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Saturday, 29 June 2013

From Today's Papers - 29 Jun 2013




We will evacuate the last survivor, says Army Chief

Orders final combing operation

1,500 still at Badrinath

Ajay Banerjee/TNS


Joshimath/Gobind Ghat, June 28

All pilgrims stranded at Badrinath will be evacuated using a trekking route or helicopters by tomorrow, or at best by Sunday morning. The airlifted will be brought to Gauchar or Joshimath, while the pilgrims opting to trek will be ferried in vehicles Gobind Ghat onwards.


Around 750 pilgrims trekked the 13-km Badrinath-Gobind Ghat stretch today, while around 1,500 were still stranded at Badrinath. Senior Army officers claimed Badrinath would be totally evacuated if there was no rain for the next 24 to 36 hours.


Army Chief General Bikram Singh today visited the Gauchar base camp, met troops of the Army and ITBP and lauded the job done by them over the last 12 days. He ordered one last "combing operation" on the worst-hit Gaurikund-Kedarnath stretch lest any survivor should be left out. Army and ITBP jawans accompanied small groups of pilgrims on the trekking route.


Addressing the media, the Army Chief said: "We will continue to look for survivors and each of our countryman has to be brought out." He, however, refused to give any time limit for completing the rescue operations saying "everything depends upon the weather".


General Bikram Singh was lavish in his praise for the synergy shown by all central forces. "The Army, the IAF, the ITBP and the NDRF did a commendable job in difficult circumstances. The synergy was very good," he said. He said he had "come to give a pat on the back of all the boys". The Army Chief also met officials of the IAF and the ITBP. He was schedule to fly to Joshimath, but had to cut short his visit due to bad weather. He, however, spoke to pilgrims through video conferencing. He spoke to a small group of pilgrims evacuated from Badrinath. Nileesh Ladda of Madhya Pradesh thanked the Army Chief saying "we are safe because of the Army". The General responded "this is your Army, it will take care of you".


Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, who was on the second visit to Dehradun since the disaster struck the state, said all-out efforts would be made in the multi-agency operations to locate those still trapped under debris and gone missing.


"The Air Force will deploy more MI-17 helicopters to evacuate all. The helicopter fleet will remain stationed in Uttarakhand for 15 more days," he told reporters.


Commander of the Joshimath-based 9th Brigade Brigadier Akshat Arora said, "We have advocated that the aviation resources be kept here till road links to villages were restored." These helicopters could be used to make requisite supplies. At Gauchar, the IAF is winding down its operations. (With PTI inputs)

Central health team, IAF to stay back after rescue op

Union Tourism Minister announces special Rs 100 cr package for Uttarakhand

Tribune News Service


Dehradun, June 28

Twenty rescuers comprising personnel from the Air Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police and National Disaster Response Force, who were killed in the Mi-17V5 helicopter crash in Kedarnath valley on June 25, were given a guard of honour at GTC helipad in Dehradun today.


Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Army Chief General Bikram Singh and Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna laid wreaths on the bodies of the martyrs and gave a ceremonial salute.


Union Tourism Minister Chiranjeevi and National Disaster Management Authority member VK Duggal, former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Maj Gen BC Khanduri, several state ministers and senior defence officials from the Army, Air Force and NDRF also laid wreaths on the mortal remains of the bravehearts.


Addressing mediapersons, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde announced that bodies of the martyrs would be taken to the nearest airport at the place of their residence.


He said that after the completion of the rescue operation, the Indian Air Force would remain stationed for 15 more days to provide rations in villages of Uttarakhand where roads have been completely washed off.


Underlying the need to take precautions so that an epidemic does not take place, Shinde said a Central team would remain in Uttarakhand to assist the state Department of Health and Family Welfare. Union Tourism Minister Chiranjeevi, who accompanied the Union Home Minister, announced a special package of Rs 100 crore for the state.

Khurshid to meet Chinese FM on margins of ASEAN

Ashok Tuteja/TNS


New Delhi, June 28

India and China are expected to discuss the dates for the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's proposed visit to Beijing when External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid meets his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the margins of ASEAN meetings in Brunei next week.


Khurshid will start from here on Sunday for the tiny oil-rich country to attend the India-ASEAN ministerial meeting, the 20th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Conference and the third East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers' Meeting to be held on July 1 and 2.


The minister will also utilise the opportunity to chair a meeting of Indian heads of missions in Asia and the Pacific during his visit to Brunei. He will later travel to Singapore for a bilateral visit on July 4 and 5.


Briefing reporters here today, MEA spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said the Indian minister would hold bilateral meetings with many of his counterparts on the sidelines of ASEAN engagements. The meetings with the foreign ministers of China, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Australia and Brunei had already been fixed. The focus would obviously be on Khurshid's meeting with his Chinese counterpart. This will be their second meeting. Khurshid had met Wang in Beijing in May, just days after the tense three-week stand- off between the two countries over the Chinese incursion in Ladakh ended.


The two ministers are likely to take stock of the bilateral relationship as well as discuss the expectation from the coming visit of Defence Minister AK Antony to Beijing. Manmohan Singh is also expected to visit Beijing later this year as a follow-up to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visit to India in May.


Developments in Afghanistan, the Korean peninsula, the South China Sea and West Asia are expected to figure prominently at the ARF meet. Growing Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea has been a source of worry for most ASEAN countries as well as India.


During his address at the ARF meeting, Khurshid is likely to reiterate India's stand that there should be freedom of navigation in international waters for all countries and any maritime dispute between individual countries must be settled through peaceful talks in accordance with international laws.


Issues like counter-terrorism, organised crimes, maritime security and disaster management would dominate the discussions at the ARF meet.


On agenda


    External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid will leave for Brunei on Sunday to attend The India-ASEAN ministerial meeting, the 20th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Conference, and the third East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers' Meeting

    Besides holding meetings with many of his counterparts, Khurshid is likely to discuss with Wang Yi of China the expectation from the coming visit of Defence Minister AK Antony to Beijing and the bilateral relations between the two nations

China ready to 'break new ground' with India


Beijing, June 28

China today said it was ready to "break new ground" with India to resolve the boundary dispute as their special representatives discussed the proposed Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) against the backdrop of the recent Chinese incursion in Ladakh.


Meeting for the first time after the May incident, the special representatives of India and China today held the 16th round of boundary negotiations looking to accelerate settlement of the dispute.


National Security Adviser and India's designated Special Representative Shivshankar Menon held the first round of the two-day talks with his new Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi in a "cordial and friendly atmosphere".


"I stand ready to work with you to build on the work of our predecessors and break new ground to strive for the settlement of the China-India boundary question and to make greater progress in the China-India strategic and cooperative partnership in the new period," Jiechi said.


Menon said the talks focussed on strengthening mechanism to keep peace and tranquility at the border in the backdrop of the incursion by Chinese soldiers.


The BDCA would be discussed further during the next week (July 4 to 7) visit by Defence Minister AK Antony. — PTI


Border talks


    India and China hold the 16th round of boundary negotiations in a bid to settle the border dispute

    The two sides met for the first time after the May incursion by Chinese soldiers in Ladakh

A look at Himalayan disaster relief operations through Indian Army Tweets


Indian army started a twitter service sometime in 2012., I am their follower on tweeter and important bits of information sometimes comes through. During the relief operations, which are being carried out in Himalayas for flood affected victims, army has sent stream of tweets along with pictures and videos every day, explaining the relief work that they have been doing on that day. From the tweets it is possible to imagine the vastness of this operation and the efficiency with which army is carrying it out.

It began on 17th June 2013, when first tweet appeared which said:




A Column each of Army deployed in Rudra Prayag, Govind Ghat & Hemkund Sahib, Uttrakhand today morning for #floodrelief operations."


Since this tweet, army has been sending tweets continuously, explaining what they are doing. After a couple of days, it became impossible for me to keep track of Army operations as the operation was so enormous. I thought that it would be easy to follow up with Google earth and here is the result.

The first image shows four main areas where the army has been helping trapped people. These areas are Rishikesh-Uttarkashi-Harsil-Gangotri; Rudraprayag-Kedarnath; Joshimath-Badrinath and Dharchula-Tawaghat in Pithoragarh district. The total area covered is about 225 Km in along northeast and about 140 Km along north east: or about 32000 sq. Km spread from Nepal border to Tibet border. The Army has mobilised nearly 8,100 troops, as it simultaneously reached out to thousands of stranded people in four regions.

 Over next few days, they tried everything they could. On 17th-18th June, the Army opened the road up to Uttarkashi after clearing 16 landslips. It has also opened the road up to Sonprayag in the Kedarnath region after the successful launch of a bridge across the Vasuki Ganga between Mundkatiya and Sonprayag. As many as 2,500 stranded people were evacuated from Sonprayag. In these 2 or 3 days The army manged to rescue around 11,000 people, mainly from Govindghat and Harsil and around 10,000 people were provided food and medical assistance.

Troops skilled in mountain rescue operations, including paratroopers, were heli dropped to reach out to the people stranded in isolated areas along the Kedarnath and Badrinath region as the Kedarnath shrine was totally cut off, especially the stretch between Gourikund and Sonprayag, Army's newly formed air wing performed very well and effectively with its HAL-built Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters, which can carry 10-16 people on heights of 10,000 feet. In all 11 helicopters were used and on 17th June itself 50 sorties were carried out.

The army was able to deploy 10 Specialised Mountaineering Teams in the worst-hit Kedarnath area and set up relief camps at Harsil, Joshimath, Rudraprayag and Gauchar Advanced Landing Grounds.. The Army also built a helipad at Lambaghat school at Govindghat. Since bridges on Alaknanda river were damaged efforts continued to repair the bridges over Alaknanda between Govindghat and Ghagria on Hemkund Sahib road. In Darchula sector 2 babies were even delivered by army doctors.

This gigantic and Herculean humanitarian effort still continues as in some inaccessible pockets, people still remain trapped. Along with the tweets, army has sent number of photographs and videos, which give an idea of the stupendous work done by the Army. The army deserves full complements not only from the flood affected but all citizens of India. A great job well done!

DRDO CHIEF INTERVIEW Part1: First Full-Rate Production LCAs This Year

 The first two to three full-rate production LCA Tejas Mk.1 fighters for the Indian Air Force will roll out HAL's production facility in Bangalore in December, marking a major milestone in the trouble's programme's final leg. The aircraft will be the first of an order of 40 placed by the IAF of the Mk.1 variant slated to enter squadron service by the end of next year.


In an exclusive interview to Livefist, the DRDO's new chief Dr Avinash Chander, said, "I feel very confident that LCA is within a visible range  for production start. The target is that production should start this year. We should see two-three aircraft rolling out this year itself."


After taking over as the DRDO's new chief last month following years at the Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL), where he found renown as the spearhead of the Agni strategic missile programme, one of the first things that Dr Chander did in his new capacity was fly down to Bangalore and chair a series of meetings with officials from the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), CEMILAC, National Fight Test Centre, HAL and the handful of other agencies involved in the development and certification of the LCA Tejas. His message was simple, yet clear: the air force, and indeed the country, would not wait any longer than the end of next year for the Mk.1. He told them, in no uncertain terms, that the next 18 months needed to be the fight of their lives. No excuses. Tejas needed to leave the DRDO stable, he impressed, because there were bigger, more challenging aircraft to build for the IAF. The DRDO, he told them, simply couldn't be stalled with the programme any longer.


With over 2,200 test sorties on the board, the Tejas has 140 hours of test flying left before it achieves the second phase of its initial operational clearance (IOC-2), indicates Dr Chander, a special set of test points deferred from the first in January 2011. "The residual tasks are quite minimal. Some weapon release trials we have to do, some modifications we have done need to be tested. The radar has to be tested for operations. A total of 140 hours are planned in the next few months for IOC-2. With that the aircraft will be cleared for production."


Final operational clearance (FOC)), the final step before induction into an IAF squadron, is set for November-December 2014. "We will complete the FOC by 2014 end. There are some issues when you touch the boundaries of performance, which have been identified and come out only during flight test. Those will be rectified. For FOC, there will be a variety of weapons, all weather clearance."


Right about the time that the Tejas Mk.1 achieves IOC-2, two more naval prototypes will roll out, followed by a first flight before the end of the year. "The test facility is getting ready. I am confident that the LCA Navy will be on schedule," says Dr Chander. The first prototype, which took off in April last year, hasn't flown for nearly a year now, with the platform's undercarriage undergoing a major re-design with the help of EADS as a technological consultant.


"The safety record of the Tejas during testing has been absolutely superb. No other aircraft has this record," Dr Chander says with pride.


The new DRDO chief has asked for an update every alternate day on the LCA programme, and will be briefed by his special team entrusted with keeping things on track over the next 18 months.


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