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Wednesday, 1 August 2012

From Today's Papers - 01 Aug 2012
9 months on, IAF finds MiG pilot’s remains
Kuldeep Chauhan
Tribune News Service

The IAF has set up its base camp at Thirot, around 20 on away from wreckage site at Udaipur in Lahaul & Spiti.

Mandi/Udaipur, July 31
An Indian Air Force search team has hit upon what could be vital clues in a nine-month-old mid-air supersonic MiG-29 crash mystery. It has found body parts including a foot thumb, back bone believed to be those of the missing pilot Sqn Ldr DS Tomar and burnt wreckage of the MIG-29 that had hit the 16,000-foot-high glacier in the Chokhang mountain range and crashed after it lost radio contact with the Adampur air base in Jalandhar at 8.30 pm on October 18, 2011.

It took the IAF nine months and 13 days to find the MiG-29 wreckage sources revealed. The IAF team, led by IAF group captain and comprising rock climbers and mountaineers and Ladakh Scouts today returned from the glacier with “a human foot thumb and a back bone and other burnt pieces” retrieved from the debris from the melted glacier, which are believed to be that of the missing pilot and the crashed plane.

The team is searching for the black box that would help ascertain the time and cause of the crash, sources said.

The IAF has brought the wreckage to the base camp at Thirot where the team is camping. The pieces and human limbs and bones will be sent for DNA testing and forensic examination in its forensic lab in New Delhi before making a final statement to unravel the mystery shrouding the MiG-29 crash, sources said.

The team has communicated the details of its recovery from the spot to the IAF western command, Delhi and refused to share this new information. “It will be after the DNA testing and forensic examination that the IAF will make a final statement, sources told The Tribune.

The IAF team has demanded a helicopter from the western air-command tomorrow to fly back the recovered wreckage.
Army jawan killed, 6 injured in blast
Bijay Sankar Bora/TNS

Guwahati, July 31
Army jawan was killed and six others were injured when an Army truck moving in a convoy was damaged in a bomb blast on the National Highway No. 37 in Goalpara district of lower Assam around 10.20 am today.

Defence spokesman Col SS Phogat said an IED exploded under the Army truck around 1.5 km away from the Naranarayan Setu on the Brahmaputra at Jogighopa. The administrative convoy was moving from Kokrajhar to Agia in Goalpara district. The injured jawans have been shifted to the Army Base Hospital at Basistha in Guwahati. The anti-talks faction of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) has claimed the responsibility for the blast.
Ex-Army Chief VK Singh hints at joining politics
Sushil Manav/TNS

Former Army Chief General VK Singh addresses farmers in Gorakhpur, Fatehabad, on Tuesday.
Former Army Chief General VK Singh addresses farmers in Gorakhpur, Fatehabad, on Tuesday. A Tribune photograph

Fatehabad, July 31
Former Army Chief General VK Singh today hinted that he could join politics if people of the country feel he should do so.“I support all those issues which make my country a better place to live,” the retired General told reporters when he was asked whether he would support Anna Hazare’s movement against corruption.

On whether he would visit Jantar Mantar, where Anna is sitting on fast, Singh replied it was not necessary to be seen sitting with somebody to support a cause.

“For me, individuals are not important. The issues definitely matter. Anything that concerns my country is important for me,” he said.

On being asked what would be his decision if the people wanted him to join politics, the ex- Army Chief said: “Let the people make up their mind. I am a soldier and a soldier never shows his back.”
India set to induct submarine launched N-missile
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 31
India today announced in an indirect manner that it was ready to induct the nuclear-tipped submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM). The missile is slated to be part of the arsenal of the indigenous nuclear powered submarine, the Arihant, which is presently undergoing harbour trials along the eastern sea-board of the country.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was with top scientists of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), today gave away the technology leadership award to scientist AK Chakrabarti of the Hyderabad-based DRDL lab. The citation for Chakrabarti read for “successful development” of the country's first SLBM.

Besides the Prime Minister, Defence Minister AK Antony was also present at the function.

The citation went on to say “Now, the SLBM system is ready for induction”. Apart from India, the US, Russia, France and China have such capabilities.

Unlike the public announcements New Delhi has made over the 5000-plus km range Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) and the Agni V, there has been no acknowledgement in public about the SLBM being developed under the project codenamed ‘K-15’.

However, the actual induction of the SLBM may be at least two-three years away. The Arihant will be ready for commissioning by the middle of 2013 and few user trials of the SLBM will have to follow. So far, the DRDO has conducted several tests of the K-15 using submersible pontoons to mimic an underwater launch. This may be fairly successful method but the missile will need to be tested from one of the four missile tubes of the Arihant for some finality to be arrived at.

The K-15 carries a one-tonne warhead. A submarine carrying a nuclear-tipped missile is considered one of the most potent responses. Since India has no first-strike policy in case of nuclear weapons, a submarine fired missile is considered an ideal second strike as its location will be secret.
Should RTI Act cover the Armed Forces?
The RTI Act has been implemented in the Armed Forces in right earnest, but is being used more for redressing personnel queries than for larger public interest matters
Lt Gen Raj Sujlana (Retd)

An Army jawan takes a position during anti-terrorist operations in Kashmir
An Army jawan takes a position during anti-terrorist operations in Kashmir. Information pertaining to human rights violations comes within the ambit of the RTI Act, but a large number of allegations levelled against the Army in Kashmir have turned out to be frivolous

THE Right to Information (RTI) Act is indeed a revolutionary step and its logical implementation is a must to keep the society fully informed of all matters that affect them directly or indirectly. Accessibility to information will ensure a more responsive officialdom who, over the years have been used to working in a culture of secrecy; openness in gaining information while addressing societal concerns will allay the apprehensions of the populace and, in the final analysis target the hydra-headed scourge of corruption. In the long term this will somewhat shift the centre of gravity of power into the hands of the public and make public authorities/servants more accountable. However, in achieving this, it must be ensured that the functionality of any public authority is neither adversely affected, nor should the RTI Act become a means to raise queries which lead to infructuous work load. The public at large must understand what comprises information of public interest and not over burden the public authorities with mundane queries.

Exemptions from the Act

Under Section 24 of the Act (and as specified in the Second Schedule), certain intelligence and security organisations are exempt from the Act, with the proviso, that information pertaining to the allegations of corruption and human right (HR) violations is not exempt. The twentyfive organisations exempt from the Act can broadly be classified into four categories. First, the Central Police Organisations (CPOs) like the Border Security Force, Central Industrial Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force and the Indo-Tibeten Border Force (now collectively known as the Central Armed Police Forces); secondly, the Para Military Forces (PMF) like Aviation Research Centre (ARC), Assam Rifles (AR), National Security Guards (NSG) and Special Frontier Force (SFF); thirdly, a host of intelligence organisations -- all these enumerated organisations function under the Ministry of Home Affairs; and fourthly, the Defence Research and Development Organisation and the Border Roads Development Board under the Ministry of Defence (MoD). However, the Armed Forces of the Union are not exempt from the Act.

Criteria for applicability

The Ministry of Personnel and Training (DoPT), is the nodal ministry for implementation of the Act and in their opinion, the Armed Forces do not fit the bill as a suitable intelligence and security organisation for exemption. The exemption clause has generated much debate and needs to be seen in the correct perspective. The moot points are -- What is the criterion, if any, based on which numerous intelligence and security organisations are exempt from the RTI Act, but not the Armed Forces? How has this non-exemption served public interest and affected the Armed Forces?

The Armed Forces are the primary security and intelligence organisation of the country. In today's environment they not only handle a wide spectrum of threats, both internal and external, but they also form an important component of diplomacy and foreign policy. The Armed Forces are equally, if not more, responsible for security and intelligence related matters vis-a-vis the other organisations exempt from the Act. Moreover, all organisations that are exempt have significant interaction with the Armed Forces. In internal security matters, the PMFs and CAPFs function in close coordination with the Army. Rather these forces often function under the command of the Army. The research organisations develop new equipment and armament and build infrastructure based on qualitative requirements for usage by the Armed Forces. As regards the intelligence organisations, there is regular exchange of sensitive information and joint analysis of important intelligence matters. Besides this, there is the dichotomy of duality of applicability or non-applicability of the Act on the Armed Forces personnel while serving with their parent service (Army, Navy or Air Force), and during their tenures with organisations like the ARC, AR, NSG and SFF that are exempt from the Act.

On the other hand, take the case of the CBI, an investigative agency, which has been given the status of a security and intelligence organisation. In making this case for the CBI, the Attorney General, besides other views, also relied on two unrelated observations by honourable judges of the Supreme Court. The first was an observation in 1973 by Justice Algiriswami, which stated, "Defence of a country or the security of a country is not a static concept. The days are gone when one had to worry about the security of a country or its defence only during war time. A country has to be in a perpetual state of preparedness. External vigilance is the price of liberty". The second was made by Justice Jeevan Reddy while deciding a case in 1994, in which he observed, "In the modern world, the security of a state is ensured not so much by physical might but by economic strength -- at any rate, by economic strength as much as by armed strength". From the functional point of view, the arguments put forward for the CBI are equally or more applicable to the Armed Forces.

Fulfilling obligations under the Act

Section 4 of the RTI Act lays down the obligations of public authorities to maintain all records duly catalogued to facilitate accessibility and lists documents to be published in the open domain for public consumption. With regard to the Armed Forces, the public may like to know about their role and organisation, details of operations; casualties suffered by the forces, cases of HR violations, equipment and weapons profile, procurement procedures, disciplinary cases and so on. Staying within the mandatory obligations of secrecy and the principle of need to know, the Armed Forces do provide information regularly on these matters. Operational information is provided routinely and official history of a war is declassified after a time lag by the MoD (though it is another matter the Henderson Brooks report of the 1962 Sino-Indo conflict has not been declassified as yet).

The case study of the Indian Army to investigations of alleged HR cases is perhaps unique the world over. Post-1989, Pakistan as an appendage of their proxy war alleged serious human rights violations against the Indian Army through the media. The Army decided to take the bull by the horns and moved the Press Council of India to have the matter investigated. The investigation headed by noted journalists, BG Verghese and K. Vikram Rao, found these allegations frivolous and remarked, "Few armies in the world would invite such an inquiry. The Indian Army has cooperated in this task. And it has, all things considered, emerged with honour". This apart, the Armed Forces have taken disciplinary action against its personnel found guilty in cases of human rights violations or of impropriety.

With regard to major weapons procurements, the MoD is the approving authority. Although it is not obligatory to provide information of commercial nature to the public as per Section 8 of the Act, but once a major procurement deal is decided, it should be open to public scrutiny to ensure that the best is procured for the buck bereft of kick backs. The Armed Forces have been fairly transparent prior to the enactment of the RTI Act in 2005. The Defence Services Regulations, a non-classified document, and the Indian Army web site is in the open domain since the 1950s and 1990s, respectively and provide details of its role and organisations, history, operations, awards, ceremonials, recruitment, procedure for contracts etc. It would be worth analysing what percentage of public has shown interest in these available details and know their Armed Forces.

Redress of grievances

The RTI Act has been implemented in the Armed Forces in right earnest, but is being used more for personnel queries (generally relate to promotions, punishments, and welfare related benefits etc) rather than for public interest leading to infructuous, avoidable work load. Whereas, to address these queries adequate systems are in place through which personnel can seek redressal in-service or post-retirement. For promotion and selection there is the Complaints and Advisory Board to which a non-statutory or statutory complaint can be addressed. For perceived injustice in disciplinary and welfare matters (pension, medical etc) individuals can approach the Adjutant General's Branch, the Courts or the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), etc.

All grievances are reviewed appropriately and redressal granted on the merits of a case. The systems are fairly satisfactory. In matters related to pay and allowances, the Armed Forces, per se, have a limited reach, as all decisions rest with the MoD. As highlighted, the Armed Forces are fairly transparent and adequate information of public interest is available in the open domain. The Armed Forces are the primary security and intelligence organisation of the country and their case for exemption from the Act under Section 24 needs no discussion, one has to just see it rationally. Even if exempted, information pertaining to matters of concern like corruption and human rights violations, is still to be provided, which anyway the Armed Forces have never shied away from providing and punishing the guilty.

In addition to these matters, there is a need for more transparency in areas of major procurements of weapons and equipment, welfare (especially in facets of housing, education, medical, pay and allowances), as it is in public interest that the Armed Forces are cared for, well trained, equipped and their morale is always high. The Armed Forces have performed their roles most commendably, battling all external and internal challenges with dedication and tremendous sacrifice. Despite the tremendous over stretch and stress involved, they have ensured the integrity of the nation and excelled in the field of military diplomacy. They have even taken the RTI Act in their stride and set an example which other organisations exempt should follow or there must be a common logical criteria for exemptions.
Adarsh blames ex-army chief
MUMBAI: The gloves are now off in the Adarsh battle, with the housing society blaming former Chief of Army Staff Gen V K Singh for its troubles.

In a reply filed in the Bombay high court to oppose the intervention plea filed by the defence ministry, Adarsh secretary R C Thakur said the "alleged scam was a plot initiated and doctored by Gen V K Singh to settle scores with his predecessors". It was also "to defame Adarsh and its members" after Gen Singh took over from Gen Deepak Kapoor on April 1, 2010. "After taking over, the army HQ wrote to southern command, Pune, seeking details on Adarsh," he said. In a reply to Gen Singh's letter, it was said the case was inquired into in 2003-04 and "reopening it may not be advisable as it may lead to media manipulation and adverse publicity". Yet, the society said, Singh began a confidential inquiry.

Seeking to intervene in PILs filed against Adarsh, the defence ministry wants to challenge the state's claim that the Colaba plot was the government's and also the state's belated claim that CBI had been given no sanction to conduct the probe into the criminal allegations against the society members.

The HC, which will hear the matter next week, sought replies from the society, state as well as petitioners Pravin Wategaonkar and Simpreet Singh. Raising a preliminary technical point, the society said only the Defence Estate Officer could initiate proceedings about title of a defence land and no other officer is authorized to "comment" as it is the custodian of all military land. The DEO, it said, on April 5, 2010, informed that the land belonged to the state and "was outside the boundary of Colaba Military station". The confidential inquiry report stated the land belonged to state, the society said attaching a copy. It added the intervention application by Maj Gen Deepak Saxena, Chief of Staff, MG & G Area, Army cannot be accepted by court as he is "not authorized to depose on military land ownership".

The society said it was "shocking" that "even after a conclusive report", the ministry raised a title suit issue and initiated a CBI inquiry. It said the ministry's "baseless and mischievous claim of land title is an afterthought to harass Adarsh members" and a bid to "hoodwink". It said when the two-member judicial panel had held that Adarsh plot belonged to the state after recording evidence of 38 witnesses, including army and IAS officers, the ministry could not now raise the issue in a "feeble attempt'' when it could show no proof that it was a military land.

The society also attacked the CBI probe and said the FIR was lodged last January without sanction and so, the probe was "without jurisdiction".
‘Flats were meant for defence personnel’
MUMBAI: A retired army officer on Tuesday told the judicial commission that Adarsh was meant for defence personnel, while another said it was not a security threat.

Brigadier (retd) M M Wanchoo said Adarsh was meant for the welfare of military officers. "At that stage (in 1990s) the bye-laws of the society said Adarsh was meant exclusively for housing army, navy and air force personnel. To my knowledge the bye-laws were never amended. But when we decided to take civilian members, the bye-laws must have been amended but I don't remember if they were," said Wanchoo. On Monday, he had said then revenue minister Ashok Chavan had suggested including civilians in the society in June 2000.

Lt Gen (retd) Tejinder Singh told the panel that he did not consider Adarsh a security risk. "Any highrise in the area is not a security threat to army installations. So, even the Adarsh building does not pose a threat," said Singh who was the GOC, Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat in 2006 when he applied for a membership.
Army may have to explain Assam delay to Prime Minister
New Delhi: The Army may have to explain to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh why it took five days to intervene in Assam's communal violence in which more than 40 people were killed.  The Army says it had no choice but to wait for clearances.  The Ministry of Home Affairs says that's incorrect, and is expected to complain formally about the lapse.   Dr Singh represents Assam in the Rajya Sabha.

The Criminal Procedure Code gives civilian authorities the right to request the armed forces to help restore law and order.

On July 19 the first reports of communal violence in lower Assam emerged. A day later, four former Bodo Liberation Tigers men were murdered.
The Assam government first requested the Army to step in on July 20 - when a letter was sent by the District Magistrate of Kokrajhar.  Local army units, however, said they needed a formal clearance from the Ministry of Defence and the Army Headquarters. It followed up with a letter to the Ministry of Defence on July 21.  On the 23rd, as violence spread to Dhubri  another request was made. Yet no action was taken on either of the requests.
On July 24, the state administration sent another letter to the Ministry of Defence and informed the Ministry of Home Affairs that its written requests for assistance had either not been acknowledged or acted upon. Union Home Secretary R .K Singh then sent a strongly -worded letter to his counterpart, Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma, reminding him of the legal obligations of the armed forces to assist civil authorities when required.

Late at night on July 24,  Army deployments were cleared.  Flag marches began on July 25 at 8 pm, with the Army moving through villages to prove that it was on hand to combat any violence and to protect those being targeted.  By this time, over 30 people had been killed.

The Army says that over the years, it has developed a Standard Operating Procedure or SoP that requires sanction from the Defence Ministry before it agrees to a civilian authority's request for intervention.  It's not clear when or how this process was introduced. The Ministry of Home Affairs wants it nullified and hopes Dr Singh will bring this up with Defence Minister AK Antony.

The Army also says that it's meant to be the last resort in helping control riots.  It says paramilitary forces, for example, should be called in to deal with mobs.  But because the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) applies in Assam, the army has a large presence in the state to check insurgency.  Some of its units were just three hours away from the epicentre of the violence. The 11 Brigade of the Indian Army is positioned in Kokrajhar to look after lower Assam.

In contrast, the paramilitary would have taken much longer to get there because of the poor roads that criss-cross the region.

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