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Sunday, 2 February 2014

From Today's Papers - 02 Feb 2014

 Coast Guard wary of small boats
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 1
The Indian Coast Guard is wary of small boats that operate without any identification in the seas and fear these boats could be used by terrorists for carrying out strikes like the November 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Coast Guard Director-General Vice Admiral Anurag G Thapliyal, while replying to a question at a press conference, if such boats posed a threat, yesterday said: "These boats, which have engines or can be operated with oars and are capable of mixing with fishing boats, are a threat".

The Admiral said with the help of fishermen, who normally go out in groups, human intelligence was being improved to find the odd boat out. A pilot project for tracking of vessels less than 20 metres in length has also begun. The registration of fishermen had been completed and the data had been shared with different units of Coast Guards. The radio identification fingerprinting of the boats would take place and the prototype model is in place. Card readers were also being provided under a Ministry of Home Affairs project to monitor movement of the crafts, he added.

This apart, the Coast Guard has already completed the first phase of the Coastal Security Scheme at a cost of nearly Rs. 600 crore. Under this 73 Marine Police Stations have been set up in the coastal areas and provided with personnel and boats.
Middleman had asked to target key aides of top Indian leaders to bag chopper deal: document in Italian court claims
Some key documents submitted in an Italian court have revealed that an alleged middleman asked a contact in India to target key aides of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi to bag the VVIP chopper deal.

The documents say that the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland deal, Christian Michel, had even sent a fax to one of his contacts in this regard. Michel asked his contact named Peter Fullet to target Mrs Gandhi and her key advisers like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Pranab Mukherjee, Veerappa Moily, Oscar Fernandes, M K Narayanan and Ahmed Patel for bagging the deal, the documents reveal.

The March 2008 note also said that Mrs Gandhi would not be flying anymore in the Mi-8 choppers and "she was the driving force behind the VIP", without elaborating, according to the documents.

The note has been shared by the Italian authorities with their Indian counterparts.

The Indian government had last month terminated the Rs. 3600 crore deal for 12 helicopters alleging that AgustaWestland, the British subsidiary of an Italian company contracted to supply the helicopters for use by the President, Prime Minister and other VIPs had breached an integrity pact by allegedly paying bribes to Indian officials.

The New Delhi government is also seeking repayments worth more than Rs. 5200 crore over the scrapped helicopter deal.
Kargil hero waiting for land since 1993
AHMEDABAD: It has been a rather long wait for promised land for this hero of Kargil -- retired Subedar Major of the Indian Army, Lalji Rohit. He withstood a hail of bullets as he fired back at infiltrators in the Poonch sector of Jammu & Kashmir. Way back in 1993 when he was posted in Poonch, Rohit had applied for land to the Gujarat government.

With Indian Army he might have emerged victorious in Kargil but Rohit has failed to get his due in his home in Gujarat.

Rohit was born to a poor family in a small village of Moholel in the Kheda district and joined the Indian Army in 1980 at the age of 19. He completed 28 years of service in 2008. "I had first applied to the Gujarat government for land in 1993," Rohit said. "But I was later told by the government that my application had been misplaced. In 1997, I appealed to the mamlatdar of Nadiad but I was told that the land was marked as Gauchar." However in 1999, the same piece of land was given to another soldier. "When I reapplied in 2007, the sub-divisional magistrate of Kheda told me to wait for a notification of land allocation," Rohit said. "In 2008, when I submitted one more application, the SDM transferred the application to the mamlatdar, Nadiad."

After his retirement and 20 years of long wait he visited the Kheda collector in January 2013. The collector promised to give him the land. "The state government has issued a notification on March 27, 2001, which says that a maximum of 16 acre land can be allocated to retired Army personnel," said Rohit.

Rohit however still harbours hope. He said, "I have sent a complaint to National Commission for Scheduled Castes and a legal notice to the state government and district collector of Kheda in this regard." In his application, Rohit has alleged that the land reserved near his village for only retired Army personnel is not being allocated to him. Additional district magistrate of Kheda, S K Langa told TOI, "Regarding the case of Lalji Rohit, I don't have any information."
National helpline for soldiers, Army widows
Priyangi Agarwal,TNN | Feb 2, 2014, 12.23 AM IST
BAREILLY: Army personnel and their families will now have a helping hand in the form of a national helpline to address their grievances. The launch of the 'Maujiram helpline' by the Jat Regiment Centre will save Army personnel and their dependents the trouble of running from pillar to post for problems like revision of pension, transfer, and health and employment issues. The helpline, which was launched in June 2013 at Bareilly, has now been expanded to all Jat units across the country from this month onwards.

Named after one of the most prominent soldiers of the Jat Regiment Centre, the helpline will cater to soldiers, retired servicemen and widows. It especially seeks to benefit army officials and widows of servicemen. The helpline will note grievances from callers and contact the concerned authorities to seek redress.

"The helpline is made to serve those in need," said Lt Col NG Patra, chief record officer, Jat Regiment Centre. "For instance, there are times when bankers do not revise pension even after government orders. Or sometimes a retired soldier is unable to go to a nearby clinic for check up on his own. We would then arrange for an ambulance to and fro," says Patra.

Complaints can be registered by dialing 91-581-2511796 from 8 am to 2 pm and from 4 pm to 7.30 pm. Army personnel can also email at

The Jat Regiment Centre is trying to make the helpline 24x7. "Due to manpower shortage, we cannot make this helpline available round the clock. But we are working on it and will soon add more features in this service," says Patra.
China 'expels' foreign military planes from airspace
China today said it "expelled" foreign military planes from its airspace, the first such incident after Beijing unilaterally declared an air defence zone over islands disputed with Japan in the East China Sea.

"An unidentified military plane was spotted on Friday morning, disrupting the peace and celebratory atmosphere. Airmen from East Sea Fleet were deployed immediately to expel the planes," state-run CCTV quoted The People's Liberation Army Daily as saying.

The report did not identify the country to which the military planes belonged or the exact location where the incident occurred.

China is shutdown for a week from January 31 to celebrate the Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival.

"The whole mission lasted less than three hours...It is essential for the soldiers to stay alert, even on the most important holiday in China. And it is the army's responsibility to protect the people for a peaceful and happy new year," the report said.

In November, China declared the Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea over the disputed islands and warned it could take action against aircraft passing through the region that did not identify themselves.

The US, Japan and South Korea did not recognise the ADIZ and flew their military planes through the zone monitored by China's Air Force.

The announcement of the ADIZ came amid an escalation of the diplomatic standoff between Japan and China over the uninhabited islands, called Senkakus by Tokyo and Daisy's by Beijing.
Even after 44 years, relief eludes disabled soldier
 Forty-four years after he suffered 230 per cent disability and blindness in a TNT explosion while serving in the 1 Armoured Engineering Regiment, R. Mani was recently offered a sum of Rs 1 lakh by the Indian Army under a self employment scheme meant for rehabilitation.

The offer has only added to the sense of hurt to Mr. Mani, who is now 70 years old and having lost both his arms, sight of the eyes and some hearing power is in no position to take up an employment scheme.

For Mr. Mani, though this is not the first time in the last 44 years that he has had to fight the system for his rightful dues. According to him, the Army treated him like a “medically invalid man” rather than a “war casualty”.

Recalling how on that fateful day, July 1, 1970, his unit was preparing for a visit by General Sam Manekshaw when a TNT explosive on which he was “putting the leads” went off, Mr. Mani said he suffered extensive injuries in the explosion. “I was an Engine Art (Artisan) and was employed as an explosive storekeeper since 1965 up to the day of the incident.”

“In the explosion, I suffered 230 per cent injury – 100 per cent to both the eyes, 100 per cent to the arms and 30 per cent to the ears. I was treated in various Army hospitals in Jhansi, Lucknow, Pune, Delhi and Bangalore. But the Army refused to acknowledge me as a ‘war casualty’ and as recently as 2008, before a Pension Adalat in Coimbatore it submitted that it was a ‘civil accident’.”

“My honour was lost that day. But I have almost got used to encountering opposition from my very own. Even in the Army records, the officers never made a proper mention of how the accident took place. Even the discharge and disability documents were manipulated and in the Disability Certificate, issued in 1991, the words ‘cause of disability’ was deliberately altered to read ‘cause of discharge” despite the officers knowing full well that it would decide the merit of the case.”

Apart from this, Mr. Mani said “all these years I have been denied grant of war injury pension, 230 per cent disability pension, attendant allowance and a medal for my service. I was also denied the improved pension after 2006.”

Mr. Mani, who was commissioned in the Army in 1963, now stays with his daughter in Salem in Tamil Nadu. Despite the odds being stacked against him, he has not given up hope. “A couple of months ago I petitioned President Pranab Mukherjee to seek my rightful dues. I am confident that he would find merit in my demand.”

But why did some Army officers manipulate the records and deny him his dues? Mr. Mani believes this was done by some senior officers to cover up their own shortcomings in the mishap. In his letter to the President, he said, he has made a detailed representation in this regard.
Indira Gandhi considered secret commando raid before Operation Bluestar

Months before Prime Minister Indira Gandhi sent the Indian Army into the Golden Temple in 1984, she considered a covert commando raid to apprehend radical Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.

Investigations by India Today into the recently declassified Margaret Thatcherer's documents in the United Kingdom, revealed a raid that was planned by Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) to abduct Bhindranwale from a building outside the Golden Temple.

Interviews with retired commandos and RAW officials revealed that the plan was initiated sometime in late 1983 at the behest of Gandhi's security adviser and RAW founder, R.N. Kao.

An official from Britain's elite Special Air Services (SAS) visited India in December 1983 and vetted the plan in which 200 commandos of RAW's military wing, the Special Group (SG), would abduct the separatist militant leader in a combined ground and air assault. SG commandos rehearsed for several months on a mockup of the three-storeyed Guru Nanak Niwas, which they constructed at their base in Sarsawa, UP.

The commandos flew night sorties on specially modified Mi-4 helicopters and even practised heli-drops on buildings near Amritsar. A commando assault unit was to drive in from the ground and drive away with the separatist leader. The commandos did anticipate a firefight with Bhindranwale's heavily armed followers.

The plan was, however, called off by the Prime Minister in April 1984. One of the reasons for scrapping the plan was that she feared civilian casualties in the firefight. The Indian Army, which was then called in, assured her there would be no collateral damage.

Operation Bluestar, the June 1984 operation where 83 soldiers and 492 civilians died and the Akal Takht, one of Sikhism's holiest shrines, was shelled by tanks, continues to be the most controversial deployment of the Army in Independent India's history. It triggered off a cataclysmic domino-like series of events: the October 31, 1984 assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards, nationwide riots targeting Sikhs and a Punjab problem that simmered for another decade.

Hazy outlines of this secret RAW plan were whispered about even in the aftermath of Operation Bluestar. Mark Tully and Satish Jacob's 1985 book "Amritsar: Mrs Gandhi's last battle" mentions a commando unit rehearsing a raid on a mock-up of the Golden Temple created in Chakrata.

Military analysts, however, believe the plan had only limited chances of success. "The operation would have needed a guarantee of success, which a special forces kidnap cannot provide," says Colonel Vivek Chadha (retired) of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses.

"Bhindranwale's heavily armed militants would have had a bloody skirmish with the commandos. The isolation of one building would have been a challenge." Sundown now offers only a tantalising alternate view of whether history might have been any different if it had succeeded.

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