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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Indian Army still facing a dearth of officers


By Ritu Sharma

New Delhi, Nov 12 (IANS) The Indian Army is grappling with an acute shortage of officers. Despite the recession, it has been unable to attract more talent and contain their outflow. In 2008, the army was able to take in 1,500 officers - but over 1,800 left the force.

The army now faces a shortage of 11,238 officers.

“It is a very peculiar situation. Despite the recession and relaxation of our requirements the number of officers leaving the army is more than the number of officers we have managed to take in,” a senior officer familiar with the situation told IANS.

“What adds to the worry is that the negative inflow has been witnessed despite an economic slump,” he added.

The negative flow of the officers in the army has been witnessed since 2007 when nearly 1,780 officers resigned or retired, compared to the intake of about 1,750. While there has been a constant outflow of officers in the past, the army had managed to induct more before that year.

The army received 535 voluntary retirement applications in 2005, 810 in 2006, and 1,265 in 2007. The defence ministry’s approval depends on the need of the armed forces. The army approved voluntary retirement for 365 officers in 2005, 464 in 2006 and 608 in 2007.

“Concerned by the situation, we have made it mandatory that officers with less than 15 years service will be considered for premature retirement or resignation only on medical grounds,” another officer said.

The army’s sanctioned strength is 46,615 officers, but it has been facing a shortage of 11,238. The problem was aggravated when about 3,000 officers sought premature retirement in the last three years. Most of them moved to the lucrative corporate sector.

The data for 2009 has not been compiled yet.

“But there has been an increase in the number of withdrawals of premature retirement applications since January 2009. We hope that the trend will be reversed this year,” the officer said.

“In the past six months 65 officers have withdrawn their applications for premature retirement.”

Now, the army is hoping the financial crisis and the Sixth Pay Commission — which has increased their salaries — will help bring in many more to the armed forces that is facing a shortage of middle-rung officers in particular.

(Ritu Sharma can be contacted at

How India must face the Chinese threat

India, argues Bharat Verma, needs to aggressively counter China's imperial ambitions.

New Delhi cannot afford to sit around while others plot its destruction.

Surrounded with sullied strategic environment and the spreading fire that engulfs the region, New Delhi can either continue to live in fear as it has in the past, or fight back.

There are two distinct threats that endanger the existence of the Union.

First are China's imperial ambitions that threaten to ultimately dismember India into 20 to 30 parts. To succeed in its aim, Beijing  over a period of time unleashed the first phase of the strategy and intelligently encircled India. This initial phase resulted in shrinking New Delhi's strategic frontiers in its vicinity.

The Indians unwittingly made the Chinese task a cakewalk as they were preoccupied with internal bickering for short-term personal gains, overlooking the vicious expansionist agenda designed jointly by Beijing and Islamabad to tear apart the country.

Even as it pretended to withdraw its covert support to the rebels in India's northeast in the late seventies, China took advantage of Islamabad's hatred for India, and deftly invested in Pakistan to carry out the task on its behalf.

The primary segment of the Chinese strategy moved with clockwork precision by investing in autocratic and Islamic fundamentalist elements in countries on India's periphery -- Myanmar, Bangladesh and the Maoists in Nepal.

In Sri Lanka , while Indians dithered, Beijing and its proxy Pakistan quickly moved in to help arm Colombo against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, develop the Hambantota port etc.

While the adversary invested in encircling India on its land and sea frontiers, the Indians merrily continued to indulge in their favorite past time -- meaningless and endless debates.

Invited by Islamabad, the Chinese moved into Pakistan occupied Kashmir . With growing irrelevance of Pakistan as a nation State, this area in times to come will become Chinese occupied Kashmir. Similarly, China fabricated its territorial claim on Bhutan and is working to eclipse the prevailing Indian influence there.

Is New Delhi prepared to defend its strategic frontiers in Bhutan unlike our timid response in Tibet ?

The second phase of the long-term strategy to unravel India based on smaller geographical regions is now underway. After successfully encircling India, the recent spurts in Chinese incursions on the border, objections to the prime minister's visit to Arunachal Pradesh, lobbying against India at the Asian Development Bank , the drama of apportioning official annual budgets for the development of the so-called Southern Tibet (Arunachal Pradesh), devising opinion polls against India, issuing visas on separate sheets to residents of India from Kashmir are clear pointers in that direction.

The concluding part of the plot of unraveling the Union, if successful, will remove the challenge to China's unquestioned supremacy in Asia.

China's initial thrust succeeded not only in effectively rolling back India's influence in its external periphery, but also helped its proxies to extend their tentacles deep into India, threatening the Union's internal stability.

Therefore, the second distinct aspect that endangers the existence of the Union is the rapidly increasing internal security threat.

While the external adversary devised strategy to shrink India's influence in its 'near abroad', the individual states's inability to govern ensured rollback of authority towards their respective capitals.

The Indian sway unwittingly stands reduced simultaneously, within its borders and in its immediate vicinity. The combined intensity of the external and the internal threat, where each feeds on the other, if not handled with ruthlessness, will unravel India in times to come.

Negligence in governance is primarily responsible and permits the hostile external actors to take advantage of the internal dissent to further their imperial ambitions.

To power itself out of the largely self-inflicted external-internal encirclement New Delhi should work out a comprehensive counter-strategy with an offensive orientation. For an enduring win against the heavy odds, the national goal should be to emerge as the single most dominant power in Asia by 2020.

This aim envisages an economically powerful India backed by extraordinary military capabilities and reach, and formation of potent international alliances that help defend multi-cultural democratic values under adverse conditions in Asia.

Instead of endlessly ceding strategic space as in the past 62 years, we must learn to fight at multiple levels, and secure and extend our influence in Asia through hard and soft power on land and sea.

Pursuit of this singular national goal will automatically force us to gear up the entire infrastructure, resources, policies and strategies towards the fulfillment of this endeavour.

At present, we are an inward looking, bickering, dithering and indecisive nation. New Delhi lacks the key aspiration and therefore the vision, that motivates and impels a nation to excel and achieve worthy living standards for its citizens. Centrality of such national core ambition will remove the prevailing confusion and the attendant aimlessness.

However, to be the pre-eminent Asian power, it is essential that New Delhi first set its own house in order by reclaiming the space lost within to the non-State actors.

Lack of skills and direction, self-serving gimmicks and dwindling integrity in the civil administration ended up in handing over the control of 40 percent area to the Maoists and ten percent on the borders to the insurgents.

It is vital that the State recaptures this space in the shortest possible time frame and establishes its authority up to the borders. Otherwise, India will be the next State after Pakistan to be consumed by civil war.

Since the Maoists and the insurgents are armed and supported by external actors, it is appropriate that they be dealt by exercise of requisite military force, before development and effective policing can take roots. The nation is witness to the fact that the Indian police and civil administration just do not have what it takes to disarm those who wield weapons against the State.

To rapidly develop the sinews of the civil administration including the police to face the war like situation brewing inside, it is crucial to inject military thinking and muscle.

First, the State should infuse military talent by offering attractive terms and conditions to retired military personnel on fixed tenure and contract basis to take the battle effectively into the heartland of Maoists and the insurgents. They are fairly young, have military skills, are motivated, and understand combat in all its hues to take on the Maoists and the insurgents.

Second, from the pool of retired military personnel, create military advisory cells in the home ministries of the states and at the Centre with adequate resources. Inter-link them with each other on a national grid to develop military appreciation of the situation on the ground and offer clear and decisive options.

Third, since it is a long haul, the central and all state police forces should pay the Indian Army  and Navy to select and train at least 100 constables each year in their various regimental training centres to augment the armed constabulary.

Fourth, the Indian Army can select and train a few officer cadets every year for the Indian Police Service at its Officer Training Academy in Chennai on the same tough pattern as the military officer cadets. This will rapidly induct precision of military thinking and sinews that the civil administration urgently requires to fulfill the task at hand.

The success of expanding Chinese strategic reach in Asia is due to the singular fact that, unlike other Communist parties, the Communist Party of China from its inception has the advantage of precise military thinking in the party, as the People's Liberation Army officers are integral to it. The above suggestions are particularly relevant to pacifist India, as military thinking in most of the other cultures is a natural component.

In addition, remove all man made barriers like inner line permits etc to allow inter-mingling of citizenry, and establishment of businesses and industry in the northeast and Kashmir and other states.

While the terrorist, jihadi and the infiltrator forcibly change the demography, citizens are not allowed to settle and buy land in many areas of the Union. Such contradictions besides being illogical defy national integration, consolidation and fusion of the nation into one entity. However, we should avoid forced settlements like the Han Chinese in Tibet or Pakistan in the Shia-majority Northern Areas.

But, of course, the writ of the State cannot be re-established within, unless it can deliver high quality governance and development programmes.

If India had developed its military power on requisite scale and demonstrated the gumption to use it when and where necessary in the past 62 years, if the foreign office had injected military spine into its policy making, and if the enemy knew that New Delhi would respond ruthlessly if threatened, with a clear message, 'Don't mess with us!' -- I am convinced that multiple wars would not have been imposed on India.

Neither export of terrorism would have occurred on the scale it does nor China would have dared to be so nasty.

Adequate military preparedness and the ability to wield it tellingly act as deterrence, taking away the cost-benefit ratio of war from the adversary.

To emerge as the dominant force in Asia, it is therefore, essential that offensive orientation in thinking be injected across the spectrum from a young age. This entails confronting adverse geopolitical situations differently to achieve dominance.

Beijing has created an excellent infrastructure of roads and railway network in Tibet that allows them to bolster its hostile posture towards New Delhi. To create similar infrastructure on our side of the border is going to be time consuming. Therefore, if push comes to a shove, how can we innovate to neutralise the imminent threat posed by the adversary?

We should induct massive heavy lift capabilities for troops by introducing a fleet of helicopters and transport aircraft on a war footing. Initiation of superior means of mobility for the troops and extraordinary firepower will act as a robust deterrence.

We should create military capabilities to disrupt the enemy's rail supply line to Tibet.

Indian thinkers are nervous at China's declaration to further extend the railway line to Nepal and Myanmar. Brought up on pacifism, they forget that railway lines and roads can move traffic in two directions. Therefore, in case hostility breaks out, we must ensure military wherewithal to dominate these railway lines and use it to induct our troops in the reverse direction.

We must always plan to take war to the enemy using his vulnerabilities.

Kashmir legally acceded to the Indian Union, therefore, in my mind there is no dispute. However, Tibet and Sinkiang (East Turkistan) were forcibly annexed by China. These indeed are matters of dispute.

As sovereign nations, India and Tibet did not have any major boundary dispute. Therefore, illegal occupation of Tibet by China does not bestow on it any legitimacy to raise bogus boundary claims on India.

Similarly, Baluchistan was tricked into joining Pakistan. This also can be a subject of dispute. New Delhi should learn to think differently.

Wielding the weapon of psychological warfare, the Chinese recently prodded their friends in Pakistan to project via the Indian media that this is going to be the Chinese century and in Asia, the American influence is going to disappear leaving Beijing as the dominant power.

Therefore, India must decide whether it wants to side with the losing Western alliance led by America or the winning side led by China. These are symptoms of acute anxieties in Beijing and Islamabad. The presence of Americans in Afghanistan-Pakistan and the growing Indo-US strategic partnership unnerves China.

However, despite its technological superiority, the Americans cannot win the war in Afghanistan without India's help. They just do not have adequate boots on the ground.

Similarly, India on its own cannot prevail in this region and requires the Western alliance's assistance. There is a synergy of purpose. Equally true is the fact that the Americans are fighting India's war too. If they withdraw from the Af-Pak area, the entire jihad factory will descend mercilessly upon India to create mayhem.

Hence, it is in India's national interest to synergise with the West in Af-Pak to benefit from resource rich Central Asia and deny the centuries's old route of invasion to the adversary.

New Delhi must contest and reclaim the strategic space lost within and in its vicinity. Otherwise, in times to come, the Union will slip into civil war and finally wither away.

Bharat Verma is the editor, Indian Defence Review

72-year-old walks down '62 memory lane :DNA

Tawang: Lama Dondup was a young man in 1962. At 72 today, he dreads another war with China. He has vivid memories of the time when the Peoples Liberation Army entered his village Roh, just six hours on foot from China's border.

In his traditional Mompa attire, a yak hair cap and holding prayer beads, he walks down memory lane and revisits 1962 when the Indian army had asked everybody to leave Roh. The army itself vacated its forward position. But every household left one young man behind to look after the homes and the herd of yak.

Dondup, then 25, was among those who stayed back. He recalls how scared they were, left alone to face the unknown enemy. But when the PLA columns rolled in, Dondup was in for a shock. They made announcements like, "Please don't be afraid, we will not harm you. We are not your enemy. Look at you and look at us. Don't we look alike? You have more in common with us than with India." They put up camp some 300m from the village but there were no tents nor did they occupy any village home.

Through the cold October days, the soldiers -- except those on sentry duty -- slept in the fields. They used a granary to store food and moved out only at night. The soldiers remained for 10 days or so. They marched forward after fresh columns arrived.

He recalls an incident when a few Assam Rifles men entered the village and wanted to know where the Chinese were. Most of them had moved on. The Rifles men were shown the granary. They banged on the doors while the locals asked the Chinese to open.As soon as the door opened, the Assam Rifles men threw grenades and left. Most of the men inside died.

But in the morning, only one body was found. The PLA had taken away the rest at night. The villagers also found a wounded Chinese soldier who begged for his life. The villagers hid him under some foliage but the leaves induced itching. Dondup does not remember what ultimately happened to the soldier.But he is hopeful that in the event of another war, India would stand its ground. "The last time round, the Indian army burnt our granaries and destroyed the few wooden bridges we had. Hopefully this time that will not happen."

Indian army kills 4 militants in separate gunfights in India-controlled Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India-controlled Kashmir, Nov. 11 (Xinhua) -- Four militants owing allegiance to Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militant outfit were killed Tuesday by Indian army and police in two separate gunfights in India-controlled Kashmir, police and defense officials Wednesday said.

Two militants were killed in Sheikhpora village of Baramulla, around 98 km northwest of Srinagar, the summer capital of India-controlled Kashmir.

"The gunfight broke out Tuesday and continued until late in the evening. Two militants were killed in the gunfight that broke out after a joint party led by Indian army and police launched a search operation to nab the militants, who had fired on the police party.

The operation was based on an intelligence input about the presence of militants in the area," said a police official.

According to reports, the militants had fired on a police party on Monday and escaped in the nearby village. During the gunfight, some residential houses were also damaged.

Meanwhile, two more militants were killed in Mahore area of Reasi, 194 km-north of Jammu, the winter capital of India-controlled Kashmir.

The gun battle broke out after Indian army and police launched a joint operation to arrest the militants. "The gunfight broke around 15:00 p.m. and continued for several hours. We called them to lay down the arms, however they fired on the joint party. The defiance triggered a gunfight during which two militants were killed," said Lt. Col. Biplab Nath, the defense spokesman based in Jammu.

Army to procure 100 Armoured Personnel Carriers

New Delhi, Nov 11 (PTI) In an effort to strengthen its mechanised forces, the Indian Army is looking forward to procure over 100 Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) for deployment in different kinds of terrains.

The Army has initiated the process of acquiring these APCs by issuing a Request for Information (RFI) recently.

As per the RFI issued by the Army, at least 100 APCs will be procured from the vendor chosen after the acquisition process and the rest would be licence-produced in India after a Transfer of Technology to an indigenous firm.

According to Defence Ministry officials, over a period of five years, the Indian army is looking to add over 500 new APCs to its existing fleet of around 1,500 Russian-origin BMP-I and BMP-IIs.

The Indian Army at present has 26 mechanised infantry battalions with its APCs having the capability to carry around 10 soldiers each. PTI

Lt Gen SR Ghosh to be GOC-in-C of Western Command

CHANDIGARH: Lt Gen Shankar Rajan Ghosh would be the next GOC-in-C of the Western Command headquartwered at Chandimandir. Gen Ghosh will take over the reign of Indian Army’s one of the most prestigious commands on December 1.

Born at Mathura on May 22, 1952, Gen Ghosh was educated at St Joseph’s Collage, Nainital, after which he joined the National Defence Academy. He was commissioned on November 14, 1971, and immediately participated in the Indo-Pak War in Jammu and Kashmir.

He has held very challenging and selective appointments, both in staff and command. His staff appointments include brigade major of a mountain brigade, military operation directorate at Army HQs, director manpower planning at Army HQs, brigadier general staff at Indian Military Academy, defence and military attache at Embassy of India, USA and additional DG, manpower, (planning and policy) at Army HQs.

He is a graduate of Staff College and Higher Command course. His commands include a brigade in active sector on line of control where he was awarded Sena Medal, GOC of a division in strike corps and GOC of a strike corps.

Ghosh would replace Lt Gen TK Sapru, who will retire on November 30 after putting in 40 years of glorious service in the Indian Army. 

Retd army man exposes defence pension racket

NAGPUR: A retired Lieutenant Colonel has moved the high court here claiming that many persons were illegally drawing pension meant for World War-II (WW-II) veterans. The 61-year-old Lt Col Shrikant Kane produced information obtained under Right to Information (RTI) Act and said as many as 59 persons were being given pension in contravention of eligibility norms for years. The amount involved may run lakhs.

The petitioner who retired as regular officer of Indian Army's Corps of Signals after over two decades of service has prayed for directions to the state government to investigate the matter and arrest the beneficiaries. Alternatively, he demanded an enquiry by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) within a stipulated period.

A division bench comprising justices Dilip Sinha and Filomeno Reis issued notices to the respondents - state home secretary and Ram Nagar police station officer at Chandrapur -- on Wednesday asking them to file replies within two weeks. According to counsel for the petitioner Anand Parchure, the World War-II veterans (or their widows) who had taken part in the battle as uniformed soldiers of Indian Army and who retired from active service till 1949 used to get Rs 300 monthly pension. This benefit is being given as per a government notification dated December 29, 1989. It was raised to Rs 600 in January 1999 and finally to Rs 1,275 in 2004.

These grants were provided by director, department of sainik welfare (Maharashtra), who has to arrange payment and subsequent accounting to the eligible persons through Zilla Sainik Welfare offices under the respective district collectors in the state. Kane claimed that three persons were allegedly reaping pensionary benefits even after being recruited at the end of second world war- August 14, 1945 - which is contrary to the rules. Citing reports received from Accountant General (AG), Nagpur office, he claimed that Zilla Sainik Welfare office in Chandrapur had illegally paid Rs 2.18 lakh to these three persons - one male and two widows.

The petitioner who obtained this information through RTI pointed out this fact to the Zilla Sainik Welfare Officer in Chandrapur. It, in turn, passed on the information to Department of Sainik Welfare. Still, the payments to the three persons continued. The retired Colonel has also apprised principal secretary and AG office about these irregularities but no cognizance was taken.

When the petitioner filed another query under RTI about list of persons availing WW-II benefits, he learnt that as many as 59 ineligible persons were reaping benefits. Earlier also, Kane had filed a civil petition in this regard and the court had directed police to register a complaint against such persons on September 9. Still, the government failed to take any steps resulting in huge amounts being paid to undeserving persons, he claimed. 

Would current Sino-India tensions lead to repeat of 1962?

The two South Asian neighboring countries - India and China are presently locked in verbal and aggressive postures. This has raised apprehensions among some quarters that the present Sino-India tensions can lead to repeat of 1962.

China does not recognise the 1914 McMahon Line agreed between the British and the then Tibetan rulers and claims 90,000 sq km of territory, that includes nearly all of Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. India and China fought a deadly war in 1962 during which thousands of people perished on both sides.

Besides, Arunachal Pradesh, China also disputes the border in mountainous Ladakh region of Kashmir. China has also repeatedly objected to India’s refuge to Buddhist spiritual leader Dalai Lama, whom China accuses of fomenting trouble in Tibet.

Of late there has been hard posturing from the Chinese side. The Chinese army carried out series of incursions in Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim besides its air force was accused by Indian government of violating the Indian air space. The Chinese government recently objected the visit of Buddhist spiritual leader, Dalai Lama to Arunachal Pradesh.

Dalai Lama was on five-day visit to Arunachal Pradesh during which he said that China is unnecessarily politicizing his visit.

Reacting to Dalai Lama’s visit Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said his country was strongly dissatisfied with India for allowing him to visit the disputed region.

“India had ignored requests to halt the trip to Arunachal Pradesh by the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader. The Indian side disregarded the solemn position of China in allowing the Dalai Lama to visit the disputed area of the eastern section of the China-India border region," Qin told a regular news briefing in Beijing on Tuesday.

Beijing has accused Dalai Lama of trying to poison the neighbours' relationship and trying to undermine China.

In another development, a researcher at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, Hu Shisheng, in a report published in China’s state-run newspaper Global Times said that India seems to have forgotten the lessons of 1962 war.

“India may have forgotten the lesson of 1962, when its repeated provocation resulted in military clashes. India is on this wrong track again. When the conflict gets sharper and sharper, the Chinese government will have to face it and solve it in a way India has designed,” Hu said.

The Chinese comments on the 1962 war have evoked strong reaction from Indian government. “India has come a long way since 1962. Talks of India not learning a lesson are silly,” India’s Junior Foreign Minister Shashi Tharoor said.

Slamming the Chinese media for its ‘jingoism’, the Indian minister said the Chinese media there is being irresponsible in escalating tensions. “The history does not repeat itself that easily”.

On Dalai Lama’s visit, he said, “The Buddhist spiritual leader is free to travel anywhere in India. He has to visit his flock as he sees fit”.

The present tension prevailing between India and China has worried the political observers. They feel that China facing economic depression may resort to ‘military adventure’ against India. “There is every probability that China, which is facing domestic pressure owing to economic depression, may carry out small scale military adventure against India,” said a political science teacher of University of Kashmir, highest seat of learning in Kashmir.

Terming the threat from China as ‘real’, he said the present Chinese political situation is not a good omen for Indian government. “The Chinese government is having a closer relationship with India’s arch foe, Pakistan and is also building roads and water projects in Pakistan administered Kashmir, which India claims to be its territory. China may open second front for India and this will be tricky situation for world’s largest democracy,” he said.

The former Indian National Security Advisor, Brajesh Mishra in a recent interview to an Indian television channel said, “Since 1962 we have two fronts – one is China and the other is Pakistan. But then, the two have never worked together. In 1962, we fought a war with China, then in 1965 and 1971 with Pakistan. Then Kargil happened in 1999. But now both these fronts are simultaneously striking a hostile posture. These two nations are now trying to surround India.”

He claimed that India is not in a position as far as defence preparedness is concerned to defend even one of these fronts. “I think, we should equip our forces as soon as possible. Our forces should be properly equipped. We are not doing enough in this regard at the moment and I am afraid that in the next five years we might get a bigger jolt than ’62.”

Some retired Indian army men in Kashmir also feel that India needs to beef up its defence preparedness to counter any threat from China and Pakistan. “We have to be ready for any sort of eventuality. The enemy should not catch us off-guard,” said a retired army officer.

(The author is a journalist based in Indian administered Kashmir and can be reached at: e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it 

Indian Army to deploy more troops along Arunachal border

India is quietly beefing up its defences along the China border in Arunachal Pradesh, even as it publicly downplays the growing diplomatic spat with Beijing over the Dalai Lama’s visit to the state.

The Indian Army will deploy its new 15,000-strong 56 Division in Arunachal, which China claims as its own, within four weeks, a senior defence official told HT, requesting anonymity.

Simultaneously, it has put out a Request for Information (RFI) for acquiring 300 lightweight tanks that can be deployed in the North East and Jammu & Kashmir.

The purpose is to leave nothing to chance, notwithstanding the show of bonhomie between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao at their October 25 meeting in Thailand.

A second division will be deployed in Arunachal Pradesh in the next 12-18 months, the official added.

The army’s RFI states the light tanks should be capable of destroying bunkers and soft-skin vehicles up to 3,000m away and should have armour-piercing anti-tank guided missiles and anti-aircraft machine guns.

The RFI, which is in HT’s possession, also stipulates these tanks should “have protection against nuclear, chemical and biological warfare”. In recent months, India activated three airfields along the 646 km Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, last used during the 1962 war with China. The army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police have also stepped up patrolling along the LAC. 

Cops tighten vigil as Maoist

PATNA: Fearing that the Maoists would infiltrate the districts bordering Jharkhand during the Assembly election in the neighbouring state, Bihar Police are making all possible arrangements to keep the Reds at bay.

"This threat is not ruled out and we have asked the superintendents of police of all districts bordering Jharkhand to tighten vigil," said U S Dutt, additional director-general of police (headquarters), on Tuesday. The state will become more vulnerable in the coming weeks as Bihar is sending five companies of paramilitary forces to the poll-bound state, he added. A similar threat is suspected by the Jharkhand Police, too, which feels that Maoists from Bihar may enter their territory.

It is apprehended that once security forces launch an offensive against the Maoists in Jharkhand during the polls, the latter will escape and take shelter in the bordering areas of Bihar. Almost all districts of Jharkhand are badly affected by the Maoists.

The districts where the Maoists are expected to hide in are Nawada, Aurangabad, Gaya, Jamui and Banka. And, needless to say, all these districts are Maoist strongholds.

Police are quite concerned and has become extra alert following the recovery of a huge cache of arms, ammunition and explosives in Patna in the last three days. "We are making extra arrangements to deal with any eventuality," Dutt asserted.

Intelligence sources suspect that the explosives were likely to be used to blow up Beur jail and the consignment of ammunition was to be smuggled to Jharkhand. They added that the Maoists had targeted the prison in order to ensure the release of their senior comrades like they did in the Jehanabad district jail during the Bihar Assembly election in 2005.

It is apprehended that the Maoists may intensify their activities against police in the coming days. A police station in Gaurichak, feared to be targeted by the extremists, has been shifted hastily. Other such high-risk police stations and likely to be shifted soon are Sigauri and Punpun in Patna district and Kalpa in Jehanabad.

"We will do whatever we can to prevent any Maoist attack and violence," said Dutt. However, he denied that the state has asked for more paramilitary forces from the Centre to take on the Naxalites. 

RAC passengers in AC class to get bedroll

NEW DELHI: RAC passengers are set to have a more comfortable journey as railways has decided to provide blanket and bedsheet to them in all AC classes in all trains.

Also, railways wants to ensure the comfort of passengers travelling in railway minister Mamata Banerjee's pet train Duranto as travellers in sleeper class on this train will not have to carry bedrolls with them. Railway ministry has now decided to make available bedroll kit on demand even for sleeper class travellers in Duranto trains.

According to a senior railway official, the decision to ensure availability of bedroll for RAC passengers in AC classes (except AC chair car) was taken since bedroll charges were included in the fare collected from them. "Even RAC passengers who are not entitled for full berth require blanket and bedsheet in AC class," an official said.

Currently, RAC passengers are not provided bedroll facility in AC classes (except AC chair car) since one berth is shared by two RAC passengers.

According to another circular issued by the ministry, it has been decided that bedroll would be provided in sleeper class on demand in Duronto trains. However, the facility will cost Rs 25 per bedroll.

The ministry has issued instruction to all zonal railways that booking or reservation clerk, at the time of issuing tickets to passengers travelling in sleeper class by Duronto, should ask passengers to indicate their requirement of bedroll on the reservation slip.

"The bedroll charges of Rs 25 per bedroll will be collected as part of the fare from passengers in sleeper class travelling by Duronto, who opt for bedroll, at the time of issuing of ticket," an official said.

The date of implementation of this facility will be intimated shortly. 

Attack-and-hold combat plan

New Delhi, Nov. 11: Come December, three strikers will attack the Maoists, while four defenders will hold them off.

When the Centre mounts its joint offensive against the Naxalites next month, only three of the seven states with rebel presence will take part in the operation, according to the combat plan that has been drawn up.

The rest will “hold off” fleeing guerrillas from sneaking in.

While Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Maharashtra will carry out operations against the rebels, Bengal, Orissa, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh will prevent infiltration into their territories, sources told The Telegraph.

Home ministry sources said the decision not to include all the seven states in the offensive, planned after elections end in Jharkhand next month, had been taken because of the unequal strength of their police forces. 

“Among the seven, only Chhattisgarh is completely prepared,” a senior ministry official said.
Although Andhra has an elite force — the Greyhounds — just to tackle the guerrillas, indiscriminate transfer of police officers after the death of chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy may have affected smooth working, the sources said.

Chhattisgarh has more than 35 companies of paramilitary forces and more will reach after the Jharkhand polls are over. The state police, too, have modern weaponry besides a sharp intelligence network. The police have also been sensitised about tribal culture so they do not alienate people during the operations.

Although Jharkhand is seen as a “laggard” and Maharashtra is not as prepared as Chhattisgarh to take on the rebels, they have been included among the three strikers because of increasing Maoist activity in the two states. 

All 24 districts of Jharkhand have rebel presence, while eight months ago, the CPI (Maoist) had disbanded its Maharashtra Rajya Border Committee to bring Gadchiroli, which has seen a resurgence of Naxalite activity, directly under Dandakaranya. In other words, under Maoist central command.

The Maoists are in the process of dissolving border committees and taking over areas in Orissa, too, but the state police, sources said, are not prepared for an all-out offensive.
In Chhattisgarh, however, the police are confident. 

“The ground work has been done and policemen are highly motivated,” said an officer.
Home ministry sources said a co-ordination meeting of sleuths from affected states is scheduled here on November 18.

In Jharkhand, much will depend on the outcome of the elections. A split verdict, experts said, could affect police operations. 

“In that case we will have to take care of the borders; it will take more energy and men but it will have to be done,” said a source in Chhattisgarh. 

MoD puts on hold dealings with 7 firms

NEW DELHI: The defence ministry has decided to keep all dealings with the seven companies blacklisted in connection with the corruption scandal against former Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) chairman Sudipto Ghosh "on hold'' till the CBI probe into the case is completed.

As reported by TOI earlier, four of the seven companies are foreign: Israeli Military Industries (IMI), Singapore Technologies, Media Architects (Singapore) and BVT Poland. The other three are HYT Engineering, T S Kishan and Company, and R K Machine Tools.

In effect, after consulting the law ministry and the Central Vigilance Commission, MoD has ruled out leniency to any tainted firm even if the acquisition plans of the armed forces are badly affected.

The decision, for instance, has hit the Rs 1,200-crore OFB-IMI project to set up an ordnance complex of five plants at Nalanda in Bihar to manufacture propellant charges for heavy calibre artillery ammunition for Bofors howitzers and other guns.

Moreover, the Pegasus howitzer of Singapore Technologies, one of the biggest aerospace and land systems company in Asia, was the leading contender to bag the Army order for 140 air-mobile ultra-light howitzers for around Rs 2,900 crore.

The firm was also a contender in the Rs 8,000-crore project to buy 400 155mm/52-calibre towed artillery guns as well as indigenous manufacture of another 1,100 howitzers after transfer of technology.

Under the new MoD orders, even if a contract has been concluded and executed, then action will be taken against the companies on completion of the CBI probe.

"No tender will be awarded to the companies mentioned in the FIR, unless the CBI investigation clears them totally. Contracts that have been entered into or are being executed shall remain on hold,'' said an official.

"If the tender process has not begun, there will be no dealing with companies mentioned in an FIR till finalisation of investigation,'' he added.