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Saturday, 21 September 2013

From Today's Papers - 21 Sep 2013
Army wants CBI to probe specialised unit’s ‘misuse’
It was set up during ex-Army Chief Gen V K Singh’s tenure
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, September 20
The Army has sought a CBI probe against the alleged misuse of a specialised Army unit during the tenure of former Army Chief General VK Singh (retd). The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is, however, not keen on any action fearing it may spill secrets surrounding covert operations.

Sources say Defence Minister AK Antony, who is currently in hospital following a surgery, was briefed by senior Defence Ministry officials about a report submitted by the Army suggesting a CBI probe.

The government says since the report impinges on matters of national security, it will take a decision once it has carefully examined it.

General VK Singh was the Chief of Army Staff between March 31, 2010 and May 31, 2012. Sources say the government feels handing over the probe to the CBI may not bring out any new facts, and that it has the capability to handle such situations.

In March, Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia, Director General Military Operations (DGMO), had submitted a report to the MoD on the functioning of the technical support division (TSD) set up during General VK Singh’s (retd) tenure.

The Tribune had on June 4 reported that an internal Army probe into the functioning of the TSD had established misuse of surveillance equipment and recommended that the unit was not needed. The suggestion of a CBI probe emerged today.

The MoD admitted that a report had been received from the Army Headquarters on certain issues relating to one of its outfits. “The report impinges on matters of national security and, as such, the government will take a decision and further action after a careful examination of the report. The government has measures in place to prevent any such undesirable activities,” said Sitanshu Kar, MoD spokesperson.

The Army is tight-lipped but said a Board of Officers carried out the probe and all officials of the TSD were confronted with evidence.

The TSD was suspected of using off-air phone interceptors to snoop on mobile conversations of important political figures, rather than using the machines for the mandated work in the border areas to intercept enemy conversations.

The TSD came under the scanner when in June 2012, former Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma objected to a sudden and unusual surge in the use of secret funds by the Army’s Military Intelligence (MI). The Tribune had reported the matter on July 18, 2012 on how an expense of Rs 18 crore was made towards “non-military” pursuits.
‘Snooped’ on conversations
In March, the Army submitted a report to the MoD on the functioning of the technical support division (TSD) set up during General VK Singh’s (retd) tenure
The TSD was suspected of using off-air phone interceptors to snoop on mobile conversations of key political figures
The machines are mandated to be used in border areas to intercept enemy conversations
In June 2012, former Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma had sought details from the Army on funds spent on pursuits ‘not exactly military in nature’

The report impinges on matters of national security and, as such, the government will take a decision and further action after a careful examination of the report. The government has measures in place to prevent any such undesirable activities.
— Sitanshu Kar,
MoD spokesperson
NC targets Army, seeks judicial or CBI probe
Tribune News Service
Jammu/Srinagar/Rajouri, Sept 20
The ruling National Conference today sought to target the Army by blaming it for undermining democracy after a media report alleged former Army Chief General VK Singh (retd) had set up a unit to dislodge the Omar Abdullah government in 2010.

The party demanded a judicial or a CBI probe into the role played by the Army in an attempt to topple the state government. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s two confidants — Jammu provincial president Devinder Singh Rana in Rajouri and his Kashmir counterpart Nasir Aslam Wani in Srinagar — along with his uncle and party’s additional general secretary Sheikh Mustafa Kamal in Jammu launched a combined onslaught on the Army.

Rana and Wani said the party had taken a “serious view” of the media report that alleged that an Army unit misused secret funds during General VK Singh’s (retd) tenure and demanded a time-bound inquiry to bring out the truth. They also sought to make the probe report public.

The Jammu provincial president further demanded “punishment” for those found guilty. “We demand a judicial probe under a sitting judge of the Supreme Court or at least by the CBI,” asserted Wani.

He said all those “involved overtly or covertly” be made public and punished.

Referring to the situation, particularly in the Valley, in the summer of 2010, Wani said “these protests that spiralled vindicate our stand that the entire 2010 could also have been orchestrated”.

Wani said the state had suffered at the machinations of people trying to “demean the elected government and this alleged report substantiates that there are people who want to dent the credibility of democratic institution that India is known for”.

Mustafa Kamal blamed the Centre for giving a “free hand” to the Army and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) in the Valley.

He accused the Centre of making attempts to weaken the party in the state to have the Chief Minister of its choice.

The party demanded state Agriculture Minister Ghulam Hassan Mir’s resignation on moral grounds after his name surfaced in the Army inquiry report.

Mir had defeated Kamal from the Tangmarg segment during two consecutive Assembly elections of 2002 and 2008.

The report claimed that the technical services division set up by the former Army Chief in 2010 used secret funds in an attempt to topple the Omar government.
Minister refutes charge
J&K Agriculture Minister Ghulam Hassan Mir has rejected the contents of the Army report suggesting he was given Rs 1.19 crore to engineer a change of government in the state. “These allegations are false, baseless and far from truth. I have always worked for a stable government in Jammu and Kashmir,” claimed Mir.
Hyderpora terror strike: 2 Lashkar men held
Azhar Qadri/TNS
Srinagar, September 20
The Jammu and Kashmir Police on Friday claimed to have cracked the Hyderpora militant attack case and arrested two accomplices of the Lashkar-e-Toiba militants who struck an Army convoy on the eve of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to the Valley in June killing eight soldiers. The two were arrested on charges of criminal conspiracy and providing logistical support to the militants.

Naveed-ul-Islam of Mochwa area of central Kashmir's Budgam district and Bilal Ahmad Lone of the town’s Chanapora locality were arrested by the police during the investigation into the attack.

They accompanied the two-member Lashkar squad on June 24 and provided them logistics to carry out the attack at Hyderpora on the city’s outskirts, Inspector General of Police (IGP) for Kashmir region Abdul Gani Mir told reporters here.

"The Jammu and Kashmir Police have cracked the Hyderpora incident in which Lashkar militants attacked a convoy and killed eight jawans. We have arrested two persons who provided not only logistical support, but were also accompanying the terrorists," Mir said.

Naveed-ul-Islam, who runs a madrassa at his native village, was in contact with Abu Qasim, a top militant commander, for the last two years, Mir said. "Although he was not involved in any incident previously, he had accompanied them," the IGP said.

Mir said Naveed-ul-Islam and Lone were “part and parcel of the conspiracy”. The officer said the two Lashkar attackers -- Kashmiri militant Irshad Ahmad Ganai alias Abu Abdullah and Pakistani militant Abu Hamza alias Zeeshan -- were taken to Hyderpora in Lone's car.

Eight soldiers were killed and 16 were injured on June 24 when two militants attacked an army convoy near Hyderpora on the city’s outskirts. The attack was carried out on the eve of the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi to the city.

Both militants fled the scene after intercepting the Army convoy and spraying it with bullets and grenades.

Abu Qasim, Lashkar's divisional commander for south Kashmir, had masterminded the attack that was carried out on the directions of the outfit’s Pakistan-based commanders Hanzallah Adnan and Ahmad, the top police officer said.

"We have identified some other persons also who provided logistic support. The investigation is on," Mir said.

The IGP said one of the two attackers, Abu Hamza, is a Pakistani militant and had moved into south Kashmir last October along with nine militants.

Mir said Abdullah Haroon, another Pakistani militant who was part of the group of 10 who shifted to south Kashmir from north Kashmir last year, was killed in Shopian this month.

Four people were shot dead by CRPF personnel on September 7 in Shopian district, of whom three were identified as civilians. The police suspected the fourth was a militant. “Every bit of evidence has substantiated that (he is Abdullah Haroon) and it has been confirmed by our sources in various places and also identified by various persons," the IGP said.

Mir said the police were investigating the circumstances in which the other three people were accompanying the Lashkar militant. "Let me tell you, they were not on an excursion along with a Lashkar militant (Abdullah Haroon)," the IGP said.
 Audacious Attack
June 24, 2013: A two-member Lashkar squad attacks an Army convoy in Hyderpora on the eve of PM Manmohan Singh's visit to the Valley killing eight soldiers and injuring 16
The arrested: Naveed-ul-Islam of Mochwa area of central Kashmir's Budgam district and Bilal Ahmad Lone of the town’s Chanapora locality
Their role: They took Kashmiri militant Irshad Ahmad Ganai alias Abu Abdullah and Pakistani militant Abu Hamza alias Zeeshan to Hyderpora in Lone's car on June 24 and provided them logistics to carry out the attack
The mastermind: Abu Qasim, Lashkar's divisional commander for south Kashmir; he was following directions of two of the outfit’s Pakistan-based commanders
10% DA hike for govt employees
Girja Shankar Kaura/TNS
New Delhi, September 20
In a move that will bring a big smile on the faces of over 50 lakh government employees, the Union Cabinet today cleared a hike in dearness allowance by 10 per cent.

In a bid to keep prices in check, the Union Cabinet also approved extending an order that allowed states to act against hoarding of pulses, edible oils and edible oilseeds for one year.

The approvals came at the meeting of the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Addressing the media after the meeting, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Teawri said the move to hike the DA would not only benefit 50 lakh present employee, but also 30 lakh pensioners.

The hike would be effective from July 1, 2013. The Central Government employees and pensioners would now be entitled to DA/DR at the rate of 90 per cent of the basic pay, an official statement said.

It would cost Rs 10,879.6 crore per annum and Rs 7,253.10 crore during the financial year 2013-14.
Other decisions
The order allowing states to act against hoarding of pulses, edible oils and edible oilseeds extended for one year
The proposal of the National Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Policy to implement and monitor it through national and state ECCE councils also okayed
Inquiry against VK Singh political vendetta: BJP
Vibha Sharma/TNS

New Delhi, September 20
The BJP may be defending former Army chief Gen VK Singh saying the inquiry against him was a result of his sharing dais with party’s PM candidate Narendra Modi at the Rewari rally, but there seems to be a difference of opinion over whether he was a fit candidate to attract Army men.

The party is treading cautiously considering Gen VK Singh’s past “divisive” record and the embarrassment it can cause to he party if even 1 per cent of what is being alleged proves true.

Sources say the BJP top leadership is wary that standing by Singh may prove contrary to the BJP’s stand-toughness on matters related to the country’s internal and external security.

“Though the claim that Singh’s special unit tried to topple the J&K Government may be far fetched, his team eavesdropping on top government functionaries is a serious security-related matter,” they say.

Officially, the party defended Singh and condemned the Congress-led UPA for engineering the inquiry against the former Army Chief, calling it a political vendetta.

Questioning the timing of the probe, party spokesperson Nirmala Sithraman cautioned the government on the demoralising effect of such actions on the armed forces. “The board of officers’ inquiry report was submitted in March. If allegations are serious enough, nothing stopped the government from taking action,” she said.

To a query whether Singh is joining the BJP, she said: “Is he? I don’t know.” She also called the presence of ex-Army Chief at the Rewari rally as apolitical. “It was a rally for ex-servicemen,” she stressed.

However, a section in the BJP believes that Singh should be left to his own devices as far as his political ambitions are concerned.

While a person holding the rank of Army Chief cannot take up any private job, there is no such embargo if he wants to contest elections.

But the problem with VK Singh is his limited appeal. He has a sway among Rajputs in the North, largely in Rajasthan and adjoining areas. The fact that he tried to block Gen Bikram Singh’s promotion may be held against him by Hindu and Sikh Jats in Haryana and Punjab.

Moreover, during his tenure as the Army Chief, he posted officers from his Rajput regiment to practically every crucial appointment, including key formations controlling military installations around the Capital. This is believed to have caused a lot of heartburn among officers from other communities.

Sources say the BJP top leadership is wary that allegations of “mandalisation” of forces against Singh may end up driving other communities away.

Differences remain

* There seems to be a difference of opinion in the party over whether the former Army Chief is a fit candidate to attract Army men

* The party is treading cautiously as it knows if even 1% of what is being alleged against him proves true, it can bring embarrassment to it
Austerity cut not to hit defence budget
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 20
The 10 per cent fiscal budget cut imposed by the Union Finance Ministry on Wednesday will not apply to the expenditure by the armed forces and the Ministry of Defence as regards purchase of new weapons, systems, ammunition and equipment.

Orders issued by Union Finance Secretary Raminder Singh Gujral exempt expenses on “defence capital” from this cut.

“Defence capital” is the budget used for payment of all new equipment, be it guns, planes, warships etc. A sum of Rs 86,740 crore has been earmarked as “defence capital” for the ongoing fiscal. The total defence budget stands at Rs 2,03,672 crore.

Last fiscal, a similar cut was imposed on government expenses across the board. In December 2012, Finance Minister P Chidambaram cut down the Defence Ministry budget by Rs 14,903 crore out of which Rs 10,000 crore were pruned from the “defence capital” head, raising questions on the pace of modernistaion of armed forces.

The government had then cut overall budget by around Rs 1 lakh crore and the share of cut of MoD worked out to be Rs 14,903 crore.

India is the biggest arms importer of the world. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), in its report Trends in International Arms Transfers-2012 released on March 18 this year, said: “India accounted for 12 per cent of all global arms transfers between 2008-2012. China stood second, accounting for 6 per cent of all global arms sales.”

While imposing a cut, the Finance Ministry had banned government departments from holding meetings in five-star hotels besides barring officials from executive class air travel. The austerity measures announced by the Finance Ministry are aimed at cutting non-plan expenditure by 10 per cent of all government departments.
SC notice to Navy on woman’s plea for CBI probe
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, September 20
The Supreme Court today issued notice to the Navy and the Defence Ministry on a petition filed by a 26-year-old woman seeking a CBI probe on her complaint that her husband, a Lieutenant with the Navy, had tried to force her to be part of the "wife swapping parties" of senior naval personnel.

A three-member Bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam also stayed the investigation being conducted by the Harbour Police Station, Kochi (Kerala), on her complaint. Justices Ranjana Desai and Shiva Kirti Singh were the other members of the Bench.

In her criminal writ petition, Sujata Ravi Kiran, alias Sujata Sahu, wife of Lt Ravi Kiran Kabdulla, said she had been subjected to the "most humiliating and traumatic ordeal in Kochi at the Naval Base" by her husband's friends, colleagues and superiors by assaulting her "physically and sexually" in the presence of Kabdulla.

The petition said two invitation cards dated March 16, 2012, and November 5, 2012, in connection with the "wife swapping parties" had been annexed. Apprehending that she would "blow the cover off the unscrupulous activities of the Navy" and under pressure from his superiors, he had filed for divorce, the petitioner said.

She said the Kerala High Court had dismissed his anticipatory bail plea on June 10, 2013, after pulling up the police for not registering a case of gang rape against him and other naval officers and for booking him only under various provisions of matrimonial dispute such as cruelty.

According to her, she married him on March 9, 2012, but he subsequently took away the marriage certificate, her identity card, laptop and her other personal documents. Instead of conducting investigations on her FIR, the Kerala Police at the instance of naval officers had registered a case against her for applying for a credit card through forgery and was harassing her, she said.

Appearing for the petitioner, advocate Kamini Jaiswal said her client was at present staying in Delhi as the atmosphere in Kerala was not conducive for the case to progress and that she was not in a position to travel to Kochi time and again to pursue the case.

Her husband had also filed a petition in the HC seeking quashing of the FIR, registered by her, under Section 482 CrPC. The police was not arresting him despite the fact that the HC had rejected his anticipatory bail plea.
Growing stakes in Gulf
Navy expanding India's reach in the region
by Harsh V. Pant

In another sign of India's changing defence priorities, four Indian naval ships — ‘Mysore’, ‘Tarkash’, ‘Tabar’ and ‘Aditya’ — that form part of the Indian Navy's Western Fleet under the Western Naval Command based in Mumbai have been visiting various Gulf states for the past few weeks. After making separate visits to Qatar and Kuwait, the four ships have now converged on the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where they will be conducting naval exercises. From the UAE this naval task force will go to Oman. This month long deployment is aimed at bolstering bilateral ties and reinforcing cooperation in maritime security between India and Gulf states.

The Indian Navy has been providing training and hydrographic support to several navies in the region and the involvement of Indian naval ships in combating piracy off the coast of Somalia since October 2008 has further strengthened bilateral ties and taken interaction with other regional navies to another level. The latest visit also underlines the Indian Navy's growing ability to operate far beyond the Indian shores and operate on maritime security issues with other regional navies.

In the last few years India’s policy toward the Gulf region has often been viewed through the prism of India-Iran relations. The international community and the West in particular have been obsessed with New Delhi's ties with Tehran and has tended to ignore India’s much more substantive engagement with the Arab Gulf states. Notwithstanding all the hype surrounding India's ties with Iran, they remain largely under-developed even as the significant stakes that India has in the Arab Gulf often go unnoticed. New Delhi has been giving serious attention to the Arab states in the Gulf for some time now. When the Indian Prime Minister visited Saudi Arabia in 2010, he was not only responding to the Saudi King’s visit to India in 2006 but was also underscoring that when it came to the Gulf, Iran would not be the focus of Indian foreign policy.

The Saudi King had visited India in 2006 with much fanfare. It was also a signal to the broader Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) community to build stronger partnership with India. India's engagements with the GCC states have gathered momentum in the last few years even though India-Iran ties have continued to hog all the limelight. India’s desire to secure energy supplies as well as to consolidate economic and trade relations and the 'Look East' policy of the Gulf States has allowed the two to carve a much more substantive relationship than in the past.

While India is not a Muslim-majority country, it still hosts the second-largest Muslim population in the world, a constituency that remains interested in Saudi Arabia as the site of the holy shrines at Mecca and Medina. Indians are the largest expatriate community in the GCC states, numbering around 4 to 5 million. Indian expatriate labour constitutes around 30 per cent of the total population of the UAE and they have significant presence in Bahrain, Oman, and Qatar.

The economic dimension of India's Gulf policy has become more pronounced in recent years. As a group, the GCC is India's second largest trading partner. It is the largest single origin of imports into India and the second largest destination for exports from India. Bilateral trade between India and the GCC is expected to rise above $25 billion this year. The global financial meltdown and recessionary trends in the US and Europe is prompting India to turn to Gulf states sitting on huge resources looking for investment opportunities. India is hoping that major GCC states such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman would participate in India's planned expansion of infrastructure. The Gulf states meanwhile are interested in human resources from India to develop sectors as varied as information technology, construction, transportation and services.

With a growing economy, meeting its rapidly increasing demand for energy is one the biggest challenges facing India. The burgeoning population, coupled with rapid economic growth and industrialization, has propelled India into becoming the fifth largest energy consumer in the world. Energy is clearly the driving force in Gulf-India relations. Riyadh is the chief supplier of oil to India's booming economy, and India is now the fourth largest recipient of Saudi oil after China, the United States and Japan. India’s crude oil imports from the Saudi kingdom will likely double in the next 20 years.

India’s trade and energy security is inextricably linked to the security of the Straits of Hormuz and Bab el-Mandeb. With this in mind the Indian Navy is regularly visiting Gulf ports and training with regional states. In recent years the Indian Navy has made port calls and undertaken a series of naval exercises with a number of Gulf states, thereby lending its hand to Indian diplomacy in expanding India's reach in the region. India is cultivating close security ties with major GCC countries such as the UAE, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain with the focus shifting from naval ship visits and training exchange programmes to the possible joint development and manufacture of sophisticated military hardware.

Tehran's nuclear drive is raising anxiety in the Gulf about a resurgent Iran. During his visit the Indian Prime Minister joined the Saudi King in asking Tehran “to remove regional and international doubts about its nuclear weapons programme.” The security consequences of a rising Iran are hugely significant for the Arab Gulf states even as India has made it clear that a nuclear Iran is not in Indian interests either.

As the regional balance of power between Arabia and Persia threatens to unravel with multiple crises looming in the region from Syria and Egypt to Bahrain, the Indian Navy’s latest overtures to its Gulf partners is a clear sign that India would like to protect its interests in the region and has underlined India’s desire to see the extant balance of power in the region stabilise. Given India's growing stakes in the Gulf, it is not surprising.
Managing VIP visits
by Col Avnish Sharma (retd)

Visits and inspections by VIPs hold a universal enigmatic fear. Since these are few and far between, the impression gathered by the dignitary normally dictates the host's professional future. This is especially pertinent to the Army due to the obvious fallout of sensitive dimension. The common irritants include the failure of the public address system (or the mike) during the course of a lecture by the VIP, undesired obstructions suddenly appearing ahead of the VIP cavalcade, a heap of garbage left uncollected, unattended plants along the route and, of course, the embarrassing appearance of aggrieved humans despite a strict briefing to the contrary. The visited military unit, thus, devotes considerable energy and resources to stage-manage visits of senior officers.

An incident comes to my mind. Our unit was occupying TRH accommodation (temporary hutments) without a foolproof and sealed boundary. Stray dogs were a menace because of the availability of ample food, courtesy our animal friendly troops. All were living in perfect harmony till the General Officer Commanding (GOC) decided to come on an inspection of the unit. Brain-storming sessions to control the dog menace made us arrive at a magnanimous consensus of organising a 'food fair' for the dog community at a secluded place in the unit lines. This would ensure the man's best friends concentrating at one place rather than straying all over during the GOC's one-hour stay in the unit.

The Commanding Officer (CO) of the unit was impressed with the young Captain, who came up with this face-saving suggestion and promised to reward him after the visit. Everything was progressing well till a column of stray dogs in a bid to rush towards the food fair were almost run over by the GOC's open jeep being driven by the hitherto proud CO. In a bid to save face, the GOC was taken to the feasting enclosure of the stray dogs to give an impression of the unit’s love for the homeless destitutes. The young Captain was reprimanded after the visit for the faux pas. He blamed it on the cook for using aromatic spices and the wind direction which attracted the outsider dogs from the neighbouring units to join in the feast.

Given the circumstances, the overall management of the recent visit of a VVIP to our city, Chandigarh, was on expected lines. The zero-error syndrome while dealing with security issues is understandable, notwithstanding the inconvenience to the general public for a few hours.

The unprecedented closing of the Golf Club for practically the whole day, which happens to fall en route of the VVIP movement, however, intrigued the golfing fraternity. Some felt the UT Administration doubted the golfing skills of the members who might hit wayward shots and inflict damage to the passing cavalcade...a la projectile, others blamed it on the recent fracas at the club and the consequent apprehension amongst the city authorities of a repeat during the 'quarter minute' of the VIP cavalcade crossing the Golf Club. The exact reason, however, may elude us forever.
dna exclusive: Defence ministry exposes Rs25K crore army housing scam
The defence ministry has cancelled 14 contracts awarded to private builders after smelling a scam in the Indian Army’s ambitious Rs25,000 crore housing project for married officers and other ranks. The ministry cited “delay” and “non-performance” as reasons for the cancellation of contracts, and accused the project directorate of “abdicating” its responsibilities and “allowing private players to benefit”. 

In a stinging internal communication to defence secretary RK Mathur recently, minister of state for defence Jitender Singh said: “It is unfortunate that non-performance of private parties is being tolerated and they are being allowed to benefit while armed forces personnel are suffering due to lack of accommodation.”

Responding to DG Married Accommodation Project’s explanation, Singh said: “The reasons cited for delay in cancellation of contracts of defaulting companies are neither convincing nor acceptable.” Singh noted that he found the criterion cited for handling delayed projects as “very lax and unacceptable”.

The project has been in the pipeline for over 11 years now. After the Kargil war, then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had in his Independence Day speech in 2001 announced “100 per cent housing” for armed forces personnel. A joint study was subsequently carried out by the three services and the project kick-started in May 2002 with the establishment of the Directorate of Married Accommodation Project (MAP). However, to date, MAP has managed to complete only 63 per cent of work despite missing extended deadlines repeatedly.

According to estimates, armed forces have shortage of accommodation for 40-45 per cent of officers and more than 55 per cent in case of non-commissioned officers and those with other ranks, including jawans.

The target was to provide two lakh dwelling units for armed forces officers and lower ranks in a phased manner on a PPP basis through 62 defined projects across the country. A budget of Rs25,000 cr was allocated by the Vajpayee government for the purpose.

While indicting the MAP directorate, Singh’s internal note says the DG MAP “abdicated” its primary responsibility of “proper monitoring and effective handling of the important project”.

The ministry has now suggested that in cases where the date of completion has been missed, 50 per cent physical progress should be a bare minimum requirement limit. Cases which fall short of this yardstick should be considered for cancellation if the contractor does not speed up work. In cases where work is less than 25 per cent complete, the project should be cancelled and the performance guarantee  encashed. At present, there are at least 20 contracts that have not been able to meet this benchmark. “Yes, cancellation of contracts would further delay the project. But a strong message has to be sent out to these private builders, who are making huge profits from the government exchequer,” said an official.
Nepal Army Chief to visit India on Sep 29
KATHMANDU: Nepalese Army Chief General Gaurav Shamsher J B Rana will undertake a week-long visit to India from September 29 to strengthen military-to-military ties, including supply of hardware to Nepal Army.

This is Rana's third visit to India after assuming charge as Army Chief and second official visit to the country this year.

Matters including supply of military hardware to Nepalese Army, exchanges in military trainings are among his agenda, the Himalayan Times quoted army sources as saying.

His visit comes ahead of the November 19 Constituent Assembly elections in Nepal.

Indian Army Chief Gen. Bikram Singh, while visiting Nepal in June, had invited Rana besides assuring Nepal that it would provide necessary military equipment to the Nepalese army for securing the polls.

Rana will be heading for New Delhi on September 29 with six of his aides, reports said.

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