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Thursday, 3 May 2012

From Today's Papers - 03 May 2012
Border rail lines, roads held up in red tape: House panel
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 2
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence has expressed shock on the way red tape is holding back the construction of strategic railway lines and roads in the Himalayas even as China continues to beef up its infrastructure along its border with India.

In its report tabled in Parliament on Monday, the parliamentary panel not only slammed the languid pace of the work being done, but also expressed dismay at how the Railways was not even being provided an additional rupee for upgrading or building the rail network along the borders.

These rail lines are needed for strategic purposes to match China’s excellent rail network across the Himalayas. Several roads too are running behind schedule and many others are stuck up on account of lack of clearance from one ministry or the other.

The report said, “The (Defence) Secretary has apprised that the Railways is not being provided any additional allocation by the Planning Commission for upgrading the rail infrastructure on our borders”.

The panel said, “The committee deplores the position whereby the issue of allocating of outlay for our strategic needs is stuck in bureaucratic hurdles.”

The Ministry of Defence has identified 14 railway lines as “high priority” and endorsed the need on strategic grounds.

The committee explained that “absurd” red-tapism was stopping the Planning Commission from allowing funding for strategic rail lines in border areas.

It said, “As the total outlay of defence is part of the non-plan budget, defence cannot be provided an outlay from the Planning Commission.”

The (Defence) Secretary has suggested that some way out has to be found to address the issue, said the report.

The report has suggested that the concerns of the committee should be conveyed “adequately” to the Cabinet Secretary, Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the Finance Ministry and that there was a need for “intervention at the highest level” to ensure coordination that will provide adequate allocation for strategic roads, rail network, tunnels etc.

In contrast, China has a rail and road network that runs all along Tibet and is within a few km from its frontier with India. These arteries can be used to replenish supplies within hours in case of a conflict.

India will struggle to maintain supplies in case of a war. Even now in winter, the forward areas in Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh have to stock everything for six months as the mountain passes become inaccessible. In an emergency, supplies and troops are moved by aircraft or helicopters.

Meanwhile, the committee has found that lack of forest and wildlife clearance has held up as many as 172 roads, including 12 along the India-China border.

The committee also suggested that the funding of border roads through the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) should also be looked into.

china ahead by miles

    China has a rail and road network that runs all along Tibet and is just a few km away from its frontier with India. These arteries can be used to replenish supplies within hours in case of a conflict
    India, even during normalcy, struggles to maintain supplies. The forward areas in Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh have to stock everything for six months as the mountain passes become inaccessible in winter. In an emergency, supplies and troops are moved by aircraft or helicopters
One pilot dies in a MiG crash every 3 months
171 pilots died in 40 years; 482 planes lost, Antony tells House
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, May 2
Defence Minister AK Antony today said 171 pilots of the Indian Air Force died in crashes involving the Russian-origin MiG series of fighter planes in the past 41 years.

The Minister said the IAF had purchased 872 MiG aircraft of various types between 1966 and 1980. Out of these, 482 met with accidents between the financial year 1971-72 and April 19 2012, Antony told Parliament in a written reply today.

On an average, one pilot was killed in a MiG crash every three months. Besides the pilots, 39 civilians, eight service personnel and one aircrew member lost their lives in the crashes, Antony said. Causes of accidents were both human error and technical defects.

The shocking statistics come just two days after the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence slammed the Ministry of Defence (MoD). It had said that the fleet of IAF fighter planes was ageing and specifically mentioned the MiGs while asking for an immediate need to induct a fresh lot of planes. “The number of aircraft due for retirement after completion of their technical life far exceeds the rate of replacements,” the panel noted.

In the past decade, the IAF has been inducting the much-superior twin engine Sukhoi-30-MKI. It is now on the verge of getting a new set of 126 warplanes as part of the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) deal.

For the IAF, “accident” is a broad term and mishaps are put in five different categories. These vary from accidents on the tarmac to full blown mid-air crashes. The deaths of pilots occurred in mid-air crashes and those of civilians due to falling debris, IAF officials explained to The Tribune.

Though Antony did not mention which of the MiG series aircrafts were involved in the most number of crashes, it is widely accepted in the IAF that maximum accidents involved the single engine MiG-21, first inducted during the early 1960s. The other jets of the series are MiG-23, MiG-25, MiG-27 and MiG-29.

The MiG-21 is often uncharitably referred as the “flying coffin” given its crash statistics and subsequent deaths. Barring the MiG-29 (now based at Adampur near Jalandhar) and the MiG-25 (now phased out), all others MiG series warplanes are single engine, making them more vulnerable.

In the past, the entire MiG-27 fleet was grounded following a couple of accidents in 2010. The MiG-29 is being upgraded with additional avionics among other aspects. The MiG-23 does not fly operationally.

The MiG-29 was the last to join the force in the late 1980s. These aircraft were inducted during the height of the Cold War and had created a flutter in those times.
flying coffin

n The MiG series aircraft was inducted into the IAF in the 1960s, beginning with the MiG-21
n The MiG-21 is often referred to as the “flying coffin” given its crash statistics and subsequent deaths
n Barring the MiG-29 (based at Adampur near Jalandhar) and the MiG-25 (now phased out), all other MiG series planes are single engine and hence, more vulnerable
CBI quizzes Tejinder Singh in Tatra case
Syed Ali Ahmed/TNS

New Delhi, May 2
The CBI today for the first time questioned retired Lt Gen Tejinder Singh in Tatra Case that was registered after an allegation of bribe was made by Army Chief Gen VK Singh.

Sources said Tejinder Singh reached CBI headquarters in the morning and was questioned for hours. Probing the case, CBI came to know about involvement of some former Army officers in clearing the deal.

The sources said Tejinder Singh was also asked to reply to the allegations levelled against him by the Army Chief, who claimed in his statement that the former Lt Gen had approached him in 2010 with a bribe offer of Rs 14 crore to clear a tranche of 600 Tatra trucks for the Army. Tejinder was also asked the reasons for his visit to the Army Chief’s office on September 22, 2010, when the alleged bribe offer was made to Gen VK Singh.

Tejinder Singh had denied all allegations made against him by the Army Chief.
Adarsh Society flat owners in for financial scrutiny
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, May 2
Flat owners in the controversial Adarsh Co-operative Housing Society, Mumbai, will have to answer some tough questions from various agencies.

Members of the society who have purchased flats at subsidised rates will have to open their books and provide details of their financial dealings to various central intelligence agencies.

Last week, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had submitted to the Bombay High Court that its officials will soon probe whether purchases of the flats were made using proceeds from crime. According to officials, investigators will also probe whether the members of the society evaded Income Tax and other statutory dues.

"Properties purchased using dubious means will be attached under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA)," an ED official told The Tribune. There are allegations that several members of the society are merely acting as benami holders for politicians. Such premises would automatically stand attached under PMLA, according to the official.

The agency is to shortly begin questioning the flat owners. Other agencies like the Income Tax department are also likely to join the probe, according to sources.

So far, 14 persons including politicians and bureaucrats have been booked by the CBI in connection with Adarsh scam. Reports say prominent personalities have booked some of the flats in the building in the names of their drivers and domestic help.
Three years on, AFT out of steam
Work at a standstill as MoD fails to appoint new judges
Vijay Mohan/TNS

Chandigarh, May 2
Less than three years after the Armed Forces Tribunal was established as a platform for providing quick judicial redressal to aggrieved defence personnel and veterans, its work has almost come to a standstill due to non-appointment of judicial members.

It is learnt that out of 15 courts comprising eight Benches spread across the country, only three-four courts would remain fully functional by the end of next month, which would include one each at Delhi, Chandigarh and Lucknow.

At present, two of the three courts in Delhi are functional but the judicial member of one is scheduled to retire next month. So is the judicial member of the Jaipur Bench, while Kolkata Bench is also not sitting at present. Work has come to a halt at Mumbai, Kochi, Chennai and Guwahati Benches on the retirement of judicial members, sources said.

Sources further said the appointments of judicial members, done by the Ministry of Defence, have not been appropriately addressed by the government and the process is moving at a snail’s pace. As a result, litigants are suffering due to non-availability of any forum to address their grievances. Each Bench of the Tribunal comprises one judicial member, who should have served as a judge of a high court, and one administrative member, who should have held the rank of a Major General or an equivalent rank.

In the Chandigarh Bench, over 100 cases are listed on some days, with only one judicial member, Justice NP Gupta, handling the work of three envisaged Benches. This year, about 1,250 new cases have been filed till May and about 15 fresh cases are listed every day.

Legal experts opine that non-availability of a judicial forum in most parts of India also amounts to infringement of right to constitutional and legal remedies.

The President of the AFT Bar Association, Maj Navdeep Singh, when contacted, confirmed that both the Bench and the Bar were overstretched. He also added that there was an inherent flaw in the system wherein the entire scheme of appointments and infrastructure had been made over-reliant on the Defence Ministry and executive bodies which was against the spirit of the law laid down by the Supreme Court in Union of India Vs R Gandhi case wherein it was opined that such dependence affected independence of judicial functioning.

Sources say there is no definite information as to when the appointments would be made and till then, the adjudication of military matters was bound to suffer. Unlike the CAT where lawyers are also eligible to be appointed as judicial members, in the AFT, only retired HC judges are eligible and they remain in office till the age of 65 years, which adds to the limited availability of applicants.

The Tribunal was inaugurated by President Pratibha Patil in August 2009 and about 10,000 cases pending in the high courts and lower courts pertaining to service and pension matters were transferred to its various Benches in phases.
Pathribal killings
Justice should not be delayed further

THE Supreme Court has asked the Army to decide in eight weeks whether it wants to court-martial its officers and jawans involved in the killings of five civilians at Pathribal in Jammu and Kashmir or let them be tried by a criminal court for which the CBI would seek the Centre’s sanction in four weeks. According to the CBI charge-sheet, five Kashmiris were picked up randomly in Anantnag and killed in cold blood by the accused a few days after the massacre of 36 Sikhs by terrorists at Chittisinghpora in March 2000. The setting of the deadlines shows the Bench of Justice B.S. Chauhan and Justice Swatanter Kumar does not want the case to again get caught in procedural delays. The fake encounter took place 12 years ago and justice has still not been delivered to the families of the victims.

Given the gravity of the case, the Army itself should have conducted an inquiry and proceeded against its soldiers, if found guilty. However, the CBI had to do the job and expose attempts made to cover up the crime and mislead the investigation. The CBI, which filed the charge-sheet in a Srinagar court in 2006, maintained that no sanction was required to prosecute the accused under the AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) as the murders were not committed in the discharge of their official duties. The Supreme Court has not accepted its argument and directed that Central permission would be necessary for a judicial trial.

It is true the security forces work in a hostile environment. In the fight against terrorism innocent blood too gets shed. This has happened in Punjab, the North-East and Naxalism-hit states apart from Jammu and Kashmir. The AFSPA has been imposed in militancy-affected states to enable security men to carry out their difficult operations without being hauled up for every deviation from the approved practices. But the Army cannot condone deliberate violations of laws. A fair and fast justice system sends across the larger message that, barring aberrations, the innocent are not targeted and the rule of law is upheld, regardless of the enormity of the challenges.
Obama air-dashes to Afghanistan, says Al-Qaida defeat within reach

President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai sign a strategic partnership agreement
President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai sign a strategic partnership agreement. — AP/PTI

US President Barack Obama in Kabul on Tuesday
US President Barack Obama in Kabul on Tuesday. — Reuters

Kabul/Washington, May 2
Making a sudden and secretive air-dash to war-torn Afghanistan, President Barack Obama today declared that US will “finish the job” in the country and was near its goal to defeat Al-Qaida and deny it a chance to rebuild.

Slipping into Afghanistan under the cover of darkness, Obama said the “tide of war” in the country had already been turned and pledged that the US will not abandon it as he inked a strategic pact to set out a long-term role in the nation.

“We have travelled through more than a decade under the dark cloud of war. Yet here, in the pre-dawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon,” he said in a telecast live to US from the Bagram air base on the first death anniversary of Osama bin Laden.

But in a blunt reminder of the fragile security situation in Afghanistan, a series of explosions and gun fire erupted in the capital just hours after Obama’s departure.

The new Kabul-Washington Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) signed by Obama and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai provides for American forces to be involved in counter- terrorism and training of the Afghan military after the planned final withdrawal of US-led NATO combat troops in 2014.

“This time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end. ... With faith in each other, and our eyes fixed on the future, let us finish the work at hand and forge a just and lasting peace,” Obama said as he assured the Americans, who are “tired of war”, that the winding down had begun in Afghanistan, just as it has already ended in Iraq.

“Over the last three years the tide has turned... We have broken Taliban’s momentum. We have built a strong Afghan security force. We devastated Al-Qaida leadership taking out 20 of their top 30 leaders and one year ago from a base here our troops launched the operation that killed bin Laden. “The goal that I set-to defeat Al-Qaida and deny it a chance to rebuild-is within our reach,” Obama declared.

Announcing that the US was building a global consensus to support peace and stability in South Asia, Obama said along with pressure on the militants, negotiations were being pursued for peace.

“In coordination with the Afghan government, my administration has been in direct discussions with the Taliban. We have made it clear that they can be part of this future if they break with Al-QaIda, renounce violence and abide by Afghan laws,” the US President said.

Obama said that many members of the Taliban, from foot soldiers to leaders, have indicated an interest in reconciliation. “The path of peace is now set before them, those who refuse to walk it will face from Afghan security forces, backed by the US and other allies,” he warned.

Turning to Pakistan, the US President said that Washington has made it clear to Islamabad, “that it can and should be an equal partner in the peace process.” The US President said America has no designs beyond an end to Al-Qaida safe havens and respect for Afghan sovereignty.

On the US-Afghan pact, Obama said that continued US role in Afghanistan was to give the opportunity to stabilise the country, warning “otherwise, our gains could be lost and Al-Qaida could establish itself once more. And as Commander-in-Chief, I refuse to let that happen.”

Seeking to reassure the American people in election year, Obama said: “Our troops will be coming home.” Outlining the time-table for the drawdown, he said the US had brought back 10,000 troops last year and another 23,000 would leave by the end of summer.

After that he said reductions would continue at a steady pace and most of the forces would be home by the end of 2014. — PTI

Kabul, Washington ink pact

The new Kabul-Washington Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) signed by Barack Obama and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai provides for American forces to be involved in counter- terrorism and training of the Afghan military after the planned final withdrawal of US-led NATO combat troops in 2014.


"We have travelled through more than a decade under the dark cloud of war. Yet here, in the pre-dawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon.

This time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end. ... With faith in each other, and our eyes fixed on the future, let us finish the work at hand and forge a just and lasting peace"
Heroes of 'India's Battle of the Somme' honored by royal visit

The Duke of York, Prince Andrew, visited Kohima’s Commonwealth War Cemetery, to honor the heroes of a little known but gruesome battle. In April 1994, a 1,000-strong British and Indian force, outnumbered 10 to one, stop the Japanese army from marching into their territory.
It is the scene of great acts of heroism and sacrifice – but few beyond a select group of historians, veterans and relatives of the dead will be aware of the gruesome history of the small Indian hill station town of Kohima.
Nestled in the vast country's north-eastern state of Nagaland, it is a place where two Victoria Crosses were won for outstanding bravery, where a 1,000-strong British and Indian force, outnumbered 10 to one, halted the Japanese army's relentless march across Asia.

Blood-soaked battles in April 1944 saw the troops of the Royal West Kent Regiment, with their comrades from the Punjab Rifles and other Indian regiments, under siege on the top of Kohima's Garrison Hill.

Troops fought hand to hand in torrential rain from rat-infested trenches dug on the then British deputy commissioner's clay tennis court.

The two sides were so close that they could lob grenades into each other's strongholds barely 50 feet away and, according to chroniclers of the battle, Allied troops sometimes woke in their monsoon mud trenches with Japanese troops sleeping alongside them.

When the siege of the hill was finally relieved some 45 days after it had begun, British officers were appalled at the conditions in which both Japanese and allied forces had fought and compared it to the

Battle of the Somme. Some of the Japanese soldiers had died of starvation and disease. By then end, more than 4000 allied soldiers were dead, and 5764 Japanese troops had been killed.

Had they lost the Battle of Kohima, Japan would have taken the nearby railhead and airfield at Dimapur, then in Assam, and used it as a base to sweep across Bengal.

The heroism of the troops of Kohima has been the stuff of legend but their unique contribution to winning the war was finally recognized by Britain's royal family on Tuesday when the Duke of York, Prince Andrew, visited the town's Commonwealth War Cemetery.

"It's very important for the modern generation, particularly across India, for people to remember and recognize the sacrifice that took place here, because without that sacrifice and that stand then the freedom that we now have … would not have been possible," he said.

The prince, dressed in a white Navy uniform, laid a wreath among the tombstones which now surround the former tennis court, but the words on those granite memorials do not begin to tell the stories of those who lie beneath.

There's Captain John Randle of the Royal Norfolk Regiment. He was wounded by machine gunfire from a Japanese fox hole, but crawled towards it, tossed in a hand grenade and used his body to seal the hole and ensure the maximum number of enemy troops were killed – he too he was killed in the 'suicide mission' and won a Victoria Cross for his bravery.

Lance Corporal John Harman had spurned the likelihood of a commission – his family were the largest landowners on Lundy – and instead joined the Royal West Kents. According to P. Atuo Angami, whose father established the cemetery, Lance Corporal Harman single-handedly destroyed two Japanese machine gun posts before being shot dead as he made to take cover.

The cemetery reflects the extraordinary multiracial, and religious nature of the Allied fighting forces in Asia. There is a section for Gurkhas, Punjabis, Nepalese, Burmese, with a Hindu cremation memorial, and Muslim graves of the Punjabi Rifles, many from what is now Pakistan, facing towards Mecca.

Old local veterans of the Allied campaign told The Daily Telegraph they were proud of their roles and delighted that the Royal Family had finally honored contribution.

"My heart was with the British," said Zharvishe Angami, a 93-year-old veteran who served with the British Assam Regiment. "We had served under the Crown and it is a privilege that someone from the Royal

Family is coming to recognize the service we gave to the Crown at that time," he added.

Tuochalie Rengma, 85, wore his three medals with pride – the Star of Burma and a British war medal bearing the image of King George V. "I fought with belief to win the war, and I wanted to fight for the British Raj," he said.

According to Angami, the retired keeper of the Commonwealth War Cemetery, its enduring legacy is as a memorial to the sacrifices and commitment of Indians to a foreign power, which had subjugated them.

"It's part of our history, we can't deny that fact. Indians went even to Africa [to fight] for King and country. When my father was awarded the British Empire Medal, the high commissioner told him it was for services rendered to the Crown. For me it's an honor that the British Royalty should come to visit this place, it shows they have not forgotten," he said.
An Army Apart
DELHI — In the fall of 2007, shortly after retiring as chief of the Indian army, J.J. Singh became president of the Delhi Gymkhana Club, one of those venerable social institutions where, sipping gin at the bar, it is difficult to imagine that the British ever left India. Pervez Musharraf was the president of Pakistan at the time, and the joke of the day was: See what distinguishes the two countries? While one army chief moves on to head a nation, the other moves on to head a social club.

Unlike the powerful Pakistani army, the Indian army has long been perceived as a largely benign, apolitical organization. Since India’s independence in 1947, it has fought several wars against Pakistan and China but expressed no political ambitions at home. And it has scored points with much of the population for being the face of rescue whenever large-scale disasters strike.

But this kindly perception is too partial, and it is preventing most Indians from understanding a major domestic crisis: the situation in Kashmir. There and in a few other border areas in the northeast, the Indian army has been fighting protracted insurgencies, and committing  human rights violations in the process. Local populations are well aware of these abuses, of course, but the rest of India is not aware enough.

The Indian army functions in Kashmir like a state within the state, much as its counterpart does in Pakistan. Though Kashmir, a Muslim-majority area, became part of India after its Hindu king agreed to merge with the country at the time of Partition, it remains disputed territory. The current insurgency started as an armed movement with nationalist aims, but as support from Pakistan increased jihadi elements emerged much stronger.

The Indian army has fought the insurgency under the unusual protections conferred by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (A.F.S.P.A.), which, among other things, shields any army personnel from being prosecuted in a criminal court without prior sanction from the central government. Abuses have abounded. Last year, a government human-rights commission published a detailed report about 2,156 bodies found in unmarked mass graves. Perhaps only some of these were victims of abuses by the security forces, but with the A.F.S.P.A. in place, people in Kashmir are willing to believe the worst.

Even for identified victims, justice is hard to come by. Also last year I reported for Open magazine on the case of Major Avtar Singh, who is wanted for the 1996 murder of Jaleel Andrabi, a human rights lawyer who had persistently denounced violations by the army. Singh is accused of having abducted Andrabi and taken him to an army camp, where Andrabi was tortured and killed and his body was later dumped in a river.

In 1997, even as the police were telling a Kashmiri court seized with the case that Singh could not be found, he was continuing to serve with the army in the neighboring state of Punjab. The court ordered that his passport be impounded, but somehow he managed to flee the country. He was traced only after being arrested for domestic violence in California in February 2011. Today, more than a year later, despite repeated court orders, the Indian government has yet to even complete the paperwork required to extradite Singh.

The army in Kashmir seems to believe that its own interests must be defended above those of the state. Over the past few years, the nature of the insurgency has changed: now young local men, not foreign-trained militants, are taking to the streets, and asking for independence. Though the army would naturally see its role in Kashmir diminish as a result, it has been unwilling to adjust.

It has withdrawn from some areas, including the state capital Srinagar and the district of Budgam. But it now stands as the largest obstacle to what might otherwise be a plausible solution to the crisis: recognizing as an international border the boundary that currently divides the parts of Kashmir that are controlled by India from those that are controlled by Pakistan, and granting the state of Kashmir within India greater autonomy.

The Indian government seems ready to make some of the necessary concessions. The democratically elected chief minister of Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, has proposed revoking the A.F.S.P.A. in the areas from which the army has withdrawn. The Indian minister in charge of internal security, P. Chidambaram, has seemed sympathetic to the idea. But the army chief V.K. Singh has said this is unacceptable because the army would need the legal protection if it ever redeployed in these areas.

Too bad the Indian army is less willing to make sacrifices for peace  than for war.
Indian Army gears up for life without its ‘buddies’
NEW DELHI: It's a system that is often decried as colonial, but evokes considerable nostalgia among children of Army officers who grew up thinking of the 'Bhaiyyas' as members of their extended family. Now, in a surprise move, the Indian Army has come up with a proposal to end the 'sahayak' system, or deputing trained soldiers to do personal work of officers.

The proposal was submitted to the defence ministry in early April, and has received a "positive" response from defence minister A K Antony, sources said.

Estimates vary, but at least 30,000 combatants, more than an Army Corps strength, are believed to be deployed to assist serving officers and their families as part of the buddy system.

The Army headquarters has suggested that the 'sahayaks' be replaced by civilian personnel. Sources said Shimla-based Army Training Command carried out a detailed study of the concept of buddy system existing in major armies around the world. The study was ordered by General V K Singh early on his tenure as Army chief. The training command submitted several scenarios, from which the final 'solution' was submitted to the ministry.

Besides instances of misuse of these soldiers, there has also been concern about the kind of jobs they are made to do, and it being an affront to soldiers' self-esteem. The parliamentary standing committee on defence had called for its end, and Antony too has been in favour of abolishing it.

The Army proposes to replace soldiers with two kinds of civilians - Service Assistants (SA) and Non-Combatant Assistants (NCA). It would require 2,358 SAs and 22,620 NCAs to replace sahayaks. The Army has projected a monthly expenditure of Rs 3.54 crore for the SAs and Rs 11.31 crore for NCAs. The annual expenditure for the civilian setup to be brought in place of 'sahayaks' would be Rs 178.20 crore a year, according to Army estimates.

The proposal is to provide service assistants to all the 'flag ranks', officers above the rank of brigadier. There are 1,510 officers in the flag ranks of brigadiers, major generals, lieutenant generals and general.

Of the 1,414 colonels holding command of battalions, the 848 who are in family stations would also be entitled to SAs. Together, 2,358 SAs would be required, Army says. Each of these SAs would cost the exchequer Rs 15,000 per month.

There are 30,450 'field ranks' (major, lieutenant colonel and colonel), excluding the 1,414 colonels who are commanding battalions. Of them, 18,270 are in peace stations while 12,180 are in field stations. The Army has proposed that those in peace stations (18,270) would be authorized a non-combatant assistant each. The NCAs can be hired on a contract of Rs 5,000 per month, the Army suggested.

In the rank of captain and lieutenant, the Army has a sanctioned strength of 14,500 officers. Of them, 8,700 are in peace stations while the remaining 5,800 are posted in the field. Only those posted in peace stations would be entitled to NCAs, that too two officers will share one NCA. This would mean that 4,350 NCAs would be required for captains and lieutenants.

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