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Monday, 4 May 2015

From Today's Papers - 04 May 2015

As IAF fleet dwindles, HAL output too slips
Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 3
As force levels of the IAF’s fighter fleet spirals downwards, there have been time and cost slippages on the part of state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to produce the SU-30 frontline combat aircraft as well as the Advance Light Helicopter (ALH).

Against a contract order for supply of 180 aircraft by 2013-14, HAL has produced 150 aircraft, while only 78 ALH helicopters have been produced against the mandate to supply 138 by 2013-14, Parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence has observed in its latest report.

The slack in production of critical aircraft comes in the backdrop of the process to procure modern aircraft hanging fire for the past several years and the older generation aircraft being retired on becoming obsolete. The IAF requires at least 45 fighter squadrons to counter a two front collusive threat. However, the IAF at present has 35 active fighter squadrons as against the government authorised strength of 42. This, too, could be reduced to just 25 squadrons if the present state of affairs continues.

The IAF has contracted 272 Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft to form 13 squadrons. Three more squadrons would be equipped with the SU-30 in the next 4-5 years. If all procurements, including the Light Combat Aircraft, Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft and the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft, fructify as planned, the IAF is likely to achieve the authorised strength of 42 squadrons only by the end of 15th Plan Period.

According to HAL, it operates a “Batch Mode of Production” and does not work on the concept of mass production.
Ageing men, slow promotions plague BSF
Shaurya Karanbir Gurung

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 3
The Border Security Force, which is deployed along the country’s hostile border with Pakistan, is currently faced with a problem of ageing Commanding Officers, who are presently above 50 years. Ideally, they should be between 30 and 40 years.

During the Kargil war, the average age of a Commanding Officer or Colonel of a unit of all arms of the Army was about 40 years. Reports of the Kargil Review Committee, Group of Ministers and Ajay Vikram Singh Committee had suggested that the age of commanding officers of the combat arms be brought down for better performance. This has been achieved by the Army.

The three committees, however, did not make any suggestions to reduce the age of Commanding Officers of the BSF, which operates under the Army during war. The Delhi High Court on April 22 had ordered that a cadre review of the BSF be conducted within six months.

A cadre review is conducted so as to meet the functional requirements of the force by creating additional posts that would reduce age of personnel considerably. BSF sources said the force was plagues with untimely promotions, unplanned recruitment at the entry levels and fewer higher posts. This has resulted in little upward mobility or career progression of officers.

Currently, the average age of Commandants (Commanding Officers) of the BSF’s General Duty (GD) cadre — the fighting arm — is 49 as compared to the Army’s 37. The average age of a Deputy Inspector General is 54, while a Brigade Commander in the Army is 43.

The BSF is presently deployed for the counter-insurgency and anti-Maoist operations in the country. “Do you expect a 50-year-old Commandant to fight a war, for instance, at an altitude of 12,000 ft. He has physical and psychological limitations. The appetite for risk taking reduces. If a Commandant won’t take the risk, his troops, too, won’t. The Line of Control is guarded by the Army and the BSF secures the international border. An ageing command responsible for it may not be able to deliver,” said the sources.

The problem of ageing is also prevalent at the lower levels of the force. Most head constables are touching 50 years and constables, who constitute 90 per cent of the BSF, are between 40 and 45 years. They are part of the smallest sub-unit and play a major role in patrol, ambush, border management duties and bunker-to-bunker battles.

Ever since it was raise on December 1, 1965, the BSF’s GD cadre has had only two reviews in 1978 and 1989, though the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) guidelines clearly state that a cadre review of the BSF should be conducted every five years.

Former BSF Deputy Inspector General (Operations) JS Bhalla said he had sent the third cadre review proposal to the DoPT, which responded by saying that the BSF is not an Organised Group A Service (OGAS). Therefore, a cadre review cannot be conducted and only a “restructuring” of the force can be carried out, which was done in 2003.”

If the government conducts a cadre review, they would have to accept BSF as an OGAS.
India, China working out new border protocols
As the Indian side gears up for the high-profile visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to China in the middle of May, militaries of both countries are working out an arrangement that will match the promises of peace made by top most political executives — Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The two sides are working out an arrangement that will crucially include three additional meeting points for commanders stationed on either side of the 3,488 km long un-demarcated Line of Actual Control (LAC) that runs all along the Himlayan ridgeline on an east to west axis.

India wants the Northern Army Commander, who controls Jammu and Kashmir, and his Chinese counterpart, who heads the Lanzhou Military Area Command, to sit down and sort out differences.

Beijing has expressed some reservations as the Northern Army commander also controls Kashmir. Pakistan, China’s friend, terms Kashmir as disputed territory.

Sources in the establishment confirm that Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) Lieutenant General PR Kumar has been tasked with working out the details with his counterpart of having additional meeting grounds for commanders.

“The proposal is to have one additional meeting point in Ladakh, one in the east i.e. Arunachal Pradesh and another in the central sector i.e. Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand”, a senior functionary said.

Local commanders currently meet at Spanngur Gap in eastern Ladakh. Discussions have taken place to designate Track Junction, Pangang Tso, Demchock and Chumar as points for emergency meetings between the border personnel. Sources said there was some consensus in Ladakh and the additional point could be Demchok located in south-eastern part of Ladakh.

The two sides have meeting points at Bum-La near Tawang Arunachal Pradesh and Nathu-La in north-eastern Sikkim to sort out local issues.
Army Colonel Arrested for Allegedly Raping Mentally Challenged Woman in Nashik
Nashik:  A senior Army officer has been arrested for allegedly raping a mentally challenged woman in Nashik.

Colonel Vinod Sahani allegedly raped a 23-year-old mentally challenged woman at his bungalow in Nashik's Sansari area on April 30, police said.

The woman, who stayed in the neighbourhood, was found by her family members at the colonel's house, once they started searching for her.

The colonel was produced in a court and sent to three days police custody today.

According to complaint filed by the woman's family, the senior army officer lured the 23-year-old to his house and later raped her, a police officer said, adding, the woman's parents lodged the complaint on Friday.

Preliminary medical tests have confirmed rape but a detailed report is awaited.
Defence Procurement Policy: Drastic changes on cards
 The Government is contemplating four major changes in the defence procurement policy that will drastically alter India's defence dealings with foreign vendors, a top official in the Defence Ministry has said.

The policy was under intense review for quite some time and the new procedure is likely to be unveiled by the end of this month or in the first week of June, the official said.

"We are trying to make three-four broad changes and one of the focus area would bethe procedure on handling complaints, as the present mechanism is proving to be blanket in nature," he said, requesting anonymity.

The Defence Procurement Procedure is reviewed after every 2 years. Last change was made at the end of May, 2013.

Explaining complaint's handling procedure, the officer said, "We keep on getting a large number of complaints signed, unsigned, pseudonymous, anonymous and so on. Frequently, the practice has been that the minute you get a complaint, you freeze and stop moving on that procurement."

Blacklisting of a company, which indulges in wrong practices, would be the second focusarea, as till date about 12-13 companies have been blacklisted, hampering many critical and strategically important defence purchases.

"If a company commits a criminal offence as per the procedures of the country, it must be punished, and we are working out that approach as to how to do blacklisting, whether there can be some intermediate stages and so on because that has the potential of making my procurement procedures move faster," the officer said.

The third broad area is the offset policy which is not proving to be effective so far.

The present offset policy mandates foreign OEM's to discharge offset obligations throughcombination of permissible avenues including eligible product and services in all procurements cases where cost of the capital acquisition is Rs, 300 crores or more.

As on date, a total of 25 Defence offset contracts have been signed in the Defence Ministry out of which 16 cases pertain to Indian Air Force and 06 cases of Indian Navy and03 of Indian Army. The total offset obligations are estimated at appox Rs. 29,274crores over a period from 2008-2022.

"In most cases we are being forced to make dispensation or give concessions to the foreign companies because the policy is not right. The vendor is,perhaps, right but we are not right in the way the policy is framed at the moment. How do I change my offsets? The thinking there is that I must have what we call the directed offsets," the officer said.

" For example, if I am buying Sukhoi, I would link it up with Make in India procedure and say that the Sukhoi manufacturing company must invest in India,with Indian companies, to manufacture the spare parts or components of Sukhoi itself.We have had discussions with the Russians, Americans, Britishers and French on thisas a subject and we have interestingly found a positive response that for majorplatforms we would simultaneously target as part of directed offsets on this.

The fourth major change, that the Ministry was contemplating is on theMake Procedure which is already existing in the DPP but was not yielding the expected results.

According to the proposed broad framework 80 per cent of the research funding for Make Project would be provided by the Government to a Government or to a private company to develop that product in return for an assured order for a certain period so that it becomes commerciallyviable. UNI MK SY 1407
Government Fails The Indian Soldier Again, Lack Of Nearly 2 Lakh Bullet-Proof Vests In Army Stocks
How cheap is an Indian soldier's life? Apparently cheaper than a bullet-proof vest, or so it seems.

In a story published by DNA on May 3, it is reported that though the Indian Army has enough supplies of such vests currently, a large portion of its stocks will be unusable by next year and it will face a shortage of of 1,86,138 bullet-proof jackets.

This shocking fact was part of the findings of the parliamentary standing committee on defence headed by BJP MP from Uttarakhand Major General BC Khanduri (retired).
What makes this discovery worse is the fact that this inadequacy is completely due to bureaucratic callousness. The defence acquisition council (DAC) had approved procurement of these jackets in 2009, whilst UPA II was in power. After the approval, Ministry of Defence invited proposals for the procurement and six companies out of Army's 39 vendors responded. But that's where the acquisition ended. Six years and two governments later the Army is yet to get those vests which according to industry specialists cost around Rs 50000 per piece.

What makes it more worrisome is that this figure of 1,86,138 is based on finding prior to 2009 which means it's already out of sync with present demand. According to the report, the present requirement can actually be close to 3.5 lakhs, i.e. almost double the current figure.

 "It is an unpleasant surprise for the committee that in spite of critical shortages of bullet-proof jackets being highlighted in the previous report too, there is no improvement in the situation. It is alarming. It needs an explanation," fumed the parliamentary panel in its latest report. It further called the issue 'man-made' and 'very serious'.

It is sad that a government which has time and again said that it will not be averse to any military action in need of the same is not able to provide it's soldiers with the most basic of safety equipment.
Antony, army blocked AFSPA repeal, admits Chidambaram
New Delhi, May 03 (KMS): How the Indian politicians swiftly change their position after getting out of the power can be assessed from the fresh statement of former Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram about draconian law, Armed Forces Special Power Act.

According to Kashmir Media Service, P Chidambaram in a in a published article admitted that the draconian act like AFSPA had no place in a civilized country. He added that he had tried to repeal the law during the previous regime but failed as the Defence Ministry headed by Mr AK Antony and the Indian Army blocked the move.

The statement also testified that the Indian army had a dominant role in the so-called democratic country, India, said a Kashmiri political analyst.

“As home minister, I was convinced that AFSPA deserved to be repealed,” Mr Chidambaram said in the article, adding that the Ministry of Defence and the defence forces opposed repeal, and the Defence Minister was unwilling to overrule them.
Defence Minister Quells Mutiny with a Bounty

NEW DELHI:At a time when the Indian Army is fighting a court battle over its promotion policy, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has saved himself and his ministry from a major embarrassment by nipping in the bud a discontent brewing among the 50 top Indian Coast Guard officers.

Upset at not getting their dues and tired of being ignored for the past six years, these officers were all set to take the legal recourse to address their grievances. The government is already fighting a case defending the Army’s “command and exit” promotion policy of 2009, which has widened the rift within the service as it is skewed in favour of officers from infantry and artillery. In March this year, the Armed Forces Tribunal quashed the 2009 policy, but the Centre has taken the matter to the Supreme Court, arguing that this policy is the only way to ensure a younger force. The government said the age profile of unit commanders in Pakistan and China was 35 and 40 years, respectively, and thus, that of Indian battalion commanders also needed to be brought down.

With regard to the Indian Coast Guard promotion policy, it all started in 2008. The UPA government in its sixth pay commission recommendations approved a Modified Assured Career Progression Scheme (MACPS) for the Indian Coast Guard officers. However, due to a technical flaw in the order, it could not be implemented by the Coast Guard Headquarters.

Under the new MACPS scheme, around 50 officers of the Indian Coast Guard, who joined service by 1990 and were subsequently promoted to the rank of Commandant by 2002, were to be the beneficiaries. So a group of 15 officers made several representations before their respective Zone headquarters and subsequently to the Coast Guard headquarters in New Delhi.

Finally, in September 2013, the Coast Guard headquarters turned down the petition. The officers then wrote to the then defence minister A K Antony. Antony’s office sat on their representation and did not take any remedial measures.

The Coast Guard officers in February this year once again approached the office of the Defence minister. Finally, losing patience they resorted to file RTI and sought response from the ministry over their petition.

“We had no other option but to take legal recourse after being unheard for such a long period. But now the minister has intervened and accepted to give our dues,” said one of the petitioners, on the condition of anonymity.

Parrikar anticipated the mood of the officers and sought a detailed report from the Coast Guard headquarters on the matter. After extensive briefing and taking legal opinion, on 27 April, he issued an order for implementation of the MACP scheme.

Ever since he took charge, Parrikar has been making efforts to reduce the legal cases pertaining to Armed Forces. He believes “our soldiers should not spend time fighting legal battles in court. Instead they should be on the border”. A top defence ministry official said this was a major decision by the minister, especially at a time, when approximately 15,000 cases related to Armed Forces are pending in various courts and Armed Forces Tribunals across the country.

Moreover, already the Army’s controversial “command and exit policy”, faces the threat of being scrapped. The Apex Court took an adverse stand on it after the defence ministry failed to produce the policy acceptance letter despite repeated requests.

The Army’s 2009 promotion policy was based the recommendation of the committee headed by former defence secretary Ajay Vikram Singh. The panel looked into lowering the age profile of commanding officers after the 1999 Kargil war. The policy has created a disproportionate amount of new ranks for the infantry and artillery against other branches such as the armoured corps, signals, engineering and mechanised infantry.

The Story So Far

Indian Coast Guard:

Over 50 Coast Guard officers have been fighting for implementation of a new promotion policy since 2009. They made several representations and petitions but to no avail. Due to technical reasons, the policy could not be implemented. A group of 15 senior officers then made representations against the Coast Guard’s decision. Finally on April 27, after a fight of over six years, Parrikar issued instructions to implement the promotion scheme. The new policy allows 3 financial upgradation counted from the direct entry grade on completion of 10, 20 and 30 years of service. Financial upgradation under the scheme will be admissible whenever an officer has spent 10 years of continuous service.

The Indian Army:

The Army’s controversial “command and exit policy” of 2009 was quashed by the Armed Forces Tribunal  as it was highly skewed in favour of officers from infantry and artillery, as compared to other branches of the Army. The government moved the Supreme Court in April against the AFT ruling.

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