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Thursday, 8 January 2015

From Today's Papers - 08 Jan 2015

Terror threats: Indo-Pak bus service restricted to Wagah
PK Jaiswar

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 7
Terror threats to target the Delhi-Lahore bus, popularly known as ‘Sada-e-Sarhad’, have taken their toll with the Pakistan Government deciding to restrict its movement to Wagah on the Pakistan side.

The bus, which commenced its service in 1999 with an aim to improve bilateral relations and people-to-people contact between two estranged nations, will not go beyond Wagah, in view of continued terror threats by Pakistan-based militant groups.

According to intelligence sources and an official attached with the Integrated Check Post, the bus would cross over to Pakistan through the Attari-Wagah land route, but it would not go beyond Wagah on the Pakistan side.

They said that as per information available, the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC), which operates the bus on the other side of the border, has shifted its operations from Lahore to Wagah.

Passengers travelling from Lahore and Nankana Sahib will now have to board the bus at Wagah. Similarly, passengers from Delhi would disembark at Wagah, for their onward journey on different vehicles.

This is for the first time that the movement of bus has been restricted at Wagah. Earlier, it had been suspended after the Parliament attack in 2001. It resumed service in 2003 after the bilateral relations improved.

Intelligence agencies had asked the Pakistan Government about the threats by the Taliban groups to target the bus service. Then, the agencies here asked the states through which the bus passes to enhance security of the bus service.

Jasdeep Singh, SSP, Amritsar (rural) police, said the Police Department was already on alert. He said an SP-rank officer supervises the security arrangements while SHOs are deputed on rotational basis to escort the bus. Among the police jurisdictions that the bus passes through, Amritsar (rural) police control the maximum area.
Armed forces seek parity, restoration of status in 7th pay commission

Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 7
The armed forces, in their demand to the 7th Central Pay Commission, have asked for parity and restoration of status which was downgraded in the last pay commission.

A joint services memorandum addresses issues of serving and retired personnel – officers and men.

The key demand is fixation of grade pay, which defines status in the Government of India. The forces have pointed out that a Joint Secretary gets Rs 10,000 grade pay after 18 yrs of service, a Brigadier or his equal rank in other forces get Rs 8,900 while a Major General and equal ranks with almost 30-31 years service get grade pay of Rs 10,000.

The grade pay needs to be rationalised and some parity be made to ensure status for officers. The grade pay of Rs 10,000 is under the ‘senior administrative grade’ (SAG) and only 0.82 officers in forces are in the SAG whereas in the civilian side, 47 per cent of all officers are in the same SAG.

The forces have pointed out that running pay-bands, rather being of help, have caused loss of financial benefits, sources said.

Citing the example of pay-band IV (basic pay between Rs 37,400 to Rs 67,000), the forces say it is applicable for four ranks that is Lieutenant Colonel, Colonel, Brigadier and Major General, whereas in the civilian sector, its is applicable to only two ranks – Director and Joint Secretary -- hence it makes sense there as annual increments are given.

Promotions in the forces are late. By the time, an officer gets to the rank of Major General or equal in other forces, he has already hit the top basic pay limit of Rs 67,000, his annual increments stop till he gets promoted as Lieutenant General.

At least in the Army, there are dozens of such cases. To overcome this anomaly, a suggestion is to put Major General-rank officers in the higher administrative grade, presently paid to Lieutenant-Generals and equal ranks of other forces.

This, according to the last pay commission, has a basic pay between Rs 67,000 and Rs 79,000. Also, any person stagnating in his pay-band should be allowed to get next pay-band salary, say the forces.

The forces want that the last year of the training period at the Indian Military Academy be counted as part of service as was the case with the IAS and IPS cadre.

The memorandum says the Military Service Pay (MSP) amount is very small and it does not count towards status. It has become a hindrance and its is cited each time a financial demand is made.
Army needs 4 lakh balaclavas, 2 lakh boots
Bengaluru: Air Marshal PP Reddy, chief of Integrated Defence Staff, on Monday said India needs to be prepared for war on both fronts, China and Pakistan. But how equipped are our soldiers in high-altitude regions?
With one of the worst winters in the pipeline, the Army is facing a shortage of items like high-ankle boots and balaclavas, lakhs of which still need to be procured. The 1962 conflict with China and the more recent Kargil War (1999) taught India never to vacate posts, even in high-altitude regions, forcing our soldiers to brave the winter chill.
The third report of the standing committee on defence 2014-15, submitted on December 22, 2014 points at glaring shortcomings. Member of Parliament from Belagavi and committee member Suresh Angadi told TOI: "This has been plaguing the Army for a while now. Even when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was Prime Minister, strict instructions were given by the government to procure all the necessary articles for soldiers but it has not happened. Even now, we've told officials to expedite the procurement process."

The report submitted by the committee headed by Major General (retd) BC Khanduri says there's a shortage of 2.17 lakh boots (high ankle), 4.47 lakh balaclavas and 65,978 durries (thick cotton quilts), all basic requirements in high-altitude areas.
Besides, there's a shortage of 13.09 lakh canvas shoes and mosquito nets. The report quoting Vice-Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS) Lt Gen Philip Campose on how the Army is managing the Mountain Strike Corps given the lack of equipment, says the Army is falling back on war wastage reserves.
"We have dipped into our War Wastage Reserves (WWR). So, we are holding War Wastage Reserves of all sorts of equipment, weapons, and stores. All this has been taken out from the WWR and given to the new raisings," he told the committee.
Of all the shortages, the ministry of defence has set a deadline of March 16, 2015 for procurement of durries, while boots, balaclavas and canvas shoes are being procured, or at some stage of clearance.

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