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Wednesday, 1 June 2016

From Today's Papers - 01 Jun 2016

China may back Azhar ban if Delhi resubmits plea: Swamy
Beijing, May 31
The Sino-Indian deadlock over a UN ban on JeM chief Masood Azhar and others may end if India resubmits its application focussing on evidence against him than attempting to "censure" Pakistan, BJP MP Subramanian Swamy today said here after talks with Chinese officials.

"My impression is that India can expect cooperation from China on the issue of declaring Masood Azhar, leader of Jaish-e-Muhammad, as terrorist who should face trial in India, if India in the UN concentrated more on him than seeking to censure Pakistan as a sponsor of terror," he said.
Swamy, who is here on a pilgrimage to Kailash-Mansarovar in Tibet, said he is visiting China in an individual capacity as an "old friend" but with the knowledge of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior ministers of his cabinet. The BJP leader said "as a tactical move it would (be) prudent (to) resubmit the complaint in UN which was blocked after China put a technical hold." "Based on what I learnt here, I will be very surprised if China continues to obstruct once it is limited to hard evidence," said Swamy after meeting Wang Guo Qing, Director of the foreign affairs committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Committee, and Wu Hailong, President of the Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs (CPIFA).

He said the application submitted by India in UN was more Pakistan-centric than Azhar. China, which previously blocked India's attempts to get a UN ban on Mumbai terror attack mastermind and LeT commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, also put on hold listing of Azhar as global terrorist for his role in the Pathankot attack. — PTI
16 dead in Army ammo depot fire
CAG had last year warned against the risk
Tribune News Service

New Delhi/Mumbai, May 31
Sixteen persons, including two officers, Lt Col RS Pawar and Maj K Manoj, were killed in a massive fire that broke out at the Central Ammunition Depot in Pulgaon (Wardha) near Nagpur in Maharashtra at 1.30 am today. The fire led to multiple explosions.

Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) Lt Gen Ranbir Singh said besides the two Army officers, an Army jawan and 13 civilian firefighters had died in the fire that started in a shed that held “highly sensitive ammunition."

Two officers, nine Army jawans and six fire fighting personnel were hospitalised  even as the Army had rushed its own teams of medical specialists from Pune, the DGMO said. The depot stores artillery  ammunition, which is deadly. Small arms and mortars are also stored there.

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Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag rushed to Pulgaon for spot assessment of the damage caused by the explosions. Even as the fire at Pulgaon is under control, ‘cooling operations’ will continue till tomorrow.

Meanwhile, district officials in Maharashtra said more than 1,000 people living in villages in the vicinity of the ammunition depot had been evacuated. “The people will be allowed to return to their homes after the defence authorities complete the cooling operations,” a district official said. The military authorities anticipate secondary explosions. Reports said the ammunition stored here includes those for rifles used by Army personnel and missiles such as the BrahMos.

Parrikar was in Pune where residents of localities around another ammunition depot at Pimpri-Chinchwad were demanding that they be allowed to construct houses in part of the sanitised area around the facility.

In May last year, the Comptroller and Auditor General in its report titled ‘Ammunition Management in Army’ had pointed out the risks. It said “the depots were functioning with risk of fire accident as the fire fighting equipments were not held as per requirement/authorisation.

 “The movement of ammunition within various echelons in the Army suffered from inadequacies such as delays in issue of ammunition, non-accounting of ammunition by depots, transportation of ammunition by other than specified explosive vans”, it had said, adding that even banned ammunition was lying around in the depots.
Ammunition storage being handled ‘without care’
Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 31
The fire at the Army’s Central Ammunition Depot (CAD) in Pulgaon near Nagpur, the latest in the string of such incidents over the past many years, ought to be a wakeup call for the government over the manner in which ammunition is stored at defence installations across the country.

While a series of reports by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) as well as Parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence have pointed out certain deficiencies in the firefighting and safety mechanisms, heavy encroachment around many such depots have compounded safety issues.

Only a few months ago, CAG had observed that ammunition depots were functioning with risk of fire accident as the equipment and manpower were not held as per the requirement and authorisation. In eight selected depots, the deficiency of firefighting staff and main firefighting equipment was 47 and 65 per cent, respectively, during 2008-13, CAG pointed out in its report.

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Over the past two decades, there have been a number of fire incidents, both at ammunition depots as well as during mobilisation or hostilities, resulting in destruction of ammunition worth several thousand crore rupees.

The scale of firefighting equipment and authorisation of firefighting staff was last revised by the government in March 2004. Steps for revision scales and manpower were initiated by the Director General Ordnance Services in November 2011, but could not be finalised, CAG observed.

Further, the deficiency in storage accommodation of ammunition with reference to authorisation of war wastage reserves was 57 per cent, while 18 per cent ammunition was stored in temporary accommodation. According to DRDO’s Centre for Environment and Explosive Safety, which prescribes norms for storage of explosives based on storage, transport and explosive committee regulations and UN classification, there is no scope for any storage in temporary accommodation.

Timeline: Previous instances of mishaps in Indian Army bases

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