Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Is IAS dispensable .....!!!!!! ?????

Reacting to the delay over the creation of the post of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) meant to bring about an effective coordination among the three (Army, Navy and Air) Services, the former Army Deputy Chief, Gen Satish Nambiar, is reported to have blamed the IAS, which he is said to have described as the “one service which is dispensable.”

His argument in support of this contention was that “While the armed forces, foreign service and many others are absolutely necessary for nation-building, this (IAS) is one without which the country would certainly not come to a standstill.”

Vice-Admiral A. K. Singh, former Coast Guard D-G, has also apparently expressed the view that there was no chance of the post being created until after the Defence Secretary is elevated to Cabinet Secretary rank so that he can lord it over the CDS, who will then become his principal military adviser.

It is true that the proposal is pending implementation for the last eight years, but it is not attributable to the machinations of the IAS alone (if there indeed be such).


It was circulated to all the political parties for eliciting their opinion and, as the Defence Minister, Mr A. K. Antony told the conference of top commanders recently, but most of the political parties are still to respond with their suggestions on the issue.

Mr Antony disclosed that he had once again written to the political parties asking them to give their views to enable the Government to arrive at a consensus.

Be that as it may, the habit of picking on the IAS as the whipping boy dies hard among all other categories of government personnel and the public at large. The general belief is that the IAS is an all-powerful, invincible force, thwarting whatever is against its interests.

As one who has been in the Service for 35 years, I am happy to disabuse everyone’s mind of this impression. The members of the IAS have become much too self-serving, if not self-centred, to function as a rock-like formation.

Regardless of the above, the real question is the one that Gen Satish Nambiar has raised about its being a dispensable Service.

Is there any thing special or unique in the way the members of the IAS discharge their functions, that is beyond the ken of others appointed to the same positions from outside?

Only if the answer to this question is ‘yes’ can we say that the IAS is indispensable.


Originally, the IAS was seen as a replica of the ICS, incorruptible, independent, public-spirited and result-oriented.

The expectation was that the contacts of the members of the Service with the people at the grassroots, their variegated experience and liberal educational background will help their capacity for analysing the pros and cons, and decision-making and implementation will benefit from their sound judgment, thoroughness and ability to present viable options in a way intelligible to the policymakers.

These assumptions have been considerably eroded in the last 60 years. There are many instances of non-IAS persons inducted into top echelons usually earmarked for the IAS distinguishing themselves by their high calibre and competence.

Further, the complexities and challenges of a democratic polity like India demand an egalitarian structure, doing away with a virtual caste-system operating in the form of various Services suffering from a sense of discrimination.

Appointment based on the result of a one-time competitive examination with no periodical weeding out of the incompetent induces smugness and militates against accountability.

In such a situation, there is certainly a need to revisit the rationale for the IAS.



What an idea, Sirjee

Did you know that coal thieves know English, and are deterred by fences? The Coal Minister has told Parliament that “Fencing is being constructed at the various illegal mining sites along with displaying of signboards mentioning ‘Dangerous and Prohibited Place’.”

Saving Air India

The business of airlines, wrote Anthony Sampson in his book Empires of the Skies, was to put bottoms on seats. Having grasped this essential point, the Government has ordered that all those whose tickets are bought by it must fly only Air India, even though the tickets cost more, sometimes by as much as 33 per cent. Well done, boys, what’s the point of the Rs 4.5-lakh-crore borrowing programme if you can’t get your hands on some of it, eh?

Manish madam?

Manish Tiwari, who is one of the spokespersons for the ruling Congress party, decided to question his own Government. Tiwari’s question was whether the Government proposed to constitute a committee on the lines of the Intelligence Select Committee of the US Congress to monitor the functioning of our own Intelligence Bureau. Even as one wondered why the Congress spokesperson had to raise such a non-issue in the Lok Sabha, the Minister of State of Home Affairs Ajay Maken took his own revenge: “No, Madam”, he replied in a written answer.

Missing Singh

The ruling dispensation heaved a big sigh of relief when the Budget session of Parliament got over last week. It had had to face some very embarrassing moments. Foremost amongst these was the absence of the Prime Minister during the Finance Bill reply. Not that there were not enough cheerleaders for the Finance Minister. But the original reform architect’s absence was conspicuous and noted.

Puppet on a string

Last week, the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) changed its stance on negotiations with bank unions oftener than bowling changes in T-20 games. It moved from a 17.5 per cent to 15 per cent to 13 per cent and than back to 17.5 per cent increase.

Apparently, this repeated change had lot to do with top babus in the Finance Ministry, who were dictating the stance to the IBA but changing it frequently. This prompted a banking industry observer to remark that just as India has deregulated interest rates, maybe it is time to give the IBA more autonomy to decide on the industry-wide wage settlement.

Unmanned ship

For a party known for its floor management by dint of its sheer years of experience in Parliamentary proceedings, there was a contretemps of a sort when the Rubber (Amendment) Bill 2009 came up for discussion on August 6, when both the Cabinet Minister Anand Sharma and his junior, Jyotiraditya Scindia, were absent from the House. Both were on tour abroad.

When the BJP protested against the Government’s move to make do, the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs & MOS in the PMO, M. Prithviraj Chauhan floundered. So the Bill could not be taken up for consideration. The Commerce Ministry’s release to the media late in the night explained that the Bill was originally scheduled to be discussed on August 3-4 but got delayed. So it happened that both ministers were out of the country.

A senior UPA Minister told your diarist that both the ministers from the same Ministry should not be away during a session of Parliament.

Have no fear, Mamata is here

There was a flutter in the Railway dovecotes recently following a circular which revealed more than it was supposed to. The notification, issued by the finance division of the Railway Board, called for austerity measures and specified spending limits on contingency expenses, fuel, etc. This, say Railway Ministry officials, is often done.

But the circular also added that “the amount provided in budget estimates for 60 per cent arrears of Pay Commission, 2nd instalment of IRFC lease charges, PLB (productivity linked bonus), 2nd instalment of DA have also been withheld, to be released later, on their being sanctioned.”

With the festive month approaching, the idea of bonus, DA and Pay Commission arrears being “withheld” set off a growl of irritation among the Railway unions.

The media in West Bengal got a whiff of the circular and the General Managers had to intervene to control the damage. Payments withheld? That too under Mamata-didi? Unthinkable.

To prevent further damage, Eastern Railways issued a clarification saying that some media houses are ‘misrepresenting’ facts. It further ‘clarified’ that the arrears, PLB and DA will be released to the Railways when they are due.
Right idea, wrong execution

The Union Textile Minister, Mr Dayanidhi Maran, knows how to attract media attention. Even when Parliament was in session, he announced two policy decisions at a crowded press conference on August 6.

What irked the assembled journos was that since the Minister was announcing a 41-member Working Group on a new National Fibre Policy, his minions thought it fair to bring as many representatives as possible from this yet-to-be organised working group to the press conference.

This created a space problem as most of the officials came much in advance and sat in vantage places, leaving the scribes to stand and cover the event.




Had Sukhwinder Singh not killed the human bomb, many lives would have been lost during the terror attack on Parliament in 2001. The CRPF head constable got Shaurya Chakra for his bravery

Having served in insurgency-hit areas like Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast, terror was something that Head Constable Sukhwinder Singh knew at the back of his hand.

But, he never thought in his wildest nightmare that he would have a face off with terrorists in the most fortified place in the country the Parliament.

December 13, 2001 was just another day for the Central Reserve Police Force jawan when he was on duty at the Parliament complex and heard a grenade blast. "It (the blast) announced everything loud and clear. It was clearly a do or die but then we knew we have to kill before being killed. After all it was our country's sovereignty that was at stake," Singh told MiD DAY.

He was on duty at the main gate in the 10 am to 2 pm shift when a car rammed into the barricade. "We thought somebody might have lost control but even before we could react a grenade was lobbed upon us," he said.

The grenade went off just meters away from him and he miraculously escaped the splinters flying past him. Before his colleagues could react, Singh moved out of his picket with his self-loading rifle and took position. He saw a man climbing out of the van and was alarmed by Kamlesh Kumari, a woman constable, who indicated that the man "looked dangerous."

"I started firing at him and suddenly felt severe pain in my stomach. Our guard Commander Vizeto Tinyi who till now has asked all of us to take positions was hit in his knee. Then I realized I was hit in stomach by one of the terrorists," Singh said.

Bleeding profusely from his stomach, Singh kept firing towards the militants who by now had started to run towards the main building. But, Singh was after the "dangerous" one, the man who was carrying some thing different with him. Before heavy bleeding could put him down and his target ran out of his firing range, Singh shot down the man.

His intuition did not betray him. As soon as the man was shot, he blew off into pieces. Singh's target was a human bomb.

"Singh showed immense courage and presence of mind. He was closest to the human bomb and other terrorists were giving him cover fire. Had he managed to enter the main campus he would have killed more people than the terrorists who were moving around with AK rifles," said a senior CRPF officer.

"His injury too was grievous but he is a very determined man. Within 15 days he was out of the hospital. He even did not let his family know about the incident," added the officer.

"My family got to know from newspapers and TV channels. I thought they would get worried and anyways it was a mild injury nothing unusual in a soldier's life." said Singh who is now posted in the hot bed of terrorism — the Kashmir valley.

He was awarded Shaurya Chakra for his brave action, which saved so many lives. Punjab government promised him land and other facilities. "But all that Singh got was letters. Even after eight years, no promise has been fulfilled," a senior CRPF officer said, requesting anonymity.


Head Constable Sukhwinder Singh was awarded a free lifetime railway pass, which all gallantry awardees get.

But the railway authorities confiscated the pass last month when Singh went to get it renewed.

"I was told that CRPF men are not entitled for such benefits. I don't know much about such things. I am not even concerned; my happiest moment in life was when my eight-year-old sons told me that he wants to join CRPF. He refused to even consider any other job," he said.

Railway spokesperson Anant Swarup when asked about the goof up clarified: "There was some confusion. We have cleared the issue and pass is available to all the Chakra series awardees, including the police gallantry medals."


SRINAGAR, India — Troops shot dead four militants Monday as soldiers prevented fresh attempts by rebels to infiltrate Indian Kashmir from Pakistan, officials said.

"Alert troops killed a militant infiltrator on Monday thus preventing another attempt by the rebels to cross the LOC," Indian army spokesman J.S. Brar told AFP, referring to the Line of Control that splits Kashmir between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan.

In the southern district of Reasi Monday, security forces shot dead another three militants during a forest gunbattle, a police spokesman said.

Police attributed the surge in activity to the Indian national holiday on August 15, which marks the country's independence from British rule in 1947.

Since last Sunday, the army has foiled nine attempts by the rebels to infiltrate from the Pakistani zone of the disputed Kashmir region. The fighting has left nearly 20 militants and three soldiers dead.

In New Delhi Monday, Indian army chief general Deepak Kapoor suggested the rebels had support from the Pakistani army because of their sophisticated equipment.

"The possibility of a certain amount of support to them (militants) by the established institutions (in Pakistan) cannot be ruled out," he told reporters.

The army says militant attempts to cross the ceasefire line into Indian Kashmir normally increase in the summer as the snow melts in the mountain passes.

There has been a sudden spurt in rebel violence in the Himalayan region since last Saturday when rebels killed two policemen in Srinagar.

The insurgency in Kashmir has left more than 47,000 people dead, according to an official count.

India accuses Pakistan of training, arming and funding rebels battling New Delhi's rule in Indian Kashmir, a charge that Islamabad denies.


New Delhi, Aug. 10: The country’s seniormost serving commander has admitted that India’s military is no match for China’s might — the most candid public confession by an officer that did not change ground rules but can touch a raw nerve.

Admiral Sureesh Mehta, the chairman of the chiefs of staff committee and the chief of naval staff, added that New Delhi also does not have the “intention” to be comparable to China.

“In military terms, both conventional and non-conventional, we neither have the capability nor the intention to match China, force by force,” the admiral, who retires at the end of the month, said here this evening at a lecture organised by the National Maritime Foundation, a thinktank of the navy.

For most of the last six decades, the ethos of the Indian military has been to prepare for a battle on two fronts — to the west with Pakistan and to the north with China.

Even if the military balance with China is heavily loaded against India, it is simply not in the culture of armed forces officers to publicly acknowledge the weakness.

Mehta has gone against the grain, fully aware that he was giving a reality check.

“These are indeed sobering thoughts and, therefore, our strategy to deal with China would need to be in consonance with these realities,” he said.

Mehta is the chairman of the chiefs of staff committee because he is the seniormost armed forces officer in the country.

Among the audience this evening at the India Habitat Centre that heard his confession were the chief of air staff, Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik; Admiral Mehta’s predecessor, the former navy chief, Admiral (retired) Arun Prakash; at least three other former armed forces chiefs, diplomats from India and abroad, retired armed forces officers and school students.

“The traditional or ‘attritionist’ approach of matching ‘division for division’ must give way to harnessing modern technology for developing high situational awareness and creating a reliable stand-off deterrent,” Mehta said.

Translated, this means Mehta is calling for a halt to matching China’s military in terms of numbers — of ships, submarines, army divisions or combat aircraft. Instead, he is urging that New Delhi’s military energies focus only on building a defensive capability. Mehta later said, answering a question from the media, “We cannot cope in terms of numbers, so we must look at technologies, get smarter.”

In his lecture, he said: “On the military front, our strategy to deal with China must include reducing the military gap and countering the growing Chinese footprint in the Indian Ocean region.” To some extent, this would be possible if India developed relations with the littoral countries — largely island nations in the waters around India.

Mehta emphasised that India’s military weakness vis-à-vis China was merely reflective of its backwardness in other spheres.

“Whether in terms of GDP, defence spending or any other economic, social or development parameter, the gap between the two is just too wide to bridge (and getting wider by the day).”

Mehta said that once China consolidated its national power and military capabilities, it would be more assertive with its claims in the neighbourhood. “Our ‘trust deficit’ with China can never be liquidated unless our boundary problems are resolved,” he said.

But a military conflict would be damaging for both India and China. So it was important that New Delhi and Beijing “co-operate with each other in mutually beneficial endeavours, and ensure that the potential for conflict is minimised”, he said.

India’s annual defence expenditure was approximately $30 billion for 2008-09. Mehta quoted US thinktank Rand Corporation and US Defence Intelligence Agency figures for China’s defence spending for the same period, which stood between $70 billion and $200 billion.


NEW DELHI: Blasting Pakistan for following a "dichotomous policy'' in the fight against terrorism, the Army says there is again "heightened activity'' across the border to push as many militants into Jammu and Kashmir as possible before the onset of winter.

"I find it rather odd that Pakistan, on one hand, says it's fighting terror and is therefore moving troops (to its Afghan border). But on the other, it is perpetuating terror by sending in infiltrators into Kashmir,'' said Army chief General Deepak Kapoor on Monday.

"I think they are following a dichotomous policy,'' he said, pointing to the renewed spurt in militants trying to sneak across the Line of Control in J&K.

The latest Multi-Agency Centre (MAC) assessment is that there are still 42 terror-training camps operational in Pakistan and PoK, with "hundreds'' of militants trained to infiltrate into India, as reported earlier. Moreover, there are over 600 terrorists "still active'' in J&K, with over 40% of them being of "foreign origin''.

"Kashmir has never gone off Pakistan's agenda. They will use any and every opportunity to raise Kashmir, whenever they get a chance. So, I see the increase in infiltration in that context,'' said Gen Kapoor.

"They find things have been quite peaceful in Kashmir. The Amarnath Yatra has passed off peacefully... Perhaps they don't wish for this prolonged peace and stability,'' he said.

"Hence, one sees heightened activity, heightened attempts to try to get as many people in before the winters come, snow falls and passes close,'' he said, adding the Pakistani Army's covert support to infiltrating militants could not be ruled out.

"The kind of sophisticated equipment used (by militants) during very heavy snowfall and the kind of communications which are available with them, the possibility of certain amount of support by the established institutions cannot be ruled out,'' he said.


NEW DELHI, Aug. 10 (Xinhua) -- In a bid to ameliorate the acquisition policy for the Indian Armed Forces, the Indian government is to change the Defense Procurement Procedure (DPP) every year, said a senior official Monday.

"We have taken a decision that instead of every two or three years, we will amend the DPP annually so that by learning we would be able to improve it every year. Within a few months, we're going to amend the DPP that will further give new impetus to indigenization process," Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony told the media in the national capital.

He also said that the Defense Ministry was chalking out a strategy for speedy indigenization.

"Our policy is that within next 10 years, we must be able to establish a very strong defense industrial base in the country."

Indian military has been subject to criticism by both the government and media for failing to efficiently procure modern weaponry from abroad, while most of the equipment of the military are presently foreign products.


The Pakistanis must be laughing their guts out listening to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s borrowed formulation that we must adopt a “trust but verify” approach to our relations with their country. First of all, there is nothing original about this formulation because it was said by somebody else in some other context. Second, “trust but verify”, as everyone knows, was an afterthought. Mr Singh shockingly committed himself at Sharm el-Sheikh to trusting and talking to Pakistan without any kind of verification. Unable to bear the political heat on his return, he was compelled to do a bit of a somersault.

But, what Mr Singh has not realised is that without sounding so ponderous, many of his predecessors — Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Mrs Indira Gandhi and Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to name a few — have preached the ‘trust but verify’ principle. As the history of the sub-continent shows, politicians only ‘trust’. They do not ‘verify’. That is done by our armed forces and our soldiers and hapless civilians lay down their lives in the process.

Here, in brief, is the saga of ‘trust but verify’:

August 1947: At its inauguration, Pakistan’s founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah declares that this new country wants to live in peace with India. The Indian political leadership ‘trusts’ him.

October 1947: Over 5,000 heavily armed tribesmen intrude into Kashmir. The Indian Army moves in and while driving the intruders out, ‘verifies’ their credentials. It finds that they are recruited and armed by the Pakistani Army.

However, Pakistan denies the charge. But some time later its Foreign Minister tells the UN that all forces fighting on the ‘Azad Kashmir’ side are “under the over-all command and tactical direction of the Pakistan Army”. This is our first tryst with this great principle — trust but verify.

December 1947: Having trusted Pakistan and verified that it was up to no good, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru flies to Lahore for a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Liaquat Ali Khan.

India gets no guarantees from Pakistan but the business of “trusting” Pakistan begins afresh.

1958: The Prime Ministers of the two countries sign a pact which says pending settlement of disputes, “there should be no disturbance of the status-quo by force”.

1959: This year sees another joint statement in which the leaders of the two countries resolve “to solve border disputes by negotiation”.

August 1965: The Pakistani Army despatches hundreds of infiltrators into Jammu & Kashmir, but disclaims responsibility. However, UN observers ‘verify’ that armed Pakistanis have crossed the ceasefire line from the Pakistani side. A full scale war erupts.

The Indian Army captures several strategic positions on the Pakistani side, including the Haji Pir bulge and the Tithwal Pass. As the war progresses, Home Minister YB Chavan informs the Lok Sabha on September 6, 1965 that the armed infiltrators were regular and irregular soldiers of the Pakistani Army but Pakistan however has assumed “a posture of innocence”. The war ends with a UN-sponsored ceasefire. However, despite this betrayal, Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri signs a truce with Ayub Khan at Tashkent and returns to Pakistan all the major gains of the war.

The Tashkent Agreement says both countries will “abjure force” and will ensure “non-interference” in each other’s internal affairs. So, consequent to ‘verification’, we are once again convinced that Pakistan has betrayed our trust. But, what do we do? On the advice of the Soviet Union, we again start trusting Pakistan and hope it will “abjure force”. The then Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, pooh-poohs the agreement but our Foreign Minister, Sardar Swaran Singh, tells the Lok Sabha on February 16, 1966 that the agreement will help in “stabilising peace between our two countries”.

1971: Pakistan gets back its swagger and wages yet another war on India. This conflict is brought about by the flood of 10 million refugees into India following the crackdown by Pakistan’s military dictator Yahya Khan. The war culminates in the dismemberment of Pakistan, the creation of Bangladesh and the return of these refugees to their homeland.

The conflict ends with the Pakistani Army surrendering on December 17, 1971. Apart from losing its eastern wing, Pakistan loses 5,000 square miles of territory in the west and over 93,000 of its soldiers become prisoners of war. Following the war, Bhutto replaces Yahya Khan as President and the West steps up pressure for yet another “peace accord”. This leads to the Shimla Accord of July 1972.

Under this agreement, the two countries once again agree to settle differences “by peaceful means”. The agreement also says both sides will respect the Line of Control and refrain from use of force in violation of this line. Bhutto gets back the lost territory in the west and the POWs. Thus, from India’s point of view, the biggest ‘achievement’ in Shimla is Pakistan’s so-called commitment to bilateralism. This is touted as a major achievement and we get back to the business of trusting Pakistan all over again.

Bhutto, however, sings a different tune. Pakistan will shed its blood to support “the liberation war” launched by the Kashmiris, he says. Yet, Sardar Swaran Singh claims in the Rajya Sabha on July 31, 1972 that this accord is the “first step towards establishing durable peace on the sub-continent”.

February 1999: It is now Prime Minister Vajpayee’s turn to ‘trust’ Pakistan. He undertakes a dramatic bus journey to Lahore and signs an agreement with Nawaz Sharif which expresses sentiments similar to those in the Tashkent and Shimla accords.

May 1999: The Indian Army ‘verifies’ and finds large scale intrusion of Pakistani troops into Kargil. Hundreds of Indian soldiers lay down their lives as they drive out the intruders.

December 1999: Terrorists hijack an Indian Airlines flight IC 814 to Kandahar. We ‘verify’ that the terrorists are Pakistanis.

2001: Mr Vajpayee once again “trusts” Gen Musharraf and invites him for talks to Agra.

December 2001: Terrorists attack our Parliament House. We ‘verify’ and inform the world that the perpetrators of this daring assault on our democratic institution are Pakistanis.

2004: Mr Vajpayee again visits Lahore and signs yet another joint declaration. Once again, Gen Musharraf promises that “he will not permit any territory under Pakistan’s control to be used to support terrorism in any manner”. We trust him.

November 26, 2008: Pakistani terrorists mount a sea-borne attack on Mumbai, killing and maiming hundreds of people. We 'verify' that this horrendous assault was planned and executed with the blessings of the Pakistani establishment.

July 2009: It is now Prime Minister Singh’s turn to ‘trust’ Pakistan. Action against terrorists by Pakistan need not be linked to the dialogue process, he says, but later modifies this. “Trust but verify” is our motto he says! So, the political leadership is now back to ‘trusting’ Pakistan. Civilians beware!


New Delhi, Aug. 10: Nepali foreign minister Sujata Koirala has said that her country’s Maoists have become an impediment to improving ties with India.

“They have created an atmosphere in which even Nepali nationalists, senior leaders of the Nepali Congress like (former Prime Minister) G.P. Koirala and me hesitate to talk freely about having good relations with India,” Koirala told The Telegraph today. “This tactic might be serving the narrow political interests of Maoists but it is not good for the region and for Indo-Nepal relations.”

Koirala arrived here on a four-day trip today to lay the groundwork for Prime Minister Madhav Nepal’s India visit starting on August 18. Apart from her counterpart, S.M. Krishna, Koirala will also meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, defence minister A.K. Antony and commerce minister Anand Sharma during her official stay.

“India is our closest neighbour in every sense and we want to restore the good ties that we have always had,” Koirala said. “But of late, there has been a lot of anti-India sentiment whipped up in Nepal, almost to the degree that we have to politically fight it out. Poor ties with India and mutual suspicion is not helpful to anyone.”

Koirala’s broadside comes at a time Maoist sentiment in relation to India lies freshly inflamed. All of last fortnight, Maoists have been alleging that the Madhav Nepal government had entered into a secret deal for resuming arms supplies to the Nepal Army.

Any resumption of arms supplies — lethal or non-lethal — constitutes a violation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which became the political basis for the Maoists giving up guerrilla war and joining the mainstream.

Even though Prime Minister Madhav Nepal has officially denied any move to have supplies from India resumed, Maoist spokespersons have persisted in alleging a covert deal, which they see as a move to strengthen the hands of the army in preparation for a “forced disbanding” of the Maoist People’s Liberation Army (PLA), currently in UN-monitored barracks.

Nepali defence minister Bidhya Bhandari’s recent visit to India served to bolster Maoist allegations that the army was being covertly armed with Indian help to neutralise the PLA. (Under the terms of the agreement, PLA cadres are to be absorbed into the national army.)

The row over Nepal seeking resumption of arms from India wasn’t helped by defence minister Bhandari’s statements that the Nepal Army was in need of arms and ammunition for training purposes and that shehad approached the Indian government for help “to ensure that the army does not have to compromise on training requirements”.

Koirala’s attack on Maoists could fetch another angry backlash from the former guerrillas who blamed their own ouster from the government in May and the accession of the Madhav Nepal-led dispensation on an “India-aided conspiracy”.

Maoist ideologue and former finance minister Baburam Bhattarai has demanded that New Delhi stop “supporting and co-operating with” the current government “if it wants democracy to prosper” in Nepal.

“India is a great democracy, but it has worked to destabilise the democratically elected Maoist government in Nepal and promoted a government led by defeated, status quoist and pro-monarchist forces in Kathmandu,” Bhattarai had said in an exclusive interview in June. “Support to this government must end if India wants democracy to prosper in Nepal.”

The Maoists have stalled the peace process in Nepal since Prachanda resigned and have forced the Madhav Nepal government into limbo by refusing to participate in the Constituent Assembly.

Koirala blamed the Maoists for resorting to “anti-democratic” methods to disrupt the peace process, which envisages, for a start, the finalisation of a new republican-democratic constitution for Nepal by next year.“The Maoists are not participating in the parliamentary process, they are looking for excuses to take to the streets, they are the ones who do not seem to want a democracy prosper in our country,” Koirala said.

She added, though, that efforts were on to get the Maoists on board and the task of drafting an agreed constitution back on track. “We have recently formed a high-level all party committee and Prachanda has promised to join it. If that happens, we will probably have a body that will be able to sort out inter-party differences on major issues more smoothly. But the Maoists have to co-operate, they have to realise that we cannot betray the peace process by creating a situation of anarchy in the country,” Koirala said.


Kolkata: Maoists have issued a fatwa topeople in Bankura, Purulia and West Midnapore. Marry off daughters or sisters to paramilitary men and be prepared to pay with your life.
The guerrillas have proved that this is not an idle threat, by killing 48-year old Manik Mandal of Belpahari in West Midnapore district. Mandal's offence: Getting his daughter married to a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) jawan posted at a camp in the Maoist pocket of Belpahari.

Mandal, who used to sell puffed rice near one of the CRPF camps, selected a groom for his daughter from among jawans who were regulars at his kiosk.However, the decision proved fatal.

On Saturday, he was abducted by the Maoists. On Sunday, his bullet-ridden body was found in a paddy field.

The guerrillas have taken responsibility for Mandal's killing. In a statement, Maoist spokesman Bikash said Mandal was a spy and this was proved after he got his daughter married to a CRPF jawan. He said others would meet Mandal's fate if they defy the fatwa.


New Delhi: Unhappy with lack of special allowances, commandos of leading paramilitary forces, including those from CRPF, CISF and ITBP, are reluctant to serve in their parent units and want NSG deputation to avail extra perks.

A paramilitary trooper on deputation to the National Security Guard (NSG) draws 25 percent extra salary, while a similar stint in the commando unit of the parent force does not come with extra monetary benefits.

"Hence, there is a rush at the time of sending the list of personnel on deputation to the NSG. Serving in the commando force of the parent organisation is not lucrative," a paramilitary officer said.

For any commando force, such incentives are very essential to keep the morale of the men high when it is known that they undertake high risk besides long hours of duties, the officer said.

The commando units of the three forces -- CRPF, CISF and ITBP -- are involved in protecting more than 60 VIPs.

The Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) guards at least 15 VIPs, while Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) provides security to 43 VIPs. The CRPF protects two political leaders in southern India besides politicians, bureaucrats and a few others in Jammu and Kashmir.


GUWAHATI: Ulfa and four other militant outfits of the North-East on Monday gave a call to boycott Independence Day celebrations and asked people
to observe a general strike on August 15.

Apart from Ulfa, NDFB, Kamatapur Liberation Organization (KLO), Manipur People's Liberation Front (MPLF) and Tripura People's Democratic Front (TPDF) have given the boycott call.

In a joint statement, the five banned outfits called an 18-hour general strike in the North-East starting from August 14 midnight. Every year, militant outfits issue such a directive on Independence Day.

On the other hand, security has been tightened in Guwahati a day after explosives were recovered from a market place near chief minister Tarun Gogoi's official residence on Sunday. All roads leading to Gogoi's residence have turned into fortresses with security personnel frisking each and every vehicle.

Police said all vehicles entering the city are being thoroughly checked at all entry and exit points to prevent any untoward incidents ahead of Independence Day. Police and paramilitary forces have already been deployed at flyovers, bridges and other vulnerable spots and vigil on trains have been intensified.

Police on Monday said CRPF has apprehended Jiban Kurmi, alias Jibon Ali, and recovered 30 detonators and explosives from his possession. Kurmi, a resident of Holeswar village in Tezpur, is suspected to be militant.

"For the past few weeks, there is tight security in Guwahati to thwart any terror plans ahead of Independence Day. Deployment of police in crowded places has been increased as insurgents may try to target them," said a police official.Railway police stepped up frisking on trains at Guwahati and Kamakhya railway stations on Monday and picked up five persons. "Independence Day has always been the target of Ulfa and other militant outfits here. We are taking every possible step to foil terror plans," police said.

According to intelligence reports, Ulfa was frequently changing its tactics to carry put bomb blasts in Guwahati in the run-up to Independence Day.

Recently, security forces arrested and killed some militants and seized explosives meant for carrying out blasts in the city.

The arrested rebels revealed that Ulfa was taking help of other outfits to carry out subversive activities before August 15.