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Thursday, 31 July 2014

From Today's Papers - 31 Jul 2014

 Get documents from Italian court, MoD tells Indian embassy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 30
Within hours of media reports about prosecutors having shelved proceedings against Finmeccanica for alleged corruption in the sale 12 AW-101 helicopters made by AgustaWestland, the Ministry of Defence has asked the Indian embassy in Rome to provide details of the case.

Sources in the Defence Ministry said the Embassy had been asked to procure papers from the Italy court. Defence Minister Arun Jaitley cited the ongoing session of Parliament to avoid commenting on the issue. The ministry declined to comment on the issue, saying it will speak only when it gets a complete picture of the actual position.

India scrapped the deal worth US $ 751 on January 1 this year on the basis of alleged breach of pre-contract integrity pact and alleged payment of kickbacks to Indian agents by the firm to secure the contract. The firm has denied the charge.

Prosecutors in Italy have stated that Finmeccanica has nothing to do with the offence, Finmeccannica said in a statement issued in Italy.

The Italian firm said its two subsidiary companies had agreed to pay a fine in the contract but not admitted to any wrongdoing.
 Arup Raha is new CoSC chairman
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 30
IAF Chief Arup Raha today took over as the chairman, Chiefs of Staffs Committee (CoSC) – a body of the three service chiefs, from General Bikram Singh, who is retiring tomorrow. The IAF Chief will have 29-month tenure till December 2016.

Had Admiral Joshi continued, he would have taken over as the CoSC chairman today and continued till August 2015 following which Air Chief Marshal Raha’s turn was scheduled. The CoSC chairman is the senior-most military officer in the country. Raha was handed over the baton of the COSC by General Singh at a ceremony in South Block this morning.

The CoSC chairman is mandated to bring about joint-manship among the three services at the cutting-edge level. The existing tri-services command at Andaman Nicobar Islands is headed by a three-star (Lt General) officer by rotation from the three services.

Air Chief Marshal Raha will need to guide on the creation of three new tri-services commands, including space, cyber and special operations.
 Delay in OROP: Ex-servicemen doubt govt move
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 30
The Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM) today shot off a letter to Defence Minister Arun Jaitley and also the Chiefs of three Services, saying the delay in implementing the ‘one-rank, one-pension’ (OROP) was a cause concern. A copy of the letter has also been sent to BJP president Amit Shah.

IESM chairman Maj Gen (retd) Satbir Singh today sent the letters reminding Jaitley and Shah about the pre-poll promise of giving OROP to retired veterans. “The implementation letter is being strongly resisted by the bureaucracy,” said the ISEM.

Separately, a delegation of the IESM called on outgoing Army Chief Bikram Singh to laud his efforts in upgrade of the veterans’ cell at Army headquarters into an effective interface for the ex-servicemen. The delegation members included Maj Gen (retd) Satbir Singh, Col (retd) KM Joshipura, Group Capt VK Gandhi and Sub Maj (Hony Lt) Kameshwar Pandey.

Meanwhile, in its letter to the Defence Minister, the IESM has raised suspicion on variation in figures for the OROP. The MoD said in 2011 the expenses for OROP had been calculated at Rs 3000 crore. The Army Headquarters pay cell has calculated the expense to be Rs 5,000 crore. The CGDA has a figure of Rs 9000 crore, said the letter. The definition of the OROP has been approved by the government, it needed to be implemented as such, stated the letter.

“Rajnath Singh (the then BJP president) had promised to give OROP and Narendra Modi as PM candidate at various rallies confirmed that full OROP would be given to ex-servicemen.” The IESM said veterans voted en-block for the BJP and the delay of over five months in issuance of implementation letter for OROP was a cause of concern and the goodwill earned by the party was slowly eroding.
Post-retirement, Gen Bikram Singh may settle in Mohali

Chief of the Army Staff General Bikram Singh, who hangs up his boots on Thursday (July 31), will have a post-retirement home in Mohali, Punjab. The General owns a 500 square yards residential plot in the township adjoining Chandigarh. Though the plot is vacant, construction is expected to begin soon.

For the first six months after his retirement, he will stay in a government house in Delhi Cantonment, where retired chiefs, who fall in the Z-Plus category, move to from the Army House for security reasons.

Chandigarh and its vicinity is a home to many senior retired Army and Air Force officers, including General VP Malik, who stays in Panchkula.

It will take at least a year before General Bikram Singh finally arrives to live in Mohali, if he is not offered some post-retirement appointment as an ambassador or a governor.

Oldest Sikh battalion

The first battalion of Sikh soldiers was raised 168 years ago. Now designated as the 4th Battalion of the Mechanised Infantry (1 Sikh), the battalion was raised on July 31, 1846, as the 14 Ferozepore Sikhs by the British soon after the First Ango-Sikh War. A day later another Sikh battalion —-15 Ludhiana Sinks —- was raised. Impressed by the martial skills of the Sikhs, the British had decided to induct them into the British Indian Army. In 1922, 14 Ferozepore was re-designated as 1/11 Sikhs and post-Independence became 1 Sikh, the senior battalion of the Sikh Regiment. The battalion became part of the Mechanised Infantry Regiment, when it was expanded and reorganised in 1979.

At present commanded by Col Faisal Ahmad, the battalion is deployed in the deserts of Rajasthan. A highly decorated battalion, it has one Victoria Cross, two Param Vir Chakra, five Maha Vir Chakra and 27 Vir Chakra along with 28 Battle Honours to its credit.

Reviving 1965 war memories

The Indian Air Force is planning to revive the memories of the 1965 war with Pakistan and has asked veterans to send their experiences and photographs to mark 50 years of the war next year. The northern and western sector had seen fierce battles. The IAF flew 3,937 sorties in the western sector alone. Vintage photographs of the war along with an introductory write-up can be mailed at

The Gnats were the mainstay of the fighting arm, but the MiG 21 had just been inducted and were then based at Chandigarh with No. 28 Squadron that was deployed at Adampur and then on to Pathankot. Also it was from Pathankot that the No.1 Squadron ‘Tigers’, then flying the Dassault Mystere IVA, launched the daring daylight raid on Sargodha – a feat acknowledged by the Pakistani air force.

Online petition for OROP

Even as ex-servicemen continue to vent ire over the delay in implementation of the promised One Rank One Pension (OROP) formula and inadequate budgetary allocations thereof, an online petition addressing to the Prime Minister has been launched seeking immediate implementation of the formula.

The petition, launched by Vijay Tiwari, a resident of Vadodara, contends that even five months after its announcement, the plan has not been implemented because bureaucrats and accountants in the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Ex-Servicemen’s Welfare and the Controller General of Defence Accounts have succeeded in putting a spanner in the works. The petition has received 3,770 signatures so far against a target of 5,000 signatures.
 Armed forces: Punjab slashes funds for welfare schemes
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 30
Once a frontrunner in providing for soldiers hailing from the state, Punjab apparently doesn’t have the money to look after those who shed their blood in the line of duty. No budgetary allocations under the planned outlay have been made this fiscal for a large number of schemes that had been launched for ex-servicemen, war widows, disabled soldiers and their dependants.

The drastic cut in funds comes in the wake of a similar situation last year when the approved financial outlay at the start of the year was not only significantly reduced later but funds under several heads were simply not released.

This is despite the fact that the state government had recently hiked several allowances and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had promised veterans that in public forums their interests and welfare would be given due care. While expenditure under the planned outlay has been slashed, some recurring expenditures under the non-planned outlay, too, have taken a hit. Prominent among them is the monthly allowances being paid to gallantry award recipients.

Sources said while no such allowances have been paid for the last quarter so far, there are cases where the payments have been outstanding for several months, with funds for such allowances and other grants and benefits being released 0piecemeal by the state government.

Under the budgetary provisions, Rs 20 lakh have been allocated for providing Rs 1 lakh incentive to those from the state getting a commission in the services.

Last year, Rs 2.5 crore were approved under this head, which was revised to Rs 1.78 crore, though only Rs 1.18 crore were actually spent.

Sources said the allocation implies that only 20 persons would get the incentive this year, even though there are around 270 cases pending for payment. The cut for this incentive comes at a time when intake into the services from Punjab, both for officers as well as the rank and file is at its lowest.

Five important heads under the planned outlay — financial assistance to gallantry awardees, war widows and scholarship to their children, financial assistance to parents of martyrs, provision of monetary grant in lieu of plots for widows of martyrs, grant-in-aid to Paraplegic Rehabilitation Center (PRC), Mohali and grant-in-aid to Sainik School, Kapurthala (SSK) — have not been allocated funds.

Last year, Rs 2 crore was approved for SSK, which was revised to Rs 75 lakh, while Rs 13 lakh was approved for PRC. But no funds were released for either of the two. Similarly, Rs 40 lakh approved for providing financial assistance to gallantry awardees and war widows was reduced to Rs 10 lakh, but nothing came through.

This year, the government has approved an outlay of Rs 1.5 crore for undertaking training schemes for wards of ex-servicemen for entry into the armed forces and paramilitary forces. Last year, Rs 4 crore had been approved, which was revised down to Rs 1.75 crore, with Rs 1.12 crore being finally spent.
 10-yr jail for BSF suspended officer
PK Jaiswar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 30
A local court today convicted and sentenced a suspended Deputy Commandant of the BSF to 10 years in jail for his involvement in drug smuggling.

The court of Additional Session Judge Harpreet Kaur Randhawa handed down the sentence besides imposing a fine of Rs 1 lakh on the convict. Harpreet Singh was arrested by the State Special Operation Cell (SSOC) for allegedly possessing 1 kg heroin worth Rs 5 crore in the international market in 2010. He was apprehended while waiting to deliver the consignment near Pingalwara in Amritsar. He had been in jail ever since.

In 2005, Harpreet along with his driver was arrested by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) for possessing 23 kg heroin in Delhi. He was then posted in Gurdaspur.

He was later released on bail after spending over four years in Tihar jail. In 2012, the court had acquitted him of all charges for lack of evidence.

The latest sentence comes close on the heels of the arrest of a BSF constable for his alleged involvement in the illicit trade.

He was arrested by the BSF after a tip-off from the Tarn Taran police. His name had figured during the interrogation of two smugglers nabbed by the police.

DIG BSF (Amritsar sector) MF Farooqui said Suresh would be handed over to the police for further interrogation and trial.

BSF personnel arrested by the force for illegal and anti-national activities usually face trial in a special court of the force. But in this case, we have decided to hand him over to the police for proper investigation. Simultaneous proceedings on charges of sedition and under the Prevention of Corruption Act would continue against him in the special court,” he said.

Preliminary investigations suggested Suresh had facilitated two drug consignments while being posted along the Indo-Pak border near Mahawa village. The battalion was later shifted to Chhana Bidhi Chand.

Farooqui said the BSF had inputs regarding the involvement of a jawan in smuggling activities. “We were about to zero in on the accused when the Tarn Taran police shared information regarding his involvement. We corroborated it before making the arrest,” the DIG said.

Chequered past

* Suspended BSF Deputy Commandant Harpreet Singh was arrested by the State Special Operation Cell from Amritsar for allegedly possessing 1 kg heroin in 2010

* In 2005, Harpreet was arrested by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence for possessing 23 kg heroin in Delhi

* He was released on bail after spending over four years in Tihar jail. In 2012, the court acquitted him
Outgoing army chief commends Modi govt's approach to defence forces
New Delhi: In his last address as the seniormost military officer, outgoing Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh today praised the “positive and pragmatic” approach of Narendra Modi government towards the requirements and issues related to the defence forces.

The new government’s approach towards military matters and requirements is “positive and pragmatic”, he said while addressing a gathering of top brass of the three Services at the taking over of IAF Chief Arup Raha as the new Chairman, Chiefs of Staffs Committee.

He expressed the hope that Raha will definitely benefit from this approach of the new dispensation.  After serving as the COSC for seven months, Gen Singh relinquished the office as he retires as the Chief of Army Staff tomorrow.

Gen Singh had earlier also praised the decisiveness of the new government in his farewell tea party hosted by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley earlier this month. 

The new government cleared several projects of the armed forces in the last two months including acquisition programmes worth over Rs 60,000 crore including the sanction of Rs 19,500 crore for the construction of indigenous aircraft carrier.
New chief to take over army reins today

General Dalbir Singh will inherit on Thursday the leadership of the army from General Bikram Singh when the force is in the midst of a costly transformation to fill critical gaps in capabilities.

The army is devoting efforts to set up a new mountain strike corps to counter China in the eastern sector, induct US-made Apache attack helicopters, address frustrating ammunition shortages, modernise its artillery and replace obsolete air defence systems.

A significant challenge for Dalbir Singh will be to shore up the army's capabilities at a time when a budget squeeze threatens to crimp India's ability to spend on advanced weaponry.

"The economy is under pressure and we cannot afford to be too aggressive on military spending. The new chief will have to find a balance and provide rigorous leadership," a former defence secretary told HT.

A highly-decorated general, Dalbir Singh brings vast military experience to the table. The 59-year-old officer has headed the operationally-critical Eastern Command, commanded a corps in the northeast and led a mountain division in the sensitive Kargil sector.

That experience will be put to test during his two-and-a-half year tenure as army chief. There are chinks in the armour that need to be fixed.

The army has not bought a single artillery gun since the Bofors scandal exploded in the late 1980s. The $4 billion (Rs 24,000 crore) artillery modernisation plan has been fraught with difficulties at every step of the process.

The army's plans to buy 145 BAE Systems M777 ultra-light howitzers to sharpen its offensive capabilities in the mountains have hit a hurdle due to high acquisition cost and the vendor's inability to meet a key obligation under the proposed contract. Lack of these guns could hamper the setting up of the new strike corps.

Another priority for Dalbir Singh would be to give impetus to Project F-INSAS (Future Infantry Soldier as a System), a programme that seeks to exploit advanced technologies to make the Indian soldier more lethal.

Dalbir Singh takes over as army chief at a time when China's growing military might poses a serious challenge to India. A new border pact signed by New Delhi and Beijing last year has failed to ease Chinese aggression along the disputed Line of Actual Control where the cycle of transgressions continues.
India-US to discuss defence deals during Hagel visit
India and the US are expected to discuss military deals worth over Rs 20,000 crore during the three-day visit of American Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel here starting August 7.

The Defence Secretary will hold discussions with Defence Minister Arun Jaitley on military ties between the two countries including the military hardware partnership, Defence Ministry officials said here today.

During the visit, Hagel is also expected to call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

India has procured military equipment worth around Rs 60,000 crore from the US since 2003 and deals worth over Rs 30,000 crore for procuring Apache attack helicopters, Chinook heavylift helicopters, P-8I anti-submarine warfare and surveillance aircraft are in the pipeline.

The issue of under-negotiation Ultra Light Howitzer and Javelin anti-tank guided missile is also expected to figure in the discussions between the two countries.

The proposed Rs 3,600 crore deal for 145 ULH for Indian Army is "not progressing" as the acquisition is stuck over the issue of price and non-compliance of offsets proposal by the American equipment manufacturer.

The two sides are also expected to hold discussions on further expanding military-to-military exercises between the two sides.

India and the US hold regular execises under the naval Malabar, Special Forces' Shatrujeet and Air Force's Cope India series of wargames at regular intervals.

The sale of military hardware by the US to India in a major way started in 2003 with the procurement of ANTPQ-37 weapon locating radars for the Army and has continued with the sale of 12 C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft, C-17 transport aircraft, Harpoon anti-ship missiles and P-8I aircraft.


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