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Saturday, 12 March 2016

From Today's Papers - 12 Mar 2016

Army chopper crash-lands in Hoshiarpur fields
Hoshiarpur, March 11

An Army chopper carrying four Army men was forced to make an emergency landing in a wheat field in Maili village near Mahilpur after it developed a technical snag, the police said on Friday.

"The helicopter made an emergency landing in the village at around 12:30 pm," Hoshiapur Senior Superintendent of Police Dhanpreet Kaur said.

All four onboard are safe, although two suffered minor in injuries.

“There was no damage to the chopper,” the SSP said.

With four crew members on board, the chopper took off from Jalandhar cantonment on routine sortie today at about 11 am.

Major Guriqbal Singh and Lt Col B.S. Chohan received minor injuries in the incident, DSP (Chabbewal) Hardeep Kumar said, adding that they were given first aid.

Pilot Aditya Verma and Co-pilot Ajit remained unhurt, the police said, adding that they were taken to Jalandhar by Army personnel. — TNS/ PTI
India to make additional Scorpene subs: Parrikar
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 11
India is trying to increase the number of Scoprene Submarines that the Mumbai-based Mazagon Docks Limited (MDL) is making. The MDL is tasked to produce six submarines in collaboration with French company DCNS.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, while answering a question on Defence shipyards in the Lok Sabha today, confirmed the stand of the government. When South Mumbai MP Arvind Sawant asked about the future orders of the MDL, Parrikar said: “The initial yard (MDL) where the submarine is being already vacant. We are trying to increase the number of submarines that they are making.”

Though Parrikar has in the past mentioned that more number of Scorpene submarines could be built, his response in the Lok Sabha was a clear indication that more such vessels could be added.

The first of six Scorpene diesel-electric attack submarines (SSKs), the INS Kalvari, was set afloat for sea trials in December 2015. The vessel is scheduled to be commissioned in September 2016.

The 66-metre-long INS Kalvari is part of a $3.6 billion contract signed with DCNS in October 2005. While the first four subs are conventional submarines, the last two are to be equipped with the Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system, which will enable the vessel to stay underwater for longer.

In the past 15 years, India’s submarine arm is the slowest growing in the otherwise fast-growing war machinery. The submarine plan announced in 1999 had spoken of having 24 modern submarines by 2030. Half way through, the INS Kalvari will be the first submarine.

India currently has only 14 submarines: nine Kilo class (EKMs), four German-designed HDWs (SSKs) and one Akula class nuclear-powered submarine (SSN) on lease from Russia (since 2012).

The US Department of Defence, in its annual report to the US Congress, spells out the rise of China’s submarine fleet. ‘Military and Security Developments involving the People’s Republic of China 2015’ says the Peoples Liberation Army Navy has 68 submarines.
Chinese troops transgress into Ladakh, yet again
New Delhi/Leh: In a fresh transgression in the Ladakh sector, Chinese PLA troops entered almost 6 km inside the Indian territory near the Pangong Lake area, leading to a stand-off between security personnel of the two sides,said security sources. The incident occurred on March 8 when a platoon of at least 11 PLA men led by a Colonel-rank officer crossed over the imaginary LAC at ‘Finger VIII’ Sirjap-I area close to the Pangong Lake, sources said. The Chinese soldiers entered in four vehicles from across the Thakung border post of India and reached 5.5 km inside the Indian territory. The soldiers were soon “countered and engaged” by a patrol of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and they were locked in an “eye-to-eyeball” confrontation for a few hours after which the situation was defused and the other side retreated. PTI
China's defence budget and its implications for India
The two components of a great power are economic and military strength. The People’s Republic of China emerged out of a communist revolution and its leader Mao Zedong propounded that “Political power flows from the barrel of a gun”. By late 1970s, China under Deng Xiaoping had realised that modern military cannot be sustained without economic power. His economic reforms for the next three decades allowed defence budget to grow in high double-digits. Beijing’s 2016 defence budget, announced on March 5, is 954 billion yuan (US$ 146 billion). At 7.6% increase over last year, it is the lowest increase in last six years. Yet China has come a long way since US$ 14.6 billion allocated in 2000. China’s total national annual outlay is US$ 2.4 trillion and military expenditure accounts for around 1.35% of its GDP, well below the world average of 2.6%. In spite of recent economic headwinds, her defence outlay is 3.8 times that of India. It is a well-known fact that nearly another 40% of China’s military activities like cyber, intelligence and dual use acquisitions are not reflected in the defence budget. Effectively, the budget is around US$ 180 billion. Trends indicate that China will overtake the US in defence spending by around 2040. The Chinese are busy replacing their relatively old inventories with modern strategic missiles, space-based assets, aircraft carriers, fighter jets, warships and cutting manpower to make the Armed Forces ‘lean and mean’ with a proposed cut of 300,000 in the 2.3 million strong force. China spends on defence more than the next three largest Asian economies—Japan, India, and South Korea—put together. China's military build-up has rattled the region, particularly because they have taken an increasingly assertive stance in its territorial disputes.

The People’s Liberation Army is still the world's largest standing military. In December 2015, PLA established a Rocket Force to oversee its strategic missiles. In February 2016, it replaced seven military area commands with five PLA theatre commands. Beijing is looking to increase naval reach and is building its second, entirely domestically designed, aircraft carrier. China has state-of-the-art aircraft programmes which include two stealth fighters (J-20 and J-31), large military transport aircraft Y-20, and AWACS KJ-2000. They already have a large nuclear capable Inter Continental Ballistic Missile force. China is today the world’s third largest arms exporter. It is also moving aggressively onto the world centre stage with the reclamation of islands in South China Sea; the construction of US$ 46 billion Xinjiang-Gwadar road-rail corridor connecting to the strategic Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of Indian Ocean; and the trans-Siberian oil pipeline from Russia. China is near world leader in cyber-warfare.
Once again, pay panel disappoints armed forces
No country can afford to have armed forces with low morale, low self esteem and worst of all, a lower status in the society. A major issue affecting India’s armed forces today is economic disparity vis-a-vis other central services. Indian youth opting to join the armed forces as officers or men, are also looking for unquestioned respect, economic stability, assured career progression, good facilities of education and personality development for their families and above all “first among equals” status amongst various services in the country.

Lt Gen Harwant Singh (Retd), who has written extensively on the subject, recalls that the military has been persistently disadvantaged by successive Central Pay Commissions (CPC ). In the first and second CPC, the military’s case was fielded by the ministry of defence (MoD). The third CPC wanted to hear the case directly from the military, but the MoD ruled against this on the grounds of discipline, a “patently absurd stance”, which the then top brass accepted. Further, the third CPC slashed the pensions of defence services from 70 per cent of last pay drawn to 50 per cent and elevated the civil servants’ pensions from 30 per cent to 50 per cent. But nearly 80 per cent of military men did not get even 50 per cent and instead got only 37 per cent because of shorter span of service and 50 per cent pension payable only after 20 years service. Thereafter, subsequent CPCs persistently disadvantaged the military vis-a-vis civil services. However, the third CPC dangled one rank, one pension (OROP) as an alternative to decrease in pensions from 70 per cent to 50 per cent. When subsequent CPCs tried to improve matters, MoD, the controller of defence accounts (CDA) stepped in to negate these. When the fourth CPC, as a sort of consolation for no OROP, gave rank pay up to the rank of brigadiers, the CDA conveniently deducted this amount from the basic pay, which in turn impacted a whole range of allowances as well. Nearly three decades later this case is yet to be fully resolved. The Supreme Court’s orders on payment of rank pay are yet to be fully implemented. Those who played this mischief on the defence services were neither exposed, nor held accountable.

The sixth CPC ruled that pension should be fixed at 50 per cent of the “ minimum of the rank in the pay band corresponding”, the civil bureaucracy mischievously rephrased this sentence to read, “minimum of the pay band corresponding”. This put four different ranks i.e. lieutenant colonel, colonel, brigadier and major general in the same band (band 4) and the MoD placed all of them at the bottom of the pay band for the purpose of fixing pension. Thus a brigadier (with rank pay as admissible to him) got more pension than a major-general. Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, this too has not been fully resolved ten years later. In addition, the sixth CPC created over 40 anomalies, which CPC are still to be resolved. The 7th CPC report has yet again greatly disappointed the defence services.

Military service pay (MSP), granted in most countries for the unique and difficult conditions under which defence forces serve, is a substantial amount.

In India, MSP for defence forces amounts to less that 10 per cent of the pay, contrary to recommendations in the sixth CPC of 52 per cent of basic pay for officers and 62 per cent for soldiers. MSP has now also been removed for purposes of calculating house rent allowance (HRA) and transfer grants.

The glaring disparity in disability disposal is best illustrated by the case of two brothers Raj, the older brother who joined the Army and Rish, the younger brother, who joined the Border Security Force (BSF). In 2010 both Raj, with 7 years of service, and Rishi, with 5 years of service, were home on leave. They had gone to the market on a motor-cycle when they met with an accident, which resulted in both having their leg amputated. Sepoy Raj, whose injury was declared “neither attributable nor aggravated by service condition”, as he was on leave and not on duty, got invalided out of service. And that too without pension as he had not completed 10 years of service. On the other hand his younger brother Constable Rishi, who enjoyed the protection under the provisions of Persons With Disability Act, 1995, continues to serve till he completes his prescribed length of service up to 57 years of age, after which he will earn all in service promotional benefits, annual increments etc and a staggering monthly projected disability pension of `3,58,909 and that too, income tax free.

There are many more intangibles, which are not known outside the services. To mention one, many families of soldiers serving in forward/field areas, who are residing in their villages/small towns, have to depend on local medical resources as military hospitals are too far away.

Despite past feedback and strong representation, Non Functional Upgradation (NFU) has not been granted to the defence and central armed police forces (CAPFs), whereas central civil cervices are assured NFU for up to additional secretary. However there was one bureaucrat member, who recommended NFU fully for defence services. This is one major compensation which if granted, will motivate armed forces officers to stay on in service and not opt for premature retirement owing to not being promoted to beyond colonel/equivalent rank, owing to the pyramidal promotion structure. Over the years, has the pyramid become an Eiffel Tower?

There are numerous attempts to falsely present a fa├žade of satisfactory remuneration to defence personnel. The reality is that the pay disparity between armed forces personnel, particularly officers, and civil services, which government has compounded over the years, is bizarre. It is no wonder that the lure of the defence services has been withering over time. It was recently revealed in Parliament that as on July 1, 2015, the shortage of Army officers (excluding medical, dental and nursing officers) is 9106.

The Pay Commission graphs titled “Defence revenue expenditure and per cent share of revenue expenditure” (page 1196.1.20, 7th CPC) are a misrepresentation of facts, because only 0.01 per cent of defence officers reach Lt Gen rank are compared with 95 per cent of civil servants who reach additional secretary level. For 99 per cent of defence officers the civilian Group A officers overtake their military counterpart by the 15th year of service and by the 18th year of service a defence officer remains a colonel when an IAS officer would have become a joint secretary, equated to a major general. It should also be known that military officers’ qualifying service commences on commissioning whereas the civilian commences his fully paid service from the training establishment itself. These are just some of the anomalies and disparities. While the recent tragedy of 19 Madras avalanche victims evoked countrywide concern, it is ironically not shared by babu log.

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