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Monday, 21 July 2014

From Today's Papers - 21 Jul 2014




















http://www.tribuneindia.com/2014/20140721/main2.htm
Su-30MKI engine failures worry IAF; Russia told to fix snag
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 20
The Sukhoi-30MKI fleet of the Indian Air Force has been encountering mid-air engine failures for the past two years. India has officially flagged the matter to Russia seeking a correction.

Repeated engine failures and the newly introduced precautionary measures have affected the availability of planes for various operations. The IAF has a fleet of 200 Sukhois.

After a failure, the engine is replaced after testing before allowing the plane to fly again. The process of removing and replacing an engine usually takes four-five days, but can be extended depending upon the damage.

As a stopgap arrangement, the Russian side had suggested some measures.

The IAF has so far not arrived at a conclusion of its findings, but as a precautionary step, it has started servicing the engine after 700 hours instead of the mandated 1,000 hours of flying, adding to the non-availability of the aircraft.

Sources said the matter was taken up at the India-Russia meeting in June this year and also in February when a Russian delegation visited the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited's (HAL's) Sukhoi-30MKI plant at Nashik.

The IAF had told Russians after studying each failure in detail that Sukhoi's engines - AL-31FP produced by NPO Saturn of Russia - had been functioning inconsistently for the past two years (2012 and 2013). The number of single-engine landings by planes in two years is high and not healthy. It lowers the operational ability of the fleet, besides raising questions about war readiness, said sources.

A single-engine landing is necessitated after one of the power plants fails mid-air. The Sukhoi-30MKI is a twin-engine plane and a mid-air failure of one of its engines means the second engine allows it to land. Such a situation would be unacceptable during a conflict when the pilot would need an optimum speed to attack or to withdraw after an attack. The power of both engines is required to lift eight tonne of payload - missiles and rockets.

The exact number of such engine burnouts and percentage of fleet that is not available for flying at any point of time are being held back from publication in the newspaper as it would adversely impact national security. Had the Sukhoi-30MKI been a single-engine plane, like the MiG 21, all engine burnouts would have led to crashes, in some case death of pilots and the resultant furore.

The IAF and the Ministry and Defence have always considered the Sukhoi as a "safe and reliable" warplane. So far, only four have crashed since phased- induction in 1997. A pilot had died in the first crash in 2009 and at least one of the crashes is attributed to engine trouble.

Sukhoi enjoys air superiority because of its powerful engine. In horizontal flight, it can fly 2,400 km/hr or achieve a rate of climb of 230 m/s. The engines, specialised with thrust vectoring control, improves the aircraft manoeuvrability.

In northern and western India, the Sukhoi-30MKI is based at Bathinda, Halwara near Ludhiana, Sirsa, Bareilly, Jodhpur and Bhuj.

Single-engine landings high

    The IAF has a fleet of 200 Sukhois
    Repeated engine failures have affected the availability of Su-30MKIs
    It takes four-five days to remove and replace the engine
    Single-engine landings by Su-30MKIs in two years is high
    As a precautionary step, the IAF has started servicing the engine after 700 flying hrs instead 1,000 hrs



http://www.tribuneindia.com/2014/20140721/main4.htm
Pak Rangers pound border posts, villages in Jammu
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Tribune News Service

RS Pura/Arnia, July 20
After a lull, Pakistan Rangers on Sunday targeted nearly 30-km stretch of the international border from Pittal outpost to Gharana in the RS Pura sector of Jammu district raining mortars (81 mm and 51 mm) and heavy machine gun fire on Indian positions and villages, triggering panic among villagers.

At least two cows were killed and another was injured at Gharana village. Four more cattle were injured in other villages and a house was damaged at Gharani village in the firing and shelling from across the border.

Though there was no loss of human life on the Indian side, Pakistan media reports claimed that one Pakistani civilian was killed and seven others were injured in Harpal village of Sialkot district in the latest skirmish.

The Tribune team that toured Gharana, Gharani, Jeora Farm, Rakh Jeora Nikowal, Sai Khurd, Sai Kalan, Sai Kalan Fagla, Trewa, Pindi, Pittal, Chanana, Changiya, Jabowal, Kathar and Kaku-de-Kothay villages came across fear-stricken villagers. The team saw Army squads scanning villages and agriculture farms collecting unexploded mortars and detonating them safely.

A senior BSF officer said, “Rangers started fire around 12.30 am on our posts from Pittal border outpost to Gharana — stretch of nearly 30 kms along the border. They kept firing mortars till 3 am and then switched over to machine gun fire that continued till 7 am.”

“We responded forcefully,” he added. The officer said the Rangers used every weapon — from small arms to heavy machine gun and mortars (81 mm and 51 mm).

“However, in order to ensure peace on the border, BSF took an initiative in the afternoon. Jammu Sector Commander DIG BS Kasana contacted on phone Pak Rangers Sialkot Sector Commander, Brigadier Mateen,” he said.

DIG Kasana protested the unprovoked firing by the Rangers on a large number of Indian border villages. Though Brigadier Mateen denied any unprovoked firing by the Rangers, he assured that they will not resort to any fire, said the officer.

Casualty in Pak

    Pak Rangers flare up 30 km stretch of the border in RS Pura sector
    Two cows killed, five cattle injured, a house damaged
    Pakistan media reports said one person died and seven injured at Harpal village in Sialkot
    BSF Jammu Sector commander talks to his Pakistan counterpart and both sides assure each other of no more firing



http://www.tribuneindia.com/2014/20140721/nation.htm#7
Heart attack — New enemy in ITBP camps
Director General of force issues good food orders
New Delhi, July 20
Country's first line of defence along the China border — the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) force — has a new enemy in sight in the form of heart attack deaths, which has claimed lives of many of its jawans in the recent past.

The paramilitary force, whose troops are largely deployed in inhospitable high altitude areas, has pressed the alarm bell on the worrying trend with ITBP chief Subhas Goswami writing to his field commanders along the borders and other locations, asking them to make changes in the present cooking style and eating habits of the personnel.

In his communiqué, the ITBP Director General has issued instructions to cut down on the use of high cholesterol ghee and oil for cooking at border posts, battalion locations and in mess rooms of the force as he expressed concern over the high number of deaths due to heart-related problems.

Officials said while 36 jawans had sudden death, including 16 cases of heart attack, in the first six months of this year, over 50 such cases were reported last year from various locations of the force, including places where the troops are deployed in plains.

What got the force worried was that some of the heart-related deaths took place among the younger lot who had joined the mountain-trained force in the recent past, the officials said.

The DG, they said, has now got issued a first-ever exhaustive recipe book which talks about preparation of healthy food with the minimal use of oil, spices and salt. Henceforth, ITBP kitchens will only prepare food as described in these latest manuals.

Goswami, officials said, took the step after he was told that high calorie and oily food was taking a toll on the health of the personnel in the absence of a standard cooking guidebook in the force.

Subsequent to this, a 69-page guide recipe book was prepared with the help of nutrition experts charting out the preparation of a balanced diet of vegetarian, non-vegetarian food and desserts by the cooks of the force. — PTI

50 jawans died last year

    16 jawans have died of heart attack this year
    50 such cases were reported last year
    Force to cut down on the use of ghee, oil for cooking at border posts, battalion locations and in mess rooms
    Health check-ups mandatory for all the ranks that include jawans and officers



http://www.tribuneindia.com/2014/20140721/nation.htm#9
 DRDO makes portable bridge; to help in rescue ops
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 20
A mountain footbridge has been developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) that can be used for improving communications in remote areas as well as in disaster management operations.

The bridge, which can span gaps up to 13.5 metre and has a pathway of 1.5 metre supported by hand rails, takes 2—3 hours to deploy. It is an adaption of the man-portable Mountain Foot Bridge (MFB) developed for the armed forces, which can bridge dry or wet gaps up to 35 meters, but with a much narrower pathway. Two such bridges were released for public use by Dr R Chidambaram, principal scientific adviser to the government, at a function organised in Dehradun last week, a DRDO spokesperson said.

After the devastating flash floods in Uttarakhand last year, Dr Chidambaram and Avinash Chander, scientific adviser to the Defence Minister, had visited DRDO’s Research and Development Establishment (Engineers) at Pune, where it was proposed to develop a suitable footbridge similar to the Army’s MFB. The brief was to keep the cost of the bridge low.

These bridges, costing Rs 6.5 lakh each, are easy to transport and deploy. The launch does not require accesses to the far bank or elaborate site preparations, making it an ideal choice in a disaster situation.

The original MFB developed for the armed forces is made of high-strength aluminium alloy. It is man-portable and weighs less than 18 kg each.

The pathway

    The bridge can span gaps up to 13.5m and has a pathway of 1.5 m supported by hand rails
    It takes 2-3 hours to deploy and is an adaption of the man-portable Mountain Foot Bridge developed for the armed forces, which can bridge dry or wet gaps up to 35 m.



http://www.tribuneindia.com/2014/20140721/nation.htm#16
Jaitley follows in Antony’s footsteps
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, July 20
In his 55 days in the office as Defence Minister, Arun Jaitley has ensured continuity in the sensitive ministry by following the policies of his predecessor AK Antony. Other than increasing the cap on foreign direct investment (FDI) in defence manufacturing to 49 per cent, each action of Jaitley has supported what Antony had stood for during his tenure (October 2006 to May 2014) as defence minister.

Antony had criticised the FDI hike from the existing 26 per cent terming it as a “threat to national security”.

Chairing the first Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) meeting yesterday, Jaitley okayed projects worth Rs 21,000 crore. Most of these were initiated by Antony. Notably, the DAC okayed a project to allow private sector to produce military planes in collaboration with their foreign partners.

The idea was first mooted by Antony in 2013 only to see protests from Praful Patel, the then Heavy Industries Minister. The protest sought to allow Defence Public Sector Undertaking (DPSU) Hindustan Aeronautics Limited also to bid for the project. Antony threw up the idea that DPSUs will not be automatically nominated as Indian partners for big-ticket purchases. He wanted to open up some manufacturing for private sector.

Jaitley has also taken a decision to station 32 of the the naval variants of the advanced light helicopters (ALH) on Navy and Coast Guard ships. The copters on ships need rotors which can fold, allowing storage of the machine on deck. The HAL has developed a foldable rotor. The twin engine copter uses Snecma engines of France. HAL will provide spares and servicing, saving some foreign exchange.

The ALH, light combat aircraft (Tejas), Arjun tank and indigenous artillery guns were Antony’s pet projects.

Also, the BJP-NDA regime that took oath on May 26 will continue to gets warships produced in India. Jaitley allowed five supply ships to be built by private sector. India has produced some world class ships of Shivalik class at the DPSU Mazagon Dock Limited. Hull of the indigenous nuclear submarine Arihant was built by a private sector firm.

Key decisions

    Chairing the DAC meeting on Saturday, Jaitley okayed projects worth Rs 21,000 crore.
    Most of these were initiated by Antony
    Jaitley put a lid on the controversy over the appointment of Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag as the next Army Chief saying in the Rajya Sabha that the appointment is final
    The decision to appoint Lt Gen Suhag was taken during the last days of the Congress-led UPA regime.



http://www.tribuneindia.com/2014/20140721/edit.htm#7
Finalise national security policy urgently
N. N. Vohra

The most urgent need for the Central Government is to secure appropriate understanding with the states for finalising an appropriate national security policy and putting in place a modern, fully coordinated security-management system which can effectively negate any arising challenge to the territorial security, unity and integrity of India. It would be useful, at the very outset, to state that, in simple language, the term “national security” could be defined to comprise external security, which relates to safeguarding the country against war and external aggression, and internal security which relates to the maintenance of public order and normalcy within the country.

External issues

The first generation of India's security analysts, who focused attention almost entirely on issues relating to external security, had found it convenient to distinguish issues relating to external and internal security. However, such a segregated approach is no longer feasible, particularly after the advent of terrorism which has introduced extremely frightening dimensions to the internal security environment. I would go further to say that issues of internal and external security management have been inextricably intertwined ever since Pakistan launched a proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir in early 1990 and Pak-based jihadi terrorists started establishing networks in our country.

Geopolitical developments

Our national security interests have continued to be influenced and affected by geo-political developments in our region and far beyond. In the context of the experience gained, it is extremely important that, besides all necessary steps being taken for safeguarding India's territorial security and establishing a very strong machinery to counter terrorism, close attention is also paid for effectively securing other important arenas, particularly those relating to food, water, environment and ecology, science and technology, energy, nuclear power, economy, cyber security, et al.

While evolving a holistic approach towards national security management, it would be relevant to keep in mind that our country comprises an immense cultural and geographical diversity and our people, nearly a billion and a quarter today, represent multi-religious, multi-lingual and multi-cultural societies whose traditions, customs and socio-religious sensitivities are rooted in thousands of years of recorded history. It is equally important to remember that in our vast and unfettered democracy the unhindered interplay of socio-cultural traditions and religious practices carries the potential of generating discords and disagreements which may lead to serious communal disturbances, particularly when adversary elements from across our borders join the fray.

While it may appear somewhat trite to cite school-level statistics, our security- management apparatus shall need to reckon that we have over 15,000 km of land borders, a coastline of about 7,500 km, over 600 island territories and an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of about 25 lakh sq km. These awesome parameters and, besides, the extremely difficult geographical and climatic conditions which obtain in the various regions of our vast country present serious challenges to our security forces who maintain a constant vigil on our land, sea and air frontiers.

While it would not be feasible to recount the varied security challenges which India has faced in the decades gone by, it could be stated that the more serious problems in the recent years have emanated from Pakistan's continuing proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir; jihadi terrorism, which has been progressively spreading its reach; the destructive activities which the Left-wing extremist groups have been carrying out for decades now; the serious unrest created by the still active insurgencies in the North-East region; and incidents of serious communal violence which have been erupting in the various states, from time to time. Mention must also be made of the steadily growing activities of the Indian Mujahideen, a terror group which has its roots in Pakistan. Another phenomenon, relatively more recent, relates to the emergence of certain radical counter-groups which have been organised with the primary objective of countering the jihadi terror networks. It needs being noted that the activities of such counter-groups have the potential of spreading disharmony and divisiveness which could generate widespread communal violence and result in irreparably damaging the secular fabric of our democracy.

Increased terror activities

The Pak ISI has also been striving to resurrect Sikh militancy in Punjab by supporting the establishment of terror modules from among militants in the Sikh diaspora. The ISI is also reported to have been pressurising Sikh militant groups to join hands with the Kashmir-centric militant outfits. The activities of the Left-wing extremist groups, which have been continuing their armed struggle for the past several decades to capture political power, are posing an extremely serious internal security challenge. While there may have been a marginal decline in the scale of incidents and the number of killings in the past few years, there has been a marked increase in the gruesome attacks by Naxalite groups on the security forces.

India's hinterland continues to remain the prime focus of Pakistan-based terror groups, particularly LeT and IM. In the recent past, indigenous groups comprising elements of SIMI and AL-Ummah have perpetrated serious violent incidents in the country and, notwithstanding its frequent denials, Pakistan remains steadfastly committed to harbouring anti-India terror groups on its soil.

Having referred to some of the more worrying concerns on the homeland front it would be useful to examine whether we have framed an appropriate national security policy and established the required institutions which are capable of effectively meeting the arising threats. Before commenting further on this important issue it would be relevant to keep in view that, as per the provisions in our Constitution, it is the duty of the Union to protect every state against external aggression and internal disturbance.

In the decades past, the country has had to encounter external aggression on several occasions and no significant issues have arisen about the Union's role and responsibility to protect the states against war. However, insofar as the Union's duty to protect every state against internal disturbance is concerned, all the states have not so far accepted the Central Government's authority to enact and enforce federal laws for dealing with terror acts, cyber offences, and other major crimes which have all -India ramifications. The states have also been opposing the Central Government’s authority to establish new security management agencies with pan-India jurisdictions. In this context, an argument which has been repeatedly raised is that it is the constitutional prerogative of the states to manage law and order within their territories and that the Centre has no basis for interfering in this arena.

Undoubtedly, the states are constitutionally mandated to make all required laws in regard to police and public order, take all necessary executive decisions, establish adequate police organisations and manage appropriate security management systems for effectively maintaining law and order within their territories. However, looking back over the serious law-and-order failures which occurred in various parts of the country in the past six-and-a-half decades, it cannot be asserted that there have been no failures and that all the states have a sustained record of ensuring against any breach in the maintenance of peace and security within their jurisdictions.

It may not be practical to detail the varied reasons on account of which the states have failed to timely and adequately deal with arising disturbances in their jurisdictions in the past years. However, it could be briefly said that, among the more significant contributory factors, the defaults of the states have arisen from their failure to maintain adequate Intelligence organisations and well-trained police forces in the required strength for effectively maintaining internal security within their territories. On many occasions, the states have also displayed the lack of political will to deal with an arising situation on their own. Instead, the general practice which has evolved over the past many years has been for the affected state to rush to the Union Home Ministry for the urgent deployment of Central armed police forces for restoring normalcy in the disturbed area.

Another factor which has adversely affected internal security management relates to the progressive erosion of the professionalism of the state police forces. This regrettable decline has taken place because of the day-to-day political interference in the functioning of the constabularies. Such interference has, over the years, caused untold damage and most adversely affected the accountability, morale and the very integrity of the state police forces.

In the annual All-India Internal Security Conferences organised by the Union Home Ministry, many chief ministers have been taking the position that internal security cannot be managed effectively because the states do not have the resources for enlarging and modernising their police and security-related organisations. For the past over two decades now, the Union Home Ministry has been providing annual allocations for the modernisation of the state police forces. However, it is a matter for serious concern that, over the years past, the Central Government has failed to evolve a national security management policy which clearly delineates the respective role and responsibility of the Central and state governments. Nonetheless, whenever called upon to do so, the Central Government has been consistently assisting the states by deploying Central police forces, and even the Army, for restoring normalcy in the disturbed area.

Considering the gravity of the progressively increasing security threats and also bearing in mind the constitutional prescription that it is the duty of the Union to protect every state against internal disturbance, it is important that the Central Government takes the most urgent steps for finalising the National Security Policy and the machinery for its administration, in suitable consultations with the states. The National Security Policy must leave no doubt or uncertainty whatsoever about the Central Government's authority for taking all necessary steps for pre-empting or preventing arising disturbances in any part of the country. In this context, it is regrettable that in the past years the Central Government has not invariably been able to deploy its forces for protecting even its own assets which are located in the various states. The circumstances which led to the demolition of the Babri Masjid, and the grave consequences thereof suffered by the nation, are still far too fresh in our memories to call for any retelling.

Under Article 256 of the Constitution, the executive power of the Union extends to giving of such directions to a state as may appear to the Government of India to be necessary for that purpose. However, over the years, the Union Home Ministry's general approach has been to merely issue cautionary notes and not any directives in regard to an emerging situation. This approach, of sending out advisories, has not proved effective and, over the years, varied internal disturbances have taken place in different parts of the country, some of which have caused large human, economic and other losses.

After the National Security Policy has been finalised, the Central Government shall need to undertake, in collaboration with the states, a country-wide review of the entire existing security management apparatus and draw up a plan for restructuring and revamping it within a stipulated time frame. While playing their part in such an exercise, the states would need to accept the important role which they are required to play in national security management and demonstrate their unconditional commitment to work closely with each other and the Central Government for ensuring against any assault on the unity and integrity of the country.

Ramifications for national security

For the past nearly two decades now, there have been repeated pronouncements that the Central Government is promulgating a law for dealing with identified federal offences and establishing a central agency which would have the authority of taking cognisance and investigating crimes which have serious inter-state or nationwide ramifications for national security. In this context, the proposal of setting up the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) has continued to be debated for the past several years. A number of states, which have been opposed to the establishment of NCTC in its present form, have suggested that the proposed framework of this body should be entirely revised in consultation with the states. Some other states have urged that NCTC should not be established through an executive order but through a law enacted by the Parliament and that it should function under the administrative control of the Union Home Ministry instead of under the Intelligence Bureau.

As terror acts and other federal offences cannot be dealt with by the existing security management apparatus, it is necessary that the Central Government undertakes urgent discussions with the chief ministers to resolve all the doubts and issues raised by the states.

For commencing a purposeful dialogue with the states, with the objective of securing the requisite Centre-states understanding in the arena of national security management, the Union Home Ministry could beneficially utilise the aegis of the Inter-State Council (ISC), of which the Prime Minister is the chairperson.

(To be continued tomorrow)

— Excerpted from the First Air Commodore Jasjit Singh Memorial Lecture on July 18, 2014. The writer, a former Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Union Home Secretary and Defence Secretary, is currently Governor of Jammu and Kashmir.

The views expressed in the article are in his personal capacity and not as a representative of government. Send your comments to: nsftribune@tribunemail.com

National Security Forum

This is the first of a two-part series on the urgent need to evolve a holistic approach towards the management of national security. The writer argues that we have to quickly firm up an appropriate national security policy and establish the required institutions to meet the new challenges effectively.

For security sake

    The proposal of setting up the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) has continued to be debated for the past several years.
    A number of States have been opposed to the establishment of NCTC in its present form.
    The states have suggested that the proposed framework of this body should be entirely revised in consultation with them.
    As terror acts and other federal offences cannot be dealt with by the existing security management apparatus, it is necessary that the Central Government undertakes urgent discussions with the chief ministers to resolve all the doubts and issues raised by the states.



http://www.newindianexpress.com/thesundaystandard/Defence-Ministry-Army-in-Tug-of-War-Over-Funds/2014/07/20/article2339281.ece
Defence Ministry, Army in Tug of War Over Funds


NEW DELHI: As the Narendra Modi government focuses on faster decision-making and quicker defence procurement processes, the Army’s regional commanders may soon get to break free of the bureaucratic rigmarole, if their demand for hiking their financial powers, in some cases even doubling it, is met by the Defence Ministry.

If this proposal is approved by the NDA government, it would pave way for speedier purchase of weapons and supplies urgently required by the troops for operational needs in troubled areas such as Jammu and Kashmir and in the North East states, say officers at the Army headquarters.

According to the officers, the Army headquarters has sought at least 50 per cent hike in the financial powers of its key formations such as the Udhampur-headquartered Northern Army Command in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and the Kolkata-headquartered Eastern Army Command, responsible for the security of the Northeastern states, to let them buy weapons and ammunition.

At present, under the financial powers accorded to them in 2006 by the previous UPA government, the commanders from the North and the East can buy weapons and ammunition worth only up to `50 lakh without the approvals of higher-ups. This amount could fetch only bare minimum ammunition for the nearly five lakh troopers cumulatively posted in both Jammu and Kashmir and the North East, according to Army officers.

In concurrence with the Integrated Financial Advisers (IFA), a system introduced in 2006, the Army commanders—who are all in the rank of a Central government secretary—can at present buy ordnance stores up to `10 crore.

“It is this financial power, in concurrence with the IFAs, that the Army wants hiked by at least 50 per cent. That is, instead of `10 crore, the Army commanders should be able to buy weapons up to `15 crore. This would though only help in offsetting the inflationary factors,” an officer told The Sunday Standard.

The issue of hiking financial powers was first discussed by the Army top brass at the commanders conference held earlier this year, after the Defence Ministry ordered a review of the 2006 delegation of financial powers on January 23 and sought improvements in the system.

The then Northern Army Commander Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra, who retired in May this year, raised the issue at the Army commanders meeting,  noting “the present budgetary cap restricts purchase of required stores owing to cost escalation.” He was quoted by sources as saying in the meeting that the “financial powers should be increased”. His contention was supported by the procurement branch of the Army headquarters under the Master General Ordnance, who brought out the case for increasing of financial powers to be reviewed with the Defence Ministry.

In the case of sector stores—basically weapons and ammunition that are unique to a particular border area such as Poonch sector or Menhdar sector— the Army commanders had the powers to buy up to `25 lakh without consulting the IFAs under the 2006 orders.

In consultation with the IFA, they could buy up to `2 crore. But the Army wants this power doubled to `4 crore.

In case weapons and equipment, such as snow boots and jackets for Siachen operations, are to be imported, the Army commander in Udhampur could do so only up to `2 crore. This again needs to be doubled to `4 crore, according to the Army.

“Most of the amount prescribed at present is pittance compared to the cost of weapons and equipment. Even if the hike proposed by the Army headquarters is accepted by the government, it would only help ward off the inflationary effects on the defence budget,” a Lieutenant General-rank officer said, requesting anonymity.



http://zeenews.india.com/news/nation/bjp-mp-opposes-army-s-firing-range-expansion-plans-in-pokharan_948772.html
BJP MP opposes Army's firing range expansion plans in Pokharan
New Delhi: Army's plan to further expand its field firing range in Pokharan, Jaisalmer is facing opposition from the local BJP MP who claims this would lead to second time displacement of thousands of families from the area, which houses Asia's largest weapon testing facility.

In a letter to Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, BJP's Jodhpur MP Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said majority of the land to be acquired under the range expansion plans is fertile irrigated land and suggested that the Army could expand its range in the nearby Shahgarh Bulge area, which is "barren and totally deserted".

"The Army has been seeking land of the nearby villages of the firing range for expansion and surveys have been conducted for the acquisition of land. The survey by the local authorities suggests that one more time, thousands of villagers and their cattle would be forced to be displaced one more time and go through the pain suffered by their earlier generations," the MP said.

Shekhawat said 13 villages had to be displaced fully and partially when the range was established 45-50 years ago and "the same families have been able to return to the mainstream after so many years and they may be displaced for the second time."

He requested Jaitley to "feel the pain of these people from border areas and to protect them from these sufferings. Please consider our request with a humanitarian approach and save our future generations from these sufferings."

Shekhawat said the firing range was equally important and, "If the range is expanded in the Shahgarh Bulge area, my people from these areas will not have to suffer this inhuman tragedy."

The Pokharan field firing range is is spread over 750 square miles and India carried out both its nuclear tests in this facility.

The Army also uses the range to carry out its winter and summer exercises in the firing range which is close to the international border with Pakistan.

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