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Thursday, 7 March 2013

From Today's Papers - 07 Mar 2013
CBI questions IAF ex-chief Tyagi
Syed Ali Ahmed/TNS

New Delhi, March 6
Former IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi (retd) and his cousins were questioned by the CBI today to probe their role in the alleged payoff in the Rs 3,500-cr VVIP helicopter deal.

The Tyagis were quizzed at the CBI headquarters for several hours. The former Air Chief reached the headquarters around 3 pm, while his cousins reached a few hours earlier. They were grilled on the basis of facts collected by the CBI team from Italy, sources said. Besides Tyagi, the CBI in its preliminary inquiry on February 25 had named his three cousins — Sandeep Tyagi, Julie Tyagi and Dosca Tyagi — and seven others.

The CBI had examined two executives of Mohali-based Aeromatrix and IDS Infotech on Monday, and Aeromatrix CEO Praveen Bakshi on Tuesday. The CBI may examine more people in the case before it registers a case, sources said.

European middleman Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschkhe have been accused by the Italian investigators for paying illegal gratification to swing the deal for 12 VVIP helicopters in favour of AgustaWestland.

On the basis of a letter submitted by the Defence Minister to investigate the kickback case in the helicopter deal, the CBI had gone to Italy last month to collect documents and hold discussions with legal experts there.

In a probe report, Italian prosecutors had said Gerosa and Haschkhe had close contacts with the former Air Chief and his three cousins, the sources added.

It had claimed that Haschkhe and Gerosa, through the Tyagi brothers, managed to change the tender details by modifying the “operational ceiling” from 18,000 feet to 15,000 feet altitude, thus making AgustaWestland eligible to take part in the tender process, the documents in an Italian court say.

The investigation agency had filed a preliminary inquiry against 11 people and four firms. The firms named in inquiry are Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland, IDS Infotech Ltd (India) and Aeromatrix (India).
Soldiers hurt while on leave entitled to disability benefits: SC
Vijay Mohan/TNS

Chandigarh, March 6
Coming to the rescue of disabled soldiers, the Supreme Court has, over the past few days, granted relief to affected personnel in several cases where they had been denied benefits by the authorities.

While disposing-off the case of an Army Medical Corps (AMC) trooper, the apex court has ruled that injuries suffered while an individual is on casual leave are to be considered as injuries suffered as if on active duty. His petition for benefits had earlier been dismissed by the Armed Forces Tribunal.

The soldier, who was selected for the non-technical commission as an officer in the AMC, was denied officer-ship on the grounds that he had been placed in the low medical category (LMC) and only those LMC soldiers were eligible for a commission who had suffered disabilities attributable to active duty service. His injury was sustained while on casual leave.

Rejecting the government’s stand, the SC, after discussing various rules and notifications, held that casual leave was very much to be considered as part of duty and the soldier deserved to get a commission in the AMC.

The SC has also upheld the decision of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in which the HC had ruled that a widow was entitled to special family pension in a case where her husband had died while driving his private scooter and whose claim had been rejected by the government on the grounds that his death was not attributable to service.

In yet another case, the SC has dismissed an SLP filed by the Central government against a landmark judgment by the Kochi Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT). In its 116 page judgment, the AFT had ruled that though the opinion of the medical board regarding attributability or aggravation of disabilities due to service had primacy, as held by the Supreme Court in various cases, but for the same to prevail the opinion needed to be in conformity of the rules and be supported by reasons. Otherwise the benefit of disability pension was to go to disabled soldiers.

The AFT had also remarked that even while arguing cases before the SC, the Ministry of Defence did not place the correct rules and subsequent amendments before the Court, including in cases where the Solicitor General himself had appeared.
OFB to supply 114 Howitzers to Army
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, March 6
The Ministry of Defence has signed an indent (like placing a purchase order) with the Ordnance Factory Board for supplying locally produced artillery guns, meant to replace the Army’s inventory of 155 mm Howitzers supplied by AB Bofors around 26 years ago.

The OFB will supply 114 such guns at cost of Rs 11.03 crore apiece, making it an order worth Rs 1,257 crore. The MoD move come after validation firing of the gun was successful in the last two trials - one in December 2012 at Balasore, Orissa, and second on February 4, 2013, at Pokhran. The MoD-OFB indent was signed on March 4 and lays down a timeline for delivery.

At present, the OFB has produced two variants: one that has 68 per cent local content and other has 46 per cent local content. “They have been asked to focus on the one with more local content to keep down costs,” said sources. Once the final production design is done, the gun will be tested again in June and December this year. The validation trials have got an approving nod from the Army.

Produced by the Ordnance Factory Board, these guns are 155 mm, 45 calibre howitzers. These look like Bofors and have the capacity to fire up to a distance of 38 km, slightly more than the Bofors.

The guns are more or less based on the existing Bofors design for which the OFB holds the Transfer of Technology (ToT) licence from the Bofors. Research for the manufacture of a number of variants of the howitzer is underway and is nearing completion.

The Army has expressed keenness to have 155 mm 52 calibre guns which the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) will produce. The original AB Bofors, inducted in 1987, is 39 calibre. The “calibre” of a gun is primarily the size of the inside of the barrel.
Budget cut won't hit operations, says Antony
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 6
Defence Minister AK Antony today told the Rajya Sabha that the reduction of around Rs 14,000 crore in the defence budget for the current fiscal will not affect operational capabilities of the armed forces and important procurements will take place on time.

Replying to questions in the Upper House, the Defence Minister said: "We will not compromise" on operational capabilities of the armed forces.

The allocation to the Defence Ministry for the current financial year has been reduced by Rs 4,903.77 crore under the revenue segment and Rs 10,000 crore under capital in the revised estimates of 2012-13.

Antony said the allocation made for defence is adequate to sustain the pace of modernisation in the current fiscal. He said "most important procurements" of weapon systems will take place on time.
India to raise 30,000 troops for border with China
Working towards upgrading its military infrastructure along border with China, India will raise another 30,000 troops for the infantry battalions of its Army, Rajya Sabha was told today.

"30 infantry battalions are proposed to be raised in the 13th Five year Plan towards enhancing combat capacity," Defence Minister A K Antony said in reply to a written query.

The Indian Army is planning to raise a Strike Corps for deployment along the China border which would mean raising of additional 90,000 troops for the force.

The Army has plans of raising the additional troops in the 12th and the 13th five-year defence plan periods. The Corps is proposed to be headquartered at Panagarh in West Bengal with its formations spread around north-eastern states sharing boundaries with China.

The Defence Minister further said the mobility of infantry battalions is proposed to be enhanced through introduction of superior vehicles with better cross-country mobility.

The budgetary allocation for capital acquisition for modernisation of Army during Financial Year 2012-2013 is Rs 13,724.14 crore, he said.
Kashmir police register FIR against Army unit over Baramulla firing
The police has registered a case against an Indian Army unit for its alleged involvement in the shooting in Baramulla district which claimed the life of a man.

The killing of the 25-year-old, who was part of a group protesting the hanging of 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, has sparked tension across the Kashmir valley with curfew being imposed in the jurisdiction of 10 police stations in Srinagar, Baramulla and Sopore.

In its FIR, the police has registered a case against unknown Army personnel and a Colonel Dalbinder Singh from the 46 Rashtriya Rifles unit for firing at the mob, reported NDTV.
However, given the armed forces in the state operate under the contentious Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act it is unlikely there will be any arrests made unless sanctioned by the Army.

The Army has, however, denied any involvement in the incident.

“Army reiterates that Tariq Ahmad’s death could not have been caused due to the firing by the Army personnel as extreme caution was exercised by them and the fire was deliberately aimed in the air,” the Indian Army’s northern command was quoted as saying in a statement issued.

The killing of the man in Baramulla has been the cause of intense debate in the Kashmir Assembly and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had also delivered an emotional speech on the matter yesterday.

There has also been a debate over the Armed Forces Special Protection Act (AFSPA) being repealed in the state, which has further intensified after the killing of the protester.

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