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Friday, August 28, 2009

India's light combat aircraft to phase out Russian jets




Five Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) costing about $31 million each have already been manufactured by state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and undergoing trials, while eight more will be ready by mid-2010, defence officials said.

"We can say 2012 is the key for our air force when we will not only have many LCAs, but by then we should also be able to induct more advanced multi-role fighters in the fleet," said air force spokesman Wing Commander T.K. Singha.

India started field trials to buy 126 multi-role fighter jets last week, defence officials said, moving forward on a $10.4 billion deal to modernise the air force.

Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet, France's Dassault Rafale, Lockheed Martin Corp's F-16, Russia's MiG-35, Sweden's Saab JAS-39 Gripen and the Eurofighter Typhoon, produced by a consortium of European companies, are in the race for the contract, one of the biggest in play.

"So we are looking at a scenario, where we will be able to raise our squadron strength considerably with more power," Singha said.

India wants to increase its air force squadrons from 34 (612 fighters) at present to 42 (756 fighters) by 2020 with modern aircraft.

Twenty LCAs will be deployed by 2012 and the plan is to manufacture 20 more in coordination with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), a DRDO official said in New Delhi.

"The LCA is now on track and the DRDO is very keen to produce more such aircraft indigenously," a DRDO spokesman said.

The induction of the LCAs was delayed by years of technical problems that forced scientists to go back to the drawing boards and rework the single-seat fighter's design and engines.

India's defence ministry began pushing for the LCA after the country lost nearly 200 Russian-made MiG series aircraft in crashes since 1990, blamed by the air force on manufacturing defects.

India, one of the world's biggest arms importers, plans to spend more than $30 billion over the next five years to upgrade its largely Soviet-era arsenal to counter potential threats from Pakistan and China.

"The LCA trials are in full swing and they could replace even the MiG 23 and MiG 27 if everything works to plan," said a defence official, who declined to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the media.

Flying low cost

A queer kind of peer rivalry has cropped up between the three services - the Army, Navy and the Air Force. The Army has recently entered into an arrangement with Taj group of hotels for accommodation of officers of the rank of Colonel and above when on temporary duty in the national Capital. As soon as the olive greens flaunted the achievement, the navywalahs reciprocated informing that they too have similar arrangements with hotels and resorts not only in Delhi but also in Mumbai, Kochi, Goa, Vizag and Kolkata among others. Poor high-fliers, the Indian Air Force, did not want to be left out and joined the issue. But they only had an arrangement with the run down Centaur Hotel in Delhi to showcase.

Your smooth landing is caught in crossfire

If you are looking forward to a smooth landing at Pune airport, you have a long wait ahead. An administrative stalemate between the Airport Authority of India and the Indian Air Force is causing a delay in the implementation of Instrumental Landing System (ILS) at the airport.

The Pune Airport is undergoing a major facelift with the construction of two new terminals, expansion of the parking lot and better facilities.

The ILS is also a part of this facelift, but AAI has not been able to install the system that can aid smoother landing of aircraft.

This airport area is situated on IAF land and AAI has to get IAF’s permission before making any changes at the airport.

IAF has not given permission as it has raised some queries regarding security reasons. On this issue, AAI and IAF officials had meetings, which did not succeed in reaching a solution.

An airport official said, “This system will help aircraft land smoothly. With the help of ILS, aircraft can be landed in times of low visibility too.

The AAI has purchased this system nearly nine months back. This system has now come to Pune, but is lying unused as we are not getting permission from IAF.

We had several meetings with IAF officials. Now, the matter has gone to the headquarters and the higher authorities will take a decision on it.”

However, IAF says they are not against the ILS, but don’t want to compromise on the security aspect either.

Prashant Pathrabe, defence public relation officer, said, “Security is a concern for IAF. If the security aspect is sorted out, then IAF will not have any problem with ILS.”

Fake flight lieutenant in police custody

Bangalore, Aug 27 (PTI) In a joint operation, the city police and an Indian Air Force team have arrested a man who posed as an IAF flight lieutenant and allegedly cheated several people with offers of jobs in the Air Force.

Deepakanthan, 23, was nabbed here yesterday, police said.

The accused, who had a fake Identity card stating that he was a flight lieutenant attached to IAF, Ambala unit, and also an IAF letterhead, had allegedly collected money from several job aspirants.

Using the card and an IAF uniform, he also had stayed for 10 days in an IAF officers' mess at Yelahanka along with a woman. Though already married, he promised her that he would marry her, police said.

Indian Navy poised to be best fighting force: Vice Admiral Nirmal Verma

Staff Reporter
The outgoing chief of the Eastern Naval Command, Vice Admiral Nirmal Verma, at the change of command parade in Visakhapatnam on Thursday, August 27, 2009. He will be taking over as the Chief of Naval Staff. Photo: K.R. Deepak
The Hindu The outgoing chief of the Eastern Naval Command, Vice Admiral Nirmal Verma, at the change of command parade in Visakhapatnam on Thursday, August 27, 2009. He will be taking over as the Chief of Naval Staff. Photo: K.R. Deepak

Vice Admiral Nirmal Verma, who will take over as Chief of Naval Staff on August 31, said that the Indian Navy will emerge as the best fighting force in the world when everyone in the force performed his/her duty to the best of their ability.

He was addressing the ceremonial parade where Vice Admiral Anup Singh took over from him as the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command (ENC) at the Naval Base here on Thursday.

Vice Admiral Verma said that there was no need for a person to be in a senior position to contribute towards strengthening the force. "You can do your bit to the force in whatever position you are either as a sailor or as an officer. I had started off my career as a cadet midshipman," he said.

He recalled the role played by the operational ships and platforms of the ENC during joint exercises with foreign Navies and during deployments abroad. He felt that the keen enthusiasm shown by the Navies of advanced countries in participating in joint exercises with the Indian Navy was an indication of its growing strength.

Fond farewell

Vice Admiral Verma was given a fond farewell by the officers and men of ENC. A specialist in Communications and Electronic Warfare, he was commissioned into the Indian Navy on July 1, 1970 and since than he held various Staff, Operational and Command appointments. He is a graduate of the Royal Naval Staff College, Greenwich, U.K. He also graduated from the U.S. Naval War College.

The new ENC Chief Vice Admiral Anup Singh inspected the ceremonial guard and reviewed platoons of Naval personnel drawn from ships and establishments of ENC. The parade, consisting of 24 platoons, was commanded by Commander Ninad Deshpande. The President’s Colours were also presented during the parade, which was attended by the Navy’s top brass.

Balkanising India, Chinsese way

A Chinese "strategist" has recently posted a game plan on a website to break India into “20-30 pieces” of ethnic concentrations. And so what’s new? The Chinese have been trying to destabilize India almost from the moment of its emergence as a free nation from British colonial bondage by providing guerrilla warfare training, arms and sanctuaries to the Nagas. All the North-east insurgencies are China-Pakistan joint ventures.

The Pakistan Army Inter-Services Intelligence is the hatchet-arm of Han hegemony. But things are going wrong for this gang-up and chickens are coming home to roost.

Hence this blatant, officially-sponsored, threat to India. This is officially sponsored because such things cannot happen in China if the top leadership does not want it. And if it does happen and the leadership does not act to discipline the culprit it is an indicator of official acquiescence. China has not done anything about it even after the Indian Ministry of External Affairs had brought the impugned blog to Beijing’s notice.

From 1948 to 1971 China used the unruly segments in Myanmar and the Chittagong Hill Tracts to train and indoctrinate insurgent groups from the North-east India. It is only with the creation of Bangladesh that the Chinese nexus was, to a large extent, neutralized and China tried to make political capital of a bad situation by claiming that it had stopped all support to anti-India groups. The lie was soon exposed with the capture of a Naga group trying to cross into Tibet through Bhutan thereby indicating that fresh attempts were being made to open up new routes and avenues to support NE militants who were falling to cordon-and-search operations by security forces.

It was a short-lived respite for India because President Mujib-ur-Rehman was assassinated and a military regime was followed by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party led by Begum Khaleda Zia, widow of one of the conspirators involved in the Bangabandhu killing. The regime’s attitude towards India was best illustrated by the seizure (by sheer accident) of a huge consignment of Chinese weapons delivered at Cox Bazaar which was intended to be delivered to ULFA and Naga militants. Recently, Bangladesh Army officers were arrested for complicity in that act.

However, China’s greater sin is making nuclear weapons the bulwark from behind which terrorist activities have been conducted against India by Pakistan. Since the mid-Seventies China has supplied Pakistan with tested nuclear warheads and arranged for North Korea to export missiles that can deliver the warheads to targets in India. That was the time when Pakistan was totally immersed in funding and facilitating the Khalistan terrorists in their attempt to break away from India. Religious fundamentalism and nuclear weapons became a heady decoction.

While Pakistan was wallowing in its new found “strategic depth” in Afghanistan where it had installed the Taliban in government, US Secretary of State Jeane Kirkpatric was credited with a plan to Balkanise (the dictionary meaning being to divide a country or territory into small, quarrelsome, ineffectual territories) India using the Khalistanis as the thin edge of the wedge. Hence, diplomatic and political support was given to Dr Jagjit Singh Chauhan “President” of Khalistan.

Pakistan’s enthusiasm for Khalistan received a severe jolt when in 1985, the National Council of Khalistan demanded of General Zia-ul-Haq that Lahore, the Pakistani city, be renamed ‘Ranjit Pura’, as it was the capital of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s empire. That rang alarm bells in the predominantly Punjabi Pakistan Army which saw the spectre of Sikh domination of a unified Punjab if Khalistan ever became a reality. They saw it as Balkanisation in reverse. At the same time the momentum of the joint operation by the Indian Army, the Punjab Police and paramilitary organizations broke the back of the movement.

Having failed in its first attempt at the vivisection of India by a replication of the British game plan of nationhood based on religion, Pakistan shifted gear and tried to inject communal poison in the Muslim majority Kashmir Valley a la the Taliban experiment in Afghanistan. By this time its “bomb in the basement” programme being executed with “all-weather friend” China’s assistance, was assessed by American experts to be just “two screwdriver turns away” from fruition.

Seeing how China had made arrangements to supply Pakistan with tested and fully operational nuclear weapons, Chinese perfidy on nuclear proliferation came up front during negotiations on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treat at Geneva. It was when it became clear that the rest of the world was not willing to comprehend the threat to Indian territorial integrity posed by the China-Pakistan nuclear nexus India made an unequivocal declaration that it would not sign the CTBT in Arundhati Ghosh’s resounding words: “Not now, not ever!”. India began accelerating its nuclear weapons programme and in 1998 conducted a series of underground tests at Pokharan. It had the effect of flushing out Pakistan’s clandestine “bomb in the basement” programme and forcing Islamabad to conduct its own series of tests in the Chagai Hills of Balochistan.

The cat was now out of the bag and when Pakistan Army Chief General Pervez Musharraf planned the intrusion into Kargil in 1999 it was based on a new-found invincibility of his nuclear weapons. How gravely he and China miscalculated (he was in Beijing when the invasion took place) was there for all to see when US President Bill Clinton confronted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with evidence of the Pakistan Army activating its nuclear arsenal and demanded the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the Pakistan Army from Kargil.

The evolution of Chinese support to terrorism as a tool for the destabilization and eventual disintegration of India has culminated in the nuclearisation of terror in this part of the world.

Army recruitment

Imphal, August 27 2009: Candidates bearing roll numbers RPCL 4001 and 4201 have been declared as successful ones for enrolment as soldier clerk in the Indian Army for which recruitment rallies were held at Jowai and Kokrajhar respectively.

The successful candidates are also informed to bring along relevant documents while collecting joining letters from ARO, Rangapahar on Sep 1 or 2 .

Meanwhile, candidates who were declared to be medically fit and took 'reviews' at various military hospitals are advised to contact the ARO, Rangapahar on Tele No.03862-249080 as they are supposed to appear for the written examination to be conducted on August 30 .

Mir hails Indian army, attacks Pak troops

Srinagar, Aug 27: The agriculture minister Ghulam Hassan Mir Thursday defended the presence of troops in Jammu and Kashmir saying they had played a major role in the return of peace in the state. The minister went further, saying unlike Pakistan Army which, he said, was bombarding country’s northern areas, the security forces operating in Jammu and Kashmir were working “cautiously.”
“We should give credit to police, army and other security forces for creating an atmosphere of peace in the state. Today we are safely discussing issue in the Assembly because of the role they played in bringing normalcy,” Mir said speaking in the Assembly on discussion on grants for police, planning and other departments under the control of the chief minister.
In an apparent reference to Peoples Democratic Party, Mir said there was a demand for revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act and withdrawal of troops. “These are very sensitive issues and I urge those who raise these demands not to politicize it and don’t play with the emotions of people,” Mir said.
Mir said the coalition government led by Omar Abdullah was already working on the issues. “We need a plan for handing over the responsibility of law and order to police in Jammu and Kashmir. The government is already working on it. But we have to see that the police should be ready to take over the lead role,” he said.
Referring to Pakistan, Mir said when Pakistan government felt that the situation was turning from bad to worse in the stronghold of Taliban militants, “it ordered bombardment.”
“Various areas were under the control of militants in the state but army never bombarded them. There might have been some mistakes by them in handling the law and order situation but there is proper mechanism to address it,” he said.
Mir said neither the state government nor the House can resolve the Kashmir issue.
“We can only play a role of facilitator in resolving the Kashmir issue. We have to talk to the people who are at distance (pro-freedom parties) regarding Kashmir,” Mir said.
Responding to the PDP’s demand that there should be an elected Governor for Jammu and Kashmir, Mir said it was not the solution to the Kashmir problem.
Mir said J&K had an elected Governor and Prime Minister in 1953, still the situation turned bad. “The need is to win the confidence of people and find ways to solve the vexed problem,” he said.
Mir said the state government had no powers to open the traditional routes, including Poonch-Rawalkote, for trade and traffic.
“The state government can only plead with the government of India on the issue. The ultimate decision lies with India and Pakistan,” he said, adding instead of “taking people for ride” the members should try to focus on the “real issue” including unemployment.

Gorshkov price to be finalised soon



NEW DELHI: Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta on Thursday said the Indian Navy would soon be receiving a Russian nuclear submarine, even as the programme to build French Scorpene submarines here was running behind schedule.

Addressing a press conference ahead of his last day in office on Monday, Admiral Mehta said the country would soon complete negotiations over the price of Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov (INS Vikramaditya) for possible delivery by 2012.

The arrival of the Gorshkov would augment the Navy’s quest to have three such warships in its fleet. Currently, it has INS Viraat, which has just undergone an extensive refit, and the third aircraft carrier is under construction at the Kochi shipyard.

Admiral Mehta also said the project of building the country’s indigenous nuclear submarine, which was heralded with INS Arihant, envisages constructing two more nuclear powered submarines.

The INS Arihant was launched for sea trials last month, and Admiral Mehta said India would soon have the proven delivery capability that would make the adversary “face far more damage than they can bear.”

The Navy Chief distanced himself from a report quoting senior Defence scientist K. Santhanam that the 1998 nuclear tests by India did not yield the desired results, adding that the country’s nuclear deterrent capabilities were “proven and capable enough.”

“As far as we are concerned, we go by the views of the scientists. They have given us certain capability and that is capable enough to provide deterrence and they are proven,” he said in response to questions about the capabilities of the country’s nuclear arsenal.

Admiral Mehta denied that the Navy grounded the entire fleet of Sea Harriers after the recent crash. He said a board of inquiry had been constituted to probe the incident, and checks were taking place on the remainder of the fleet that would be flying soon.

On Defence Minister A.K. Antony’s recent visit to the Maldives and reports of India setting up a base there, he said it was neither the policy nor the intention of the Government to set up naval bases overseas.

Reacting to his early comments on China’s naval dominance, Admiral Mehta clarified that while China is a power in the Indian Ocean region, he had never mentioned that its navy was more superior to India’s.

Maoists take tips from US war book

Aug. 27: Central agencies have alerted police officials of Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh, after a book printed in the US was found with arrested Maoist.

The book explicitly guides fighters on how to bring down helicopters and other small aircraft with the use of assault weapons like the AK-47.

The book, Guerrilla Air Defence: Anti-Aircraft Weapons and Techniques for Guerrilla Forces, has been published by Paladin Press, Colorado (USA,) and deals with the threat posed by the use of air-power by security forces against rebel outfits and the various counter measures to resist and repel such assaults. The latest "VIP security and intelligence digest", dated June 8, a copy of which is with this news paper, gives details of documents recovered from CPI (Maoist), one of which is the book in question.

The book is replete with examples like "asking the rebels to aim their assault rifles and fire at the hub of the rotor blade of a chopper so that the bullets drop into the engine after hitting the chopper and incapacitate it".

The book outlines the technique of turning the light machine-gun, a weapon used considerably by Naxals in Maharashtra and Chhatisgarh, into an effective anti-aircraft weapon for small aircraft. The book also describes techniques of passive air-defence.

‘We have capable blue-water Navy’

Aug. 27: India has a blue-water Navy, Indian Navy Chief, Admiral Sureesh Mehta, stated on Thursday. Speaking to reporters just four days ahead of his retirement as the Navy chief, Admiral Mehta said, "We have a capable blue-water Navy."

A blue-water Navy refers to a Navy that can operate far away from home and which is able to protect itself from sub-surface, surface and airborne threats along with a logistics capability and reach to operate on the high seas at considerable distances from home.

The Navy Chief spoke about the goodwill visits of Indian ships both to south-east Asia and East Asia on one hand and to Europe, including Russia on the other and said this had helped to "improve the mobility of the Navy" in a situation where the "security environment is fragile".

In response to another question, Admiral Mehta said that while India had a no nuclear first-strike policy, India had "credible nuclear deterrence" and that if any other nation launched a nuclear attack on India, that nation would have to face the consequences which would be more than they can pay.

Asked about his opinion on whether India needs a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) who would be hierarchically above the three service chiefs, the Navy Chief said, "We will certainly need a CDS (in future)", but pointed out that the Chief of Staffs Committee — comprising the three service chiefs — is "managing very well". the Navy chief also spoke about the necessity of a CDS in future since it would be difficult for a service chief to devote so much of time (for duties as CDS) away from his duties as the chief of that service.

‘Signing of CTBT is a formality’

Aug. 27: Leading nuclear scientist and former chief of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Trombay, A.N. Prasad has said that for all practical purposes India had given up the option of further nuclear tests.

"The signing of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has become a mere formality and a question of time," he said. "By signing the nuclear deal with the US, our government has squandered the country’s sovereignty to test nuclear weapons."

He said that there was nothing surprising in the comment made by Dr K. Santhanam, former chief of Defence Research and Development Organisation, that the 1998 nuclear tests at Pokhran did not yield the desired fire power.

"You cannot simply tell the world that you have learnt everything with just one or two nuclear tests," Dr Prasad said. "All nuclear weapon states have done a series of tests to arrive at a stage of advanced capability. We are mere beginners when compared to them."

Kalam defends Pokhran-II

A day after senior DRDO scientist K Santhanam created a stir by stating that India’s nuclear test in May 1998 at Pokhran was “not a total success”, his theory was debunked and discarded by defence experts, including former President APJ Abdul Kalam, who were in the know of the subject today.

R Chidambaram, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Union government who had led the team of scientists during the 1998 nuclear tests, today dismissed as "absurd" the suggestion that Pokhran-II explosions did not yield the desired results. “There is no controversy over the yield of Pokhran-II nuclear tests,” he said.

Chidambaram, who was the chairman of the Department of Atomic Energy in 1998, was quoted by PTI news agency as saying: “If he (Santhanam) has any new scientific information which we are not aware of, it will be nice to have that data. He is a scientist and not a politician. Let him tell exactly what made him give that comment.” The results were published in detail in international journals and also took into account studies by several global experts, he added.

Santhanam, who was the Defence Research and Development Organisation representative for Pokhran-II, had said “India should not sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) as the country needed to carry out more tests as the thermonuclear tests in 1998 had failed to produce the desired results”. As per him, the yield of the tests could only be classified as a “fizzle” rather than big bang. In nuclear science, a fizzle is used when the outcome fails to meet the desired yield. Today as well, Santhanam, in a TV interview, stood by his comment.

Coming in defence of the test, former President APJ Abdul Kalam said the tests were successful and had generated the desired yield. After the test, he said, there was a detailed review based on two experimental results: seismic measurement close to the site and around; radioactive measurement of the material after post shot drill in the test site.“The tests at Pokhran were completely successful,” Kalam was quoted as saying by a news channel.

Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta, while addressing his last press conference before retiring, said today: “India's nuclear deterrence capabilities are proven and capable enough”

Official sources, when asked to comment on Santhanam's statement, said India's position on CTBT was well known, clear and consistent. “We will not subscribe to any treaty that is discriminatory in nature,” they said.

Former national security adviser Brajesh Mishra, too, dismissed Santhanam’s statement by asserting that India had a “meaningful” number of nuclear weapons and an effective delivery system to go with it.

He told a private television channel that the five nuclear tests conducted in May 1998 were successful.

“Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, then the scientific adviser to Defence Ministry, had announced that the 1998 nuclear tests conducted in Pokhran were successful. Dr Kalam’s version was credible enough, as Santhanam was working directly under him. That should set the record straight,” Mishra said

Notably, the test, as per Indian scientists, is said to have yielded 45 kilotons (KT), a claim challenged by western experts who said it was not more than 20 KT.

Saying ‘yes’ to disclosure

It augurs well for the judiciary that the Supreme Court judges have now agreed to disclose their assets. Undoubtedly, it will boost transparency and accountability in the judiciary and enhance the people’s respect for it. The fact that all 23 serving judges led by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan agreed at Wednesday’s meeting to make their assets public shows that public respect for the judiciary was important in a healthy democracy. The decision comes after months of public debate over the issue. The chorus for transparency in the judiciary became shrill with the media, the public, parliamentarians, former CJIs and three sitting high court judges themselves favouring asset disclosure. The Tribune has been consistently maintaining in these columns that leaving a few, most judges are known for their integrity and character. It was thus unclear why some of them were feeling shy of being transparent.

The demand for asset disclosure should be seen in the light of reports of misconduct and corruption among some judges in high courts and lower judiciary. These seem to have eroded the judiciary’s fair image and reputation. As most judges are believed to be honest, their reluctance to disclose assets had created an erroneous impression among the public that they had something to hide. Worse, the recently aborted Judges’ (Declaration of Assets and Liabilities) Bill, 2009, was an anomaly in an age of transparency and the Right to Information. Clause 6 of the Bill sought to keep such information out of the public domain. No wonder, MPs opposed the Bill tooth and nail and the Centre promised to bring forward a new legislation in deference to their wishes.

Today, judges exercise more power than any other organ of the state and, therefore, they need to respect the principle that they are accountable to, besides their conscience, the Constitution and the people. It is this logic that guided the apex court to order candidates contesting Parliament and Assembly elections to declare their assets while filing their nomination papers. In a democracy, the people have the right to know whether ministers, civil servants and judges have acquired assets disproportionate to their income. None can seek immunity from this. The judges’ decision to disclose their assets is welcome. They ought to follow it up by accepting the Right to Information Act — at least on the administrative side of the judiciary. Enough safeguards can be provided in the RTI law to ensure that its independence does not get compromised in any way.

Ban on sale of combat dresses

MK Dwivedi, District Magistrate, Jammu, has imposed restrictions on the procurement, storage, sale and stitching of combat dresses.

This has been done in view of the inputs from the security agencies that some parties are procuring, storing and selling combat clothes/ and dress in an unregulated manner, which is likely to result in these dresses passing into the hands of anti-national elements.

Restrictions have also imposed on dumping, throwing any kind of carcasses/refuse etc., around the Air Force compound wall, the Civil Airport wall, besides from Panjtirthi to Sidhra bridge and the circular road to the Deputy Commissioner Office Chowk.

This dumping of garbage/refuge is causing health hazards to the residents, commuters and also causing inconvenience to general public. These orders shall remain into force for two months.

Army a ‘big employer’ of state youths

Besides fighting insurgency in the state and securing the border, the Army is contributing to its economic development as well.

The Army is also boosting human resource development in the state, as it has employed a large number of youths. “Every year, 800 to 1,000 soldiers are recruited in the Army from the state,” said Brig G. Murali of the Udhampur-based Northern Command.

“The Army has raised six Home and Hearth (H&H) battalions absorbing more than 6,582 youths from the state. The H&H employment is given to locals and members of families affected by militancy,” he said.

The Army employs more than 15,000 porters and around 17,000 ponies. Besides providing employment to locals, the Army also adds to the economic growth of the state by procuring items of daily consumption at the local level.

“Everyday, the Army procures 33,000 litres of milk that is around 25 per cent of the total daily requirement of the Army in the state,” said Brig Murali.

The Army also makes other local purchases that costs more than Rs 800 crore to the state’s exchequer annually. “The Army pays Rs 800 crore annually to the state government in the form of electricity and other rental payments,” Brig Murali said.

The Army has also undertaken various other developmental projects in the state. In period 2008-09, the Army constructed 14 bridges, while construction work on 22 bridges was being executed.

“The Army runs 51 goodwill schools in the state, where 11,353 students study. It runs two residential schools also in the state. It sponsors 240 students to six residential schools in the country,” Brig Murali said.

He added, “The Army also provides help to the state government schools in their renovation, construction of additional class rooms and other such facilities for the students.”

Brig Murali said the Army “runs 10 hostels with a capacity of 620, 26 women empowerment centres with a strength of 738”.

Omar Abdullah assures steps to revoke AFSPA

Srinagar, August 27
Asserting that a good beginning was made during the first eight months of the coalition government, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has said his government will take all steps to revoke the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from the state. He said a considerable improvement in the security scenario was observed as compared to the previous years.

The Chief Minister was replying to the discussion on grants to the four departments under his supervision in the state Assembly here today. Omar said the discussion was more on politics than the demands for grants to four departments that invited 529 cut motions.

Referring to incidents like Bomai and Shopian that rocked the valley, the Chief Minister said utmost care was taken to prevent any human rights violations. He assured the House and the people of the state that incidents like Shopian would not be repeated.

Omar said that the situation that prevailed during the recent months due to Shopian incident when stone pelting and bandhs became a common feature, certain preventive measures were necessary. “I do not want leaders like Geelani sahib to be kept under detention…I wish to release them gradually”, he said.

While Syed Bashir Ahmad, PDP member, walked out in protest against not being allowed to raise his issue, the Chief Minister criticised him for making much noise on issues like revocation of the AFSPA, human rights violations and political resolutions to the Kashmir issue.

Holding that the PDP’s claims on fear psychosis among the people were wrong, Omar said there was a decline in the percentage of the incidents of violence, killings at the hands of militants and cross firing and other incidents. Omar revealed that 517 civilians were killed during the first seven months of the Mufti government, while the number was at 53 during the first seven months of the present coalition government.

Ex-Wing Commander arrested

Staff of the Customs (Preventive) Commissioner’s office , Amritsar, held former Wing Commander of Air Force Harinder Pal Singh Shergill, who had been evading arrest for 11 years for smuggling oreign exchange, from Chandigarh today.

Booked under the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Act ( COFEPOSA), Shergill had been absconding since 1998 forbid to smuggle foreign exchange. Commissioner, Customs, Ranjit Singh said the arrest was made possible for a tip- off. The accused has also served in Air India as Captain. The Customs earlier arrested him from Sahara International Airport, Mumbai in 1998 while trying to smuggle foreign exchange.

The then Joint Secretary to the Ministry of Finance, Department of Revenue, New Delhi had passed his detention under COFEPOSA. However, since then he had been absconding. He had jumped the bail.

Domicile-waiver for wards of defence personnel

Chandigarh, August 27
Punjab gvernment has waived off the domicile requirement for admission of wards of defence personnel to professional colleges and institutes in the state. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal announced this at the annual Civil Military Liaison Conference between the state government and Headquarters Western Command here.

This would directly benefit children of defence personnel who were not able to complete their Class X and XII from schools in Punjab due to frequent transfers. Having Punjab domicile is mandatory for admission to professional colleges in the state.

Badal also handed over cheques worth Rs 1.35 crore to the cantonment executive officers of Jalandhar and Ferozpur towards reimbursement of the excise duty and construction of four underpasses on National Highway -64 at the Bathinda Military Station.

He also released Rs 1 crore for Sainik School, Kapurthala for construction of the school boundary wall, and Rs 45 lakh to Sub-Area Pathankot for construction of a Sainik Aramgarh for the welfare of ex-servicemen from Gurdaspur district.

The conference also discussed matters of mutual interest were discussed and several issues resolved. In his inaugural address, Badal lauded the role of the armed forces and complimented the traditional bond that existing between the Services, the people and the government of Punjab.

He assured that the state government and local administration in Punjab would never be found wanting in providing any assistance to the armed forces.

New DG DRDO

New Delhi, August 27
Dr VK Saraswat has been appointed as the new director-general of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). He will also be the new Secretary, Department of Defence Research and Development, besides being the Scientific Adviser to Defence Minister AK Antony.

He will take over from the present incumbent M Natarajan from September 1. Presently he is the Chief Controller Research and Development (missiles and strategic systems). In this capacity, he spearheaded the development of country’s strategic and tactical missile systems including the Agni series.

Air France plane strays into India from Pak side

Amritsar, August 27
An Air France civil airliner violated Indian airspace and entered India from Pakistan’s side towards south- east of the city making Defence top brass sit up and dispatch a fighter MIG-29 aircraft to follow airliner to probe the incident.

Indian Defence set up became alert when Amritsar-based Indian Air Force radar picked up images of an aircraft- like object hovering over in Indian airspace in the city in the northern sector at 6.10 am The aircraft was flying at 37,000 feet and had entered Indian airspace on an established border entry point on ATS route.

The aircraft’s not being in communication with the Air Traffic Control officials perplexed Air Defence officials . Besides, the Secondary Radar Response Code (used to identify whether an aircraft was of foe or friend) or the Squawk code of the aircraft was not correct hence, the aircraft fell in the stipulated “unknown” category.

As the aircraft staff failed to establish communication with Indian officials an IAF MiG-29 fighter jet was scrambled to intercept the aircraft and establish identity of the unknown carrier,” said Defence spokesperson Naresh Vig.

While the MiG followed the “unknown” aircraft, it was only little later the aircraft crew started transmitting correct secondary radar response code and these were picked up. Subsequently, the Air Defence radar identified the aircraft as as civil airliner(A-343)of Air France(AFR-164).The flight

was from Paris to Bangkok. It was only after identification of the aircraft that the MiG-29 fighter aircraft was given instructions to break-off and return to base. A formal report of the incident has been forwarded to the Airports Authority of India (AAI) by the Indian Air Force.

THE LEGENDARY : CAPT VIJYANT THAPAR, VrC...





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Dear Readers,

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