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Thursday, 30 August 2012

From Today's Papers - 30 Aug 2012
Medical supplies to ECHS clinics to be outsourced
Vijay Mohan/TNS

Chandigarh, August 29
Availability and issuance of medicines under the Ex-servicemen’s Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) is expected to be streamlined soon. Tendering process for outsourcing pharmacy operations will take off shortly.

Under the scheme, a private vendor would handle procurement and distribution of medicines as prescribed to ECHS subscribers at pre-fixed discounted prices and the bill for the same would be picked up by the government.

The move to outsource pharmacy operations comes in the wake of procedural delays and shortages of medicines procured through military hospitals. As reported earlier, non-availability of prescribed medicines at many ECHS polyclinics is a sore point with many veterans who depend on them for medicare.

Under the first phase, 100 polyclinics under six regional centres - those in Chandigarh, Delhi, Lucknow, Pune, Hyderabad and Thiruvananthapuram - would be brought under the ambit of outsourcing. The lowest bid would be decided by the highest discount quoted by the vendor, who will procure medicines through his own sources.

Under the present system, the Director General Armed Forces Medical Services (DGAFMS) is responsible for procuring and ensuring availability of medicines, for which funds are placed with them by the ECHS. The DGAFMS sub-allocates the funds to various medical supply depots for central procurement and to military hospitals for local purchase of medicines. These medicines are then transferred to the ECHS polyclinics.

It typically took six-eight weeks to purchase medicines and even emergency procurement by hospitals was affected. Further, no additional staff had been authorised to the DGAFMS to cater to the ever-increasing additional load of the ECHS.

The government-sponsored ECHS has 260 functional polyclinics besides about 1,400 empanelled private hospitals that provide medicare to about 40 lakh retired armed forces personnel and their dependents. It has an operating budget of over Rs 1,000 crore.

Streamlining Healthcare

    The move to outsource pharmacy operations comes in the wake of procedural delays and shortages of medicines procured through military hospitals
    To begin with, 100 polyclinics under six regional centres — Chandigarh, Delhi, Lucknow, Pune, Hyderabad and Thiruvananthapuram — will be brought under the ambit of outsourcing
CBI registers Official Secrets Act case against Abhishek Verma
Syed Ali Ahmed/TNS

New Delhi, August 29
The CBI today registered a case against arms dealer Abhishek Verma under the Official Secret Act (OSA) on the basis of a complaint filed by the Defence Ministry requesting the agency to probe “leakage of secret defence documents”.

The Defence Ministry has already provided the CBI with a list of seven documents that come under the definition of the Official Secrets Act (OSA). The documents which are believed to be of secret nature include acquisition plans for next five years for the Indian Air Force, sources said.

The Defence Ministry submitted the complaint on August 24 to probe leakage of secret official defence documents. The CBI discussed this issue at senior level to register the case as there was no mention of Abhishek in the complaint, sources said.

Sources said the documents had not been recovered from Verma’s possession. They were disclosed by other persons.

The sources added that retired Defence Ministry officials could be questioned in the case.
Indian Army buying 20 mini-UAVs for Kashmir
New Delhi, Aug 29 — To better arm its troops fighting insurgents in the border state of Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian Army is buying 20 man-portable, mini unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that can be deployed to gather intelligence and mount surveillance.

The mini-UAVs are being bought by the Udhampur-based Northern Army Command. Earlier this month, it issued a tender open to global original equipment manufactuters.

Sources in the Northern Army Command said the mini-UAVs will augment the Israeli UAVs that the over three lakh troops in Jammu and Kashmir already use.

"The tender was issued earlier this month and we expect the mini-UAV manufacturers to respond by the beginning of September this year. After perusal of the proposals, the orders will be placed for the 20 mini-UAVs required at present," souces said.

The procurement is being made under the Northern Army Commander's special financial powers as "the quantity is less and costs low", the source said.

The mini-UAV that the troops will get will weigh less than 10 kg and can be transported on the shoulders of a trooper.

The mini-UAV will have cameras, including an infrared one, for night use. It also comes equipped with recording devices and sensors for mounting surveillance.

"We have asked for mini-UAVs that can be assembled by the troops themselves within 20 minutes and deployed for about an hour over a specific area of about five-km radius," sources said.

The mini-UAVs will be propelled by an electric motor and hence it will be literally noise-free once it attains a height of 500 metres above ground level. This will help it avoid detection.

The ceiling for this flying machine will be 1,000 metres above ground level. It will have a cruise speed of about 40 knots or over 70 kmph.

Indian armed forces are at present using about 100 Searcher-II and 60 Heron UAVs, both from the Israeli stable.

India is also in the process of developing indigenous UAVs such as Nishant and Rustom.
Will India-Burma cooperation neutralise Northeast militants?
The 46th India-Burma border liaison meeting was held at Leimakhong near Imphal, where a mountain division of the Indian Army is headquartered, on August 22. This meeting, which came reportedly in the wake of Burma’s assurance of pushing out Northeast rebel — terrorist groups from its soil and the subsequent vigilant measures being taken up along the porous India-Burma boundary by the Indian security forces in the tribal-dominated Chandel, Ukhrul and Churacha-ndpur districts. During this visit, Burmese officials also visited Kolkata and Gaya.
Of the four Indian states, Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh, which share 1,643 km of land border with Burma, the first two are plagued by insurgent-turned-terrorist groups, who have been getting shelter and support from the Burma Army.
At least eight groups of Manipur and Nagaland, including the so-called “anti-talks faction” of United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) have had bases in Burma for many decades. When the pro-Pakistan Bangladesh Nationalist Party came to power in Bangladesh, Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) presence in that country was substantially increased. When the Indian Army was called to deal with the menace of United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) in Assam in end November 1990, its top leadership under Paresh Baruah escaped to Bangladesh giving the ISI there the golden opportunity to enter Assam and other parts of the Northeast.
Following Awami Leagues massive electoral victory in December 2008, its government, led by Sheikh Hasina, began a crackdown on Northeast militants, many of them returned to take shelter in the jungles and hills of Burma. From these areas in Burma, Ulfa has been making trips to China, which has been providing it support and weapons for them and for supplying to Left Wing Extremists (LWEs)/Naxal-Maoists.
In 1988, India decided to stop openly supporting the Burmese democracy movement and began negotiating for bilateral cooperation with the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC)/ military junta. The junta always had a long wish-list of military hardware from India with a quid pro quo of putting pressure or chasing out leaders and elements of these groups.
With a view to garnering support from the Burma Army in dealing with the menace of insurgency and to counter-balance the Chinese influence in Burma, India began engaging the military junta quite extensively since 2006.
In 2001, India’s Border Roads Organisation constructed a 160 km-long road from Tamu to Kalewa which reduced the travelling time from about 11 to 3 hours. According to a December 30, 2006 report of India Defence Premium, during a visit to Burma in November 2006, former Indian Air Force Chief, Air Chief Marshal Tyagi, offered a multi-million dollar sale of military hardware to Naypyidaw (military junta’s new name for Yangon). The package included helicopters, technical upgrades of Burma-Russian and Chinese made fighter planes, naval surveillance aircraft and radar manufactured by Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited. The visit of Gen. Shwe Mann, the junta’s joint chief of staff, in December was expected to expand the arms sales talks. Prior to ACM Tyagi’s visit, former Indian Army Chief Gen. J.J. Singh had offered to provide training in counter-insurgency campaigns for Burmese Special Forces.
President of Burma U Thein Sein, who assumed office heading the new civilian government after general elections on March 30 2011, came on a state visit to India six months later.
The President, accompanied by his spouse Daw Khin Khin Win, headed a high-level delegation of 10 ministers and the Chief of General Staff. External affairs minister (EAM) S.M. Krishna called on Mr Sein prior to the delegation-level talks with Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, where some agreements were signed.
New Delhi felt it was time to further strengthen bilateral relations with Burma as an integral part of India’s Look East Policy. Connectivity through Burma can boost economic development for India’s north-eastern region. Work is under way in establishing the Kaladan Multi Modal Transport Corridor to connect India’s eastern ports to Mizoram through the Sittwe Port in Burma. Thereafter, the corridor moves north via rivers and the roads.
Then came the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Burma after 25 years, during which liberal financial assistance to Burma was promised and 12 agreements were signed. Further, though the Burma Army signed a ceasefire pact with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Chapping faction (NSCN-K), the government of India objected to the same and the matter was reportedly corrected.
Admitting that a deadline of June 10 was given to separatist outfits holed up in Burma by its Army, security sources said that Burmese troops came close to the camps NSCN(K) and Peoples’ Liberation Front of Manipur but no action was taken. Informing that the elusive Ulfa chief Paresh Baruah was keeping a close watch over the development, security sources said that intercepts suggested that Ulfa was mounting pressure on its senior cadres.
Frequent arrest and recovery of explosives and failure of their subversive plan is believed to have created tension in the Ulfa. While the June deadline was recently extended to September, it remains to be seen whether it will be implemented and if so, to what extent, as the Burma Army and these groups have strong old linkages related to trafficking of arms and narcotics. The youth of Manipur and Nagaland have been victims of the scourge of heroin number 4, which comes from hubs like Sagaing in Burma.
The agreements mentioned for India-Burma bilateral cooperation, whenever implemented, will be a great boon for both Burma and India’s Northeastern states, but the decision makers in New Delhi and Napyidaw/Rangoon must be very clear that these projects can only succeed if militant groups-both of Burma and India’s Northeast enjoying sanctuary there are neutralised.
TN parties angry over MoD stand on Lankan personnel
Minister of state for defence Pallam Raju’s statement that India would continue to train Sri Lankan Army officers in the interests of friendly relations with the neighbouring country has triggered a new heat wave across TN with several political parties and social outfits condemning Delhi’s “insensitivity towards Tamil sentiments”.
Leading the attack, chief minister J. Jayalalithaa wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh conveying the Tamils’ outrage at the Centre continuing to host the Lankan defence personnel at the Indian military training establishments despite repeated objections from her and others in Tamil Nadu since the Lankan Army had killed thousands of innocent Tamils during the Eelam war.
“This betrays the total insensitivity on the part of the Government of India towards the views of my government as well as the sentiments of the people of Tamil Nadu,” she said.
Key UPA ally DMK on Tuesday accused the Centre of hurting the sentiments of Tamil Nadu as it took strong exception to Mr Raju’s comments.
“It can be construed that the Centre is hurting the sentiments of Tamil Nadu and its people by this reply (of Raju),” DMK chief M Karunanidhi said in a statement.

Army asked to seize illegal arms
Guwahati, Aug. 28

Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi here on Tuesday warned the armed rebel groups, including those in ceasefire mode, to restrain from indulging in violence in Bodoland Territorial Council.
Threatening to take stern steps against the rebel groups engaged in peace-talks and found to have been indulging in violence, Mr Gogoi told reporters, “The Army, which was called for maintaining law and order in BTC, has now been given power to seize illegal arms and exuded confidence that results would soon be visible.” He, however, refused to elaborate it saying, “You will see the results soon.”
Bogged down by sporadic incident of violence, Mr Gogoi also accused the BJP and AIUDF of making provocative statements.
Appealing the students and political parties to refrain from calling bandh in larger interest of the state, Mr Gogoi said, “I am not happy about the way in which BJP and All India United Democratic Front (AIDUF) and some other outfits are conducting themselves. I appeal to them not to make any more provocative statements.”
Referring bandh calls by Bajrang Dal on Monday and All Assam Minority Students Union on Tuesday, Mr Gogoi said, “This is not a time to call bandhs. Instead of restoring harmony, bandhs only increase the temper and also affect the economy. I urge all parties and outfits to refrain from calling bandhs.”
Admitting that primary responsibility is of the government to stop the violence, Mr Gogoi said, “A chief minister alone can not stop the violence unless civil society and political parties help him in containing the situation.”
Indian army facing breakdown in ranks
The Indian army is grappling with growing concerns a failure of leadership and a drop in the quality of officer recruits is behind a breakdown of discipline among key combat units.

In the last three months, Army Chief General Bikram Singh has been quietly visiting army bases across the country, emphasising to India's 1 million-strong army the core values of a disciplined army and a renewed stress on officer-soldier relations.

It follows three major incidents of troop discipline in the past eight month, all related to combat units.

Founder of the Defence Planning Staff, Major General Ashok Mehta, has told Radio Australia's Connect Asia program, the issues relate to the relationship between officers and soldiers.

"The visible manifestation of the problem might be not granting leave or otherwise," he said.

"[However], the basic issue that comes out of any cases of collective indiscipline reflect the fact that the officer-man management - those relations have snapped."

Earlier this month, there were reports of a stand-off between officers and men from 16 Cavalry located at Samba in Jammu and Kashmir, close to the border with Pakistan.

In early May, there was a huge brawl at Nyoma, close to the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh, when troops from an artillery unit clashed with officers, resulting in several hospitalisations from serious injuries.

Army Headquarters described the clash - the worst of its kind since some units mutinied in 1984 - as "an incident of indiscipline," not a mutiny.

There was yet another skirmish prior to this.

Lieutenant General R.K. Sawhney, a former deputy army chief, says the clashes do not point to a complete breakdown of discipline.

"The three cases have found out to be ultimately because of command failure, actually," he said.

"That is being looked into, but this is not very alarming. Sure it is a pointer that the army has to be conscious about, but I won't say discipline has broken down."

Strategic analyst Saurabh Joshi says much of the current concerns about discipline are due to the changed nature of both combat and the soldiers themselves, creating a more stressful environment.

"Troops are more educated, they are more connected, they are more aware," he said

"This is not the Indian army of 20 years back - the leadership of the army must recognize that and deal with that course correction because I fear this could happen again."

"More problematically, the issue is that these incidents are not taking place in a peace station. They are taking place in sensitive locations - those deployments are very important."
Arjun Mk-2 Indian Army tank unveiled
An Arjun MBT being test driven on the bump tra...

An Arjun MBT being test driven on the bump track at the Central Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE), at Avadi, Chennai (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The DRDO Defence Research and Development Organisation of India has announced that The trials started on Friday last and will continue for the next two months. The ongoing trials will mainly focus on 19 parametres. The Arjun Mk-2 is an improved and more capable upgrade over the Mk-1, an estimate of the cost of the tank is about 6.6 million U.S. dollars, which makes it one of the tanks more expensive of the world.
The Arjun Mark II will have a total of 93 upgrades, including 13 major improvements starting with a full frontal Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) and an enhanced Auxiliary power unit providing 8.5 KW and not last an improved gun barrel with new advanced electronics.

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