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Monday, 9 May 2016

From Today's Papers - 09 May 2016

A first: CRPF to deploy women in Red zones
New Delhi, May 8
Breaking yet another proverbial glass ceiling, country’s largest paramilitary force CRPF is set to deploy over 560 women commandos for undertaking anti-Naxal operations in select Left Wing Extremism-affected states.

The ambitious plan to deploy such a large number of women personnel in most challenging combat theatres in the country’s internal security domain got moving with a batch of 567 women passing out from the force’s training centre in Rajasthan’s Ajmer last week.

CRPF Director-General K Durga Prasad said the full batch will now be deployed in phases in LWE areas in the ‘company formation’ style, which means about 100 personnel at one time.

“These women who passed out on May 6 from Ajmer have been trained keeping in mind the LWE tasks rendered by us. We thought to give them the toughest assignment in the initial years of their service itself. Initially these women personnel will be deployed in one company at a time and after some time their deployment and work utility will be scaled up,” Prasad said.

The DG added the force has already created living infrastructure and barracks for these women at certain locations while more such facilities will be created in due course of time. The CRPF, officials said, has been working on the concept that if Maoists can have women in their ranks, why not the security forces.

The CRPF had initiated a plan in this regard last year when two small teams of these women personnel were sent for familiarisation exercises and based in CRPF camps in the worst-affected Bastar region of Chhattisgarh and some sensitive LWE hit areas of Jharkhand. Officials said they can easily interact with the local women folk which will not only help gather good intelligence but also help bring the force closer to the locals. — PTI
Black Thunder II : Operation to remember
Dinesh Kumar
The relatively forgotten Operation Black Thunder-II was conducted with precision and transparency, without evoking public protest. It culminated in the surrender by terrorists in the media's presence 10 days later, on May 18, 1988, without the security forces entering the Golden Temple complex.
SHORTLY before 1 pm exactly 28 years ago, a militant armed with an AK-47 assault rifle inside the Golden Temple complex opened fire on Sarabdeep Singh Virk, then a DIG with the CRPF posted in Amritsar, injuring him in the jaw. Virk, who later became Punjab's DGP, was supervising the demolition of a wall being built by terrorists outside the temple premises. The single shot, which wounded Virk, quickly escalated into an intense exchange of fire between the CRPF stationed on about a dozen pickets overlooking the temple complex and the 150 odd militants then residing inside. 

The chance incident marked the beginning of the relatively forgotten Operation Black Thunder-II conducted with much precision, coordination and transparency without evoking any public protest and controversy. It culminated in the abject broad daylight surrender by terrorists in the media's presence 10 days later, on May 18, 1988, without the security forces entering the temple complex. 

This was in stark contrast to the messy June 1984 Operation Blue Star conducted four years earlier, when the Army stormed the temple complex much to the angst of the Sikh community worldwide. Then resentment led to the creation and subsequent proliferation of terror groups in the state that engaged in wanton violence. By May 1988, about 30 such groups and factions were active, with some of them brazenly occupying all rooms along the temple’s parikarma that rings the Harmandar Sahib, the sanctum sanctorum. One of the two panthic committees, an apex body of a group of terror organisations, had opened an “office of Khalistan” in room 14, where they regularly held news conferences.  On several occasions, the terrorists  registered their presence by firing in the air while the security forces silently watched a re-run of similar activities that had occurred in the temple complex prior to Operation Blue Star.

 Barely two months earlier, according to M.K. Dhar, former Joint Director Intelligence Bureau in his book Open Secrets, the IB had quietly begun supplying AK-47s to the then Akal Takht Jathedar Jasbir Singh Rode, who incidentally is Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale's nephew. Rode, an IB operative who was anointed jathedar of the supSikh temporal seat, was tasked to create a Trojan Horse comprising a 15-member squad to neutralise the terrorist gangs inside the temple. In all, three consignments of AK-47s were supplied  to him prior to Operation Black Thunder-II. This measure, however,  yielded only a “limited result,” with a total three terrorists belonging to the “Khalistan Commando Force” being killed.

But with Virk being shot, the IB's operations took a back seat. On May 11, specially flown in National Security Guard (NSG) commandos took control of the CRPF pickets overlooking the complex and established a tight cordon around it. While the commandos prepared to enter the temple complex for a third time in four years (the second time was Operation Black Thunder-I on April 30, 1986, when the NSG entered following the declaration of “Khalistan” a day earlier from inside), NSG sharp shooters armed with sniper rifles equipped with night vision shot at everything that moved thus keeping all inside the temple complex pinned down. A few terrorists were shot dead in the process. In the following days, NSG commandos quickly established control over all buildings in the outer areas of the temple complex, starting with the 300-feet-high water tank, the SGPC office, Teja Singh Samundri Hall and the various niwas’. They systematically reduced the area of operation to the inner section of the temple complex after taking control of the Manji Sahib, Diwan Hall, the langar building and by neutralising terrorists occupying the two towering 18th-century Ramgharia bungas which presented a commanding view of the NSG positions and the temple complex. Interestingly, as the operation progressed, curfew was confined to just 300 yards around the temple complex during day and the Walled City at night, while life elsewhere functioned normally.

At a policy level, it was decided to wear down the terrorists. Continuous sniping and heavy machine gun fire brought on the bungas day and night kept the terrorists pinned, while bringing on them psychological pressure. The sound of gun fire was punctuated by periodic declarations of unilateral ceasefire accompanied by calls for surrender which resulted in flushing out of many of the terrorists, along with all the devotees caught inside. On May 18, a final batch of 46 terrorists, who had taken refuge inside the Harmandar Sahib three days earlier, walked out with their hands in the air, marking the end of the 10-day- long siege. Three NSG commandos were injured while conducting a flushing out operation in the langar and Manji Sahib buildings. It is a different story that all the terrorists were subsequently exonerated for “lack of evidence” and that the Punjab Police had to resort to “other means” to keep them in jail.

In the following days, over 40 bodies, some by then skeletons, were exhumed from the debris of the Akal Takht lying in the outer temple complex further exposing the terrorists for what they were — armed criminals and extortionists who had been misusing the temple premises to torture and kill people they suspected to be police informants or had been summoned for dispute settlement.

This was one occasion when the government got an anti-terrorist operation right. Maintaining considerable transparency facilitated the security forces, especially after the terrorists entered the sanctum sanctorum — much to the consternation of the security forces which feared that the armed militants could either blow up the Harmandar Sahib or commit mass suicide. Among the several tactical and policy-level lessons from this near-forgotten chapter of India's anti-terrorist operations is the need for preventing such situations from arising in the first place rather than allowing them to grow.
Parliamentary Panel Raps Government For 'Vintage Equipment' With Indian Army
New Delhi:  A parliamentary panel has expressed concern over "large-scale vintage equipment" with the Indian Army and pulled up the government on the tardy modernisation of the armed forces

"The committee are concerned to note that the army is operating with large-scale vintage equipment," the parliamentary standing committee on defence, headed by Major General BC Khanduri (retd) of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said in a report tabled in the two houses or Parliament.

"Furthermore, there is deficiency in number of vehicles, small arms, infantry specialist weapons, sight and surveillance equipment, signal and communication equipment, radars and power equipment and generators, etc," said the panel, which comprises members from both houses of parliament.

The government, in its response to the panel's query on defence preparedness, said that the "ideal mix" of state-of-the-art, current and vintage weapons and equipment was 30:40:30 and efforts were made to achieve this.

"Modernisation and capability development of the armed forces is a dynamic and continuous process based on operational requirements and threat perception," the government said.

The committee, however, termed the response "bureaucratic in nature", adding that it "does not convey anything about specific action taken or proposed."

"The committee are not satisfied with the information provided by the ministry on defence preparedness," the panel said, adding it found the response to be of a "routine nature" and that "it appears that the ministry has tried to conceal the information".

Pulling up the government, the panel said the facts relating to issues like "accretion of manpower, procurement of right mix of modern and conventional weapons and equipment, ammunition and infrastructure development are perennial problems and no concrete action seems to have been initiated to resolve them".

The panel noted that though the government has taken a number of steps, the shortage of officers is "perennial".

"This shows that the current measures are not sufficient to draw the youth to join armed forces. Therefore, additional steps need to be taken in consultation with Defence Institute of Psychological Research (DIPR) or other agencies concerned so as to make the armed forces more attractive," the panel said.
Indian Army wants to be leaner, may cut non-combat jobs
The 1.2-million strong Indian Army wants to be leaner and is looking to cut flab in non-combat areas.

Army chief General Dalbir Singh has ordered a study to determine how the force, battling a fund squeeze, can be rightsized, said a top army officer familiar with the plan.

The chief has asked one of his senior-most generals to come up with recommendations by August-end to initiate targeted reductions to improve the force’s tooth-to-tail ratio — the number of personnel (tail) required to support a combat soldier (tooth).

“Spending cuts have squeezed the budget. Strengthening the tooth-to-tail ratio will improve combat efficiency and result in savings. The roadmap to reform should be ready in three months,” the officer said.

Determining the ratio, however, could be complex. The figure could vary with the model used for calculation, lieutenant general Philip Campose, who retired as vice-chief, said.

“But at a very basic level, if we talk about an army division… it has a fighting complement of around 14,000 soldiers. They are supported by around 3,000 soldiers in a logistics role. The size of this tail can be reduced to improve the ratio,” Campose said.

The army has a sanctioned strength of 49,631 officers but is short of 9,106 officers. Reorienting roles of officers could help improve the ratio, he said.

General Singh’s orders come barely five months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that “modernisation and expansion of forces at the same time is a difficult and unnecessary goal”.

The PM’s message was clear: More money should be spent on sharpening combat potential through technology rather than support elements.

The army cut more than 14,000 jobs between 2005 and 2013 -- a minuscule number considering the size of the world’s second biggest force. Rightsizing will help control ballooning expenditure.

The study will review the army’s “logistics philosophy and concepts” to help arrive at the “most advantageous model of sustenance”, said another senior officer who did not wish to be named.

“It will examine the impact of the ongoing modernisation drive, the spread of automation and improved communications,” he said.

It will also focus on inventory management and identify areas where civilian workforce can be cut down. It will look at all arms and services and logistics organisations.

Some other wings where workforce could be trimmed include the Military Engineer Services, Directorate General of Quality Assurance, Directorate General of Defence Estates and the Ordnance Factory Board, a source said.

Cutting costs could help plug fund shortage to some extent. In a report tabled in Parliament on May 3, defence secretary G Mohan Kumar admitted that India’s military spending for 2016-17 was not in keeping with the requirements of the armed forces.

In February, India announced it would spend Rs 2.58 lakh crore on defence, a marginal hike of 9.7% over last year’s revised estimates.

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