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Monday, 12 May 2014

From Today's Papers - 12 May 2014

Maoists kill 7 commandos in M’rashtra

Gadchiroli (Maharashtra), May 11
Seven police commandos were killed on Sunday when Maoists set off a landmine in the thick forests of Gadchiroli district in Maharashtra.

The incident occurred around 9.30 a.m. near Murmuri village, around 35 km from this town, officials said. At least two more commandos were injured in the deadly attack. The Maoists set off the blast when a police commando team was moving in a vehicle for security operations in the forested region. The injured were airlifted to Nagpur while additional security forces rushed to the site of the attack.

Officials said the slain security personnel belonged to the specialised C-60 anti-Naxal operations force of Maharashtra and the blast took place when their vehicle was moving along the Murmuri-Chamuri axis of the district. "We have lost seven of our men in the attack carried out by Naxalites. The incident occured in Gadchiroli," a senior police officer said. The injured have been airlifted to Nagpur, they said.

Vinod Tawde, leader of opposition in the Legislative Council, hit out at the intelligence agencies. "The Gadchiroli police had nabbed a think-tank member GN Saibaba from New Delhi. The state intelligence agencies should have anticipated retaliatory action by the Maoists," Tawde said. — Agencies
Antony red-flags MoD proposal on Rolls Royce
New Delhi, May 11
Defence Minister AK Antony has red-flagged a proposal of his own Ministry to continue doing business with the UK-based Rolls Royce, which is facing a CBI probe for allegedly paying bribes and engaging middlemen in contracts for supplying engines to the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.

After the scam broke out early this year, the Defence Ministry had put on hold all dealings with Rolls Royce pending a CBI probe ordered into the allegations against it.

The Defence Ministry wing dealing with the Rolls Royce case is understood to have recommended that the government should continue doing business with the firm but Antony refused to give a go-ahead and asked the officials concerned to take an opinion from the Law Ministry and the Solicitor General before moving any further in the case, government sources said here.

Antony had earlier asked the ministry to take an opinion from the Law Ministry about the actions that could be taken against Rolls Royce.

The UK-based firm has already told the Defence Ministry that it would return Rs 18 crore paid by it as commission to its agents but the Government is yet to take any decision in this regard.

Rolls Royce in a letter written to HAL in December last admitted it had employed a Singapore-based person identified as Ashok Patni and his firm Aashmore Private Limited as "commercial advisor" in India, providing sales and logistical support, local business support and "strategic advice".

The commissions paid by the firm are in violation of the procurement rules in India which prohibit hiring of middlemen or commission agents while transacting deals with the Defence Ministry.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) was of the view that a delay in signing a maintenance contract with Rolls Royce will impact the defence preparedness of the country.

The Indian Air Force has to sign a fresh contract with it for maintenance and overhaul of six types of aircraft engines in the AJT Hawk, Jaguar, Avro, Kiran MkII and Sea Harrier military aircraft and Sea King helicopters. — PTI

Firm facing CBI probe

    The UK-based Rolls Royce is facing a CBI probe for allegedly paying bribes and engaging middlemen in contracts for supplying engines to the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited
    After the scam broke out early this year, the Defence Ministry had put on hold all dealings with Rolls Royce pending a CBI probe ordered into the allegations against it
    The Defence Ministry wing dealing with the Rolls Royce case is understood to have recommended that the government should continue doing business with the firm but Antony refused to give a go-ahead
 Retd soldiers irked over Cong’s OROP boasting
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 11
Even as the one-rank-one-pension (OROP) formula for retired soldiers remains unimplemented, almost daily claims by Congress leaders during electioneering that they have given the OROP have the veterans angry.

Maj-Gen Satbir Singh (retd), chairman of the Indian Ex-servicemen Movement (IESM), today said no order for implementing the OROP formula had been issued so far.

“During election rallies, all top leaders of the Congress, including its president (Sonia Gandhi), have been boasting of having granted the OROP, but the soldiers are still waiting for the formal orders to be issued by the government,” he said.

He said the Controller General of Defence Accounts (CGDA), the Principal Controller Defence Accounts (PDCA) and the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare (DESW) are now carrying out their own interpretation of the OROP definition. “This falls far below the intended pension benefits to defence personnel,” he said.

Interpreting the definition of OROP in any other way than as per the Rajya Sabha Petition Committee Report presented in Parliament on December 19, 2011, is a “serious manipulation” by the bureaucracy, the body of retired soldiers maintains.

According to the IESM, the RS panel report said, “OROP implies uniform pension be paid to armed forces personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement, and any future enhancement in the rates of pension be automatically passed on to the past pensioners. This implies bridging the gap between the rate of pension of the current pensioners and the past pensioners and future enhancements….be automatically passed on to the past pensioners”.

The fears of retired servicemen stem from the formation of a working group, comprising representatives of the CGDA, the DESW, the Ministry of Defence (Finance) and the three Services.

The panel was formed on April 24 and the CGDA was asked to finalise the draft government letter (DGL). It has to be submitted to the MoD along with estimate of financial implications thereof, within three weeks (before May 14). The DGL was presented by the Services on April 22, but it was rejected.

Since the deadline ends just two days before the counting for the General Election (May 16), there are fears that the outgoing government may not be able to implement the formula in case officials came up with some fresh complication.
 CRPF ‘limits’ armoured vehicles’ use

New Delhi, May 11
To reduce casualties of its troops from landmine blasts in anti-Naxal operations, the Central Reserve Police Force has decided to shun its mine-protected vehicles as troop carriers for routine operations.

The force has issued a set of standard operating procedures to its commanders in the Naxal operations grid to "limit" the usage of these mobile armoured bunkers.

"We have decided to limit the use of the mine-protected vehicles during routine anti-Naxal operations. These armoured vehicles, which carry troops, will only be used during specific emergencies and combat situations," CRPF chief Dilip Trivedi told PTI.

The CRPF Director General said the decision was taken by the force after obtaining information from commanders deployed on the ground and the step was aimed at saving the paramilitary troops from deadly Naxal ambushes.

The CRPF, mainstay for anti-Naxal operations in the country with close to 90,000 personnel deployed for the task, has more than 100 such four-wheeled armoured vehicles with its units spread across Left Wing Extremism affected states. These MPVs will be used in rare instances only, like in case of a quick emergency evacuation of troops. — PTI
UPA2 Beats Retreat On Naming Next Army Chief

The UPA-2 government will not name the next Army chief. The last three weeks had seen hectic moves by the UPA government to name present Army Vice Chief Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag as the next Army chief after incumbent General Bikram Singh retires. Now, the government is leaving the task of identifying and appointing a successor to incumbent Army chief to the next government that will take charge after the May 16 results to the 16th Lok Sabha. This was made clear by a top bureaucrat in the Defence Ministry to The Sunday Standard.

The decision to leave the naming of the next Army chief to the next government was prompted by the Election Commission over a clarification sought by the Defence Ministry on the top appointment. Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath had said on Thursday that the Defence Ministry’s request was “still under consideration” of the Election Commission. “Now, nothing will happen on the appointment of the next Army chief under this government,” the top bureaucrat said, on the move to name the top officer three months ahead of the incumbent retiring in end of July. “What the present government wanted to do will be done by the next government,” he added, smiling.

Though a formal denial from the Defence Ministry was offered when reports suggested that Suhag’s name had been recommended to the Prime Minister’s Office for appointment as the next Army chief, it was made obvious by the officials that the Defence Ministry had already drawn up a list of the top five Lieutenant Generals in service eligible to be named as Army chief for the consideration of the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The push for Suhag as the next Army chief was being carried out by the present powers that be in the Army headquarters, beginning with General Bikram Singh. Rightly so, his staff members claim, as Suhag is the next senior most Lieutenant General in the Army today and he would still be around when Bikram Singh retires from service on July 31. Though an unwritten principle, the ‘seniority’ norm has been followed strictly by successive central governments, except on a couple of occasions such as when General A S Vaidya superseded his senior Lt Gen S K Sinha in 1983 under the Indira Gandhi government.

Though no Army chief formally recommends the name of his successor or lobbies for anyone on the file, the push from General Bikram Singh was quite obvious in the corridors and cabins of South Block, which some senior Army officers, primarily those close to him openly favouring Suhag.

Indications from South Block are that Suhag’s appointment also had the backing and blessings of the political leadership of the government, particularly in the Prime Minister’s Office. However, there is intrigue palpable over why Antony’s Defence Ministry rushed to the Election Commission seeking a clarification on the Army chief naming, while the government already had a generic go-ahead from the poll panel for all military appointments. Was Antony’s move aimed at wriggling out of the political controversy or was it an attempt to skirt the legality vs legitimacy question that was being posed over the Army chief appointment by a government that has just days left?

The argument is that the government would be legally within its rights to name the next chief at this point in time, but the legitimacy of the appointment would be in question over the moral authority of the government over the haste shown in doing so.

According to another bureaucrat close to Antony, the decision to let go on the naming of the next chief had its political advantages. “If Suhag is named by the next government, then the outgoing political leadership can question its move to do the same came under such severe criticism in the first place. If Suhag is not named, then the flag of political vendetta could be raised over the decision and the naming of another officer contested as mala fide.”  The other political reasons being given for the decision to let the next government take a call is that the BJP-led government would refrain from antagonising a politically powerful community of North India soon after coming to power. Suhag has been touted by some as the first Army chief from the influential ‘Jat’ community, thereby giving a communal colour to the appointment of the next Army chief.

 The spanner in the works for Suhag's appointment came in the form of political opposition from BJP. General V K Singh, who has had issues with General Bikram Singh raked up the issue of a Discipline and Vigilance ban being imposed on Suhag when he was the 3 Corps commander at Dimapur in May 2012, thus preventing him from becoming the Army Commander. The next senior most Lt Gen Ravi Dastane, who is at present the Deputy Chief at Integrated Defence Staff Headquarters, should have been appointed Army Commander. But by then V K Singh had retired and Bikram Singh got back by stopping Dastane’s promotion, for which he is fighting a case. Singh ‘reserved’ the vacant Army commander post for Suhag for 15 days against the existing rules of appointment.

BJP too petitioned the Election Commission against the naming of the next Army chief, arguing that there was still time for doing so and that the UPA government, on its last leg, was pushing for its favourites to key positions.
Indian Army kills two infiltrators in Kashmir, arms recovered
Two guerrillas were killed and an armyman was injured in Jammu and Kashmir's Poonch district, as the army Saturday foiled an infiltration bid on the Line of Control (LoC), a defence spokesman said. A huge cache of arms and ammunition was also recovered.

"Two militants were eliminated when troops foiled an infiltration bid on the LoC in Poonch today (Saturday)," defence spokesman Colonel Manish Mehta said.

The army noticed movement of a group of militants around 2.30 am The intruders were challenged, and after an exchange of fire, two militants were killed, he said.

An armyman suffered injuries and was taken to a hospital.

A large cache of arms and ammunition was recovered by the army after foiling the infiltration bid.

During a search, two AK-47 rifles, 240 rounds of ammunition, eight AK-47 magazines, one under barrel grenade launcher (UBGL), three hand grenades, one claymore mine, two detonators, one packet of explosives and one timer device were recovered, he said.

In the past 10 days, Pakistani troops have thrice violated the bilateral ceasefire agreement on the LoC in the district.

The army says these violations are intended to support infiltration by guerrillas into the Indian side.

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