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Wednesday, 19 February 2014

From Today's Papers - 19 Feb 2014

 House panel slams MoD over delay in projects
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 18
Parliamentary Standing Committee on defence in its report today slammed the Ministry of Defence saying that development with regard to road, rail and airfields in the border areas was behind schedule in all respects.

The committee has warned that the country’s inability to keep pace with the technological and infrastructural advancement in comparison to China is responsible for perception of threats.

Slamming the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the committee said, “It repudiates the claims of the ministry that our infrastructure development is being implemented in consonance with the threat perception.”

“It is disquieting to note that no direct response has been given by the ministry as to what difficulties were faced by India due to poor network of road, rail, airports/helipads,” said the report that was tabled in Parliament by Raj Babbar, who heads the 31-member committee.

“Many of the border passes from the China side are now connected by road. What would happen to our nation in case of any eventuality such as war, especially when our side has a dismal network of roads as well as rail connections which could be effective in mobilising men and machines”, the report warned.

Out of eight border road projects such as Himank, Swastik and Shivalik along the India-China border, none was hundred per cent complete. “All projects along the India-China border should be executed with a new zeal and completed as planned. The task force should monitor the progress of all the roads,” suggested the committee.

Dismal scenario

* Only one road out of 27 suggested by the ITBP was complete

* As many as 11 roads were behind schedule

* Not even the detailed project reports about the roads had been finalised

* Out of eight border road projects none was hundred per cent complete.
 CAG flays misuse of defence land
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 18
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in two separate reports today criticised the delay in refitting Indian Naval warships and continued encroachments on defence lands. The reports were tabled in Parliament today.

The performance audit on ‘Planning and management of refits of the Indian Naval ships from 2005-06 to 2009-10 says “113 (74 per cent) out of a total of 152 refits were completed with an accumulated delay of 8,629 days”.

Another 66 refits (43.42 per cent) were planned ab initio in excess of the duration authorised for refits in operational-cum-refit cycle, thereby resulting in an accumulated planned loss of 5,188 days in availability of the concerned war ships.
 Court of Inquiry was never held, claims Brig Surinder
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 18
The case pertaining to the termination of services of Brigadier Surinder Singh, former commander of 121 (Independent) Brigade in Kargil took a new turn when, in an amended petition, he contended that the court of inquiry (COI) on the basis of which he was issued termination orders had never been convened.

The petition, which came up for hearing before the Chandigarh Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal yesterday, avers that the show cause notice and termination order issued to him states that he was held blameworthy by a COI convened by 3 Infantry Division on September 6, 1999.

However, a response to a specific query received by him from 3 Div about a month ago stated that no COI was convened by the division in September 1999. The reply further stated that a COI was convened in August 1999 but the terms of reference of that COI were different from the terms of reference stated in the documents supplied to him.

Brigadier Surinder Singh was the commander of 121 Brigade in Kargil when the conflict with Pakistan took place in the icy heights in the summer of 1999. He had been removed from command in the early stages of the conflict and later his services were terminated on charges of mishandling classified information. He has since been fighting a legal battle against his termination.

In the amended petition filed recently after having received fresh information, he has also claimed that under Army Rules, the proceedings of a COI cannot be used as evidence to initiate action against him. He has also averred that complete reports of the inquiries on the basis of which his termination orders were issued were never supplied to him.

The case

* Brig Surinder Singh was the commander of 121 Brigade in Kargil when the conflict with Pakistan took place in 1999

* He was removed from command in the early stages of the conflict and later his services were terminated on charges of mishandling classified information

* He has since been fighting a legal battle against his termination
One rank, one pension
A belated bold decision driven by electoral motive

In a major decision, the government has announced the acceptance of a longstanding demand of ex-servicemen for one rank, one pension (OROP). As a result, the pension of all armed force veterans, irrespective of when they retire, will henceforth be linked to their rank and length of service. This means, for example, a colonel retiring in 2004 will earn the same pension as an officer of the same rank with the same length of service retiring in 2014.

For well over two decades, ex-servicemen have been demanding OROP to which successive defence ministers and every political dispensation have played lip-service to the armed forces but yet been consistently stonewalling it, citing the considerably high recurring financial implication as a major reason against it. Two varying estimates of this additional expenditure are Rs 1,730 crore and Rs 3,000 crore. In recent years, ex-servicemen, some of them war veterans, have even returned their medals to register their protest against what they term as official apathy to their demands. The decision is undoubtedly a step in the right direction considering that the armed forces, which have been serving the country with valour, is the only government service in which the retirement age of officers and soldiers is linked to their rank.

While the decision is welcome, it is the timing and motive that is questionable. What has made the outgoing UPA-II decide at the very end of its ten-year rule on the eve of the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections and at a time when its popularity is at its lowest to take this decision? Has this decision been taken in South Block or been scripted at the Congress headquarters? It will only be natural to assume that this decision is aimed at electorally pleasing the 1.3-million strong armed forces and the over 2.5 million ex-servicemen and their families across the country. It is now only to be expected that civilian pensioners will seek the same which is estimated to annually cost the exchequer an additional Rs 8,000-9,000 crore. Whatever be the reason and the financial implications, it is now hoped that the government will implement the OROP in letter and spirit.
DRDO lab produces 'smarter' ponies for Indian Army

The DRDO's Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR) laboratory in Leh has developed a technology to produce ponies that can carry more weight for the Indian Army and efforts are underway to breed more such hybrid Zanskar ponies.

"We have been working for pack animals mostly the local ponies in the Zanskar Valley in Leh. The ponies are generally used by the Army for logistics.The local ponies could carry a load of only 15-20 kg, however the mules used by Army were severely affected by the high altitude maladies. The Army was looking for sturdy and well adapted animal, with a high load bearing capacity," Dr RB Srivastava director of DIHR told HT.

With this in mind, he said: "We introduced a male pony from Austria, (Halflinger Stallion) and cross bred it with a female local pony. The cross breeding lasted for several years and finally we did the final trial of the hybrid breed in Kargil. We found them to be highly disciplined, more acclimatized with the harsh climate and more importantly they could carry a load of 50-60 kg."

After the successful trial at Kargil DIHAR has transferred the germplasm to the Army that is used for breeding and after the technology has been matured the Army has opened an establishment in the region for carrying out breeding and training of these ponies for logistic operations.

"They are called Zanskar crossbred ponies and our target is to have many more such ponies for carrying the logistic load of the Army in operational areas". Besides the breeding of ponies, he said we have also worked on vegetables.

"With our technology we have shown the potential for growing 101 vegetables in a single seasonwhich will benefit the soldiers."
DPS students visit Artillery Centre, see defence systems used by Army
NASHIK: Children from pre-nursery to class VI of the Delhi Public School visited the artillery centre to see various defense systems used by the Indian Army. The children were shown an informative film about different tanks, the capacity of the tank to displace a cannon ball, cannon balls that were used from World War I till date. Video clippings of various wars, the mapping system, radar, etc were also shown. The children were shown models of mules carrying cannon on their backs. After the film, the children were shown war models, photo gallery, soldiers climbing the helicopter, gliders and weapons like swords and daggers. A workshop was conducted for students of class VI on animation. Students learned animation techniques.
Interim Budget 2014: One rank, one pension a reality; defence spend hiked to Rs 224,000 cr
New Delhi, Feb 17: In a decision that will bring cheer to some 24 lakh retired armed forces personnel, Finance Minister P Chidambaram announced Monday that their long-pending demand for one rank, one pension (OROP) has been accepted, even as he hiked the defence spend for 2014-15 to Rs 224,000 crore (Rs.2.2 trillion/(USD 36 billion).

This is against the Rs 203,627 allocated for 2013-14 that ends March 31, Chidmabaram said while presenting the interim budget for the new fiscal in the Lok Sabha. While Rs 89,588 crore has been set aside for acquisitions by the armed forces, Rs 134,410 crore will go toward payment of salaries and other expenses.

The allocation also includes Rs 500 crore for implementing the OROP norm from the fiscal beginning April 1. With this, the annual pension bill of the armed forces will go up to Rs 50,000 crore. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi had backed the OROP demand during a meeting with ex-servicemen here last Friday.

“I am on your side. I understand your concerns. You give your life for the country, I will do all that I can to see your demands are met,” he told a delegation of ex-servicemen which called on him.

The OROP demand had begun soon after the Sixth Pay Commission delivered its report in 2006. On innumerable occasions, large numbers of ex-servicemen also returned as a protest their medals to the president, who is the supreme commander of the armed forces. However, their appeals till now had fallen on deaf ears.

Noting that the OROP demand “is an emotive issue” that has legal implications”, Chidambaram said the issue “has to be handled with great sensitivity”.  He also pointed out that during the tenure of the UPA governments, changes in pension rules applicable to the defence services were made thrice in 2006, 2010 and 2013.

“As a result, the gap between pre-2006 retirees and post-2006 retirees has been closed in four ranks (subject to some anomalies that are being addressed): havildar, naib subedar, subedar and subedar major. There is still a small gap in the ranks of sepoy and naik and a gap in the ranks of major and above,” the finance minister said.

Contending that India needs “a young fighting force, we need young jawans, and we need young officers”, Chidambaram added: “We also need to take care of those who served in the defence forces only for a limited number of years.”

“Government has, therefore, decided to walk the last mile and close the gap for all retirees in all ranks. I am happy to announce that government has accepted the principle of one rank, one pension for the defence forces,” the finance minister said. IANS
BEL to invest $100 million in electronic warfare products
Bangalore, Feb 18 (IANS) State-run Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) will invest Rs.620 crore/$100 million over the next five years in developing electronic warfare products jointly with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), a top official said Tuesday.

"We will invest $100 million from ensuing fiscal year (2014-15) over the next five years for funding joint programmes with DRDO to develop electronic warfare products required for our armed forces," BEL chairman and managing director S. K. Sharma said at a conference here.

As the country's leading electronics major, BEL manufactures and supplies a range of products, including radars, electronic warfare system, sound and vision broadcasting, missiles and sonars to the Indian army, navy and air force.

With nine manufacturing facilities across the country, the company had jointly developed a mobile integrated electronic warfare system 'Samyukta' with DRDO, Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL) and the army's signal corps for tactical battlefield use.

Covering a wide range of frequencies, the system is used for surveillance, analysis, interception, direction finding and position fixing, listing, prioritizing and jamming of all communication and radar signals.

"In view of our capability to manufacture electronic warfare systems, we have decided to associate with DRDO in developing advanced and next generation electronic warfare products from inception to avoid delays in production," Sharma said at the third International Conference on Electronic Warfare (EWCI 2014).

As a force multiplier system, an electronic system needs high level of secrecy to maintain an element of surprise against an adversary. It ensures tactical and strategic advantage for armed forces during an operation.

"We sold electronic warfare systems to the armed forces to the value of Rs.2,000 crore over the years. The market potential is about Rs.10,000 crore in view of the growing requirement for such warfare by the armed forces in the coming years," Sharma added.

Earlier, delivering a keynote address, Air Marshal M. Matheswaran of the Integrated Defence Staff told about 600 delegates from across the country and overseas that information operation and information warfare were inseparable.

"Armed forces tend to put electronic warfare on backburner and information operation in the forefront. Gathering information, building upon that information against adversary by deception or jamming gives tactical advantage," he said.

Stressing on the need to educate and train more engineers on operating electronic warfare systems, he said the academia and industry should take advantage of the policy change to involve the private sector in developing the technology and products to gather information and use it for national security.

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