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Sunday, October 4, 2009

IITs set up two panels, profs meet PM’s secy

Oct. 3: The directors of the IITs, after a meeting with faculty representatives, set up two committees Saturday to look into pay-related and other grievances. IIT Kan-pur director Sanjay Dhande said one will examine ways to upgrade professors to the next grade, while the other will deal with implementing the performance-related incentive scheme.
IIT faculty representatives, meanwhile, took their grievances to the PMO Saturday, and met Mr T.K.A. Nair, principal secretary to the PM, briefing him about their discussions with HRD minister Kapil Sibal and the IIT directors.

Ex-serviceman on a mission

Tribune News Service
Udhampur, October 3
Lt-Gen BS Jaswal, GOC-in-C Northern Command, today felicitated ex-serviceman of the J&K Rifles Prabhjit Singh, who is on a mission to traverse the entire country on a bicycle. Prabhjit Singh was felicitated today in a function at the Northern Command headquarters, Udhampur.
He stopped at the Northern Command headquarters and met Lt-Gen BS Jaswal, GOC-in-C Northern Command. The Army Commander met Prabhjit Singh and complimented him for his extraordinary effort and courage.
Northern Command spokesperson Col DK Kachari said: “Despite being physically challenged Prabhjit chose to undertake this mission which began at Ambala on January 19. Over the past nine months he has travelled alone on his cycle and covered a distance of over 16,210 km. As he left for Srinagar, Prabhjit left a message for all Nothing is Impossible.”

Army recruitment rally begins

Tribune News Service
Rajouri, October 3
After a gap of “almost 15 years”, the Army today conducted a recruitment rally in border town of Poonch. Over 10,000 youth participated in the rally, which started today and will end on October 7. A large number of youth lined up near the Air Field Army Camp, Poonch, the venue of the rally.
“It was after a gap of almost 15 years that the Army authorities conducted a recruitment rally at Poonch. Earlier, the recruitment rallies were conducted by the Army authorities at Jammu, Samba and other places. It is a welcome gesture by the Army authorities,” the father of a youth, who took part in today’s rally, said.
Commander, Poonch Brigade, Brigadier Satish Dua, Poonch MLA Ajaz Jan and Poonch Deputy Commissioner Kuldeep Khajuria attended the inaugural ceremony of the recruitment rally.
Appreciating the Army authorities for conducting a recruitment rally in Poonch, the Poonch MLA said the rally would help in solving employment problem in the area.

Army to procure 300 light tanks

Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, October 3
Even as the Indian Army continues to rectify problems that cropped up with its recently inducted T-90 main battle tanks, it has drawn up plans to procure about 300 light tanks.

A request for information issued to prospective vendors has pegged the requirement at about 200 wheeled light tanks (armoured cars) and about 100 tracked light tanks.
The Army wants tanks for effective employability in the high-altitude areas and mountainous terrain as well as in the deserts and urban and semi-urban terrains in the western sector. The numbers and type of tanks and the projected areas of deployment is indicative of the Army’s threat perceptions and operational requirements in various theaters and its doctrinal approach.
Defence sources say the numbers could rise. The army, at present, has 63 armoured regiments out of which about half a dozen have been re-equipped with the T-90
Russian T-90s, procured a few years ago, faced problems while operating at high temperatures in the desert, affecting the tanks’ electronics, fire control system and thermal imagers.
According to sources, trials are on in desert to evaluate ratifications and modifications to overcome the problems. About a dozen Russian experts are assisting the Army in the Rajasthan ranges. The Army initially bought 310 T-90s and placed an order for another 330 in 2007 besides license producing another 1,000 by 2020.
Military experts say that light tanks would primarily be used for reconnaissance, where speed and stealth are preferred over firepower. Wheeled tanks have a much lower audio signature and are more manoeuverable than tracked tanks.
Maj Gen Raj Mehta, a cavalry officer, said light tanks are more effective in areas like paddy field, water-logged terrain, sand and marshy ground, where the ground pressure is very low.
Then there is the issue of logistics and cross-country transportation. A light tank weighs up to 14 tonnes while the T-90 or the Arjun weigh 45 and 58 tonnes, respectively. This makes it easier to transport them to the high-altitude areas in Ladakh or North-East by road or air.

Clarify stand on China ‘threat’: Rajnath Singh to UPA

Itanagar, October 3
BJP today asked the Congress-led UPA government for a “clarification” to the people on actual position over the “growing threat from China” over the so-called border disputes in Arunachal Pradesh and other parts of the country.

Making it an election issue against rival Congress in Arunachal Pradesh that goes to Assembly election on October 13, BJP president Rajnath Singh told an election rally here, “Weak-kneed policy of the UPA government has emboldened China to raise question mark on security of some frontier areas in India. People are frustrated over such slackness on part of the UPA government which must take all precaution as China is trying to encircle India from three sides to establish itself a super power.” “There were 140 Chinese incursions in 2008 and the figure has risen to 270 attempts in the current year so far. Still, the UPA government is asking the media not to hype up the incursion issue instead of countering China threat in equal measure. What message is it trying to send? Why vote for a party that is not serious about protecting your self-pride and security over looming threat from China?” Singh said appealing to voters to make BJP a balancing factor in formation of the next government in the hill state.
“China had to accept Sikkim as an integral part of India when the BJP-led NDA government was in power in New Delhi. It was possible because of our bold stand on maintaining territorial integrity of the country,” the BJP leader said.
He accused the rival Congress of resorting to “money power” to win elections in the hill state “where people have remained poor while ruling Congress leaders have amassed huge personal resources.”
“Arunachal Pradesh attained statehood in 1972. During the last 37 years, the Congress ruled the state for about 35 years and common people are still languishing in poverty an under development while the leaders of your choice have grown richer and richer,” Singh said.
He fired a broadside at the UPA government for failing to check shooting prices of essentials despite its promise to check it within 100 days. “The consumer price index has jumped to 15 % from 10.2 % and the economy seems to have spun out of control of the UPA government.”

Indian Navy to conduct recruitment drive for engg students

LUCKNOW: Indian Navy would conduct its recruitment drive under -- University Entry Scheme (UES-2010) at Integral University, Lucknow, for engineering students who will qualify in 2010. Students from AICTE approved institutions from all over the state would participate in drive. A team headed by Cdr Ajeet Sethi, from Naval Head Quarters, New Delhi would conduct the recruitment process at Integral University from October 5 to 7, 2009. 

All male BTech (Final Year) students of non IT stream, having 60 per cent marks in BTech till VI Semester and have no standing backlog may participate in the drive. Female students of civil and mechanical engineering are also eligible to participate. 

Students of electronics, electrical, mechanical, civil, architecture, control & instrument etc may also get in touch with training and placement officer (TPO), Integral University, through TPOs of their respective institutes and take part in "walk-in-interviews" along with duly completed application form, which can be downloaded from Navy website 

"Students should also bring photocopies and original documents along with the application form. The application must be endorsed by the principal/director of the institution. The eligibility criteria is also given in the website. Navy officers would also conduct similar drives at HBTI Kanpur and MNNIT Allahabad later," said Afaq Mahmood, TPO, Integral University.

PM plays development card in Arunachal Pradesh

PASIGHAT (Arunachal Pradesh): Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday spared no efforts to woo voters for the October 13 polls in Arunachal Pradesh. But significantly, he chose to keep mum on China's frequent claims over the north-eastern frontier state as its own. 

"Congress has an emotional attachment to Arunachal and its beautiful people. The party is always concerned for its weelbeing and development," Singh said, while addressing an election rally in Pasighat, the district headquarters of East Siang district and the oldest town of the landlocked state established in 1911 by the British. 

Braving scorching heat for hours together to get a glimpse of the PM and hear him, over 5,000 people erupted in joy the moment they saw the three Indian Air Force choppers carrying Singh and his entourage landing at the helipad adjacent to the rally venue. 

"Arunachal is always dear to Congress since the Nehru-Gandhi era. Successive Congress governments at the Centre have always been working for the development of this Himalayan state as well as the entire North-East," said the PM, clad in a traditional Adi attire. 

Expressing his happiness over the huge turnout at the rally and congratulating the people of Arunachal for sending two Congress members to the Lok Sabha, he said, "It was Indiraji (Indira Gandhi) who had provided the Union Territory status to Arunachal, while former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was instrumental in granting it statehood in 1987." 

"Arunachal needs a government that can work for development and only Congress can ensure this," he said. "Congress is the only party that can provide a stable and transparent government and work for the interests of the aam aadmi," he added. 

The PM said the Rs 24,000-crore development package that he had announced last year was aimed at bringing Arunachal on a par with other developed states in the country. 

Singh lauded the state government for maintaining transparency while executing the schemes under the package. He said, "The third party monitoring mechanism introduced by the state government with the help of panchayat leaders to implement the package is praiseworthy." 

To promote commercialisation of agriculture, generate income and facilitate remunerative prices to the farming community, the state government has established Krishi Vigyan Kendras at Dirang, Balek and Deomali, he said. "Besides, it has started construction of three cold storages one each in Dirang, Namsai and Ruksi to fulfil the need of fruit-growers," Singh added.

Veteran questions Maoist fight

New Delhi, Oct. 3: One of India’s topmost anti-Naxalite strategists has questioned the Centre’s new “crackdown-first development-later” credo and warned that any use of air power against Maoists could saddle the nation with “Afghanistan and Iraq-like” security liabilities.
“Development must go hand in hand with the fight against Naxalites; deprived people in the heartland cannot be expected to wait on their misery until the government is done with its long-haul campaigns,” Mahendra Kumawat, who retired as director-general of the BSF last month, told The Telegraph today.
“The government is going to lose more hearts and minds to the Maoists if it forges ahead with a strike policy that brings nothing but bloodshed and disruption to people in the affected zones. That is going to multiply our problems, not solve them. I wish the government all the best, but it isn’t going to work.”
The scorch-then-salve policy, advocated for long by hardline think-tanks, has found favour with home minister P. Chidambaram, but it has also alarmed sceptics within the security establishment who believe strictly police solutions are a “counter-productive half measure”. Recently unshackled by retirement, Kumawat may be articulating their concerns.
Kumawat speaks from a decade’s “on ground” experience of dealing with Naxalites in the Andhra-Orissa-Chhattisgarh triangle. Before assuming command of the BSF, he was also chairman of the national anti-Naxalite task force in the Union home ministry during Shivraj Patil’s tenure as internal security boss.
Kumawat wouldn’t take names, but he made it apparent that his experience as head of the national co-ordination desk in North Block did not inspire too much optimism over the anti-Naxalite offensive in the works under Chidambaram.
“We may think nationally but we do not act nationally,” he said. “There is little or no co-ordination between states which are actually as big as countries. West Bengal, for instance, would not share information with Jharkhand. There are debilitating turf battles between various agencies, intelligence is routinely held back or delayed, and most of the intelligence and documentation we have is poor in any case. All that needs to change if the government is to have half a chance of success.”
The retired top cop was critical of the manner in which governments approached the “very alarming” Naxalite challenge, saying: “We don’t prepare well enough. Information is critical and it is not available in the market, it has to be gathered and analysed all the time and over a long period of time. How many of our states have done that? Probably Andhra Pradesh, and they have had some success to show for homework done. But the same cannot be said for the rest. We are ill-prepared.”
Asked whether there was virtue to Chidambaram’s argument that Naxalite-dominated areas first needed to be “cleansed” of their “disruptive dominance” before development initiatives can be effectively mounted, Kumawat said: “Well, the home minister has himself said this will be a long battle, how long are people to wait for the welfare state to come to them? The challenge and the ingenuity of governance lies is doing both at the same time, the security component will have to be built in to development projects, as has been successfully done in parts of the Northeast. It may be tough to do, but that is what governments are about.”
Cautioning against using too hard a hand, Kumawat said: “We are hearing things about the use of the Indian Air Force, but the government should be extremely careful it is only logistical use, nothing else. And even so, the Naxalites are very capable of trapping the air force in ugly situations where they will have no option but to retaliate. Once that begins to happen, there will be the huge risk of collateral damage to populations and further alienation. The Naxalites are clever tacticians, they will engage and scoot, innocent people will get killed, you will have mess on your hands. Look at what the drone attacks are doing in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
He sounded utterly unsurprised by indications emerging from Naxalite circles that they plan a bloody cat-and-mouse with security forces in the weeks and months to come.
“If they are talking of encircling the government rather than getting encircled, it is nothing to scoff at or be smug about. That is classical Maoist tactic -- you go looking for them in their strongholds and you find they have melted away, their mobility is an advantage they employ to the hilt,” Kumawat said, adding that this Naxalite tactic, too, bedevils government plans.
“They will melt away, or just merge with populations. An operation, even if it is based on good and specific tip-offs, can end up hurting innocent people and creating greater disaffection against the state.”

IAF aids rescue operations

BANGALORE: The Indian Army and the Air Force have been pressed into action to assist in flood relief and rescue operations in the floodaffected areas of North Karnataka.

Upon being called by the state government to assist relief operations, army columns were moved out from Belgaum to assist the district administration in Gadag, where Ron and Nargund taluks have been badly affected with entire villages being cut off and marooned.

The districts of Belgaum, Raichur, Gadag, Bellary, Haveri and Koppal are the worst affected, with heavy rains over the last 24 hours in excess of 200 mm to 250 mm.

Similarly, the Air Force also flew sorties to rescue marooned people and drop food packets in the affected areas.

The Bangalore-based Training Command has launched helicopters and fixedwing aircrafts. A round-the-clock flood relief cell has been set up at the Air Force stations in Yelahanka and Hakimpet.

The first helicopter with the specialist equipment to winch up survivors went airborne early morning on Friday to the affected areas.

By afternoon, six helicopters of IAF station, Yelahanka flew 12 sorties, dropping about 750 kgs of relief material, mainly food packets, in and around the flood-hit areas and rescuing 43 persons by carrying out live winching, said a Ministry of Defence statement.

The IAF personnel evacuated about 12 people caught in neck-level deep water in low-lying areas of Bellary district and dropped them at safe places. In addition, 32 lives were saved from Mantralayam in Raichur district.

The crew of the helicopter hovered close to the rooftops on which the people had gathered in the low-lying areas.

The IAF also responded to requests from the Andhra Pradesh government to assist them in rescue operations.  

Soldiers and Nature

THE Indian Army’s heritage of valour on the battlefield is a byword in the annals of world military histories. But the Indian Army’s equally distinguished and scholarly heritage in the field of India’s Natural History, remains generally unknown and unsung."

Thus goes the opening para of J. C. Daniel and Lieut-Gen Baljit Singh’s book Natural History and the Indian Army, a quest to unveil this hidden heritage. The book is a compilation of 25 articles (each constituting one chapter) written by 19 Indian Army Officers, 16 of whom were Britishers and three Indians.

On the strength of expertise, 12 of them went on to establish paternity claims in their respective disciplines — an honour which was, and is, universally acknowledged in the world of natural history. So, Lieut-Col K.R. Kirtikar became the "father" of medicinal plants, Brigadier Evans of the butterflies, Brig-General Richard G. Burton of the Royal Bengal Tiger and so on.

The first chapter, which covers a period of 225 years (1778 to 2004), summarises the investigations into the field biology of birds, mammals, butterflies, reptiles, rodents, fish, natural photography and medicinal plants. It also looks at the doings of the principal trendsetters among the phalanx of Army officer-naturalists who pioneered the discovery of "Natural India". It was an incredible achievement considering every involvement was essentially in the manner of a hobby, pursued on the sidelines of their profession.

The book chooses the arrival of Thomas Hardwicke at Fort William, Calcutta, in 1778 as synonymous with the commencement of comprehensive scientific inquiry of India’s fauna, as a whole.

From being an artillery cadet in the Bengal Presidency Army, Hardwicke rose to the rank of a Major-General at the time of his retirement in 1823. No one knows what attracted him to natural history. But what we do know is that the British Museum of Natural History (BMNH), London, considered his "collection" matchless. So, when in 1820, they decided to have a permanent and exclusive display of the natural history of India, their unanimous choice was to pick from General Hardwicke’s collection that had been generously donated to them.

Measured by any yardstick, General Hardwicke was the colossus of Indian natural history. He had written the first scientific descriptions of several species of birds, mammals, rodents and reptiles. These descriptions were read at the meetings of the Linnaean Society, London, and he was accorded recognition for the claim — the blood pheasant in 1821, the grey goral in 1819, the Indian gerbille in 1803 and the Kashmir agama in 1820, to mention a few. For some inexplicable reason, his description of the red panda was deferred in presentation and someone else claimed the credit in the meanwhile.

Perhaps, it was unusual for a soldier to tread upon the scientist’s turf. So the recognition was slow in coming but it could not be denied. And the Latinised name Hardwickii was appended to the names of certain birds, mammals, rodents, butterflies and even one species of the teak tree.

But this dream of publishing a book was thwarted by the lack of finances. Nevertheless, the curator of the BMNH brought out in two volumes Illustrations of Indian Zoology: Chiefly From the Collection of Major-Gen Thomas Hardwicke in 1830-34. This became the first book on Indian natural history. Unfortunately only one damaged copy of Vol 2 exits in India with The Asiatic Society, Mumbai.

General Hardwicke and the officer-naturalists who followed shared two common traits. They were dedicated to the profession of Army first and foremost but seized every opportunity to pursue their passion for natural history. General Hardwicke was twice rewarded for valour on the battlefield (monetary grant in those days) even as he amassed his "collections".

All these books were published at Jerdon’s personal cost. When he died, his wife and two children had to move into a vicarage in the UK as they were rendered insolvent.

Lieut-Col J. H. Williams, affectionately known as "Elephant Bill", was an emergency commissioned officer during the Second World War. Besides rapid promotions, he was also awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE). Burma had a flourishing timber trade for which hundreds of elephants were employed. When the Japanese over-ran Burma in 1941, all these elephants wandered into the wild in search of food. Captain Williams took on the task of clandestinely contacting their old mahouts and gathered more than 60 working elephants. Field Marshall Sir William Slim in the foreword to the book Elephant Bill best relates what Williams and his elephants did for the war effort.

".......... the elephant held a special place in our esteem....... it was the elephants’ dignity and intelligence that gained our real respect. To watch an elephant building a bridge, to see the skill with which the great beast lifted the huge logs and the accuracy with which they were coaxed into position, was to realise that the trained elephant was not a mere transport animal, but indeed a skilled sapper". Helen of Troy may or may not actually have launched a thousand ships but the Asian Elephants of Colonel Williams certainly bridged scores of streams allowing the XIV Army the needed mobility to out flank, trap and destroy the Japanese at Meiktilla.

When Capt R.W.G. Hingston was appointed medical officer to the 1924 Everest expedition, he was bewildered as the highest mountain that he had ever climbed was the Snowdon in the UK (below 3,000 ft). Yet, on the sidelines of his job he collected, by his rough estimate nearly 5,000 "bugs" from the Everest region, which he said "will keep entomologists busy classifying them for years to come".

In the bargain, he also authored A Naturalist in the Himalayas and later A Naturalist in Hindustan. And of course, he created a record by going up to the North Col and back to the Everest base camp three times in two weeks to provide life-saving medical aid.

Brig-Gen R.G. Burton was not just a trigger-happy hunter but an authority on the tiger as his book The Story of the Tiger was to establish. More than that he was a cerebral soldier whose writings on military campaigns were much acclaimed. His book Napolean’s Military Campaigns in three volumes became an official text for promotion examinations in the Army.

Then there was Maj Frank Wall with the British Expeditionary Force to Iraq in the First World War, who is remembered as the "father" of Indian herpetology. His watercolours of snakes, which illustrated his texts, have never been excelled. The force had laid siege to Baghdad and during the long lull that followed, he pasted posters on date-palm trunks announcing a reward of one packet of cigarette for a dead snake or skin and two packets plus and tealeaf for every live snake. It was a roaring success and his collection was housed in a special niche at the Bombay Natural History Society’s premises in Mumbai.

Lieut-Col R.S.P. Bates of the First Royal Jat Regiment introduced bird photography in India and won international acclaim in the discipline. He went on to author the path-breaking book Breeding Birds of Kashmir in 1952 illustrated profusely with pictures clicked by him.

The book is a tribute to the remarkable personality of the Indian Army and its officer-cadre. For not only did the soldiers protect the country’s frontiers but its officer-naturalists also fought the battle to conserve India’s incomparable natural heritage spread over a vast geographical area, encompassing almost every type of climate met with in the world.

And last but not the least, Lieut-Colonel Burton provided a framework around which Nehru created the Indian Board for Wildlife in 1952; Lieut-Colonel Burton’s exposition forms the concluding chapter of the book.

The book bears testimony to an observation made by John Keay in his travelogue, India Discovered:

"The men who discovered India were amateurs; by profession they were soldiers and administrators. But they returned home as giants of scholarship." 

Army joins rescue work in flood-hit areas of AP, Ktk

New Delhi, Oct 3 (PTI) Around 700 troops along with eight medical teams have been deployed by the Indian army to carry out relief and rescue operations in the flood-affected districts of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

"We have deployed eight columns along with medical teams and adequate rescue equipment and materials in Kurnool and Mehboobnagar districts in Andhra Pradesh and at Bijapur in Karnataka since yesterday to help the civil administration in relief and rescue operations," army officials said here.

The local administration had sought Defence Ministry's assistance in relief operations after the flood situation worsened, they said.

The Indian Air Force is also carrying out relief operations in the affected areas. Six helicopters swung into action yesterday evacuating people and dropping relief material, mainly food packets.

Till last night, the IAF had rescued 44 people, including 12 from Bellary district in Karnataka.