465 km from here.

The jungles here are a Naxal hotbed as it touches the borders of two other states - Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh - making it a corridor for Maoists.

According to initial reports, the officers were returning in the vehicle after attending a security meeting with the district administration for the forthcoming panchayat elections in the state.

The victims have been identified as Commandant (107 battalion) JR Khaswan, his Second-in-Command Rajesh Sharan, Inspector Ashok Yadav and Assistant Sub-Inspector and radio operator of the squad Jitendra.

The two other troopers who were injured have been identified as constables Bishnu Panigrahi and SK Kundu. Kundu was driving the ill-fated BSF vehicle.

A BSF unit is located close to the area where the blast occurred and the team is approaching it. "A reinforcement contingent of joint security forces has been dispatched for search operations," a senior official said. — PTI
Dealing with China
It can’t be one-way traffic

External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna only underlined India’s basic policy when he declared in Beijing on Wednesday that New Delhi had nothing to do with Tibet and that it would not allow any part of its territory to be used for anti-China activities. As a responsible and peace-loving nation India has never been interested in poking its nose in the internal affairs of other countries. If the Tibetans living in India raise their voice over any development in the Tibetan Autonomous Region in a peaceful manner, there is no reason for New Delhi to act against them. It is purely on humanitarian grounds that India has allowed them and their spiritual leader, Dalai Lama, to live in this country so long as they are not in a position to go back to the land of their forefathers. India has been consistently following the policy of dialogue for settling the boundary dispute with China even when faced with grave provocations.

The problem, however, is that China has not been showing as much regard for India’s concerns as it ought to have been. China does not hesitate to challenge India’s sovereignty over Arunachal Pradesh whenever it finds an opportunity to do so. Beijing’s practice, now discontinued, of issuing stapled visas to visitors from India’s state of Jammu and Kashmir was too provocative for India. Similarly, China’s fast-growing presence in the Pakistan-occupied part of J and K is also a major irritant for India. Beijing should have avoided associating itself with any Pakistani project in the territory which legally belongs to India in the interest of good neighbourly relations. But, unfortunately, China has not been behaving on these lines.

At a time when India-China bilateral trade is growing fast, efforts of the two countries must be focused on expanding their economic relations. Both will be sure gainers. Their bilateral trade is estimated to rise to $100 billion by 2015 from the present level of $74 billion. In fact, there is considerable scope to ensure that the trade volume touches a much higher level soon. But what is required is that any action that may dampen business sentiment must be consciously avoided.
Conferring the Ashok Chakra on Lt Navdeep Singh is the latest but not the last episode of gallantry in the long and chequered history of the Indian Armed Forces. His actions speak of military professionalism and placing duty, honour and selflessness above personal needs.
Maj Gen Raj Mehta (Retd)

Lt Navdeep Singh (right) and the Ashok Chakra awarded to him posthumously being received by his father, Hony Lt Joginder Singh from the President on Republic Day
Lt Navdeep Singh (right) and the Ashok Chakra awarded to him posthumously being received by his father, Hony Lt Joginder Singh from the President on Republic Day 2012

A rookie Ordnance Corps officer on attachment to a fine Infantry battalion, 15 Maratha Light Infantry, Lt Navdeep Singh, lost his life in the high altitude, Gurais Valley in North Kashmir, in August 2011, while conducting a highly successful ambush. As many as 12 out of a group of 17 heavily armed Lashkar terrorists were neutralised by Navdeep and his Ghatak (Commando) Platoon, with two more being shot later. This stunning military success was the fallout of Navdeep's classic interpretation of soldiering - placing duty, honour, selflessness and sacrifice above personal needs. Intelligent and multi-skilled, the lad was in love -- with uniform, life and fiancée. And he sacrificed all three cheerfully — for the Idea of India.

His legacy is that he was doing a job that soldiers do night after night…an ordinary, routine job… However, when opportunity knocked on his doorstep, he was ready. He did an ordinary job with extraordinary zeal, fortitude and "follow me" traits. Navdeep died but remains deathless because his legacy lives on - applicable across age, gender and occupation, both military and civilian.

A Midnight Call

Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain, the iconic commanding General in Kashmir remembers that it was 2.30 AM on that dark, fateful night of 19/20 August 2011, when he was woken up by a strident, insistent ring. Instantly alert, he intuitively sensed something amiss. Lt Navdeep Singh; the peppy rookie officer he had complimented for his professionalism at the Corps Battle School for new inductees, had attained martyrdom at Bagtor, in the Gurais Valley while ambushing a "track" of Lashkar intruders. The stark, poignant epitaph that honours the dead Spartans of the Battle of Thermopylae in Greece in 480 BC; "Here we lie; having fulfilled our orders" was now his. His "Ganpats" (affectionate term for Maratha soldiers) had lost Navdeep in execution of the Indian Army tradition of Service Before Self.

Commissioned into the Ordnance Corps, young Navdeep died on the banks of the azure, Kishanganga (called Neelam in POK), flowing through the narrow picture-postcard Gurais Valley, which the Line of Control (LC) cuts across. He ensured, by his personal example, that 12 of 17 armed-to-the-teeth Lashkar terrorists were shot dead by him and his Commando platoon. In saving the life of his "buddy", Sepoy Vijay Gajare, he was fatally shot at five meters, just above his bullet-proof "patka"- a typically Indian improvisation of a full scale steel helmet that protects the forehead but leaves the head bare. Navdeep had no chance, dying even as he pulled his buddy to safety…he had shot his fourth terrorist before he succumbed.

Gurais Valley

Located on the erstwhile Silk Route, Gurais Valley at 9000 feet, is as much famous as the birthplace of Kashmiri civilization and the Sharda script, as it is for its pink trout, sapphires, friendly people as well as for the romantic, deathless story of Habba Khatoon; the ethereally beautiful Guraizi girl who loved and lost, pining for her beloved through her songs till her last breath. She lives on in Kashmir through dirges that speak of having loved and lost; The Scottish bard, Robert Burns captures her situation poignantly through his immortal poetry: "Had we na'er loved nor parted, we'd na'er had been so broken-hearted…"

Post his death, I did deep research and wrote extensively on his sacrifice. Determined to honour this lad at his place of death, I crossed the daunting Razdan Pass at about 12,000 feet to enter Gurais Valley before it got snowed in for six months. At the base, the road has ancient Kanzalwan village; its houses huddled together for comfort, with a shawl wrap of fog; part real, part cooking-fire driven. At Bagtor, the dynamic CO, Col Girish Upadhya, his key officers and Navdeep's Ghataks were all there -- proud, erect, happy that a retired veteran had come to salute one of their bravest sons. Firm handshakes with hard, calloused hands; the recessed smiles of brave, silent men given to letting their work speak for them and bear-hugs surrogated for mundane verbal communication.

The Briefing

I was led to a stunning vantage point where the village Bagtor cluster lay below, with the azure, crystal-clear Kishanganga swiftly flowing past the huddled villages. Towering menacingly above, were 6000 feet of vertical mountains with the security fencing separating India and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir clearly visible. Thickly forested till 12,000 feet, the mountains became gaunt and without forest cover as the eye went up to the jagged tops. On my right could be seen the dense Durmat forest across the Kishanganga -- great place for terrorists to seek refuge or soldiers to lay deadly ambushes.

The briefing followed, proving the point that Op Bagtor had nowhere been as near picture-perfect and ideal as one might think. With time against him, the CO had actually improvised a plan by literally thinking on his feet. Lesser leadership or lack of support from his senior officers would have been devastating. He decisively seized the fleeting operational challenge when it came - and had rushed his men into battle, but with caution. An oxymoron, but then soldiers invariably live with stark contrasts.

To discover that, he drove me, with Navdeep's Ghataks following, to the Bagtor village cluster. Upadhya explained with clinical precision how the intruders were sighted that dark night, and how before that, he had been sounded on "kuchh hone wala hai". What the CO had really conveyed was that there was intelligence synergy and redundancy at work out there from those towering heights at 14,000 feet, through those increasingly thicker forests as one came down, right down to places of entry into the Paltan's areas of operational responsibility. Sitting far away at Davar near the Habba Khatoon massif, the Brigade Commander and staff were also up, having enabled and networked these leads, as were the alert Division Commander at Kupwara and the Corps Commander in far away Srinagar.

The Ambush

The real conductor of this tiered orchestra of military capability was, of course, the astute and alert Upadhya. He and Navdeep were in the Officers Mess, after an exhausting 12 hours of working out contingencies, when the call came. The intruders had been spotted! He and Navdeep, he recalled, literally raced in the CO's jeep to Bagtor, the four kilometer distance to his Tactical Headquarters seeming unending. It was, literally, a desperate, time-sensitive race to the swift…

Share the excitement, my dear reader! Imagine you are on a bucking, snorting, racing jeep, its headlights barely piercing the gloom, the forested darkness astride the dirt track. Listen with excitement as the CO changes gears with one hand while he barks confident, crisp orders to young Thomas, the Adjutant, on his radio, “Relocate. Redeploy. Get the men running to reach the new ambush site before the terrorists do. I want all 17. Hear me?!!” “WILCO!” yells the Adjutant. Hastening slowly - this article is loaded with oxymorons - the men redeploy on the run with caution…the enemy is too close. In the co-drivers seat, Navdeep speaks quietly, issuing instructions to his men. Disembarking at Tactical Headquarters, races off. At the ambush site, his men quietly point to the ghostly, looming shadows emerging from the inky darkness. There is only time for whispered consultations and readjustments by the young officer to ensure that the ambush is correctly sited. Navdeep then whispers, "Fire only after I fire," as he cocks his AK with a soft, lethal click. The die is cast…

That chilly night, I'm in black dungarees and carry Navdeep's AK - loaded. The CO and men are armed too. I lie down exactly where Navdeep had lain down, his buddy, Sepoy Vijay Gajare alongside me. The terrorist approach is played out with 17 Ganpats. With pride, I realise that when Navdeep finally opened fire, he actually waited to literally touch them, crowd them into a little rock-strewn slope from which it was death anyway by drowning or bullets or both. His buddy makes me half-get-up, as Navdeep did, to pull him in after he was hit. A Ganpat, who has taken position behind a boulder, simulating the terrorist who shot Navdeep, is just five meters away. This was the distance at which Navdeep was fired at while pulling in his buddy to safety as he fell dying. He had fired 81 out of the 90 rounds he was carrying. He died nobly.

Award of the Ashoka Chakra

On returning home on January 24, 2012, from a lecture-tour where I had delivered 15 talks to people across gender, age, social strata and occupation on the legacy of bravehearts like Lt Navdeep Singh, I spoke to Navdeep's father; Hony Lt Joginder Singh. "Indeed, sir, my son is getting the Ashoka Chakra. We await the honour on 26 January 2012…we are proud of what Navdeep did, sir, and of the Army where father and son served." The Ashok Chakra is India's highest military decoration awarded for the most conspicuous bravery or some daring or pre-eminent valour or self-sacrifice in peace.

Fathers are trained by genetic engineering and social custom to be stoic, to hide their true feelings. Navdeep's brave Mother, sister and brother sat in the audience, crying their hearts out, as Navdeep's sterling citation was read out. The father, escorted to the President by CO 15 Maratha LI, Col Girish Upadhya, tried his best to hide his loss; his tears of pride …he almost succeeded.

Navdeep's immortal Legacy

The Indian Army was born in battle in 1947 and remains in battle in the defence of India - quite disregardful of the supreme indifference of its political masters. "Martyrs, my friend, have to choose between being forgotten, mocked or used. As for being understood: never", a cynical Albert Camus has written. This hurts because it is so true.

Navdeep was a wet-behind-the-ears whipper-snapper; a rookie still in "Boot Camp" but, drilled, because of grave paucity of officers, by his famous paltan and his Ordnance lineage, into a potentially world class soldier. This, even before he was detailed on his mandatory, coming-of-age Young Officers’ Course. Navdeep brought to the table, in the prescient words of Lord Moran, cold courage as a moral and physical choice, an act of renunciation that he knew could result in his death. His men knew this as well, but were fired up, ignited by his grit and daring. Add to that, the other ingredients of transformational leadership; creative intelligence, physical fitness, junoon, grit and selflessness and you have his legacy. With an MBA and a Hotel Management degree behind him, he was Ivy League and could have gone into safe, well paying jobs, but obviously that wasn't the case. Like deathless 2/Lt Arun Khetarpal and Capt Vikram Batra, both PVC's (Posthumous) before him, he too scorned death, exchanging it for mission completion. I am dead certain Navdeep did not want to die. No motivated, gifted, loving, young person does. He had it all -- a potentially brilliant career, loving parents and siblings, peer respect, capability and capacity. He was in love, with a beautiful girl, with life, with Gurais, yet, he discarded it all -- for mission completion.

Navdeep's deathless legacy is applicable pan India and across gender, age, social status and occupation. In the prescient words of Lt Gen Gautam Moorthy, Colonel Commandant of the Ordnance Corps, it is the ability to do the routine in an extraordinary manner, and as a matter of course, not as an exception. The India of our dreams does not need cynicism but self help as contained in this practical, yet demanding legacy. It could be India's "Mind Map" to excellence.

The writer has commanded a Rashtriya Rifles Sector and an Infantry Division in the Valley

Ashok chakra

l The Ashok Chakra is India’s highest peace time decoration for gallantry, and is awarded for the "most conspicuous bravery or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice other than in the face of the enemy.”

l Its wartime equivalent is the Param Vir Chakra, awarded for gallantry in the face of the enemy. Two other awards in the Ashok Chakra series are the Kirti Chakra and the Shaurya Chakra.

l The award was instituted in 1952 and has been conferred on about 60 persons, including armed forces, para-military and police personnel as well as civilians.
Age row: Army chief loses legal battle, SC upholds govt stand
Army chief General V K Singh today lost his legal battle on the age row in the Supreme Court which said the government's decision on his date of birth will apply for his service matters, forcing him to withdraw his petition.

The apex court told General Singh that he cannot go back on his commitment he made to abide by the government decision to treat his date of birth as May 10, 1950 and rejected the contention of "prejudice" and "perversity" against him.

During the three-hour long proceedings, the apex court applauded his 38 years of service to the nation, saying it was "proud" of having "meritorious" officers like General Singh and wanted to ensure that he continues to work and lead as chief the 13-lakh strong Army.

The court said the government's decision on his age issue would continue to be valid and refused to interfere with his service record which maintains his date of birth as May 10, 1950. According to this, he will retire on May 31 this year.

The arguments of General Singh, who had approached the apex court on January 16 for upholding his "honour and integrity", was a mix of legal points and emotions.

He submitted if the government was willing to accept his date of birth as May 10, 1951, he would resign within 48 hours but it did not cut much ice with the court which said it was "not concerned with determining his age" and his plea was only for recognition of his date of birth.

On its part, the government withdrew its December 30, 2011 order rejecting Singh's statutory complaint, as was first reported today by The Indian Express. The government told the bench it has "full faith and confidence" in the Army chief.

Attorney General G E Vahanvati told a bench comprising justices R M Lodha and H L Gokhale that the government was not questioning General Singh's "integrity" or "bonafides".

During the hearing, the bench said: "You left it to the authority to take a final call and you said you will abide by it. The commitment must be honoured even if it was not your actual date of birth. Ultimately they are the civilian authority and you have to accept," it further said.

The bench said "no prejudice" was done to General Singh and there was "no pervasity" or gross error in recognising his date of birth as May 10, 1950.

"The recognition of your date of birth did not suffer from any perversity. Prima facie there is no perversity. In good sense we want to know from you whether you want to withdraw your petition."

"We have examined the entire record. No prejudice was done to you. The government has full faith in you. It is not a question of determining the date of birth. How does it help you".

The Bench said Gen Singh's "writ petition was not for determination of date of birth but for recognition of date of birth".

"This is for recognition of date of birth in service record. Unless it is perverse and grossly erroneous, there is no scope of entertaining the petition by this court," the bench said.

General Singh's counsel Puneet Bali later told reporters that it was a victory for both side a the matter has been resolved "gracefully and amicably". He said Army Chief's petition was not for extension of service but a matter of "honour and integrity".

Before taking a break of 10 minutes, the Bench said Gen Singh has options, either he withdraws the petition or the court would pass the order after hearing him.

It made it very clear that in any case the court's order should not come in the way of his committment to the nation as he has been serving for 38 years. "Wise people are those who move with the winds," the bench observed.

When the bench gave the option of withdrawing the petition, senior advocate U U Lalit, appearing for Singh, said he could say many things but was restraining himself.

At this, the bench said, "If dirty linen is to be washed, let that stink come out. You can argue. You can wash. You can wash."

"Till now, both parties have shown restraint and remained dignified," the bench further said.

Lalit subsequently withdrew the petition. The bench made it clear that its order on date of birth of May 10, 1950 would apply for service purpose and did not want to go into his age in civilian records as there was no challenge from any quarter to the date of birth mentioned in his matriculation certificate as May 10, 1951.

The court said that after leaving it to the government to decide his date of birth, Gen Singh at the "pinnacle of his career" chose to raise the issue when as an Army officer he has achieved what any army person "aspires".

The bench noted that three promotions were given to General Singh on the basis of the date of birth in 1950. "We have to hear the case within the four corners of judicial review," it said.

The court said three letters written by General Singh between 2008 and 2009 to the Army Headquarters reflected that he had left it to the Government to decide the issue.

"Why at this stage, at the pinnacle of your career this controversy? You hold such a high position. We have faith in system and we have faith in you".

"With all pains in your heart, that date of birth was not corrected and constantly taken as 1950. Undoubtedly, the decision was left at the hands of government authorities.

"This was well thought, well deliberated and you have respected your committment repeatedly. "You got what a man in Army aspires to get. Then why all this".

"Why do you want to get out of this now," the bench said adding that "We respect your pain".

"You have achieved what one aspires in the Army. You are a decorated officer. Why then a person of your status is getting into all this. Why this mess at this time. "Your right to come to court with your grivances. We don't accept that you are suppressing facts.

The Defence Ministry welcomed the apex court order saying that "the issue has been finally resolved and the controversy put to rest".

The court noted that Gen Singh has to abide by his commitment and honour his letters of 2008 and 2009 in which he had said he will abide by the Government decision.

Earlier, at the start of the hearing, the Attorney General informed the court that government has withdrawn its December 30,2011 order rejecting Gen Singh's statutory complaint on his age issue.

At the same time, Vahanvati made it clear that the government stands by its decision of July last year to treat his date of birth as May 10,1950.

Posing tough questions to Gen Singh as to why he did not get the records corrected, the bench all documents at threshold when Gen Singh joined Indian Military Academy and National Defence Academy contain the date of birth as May 10,1950.

The bench put some searching questions to the Army chief asking why he did not get his date of birth corrected with the UPSC which had recorded it as May 10, 1950.

"The documents at the threshold when you wanted to join IMA, NDA contains the date of birth as May 10, 1950... In all documents at the threshold your date of birth is recorded as May 10, 1950," the bench said.

The court also said that the primary record for General Singh's date of birth was with UPSC which never corrected it.

"Has UPSC record been corrected regarding date of birth. If not, did you take any steps to get it corrected?, it asked.

As the hearing began, the bench wanted to know from the Attorney General as to what instructions he has about the December 30 order.

The Attorney General responded saying that the second part of the order is treated as withdrawn.

On that the bench said, "you are withdrawing the order (of December 30)?" The Attorney general said that "December 30 order goes but July 21 and 22 stands".

Solicitor General Rohinton Nariman cited three letters of Gen Singh between January 2008 to November 2009 to say that he has been unequivocally given up his personal rights.

During the hearing, the court said it was not concerned about the actual date of birth of Gen Singh but whether any intervention was required in his official record.

The court saw nothing wrong with the Army chief approaching it, saying he was not at fault. "You have just come to the court to point out government's fault in not correcting your date of birth. It's not that you have come here out of the blue to get benefit," the bench observed.

"There is no malice in your seeking to restore the date of birth as May 10, 1950," it said.

"It is unfortunate, inadvertant or a matter of destiny, whatever you call. You have been very candid and honest," the bench said adding that such matters "should not have been dragged into to public domain and should have been handled properly," the bench further said.

The scene inside court

Though the proceedings lasted for nearly three hours in the jam packed court No 8 of the Supreme Court, the writing on the wall for Army chief General V K Singh was clear from the very beginning.

Though counsel U U Lalit sought to go into the nitty-gritty of the events, the bench of justices R M Lodha and H L Gokhale confined itself to only two major issues.

The bench persistently queried the counsel whether the UPSC corrected Singh's date of birth on his request and why he chose to "resile" from his commitments to abide by May 10, 1950, as his date of birth in the three letters signed by him between 2008 and 2009.

As the counsel failed to respond satisfactorily and instead attempted to argue on the various correspondence between Singh and government, the bench said ''the recognition of his date of birth as May 10, 1950, by the Army does not suffer from perversity and was not grossly erroneous" that warranted its interference.

The remark sent out a clear message that the court was inclined to reject General Singh's petition.

It then gave the option to Singh to withdraw the petition and said "or otherwise we will pass orders".

Apparently sensing Lalit's dilemma, the bench said around 1.20 pm that it was willing to reassemble at 2 pm to enable the counsel to seek instructions from Singh on the options left before him -- an offer, he lapped up.

Later, when the court reassembled at 2 pm, the Army chief attempted a last-ditch battle when Lalit said: "I will resign within 48 hours if the government is willing to decide my date of birth as May 10, 1951."

But it failed to convince the court which then dictated the order. Though on Mondays and Fridays, which are listed as miscellaneous days for deciding fresh petitions, matters are disposed off within a few minutes, Singh's case consumed nearly three hours.
Valley youth shot, villagers protest
Army personnel on Friday allegedly shot dead a 20-year-old youth in a village in north Kashmir’s Rafiabad, triggering massive protests. Even as the Army said that it was looking into the killing, the police registered an FIR against it.

Ashiq Hussain Rather was killed in his native village Lasser around 8.30 pm, when soldiers patrolling through the village shot at him, his relatives said. A bullet hit him on the chest and he died at the spot.

“There were soldiers in our village. They were frisking the people passing through. And when he (Rather) moved out of his house, they shot him without any provocation,” Rather’s uncle Khursheed Ahmad told The Indian Express. “After killing him (Rather), they didn’t allow us to move closer. When the villagers raised slogans and started protesting, the soldiers ran away from the village.”

The Army said it was not in a position to comment over the incident as yet.”We are looking into the incident,” Defence spokesman Lt Col J S Brar said. “We are checking the facts.”

As the news of Rather’s killing spread, the villagers of Lasser and surrounding villages assembled at Rather’s house and took to streets demanding action against the Army personnel allegedly involved in his killing. Till late in the night, the protests were continuing in the village.

Top police and administrative officers reached the village to pacify the protesters. The police registered an FIR against the soldiers.

Rather’s killing is the first civilian killing by the security forces this year. Chief Minister Abdullah has been calling for revocation of AFSPA from certain parts of Jammu and Kashmir, a demand being opposed by the Army.
Indian army chief withdraws appeal over age row
NEW DELHI: India’s army chief on Friday withdrew a lawsuit in which he had sought a change in his birth date that would have let him remain in his post an extra year, ending a showdown with the government.

General VK Singh withdrew his appeal after the Supreme Court upheld the government’s stand that the army chief’s birthday in official records was May 10, 1950.

Singh, who maintained he was born on the same day a year later and that a transcription mistake had been made in his records, would have been able to remain in office an additional 12 months had the court upheld his appeal. Indian government employees must retire at 62.

The dispute had provoked an embarrassing clash between the government and India’s 1.13-million-strong military, the fourth largest in the world.

The defence ministry welcomed Singh’s decision to withdraw the lawsuit, which had thrown succession plans for heading the army into uncertainty.

“We are happy that the issue has been finally resolved and the controversy put to rest,” defence ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar said.

The defence ministry had previously twice rejected Singh’s claim, citing the date marked on documents when he entered the army.
Is India running a Marshall Plan?
It certainly seems so from the British reaction to the MMRCA decision. India's dense plans for military might has revived the armaments industries of the richie rich countries and their economic revival plans seem indexed to India's strategic vision

Nothing about the weaponry trade is transparent. With a Defence Minister holding the aura of “St Anthony” it becomes easy to peddle the consensus that the medium multi-role combat aircraft deal, which was reportedly “sealed” last week in favour of France’s Dassault Rafael, was “transparently conducted”. But, even if it is conceded that the Raksha Mantralaya has become the last redoubt of bureaucratic honesty, let us be under no illusion that the global arms industry has changed its ways.

The arms trade is evil, not just for the dangerous things it deals with. Corruption is factored into every step of procurement, whether for ships or planes or battle tanks or night vision goggles. It’s an exceptional business where the customer is never king. The political clout of the supplier and his government, helped with oodles of bribery and sleaze, lubricates each and every transaction. There is virtually no scope for the buying country to take informed decisions on which ship or gun is best suited to its needs.

The variables involved are quite watery — for instance nobody knows what the profit margin on each unit is. David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, this week sought to pacify angry MPs in his Parliament saying he would make every attempt to get the Indians change their minds.

His display of desperation bears out the fact that the future well being of the British economy depends on the Eurofighter Typhoon being chosen over the French Dassault Rafale. One of the crucial give-aways in his remark is the gap between the cost and the sale price of each of these planes.

Only 126 planes would be sold, of them just 18 directly and the rest are to be manufactured in India. Britain is only one of five countries in the consortium which theoretically entitles it to the profits from just 25.20 planes. It becomes clear therefore, that this is no ordinary business with a 20-30 per cent markup. The profits must be huge indeed.

Whether Dassault bags it or Eurofighter, the moolah wouldn’t stop at $ 18.04 billion which the Ministry of Defence has reportedly allocated for the planes. The final bill? Well, there will be no final bill. We will keep paying for the MMRCA, as we do for all defence products we import, over the entire life cycle of the plane. Nobody would raise an eyebrow because it’s about the defence of the realm.

Every time our government finalises a deal for a plane or ship, it’s only a sign — “let the games begin.” The toughest part of the negotiations begin from that point and its a hush-hush affair. The MMRCA budget does not include the offset agreement, which is yet to be firmed up and entails extra outgo of unspecified amounts, maybe a cool $5 million per plane. Besides, there are innumerable little secret clauses which ordinary people never get to know about. Crucial blueprints are not released without extra payment, vital spares not included in original agreement and so on. Then, about a decade down the road, the planes would come up for upgrade and at that stage, because India would be stuck with the planes, the government of the day would have no option but bend to please. For the original equipment manufacturer, it means a second killing.

In 1987, had not a radio journalist in Sweden broken a story about kickbacks in the Bofors deal, the people of India would never have known that their Prime Minister had betrayed an agreement he had signed with his Swedish counterpart, the late Olaf Palme, about excluding middlemen. Now, 24 years later, we would be extremely naïve to suppose that the Prime Minister of Britain was only being stupid when he assured his detractors in Parliament that it was yet possible to snatch the cake before the French got a bite into it. Of course, Dassault rushed to the media with a statement saying how “proud” it would be to be associated with IAF’s upgrade, but the Indian Government’s equivocal attitude, leaving it to the world to clutch at straws for knowing its mind on the status of the agreement, raised much suspicion.

The ignoramus Indian press grabbed only the red herring. Some British MP linked the continuance of DFID aid to India with the Eurofighter’s acceptance, and headlines were created over a non-story. The real issue — did the British PM make his statement on the basis of firm inputs that certain quarters in the Indian government were still open to influence — was overlooked. Cameron was quoted as saying: “It’s not unheard of for a L-2 (second choice, in this case Eurofighter) being selected. I’ll do all that I can.”

Either way, MMRCA would soon drop out of news cycles. The magnitude of what’s round the corner can only be guessed from this observation by Rahul Bedi, the India correspondent of the respected London magazine, Jane’s Defence Weekly.

“In just the next three to four years India will spend $30 billion upgrading its military hardware. By 2022, India is poised to spend another $50 billion. Now, $80 billion is a huge amount of money. Lots of supplies will continue to be Russian because they are an old and reliable partner. For logistical reasons it’s easy to replace Russian equipment with new Russian equipment. But India’s advance warning capability, radar, reconnaissance and strategic capability hardware is likely to be American. An implicit provision of the nuclear deal was the payback factor.”

The entire $80 billion, plus another minimum $20 billion in unofficial payment, would go to a clutch of companies located in five or six richie rich countries. Up to 2008, their trade was growing at an annual rate of 4 per cent, but after the visitation by the single biggest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression, the weaponry companies, much like vast sectors of the economies they are based in, found themselves in big trouble. They looked up to their governments for help. Result: Barack Obama’s salesmanship trip to India; Cameron’s liberty with insightful quotes; Sarkozy inviting an Indian Army band to play at Champs Elysees on the occasion of July 14.

After World War II, the Marshall Plan, or European Recovery Plan, was rolled out by the Freddie Truman administration in Washington to help rebuild a war-devastated Europe. Some $ 13 billion in economic and technical assistance was distributed among eight countries, which won for America permanent leverage in European affairs. Western Europe regained its old prosperity and has not stopped saying thank you to Uncle Sam since.

The Marshall Plan in today’s terms works out to $100 billion, maybe even $125 billion. In contrast, India is to hand out over the next ten years some $100 billion among six countries at most. Divided up, each of the supplier countries, which includes Britain, stands to benefit more from the great Indian shopping spree for tanks, planes, ships, submarines, heavy guns and light guns, coffins, radars and jackets than they did under the Marshall Plan.

What’s for the poor of India in all this? MMRCA, three aircraft carriers and dozens of gizmo-fitted other ships and tanks later, India would remain a nation of half-starved, illiterates. Fattening the world’s already rich through excitable threat perceptions is set to become a national cause. An American President, Dwight D Eisenhower (1951-60) made a historic observation in a speech on April 16, 1953, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

It is time the land of Buddha and Gandhi terminated this mad policy of reviving the world's weaponry industry.

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