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Monday, 9 December 2013

From Today's Papers - 09 Dec 2013

Army Chief Discusses Indo-US Defence Ties With Pentagon
Indian Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh and top US military leadership have discussed ways to enhance bilateral defence ties through joint training exercises and military exchanges to advance India's military interests.

Singh visited important US defence establishments and met a number of high-ranking defence and civilian officials here during his four-day trip that ended on December 5.

Singh and US Army Chief of Staff Gen Ray Odierno discussed the ongoing army-to-army cooperation and opportunities to further strengthen bilateral cooperation through joint training exercises and military exchanges.

General Singh also utilised the opportunity to discuss the US-India defence relationship with other senior US military leadership and advance India's military interests, according to an official statement.

Before his trip, the Indian Army had said that the visit assumes special significance in the light of enhanced defence cooperation between the two countries over the last few years and rapidly increasing defence engagements under the new framework for India-US defence relations.

Noting that present cooperation between the two sides was on a rise, the Army had said it "encompasses equipment procurement, exchange of delegations, training and conduct of joint exercises. It is notable the US undertakes maximum number of joint exercises with India among all nations."

Singh was inducted into US Army War College International (UAWSC) Fellows Hall of Fame, an outstanding honour in the international military community. Singh, an alumnus of the USAWC, delivered a keynote speech to its class of 2013-2014.
'No vernacular market for military literature'
LUCKNOW: Former Army chief, General Shankar Roy Chowdhary said we need more writers in vernacular language for military writing even though English has become de facto Indian language.

He was in the city for a session on Military Writing in India with Lt Gen P C Katoch, Maj Gen Ravi Arora and Maj Gen G D Bakshi at the Lucknow Literature Carnival.

The officer, who was Army chief from 1994-1997, said "India has history of armed struggle, the fight for Independence being the biggest case in point but politicians have not acknowledged this fact, hence not many publishers show much interest in military writing."

He added that books like 'I Hanuman' and 'Singh's Choice' which gave accurate account of the act of valour of Indian soldiers were written and published by foreign entities.

According to Maj Gen Ravi Arora, "Military Headquarter is now giving clearance to books by service men but Ministry of Defence still discourages this practice." He said another problem with military writing is that publishers want controversial writing to make it sell.

Maj Gen G D Bakshi conveyed "a need to eulogise modern military heroes to teach ethics and values to young growing children". He mooted the idea of Indian war comics, which was endorsed by Anupam Sinha, creator of comics like 'Commando Dhruv', in a workshop on writing cartoons.

He said, graphics novel or comics are another form of communication between text and films which are easy to grasp but have strong impact.

Later, in the afternoon session, a panel discussion, 'Aanchal Se Parcham Tak': Women in writing', was held in which panelists R R Verma, Noor Zaheer and Salim Arif traced contribution of eminent women writers like Qurratulain Hyder and many others.
No Defence personnel photo in poll ads: EC advisory
The Election Commission of India has asked political parties to desist from displaying photographs of Defence personnel in election propaganda, in advertisements, posters or otherwise.

This comes after the Madhya Pradesh Congress complained to President of India, Ministry of Defence and Election Commission that the BJP used photographs of Army Chief Bikram Singh in a poll-related advertisement, sources said. The advisory came on December 4 when the last of the recent Assembly polls in five states was being held in Delhi. With results in four states, including Madhya Pradesh, out on Sunday, the advisory would be for elections to be held next, including the Lok Sabha polls in a few months.

The Commission sent the advisory to all recognised parties after the Ministry of Defence brought it to its notice that photographs of Defence personnel were used by political parties in poll advertisements.

The Ministry requested the Commission to issue suitable instructions. The advisory asked political parties to issue instructions to candidates, leaders and cadres to ensure compliance.

In the letter to political parties, EC principal secretary K Ajay Kumar stated that Armed Forces are guardians of the nation's frontiers, security and polity and are collectively apolitical and neutral stakeholders in a democracy.

"It is, therefore, necessary that political parties and leaders exercise caution while making references to Armed forces in political campaigns," stated Kumar's letter, which added that the Commission was of the view that photographs of functions of Chief of Army Staff or other defence personnel and functions of Defence forces should not be associated with or used in any manner in advertisements and campaigns.
PAC Picks Holes in Army Golf Courses

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament, in its reports on defence land, has exposed serious irregularities in the functioning of the authorities. The reports of the PAC, which has examined the findings of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, are likely to be tabled in Parliament next week.

 In its report on Defence Estate Management, the PAC—empowered to audit the expenditure of the government—is said to have indicted the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for misuse of defence land for golf courses, offering membership to civilians charging huge sums which are not even credited to the government account. Sources said 16 golf courses under the Army’s control are offering membership to civilians and in some cases even to foreign diplomats. Of 97 golf courses under the Army, it is learnt that records of 18 were not even produced for audit and before the parliamentary panel for scrutiny.

“Most of such golf courses are using Army’s land and infrastructure but registered as private societies to escape the scrutiny of audit. They are not paying any lease rent or charges for using government assets. This irked PAC which has asked the MoD to submit a status report about all golf courses and membership amount collected by the regiment concerned,” a source said.

 The PAC is understood to have told MoD that golf is not an authorised activity as per the rules under accommodation for defence services. Citing the cantonment land administration rules, 1937, the PAC has observed that recreation grounds cannot be used for golf courses and recommended revisiting of the entire policy of golf courses for strict action.

The panel, sources said, was shocked to find that over 14,000 acres of defence land was encroached upon by civilians. The PAC has slammed defence estate officers for not monitoring and investigating the encroachments.

 “Involvement of multiple authorities seems to be the main problem for lack of coordination. The PAC is learnt to have recommended setting up of a single unified authority for management and protection of defence land and to recover encroached lands,” sources said.

It is learnt that the parliamentary panel has also raised concerns over negligible amount received in return for vast tract of defence land leased by defence estate management. A total of 2,500 acres of defence land worth over Rs 11,000 crore was leased for only Rs 2.13 crore which has surprised the panel. The PAC has also noticed that there were no efforts made to renew over 3,700 cases of lease and status of lease was not even known in over 1,000 cases. Sources said the MoD had informed the panel that a comprehensive policy is being formulated to look into the matter.

“The parliamentary panel has asked the government to bring the new policy in force in the next six months,” sources said.

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