India, Russia ink pact for multi-role transport aircraft
Bangalore, May 30
The Indo-Russian project to develop a multi-role transport aircraft (MTA) got a major boost with the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) signing a tripartite general contract with Russian partner United Aircraft Corporation-Transport Aircraft (UAC-TA) and Multi-role Transport Aircraft Ltd (MTAL) for the project.
“The MTA project’s preliminary design will start immediately on signing the follow-up contract on which tripartite discussions have been concluded,” an HAL spokesman said here yesterday. The agreement was a follow-up of a deal signed between India and Russia in 2007.
The MTA is slated to replace the AN 32 aircraft being used by the IAF.
The Russian Air Force will get 100 aircraft against IAF’s 45 out of the initial production target of 205 aircraft. The remaining 60 aircraft will be sold to friendly countries at an estimated price of $35 million apiece.
The project had got into rough weather after India felt there was nothing much for Indian engineers and scientists to do in the design and development of the proposed aircraft. UAC-TA apparently perceived HAL’s role in the project more or less as that of a production agency only.
Defence Minister AK Antony took up this issue with his Russian counterpart Anatoly E Serdyukov during his visit to Russia last year.
HAL spokesman said it would carry out design and development of its work share of MTA at the Aircraft R&D Centre (ARDC) at Bangalore.
HAL’s Transport Aircraft Division (TAD) at Kanpur would manufacture the prototypes. The serial production also would be at Kanpur where dedicated facilities were being set up.
The aircraft will be used for cargo and troop transportation, para-drop and air drop of supplies, including low-altitude parachute extraction system.
HAL has been manufacturing transport aircraft such as Avros and Dorniers at TAD, Kanpur.
AFT functioning: HC notice to Law, Defence Ministries
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, May 30
The administration and functioning of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has come under the High Court’s scanner.
Taking up a public interest litigation (PIL) questioning the “excessive control” of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) over the appointments, rules, provisions, infrastructure and functioning of the AFT, the Punjab and Haryana High Court today issued notice to the Union Law and Defence Ministries.
The PIL, filed by president of the AFT Bar Association, Maj Navdeep Singh, pointed out that the Supreme Court had already held that tribunals could not be made dependent upon the sponsoring or parent ministries. To ensure their independence, these could only be supervised by the Law Ministry.
There have been earlier instances where the establishment and composition of the AFT has been challenged before the High Court. The Delhi High Court Bar Association had earlier moved a petition that the establishment of the AFT was against constitutional norms.
A petition was also moved before the Punjab and Haryana High Court questioning the legality and suitability of a retired military officer to adjudicate upon legal and criminal issues. The AFT was set up in 2009 to provide swift judicial redress to members of the armed forces as well as to reduce the workload of the high courts.
The PIL averred that as all orders by the AFT were to be passed against the MoD and that the same ministry was the parent ministry controlling the AFT, it seemed more of an extension of the state rather than an independent judicial body.
The PIL points out that out of 15 courts of AFT in the country, only three are functioning as the government had not appointed judicial members to fill in vacancies arising out of the retirements of earlier incumbents.
This has resulted in absolute absence of judicial remedy to serving and retired personnel in some areas. The Chandigarh Bench, having the largest jurisdiction of five states, was also partially functional with only one judicial member holding the fort against the sanctioned strength of three.
Gen VK Singh leaves behind a divided Army
New Delhi, May 30
When General VK Singh retires tomorrow, his 26-month tenure will be remembered for controversies that divided the Army like never before and for breaking its working relationship with the Ministry of Defence.
The unprecedented act of the Army Chief moving the Supreme Court for his date of birth (DoB) and a series of actions, at times, shamed the very government which had elevated him to the top post of the 1.4 million-strong Indian Army.
The past 26 months have seen the emergence of divisions that will need a statesman-like approach to correct.
It all started with the DoB issue. General Singh claimed he was born on May 10, 1951. Had that been accepted, he would have retired in March 2013 and not tomorrow. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) did not agree and went by the DoB of May 10, 1950 - that General Singh had filled in his National Defence Academy (NDA) form.
In an unprecedented act, the General dragged the government to the Supreme Court. On February 10, the court did not accept the plea and he ultimately withdrew it from court.
A few days back, in a series of interviews to television channels, the General also made no secret of his unhappiness with the Supreme Court.
The first controversy erupted when the Army headquarters issued a rather unusual press release on March 5 blaming Lt Gen Tejinder Singh, a retired DG of the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), for allegedly planting stories in the media regarding bugging of the Defence Minister’s office.
Within days of that, the Chief gave a newspaper interview in which he alleged that he was offered a bribe of Rs 14 crore in September 2010 to buy “substandard” trucks for the Army.
Then, Gen VK Singh sent a letter to the CBI asking for a probe against Lt Gen DS Suhag. Antony admitted that he did not know about it and clarified that the Army headquarters had sent Gen Suhag’s name for promotion. The CBI rejected the probe.
Last week, the Army Chief imposed a Defence and Vigilance (DV) ban on the same officer in a separate case.
Even as Parliament was in session, a letter written by Gen VK Singh to the Prime Minister detailing the shortages in equipment and weapons got leaked to the media.
Meanwhile, former military secretary Lieutenant General Avadesh Prakash also accused General VK Singh of being biased against him.
Army’s readiness my priority, says Lt Gen Bikram Singh
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, May 30
Incoming Army Chief Lt Gen Bikram Singh says his priority is to ensure the operational readiness of the Army and to strengthen the work culture of the force.
The General, who takes over tomorrow, will anyway have his hands full in bridging the existing gap between the force and the Defence Ministry. He has been briefed by various wings of the Army and the status of projects in the past few weeks.
General Bikram Singh was given a farewell by his staff in Kolkata today. In an interview to the Sainik Samachar, the in-house fortnightly journal of the Armed Forces, he listed out his priorities. The issue of the journal is expected to be circulated tomorrow morning at all command formations and below.
Listing out his priorities, the incoming Army Chief says besides operational readiness, he will address the “hollowness” and ensure that the modernisation process proceeds as per stipulated timelines. ‘Hollowness’ is a term in the
forces to describe the gaps in its operational strategy. His third aim is to strengthen the Army’s work culture and core values “duty, honour, loyalty and integrity”.
Since future wars will be fought in close cohesion with the Air Force and the Navy, “jointness” with other forces will be top priority, says the General. And in clear message to all his top brass, the Army Chief designate says, “All commanders must endeavour to create a climate during their command tenures that hinges on our cherished core values, professional ethos and is conducive for growth and cohesion.”
The Army, he said, remains fully prepared to face and counter any external threat and deal with internal security challenges. He asked that desired attention should be given to modernisation, infrastructure development and augmentation of combat power (fighting ability).
“We all belong to the best Army in the World. To remain there, let us continue to strive for all-round excellence with added zeal,” he has asked the force.
A few days ago in Kolkata, while addressing his senior colleagues, the Chief reportedly said his prime tasks would be to “put the Army back on track”. Admitting that there have been “setbacks” of late, he is said to have added that he would not “brush anything under the carpet”.
Chachra is Western Army Commander
Lt Gen Sanjeev Chachra is the new General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Western Army Command based at Chandimandir, near Chandigarh. He will replace Lt Gen Shankar Ghosh on Thursday. Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain, GoC of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps, has been moved as the new Military Secretary.
Lt Gen Shakti Gurung, GoC of the Tezpur-based 4 Corps, has been asked to temporarily take charge of the Kolkata-based Eastern Command as Lt Gen Bikram Singh has been elevated as the Army Chief. Gen Gurung has been asked to handle the work. Lt Gen DS Suhag was expected to elevated to head the Eastern Command. However, he faces a show-cause notice issued by outgoing Army Chief General VK Singh.
Army Chief downplays controversies
Says there is 'no misunderstanding' with Defence Ministry
Press Trust of India / Pune May 30, 2012, 13:49 IST
A day prior to his retirement, Army Chief Gen V K Singh today sought to downplay the controversies surrounding him, saying there is "no misunderstanding" between him and the Defence Ministry.
He also said Defence Minister A K Antony was "very clear headed" in supporting the armed forces.
"There is no misunderstanding between the Ministry of Defence and us. Army is part of the government. We are one. Whatever we say is listened to."
"The procedures are there. Sometimes you probably think that things are getting delayed because nobody is listening. That is not true and that is not the case," he said here addressing his last press conference ahead of his retirement tomorrow.
Referring to Antony, he said, "We have a Raksha Mantri who is very clear headed in supporting the armed forces."
Asked about the controversies surrounding him, he said, "Certain controversies were created...Certain controversies erupted. Certain controversies can be ascribed to my dear media friends who have great imagination to see a ghost behind every bush."
"I would say it has not concerned me at all. Somebody told me a lot of people throw insults at you. You actually deserve those insults is you react to them. If you are not concerned with those insults, don't react to them," Gen Singh said.
On his charge that Lt. Gen (Retd.) Tejinder Singh had offered him a bribe of Rs 14 crore for clearing a "substandard" truck deal, the Army Chief said, "I don't want to comment on what Tejinder Singh has done. Those of us who know him well enough know what kind of things he tries, what he has been trying and what he has been doing."
"This is not a forum to castigate him or do anything else. He is most welcome to slide into any depths that he wants to."
Tejinder Singh has denied all allegation made against him by the Army Chief.
Army chief reviews passing out parade
PUNE: A total of 361 cadets, including 21 foreign cadets, graduated from the 122nd course at the prestigious National Defence Academy (NDA), Khadakwasla near here on Wednesday. The moment was marked by an impressive passing out parade that was reviewed by the Chief of Army Staff General V K Singh.
Of the 21 foreign cadets, 10 were from Tajikistan, nine from Afghanistan and two from Kazakhstan, all of whom had started their training along with their Indian counterparts on June 30, 2009.
All the cadets will now join a year-long course at their respective finishing academies, i.e. the officers training schools at the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun (for army); INS Teer at Cochin (for navy) and the Air Force Officers Academy at Dindigul, Hyderabad.
In his address to the cadets, Gen Singh said that military leaders at any level must have dedication and commitment to the service. They should be able to lead troops by setting an example in all trials and tribulations, he said. "Most importantly, a military leader has to have the right kind of moral and ethical values. In no case will self get precedence over the organization; never shall personal gains override official and professional needs," he added.
"You are fortunate to join the ranks of the armed forces in exciting times," said Singh. "India is surging forward and making an impact on the world at large while we face varied security challenges. Let each one of you feel the vibrancy and adrenalin run through you as you realise that you can do something remarkable and extraordinary."
India-China border meet held in Tawang
ITANAGAR: Extending the existing bonhomie between India and China, a special Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) was held at the historic Maitri Sthal near the Bum La pass in Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh on Wednesday. It is one of the three special BPMs conducted at Bum La on the Indian side every year, a defence communique informed.
Brig J S Rajpurohit heading the Indian Army Delegation leader received the Chinese. The meeting began with the welcome address by both the delegation leaders followed by a formal interaction wherein both the sides re-affirmed their resolve to strengthen friendship and to maintain peace and tranquility along the border.
Delegations from both sides interacted with each other in a cordial environment and posed for photographs. The BPMs between the army personnel of India and China serve as a vital platform for resolving local issues and fostering confidence with a view to maintain peace and tranquility in the area.
Army chief slams BEML on Tatra, awards it Rs 1,500-cr deal
The outgoing army chief, General V K Singh, claims he scuttled a Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) bid to sell overpriced Tatra vehicles to the Indian Army. But, in February 2012, the army quietly signed a contract with BEML for an even larger and more controversial purchase: a $275-million (about Rs 1,500 crore) contract for 204 armoured recovery vehicles (ARVs).
Last week, the army chief declared in a television interview that he knew the WZT-3 ARV contract was a scam and BEML should be investigated in detail. He called the Tatra deal “a wake-up call for us to start examining other areas where things could have gone wrong”.
But in February, BEML was nominated, without bidding, for the lucrative order for additional WZT-3 ARVs. Disregarded entirely was the fact that in three previous contracts for a total of 352 WZT-3 ARVs (44 in 1999; 80 in 2002; and 228 in 2005), BEML had disregarded the contractual stipulation to indigenise the ARV. Instead, the Indian defence public sector undertaking (DPSU) imported fully built ARVs from a Polish company, Bumar, fitted cosmetic Indian components and supplied these to the army.
The WZT-3 ARVs are essentially T-72 tanks kitted for repair and recovery, rather than for fighting. Instead of a gun and turret, the T-72 is fitted with a heavy-duty crane, winch and repair equipment. This allows the ARV to travel cross-country with tank columns, repairing tanks that break down.
The purchase of these essential vehicles has been fraught with controversy. In 2003, Brigadier Inder Mohan Singh was a Deputy Director General in the Master General of Ordnance (MGO) Branch, which handles the procurement of “in-service equipment,” as the WZT-3 was since 1999. He has told Business Standard the tendering process was manipulated to ensure BEML emerged the lone bidder. The tender was sent out to only two PSUs, Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL) and BEML; only BEML bid. When Larsen & Toubro threw its hat in the ring, the defence ministry’s acquisitions chief ruled it out as an “unsolicited bid”. That left BEML, the single vendor, at liberty to dictate terms.
Top L&T officials verify this happened, though the company has declined to comment officially, since it had not been invited to bid.
Brig I M Singh says Ukraine then wrote in, offering their T-72 based ARV for trials. This was an attractive offer, since Ukraine was willing to use the T-72 chassis and running gear that India was already building near Chennai, while importing only the recovery gear. This, says Singh, would have made their ARV 30-40 per cent cheaper than the WZT-3. He put up an official proposal that the Ukrainian ARV be invited for trials, since this was a Rs 1,000-crore contract that should not go to a single bidder.
That idea was quickly shot down by the MGO himself, Lt General V K Jetley, whose brother, Colonel Virendar Jetley, had been employed by Bumar India, a joint venture between Bumar Poland and the New Delhi-based Chemon Group, headed by prominent Delhi cigar baron, Chetan Seth. “Within days, I was removed from the ARV cost negotiation committee,” says Brig Singh.
Chetan Seth, interviewed by Business Standard, confirms Col Virendar Jetley was his employee. However, he denies any influence was exercised.
Arms dealers have long sought a link with the MGO’s office, which controls a large chunk of the defence budget.
The owner of Vectra, Ravi Rishi, now under the CBI scanner in the Tatra case, employed two successive MGOs soon after they retired: Lt Gen R I S Kahlon, from the time he retired till his death last year; and Lt Gen S J S Saighal, who hit the limelight when Eurocopter, which employed his brother, Lt Gen H S Saighal, won a massive Indian contract for 197 light helicopters. The defence ministry overturned that decision after rivals protested.
With the contract for 228 WZT-3 signed in 2005, Bumar Poland began sending shiploads of ARVs to Mumbai. While BEML was supposed to indigenise these quickly, Brig I M Singh says BEML did absolutely no work on the ARVs.
“The Bumar ARVs did not even go to the BEML plant. When the ship from Poland reached Mumbai, we would send drivers to unload the ARVs. They would load the ARVs onto a train to Ordnance Depot, Kirkee, from where the frontline units would collect them,” says Brig Singh.
Chetan Seth admits the ARVs never went to BEML but claims some Indian parts would be fitted onto the ARVs in Ordnance Depot, Kirkee. “It took some time, but we indigenised drivers’ periscope sights; drivers’ adjustable seats; periscopes; and radios. We had a team of five Polish engineers in Kirkee,” avers Seth.
Approached for comments, BEML chief, V R S Natarajan, said he would respond in a press conference once the army chief retired. When pressed for answers, he asked for an emailed list of questions, to which he has not responded.
Meanwhile, another Chetan Seth company, Optic Electronics, was providing an illustration of how “indigenisation” worked in the WZT-3.
According to a senior Chetan Seth employee, Optic Electronics functioned from ab SEZ in Noida, importing surplus parts from East Europe depots, touching these up, and then re-exporting them at a 500 per cent profit.
“Optic Electronics would import the day sights for each WZT-3 ARV for $5,500. These stained, often rusty, parts would be cleaned up and re-exported to Bumar Poland for around $25,000. These would then be fitted onto the WZT-3,” says the Seth employee on condition of anonymity.
Chetan Seth says he built day sights in partnership with a Polish company called PCO. He admits providing day sights for the WZT-3, but denies they were surplus parts from junkyards.
Ironically, the “indigenisation” of the WZT-3, which never crossed even 20 per cent, was being done through low-tech routes like ploughs, driver sights, towing ropes and seats, even as India was running a full T-72 tank manufacturing line at Heavy Vehicles Factory, Avadi, and building T-72 engines at the Engine Factory, Avadi.
Business Standard learned during a visit to Avadi last November that the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) had quoted a price of Rs 40-50 lakh per engine for the WZT-3, but BEML rejected this as too high. Consequently, Bumar continues to source the engine from East Europe. The OFB’s quote has also been rejected for the latest order for 204 WZT-3 ARVs, which bodes ill for any prospect of indigenisation.
The ministry of defence has not responded to an emailed request for comments.
Indian Army chief lampoons retired officer for complaint
Pune, May 30 (IANS) Indian Army chief Gen. V.K. Singh Wednesday lampooned retired Lieutenant General Tejinder Singh for filing a complaint against him with the defence ministry for defaming him, saying he could go to any depths.
Gen. Singh also confirmed that he had extended the time given to 3 Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Dalbir Singh Suhag to respond to his show-cause notice issued for 'abdicating responsibility' in a botched intelligence operation at Jorhat in Assam.
Throwing his weight behind the anti-graft movement in the country, the army chief noted that the battle against corruption was everybody's to fight.
'I don't want to comment on what Lt. Gen. Tejinder Singh has done. He can go to any depths. This is not a forum to castigate him. The army is apolitical, secular and impartial. Raising a voice against corruption is everybody's movement,' he said.
On the sidelines of the Khadakvasla-based National Defence Academy (NDA) passing out parade near here, Gen. Singh told reporters that controversies did not concern him ever in his service as army chief.
On the show-cause notice issued on May 19 for censure over lapss in a botched up intelligence operation under 3 Corps surveillance unit, the army chief said: 'Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag asked for extension and his request has been acceded to. Anybody who does injustice is wrong, anybody who accepts injustice is wrong.'
Suhag was given seven days' time to reply that has been extended by another 10 days.
Gen. Singh also claimed that there was no misunderstanding between the army and the defence ministry.
'Whatever we (army) say it is listened to (by the ministry), there are procedures. Raksha Mantri (defence minister) is clear-headed in supporting the armed forces,' he said.
Earlier, Singh addressed the cadets who passed out of the NDA. This was Singh's last major function as army chief before he retires Thursday.
Talking about his tenure as army chief, Singh said he wants to be remembered as a soldier and as somebody who tried to uphold what army stands for.
'Most important target was transformation of the army, change in mindset. It can't be done in one or two years, it will take at least 20 years. We have started the journey,' he said.
Gen. Singh also assured that the three wings of the armed forces were prepared to face any challenge and the modernisation efforts would help the forces further build their capacities.
'All three units of the armed forces, in whichever condition they are, are fully prepared to face any challenge,' he said.
The army chief had in March written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over deficiencies in defence preparedness and that document got leaked to the media.