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Monday, 18 March 2013

From Today's Papers - 18 Mar 2013




first in Pak: National Assembly completes full term


Islamabad, March 17

Breaking a jinx, Pakistani politics has achieved a major milestone with the National Assembly completing its full term for the first time, even as the country's leadership continues to be divided on the issue of choosing a caretaker Premier to oversee polls.


The National Assembly or Lower House of Parliament completed its constitutional five-year term yesterday and the Cabinet of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf stood dissolved at midnight, marking the first time an elected set-up has not been removed by the military or other political forces.


In his farewell address to the nation, Ashraf thanked all democratic forces and institutions that played their role in strengthening democracy.

Ashraf, who became Prime Minister in June last year after Yousuf Raza Gilani was disqualified over contempt of court charges, pointed out that going by the fact that the current government remained a victim of negative propaganda and concocted allegations, completion of term by his government was an extraordinary and historic event. Ashraf said the completion of the full term by his government marked the end of a "sinister chapter" of ambushes on democracy.


"We have strengthened the foundations of democracy to such an extent that no one will be able to harm it in the future," he said during the televised speech last night.


None of Pakistan's previous 12 National Assemblies survived a full term.


The Pakistani media hailed the development as a turnaround in the tumultuous politics of a country that has witnessed several military coups and interventions by the President.


The headline in The Express Tribune read “One giant leap for democracy" while the Daily Times described the achievement as "Democracy wins a round".


"In the end, it was the 13th National Assembly that broke the jinx of interrupted governments," The Express Tribune said in its front-page report.


"It is a watershed moment in Pakistan's history. In the past, we have elected in governments but we were never given a chance to vote them out. So, the distant dream of democracy seems within reach for the first time," Farrukh Pitafi, a columnist and TV talk show host, said.


Prime Minister Ashraf will continue in office till the caretaker Premier is appointed. — PTI

Look-out notices issued against IAF former chief Tyagi


New Delhi, March 17

The CBI has issued look-out notices for former IAF Chief SP Tyagi, his three cousins and five other Indians who have been named in its FIR in the alleged kickbacks received by them in Rs 3,600 crore VVIP copter deal.


CBI sources said a look-out notice has been issued to prevent them from leaving the country from any airport. They said it is a routine practice followed by the agency in cases where it fears that the accused can leave the country to escape prosecution.


Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi (retd) this Wednesday became the first Air Chief to be booked by the CB), along with 12 others, for alleged cheating, corruption and criminal conspiracy in the deal and searches were carried out at 14 locations including his residence.


The former Air Chief, his cousins Sanjeev alias Julie, Rajeev alias Docsa and Sandeep, European middlemen Carlo Gerosa, Christian Michel and Guido Haschke were among 13 individuals named in the FIR as accused, CBI sources said.


The CBI alleged that during Tyagi’s tenure, the IAF agreed “to reduce the service ceiling for VVIP helicopters from 6,000 metres to 4,500 metres”. — PTI

VVIP copter probe may blow lid off deal for aerial recce systems

IAF ex-Chief Tyagi’s name figures in $300 mn contract for intelligence multi-sensors

Man Mohan

Our Roving Editor


New Delhi, March 17

The investigation into the controversial VVIP helicopter deal could bring another mega military aviation contract related to an aerial surveillance spy agency, the Aviation Research Centre (ARC), into focus.


Former Indian Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi, who is in the eye of the storm for the deal, seems to be out of the frying pan into the fire because of his ‘association’ (after his retirement) with the decision making process in the $300 million ARC deal. Tyagi headed the IAF from 2004 to 2007.


The CBI on Wednesday filed an FIR against Tyagi and 12 others for alleged cheating and criminal conspiracy in the VVIP helicopter deal.


Signed in mid-2011, the ARC deal is about the procurement of two airborne reconnaissance multi-sensor imagery intelligence systems (ARMIS). The ARC, which monitors China and Pakistan borders, is a sister organisation of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s external espionage agency.


The ARC contract was clinched by the ELTA Systems Ltd., a group and subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), beating the US major Raytheon. Interestingly, the ELTA had purchased two Bombardier Global 5000 aircraft in January 2011, seven months in advance of the contract signing.


But the ARMIS have not arrived so far despite the payment of several instalments. Also, the ELTA has not been able to demonstrate its ‘working model.’ India has been attempting to build its own ARMIS for over a decade. Meanwhile, Pakistan has acquired a cheaper version of ARMIS.


After the ELTA was ‘chosen’ in 2010 on the basis of a much lower price compared to Raytheon, a three-member review committee, headed by the then Defence Secretary, was set up by the Prime Minister’s Office on March 11, 2011, to look into this contract following the allegations of irregularities in the ‘Request for Proposal’ (RFP), mainly that the ARC did not insist for a performance trial. Tyagi and a senior Finance Ministry official were other two members of this committee.


Sources say that in an earlier ‘internal review’ by the then Secretary (Public Grievances and Coordination) Ajit Seth had sided with other ministries’ view that the ELTA should have been selected after user trials, as was the practice in all such defence purchases.


Being the only member having technical knowledge, Tyagi’s ‘opinion’ reportedly carried weight in the ‘review committee.’ The committee allowed the deal to take off although it earlier wanted to go for a fresh tender. The basic issue of “design flaws and lack of airworthy prototypes” was also not addressed, claim top ARC and RAW sources.


Raytheon lodged a complaint with the Indian government and the Central Vigilance Commission. The US also reportedly took up the matter with New Delhi.


Tyagi’s close proximity with a former RAW chief and his ‘association’ with the decision-making process in the lucrative ARC contract has attracted the attention of investigators looking into the VVIP copter deal, sources said.


KC Verma was the RAW chief when the proposal for this contract was mooted in 2008. The ELTA was chosen when Sanjiv Tripathi was the ARC head. Soon after that, he became the RAW’s 19th chief. Just when the ARC deal was heading for the finale, Verma had voluntarily taken retirement six weeks before scheduled retirement, causing a vacancy, to enable Tripathi become the RAW Secretary in December 2010, just one week before he was scheduled to retire. Tripathi’s successor in the ARC, AB Mathur, had refused to sign the deal documents.


Perhaps, this was India’s first defence-cum-intelligence mega deal in which the buyer organisation, for strange reasons, did not insist for the demonstration of a working model. “Even for the purchase of a small firearm, one goes for a performance trial,” said a senior ARC officer, commenting that “a product of this kind is first judged by its technical credentials, trial performance and feasibility and not by the rock-bottom quotation.”


When contacted, former RAW chief Sanjiv Tripathi declined to meet and talk “about any matter” related to his previous organizations on the plea that “these are closely monitored by the adversaries.”


Tyagi, when contacted over telephone, also refused to meet and talk about “any issue” and said that “I am staying away from the media for a while.”


In response to The Tribune’s e-mail for comments, the IAI’s Deputy Corporate VP Communication, Doron Suslik, said “the IAI does not disclose details of its contracts with customers, Indian or others. It had won the ARMIS contract in a fair competition, having offered the lowest price compared to other companies, and fully complying with the contract’s technical specifications, terms and conditions. The IAI will provide all the systems as stated in the contract.”


How Tyagi is associated


After the ELTA was ‘chosen’ in 2010 on the basis of a much lower price compared to Raytheon, a three-member review committee, headed by the then Defence Secretary, was set up by the Prime Minister’s Office on March 11, 2011, to look into this contract. Former IAF chief SP Tyagi (pic) and a senior Finance Ministry official were the other members of this panel. Tyagi’s proximity to a former RAW chief and his ‘association’ with the decision-making process in the lucrative ARC contract has attracted the attention of investigators looking into the VVIP copter deal.


What is the ARC deal


It is about the procurement of two airborne reconnaissance multi-sensor imagery intelligence systems. The ARC, which monitors the borders with China and Pakistan, is a sister organisation of the Research and Analysis Wing, India’s external espionage agency.


Who clinched the deal


The ARC contract was clinched by the ELTA Systems Ltd., a group and subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries, beating the US major Raytheon. But the intelligence systems have not arrived so far despite the payment of several instalments. Also, ELTA has not been able to demonstrate its ‘working model.’

Govt nod to NCC as elective subject in schools, colleges

Aditi Tandon/TNS


New Delhi, March 17

The government has given a go-ahead to the introduction of National Cadet Corps (NCC) as an elective subject with credit points in schools and colleges.


The Ministry of HRD, in consultation with the Ministry of Defence and the Directorate General of NCC, has decided to introduce NCC (Elective) for the first time in 30 autonomous colleges of the UGC from this academic session. All the remaining 420 autonomous colleges of the UGC will offer the subject from 2014. Students who opt for NCC in schools and colleges will get credit points that will count at the time of their subsequent admissions.


The long-awaited move that has the stamp of the Ministry of Defence will enable students to join NCC without having to spare extra time to undergo training. Hitherto, NCC was an extracurricular activity that didn't figure in the curricula of institutions.


Given the increasing pressure of performance in academics, few students have been opting for NCC which is otherwise a proven instrument to prepare students for a career in the armed forces and train them for civil and self-defence.


HRD Minister MM Pallam Raju has asked the UGC, the CBSE and the AICTE to find a way to introduce NCC in schools and colleges as an elective subject alongside other existing elective subjects. Raju is himself a cadet.


The northern colleges that feature among the 30 institutions chosen by the DG NCC for the introduction of NCC (Elective) as a subject on pilot basis are: MIER College of Education, Jammu; Islamia College of Science and Commerce, Srinagar; Pt LMS Government PG College Rishikesh, Uttrakhand; Government Colleges of Dharamsala and Bilaspur in Himachal; Uday Pratap College, Varanasi; and Daudayal Mahila College, Ferozabad, Uttar Pradesh.


Once the pilot project stabilises in 2013, the remaining 420 autonomous colleges of the UGC will also start offering NCC (Elective). Autonomous colleges have been chosen for the job because under UGC guidelines, they can introduce their own courses and syllabi.

CRPF officers move court for pay panel benefits

Vijay Mohan/TNS


Chandigarh, March 17

There seems to be no end to disillusionment over non-implementation of the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission. Several years after the pay panel’s recommendations were notified, a large number of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) officers have moved court, demanding that they be brought under the ambit of the provisions of non-functional upgradation (NFU), which would enhance their pay-scales and bring them at par with other central government officers.


In a petition filed before the Delhi High Court, which came up for hearing this week, CRPF officers have pointed out the lack of promotional avenues for the force’s Group-A executive officers as well as “ad-hocism and unscientific management” of their cadre.


CRPF sources said the NFU affects officers across the board and the petitioners in this case includes officers up to the rank of Inspector General of Police. “Similar petitions have also been filed by officers from other paramilitary forces and the issue of the NFU affects about 7,000 paramilitary officers,” an officer said. “While almost all central government employees have been extended the benefit of the NFU, only the uniformed services, including the armed forces, have been left out,” he added.


The NFU was introduced to remove stagnation in cases where officers are unable to get promotion in due course. Under its provisions, whenever an IAS officer gets empanelled at a particular post in the Centre, all other Group-A service officers in Payband-3 and above shall also be moved up to the same pay level after a period of two years from the date of empanelment. The upgradation of other officers shall not have any functional effect, but only result in a higher pay without any enhanced status.


According to the petition, CRPF officers have been denied the NFU by the government in 2012 on the grounds that the provision is applicable to those Group-A officers who are placed under the Central Staffing Scheme (CSS), whereas CRPF cadre officers are neither placed under the CSS, nor do they come under organised Group-A services. In 2010, however, the recruitment rules for the CRPF were notified by the Home Ministry and the same year, the Department of Personnel and Training confirmed that CRPF cadre of Group-A posts stands as one of the central Group-A service.


Further, the petition contends that the pay panel’s recommendations were “twisted” to allow in more IPS officers on deputation at the top level in the force, thereby reducing the vacancies for CRPF cadre officers.


A high-powered committee set up under the aegis of the Cabinet had also examined the issue of extending the NFU to the armed forces. The committee had submitted its observations and recommendations to the Prime Minister’s Office in August 2012 and action on the same is still pending.

272 officers commissioned into Indian Army

A total of 272 men and women were on Saturday commissioned into the Indian Army as short service officers in a glittering ceremony at the Officers Training Academy (OTA) here.


Chief of Army Staff General Bikram Singh reviewed the ceremonial passing out parade, which marks the completion of their training at the academy.


The parade saw 215 officers, including 57 women officers, besides one from Lesotho (Africa) complete their training.


Gen Singh handed over the prestigious Sword of Honour to Academy Under Officer Chandra Mauli and the Gold Medal to Battalion Under Officer Seema Nayal.


Basantar Company won the ‘Chief of Army Staff Banner.’


Lt Gen Surendra Nath, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Army Training Command, OTA Commandant Maj Gen SS Jog were present during the function.


The 650-acre Officers Training Academy here trains cadets as officers, acquainting them with physical training, drill endurance training, weapon training, academics, radio communication supplemented by military history, communication skills and military etiquette.


OTA is also the only academy in the country that trains women for the Indian Army.


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