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Wednesday, 2 March 2016

From Today's Papers - 02 Mar 2016

Strip test: Reply sought from Army Chief, MoD
Patna/New Delhi, March 1
Amid a controversy over candidates being asked to strip down to their underwear for an Army exam in Bihar, the Union Government today sought a report from the Army Chief while the Patna High Court directed the Ministry of Defence to give a reply by April 5.

Defending the bare body recruitment test, Director (Recruitment), Army Regional Office (ARO), in Muzaffarpur Col VS Godra said it was a preventive measure against cheating. Pictures showed candidates, dressed only in their underwear, cross-legged at Chakkar Maidan, an open ground in Muzaffarpur, 100 km from Patna, taking a written test in the hope of making it to the Army. The test, which was taken by 1,159 candidates, was conducted by the ARO Army Recruitment for various posts at different levels.

On the basis of photos in some newspapers, lawyer Deenu Kumar filed a PIL on Monday. A Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice Iqbal Ahmad Ansari and Justice Chakradhari Saran Singh converted it into a writ and ordered the Defence Ministry today to reply by April 5. Col Godra said because of the measures taken, no complaint of smuggling of phones and chits inside the exam venue were reported. — PTI
Indian Army Rescues Russian Tourist Trapped in a Deep Snow-Covered Gorge in Gulmarg
Dimitry Lobanov, a 33-year-old Russian tourist, fell into a deep snow-covered gorge in the Gulmarg area of Kashmir Valley this past Sunday.
He was trapped under the snow and was severely injured. But thanks to the laudable rescue operation by the Indian Army, he is now safe and is being treated by doctors.
Dimitry was skiing with five other people in Apharwat when he lost control and fell into the gorge. The group sent out a distress call and a team from Army’s High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS) went to his rescue.
After evacuating the tourist from Apharwat via Khilanmarg on a stretcher, the team brought him to the Army Medical Inspection Room at Gulmarg. The fall had caused multiple fractures and he is being treated.

In 1948, the Indian Army established a ski school in Gulmarg. It later became the High Altitude Warfare School – a training and research establishment of the Indian Army. It is the Army’s nodal agency for training in high altitude, mountain and snow warfare. According to reports, the school played a very important role during the 1999 Kargil conflict, when crash courses were conducted for the troops here. Troops for operations in the Siachen Glacier are also trained there.
Multi-nation army drill
Our Special Correspondent

New Delhi, March 1: India is hosting more than 300 soldiers from 18 countries of the Asia-Pacific region in a first-of-its-kind multinational field training exercise in Pune.

This is the largest military exercise - in terms of the number of participating nations - being hosted in India. Defence ministry sources said this was part of India's outreach under its "Look East Policy".

The participants began reaching today after the Indian Army began training 28 in structors from 18 countries from February 23.

Of the participating countries, 10 are members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) and eight are the conglomerate's dialogue partners - India, Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the US.

The exercise till March 8 will be on humanitarian mine action (HMA) and peace keeping operations (PKO).

"In the coming week, the participants from 18 ASEAN-Plus nations would undergo rigorous joint training to establish and practise baseline interoperability in the field of 'Peace Keeping Operations' & dealing with 'Un Exploded Ordnances'," a statement from the army said.

The exercise was planned at a meeting of the forum called Asean defence ministers' meeting-plus (ADMM) last year. The ADMM-plus was considering two separate drills on de-mining and peacekeeping operations. India offered to combine the two for the joint FTX in Pune.
Indian Army’s Bengal Area celebrates 122nd Raising Day
Bengal Area Headquarter was raised as Bengal Command at Fort William on March 1, 1895 by Lt Gen Sir W K Ells.

Kolkata, Mar 1: One of the oldest static formations of the Indian Army in the region, Headquarter Bengal Area celebrated its 122nd Raising Day here today. Lt Gen Rajeev Tewari, General Officer Commanding, Bengal Area, addressed all ranks of the formation at a special ‘Sainik Sammelan’ and conveyed his greetings to all ranks, civilian staff and their families on the occasion.

The Raising Day celebration included drawing competition for children, blood donation camp and ‘Barakhana’ (feast) for families of all personnel posted at HQ Bengal Area. (Also Read: This Sikh Army Captain just sued the US Military; you’ll be shocked to know why!)

Bengal Area Headquarter was raised as Bengal Command at Fort William on March 1, 1895 by Lt Gen Sir W K Ells. It moved to its present location at AJC Bose Road in September 1995.

Bengal Area participated with distinction during the operations in World War-II, the Sino-Indian conflict of 1962 and the Indo-Pak War of 1971. Besides operational war time task, the formation also supports the logistics requirements of fighting formations and units of Eastern Command in war and peace.

It is the ‘local military authority’ acting as a link between the state government and the Army, besides being the custodian of the ‘Maidan’ area and all Army land around Kolkata. It also provides assistance to the state government in combating calamities, disasters in entire West Bengal and bordering districts of Bihar.
Raw deal for Armed Forces in Budget
 There are some firsts in this fiscal’s Budget presentation by Minister for Finance Arun Jaitley: No mention of Defence allocation in the Budget speech, new formatting of Defence outlay (ordnance factories, DRDO taken out as also the NCC head removed from the Army budget); decrease in the capital account from the allocation of the previous year; and distinction between Plan and non-Plan expenditure deleted. Defence was considered non-Plan.

I have been observing the Budget presentation since 1990. Not once was Defence outlay excluded from the Finance Minister’s speech, which would go something like this: “The Defence allocation is rupees “x’ crore, which is an increase of ‘y’ per cent over the previous year. Our brave jawans are doing a magnificent job from snowy heights of Siachen to the dusty deserts of Rajasthan. We salute their sacrifices (applause). If more funds are needed, these will be provided (applause).” This year, there was a blank and that too from a former Defence Minister. Noticing this omission of Defence from the speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made up for it in his post-Budget commendation. He made four points: The soldier is the sentinel of the nation’s security; he requires to be armed with modern weapons and for this Make in India is vital; OROP (still incomplete) has been awarded to the ex-servicemen.

The Budget is growth-oriented, focusing on agriculture, hailing the kisan. Former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri coined the slogan, Jai Jawan Jai Kisan, during the 1965 war. Even with  Mr Modi’s focus on the need for modernisation, the Finance Minister has neglected this crucial aspect of military preparedness and deterrence. This Budget is certainly not ‘Jai Jawan’. The marginal increase to Rs2,49,099 crore from Rs2,46,727 crore is roughly five per cent and is mainly due to increase in the revenue head. It constitutes 1.65 per cent of the GDP, which is the lowest since 1962. India requires a minimum spending of 2.25 per cent to 2.50 per cent of the GDP for steady military growth.

Take a look at some broad figures. The revenue account in 2015-16 was base estimate: Rs1,32,540 crore; revised estimates was Rs1,25,808 crore. These figures presumably catered for the OROP and normal pension and the difference of nearly Rs1,6,000 crore would have been returned as OROP has not been disbursed. The revenue outlay for 2016-17 is base estimate: Rs1,48,498 crore, which is roughly Rs22,690 crore more than the last fiscal’s revised estimates. The capital account for 2015-16 was base estimate Rs85,894 crore and revised estimate, Rs74,299 crore, resulting in nearly Rs12,000 crore being returned to the Government. The 2016-17 capital outlay is Rs78,586 crore, which is an unprecedented reduction of Rs7,308 crore from the modernisation budget of the previous year.

This would seriously imperil defence upgrade including state of operational readiness as existing shortfalls in ammunition (as pointed out in General VK Singh’s famous letter of ‘critical operational hollowness’ in 2012 and which rocked Parliament) have still not been made good for a war-fighting contingency. Factoring  in the depleted capital outlay, domestic inflation and the declining value of the rupee against the dollar  would further decrease the reduction.

The surrender of unspent money of more than Rs15,000 crore is a bonanza for the Finance Minister managing the fiscal deficit. The Armed Forces are willing and obedient responders to the return of unutilised funds instead of parking them in a rotational modernisation account as suggested once by former Defence Minister Jaswant Singh. One Defence Secretary recently told me how he would get a call from North Block around January about performing this dutiful service to the state. No Government has ever bothered to seriously examine why, year on year, this dereliction of modernisation is condoned. The services are as culpable as the bureaucrats and politicians for  the omission to keep sharp, the sword arm of the state.

There is immense expectation from the Armed Forces and ex-servicemen from the BJP-led Government on defence and national security. It has delivered reasonably satisfactorily on the OROP but must not let the anomalies of the Seventh Pay Commission go unrectified. The incremental dimunition of the soldier in his Warrant of Precedence, salary and allowances compared to IAS/IFS and now the Police and Paramilitary services, is a travesty of justice. Extending the hardship allowance in excess of Siachen  allowance to civilian services posted in Guwahati and Shillong is simply mind-boggling. Clearly, this is a  case of the blind leading the blind.  It is patently wrong to persistently test the tolerance of the soldiers. An article in The Times of India on Monday ran this headline on the royal mess in Haryana: “Why 50,000 cops can’t do what 5,000 troops can’.

It is high time Governments and Parliament take defence and national security more seriously than they do. Our politicians work on the standard assumption that there will be no war. Do not forget 1962 or Kargil in 1999 when  economic liberalisation reforms launched in 1991 had reduced the Defence budget for modernisation of the economy. At that time, the Army chief, Gen VP Malik, lamented: “We will fight with what we have.” An SOS was sent to Israel to bail us out of a tricky situation. And Israel obliged by transferring precision-guided munitions and other stores from their inventory. Still, 600 precious lives were lost for failing to operationalise deterrence. In 2001, after the attack on Parliament, the Armed Forces were found by the Defence Minister to be ill-prepared to go to war.

If India has to grow at 7.6 per cent annually, it must be internally stable and strong  no Rohtaks please and deter Pakistan including its cross border terrorism. And don’t forget catching up with China. It would help to get a clearer fix on the Government’s strategic priorities. If India is to lay down arms in fighting Pakistan-sponsored terrorism and not bother about tooth-aches (which is how Prime Minister Modi described the border issue with China) a Strategic Defence and Security Review needs to be undertaken afresh, like the tentative one done during the tenure of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government.

Mr Modi’s words alone will not ensure Defence modernisation and Make in India (rather, Made by India). Let us get serious about addressing the man-machine mix. Never should a service chief have to ever say: “We will fight with what we have.”

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