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Thursday, 10 October 2013

From Today's Papers - 10 Oct 2013
Payoff row: J-K House to summon VK Singh
Majid Jahangir & M Aamir Khan/TNS
Srinagar, October 9
Jammu and Kashmir Assembly Speaker Mubarak Gul on Wednesday said he would summon former Army Chief General VK Singh (retd) to explain allegations that the Army’s secret fund was being used to pay mainstream political leaders of the state since 1947.

Amid uproar, the Speaker said VK Singh would be summoned to appear before the House and, if need arises, a special session would be convened to discuss the matter. The Speaker, however, did not fix a time-frame to summoning Singh, who had alleged money was being paid to ministers in the state for getting certain jobs done.

“I will not give any time-frame for summoning him, but it can happen very soon,” he said as legislators of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), BJP and Panthers Party shouted slogans seeking summoning of the Army ex-chief in the House, which was adjourned twice over the issue.

Earlier in the day, the Speaker said he had decided to write to VK Singh to explain his position. The ruling National Conference had moved a privilege motion in the Assembly against the former Army Chief on September 30. “I will give the former Army Chief an opportunity to explain his position,” Gul said. As the Speaker announced this, PDP legislators demanded that VK Singh should be summoned to the House. State Law Minister Mir Saiffullah, too, intervened and requested the Speaker to summon the former Army Chief.

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti demanded voting on whether to summon the former Army Chief or write to him to explain his position. PDP members rushed to the well of the House and demanded voting on the issue.

The BJP and National Panthers Party (NPP) members urged the Speaker not to change his earlier decision in which he had said he would write to the former Army Chief seeking an explanation. The House was adjourned twice. As the House re-assembled, the Speaker said he had decided to summon VK Singh.

The PDP, BJP and NPP members, however, continued to raise slogans in the well of the House, forcing the Speaker to adjourn the House sine die.

Meanwhile, the state Legislative Council also unanimously passed a resolution asking the Centre to conduct a time-bound and transparent inquiry into VK Singh's allegations. "This House unanimously resolves that the allegations levelled by retired Army chief VK Singh should be inquired in a time-bound and transparent manner," read the resolution, which was passed at the end of the two-day discussion over the issue.The state Assembly had on October 7 adopted a unanimous resolution asking the Centre to conduct a time-bound probe into VK Singh’s allegations.

No time-frame set

    The Speaker said General VK Singh (retd) would be summoned to appear before the House and, if need arises, a special session would be convened to discuss the matter
    He, however, did not fix any time-frame for summoning the Army ex-Chief, who had alleged money was being paid to ministers in the state for getting certain jobs done
    The MLAs of the PDP, BJP and NPP raised slogans in the well of the House leading to adjournment of the Assembly sine die by the Speaker
DGCA frames rules for copters on relief ops
Vijay Mohan/TNS

Chandigarh, October 9
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has framed guidelines for the utilisation of helicopters in disaster management and suggested specific roles for various agencies involved in relief operations. The move comes in the wake of heavy deployment of military and civilian helicopters for relief operations in Uttarakhand which witnessed flash floods and landslips earlier this year.

In June, about 50,000 stranded persons were evacuated from the upper regions of the state in what was stated to be the largest ever helicopter airlift operation in India. Besides Air Force and Army choppers, a large number of civilian helicopters along with their air crew had been requisitioned for the job.

During the relief operations, three civilian and an IAF helicopter were lost and 20 persons were killed in what the DGCA termed as avoidable accidents. "Proper selection of helipad, adhering to security instructions, not flying in bad weather, not stretching the capabilities of the chopper and proper hill training of the pilots would have ensured an accident-free operation," said a circular issued to aviation operators by the DGCA about a month ago.

While making its recommendations about the role and responsibility expected from each agency involved in such operations, the DGCA states that since a majority of pilots flying civil helicopters in India have military background, they would well be advised to draw a judicial and rational balance between "flight safety" and "mission accomplishment." Flight safety would remain of paramount importance and the pilots should stretch themselves and their machine only up to a certain limit and not beyond. "It is always better to live another day to save more lives than take an irrational step in the heat of the moment," reads the circular.

Stating that it was expected that aviation operators would rise to occasion during a calamity and support government authorities whole-heartedly, the DGCA has suggested that on specific instructions from the Ministry of Civil Aviation, relief operations would be given priority over all other commercial activities. On requisition, they would move the helicopters and ground crew to the disaster site at the earliest by shortest route and during relief operations, they would undertake all flights.

It would be the operators' responsibility to ensure that the crew composition is as per severity of weather, terrain, task, landing areas, security and safety concerns. proper maintenance in field conditions, rest and relief to air and ground crew, coordination with other operators and authorities concerned and full compliance of rules and technical parameters.

Listing out suggestions for state governments, the DGCA has called for regular maintenance of airports and helipads. In Uttarakhand, the Gauchar airstrip had to be prepared before IAF aircraft could land on it.

Avoid risks, pilots told

* A sub-committee of the Central Advisory Board of Education, the highest decision- making body on education in India, has decided to seek a review of the no-detention policy

* The committee findings will be discussed at the 62nd meeting of CABE to be held on Thursday. The final report will come later this month
Study group to examine officer-jawan relationship
Vijay Mohan/TNS
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 9
The Army has constituted a study group to examine the intricacies of the relationship between officers and jawans following an incident in an artillery unit at Nyoma in Ladakh last year involving a clash between officers and jawans.

Sources said a Major General from the Artillery posted at the Army War College, Mhow, is heading the group that has been tasked with taking a holistic view of the issues concerning command functions, inter-personal relations and human resource management concerns, and identify weak links and suggest measures to boost camaraderie and intra-unit discipline.

The officer-jawan relation in the Army has come under focus several times in the recent past, with instances of collective indiscipline, clashes and physical confrontation of varying degrees being reported from some units. Several factors such as shortage of officers, prolonged deployment in hard areas, socio-economic changes and societal influence have been attributed to this.

As many as 168 personnel from the 226 Field Regiment, including the unit’s commanding officer (CO), second-in-command, four other officers and 17 junior commissioned officers were held blameworthy by a court of inquiry (COI) constituted to investigate the circumstances under which jawans clashed with officers when the unit was on a field firing exercise during May 2012.

While recording of the summary of evidence (SOE) in the case of four officers involved in the fracas is complete, the trials by way of district court martial (DCM) and summary court martial (SCM) of some of the jawans involved have commenced.

The unit’s CO, Colonel P Kadam, two officers and some jawans had been injured in the melee that had resulted after one of the unit jawans had allegedly misbehaved with one of the officers’ wife.

Based upon the findings of the COI, disciplinary action, which entails a possible trial by general court martial (GCM) depending upon the outcome of subsequent proceedings, was recommended against all six officers as well as some JCOs and other ranks.

Sources said at least two jawans face charges under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code for using criminal force on a woman with the intent to outrage her modesty.

While the trial by the GCM of officers and other ranks could still take some time to commence, more DCMs and SCMs are expected to convene shortly. The trials are taking place in various locations in Jand K.

The nyoma clash

* In May 2012, Army jawans had clashed with officers when the artillery unit was on a field firing exercise at Nyoma in Ladakh

* A court of inquiry had held 168 personnel from the 226 Field Regiment, including officers and junior commissioned officers, accountable

* District court martial and summary court martial trials of some of the jawans commence
HAL flaunts Dhruv to counter IAF snub
A RARE FEAT Achieves the milestone of 1,00,000 flying hours
Shubhadeep Choudhury/TNS

Bangalore, October 9
Even as the IAF barred PSUs like Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) from bidding for supplying 56 transport aircrafts worth about Rs 12,000 crore, the HAL today highlighted the performance of its flagship helicopter Dhruv which achieved the milestone of flying one lakh hours today.

“The first indigenous chopper of India ALH-Dhruv (Advanced Light Helicopter-Dhruv) designed, developed, produced and maintained by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) to meet the requirement of military and civil operators, achieved the milestone of flying one lakh hours today. The landmark has been achieved in the early hours today with the flying of helicopter IA 3104 of 301 Army Aviation Sqn (Spl ops)”, HAL said in a statement here today.

“It is a proud moment for us. Dhruv has proved its mettle over the years”, HAL chairman RK Tyagi was quoted to have said. Tyagi thanked Indian armed forces, BSF and other customers for their support to Dhruv. The helicopter has been also exported to Ecuador, Mauritius, Nepal and Maldives.

“One lakh hours flown by the machine is an awesome feat to achieve. It is a dream machine for any pilot”, Lt Col Kapil Agarwal who flew the chopper today on this historic occasion, was quoted to have said.

The ALH is being operated by the Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Indian Navy, Coast Guard, BSF and state governments since 2002. At present, more than 132 Dhruv helicopters are being in use with the defence forces of the country. Twelve civil variant Dhruv helicopters are also in active operation by their respective users.

“The Ecuador Air Force (FAE) operates six Dhruv helicopters with their President choosing to fly in them”, the HAL statement pointed out.

Lately, tension has been building up between the HAL and its biggest customer, the IAF, over development of products by HAL. IAF’s bid to scuttle the HAL’s ambitious project of developing a basic trainer aircraft for the IAF met with failure after the Defence Minister AK Antony intervened and asked the HAL to go ahead with the project.

The IAF’s recent move to bar PSUs (read HAL) from bidding for transport aircrafts to replace the aging fleet of Avros has been challenged by Union Heavy Industries Minister Praful Patel.
India's first indigenous chopper ALH-Dhruv clocks one lakh flying hours
BANGALORE: The country's first indigenous chopper, Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH -Dhruv), designed, developed, produced and maintained by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd to meet the requirement of military and civil operators, today achieved a new milestone of clocking one lakh cumulative flying hours.

The landmark has been achieved in the early hours today with the flying of helicopter IA 3104 of 301 Army Aviation Squadron (Spl Ops).

"It is a proud moment for us that Dhruv has proved its mettle over the years. India is the sixth nation in the world to have the capability to develop helicopters of this class. Dhruv has been exported to Ecuador, Mauritius, Nepal and Maldives," said HAL Chairman R K Tyagi.

"One lakh hours flown by the machine is an awesome feat to achieve. It is a dream machine for any pilot", said Lt Col Kapil Agarwal who completed the landmark flying hours. ALH is being operated by Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Indian Navy, Coast Guard, BSF and state governments since 2002, said an HAL statement.

Currently, more than 132 Dhruv helicopters are serving the Indian Defence Forces. HAL has also built 12 civil variant Dhruv helicopters and they are being used by its customers. The Ecuador Air Force operates six Dhruv helicopters with their President choosing to fly in them.

According to Bangalore-headquartered HAL, Dhruv is extremely useful to the Indian defence forces in meeting the arduous tasks in difficult terrains of Himalayas like Siachen Glacier and Kashmir.

It played a key role in rescue operations during tsunami (2004), flash floods at Leh (2010), earth quake at Sikkim (2011) and the biggest ever helicopter based rescue operation undertaken by Indian defence forces in flood and rain-hit areas of Uttarakhand recently, the defence PSU said.

ALH Dhruv is an all weather helicopter which can carry 10-16 people at heights of 10,000 feet. It is a multi-role, multi-mission new generation helicopter in the 5.5 tonne weight class and meets Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) specifications, the company said.

HAL said Dhruv has demonstrated its capability in long distance flights, vertical climb and in manoeuvring.

The advanced technology features incorporated in the design of Dhruv include hinge-less main rotor and bearing-less tail rotor, integrated dynamic system encompassing main gear box and upper controls in a single housing, higher powered Shakti engines, integrated architecture display system (glass cockpit), duplex automatic flight control system and redundancy with twin-engine, dual hydraulics and controls.

It also has advanced avionics (communication, navigation & surveillance) and mission systems.

"All this makes Dhruv, a versatile multi-mission, multi-role helicopter capable of operating in all-weather and extreme climatic conditions with high degree of reliability and survivability", the statement said.
Indian Air Force ends Indian Oil Corp monopoly, launches bidding for aviation turbine fuel
NEW DELHI: High fuel costs continue to bite into the defence budget. After austerity measures in fuel use, the Indian Air Force has resorted to hard bargaining and launched competitive bidding for jet fuel, ending the monopoly of Indian Oil Corp.

Rising fuel cost has prompted Indian Air Force to do some hard bargaining with Indian Oil Corp and launch competitive bidding for jet fuel supply, ending the state-firm's dominance on supply of Rs 4,000 crore worth of fuel for aircraft and lubricants.

Two executives with state owned refineries said the Indian Air Force has floated a tender for aviation turbine fuel ( ATF) at some locations. They did not give more details because of the sensitivity of defence supplies. Industry sources said the Air Force has not invited bids from private refiners Reliance IndustriesBSE 2.03 % and Essar for security reasons.
Indian general plays with fire
Indians justifiably take pride in the robust durability of their country’s democracy, barring the Emergency (1975-77), and the relatively apolitical nature of its armed forces. Unlike in many third world countries, the military in India hasn’t overtly meddled in politics, defied the civilian leadership, or usurped power. But recently-retired army chief VK Singh’s shenanigans and other developments put a question mark over this assumption.

Gen Singh, a newspaper has revealed, set up a secret intelligence unit called the Technical Services Division (TSD) to conduct a series of “unauthorised” operations. These included funding politicians to destabilise the Omar Abdullah government in Jammu and Kashmir, paying an NGO to help change the line of succession in the army, espionage against Pakistan, and buying sophisticated telephone-call interception equipment to eavesdrop on fellow-officers.

These allegations – based on defence ministry documents – are, to put it mildly, grave. They warrant serious disciplinary action. Singh hasn’t denied them. On the contrary, he says the army has always paid off politicians from all parties, and “all the ministers” in Jammu & Kashmir to “stabilise” the situation there and win the people’s “hearts and minds”.

These claims have been stoutly denied by eight former army chiefs, who stress that the army’s sadbhavna (harmony) programme, run to create popular goodwill through education, culture and tourism, has nothing in common with Singh’s covert operations.

Whatever the truth, the disclosures have damaged the legitimacy of the Indian state’s democracy project in Kashmir and the armed forces’ integrity, and strengthened those who believe New Delhi has tried to integrate the Kashmiri people into the Union through manipulation and fraud, when not using brutal force.

Only a full high-level inquiry into Singh’s conduct will reveal the extent of the malaise. The inquiry must cover his bruising battle with the defence ministry over his date of birth, and the allegation that two army units moved this past January 16-17 towards Delhi in breach of settled protocol, setting off alarm-bells.

VK Singh isn’t the first general to have crossed swords with the civilian leadership or acted in violation of the sound principle that in a democracy, the latter must always prevail over the military brass. Military leaders can have no say in policy matters, nor must they comment on civilian leaders, domestic laws, foreign relations or government decisions.

This principle derives from the constitutional division of powers and the established maxim that the armed forces’ heads should “give professional advice to the government on strategy and military operations and on the military implications of defence policy” – and stop there. It’s the prerogative of the elected leadership to formulate defence policy: this “cannot be decided in purely military terms without reference to the government's financial and economic policies…” Any departure from this principle can only undermine the paramount authority of the elected leadership to lay down policy and strategy.

This principle was occasionally violated in the 1950s and 1960s. For instance, in 1966, Eastern Command chief SHFJ Manekshaw met a US diplomat and commented freely on Kashmir and India-Pakistan relations, revealed the strength of the troops under his command, and criticised his defence minister and army chief. He panned the government’s Vietnam policy. He also talked of his chances of promotion as the army chief.

In recent years too, generals have pronounced on policy matters. Take the Siachen dispute with Pakistan – the world’s highest-altitude but wantonly expensive military conflict. Indian diplomats were on the verge of signing an agreement settling this – in 1992, in 2005, and in 2011. Indian generals overruled them. In 2005, army chief JJ Singh publicly opposed the decision to withdraw Indian troops without demarcating and authenticating their positions A deal was similarly scuttled again in 2011.

Meanwhile, the Siachen conflict rages on, claiming scores of lives through frostbite, without strategic advantage to India or Pakistan.

An even worse instance is the Indian army’s repeated veto against the home ministry’s recent proposal, backed by the Abdullah government, to partially lift the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from peaceful areas in J&K. AFSPA gives the army unrestrained powers. It allows an officer to shoot anyone suspected of the intent to commit a violent act, including a breach of prohibitory orders such as Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Worse, AFSPA gives impunity. The concerned officer can only be sued with the defence ministry’s prior permission – which is never given. Nothing can be a more brazen violation of natural justice. No wonder the law is extensively abused to kill innocent people in J&K and the northeast.

Yet, Northern Command army chief B S Jaswal in 2010 publicly pleaded that AFSPA be treated as a holy or religious book: “Don't touch this pious document…” Recently, a general even threatened the army would stop counter-insurgency operations if AFSPA is lifted – a case of blackmail.

The Indian government should have sacked these generals, just as Douglas MacArthur was dismissed in 1951 for issuing a veiled threat to expand the Korean war into China, and Stanley McChrystal was removed from the Afghanistan command in 2010 for mocking Vice-President Joe Biden and other civilians.

By failing to act against the delinquent officers, the government has allowed army personnel to usurp an illegitimate role for themselves – and get away. Some consequences of such irresponsible indulgence have become evident. The most recent is Narendra Modi’s September 15 Rewari (Haryana) rally, organised to mobilise ex-servicemen, and attended by 20 senior-rank former officers, including VK Singh, wearing ceremonial medals and ribbons.

It’s perfectly legitimate for ex-servicemen to air their grievances about pensions, etc and demand that these be redressed. But it’s out of order for them to wear ceremonial badges and do so under a political party’s banner.

The Sangh Parivar has systematically tried to infiltrate the military apparatus, witness its links with shady elements like Col Srikant Prasad Purohit. The Bharatiya Janata Party has consciously cultivated and recruited retired military officers. BJP-led governments implicated even serving officers. During the Kargil war, the Vajpayee government got Gen NC Vij and Air Vice Marshal SK Malik to brief the BJP national executive. Again, serving General VS Budhwar provided logistical support to the RSS-organised Sindhu Darshan festival at Leh in 1998 and also attended it in 1999.

BJP-ex-servicemen links have recently thickened. The president of the Tamil Nadu BJP Ex-Servicemen Cell has just circulated a note exhorting former soldiers to involve themselves in politics: they should choose the BJP because of its “nationalistic outlook, candour, integrity of showing equal concern to all religions…”

VK Singh justifies his Rewari participation rally by citing his “nationalist”, not political, agenda. That won’t wash. Singh is desperate to get political support – no matter whether from the BJP or Anna Hazare with whom he has been working closely.

This bodes ill for the Indian Army. It wasn’t easy to establish its largely apolitical tradition, nor was it consistently followed. Nehru had to send Gen KM Cariappa to distant Australia so stop him from meddling in economic and political issues. Indira Gandhi had to skilfully prevent Gen Manekshaw from threatening a coup – half in jest.

The danger of the Indian armed forces’ politicisation has reappeared, in a communal avatar. It must be resolutely put down.

The writer, a former newspaper editor, is a researcher and rights activist based in Delhi.

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