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Tuesday, 27 March 2012

From Today's Papers - 27 Mar 2012
Govt orders CBI probe into Army Chief’s bribe charge
Uproar in Parliament, Oppn demands explanation from govt
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 26
The Defence Ministry on Monday ordered a CBI inquiry into the allegation made by Army Chief General VK Singh that he was offered a Rs 14-crore bribe by a lobbyist for okaying a deal to buy some vehicles.

Terming it as a “serious” matter, Defence Minister AK Antony said: “We have to handle it...I have taken action.”

When asked if the Army Chief had informed him about the bribe offer, he said, "Parliament is in session," indicating that he would make a formal statement in the House on the issue.
In an interview to a newspaper, the General alleged that an equipment lobbyist offered him a bribe of Rs 14 crore, which he had reported to the Defence Minister. He said the lobbyist offered him the bribe in order to have a tranche of 600 sub-standard vehicles of a particular make cleared for purchase.

Separately, the matter caused a political uproar with both Houses of Parliament being adjourned as the Opposition demanded an explanation from the government.

While the BJP wanted the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister to answer the nation on the subject, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said his party would not like “comment on the Army or its Chief.”

Earlier in the day, Manish Tewari of the Congress and former Defence Minister of the NDA regime Jaswant Singh, in separate statements, asked why did the Army Chief not lodge a complaint against the person who offered the bribe.

The Army Chief explained his position in a TV interview to a regional channel. “When a person, who has just retired and then talks about the bribe along with many other issues and you have not heard of such things before, you will be shocked. I could not take any action as it was an indirect offer. I just told him to get out. And then I informed the Defence Minister (AK Antony),” the General said. The Army Chief hasn’t named the person who offered bribe.

The ministry has sent a formal letter to the CBI asking it to probe the matter. Soon the CBI will seek the terms of reference and start a “preliminary inquiry.”

Though the Army Chief has not named the vehicle maker in his interview or the person, the Army Headquarters on March 5 in a press release had named Lt Gen Tejinder Singh (retd) as the one who “offered bribe on behalf of Tatra and Vetra Limited, which supplies vehicles to Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML).”

The BEML is a defence public sector undertaking. The press release had blamed the former Lt General for planting false news stories in the media. Lt General Tejinder Singh has replied back with a legal notice.

He said: “I have never worked with any government or private company even for single day. The Tatra is part of the BEML, if I worked for them it can be found out” Officials of the Ministry of Defence responding to reporters on the sidelines of a press conference regarding the forthcoming Defence Expo, said: “The Army has 7000 Tatra vehicles in its inventory and these have been supplied since 1986.”

Joint Secretary Land Systems, Rashmi Verma, said: “We have never received any complaint from the armed forces regarding Tatra.”
Chaos in House over Army Chief’s charge, Telangana
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 26
The morning session of Parliament was washed out today amid the Opposition’s concerns over Army Chief’s allegations that he was offered Rs 14 crore bribe and over the government’s continued delay in granting separate statehood to Telangana.

Both the Houses witnessed uproar as soon as they assembled in the morning for the Question Hour. They were first adjourned till noon after Congress members joined their TDP and TRS counterparts to protest the ongoing suicides over Telangana.

The BJP joined the issue besides demanding an explanation from the government over the allegations of Army Chief Gen VK Singh who said in a newspaper interview today that he was offered Rs 14 crore bribe to clear a shady deal and he had informed the Defence Minister of the development.

In the Rajya Sabha, BJP’s Prakash Javadekar had given a notice for suspension of the Question Hour to discuss the bribery issue. He later raised the statehood demand for Telangana, which Congress’ Keshav Rao supported. Javadekar said as many as 609 persons had committed suicide over Telangana so far. “The government must exhibit political will to bring a Bill for a separate state,” he said. Keshav Rao said, “If you want 3 crore people to die, we are ready.”

In the Lok Sabha too, the Congress, TDP and TRS members wore black ribbons to protest the suicide by an MBA student over Telangana. They stormed the Well of the House demanding a separate state and forced adjournment till 12 noon and later again till 2 pm.

In both the Houses, the BJP, JDU and AIADMK demanded government’s explanation on the Army Chief’s allegations as well. The Rajya Sabha saw BJP’s SS Ahluwalia demanding a statement from the government on the matter.

The Opposition was livid that the House had no information about what was going on and the media was already reporting that the government had ordered a CBI probe into Army Chief’s allegations. Since Defence Minister AK Antony was not present in the Rajya Sabha when it reconvened at 12, Ahluwalia sought that the House be adjourned for some time so that the government can come back and report to the House what was happening. Deputy Chairman K Rahman Khan adjourned the House till 2 pm at that point.
14-crore bribe offered to Army chief: Many missing pieces of information

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New Delhi:  In the morning, the Army chief disclosed that he has been asked for a 14-crore bribe by a retired defence officer in 2010. By the evening, the controversy had expanded to question why General VK Singh had not shared this earlier, or filed a case against the man who offered him the bribe, or blacklisted the company on whose behalf the kickback was allegedly offered.
The General has not named the man who visited him in his office in 2010. But sources say, the deal in question was related to Tatra and Vectra Ltd., which provided trucks to the Army via a contract. The bribe was allegedly offered to convince the Army chief not to introduce competitive bidding. The truck manufacturers had allegedly worked out that if that happened, they would save 40 lakhs per truck. So to clear the consignment of 1600 trucks, General VK Singh was allegedly offered almost Rs. 88,000 per truck, adding upto 14 crores.  

In his interview to The Hindu newspaper, the General said he'd been offered the money to clear sub-standard trucks. But the Defence Ministry has pointed out that nobody from the Army has ever complained about the performance of the trucks supplied by Tatra, which is a Czech company. "We have never received any complaint from the armed Forces," Joint Secretary (Land Systems) in the Defence Ministry Rashmi Verma said.

The government has ordered a CBI inquiry, but both the Congress and the BJP have said the Army chief should have filed a case against the retired officer for trying to bribe a government servant. "It was not like he was giving me bribe in my hand. This was an indirect method and that is why no arrest was made," was the General's explanation.
Though the General has not named the officer who met him, earlier this month, in a press release, the Army targeted former Lieutenant General Tejinder Singh for trying to create a rift between the government and the Army chief. Tejinder Singh had also served as chief of the Defence Intelligence Agency. The Army chief said he had been interrogated earlier about purchasing off-the-air interceptors without required clearances. The Army's statement added that Tejinder Singh had offered bribes on behalf of a company named Tatra and Vectra Ltd., which supplies vehicles to the Army.

Former Army chief VP Malik said to NDTV, "There was a need to take strong prompt, ruthless action. The Army Chief should have pursued the matter. I would have taken action against person offering bribe."

Meanwhile, Lt Gen Singh earlier today denied the charges of bribing the Army chief. Speaking to NDTV earlier today, he said, "I do not think VK Singh has said that I made or did not make this sort of offer." He also said that he met with the Army chief once after he retired, but said he would disclose the circumstances of that meeting later. He further said that he would initiate "legal action against the people concerned".

The retired officer has also been allotted a flat in the Adarsh Society, a high-rise building in Mumbai whose apartments were intended for war veterans and widows, but were instead given to politicians, bureaucrats and defence officers.

The government and the chief will now have to answer whether the company was blacklisted once the bribe was offered, and why it has taken so long to commission a formal inquiry.

The Congress today suggested that the Army chief's own actions were wanting. "If someone offered him a bribe, as a government servant, he should have filed a case against the person under the Prevention of Corruption Act," said the Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari.

The Congress-led coalition at the Centre has been entangled in a maze of financial scandals, with the opposition accusing it of serving as a "government of scams" and of creating an environment that lends itself to graft as the Standard Operating Procedure.

In January, General Singh became the first serving military chief to take the government to court. He wanted the Defence Ministry to accept that he was born in 1951 and not 1950 - records with the Army list both years. The Defence Ministry had refused the General's claim, stating that he had accepted many promotions on the basis of his seniority as established by the documents that showed he was born in 1950. The chief withdrew his petition in the Supreme Court after the judges, through their remarks, indicated they would not side with his claim. He is scheduled to retire at the end of May.

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Dhaka to felicitate Indian army officers
Four decades after Bangladesh came into being, Dhaka will formally recognise the role played by Indian armed forces during the 1971 war, popularly called the Bangladesh Liberation War.
At a function in Dhaka today, Bangladesh President Mohammed Zillur Rahman will confer an award on the Indian Defence Minister A K Antony on behalf of the Indian armed forces in the presence of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
The award will be received by Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in Dhaka.
The award consists of a gold-plated silver metallic plaque bearing a replica of the national mausoleum and a citation on a silk cloth.
It is a formal recognition by the Bangladesh government of the sacrifice made by about 1,400 Indian armed forces personnel during Bangladesh’s nine-month-long liberation war in 1971.
The award was recommended by a national committee constituted by the Bangladesh government, under Foreign Minister Dipu Moni and consisting of State Minister for Liberation War Affairs M Tajul Islam, to honour the foreign friends who had assisted Bangladesh in its liberation war.
Indian Army and Bangladeshi Forces were put under a joint command structure led by Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora, and this force came to be known as the ‘Mitra Bahini’, says the committee’s note.
It adds that this alliance of the Indian Army and Bangladesh Forces engaged the Pakistani forces in December 1971 and was instrumental in the defeat of the Pakistan Army, which surrendered on December 16, 1971, a few days after the formal declaration of war.
Pallam Raju, who is on two-day visit to Dhaka, also represented India at the Bangladesh Independence and National Day celebrations in the capital yesterday.
It was on this day in 1971 that Bangladeshi leader Mujibur Rahman, also known as the father of the Bangladeshi nation, declared independence.
The Bangladesh government is conferring awards on 110 foreign nationals and organisations for their contribution to the country’s liberation war, including Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar.
In the first phase, United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi had received the Bangladesh Freedom Honour awarded to her mother-in-law and late Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi at a function in Dhaka July 25 last year. IANS
Army puts obstacles when it comes to women officers: SC
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday accused the Army of creating "artificial hurdles" for women officers while clearing decks for grant of permanent commission to Major Leena Gaurav, who was made to wait for six years despite passing a promotion test for the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in Judge Advocate General (JAG) branch.

Dismissing the Union government's appeal against an order of the Armed Forces Tribunal favouring Major Gaurav, a bench of Justices R M Lodha and Gyan Sudha Mishra said, "When it comes to absorbing lady officers you pose hurdles for them."

In Major Gaurav's case, the court noted the discrimination meted out to her as the Army insisted on her clearing the departmental examination though she had passed the promotion test in April, 2010. She was part of a group of short service commission women officers who had sought grant of permanent commission to them in the Army in majority of the branches.

The bench asked: "What is so sacrosanct about the departmental examination? This is just an artificial hurdle put by you." Major Gaurav was denied promotion on the ground that she had failed to take the departmental examination. But, her counsel Rekha Palli argued that the departmental test had become inconsequential since she had cleared the higher promotion test.

The AFT had agreed with this reasoning, but the Army chose to challenge its order in SC. Overuling the Army's stand, the court said, "Legally your case is weak. You seem to be playing the game of pick and choose...if an officer has put five to seven years of service and has attributes to get permanent commission, you want that he or she must clear the departmental exam. This is something very strange."

Contrary to Army's contentions, the Court found that a standing order of October 28, 2005, promised to grant promotion from Major to Lt Col, to all officers who completed 13 years of service.

The bench said: "Without compromising on the quality of job, why should you not give incentive for women officers to achieve promotion." Chastened by the SC, the Army agreed to consider Major Gurav's case on priority.
The Indian Army’s top official has alleged that he was offered a bribe by a lobbyist selling vehicles to the military, raising new questions about how defense contracts are  handled by India, the world’s top arms buyer.

“Just imagine, one of these men had the gumption to walk up to me and tell me that if I cleared the tranche, he would give me Rs. 14 crore,” or 140 million rupees (about $2.8 million), General Vijay Kumar Singh told The Hindu newspaper. “He was offering the bribe to me, to the army chief. He told me that people had taken money before me and they will take money after me.”

General Singh, the chief of India’s 1.3-million-person-strong army, has been at the center of controversy for months. A dispute about whether he was actually born in 1950 or 1951 was ultimately decided by India’s Supreme Court last month. He had taken the government to court after arguing that his birthday was improperly recorded in army records, a mistake that he attributed to his refusal to participate in corruption.

The Supreme Court decided against General Singh by declaring his official birth date as 1950, which means he will have to retire this May because of age limits.

In Monday’s interview, General Singh said that when the bribe incident occurred, he went straight to Defense Minister A. K. Antony, who told him, “Keep away from such people.”

On Monday, Mr. Antony said only, “This is a serious allegation.” The Press Trust of India, a news agency, reported that the government had ordered an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation, India’s top anti-corruption agency.

The private news channel NDTV said the officer who offered the bribe was Lieutenant General Tejinder Singh, who served as chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency. He has denied the charge.

NDTV reported that General Tejinder Singh was working for a Czech heavy machinery company called Tatra, which supplies vehicles to the army. Earlier this month, the Defense Ministry, in a written reply to the Parliament, said, “No irregularities in purchase of components of the Tatra trucks for army have been reported.”

Senior retired army officials questioned General Singh’s motives on Monday, wondering why he would air corruption allegations just two months before his retirement.

Ashok K. Mehta, a retired major general, said in an interview, “It appears to me that a drowning man is trying to clutch the straw. Parliament is in session, he has only two months to retire, why he is giving all these interviews? He should have taken action.”

Major general Mehta added, “To say that there is no corruption in the army is not true, but there is less corruption in comparison to other departments.”
The most colourful event ever since friendly foreign countries’ armies began joint exercises with Indian Army, a trend steadily increasing in frequency and force post-9/11, was Holi played by the Indian and the US Armies’ personnel during Exercise Yudh Abhyas 2011-2012. For American soldiers, on whose faces the red, yellow and green dry colours got quite highlighted, it was undoubtedly a unique experience. The US troops were from 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, US Army Pacific (USARPAC), Hawaii, along with a platoon of Stryker Recon, Armoured Personnel Carriers and support equipment, exercised together with their Indian Army counterparts at Mahajan ranges in Rajasthan’s desert.

Part of an ongoing series of the joint exercises between the Indian and the United States Armies since 2005, agreed upon under the New Framework of India-US Defence Relationship, Exercise Yudh Abhyas series began at the platoon-level exercise and graduated to a command post (CPX) and field training exercise (FTX). The seventh edition of Yudh Abhyas conducted in two locations under the South Western Command. The US Army contingent from USARPAC, had in its CPX an engineer brigade headquarters with its planners from both sides, while the FTX comprised troops of 2nd Squadron 14th US Cavalry Regiment from 25th Infantry Division, Hawaii, along with the platoon of Strykers, and a similar sized Indian Army contingent of mechanised infantry. The exercise was all the more interesting as a number of key surveillance, communications and lED detection and neutralisation technologies available with both sides, were being fielded in it. On March 13, the two sides executed a joint cordon and search drill to neutralise suspected insurgents in a specially constructed training area set up in an abandoned village at the ranges. The drill, code named Desert Lark, saw the Indian and the US troops establish a cordon in their combat vehicles at night and then conduct dismounted searches by day to flush out insurgents as helicopters hovered overhead. The CPX (Sarvada Saviours) at Bathinda, focused on the challenges faced by sappers (army engineers) in countering threats of IEDs, infrastructure development in strife torn regions and inaccessible areas and execution of rescue and relief operations during natural calamities or disasters. The exercise provided an excellent opportunity to both sides to understand functioning of Engineer Brigades with special emphasis on operations under United Nations mandate in troubled areas.
Praising the professionalism of the Indian Infantry soldiers, the leader of the Indonesian troops, Col. Gatot observed that the Indian troops are very well equipped to fight the insurgents. While finding some of the training tactics very similar, he said that the concept of “Buddy” system in the Indian Army was something they would like to emulate. “Back home we operate in big groups,” he says.
An Indian Army team visited Russia in February to hold discussions with its counterparts to plan, prepare for and reconnoitre the area where Ex Indra 2012 is scheduled to be held around the middle of the year. Since 2003, India and Russia have conducted five of the INDRA-series joint ground and naval exercises. The last such exercise held between the Army units of the two countries was in India in October 2010.
In August 2011, Indian Army’s 3rd Battalion, the Bihar Regiment, conducted joint counter insurgency operation exercise code-named Ajeya Warrior with British troops from 19 Light Brigade on Salisbury Plain. It did not take long for the “insurgents”, played by soldiers from B. (Rorke’s Drift) Company, 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh, to be overcome and captured. The Welsh soldiers were impressed by the professionalism of the Indian soldiers. ”
In October 2011, the 15-day first-ever Indo-French military exercise, “Shakti 11”, ended with French Army showing its Indian counterparts how paragliding could be successfully implemented to launch offensive against enemies, silently. “The aerial attacks (using paragliders), if implemented, cut time to move troops from one place to another in hilly terrains,” said Maj. Gen. Rajesh Shah Arya, GOC of a Mountain Division.
French Army personnel, too, had a lot to take home considering Indian Army’s experience in all kinds of terrains. The mission was jointly prepared by both the armies as the troops effortlessly glided their way through the mountainous region as part of the mission.
In the years following 9/11 the responses from highly-developed to small nations ranging from US, UK, France, Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan to Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Maldives, Seychelles, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, has been “simply overwhelming”, according to some officers this writer interacted with. Over six decades of Indian Army’s hard experience and expertise in all kinds of operations, including countering insurgency and terrorism in all kinds of terrain and temperatures as well as in rural, semi-urban and urban settings has led to many countries sending requests for undergoing training in Indian Army’s battle schools and for holding joint exercises with it.
While training institutes of Indian Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard as well as tri-service institutes have been in great demand by the highly developed nations as well as the developing ones to send their officers and personnel below officer rank since Independence, after 9/11, the demand to hold joint exercises with Indian Army and to do courses at its training institutes shot up significantly owing to the spread of the kind of terrorism India has been the target of, decades before 9/11. This year onwards there may be as many as 20 counties or more requesting for joint exercises with Indian Army.

(Anil Bhat, a retired Army officer, is a defence and security analyst based in New Delhi)
Army chief's bribe claim: Parties say VK Singh should have filed complaint
NEW DELHI: Political parties across the spectrum on Monday said Army chief Gen VK Singh should have filed a complaint earlier about his allegation that he was offered a bribe, while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said defence minister AK Antony's "indecision" could have been a reason for it.

Talking to reporters in the Parliament House complex, senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh said he was "aware" of the defence minister's nature and added that "taking a decision is the toughest thing for him to do".

"I am disappointed that he (Singh) came directly to the press, but did he do this after disappointment," Singh told reporters here.

"I have known the defence minister for long, he specialises in indecision... Is it because of his (defence minister's) indecision that the army chief had to go to media," Singh questioned, demanding that the minister come out with a clarification.

He, however, added that the army chief should not have come out in the open with his allegation.

According to an interview published in newspaper 'The Hindu' Monday, Singh said a lobbyist offered him a bribe of Rs.14 crore to have a tranche of 600 sub-standard vehicles of a particular make cleared for purchase. Defence minister AK Antony has ordered a CBI inquiry into the matter.

Another BJP leader M. Venkaiah Naidu also questioned why no action was taken for so long.

"It is a very serious matter, and that is why we wanted the government to come forward and make a statement. The army chief said he has already informed the matter to the defence minister, if so what is the action taken by the minister... what has the government done so far about the issue," asked Naidu.

But he added: "I do agree that the army chief should have filed a complaint and it is unusual for an army chief to make such a statement in public."

The Congress party attacked Singh, asking why he kept quiet for so long and didn't lodge a complaint.

"It is really unfortunate. Being a government official and head of the Indian Army, he should have registered an FIR if someone came to him and offered a bribe," said Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari.

Communist Party of India (CPI) leader D. Raja questioned the timing of the revelations.

"Why is he telling all these things now? What was he doing all along in the past? How come somebody has approached a general and tried to bribe him. When he can go to the Supreme Court for his age row, why could he not tell this information to the country? These are all genuine issues, which the general should answer," he said.

Another CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta said the party knew about the monetary irregularities in the defence deal but did not have any proof.

Hinting at the army chief's age row, Dasgupta said: "The army chief revealed it to the nation when something happened to him."
Ex-Army Major is the first disabled Indian at UNICEF
All is well between Pune turf club and army
A day after the army claimed that the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) has agreed to abide by their terms; the club’s chairman, Vivek Jain, on Sunday confirmed that they will withdraw the writ petition filed by them at the Bombay high court last December.

This was decided at a meeting of RWITC committee members in Mumbai. Speaking to DNA over the phone from Mumbai on Sunday, Jain said that it is better to work in the ‘spirit of cooperation rather than that of confrontation’.

“We have decided to come up with a fresh understanding with the Local Military Authority (LMA) and thus we will withdraw the writ petition on Monday,” Jain said.

Jain further confirmed the army’s claim by stating that the RWITC has agreed to abide by the original lease deed. “We have reached a conclusion wherein we will abide by the original lease deed (1907) and the various MoUs signed,” he said.

“We will handle the entire issue in a new manner where the two parties will be sitting across the table and work in cooperation,” he said.

The dispute between the army and the RWITC revolved around a lease deed which was agreed to in February 1907.

While the RWITC maintained that the area measuring 111.5 acres had been leased in perpetuity to the club, the army claimed that the area was 11.5 acres.

The dispute heightened over 65 acres of land in the club costing Rs1,000 crore that the army claimed to be a general parade ground (GPG) and hence an A1 defence land. According to the army, the RWITC tried to grab the land by using forged documents.

Speaking about the threat that loomed over the Pune racing season, which begins in the month of July, owing to the dispute, Jain said that the season will not be affected. “The LMA has decided to work in cooperation and not hinder the racing event,” he said.

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