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Sunday, 13 September 2015

From Today's Papers - 13 Sep 2015

 Massive OROP Rally at Jantar Mantar - Government shaken by the show of strength
Veterans from different parts of the country traveled long distances to converge at the Jantar Mantar in the biggest show of strength so far in the ongoing struggle for One Rank One Pension. Despite the usual dirty tricks by the government, which included sowing seeds of dissension by winning over a few pliable people from the senior rungs of the movement and getting them to give statements detrimental to the movement. The turnout was massive - more that 1 Lakh as per estimates, a large number amongst them was floating as people came, spent a few hours at the venue and left while more joined in their place. The government stopped over 300 buses on Delhi borders in their panic to avoid what they feared could be a very ugly situation, little knowing that the veterans are not like any other protesting group that they usually deal with, resorting to stone pelting or damage to property. Despite the huge numbers, the rally was completely orderly and well organized to the extent that there wasn't even a scrap of litter left around by the disciplined yet disgusted war veterans. The passions and sentiments of the crowd, majority of which consisted of people in their 60s and 70s, told a tale of the long wait they have had to face for getting a dignified solution to their genuine grievances. The sense of betrayal and disappointment is ever more acute now, as the veterans had reposed a lot of faith in Prime Minister Narendra Modi, actively supporting his election campaign and turning out to vote for his party in large numbers. But to their disappointment, the present regime has proven to be not much better than the past ones when it comes to the ability to rise above the babugiri of bureaucrats to stand up and deliver their promises. There was particular anger against the prime minister for a remark that he had made in Chandigarh a day ago, stating that the OROP has been given from the money of the poor of the country. One speaker, a 70 year old Havildar, questioned the prime minister on this assertion, whether the money spent on his foreign travels, or in giving aid to Mongolia, belonged to the rich or the poor of the country.
An event of such proportions, relating to a subject that has been in news for over two months, was, surprisingly, almost completely blacked out from the TV and newspapers. Possibly the government had leaned on the media house owners to refrain from covering this massive event. Veterans are particularly miffed with Mr RS Rathore, the junior I&B minister who has spent some time in the army himself, though most of it in the rifle association shooting circuit. It was obviously Rathore's ministry, if not him personally who was behind the black out. He, along with Mr VK Singh (former COAS) are being widely referred to as 'Modern day Jaichands' in viral posts on social media, referring to the legendary traitor who betrayed Pritvi Raj Chauhan against Mohammed Ghori. 

Expressing their resolve to keep up their struggle till the issue is resolved to the complete satisfaction of the veterans, Maj Gen Satbir Singh assured the veterans that there was no shortage of either resolve or resources for the movement, even as several courses and unit associations queued up to hand over their collected contributions for the movement. This included Rs 6 Lakhs collected by one of the courses.

China’s border construction in Ladakh puts Army on alert
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 12
Fresh tension has erupted between India and China in northern Ladakh with the Army dispatching reinforcements near Burtse following construction activity by the People Liberation Army (PLA) in the area.

The move comes after the Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) protested the building of a watch tower by the PLA in the area. The PLA rejected the assertion prompting the Army to push reinforcements in the area sensing PLA’s buildup there, sources told The Tribune today.

While sources refused to call it a face-off, they said it could be a flashpoint since the watch tower was close to the “border patrolling line”, used to define areas where the alignment of un-demarcated LAC is disputed.

The LAC alignment is roughly accepted by both sides in Lakakh but some pockets remain where the “border patrolling line” is the accepted principle.

This is an informal un-demarcated line and troops on either side patrol in areas which they perceive as their own. The line is the farthest point to which military patrols come from the Chinese side. On coming face to face, soldiers on either side withdraw under the laid down protocol.

The area lies east of the Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) and is a trekking route at an altitude of 17,000 feet. The Burtse area forms part of the huge Depsang plains perceived by India as its own territory. But the Chinese side has been claiming it to be part of its territory as it gives them a tactical edge over the area, including the air field which was operationalised by the IAF a few years ago.

In April 2013, a 21-day standoff between the two armies ended after four flag meetings between the two sides. The PLA had then pitched five tents in the area and claimed it was part of their territory.
Veterans hold protest rally, want seven changes in Centre’s OROP plan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 12
A large number of ex-servicemen today held a ‘Sainik Ekta Rally’ at Jantar Mantar here and rejected the Centre’s version of the ‘one rank, one pension’ while demanding seven amendments to it to make it “acceptable”.

The veterans also accused the government of trying to stop buses carrying veterans for the rally at the Haryana-Delhi border even as some ex-servicemen groups dissociated themselves from the rally, which started at 10 am. The participants came from different parts of the country, mainly the northern India.

For the past three months, ex-servicemen groups had been protesting under an umbrella organisation, United Front of Ex-Servicemen Movement, to seek OROP till cracks appeared in their unity last week after the Centre announced the scheme.

While some groups opposed today’s rally, others supported the event alleging the Union Government had “unilaterally made the announcement without taking them into confidence”.

On Wednesday, Lt Gen Balbir Singh (retd), a key member of the front, had announced the exit of his group, Indian Ex-Services League, from the common body citing lack of cohesion over continuing with the protests. Other participants in the agitation, including Maj Gen Satbir Singh (retd), rejected the government’s OROP and have now put forward seven demands.

“The government has created confusion that could have been avoided by including VRS (Voluntary Retirement Scheme) in their announcement as it does not exist in the defence forces… those who have taken premature retirement must come under the OROP,” Maj Gen Satbir Singh said.

“Let them clarify in writing,” said a protester. The veterans have also objected to the government taking calendar year 2013, instead of financial year 2013-14, for fixing the base. “The Defence Minister had earlier said the pensions would be taken from the top of the pay scales whereas now the government seems to have gone to an unknown concept,” he said.

The ex-servicemen are also opposed to the formation of a one-man judicial commission and demanded that it should comprise three ex-servicemen, one serving officer and a bureaucrat.
LeT commander killed in Pulwama encounter
Suhail A Shah

Pulwama, September 12
A top-ranking Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) commander, involved in killing eight Army personnel in the 2013 Hyderpora encounter, was today killed after a brief exchange of fire with security forces in the district.

The police are hailing the killing as a major blow to the Lashkar in the Valley. Slain Irshad Ahmad Ganaie was one of the top-ranking militants in the Valley. Ganaie was second-in-command of the outfit and one of the closest associates of the LeT’s Pakistani chief Abu Qasim.

Pulwama SP Javed Mir confirmed the killing. According to the police, the encounter was triggered at about 3.30 pm today after security forces and militants unexpectedly crossed path at Bajumbagh village of the Kakapora area in this south Kashmir district. After a brief exchange of fire, security forces, however, lost contact with the militants. “Further reinforcement was called in and a detailed cordon was laid to nab the militants,” the police official said, adding that the Army and police’s Special Operations Group (SOG) were involved in the operation.

The official said, “An hour-long search operation yielded nothing and while the cordon was about to be called off, Ganaie fired from his hiding place in a paddy field. There was again a brief exchange of gunfire and subsequently Ganaie was shot dead in the encounter. Ganaie’s body has been retrieved and identified.”

However, it was yet to be handed over to the family till last reports came in. “The body will be handed over after all medico-legal formalities are completed,” the police official said.
Pakistan opens heavy fire on forward posts in Poonch, Rajouri sectors
Tribune News Service

Jammu, September 12
Even as India and Pakistan agreed to jointly resolve issues like ceasefire violations and cross-border infiltration via timely exchange of information, including email and over the telephone, Pakistani troops pounded Indian forward positions along the LoC in the Poonch and Rajouri sectors through Friday night.

Around 6 pm last evening Pakistani troops belonging to 649 Mujahid Regiment opened heavy fire, including mortars, from their Kopra main post on a forward post in the Sabzian sector of Mandi,” said an Intelligence source. He informed that the Army also retaliated with same caliber weapons from the forward post and a mortar point near a nullah in the Gagrian area.

“Intense shelling from post to post lasted till 8.30 pm and then intermittent firing lasted till 2 am before the guns on both the sides fell silent,” he added.

Defence spokesperson Lt Col Manish Mehta said Pakistan resorted to unprovoked small arm and machine gun firing on Indian forward posts of the Poonch and Balakote sectors last evening. Indian troops retaliated appropriately, he added. There were no reports of deaths or injuries to the Indian troops in the fresh skirmish, he said.

Despite talks there has been no let up in ceasefire violations by the Pakistan army. Yesterday, Pakistani delegation, led by Rangers’ DG Umar Farooq Burki, had called on Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who said India would not fire the first bullet.
Army has enough war stock now, says defence minister
 Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar today asserted that the shortfall in Army's ammunition war stock has largely been arrested to a satisfactory level with nil deficit situation will be achieved by the next year.

Addressing a Defence Seminar here, Mr Parrikar accepted that there was an alarming shortfall in the Army's war reserves which had come down to sustain 10 days of conflict in 2013.

The situation has radically been addressed leading to current stage where the Army have made up shortfall over requisite stock levels by 70-80 percent. "By next year there will be nil deficit," the Minister assured.

A CAG report on the issue has castigated the government for dwindling war reserves, sending a shock wave in the country about the pathetic state of preparedness of the forces.

Mr Parrikar said that defence was one of the sectors being focused in 'Make in India' and it was being ensured that Indian industry gets adequate and fair protection, especially in defence sector, to allow manufacturers to design and produce defence equipment indigenously.

He said that it would be in the interest of India's security, if defence capabilities are scaled up and requirements of the armed forces are met in-house. The Defence Ministry is the single buyer and has all the control, however it needs to stop frequent shifting of goal posts and give pragmatic requirements which industry will be able to provide quickly. Asking of something which is not pragmatic and not readily available will never help, rather will make things complicated leading to a situation where the nation suffers. The Defence Minister also emphasized for fair protection for private sector and avid repeat of past knee jerk reaction on irrational Blacklisting without any tangible benefit. In past there were examples where the Blacklisted company benefitted while it proved dear to Indian exchequer as we had paid money but not received the product, Mr Parrikar said. He said that there was a need for a paradigm shift in the mindset of the Ministry of Defence and to create an environment of 'Mutual Trust' with the Industry. 'Delegation of power is the first stage where trust is considered but mindsets take time to change'. This will help public and private sectors to manufacture defence products indigenously to meet the requirements of the Indian armed forces. Defence Production Secretary Ashok Kumar Gupta, who also addressed the seminar, said that the defence procurement procedure was amended to allow greater participation of domestic companies. India needed self-reliance in design and production of defence equipment to strengthen its military capabilities.UNI MK CH1725
279 cadets, including 15 Afghans, pass out of Indian Army's Officers Training Academy

aCHENNAI: Fifteen cadets from Afghanistan were among the 279 cadets commissioned as officers on completion of their training at the Indian Army's Officers Training Academy here today.

General Officer, Commanding-in-Chief of Army's Eastern Command, Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi reviewed the passing out parade in which the cadets took part, an official release said.

The batch comprised 230 men, 33 women and 16 foreign cadets -- 15 from Afghanistan and one cadet from Lesoto, South Africa ..

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