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Sunday, 5 January 2014

From Today's Papers - 05 Jan 2014

BSF, Pakistan Rangers plan cross-border sporting events
Shaurya Karanbir Gurung
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 4
The Border Security Force and the Pakistan Rangers have planned a series of confidence-building measures (CBMs) along the border for better communication and understanding between the two forces.

The measures include visits of school students across the border, conducting sporting events between the BSF and the Pakistan Rangers, setting up telephonic communication between sector commanders and holding fixed meetings between local commanders.

The CBMs were discussed at the biannual director general-level meeting between the BSF and the Pakistan Rangers at Lahore in December last year. “We have given the list of the CBMs to the Ministry of Home Affairs for their approval. It is up to the two governments to take a decision on it,” said BSF DG, Subhash Joshi.

The BSF also raised the issue of sniper firing from across the border. “The Pakistani side said it will investigate and give us the details of the action taken,” said Joshi.

On December 19, last year, a BSF officer was injured in a sniper fire from across the border in the Hiranagar area of Jammu and Kashmir. There have been 254 ceasefire violations along the Indo-Pak border, including 54 along the IB and the rest at the Line of Control. There have been at least 267 infiltration attempts from across the border.

Under the CBMs, the two forces have agreed on regular telephonic communication between the sector commanders of Jammu and Sialkot. “The communication will ensure that there is no misunderstanding and relations between the two sides improve,” he said.

Officials also pressed for regular interactions between the local commanders of the two forces. “One of the CBMs is to have meetings between the Commandant, Deputy Inspector General and Inspector General-level officers. These meetings will be similar to what we conduct along the India-Bangladesh border,” said the DG.

A Commandant-level meeting between the BSF and Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) takes place every month. The DIGs meet once in three months and the IGs meet once in six months. “Local issues and problems with fixed agendas are solved at these meetings. If there is an issue which can’t be resolved, then it is raised at the DG-level meet which happens after every six months,” said a BSF officer.

At the Lahore meeting, there was a proposal to conduct sporting activities between the BSF and Rangers. The BSF and BGB have been regularly organising basketball and volleyball matches. The two forces have also agreed on removing the thick foliage near the fence along the IB.

“In January, we will chalk out a plan to remove the sarkanda (tall grass) along the fence,” said Joshi. The fence was installed by India to prevent infiltration attempts.
 Large-scale anomalies in defence land record
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 4
Large-scale discrepancies have been detected in the records of defence lands holdings maintained by different defence authorities responsible for
maintaining the official books and those actually occupying the land.

This has raised questions not only over the authenticity of defence land records but also issues such as unrecorded transfer of land, underhand transactions, unauthorised occupation and encroachments, besides jeopardising the government’s claim on its property.

Sources said the discrepancies involve about 3,647 acres in nine stations under the Western Command. These include Jalandhar, Ferozepur, Kasauli, Dagshai, New Amritsar Military Station, Sabathu, Gurdaspur, Beas, Ludhiana, Faridkot and Kapurthala.

While the records of the Defence Estate Officers (DEOs) state that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) holds 27325.48 acres in these nine stations, the records and data held by local military authorities (LMA) show MoD land holdings to be 29589.49 acres. DEOs are responsible for maintaining land records, while LMAs are responsible for physically occupying and managing the land.

Under MoD rules, land records maintained by the DEOs are the basic documents for land management. If the records maintained by the DEOs are taken as the guidelines, military authorities are holding over 2,955 acres of excess in four stations.

The border cantonment of Ferozepur and Jalandhar top the list of excess land holdings by about 1,594 and 1,075 recpectively, followed by Kapurthala and Gurdaspur, while land holdings are deficient by a total of about 692 acres in the remaining five stations.

Improper handing overtaking over of land records among occupying military units moving in and out on routine rotation. Inept handling of records and failure to conduct regular inspections and reconciliation of land records by both the DEOs as well as LMAs are among reasons cited for the discrepancies.

While all defence land records are being computerised, sources said that a comprehensive survey of all defence land holdings had been sanctioned recently and work on the project has already been started. The survey will bring out the field situation of defence lands and ensure authenticity.
3,647 acres in nine stations

    Sources said the discrepancies involve about 3,647 acres in nine stations under the Western Command
    These include Jalandhar, Ferozepur, Kasauli, Dagshai, New Amritsar Military Station, Sabathu, Gurdaspur, Beas, Ludhiana, Faridkot and Kapurthala
    This has raised questions not only over the authenticity of defence land records but also issues such as unrecorded transfer of land, underhand transactions, unauthorised occupation and encroachments, besides jeopardising the government's claim on its property
CBI books Brig in Agusta scam
New Delhi, January 4
In an off-shoot of VVIP helicopter deal scam, the CBI today registered a case against a Brigadier working with the Army Aviation for allegedly fudging trial flight records of the copters.

The CBI registered the case against Brig V S Saini of Army Aviation Corps and unknown officers of the Army and Defence Ministry after the agency received a fresh set of documents from Italian police, official sources said here.

The case has been registered under various sections of Prevention of Corruption Act, including abuse of official position, and Indian Penal Code including charges of forgery.

The CBI said Brig Saini was part of the team carrying out trials of the competing helicopters in the Light Utility Helicopter.

The Army Aviation was looking at purchase of 197 of light helicopters to replace its ageing Cheetah and Chetak fleet which undertakes reconnaissance and casualty evacuation operations in forward locations and high-altitude areas like Siachen, Ladakh, North Kashmir and the North-East.

The acquisition process of 197 helicopters had been cancelled once in December 2007 after having been finalised. The Italian prosecutors found mention of Brig Saini in the documents seized by Italian prosecutors while probing the VVIP chopper scam.

The officer is alleged to have fudged the records of the trial flight of the helicopter to favour the company for which he and other unknown officers have received hefty commission, the CBI said in its case.

Italian investigators claimed to have found a document which claimed that the Brigadier had allegedly demanded a bribe of five million dollars in 2010 to swing the contract in favour of AgustaWestland. The company was later eliminated from the race. — PTI
 Vikramaditya on its way home
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 4
India’s newest and most potent naval warship, the sea-borne aircraft carrier, the INS Vikramaditya, is on the last-leg of its long ‘home-run’ from Russia. The 44,500 tonne and 284 metres long INS Vikramaditya entered the Arabian Sea via the Suez Canal on January 2 while on its journey from Russia.

It is now being escorted by a flotilla of Indian warships which are heading towards the west coast of India. The newest warship is expected to reach its home base at Karwar, just south of Goa before January 10. “It could reach on January 8 or January 9, depending upon sailing conditions. It is running full steam,” Naval sources said.

The ship that cost India $2.35 billion (approx Rs 14,000 crore at today’s dollar rupee exchange rates) was delivered by Russia on November 16 at the northern city of Severodvinsk. It had set sail on November 27 after taking supplies. En route three Indian warships sailed alongside to keep off prying eyes.

Since then it has travelled non-stop for over 8,000 nautical miles (nearly 14,800 km) without entering any port en route for refuelling or supplies showing remarkable endurance at sea. Naval ships called the ‘Fleet tankers’ carrying supplies are sailing alongside and can replenish the warship mid-sea, if needed.

Notably, the Indian Naval flotilla that joined the Vikramaditya at the mouth of the Gulf of Aden for its ‘home-run’ included the other aircraft carrier the INS Viraat. It is for the first time since 1994 that two Indian Naval aircraft carriers have operated together, a naval official explained.

Some 10 warships from Navy’s western fleet are now in the flotilla that is headed towards India, making it the first joint operations with Vikramaditya leading the group. Once the Vikramaditya berths at Karwar, the process to fully integrate it with the fleet will commence. This will take some 5-6 months before it heads out sea for its first deployment carrying fighter-jets on deck.

The first squadron of its on deck fighters the twin-engined MiG29-K are already inducted and based at INS Hansa, Goa. Since the flying time for the fighters between Goa and Karwar is no more than 3-4 minutes, these will be based at Goa.

A new weapons suite will also be integrated over the next few weeks and India pilots will start landing on its deck. Significant among other features is the capability to allow fighters pilots to ‘lock on’ to the radar complex onboard the Vikramaditya and reach the ship in auto-pilot mode-all the while maintaining what naval aviators call a ‘zip-lip’ procedure or total radio silence. It will be the first-ever such facility onboard an Indian naval warship, propelling it into the very exclusive club of nations like the US, France and Russia to have similar capacities.

The other task is for the remaining warships of the fleet to adapt to the wider arc of sensors, night flying capabilities and radars on board the Vikramaditya.

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