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Thursday, 9 April 2015

From Today's Papers - 09 Apr 2015

BRO yet to speed up snow clearing work in Lahaul
Udaipur and Chandra valley cut off from Keylong for over a month
Kuldeep Chauhan

Tribune News Service

Shimla, April 8
Residents in snow-bound Lahaul-Spiti district have been cut off from district headquarters Keylong for the past one month as the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has failed to restore the main road links to the Chandtra valley of Lahaul sub-division and the Pattan valley of Udaipur subdivision.

Though Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board Ltd (HPSEBL) has restored electricity in the valley after weeks, the BRO has failed to speed up snow-clearing work on the Udaipur-Tandi and Koksar-Sissu-Tandi stretches of the highway, the main lifeline of the valley.

As many as five gram panchayats of Koksar, Sissu, Khangsar, Gondla and Mulling, located in the Chandra valley, are cut off from Keylong since February 22, rued Prem Lal and Himal Singh, residents of Sissu panchayat.

The BRO (Deepak project), which maintains the roads, is yet to repair the two snow cutters and press these into service as the organisation has sought company mechanics for the job, revealed sources from Keylong.

The BRO has started snow clearing from the Sissu side, but has not reached glacier point and one machine has developed snag in its radiator, sources said.

The two machines stuck in the Dalang glacier have been retrieved to the road side, but the Rs 1.2 crore computerised compressor remained struck in the glacier and is about to land in the Chandra river, said residents of Dalang. The BRO had recently, with the help of police, recovered bodies of two Nepalis here who worked as chowkidars in the organisation. The shack they lived in had caved in under the snow.

The BRO has cleared _the Keylong-Tandi-Stringri stretch as it lifts water from Tandi to the Stingri camp and one machine is clearing snow at snail’s pace from the petrol pump near Tandi towards Mulling, the residents said.

Similarly, the BRO is yet to speed up on the Sansari Nala-Udaipur-Tandi highway that has cut off the Udaipur subdivision from Keylong, rued Jagdish, pradhan, Thirot panchyat.

Lahaul-Spiti DC HR Chauhan said they were in touch with BRO and hoped it would restore Udaipur and Chandra valley in a couple of days. The shooting boulder along the road posed another problem during snow clearing here, he added.
Tweet row: Cong seeks VK Singh’s dismissal

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 8
The Congress today demanded resignation of General VK Singh (retd), junior minister in the External Affairs Ministry, on account of his controversial anti-media tweet.
“We condemn the atrocious tweet by VK Singh and demand his sacking with immediate effect. Let us see whether the government sacks him. If it does not, we will tell you what we will do,” said Congress spokesperson Khushboo.
She attacked Singh for his recent controversies and objectionable statements, including his comments that overseeing the rescue operations from Yemen “was not as exciting as attending Pakistan National Day celebrations recently”.
Singh, former Army Chief, in his latest tweet said, “Friends what do you expect from presstitutes…?” The Congress while recalling a series of condemnable tweets from Singh in the past said the BJP government must sack him from the Council of Ministers.
The BJP for its part distanced from the tweet and said it was for the writer to explain himself.
More Men or Better Technology? Government Rethinking Strategy to Counter China: Sources
New Delhi:  India is said to be re-thinking a decision made two years ago to raise a mountain strike corps to guard the hilly northern borders with China. Sources said the government is now weighing whether it will make more sense to invest in better technology rather than raise an 80,000 strong force at considerable expense.

The Manmohan Singh government of the Congress had hastily cleared the raising of the corp after repeated transgression by Chinese troops in Ladakh in 2013, one of which lasted for over a month. The Mountain Strike Corps, or the Panagarh based 17 Corps, would add on about 80,000 men at a cost of Rs. 64000 crore to be spent over eight years.

The corps headquarters have come up at Panagarh in West Bengal; a few battalions have come up as well.

For the last two years, no separate funds have been allocated to the Indian Army to raise the corps and neither has border infrastructure been built to house troops. The Indian Army has been forced use war reserves to raise and equip the corps.

Sources told NDTV that plans to reposition troops in the northern command were put on hold temporarily because the existing  infrastructure was found to be "incapable of absorbing more troops."

"Are we preparing for wars of the past or wars of future? Wars of the future will depend on disruptive technologies. The emphasis should be modern means of combat and not bayonet to bayonet or muzzle to muzzle war," Major General (retd) B K Sharma, who heads Centre for Strategic Studies at the United Services Institute told NDTV.

The Chief of Integrated Defence Staff and the National Security Council Secretariat have asked the government whether it wants a huge army or then a small but smart army with a focus on technology and non-contact fighting capabilities.

Besides, questions have also been raised about the huge cost by way of salaries and pensions, for the Indian Army. Already, manpower accounts for nearly 90 per cent of the Army's budget.

"Going by the average budget allocations, there may come a time when the Army finds itself unable to set aside money for capital expenditure, therefore, force accretion should be thought through," a top Defence Ministry official told NDTV.
Army officers panic as hackers steal secret data
NEW DELHI: Panic gripped Indian army officers over the last week after they were unable to access salary details on the Principal Comptroller of Defence Accounts (Officers) website which was allegedly hacked late last month. All vital and sensitive data related to officers' service and financial details are feared to have been stolen by suspected Pakistani or Chinese hackers.

What most officers of all ranks are deeply aggrieved about is that while PCDAO and army brass as well the defence ministry are aware of the hacking, no measures had been taken to restore the website.

"It speaks of the lackadaisical attitude of the authorities. There is no urgency on the part of the government to plug the massive hole and retrieve the data," said a disgruntled officer with the Southern Command venting his discontent at PCDAO authorities.

MoD and the Army have started investigation into the hacking, but the issue has been kept under wraps for fear of an uproar among officers some of whom apprehend that key components of their salary - provident fund or travel allowance/dearness allowance --might have been swept clean by the online miscreants.
"We have no clue what might have happened to our salary because we are not being able to access our salary slips. The hackers have hit where it hurts the officer corps the most," said a major general who did not wish to be identified.

Indeed, the PCDAO website is central to an officer's finances. He or she can not only access information on the salary, but also audit and details on allowances, including leave travel allowance, receipt of claims, proof of IT returns. Officers also apply for PF withdrawals through the website.

Officers' individual accounts which can be accessed through a username and password carry other details such as their exact areas of posting, the units they belong to, PAN card numbers and bank account details among other things.

Many officers claimed these constitute sensitive information that foreign agencies might be interested in getting hold of. Preliminary investigations revealed that all data of officers across regiments have been "stolen from the Mumbai server through a remote login port."

Several officers TOI spoke to claimed that when they tried to log into the accounts at, they found that few elements of the original website were intact, but at the bottom there were screaming adverts on call girls. And now the website cannot be accessed at all - a clear indication that PCDAO and MoD officials have displayed lethargy to restore it or, for that matter, probe whether data had been lost or online miscreants managed to transfer out money from officers' accounts.

The defence establishment initially put up on the PCDAO website that it would "resume shortly", saying "salary upload is in progress". Subsequently, the website shut down completely. When approached for a comment, a defence spokesperson claimed he had no information that the PCDAO website had been hacked.

A PCDAO spokesperson, when contacted, admitted that several officers, alarmed by the disruption, have been approaching officers in Pune to make inquiries why they were not being able to access their salary details. The spokesperson, however, claimed that the website had crashed because of "modification of the computer system" which caused an erroneous transfer of data.
India, China Defence Officials Hold Preliminary Talks
Amid fresh reports of incursions by Chinese troops, top defence officials of India and China today held preliminary talks to improve relations between the two militaries ahead of their Annual Defence Dialogue (ADD).

A high-powered Indian military delegation headed by Defence Secretary R K Mathur which arrived here today held preliminary talks as the two sides had a wide agenda for the ADD besides exchanging views on a number of regional and global security issues of mutual concern.

The seventh round of the ADD will be formally held on April 10 and aims at improving military ties.

The talks between the top military officials were held ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to China expected to take place in the middle of May during which he would hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping on critical issues like the boundary dispute as well as forging closer trade ties with more Chinese investments.

Today's preliminary talks were held days after two recent face-offs between Indian and Chinese troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh in the same area where People's Liberation Army (PLA) had pitched camps in April, 2013, leading to a three week-long standoff.

According to Indian officials, the Chinese troops came to Burtse and Depsang areas in north of Ladakh, first on March 20 and then on March 28, apparently as part of attempts to reach the Old Patrol Point, the last established base of Indian security forces.

China says such incidents take place because of different perceptions of the LAC.

The two sides were expected to review the implementation of the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) reached two years ago to address aggressive patrolling by both sides along the disputed border.

Both the countries recently held the 18th round of border talks in New Delhi aimed at resolving the issue that was presided over by Special Representatives Ajit Doval and his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi.

The contention in the border talks lies in China's claim that the border dispute is confined only to 2,000 kms mostly in Arunachal Pradesh while India asserts that the dispute covered the western side of the border spanning to about 4,000 kms, especially the Aksai Chin area annexed by China in 1962 war.

The ADD is a platform for extensive talks between the two militaries on the security situation in South Asia, the Asia- Pacific and the Indian Ocean region and sharing of perspectives about the evolving regional security situation.

Ahead of the talks, China has expressed its readiness to work with India to "identify meeting points" to link up its Maritime Silk Road plans with India's 'Mausam' project in a bid to address New Delhi's strategic concerns about Beijing's activities in the Indian Ocean and derive "common benefits".
One Rank One Pension to be approved by April end: Army Chief
Jhajjar: Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag on Saturday said that the long-standing demand of Armed Forces veterans' for One Rank One Pension (OROP) will be approved by April end.

The file on the OROP is currently being studied by the Finance wing of the Defence Ministry after which it would be sent to the Finance Ministry for final approval.

The government has already made it clear that the OROP will be implemented with effect from April 1, 2014.

Addressing a rally of around 17,000 ex-servicemen here, the Army Chief said, "The OROP will come out in the same principle as desired. It will be effective from April 1, 2014 and may be approved latest by April 30 this year. However, delay does not matter as arrears will be given."

The OROP scheme, which seeks to ensure that a uniform pension is paid to defence personnel who retire at the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement, has been a long-standing demand of the over two million ex-servicemen in the country.

In view of the hardships faced by the soldiers while discharging their duties, Gen Singh has sought a hike in their pay and allowances from the Prime Minister, a defence statement said.

Singh said that the army has tied up with the Skilled Development ministry for ensuring employment to the Army retirees in public and private sectors, it said.

However, the Army Chief ruled out the possibilities of exempting the veterans from income tax as it would be a violation of the principal of parity, the statement added.

A number of grievance resolution stalls were set up to process on-the-spot redressal of grievances pertaining to pension, preparation of ECHS cards and CSD cards, it said.

A medical camp was also organised in which specialists from various discipline of medicine attended the needy patients.

Besides, 26 modified scooters and six wheel chairs were given to the eligible ex-servicemen, the statement added.

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