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Saturday, 2 June 2012

From Today's Papers - 02 Jun 2012
Chachra is GOC-in-C Western Command
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 1
Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra took over the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Command, at Chandimandir today. He takes over from Lt Gen SR Ghosh who has retired. Prior to this, Lt Gen Chachra was serving as the Military Secretary at Army Headquarters.

After laying a wreath at the Veer Smriti war memorial to pay homage to martyrs, Lt Gen Chachra remarked in the visitor book “On this solemn day on taking over command of the Western Army, I salute the valiant martyrs for their valiant contribution and assured them of our commitment to uphold the highest traditions of the Indian Army”. He also reviewed a guard of honour.

An alumnus of the National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla, and a second generation Rajput officer, he was commissioned in 17 Rajput in June 1974 and later commanded 16 Rajput in a counter insurgency environment in the North-East, for which he was awarded the Vishisht Seva Medal.

He has had a distinguished combat experience and has seen active service on the Siachen Glacier, high altitude in the North and North-East. He has commanded a vital pivot corps in the semi-desert sector, where he was instrumental in conceptualising the transformation of the pivot corps operations to meet challenges of the future.

Besides tenures in the military operations and military training directorates at Army HQ, he was posted as a Military Observer at the UN Peace Keeping Mission for the independence of Namibia in 1989. He has also represented the Indian Army and the Government of India on official delegations to Pakistan, Russia, Egypt, Israel, Middle East, Sweden, Columbia, Venezuela, USA and Brazil.
Arup Raha heads Western Air Command

New Delhi, June 1
Air Marshal Arup Raha, an ace combat pilot, today took over as the chief of Delhi-based Western Air Command here.

Raha, who is tipped to be the successor of Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne, was commanding the Allahabad-based Central Air Command.

He was commissioned in the Flying Branch of the IAF in Dec 1974. He has to his credit around 3,400 hours of flying, mainly on fighter aircraft.

An experienced qualified flying instructor, Raha has served as one of the Directing Staff at Flying Instructors School, (FIS), Tambaram, Tamil Nadu, as well as at the Gwalior-based Tactics and Combat Development Establishment (TACDE).

“From 1999 to 2001, he was appointed as the Military and Air Attaché in the Indian Embassy at Kiev in Ukraine. His operational assignments include the Command of MiG-29 Squadron and he was also the Station Commander of the Air Force Station, Bathinda, during Operation Parakram,” sources said.

Raha also served as the Deputy Commandant of the Hyderabad-based Air Force Academy.

An alumnus of Defence Services Staff College and the National Defence College, Delhi, Raha was awarded the Vayu Sena Medal and Ati Vishisht Seva Medal in 1995 and 2009, respectively, for distinguished service. — PTI

The officer

n Commissioned in the Flying Branch of the IAF in Dec 1974

n Has to his credit around 3,400 hours of flying experience

n Was awarded the Vayu Sena Medal in 1995 and the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal in 2009
MoD relieved at seamless transition
KV Prasad/TNS

There must be a collective sigh of relief among the top echelons of the Defence Ministry at the seamless transition at the South Block when General Bikram Singh took charge
as the Chief of Army Staff of the 1.3 million strong Indian Army. Perhaps unwittingly, the Defence Ministry itself indicated the mood through an official communication noting: “A profound sense of accomplishment and achievement marked the occasion as the baton was exchanged”.

The baton signifies formal handing over of power by the outgoing Chief of Army Staff to the Chief-designate. No doubt it is a tradition but the innocuous single-line paragraph in the official release indicated to undercurrents and the culmination of a turbulent phase between the Army Chief and the Ministry of Defence.

For the last few months, nothing seemed to be going right between General V.K. Singh and the Defence Ministry, leading to a creeping feeling of distrust among a section of the higher bureaucracy, serving or retired, with the man who commands one of the largest standing armies of the world.

The age controversy certain was a top-drawer stuff that hogged headlines in newspapers and prime time and television news and, in turn, triggered a seemingly endless round of debates both in newspapers, magazines and television studios.

Such was the intensity of the debate that camps were divided literally ramping up the thrust of the discussion to whether the episode would become a watershed in the civil-military relations in the country. Was it really the case? Can it not be seen as a case of the year of birth issue of General VK Singh who was also the Chief of Army Staff and not an issue of the Army versus the Government?

Perhaps lost in the high-decibel debate and discussion was a subtle distinction that the age issue was essentially a comment on the efficacious working of procedures internal to the Army that remained unresolved and landing at the desk of the Defence Minister for adjudication and later with the Supreme Court.

Without getting into the argument that the ministry in general and AK Antony in particular should have sorted out the tangle at a stage before it erupted to stare everybody in the face, or whether General VK Singh was correct in exercising his right of seeking legal redress, the fact remains that the government consciously chose not to remove him from the job despite suggestions to that effect.

The government and the minister clearly did not want to be remembered for being the second regime in succession to have sacked a senior serving General. The dismissal of Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat still resonated through the corridors of the South Block even though few questioned the supremacy of a duly elected government over the military.

Besides unwilling to re-create a situation perhaps the ministry was also sensitive to the institution of Army and its extended family in the form of lakhs of soldiers who have hung their boots but remain one at heart till they fade away. Discipline and honour of the men and women in uniform remained the single most guiding factor. Many serving officers in private also appreciated the restraint shown by the Government in dealing with it.

The age issue, notwithstanding, personal and professional equations between Antony and General VK Singh remained cordial till the end with both retaining mutual respect for each other. Both of them shared a common image of being persons with integrity.

That the former Chief held the minister in high esteem was underscored in his penultimate media interaction emphasising that Antony is clear about what he wants to do for the troops and on his part, the minister quietly approving a request from the outgoing Chief’s for an extended duration of stay in the post-retirement bungalow in Delhi by doing away with bureaucratic approach of some three month and nothing.

In the backdrop of these developments it would be appropriate to evaluate the civil-military issue some years later for a detached view.
A daunting task
Challenges before new Army Chief

The new Army Chief, General Bikram Singh, has taken charge at a time when the Army has been hitting the headlines mostly for the wrong reasons. Much of this has been mainly because his predecessor, General Vijay Kumar Singh, raked up considerable controversies during the last one year of his tenure, starting first with his age issue to allegations of corruption and, closer to the day of his retirement, perceived vendetta against a Lt-General who is expected to be a front runner to succeed General Bikram Singh. The issues that General Singh raised often resulted in tensions between him and the government. And so it would not be surprising if at the highest levels of the government there is quiet relief to see his tenure end.

General Bikram Singh, who was the seniormost Lt-General waiting for his appointment as Army Chief to be announced, had also found himself at the receiving end. General Singh’s age issue kept him on tenterhooks considering that had the former’s plea for age revision been upheld, General Bikram Singh would no longer have been in the running to become the Army Chief. Closer to the announcement of his appointment, questions were raised about his alleged involvement in an encounter with terrorists in Kashmir when he was a brigadier. Subsequently, a public interest litigation was filed by a former Navy Chief questioning his antecedents to be the Army Chief.

It is in this somewhat distasteful environment that General Bikram Singh has assumed command of the world’s third largest Army. This does not augur well for an institution that is entrusted with safeguarding the nation’s security. General Bikram Singh will need to ensure that he does not get distracted by these controversies, some of which may again be raked up or commented upon during his tenure. The Army is in the midst of crucial modernisation to ensure that it keeps pace with changing technology and tactics. At the same time, the Army continues to be dogged by serious problems that need addressing. This includes the critical problem of shortage of officers along with the questionable qualitative intake in the officer cadre that has often led to serious tensions between the officers and the men they command. Being an Army Chief is never an easy task in the best of times. And certainly not with the current level of distrust both between the government and the Army and within the top Army leadership. General Bikram Singh has his work clearly cut out, and the nation will be closely watching his stewardship of the Army.
Day after VK Singh retires, BEML sends him legal notice
Shubhadeep Choudhury/TNS

Gen’s allegations

Tatra trucks supplied to the Army by BEML were substandard and overpriced
The trucks were being sold in Czechoslovakia for Rs 28 lakh each while in India they cost three times more
Spare parts of Tatra trucks were supplied to the Army by BEML at a hugely inflated rate

Bangalore, June 1
Less than a day after Gen VK Singh retired as the Army Chief, the public sector Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) today slapped a legal notice on him, demanding an apology for his “false and motivated” allegations against it in the Tatra trucks case.

“Legal notice has been issued today. If he does not apologise, we may file a defamation suit against Gen VK Singh,” BEML chairman and managing director VRS Natarajan, who was at the receiving end of retired Gen’s charges. It was alleged that Tatra trucks supplied to the Army by the BEML were substandard, overpriced and difficult to service.

“I completely deny the charges levelled against us by Gen VK Singh. These are false,” Natarajan said.

Gen Singh had also alleged that a former Army officer had offered him Rs 14-crore bribe to clear supply of a tranche of 600 Tatra trucks. The CBI is carrying out investigations in the case.

Asked whether he had taken the Defence Ministry’s permission before sending legal notice to the former Chief of Army Staff, Natarajan said it was within his power as the CMD to take a decision on suing someone for defamation.

On why he did not send legal notice to VK Singh earlier and waited for his retirement, Natarajan said the groundwork took some time and the notice had to be vetted by legal experts.

Three TV interviews given by VK Singh had formed the basis of the defamation notice, Natarajan said.

Rebutting the former Army Chief’s charge that Tatra trucks were being sold in Czechoslovakia for Rs 28 lakh per truck and in India it was being sold more than three times that price, Natarajan said 567 Tatra trucks of various models were purchased by the Czech army at a cost of $ 130 million in 1997. “This shows that the price of an individual truck purchased by the Czech army was around Rs 78 lakh. It is near about the same price the BEML had charged the Indian Army per truck,” he said.

On the charge that spare parts of Tatra trucks were supplied to the Army by BEML at a hugely inflated rate, Natarajan said: “A total of 133 spare parts were supplied by the BEML to Army over a period of six years from 2004 onwards and the total amount billed was Rs 10 crore. BEML earned about 16 per cent in excess of the cost of the spares from these supplies.”

Natarajan said he never received any complaint from the Army regarding the trucks. He added that 62 per cent of Tatra trucks had been ‘indigenised’. On why the truck components were purchased by BEML through a third party and not from the OEM (original equipment manufacturer), Natarajan said right from the inception Tatra trucks were purchased through some agent. At first it was Omnipol, a trading agency, through which the trucks were purchased, he said.

The Tatra Sipox UK, the agent through which BEML has been sourcing Tatra truck components lately, came into picture after the break up of Czechoslovakia into Czech Republic and Slovakia, Natarajan said. The arrangement with Tatra Sipox UK was finalised before I took over as the CMD, he added.
Nothing will be brushed under carpet: Army Chief
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

Key observations

Dissociates himself from the controversy-ridden last few months
The Army will continue to carry its tasks and fulfil obligations as per norms
There will be no problems between the Army and MoD
Refuses to comment on his “worthy predecessor”
Evades reply on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act

New Delhi, June 1
Sending a strong message, newly appointed Army Chief General Bikram Singh today spoke about serious concerns and the issues rankling the force.

He first dissociated himself from the controversy-ridden last few months of his predecessor saying, “What has happened in the past has to be left behind” while making it clear that the force has to remain “secular and apolitical.” He promised that there will be no problems in the civil-military relations.

Minutes after inspecting a guard of honour at the lawns outside his South Block office, General Bikram Singh observed, “You drive a car looking through the wind-screen and not looking at the rear view mirror”. He indicated that he intended to bridge the existing Army-Ministry divide.

“There is nothing that will be brushed under the carpet”, the Army Chief said in response to a question on allegations of murder faced by the intelligence unit in the North-East. On the specific questions about the recent clash involving soldiers and officers at Nyoma in Ladakh, the events in the North-East and the long-running controversy about troops posted in Congo, the General stated that “all these cases will be dealt with as per the rulebook. That is all I will say”.

The words “secular and apolitical” were probably used as a group that included retired civilian and Army officers had moved the Supreme Court alleging that some Sikh groups had lobbied successfully for the selection of General Bikram Singh. The Supreme Court was furious at the nature of allegations and rejected the petition.

Asked what was his message to the force, the General said, “Let us continue to remain a secular and an apolitical force and continue to do our job as it is supposed to be done”.

“I assure you that the Indian army shall continue to carry its tasks and fulfil its constitutional obligations as per the established norms. It will be the most accountable, responsive, disciplined and worthy element of national power”, he said. On the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), he said “The Army has given its view, it is for the government to decide.”
India dodges response to UN human rights periodic review
Aditi Tandon/TNS

INDIAN stance

AFSPA: Dodged questions on repeal; cited SC upholding its constitutionality
Prevention of Communal Violence Bill: Expresses uncertainty over the need
Homosexuality: Against criminalisation of homosexuals
Child labour: Says it is conscious of the problem, but has no magic wand to abolish it
Moratorium on death penalty: Takes the plea that it is awarded only in extreme cases

New Delhi, June 1
India declined to comment on any of the 169 recommendations made by 80 UN member states that participated in its second universal periodic review (UPR) of human rights that concluded in Geneva yesterday.

These recommendations include repeal and review of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act; ratification of the Conventions on Enforced Disappearances and Torture; imposition of moratorium on death penalty; repeal of anti-conversion laws and abolition of child labour.

The government delegation, led by Attorney General Ghoolam Vahanvati, expressed uncertainty before the UN Human Rights Commission (HRC) Working Group over the need for the Prevention of Communal Violence Bill. On child labour, India said it was conscious of the need to abolish it, but had no magic wand to do so.

After the UN yesterday adopted India’s draft report on UPR, Vahanvati deferred government’s response on recommendations till September when the plenary session of the HRC will be held to adopt final country reports.

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), a civil society group that participated in the review, said India’s UPR was marked by a general lack of acceptance of human rights challenges and a mere reiteration of domestic laws by the government.

On AFSPA, India dodged recommendations. “We are disturbed about India dodging recommendations for repeal and review of AFSPA by referring to the Supreme Court’s upholding of its constitutionality and by citing Army’s human rights cell as a redressal mechanism,” WGHR convener Miloon Kothari said.

On Convention against Torture (CAT), India referred to the Prevention of Torture Bill (PTB) pending before Parliament but did not comment on the non-compliance with CAT’s definition of torture.

Most countries recommended India to impose moratorium on death penalty. The government claimed its policy was to award death penalty only in the rarest of rare cases. “This was deeply unsatisfactory as more and more death sentences are now being awarded,” said Kothari.

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