Army patrols streets as Assam toll rises to 38
More villages burnt Eight fresh deaths reported
Bijay Sankar Bora/TNS
No Bangladesh hand in arson: Centre
New Delhi: The Centre has ruled out the hand of Bangladesh-based gangs in Assam violence. “The international border is sealed. It is simply impossible for any organised group from across the border to cross over and carry out the attacks,” Union Home Secretary RK Singh told reporters here.
Guwahati, July 25
With no let-up in Assam violence, the Army was deployed in the three riot-hit districts of Kokrajhar, Chirang and Dhubri on Wednesday. The death toll in the current communal flare-up has risen to 40.
Union Home Secretary RK Singh has asked the Assam Government to nab the “ring leaders” of both sides involved in the communal violence. The Home Ministry has deputed 2,000 Central security personnel to guard Assam-bound trains and railway tracks.
Singh said 2,500 paramilitary personnel had reached Assam to assist the local administration while 2,300 more men will reach the state tonight. "Another 15 companies (1,500 personnel) are on their way," he said.
Shoot-at-sight orders were issued in Chirang district. The visiting Joint Secretary, Home (N-E Affairs), Sambhu Singh, however, told the media in Kokrajhar that there was a slight improvement in the situation in violence-affected areas. He admitted that there were reports of fresh violence, but claimed that the situation was gradually being brought under control.
Bodo women walk through a relief camp at Kokrajhar, some 230km from Guwahati, on Wednesday.
Bodo women walk through a relief camp at Kokrajhar, some 230km from Guwahati, on Wednesday. — AFP
Army spokesman Colonel NN Joshi said around 13,000 troops were deployed in the three districts this morning. They later conducted a flag march in Kokrajhar, Chirang. Dhubri and Bongaigon.
Despite deployment of forces, violence spread to new areas in Chirang district where more villages were burnt and three persons were shot dead by armed raiders. Curfew was relaxed for four hours in the morning in Kokrajhar town.
With the deployment of four additional companies of the Railway Protection Security Force, stranded passenger and goods trains at New Jalpaiguri Station in North Bengal started their onward journey to Assam at 3 pm today.
Northeast Frontier Railway spokesman SS Hajong said at least three trains, including two Rajdhani Express, have resumed their journey from the NJP station. He said additional RPSF men have been deployed along the violence-affected stretch between Gossaingaon and Kokrajhar railway stations. He said the decision about resumption of normal train services would be taken after proper assessment of the ground situation and available security arrangements.
The ongoing violence had disrupted rail services between Assam and the rest of the country, leaving 8,000 passengers stranded at New Jalpaiguri Railway Station in North Bengal.
‘Ensure safety of victims’
A joint forum of Muslims today asked the Centre to immediately intervene to put an end to “killings” by Bodos in Assam. The victims should be provided security and rehabilitation. The forum also demanded a judicial inquiry into rioting. Former Union Minister Ashraf Ali Fatmi said riots between Bodos and Muslims have been continuing for the last four to five days. “Lakhs of Muslims have become homeless. They are forced to live in camps but the government of Assam is not taking stern measures to control the situation,” said Fatmi.
Antony, Army Chief to visit JK on July 28
PRESS TRUST OF INDIA
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New Delhi, July 25: Defence Minister AK Antony will undertake a two day-long tour of some of the forward areas and key military formations in Jammu and Kashmir from July 28, his first visit to the state in the last 18 months.
Accompanied by Army Chief General Bikram Singh, Antony will also interact with the State Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and head the meeting of Unified Headquarter (UHQ) in Srinagar, Army officials said here today.
"Defence Minister will visit several forward areas in the state and will interact with troops and senior defence as well as state government officials. He will also head the meeting of UHQ during which he will be briefed on present security situation in state and along the Indo-Pakistan border," Defence Ministry officials said here today.
He will also visit the Headquarters of some of the key military formations in the state to take stock of their preparedness and will interact with the troops there.
He will return to the Capital after spending the night of July 28 in Srinagar.
The Defence Minister is also expected to discuss the issue of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the state with top commanders.
While Army has been insisting on maintaining a status quo regarding the law, state government and several other political parties have demanded its revocation.
Yesterday the Defence Minister had reviewed the overall security situation in the country in a 45-minute long meeting with the top security brass.
The meeting was attended by National Security Advisor (NSA) Shivshankar Menon, Gen Bikram Singh, Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma, Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal N A K Brown and Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma.
Strike corps commander is new NDA chief
In a significant development, Lt Gen A K Singh, currently the Corps Commander of Army’s prestigious Mathura-based 1 Corps, is likely to take over as the Commandant of the National Defence Academy (NDA) in the first week of August. Sources said he is likely to hold the office of the commandant till March 2013. Singh’s appointment is being considered one of the most high-profile Army appointments in the academy given that the office of the commandant is a staff appointment and it has not been headed by an officer who has commanded an operational formation of the level of a Corps. One of the principal offensive formations of the Indian Army, commanding 1 Corps is considered one of the most prestigious appointments of the Indian Army.
“Lt Gen A K Singh is likely to take over in the first week of August,” said an NDA official as another official confirmed the development. The appointment of the NDA commandant is currently being officiated by the deputy commandant Rear Admiral Anand Iyer after the former commandant Lt Gen Jatinder Singh was transferred post the CBI raids in connection with an alleged recruitment scam at the academy.
Lt Gen Jatinder Singh was supposed to retire in October-November. His early exit gave rise to speculation as to whether the new commandant would be an Army officer or an Air Force officer given that it is the IAF’s turn to send the commandant.
The logical promotion for a Corps commander is to be made an Army Commander. With the present Southern Army Commander likely to retire next year, in all likelihood, Lt Gen A K Singh after having held the office of the NDA commandant might become the GOC-in-C of the Southern Command.
“The Army sending a ‘high-profile’ officer as the commandant of the NDA is in itself a positive development. It will be good for the academy given that a general who has commanded an operational formation, that too 1 Corps, is bound to put things in the correct perspective at the academy,” said a retired officer.
Opting for lean and mean armies
The British army is being cut to size, or perhaps, being stripped to its bones. The British defence secretary has announced a 20 percent cut, reducing its strength to 82,000 combatants by the end of the decade.
The British expect to retain the ability to field only one expeditionary force of a brigade group for protracted periods, and given support by allies, up to a division for non-enduring exigencies. Even if all their wishes were to come true, the British army will more than reflect the shrinking of the British Empire. Contrast the British story to the goings-on in Asia. The Chinese army boasts a strength of 2.3 million. In India, the armed forces are over 1.3 million.
A few years ago, Indians announced the raising of two new divisions for the eastern theatre. Apparently, the way the concept of lean and mean forces is being addressed in continents oceans apart couldn’t be more different.
However, an analysis of parameters to be met before cutting down forces needs to be undertaken before cuts in force levels are applied to the Indian army.
The British do not share land borders with inimical countries. In fact, like all big powers they deploy forces far beyond borders to keep the homeland secure. India faces threats across its borders from Pakistan and China.
Further, these borders run over some of the steepest mountain ranges, where evicting an enemy is extremely costly even with overwhelming fire power. It leads to manning posts all along the line of control supported by fail-proof logistics. Some examples of such terrain and deployment are Siachen and Kargil.
The British philosophy also seems deeply embedded in the guaranteed involvement of Americans, support from NATO and the provisions of EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy. Indians have to fight their own battles — at best, aided in terms of material resources, intelligence sharing, diplomatic support, etc., but definitely not boots on ground.
The British armed forces cater for modernisation in spite of the cuts. The Americans will surely provide full spectrum technology support that they will require to fight in a battlefield spread over land, sea, air, space and cyber domains. The Indian army has huge backlogs even in the areas of replacement of ageing equipment.
Technology enhances combat potential exponentially, while technological superiority over an adversary can degrade the opponent’s potential critically. The Americans bombed Iraq at will, barely losing an aircraft to hostile fire or Iraqi air force, while grinding Saddam’s elite Republican Guards to dust.
The budgets for techno-savvy, agile and flexible forces also need a deliberate look. The U.S. military budget is over $600 billion for its forces and overseas contingencies. The UK spent $59 billion in 2011 while even the opaque Chinese accounting allows an estimated $100 billion in 2011. The Indian treasury coughed up a mere $36 billion in 2011.
Even if Indian forces induct technology aggressively, the nature of threats, terrain and multiplicity of tasks call for a large standing army, albeit technologically matching its prime opponents at least. Insurgencies require boots, as the Americans learnt in Afghanistan. For Indians, with insurgencies being within the country, the tolerance for collateral damage is zero, with boots replacing firepower. Numbers also remain relevant in the Indian context till budgets allow a technology leap.
Defence land case: Thamburaj gets anticipatory bail
Former Vice Chief of the Indian Army, Lt Gen (retd) Nobel Thamburaj, 62, was on Tuesday granted anticipatory bail in the case filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the court of special judge DR Mahajan.
Thamburaj was booked by the CBI on charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating and misconduct in an out-of-court land dispute settlement to benefit a private builder to the tune of Rs46 crore.
The case was registered in January 2012 under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 in a designated CBI court after receiving requisite sanction from the defence ministry.
Thamburaj was granted interim anticipatory bail in February on furnishing a personal bond of Rs15,000. Thamburaj’s lawyer Sudhir Shah said, “Thamburaj is falsely implicated in this case. There is no recovery to be made from him and he is ready to co-operate with the investigation.”
The court directed Thamburaj not to leave Pune without prior permission and co-operate the CBI officials and visit them when summoned till the chargesheet is filed.
When DNA contacted CBI special public prosecutor Vivek Saxena, he said, “I will go through the order and find out the reason for granting bail. The seniors will decide about whether to appeal.” The CBI carried out searches at in Mumbai and Pune, which included the residential premises of the general. This is possibly for the first time that a vice chief of the Indian Army is facing corruption charges.
Lt Gen (retd) Thamburaj, while posted as General-Officer-in-Command of Southern Command, is alleged to have entered into a conspiracy with former Defence Estate Officer SR Nayyar and Pune-based Kalpataru builders in settling out-of-court a matter of a defence property despite favourable court orders, a CBI statement said.
The Army Headquarters, New Delhi registered a complaint with the CBI alleging the officers unduly favoured Kalpataru Builders in leasing a bungalow on defence land measuring 0.96 acre to the builder. They caused the company gain of Rs46 crore, it said. Lt Gen (retd) Thamburaj was a 1969 batch officer from Bombay Sappers.
Defence pay disparity may lead to serious command, control implications
Former vice-chief of Army staff Lt. Gen. Vijay Oberoi, PVSM, AVSM, VSM, aptly began a paper titled “Military Veterans Fighting For Justice”, A Brief Containing Major Issues’ with an excerpt from a letter from Kautilya to Emperor Chandragupta Maurya, mentioned in the formers Arthashastra.
While Gen. Oberoi’s paper is on the woes of retired armed forces personnel, there are issues of pay disparity of serving personnel with serious implications for command and control and morale, both of which are vital to national security.
An anomaly in the grant of non-functional upgradation (NFU) to defence forces raised after implementation of 6th Central Pay Commission (CPC) has been turned down by the defence ministry. Three reasons given as grounds for this were: (a) The service conditions of Armed Forces are quite different when compared to civilian employees. (b) Ample benefits in the form of military service pay and various allowances are available to armed forces officers and (c) Government orders are for Organised Group A Services and armed forces do not have such set up.
The core issues raised for parity have been overlooked. The benefit of the NFU has been extended to the Group A services whose officers work with the armed forces in a supporting role. Armed forces officers are also posted to these organisations, such as the Indian Naval Armament Service, Indian Ordnance Factories Service, Indian Defence Service of Engineers (MES), Defence Aeronautical Quality Assurance Service, Defence Quality Assurance Service, Defence Research and Development Service, Survey of India Group A Service, and the Border Roads Organisation.
Further, while Indian Police Service (IPS) Officers posted to Central Police/Paramilitary Organisations like Border Security Force, Assam Rifles and Indo-Tibetan Border Police functioning under Army formations in counter insurgency operations and also deployed on Line of Control/Line of actual control with the Army were granted NFU, the Armed Forces were left out. This has resulted in serious command and control and functional problems which is resulting in a demoralising effect on the officer cadre of the Armed forces.
The qualifying attributes of Organised Group A Services were that at least 50 per cent of the posts in JTS (junior time scale) should be filled by direct Recruitment, highest post in the cadre should not be below SAG (special administrative grade) Scale, all Standard Pay Scale should exist and all the posts up to scale of `18,400-22,400 should be filled only by promotion.
A major implication of not extending NFU to Defence Forces is that while all civil service officers making it to the post of Joint Secretary by selection would transit into the Higher Administrative Grade (HAG) Scale and definitely retire with the pension of that Scale, a Major General who is senior in protocol and retiring at the rank would continue to draw pension in Pay Band – 4, would drop to the minimum Pay Band-4 while transiting to next Pay Commission. Examples of disparity as a result of not granting NFU to Defence Service Officers are: While a director from the Organised Central Group “A” Services draws Senior Administrative Grade Pay Scale at 22 years of service, the defence services officers with same service holding similar appointment draw a pay scale of `37,400-67,000 with grade pay of `8,700. A director from the Organised Central Group “A” services will be drawing HAG Scale at 32 years of service while defence services officers with same service and holding similar appointment will be drawing a Pay Band-4 scale of `37,400-67,000 with grade pay of `8,700. This leads to differential treatment in pay and allowances granted to organised central group “A” services/All-India Services and Defence Services officers performing similar appointment in the same HQ/formation/ unit under identical circumstances.
With the benefits that accrue from NFUs, a director from organised central group “A” services with 33 years of service would be drawing a pension of `36,500 per month whereas officers of defence service, holding similar appointments with 33 years service, will be drawing a pension of `32,920 per month on retirement.
A major-general having 33 years of service working as additional director general in integrated HQs in ministry of defence will draw a SAG pay scale service working under him will be drawing HAG scale. The major-general will be eligible for a pension of approx `33,170 per month and the director will be eligible for a pension while the director from organised central group “A” service with 32 of `36,500/-.
The BSF sectors are deployed on LoC with Army. The Sector Cdr of BSF will be drawing equal pay as his superior, i.e. Maj. Gen. commanding a force/division, resulting in severe command and control problem. Similar problems arise where BSF is operating with Army in counter insurgency operation. It needs to be examined whether the application of doctrine of equal pay for equal rank enshrined in the directive principles of state; policy in chapter IV of the Constitution and accepted by the Supreme Court on Fundamental Right to Equality has any significance where pay of a senior officer is less than the junior officer in rank and service.
Service conditions of armed forces are harsher and tougher that organised group A services. These service conditions include restriction of fundamental rights and strict disciplinary codes, separation from families, truncated careers, stringent promotion criteria, bleak career prospects, undefined and unlimited working hours, effect of continuous exposure to hazardous situations, and threat to life. None of the personnel from the Organised Group A services face these issues.
Regarding parity with IPS — it may be recalled that the 3rd CPC on basis of the Raghuramaiah Committee Report — 1960 vide 8 of Chapter 50 (Appendix A) elucidated the basis on which a linkage/relativity in terms of pay structure of the Armed Forces was established with Class I services of Central Government particularly IPS. This was the first pay commission to handle the pay of civilians as well as the armed forces personnel. The 4th and 5th CPC had also continued to broadly maintain the established parity of the Armed Forces with the IPS. Sth CPC recommended the NFU to organised group A services only, while it was extended to IPS and IFS. The parity of Armed Forces with IPS also-got disturbed due to non grant of NFU to armed forces.
Failure to adhere the concerns can result in military personnel being invalidated out of service since 2002. They are generally devoid of the contemporary necessities of dignified existence and have an adverse impact on the soldier’s social and family life. It causes acute stress and long-term psychological imbalances. In the light of the above, it is recommended that a case be taken up with the govt for making NFU applicable to officers of the defence services as well. The command and control and functional problems, are severely impacting progress of infrastructure development in border areas and social infrastructure in the hinterland.
India bolsters western front with fighters, radars and IAF-Army operational synergy
NEW DELHI: India may now be focusing more on the eastern front with China, but it has not forgotten the western one. New bases of its most potent fighter as well as advanced sensor units have come up along the border with Pakistan, even as IAF and Army build composite land-air war-fighting machinery for all contingencies in the western theatre.
Squadrons of Sukhoi-30MKI "air dominance'' fighters, now permanently based in Jodhpur (Rajasthan) and Halwara (Punjab), are "fully-operational'' and integrated with the "order of battle'' on the western front, say sources.
Similarly, the first two nodes of IACCS (integrated air command and control system) are operational in the western sector to make airspace more impregnable to hostile threats. The nodes integrate older sensors like THD-1955 long-range surveillance radars with newer ones like ATCR-22, Rohini and medium-power radars as well as Aerostats and Phalcon AWACS (airborne warning and control systems) to plug gaps in the country's air defence cover.
Defence minister A K Antony on Tuesday also held a top-level review of the security scenario and military infrastructure build-up along the western and eastern fronts with national security advisor Shivshankar Menon, defence secretary Shashikant Sharma and the three Service chiefs - Admiral Nirmal Verma, Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne and General Bikram Singh. Antony is also slated to visit Jammu and Kashmir this weekend to review the operational situation along the Line of Control (LoC).
India till recently had based its Sukhois - IAF so far has inducted around 160 of the 272 fighters contracted from Russia in deals worth Rs 55,717 crore - only in Pune and Bareilly, which were followed by Tezpur and Chabua in Assam to cater for the threat from China.
The need to base them in Jodhpur and Halwara was felt to take on the Pakistan challenge, especially since older MiG-21s and MiG-23BNs were being progressively phased out. ``With Pakistan acquiring American F-16s and Chinese JF-17 `Thunder' jets, the induction of Sukhois (which have a cruising speed range of 3,200-km) there will act as a strong deterrent against any misadventure,'' said a source.
The Army, too, is strengthening its capabilities on the western front by "optimising offensive and defensive formations with minimum accretions'' since the raising of the new mountain strike corps and other formations for the north-east are geared towards countering China.
Towards this, operational synergy and coordination between IAF's Western Air Command, which controls air operations over 400,000 sq km stretching from Ladakh till Bikaner, and three Army commands - Northern (Udhampur), Western (Chandimandir) and South-Western (Jaipur) - has also been stepped up.
``This ensures optimal utilization of resources, real-time sharing of information and fine-tuning of operational plans. Western Air Command chief Air Marshal Arup Raha and Western Army Command chief Lt-Gen Sanjeev Chachra, for instance, discussed operational jointness in detail earlier this month,'' added an official.