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Monday, November 23, 2009

LIST OF HOLIDAYS : 2010

THE LIST OF HOLIDAYS FOR THE YEAR 2010 IS HERE :
  
2010 : LIST OF GOVT HOLIDAYS

Central Excise, Customs official protest in Delhi for better pay


Senior officials of the Central Excise, Customs and Service Tax Department (Delhi unit) staged a mass protest at the Jantar-Mantar here on Sunday, demanding better pay scale and improved working conditions. The officials also submitted a memorandum of their demands to the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh and the Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, on the occasion.

Ravi Malik, General Secretary, All India Association of Central Excise Gazetted Executive Officers (Delhi unit) complained that officers were being paid much below their counterparts in other departments.

Malik criticised the Central Pay Commission for neglecting the department.

” Gross injustice has been done to us by the Pay Commission as higher scales have been granted to other equivalent cadres ignoring us,” he said.

Malik pointed out that superintendents are forced to work without sufficient staff and proper working conditions.

“The equivalent officers belonging to the agencies like the CBI, IB and the Police Department are given higher scales, extra one month salary and special pay alongwith other facilities by the government, while we are being totally ignored despite the fact we perform more hazardous and arduous duties,” he added.

The charter of demands submitted by the officials included promotion of the Superintendents of Central Excise to a post carrying a grade pay of 6600 rupees per month and better working conditions.

It also included demands for making the process of transfer/posting transparent, besides other necessary changes.

Source: ANI/90paisa

DRDO developing herbal shield for N-war

In the backdrop of nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) weapons being a major factor in the geo-political security environment, the DRDO is developing herbal protective measures to guard the fallout of the use of such weapons.

This is the first such project of its kind in the world where extracts from herbal plants are being used to produce agents to protect humans against radioactivity. Besides military applications, the spin-off of this project will also have spin-offs in civilian sectors like nuclear medicine and radiology.

“We are in advance stages of clinical trials of these products,” Dr W Selvamurthy, Chief Controller, DRDO, said here on Friday. “Clinical trials are expected to take about a year after which the products will be sent to the Drug Controller of India for ratification,” he added.

Dr Selvamurthy said at present there was only one chemical agent available to combat radioactivity, but that was very toxic and hence dangerous to handle. The herbal products would counter this drawback. Extracts of two plants, podophylum hexandrum and the well-known seabuckthorn, are being used in the project being undertaken by three different DRDO laboratories at Leh, Delhi and Gwalior.

The plants grow only in high altitude areas above 9000 feet and are native only to the Himalayas. Efforts are on to cultivate the plants in the DRDO laboratories to ascertain their characteristics and their ability to adapt to other geographical conditions for mass-scale production, Dr Selvamurthy said.

Some other herbal products developed by the DRDO for use by the armed forces include UV protection agents, high energy food items and insect repellants. The DRDO chief said so far NBC warfare and protection items worth about Rs 800 crore developed by the DRDO and manufactured by the industry had been supplied to the armed forces.

These include sensors, detection systems, individual and collective protection systems and medical equipment.

The DRDO has recently supplied about 25 underground shelters for protection of troops in an NBC environment. Each shelter can sustain about 30 men for four days.

Orders for another 100 such shelters have been received. Under the 11th Five-Year Plan, major research and development work is being undertaken in application of nanotechnology and lasers for bio-sensors and stand-off NBC detection systems. This includes “smart” protective clothing that automatically decontaminates itself.
 

Cong govt forgets austerity, to give laptops to MLAs

Even as Congress-ruled states have been flaunting their austerity drives, the state government here has been benevolent when it comes to providing more facilities to MLAs.

In a fresh move, the ruling Congress government led by Ashok Gehlot has decided to give laptops along with printers to all 200 legislators of the Rajasthan Assembly. It will cost the government exchequer around Rs 1 crore. According to sources, the state Finance Department has already set the ball rolling by clearing the proposal. This is not the first time that the MLAs will be provided with these facilities. In the previous regime too they were given computer sets worth Rs 50,000 each. However, this time they will have to return laptop and printer when their membership of the Assembly ends.

Earlier also the state government has been kind enough to shower freebies on the elected representatives. For instance, it had allowed payment of Rs 10,000 per month to the MLAs who were not using government vehicles from district vehicle pools.

Interestingly, the government also doled out sops to the former MLAs. They were exempted from paying any toll tax in the state. They were also allowed to travel in the Rajasthan roadways buses along with another person free of cost.

As per the website of the state Assembly, a Rajasthan MLA draws a salary of Rs 5,000 per month and constituency allowance of Rs 20,000 per month. He is also entitled for house rent allowance (HRA) of Rs 4,000 per month if he has not been allotted a government quarter in the state capital. He also gets Rs 75,000 per annum as rail or air travel allowance.

This is not the first occasion when the state government’s move has raised a question mark over its austerity drive. Earlier, the government drew flak from various quarters for reportedly spending crores in celebrating 50 years of panchayati raj in Nagaur on October 2. AICC chairperson Sonia Gandhi was the chief guest at the function.
 

China test-fired N-missile in October

Adding a new dangerous dimension to its growing arsenal of weapons, China has tested a long-range nuclear missile which will have the mobility to be moved around and fired upon a specially designed truck. All this retaining the ability to fire at targets located across continents.

In military parlance, it is known as a mobile inter-continental ballistic missile or a mobile-ICBM.

It can fire at targets up to 11,000 km away, hence making large parts of north-western US and Canada within the Chinese missile reach. Also areas like eastern part of Europe will be within its reach.

So far, only the US and Russia possess such equipment and the two countries had started working on it during the peak of cold war during the 1980s.

Indian intelligence agencies have informed the government that China tested its mobile-ICMB in the middle of October at its Wuzhai space centre in Shanghai province.

The dangerous and long distance missile code named ‘Dongfeng 31-A’ was launched from specially designed mount on a truck, said sources while detailing about the secret test about which details are filtering in now.

Unlike India, China has only a government-run media and no independent media outfits, hence there have been no reports about the test in the Chinese newspapers or TV. The information about the test has come across through one of the intelligence agencies.

So far the Chinese ability to fire a missile from a truck was restricted to smaller range of missiles, this mobile-ICMB is surely a dangerous weapon, said a senior official. Sources said ‘Dongfeng 31’ is the code name for the Chinese ICMB and the ‘A’ is to denote it mobile variant.

With this China can now not only move its warheads to locations it wants, it will be make it much easier for China to hit at enemy targets at distant places.

A well-informed China watcher said the Chinese were facing a problem with their ICMB due to the poor quality of sealing between the solid fuel chamber and the booster casing, this seems to have been sorted out.

China, has possessed ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads. The ability of firing the same from a truck is seen as achievement among strategic circles. Such a truck is called the transporter-erector-launcher, or TEL.

The TEL not only transports the missile, it erects it and also launches it from one single unit. The entire system is highly mobile.

Strategically this means, in a crisis, China can disperse its ballistic missile forces across the country making it sure that some of these missiles would survive a pre-emptive strike by an enemy.
 

IAF orders more Tejas LCAs to replace MiG-21s

The Indian Air Force is taking a crucial step towards accepting the indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) as a replacement for its ageing MiG-21 fighters. Senior air force officers told Business Standard that IAF was ordering a second Tejas squadron (20 aircraft), in addition to the 20 fighters already on order.

Ashok Nayak, chairman of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, which will manufacture the Tejas, has confirmed this development. “The Ministry of Defence (MoD) tender for 20 additional Tejas fighters is on track,” he told Business Standard. “After it is issued, we will sit down with MoD and negotiate a price.”

The order for a second squadron is a vital expression of IAF’s confidence in the future of the long-running Tejas programme. So far, IAF had insisted on evaluating the performance of the first squadron before ordering a second, by 2015-2016. That would allow the Tejas to be upgraded to the Tejas Mark II, which would have a new, more powerful engine. But now, with its fighter fleet dwindling, as the old MiG-21s are retired, IAF is taking the Tejas as it is.


WHY LAF URGENTLY NEEDS A SECOND SQUADRON


* Against a sanctioned requirement of 39.5 squadrons, IAF is down to just 32
* By 2015, another 6 squadrons of MiG-21s and two squadrons of MiG-27s would have finished their service lives
* HAL is manufacturing Sukhoi-30MKIs, but the current production is just 14 per year. By 2015, IAF will have just 29 squadrons of fighters
* The shortfall becomes more worrisome with the new requirement of five IAF squadrons for the North-East


“The Tejas, even with its current GE-404 engine, is a better fighter than the MiG-21,” explained a senior IAF officer who is familiar with equipment policy. “By 2015, the first Tejas squadron will be ready for IAF. HAL’s assembly line will be free; while the Tejas Mark II finishes testing, HAL can build a second squadron with the GE-404 engine,” he added.

So far, the plan was to produce 12 twin-seater Tejas trainers after the first squadron was built. The new order will be for 18 single-seater and 2 twin-seater Tejas: exactly what equips a fighter squadron.

Here’s why IAF urgently needs that second squadron: Against a sanctioned requirement of 39.5 squadrons (each squadron has 21 fighters), IAF is now down to just 32 squadrons. By 2015, another six squadrons of MiG-21s and two squadrons of MiG-27s would have finished their service lives. Meanwhile, HAL is manufacturing Sukhoi-30MKIs, but the current production is just 14 per year. The mathematics is clear: By 2015, IAF will have just 29 squadrons of fighters.

Making this shortfall even more worrisome is the new requirement of five IAF squadrons for north-east India, as a result of an increased threat assessment from China. Senior IAF officers have recently declared that India actually needs 45 squadrons.

In this context, IAF cannot wait to induct the Tejas as the next light fighter, a role that the MiG-21 has long performed. Medium fighters are as urgently needed, and IAF is currently evaluating six aircraft for this role. But the new Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA), even if the contract is placed expeditiously, is unlikely to enter service before 2015-16. Only in the heavy fighter segment is IAF well placed, with the superlative Sukhoi-30MKI steadily joining the fleet.

The Tejas is currently undergoing weapon trials to obtain its Initial Operational Clearance, most likely by early 2011. Then starts the two-year process for obtaining Final Operational Clearance, after which it can enter service in early 2013. Then, if HAL can deliver 10 Tejas fighters per year, the first squadron will be ready by the end of 2014. And, if all of that goes smoothly, the second Tejas squadron will join IAF by the end of 2016. IAF has decided that No 45 Squadron, which operated MiG-21M fighters until they were recently retired, will be the first Tejas squadron. It will be based in Sulur, near Coimbatore. It is still not clear where the second Tejas squadron will be based.


Is China making inroads into Kashmir?

With US president Barack Hussein Obama seeking China’s help in normalizing the relations between nuclear arch rivals, India and Pakistan, the Chinese government has started making inroads in Indian administered Kashmir (IaK), much to the delight of the separatist leadership in the region.
 
A Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) of China has invited one of the senior separatist Kashmiri leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq to present his perspective about the Kashmir dispute in Beijing. 

This is the first instance during the 20-year old turmoil in Kashmir that China has shown interest in hosting a Kashmiri separatist leader and willingness to listen his point of view about the issue, which is a bone of contention between India and Pakistan. The two countries have fought three wars and were close to nuclear war in 1998 to wrest the control the region, which has been declared as “nuclear flashpoint” by former US president Bill Clinton. 

“I have been invited by a Chinese NGO to Beijing. I will go there after the holy festival of Eid-ul-Azha, which falls on November 28. I have to speak about the Kashmiri perspective of the Kashmir issue. I will tell them that Kashmir is a political issue and not a territorial or religious dispute,” said Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, a Kashmiri separatist leader, who intends to hold separate talks with Indian and Pakistan government on Kashmir issue.  


Welcoming the recent joint statement of US and Chinese presidents in Beijing, the Kashmiri separatist leader said, “Although China is not a party to the Kashmir dispute but it definitely has a stake in the region’s peace as it is an emerging power and Pakistan has given some part of Kashmir to the country as well,” he said. 

China occupied Aksa Chin from India after 1962 war and was gifted 5000 sq kms territory of Kashmir by Pakistan in 1963. 

The political observers in Kashmir attach significance to China’s renewed interest in Kashmir. “Since the eruption of turmoil in Kashmir in 1989, China has been silent and never gave any space to the separatist voices. One of the senior separatist leaders in 1990s had sought appointment with Chinese envoy in Indian capital to discuss the Kashmir issue but was politely refused permission by the embassy officials,” said a political science teacher of University of Kashmir, highest seat of learning in Kashmir.  

The China government is already providing special travel documents – stapled visa – to Kashmiri citizens intending to travel to the country. The visa, however, is not being entertained by India and as a result scores of Kashmiris were not allowed to visit China by Indian authorities. 

The China’s Kashmir interest will further strain the relations between India and China. India has accused the Chinese army and Air force of incursions and air violations in Indian territory. Chinese government recently opposed the visit of Buddhist spiritual leader Dalai Lama into India state of Arunachal Pradesh. China claims Arunachal Pradesh as its territory and accuses India of ‘illegally occupying it’.

China’s interest in Kashmir is not good news for India, which has already expressed its reservations over America’s moves to seek Chinese help in stabilizing South Asia. “India will now found itself cornered. Pakistan has always been talking about resolution of Kashmir dispute and has been linking Kashmir resolution with the success against ‘war on terror’. The US administration too is trying to encourage India and Pakistan to resume the dialogue process and resolve the vexed Kashmir issue and now with China’s entry things will get complicated for India,” said a Kashmir analyst. 

He said with assistance from China, Pakistan can further increase the pressure on Indian government to resolve the 60-year old Kashmir dispute. 

However, a senior pro-Indian Kashmiri leader and former deputy chief minister of the region, Muzaffar Hussain Beigh opposes Chinese involvement in Kashmir issue. “We have already got three stake holders on Kashmir issue and the entry of China will further complicate the issue and its resolution. We need to keep China away from it,” he said.

Beigh said that China is playing Kashmir card to pressure India to soften its stand on Dalai Lama and Arunachal Pradesh issue. 

But the China’s interest in Kashmir has brought delight among the separatist leadership. Believing in maxim “enemy of enemy is a friend,” most of them feel that China’s involvement will pressurize India to seek a peaceful settlement of the issue.

The political observers feel that it will be difficult now to keep the dragon away. “Now it has to be seen what will be the effect of dragon’s entry into Kashmir,” they added. 

Let us wait and watch!

(The author is a journalist based in Indian administered Kashmir and can be reached at fayazwani123@gmail.com)
 
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Pakistan scores in propaganda war

NAGPUR: If it comes to claiming victories in wars, Pakistan certainly pips India, as the latter has opted to keep mum. A search on the Internet shows no 'official' Indian record on any of the wars, except the Kashmir conflict of 1947-48. Pakistan, on the other hand, minces no words in relating how it made India taste defeat, for which our country has no official answer in the public domain.

War history remains not for public view at home. Until now, there has not been even a brief account of the post-1948 conflicts, including on the official website of the Indian Army (www.indianarmy.nic.in). The history section in the website has a note saying "post-1948 operations are classified, and hence not mentioned".


The website otherwise has stories on the Mahabharata, medial history, World War II and the Hyderabad Police action. When TOI contacted the defence ministry regarding this, it faxed a single line reply after a week, "The matter of publication of war history is under active consideration of the government."

The Pakistani Army, on the other hand, has elaborate commentaries of how it humiliated the much bigger Indian Army on many fronts. Apart from the website, a video documentary - Dastaan-e-Shujaat - on the 1965 war, produced by the Pakistan Army's public relation wing - the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) has been recently put up on YouTube.

A similar documentary by the Chinese, on the 1962 war, called the 'Crushing Moment', is also available on YouTube. However, in India, the Sino-India war history is also classified, even though there is an indirect mention in the 1948 story that it proved to be a failure.

The Pakistan army website, www.pakistanarmy.gov.pk, is silent on the Kargil story, and so is India. However, there are ISPR documentaries on war heroes of that confrontation like one Havaldar Lalak Jan.

On the 1948 war, the Pakistani website says that by early 1949 "Pakistan had completed its formative stage, halting the Indian offensive, preventing it from totally overrunning Jammu and Kashmir and closing up to Pakistan's vital borders." The Indian version says the Pakistanis were driven away from many places and had it not been for the ceasefire, they would have been entirely repulsed. But it's only here that India has a reply to the Pakistani claim.

The Pakistani story on the 1965 history says it cost India dear. On the much talked about attack on Lahore by the Indians, the Pakistanis say, "To relieve pressure on the Lahore front, Pakistani armoured and mechanised formations overran Khemkarn, 6 to 8 miles inside Indian territory. Vital Indian positions at Sulemanki and across Rajasthan were captured in bold, swift attacks."

Pakistan claims to have captured 1,617 square miles of Indian Territory as compared to only 446 square miles of 'undefended' area going into Indian hands. Its picture gallery has a photo of Indian POWs - mostly Sikhs soldiers playing a three-legged game in a Pakistani jail - and some others showing captured Indian areas. India called for a ceasefire, just before Pakistan planned a counter offensive, the Pak Army website says.

Though Pakistan accepts 1971 as the most tragic period in its history, and flays the leadership for the debacle, it also speaks of beating back the Indians on the western front. On the surrender, it says the first ceasefire resolution moved by the US was vetoed by erstwhile USSR. After this six resolutions for ceasefire and withdrawal of Indian forces were moved, including one by China. Some of these were accepted by Pakistan, however, behind the scene machinations by India and her allies stalled a ceasefire implementation till the fall of Dhaka. The ceasefire had been perfidiously converted into a surrender, claims Pakistan.

On Siachen, Pakstan claims its offensive brought India to the negotiation table in 1989, accepting all their conditions. The area was vacated and declared a de-militarised zone, it says.

There have been demands for declassifying Indian war documents, and defence analysts too say it is time to do so, or at least make a brief mention without going into much detail. Former director general (artillery) Lt General Vinay Shanker says there is no reason why India should keep it an official secret for so long. If put in the public domain, there can be critical studies so that the past can be learnt from, he said. "If the facts are kept under wraps, we shall never learn," Shanker added.

Some experts say that the 1965 war is especially the stalemate, which has led to the silence. However, a former Indian Army officer of the rank of Major General clarified that Pakistan had taken some parts of the Khemkarn sector, but not the town as such.

Captain Bharat Verma of the Indian Defence Review had a similar opinion. He said that in 1965 India was on a winning spree but stopped in between. It also did not take advantage of its position after the 1971 conflict. The government must have a policy to declassify the documents after a period of 20 years or so, he suggested.

A senior government official said on condition of anonymity that during the rehearsals the army had always practised crossing the Ichogil Canal near Lahore. However, when it actually needed to do so, the Pakistanis were able to keep the Indians at bay. Pakistani history too boasts of having prevented the Indians from crossing the canal. 
 

Three cops killed in Gumla landmine blasts

RANCHI: Two Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel and a police driver were killed and six others injured in a twin landmine blast near Lapung village under Bishunpur police station of Jharkhand's Gumla district on Sunday.

The incident comes only three days after Maoists triggered a blast on railway tracks leading to the derailment of the 321 Up Tata-Bilaspur passenger train at Ghagra near Manoharpur in West Singhbhum district in which two persons were killed and at least 25 others injured on Thursday night.

Sources said the landmines, connected in series, exploded simultaneously completely damaging the anti-landmine vehicle in which the security personnel were travelling.

While head constable Pramod Kumar Singh and constable Arvind Sarkar of the CRPF's D-41 battalion died on the spot, district police driver Prakash Minz, who was driving the anti-landmine vehicle, succumbed to his injuries at Gumla Referral Hospital. While head constable Singh hailed from Uttar Pradesh, constable Sarkar was from West Bengal.

CRPF DIG Alok Raj said Sunday's blasts occurred when the CRPF personnel were on their way from Gumla town to Jorri village under Bishunpur police station following the blowing up of a primary health centre (PHC) at the village by Maoists late Saturday night.

"It appears that the Maoists lay in wait to ambush the security personnel after damaging the PHC," Raj said.

Reinforcements were rushed from Gumla town, located over 70 kms away from the blast site, and adjoining Lohardaga district to rescue the injured jawans.

A total of 14 security personnel, including the police driver, were travelling in the vehicle when Maoist triggered the blasts.

The intensity of the blasts were such threw the CRPF vehicle 10-feet in the air and created a huge crater at the spot.

"Though security personnel were wearing protection gear, the impact of the explosions led to the death of three securitymen," Jharkhand Police spokesperson and IG (human rights) V H Deshmukh said.

"The Maoists are trying to disrupt the poll process and even announced to boycott the polls. We have information that Maoists could disrupt the poll process and hence intensive anti-Maoist operations are being launched," he added.

The seriously injured CRPF personnel have been identified as Dayaman Mandal (West Bengal), Suman Sharma (Uttrakhand), Yogesh Minz (West Bengal), J Franklin Minz (Kerala), Suraj Chandra Mandal (West Bengal) and ASI Chander Deo Mandal. Three of the seriously injured CRPF personnel have been airlifted to Apollo Hospital in Ranchi.

A few others escaped with minor injuries, sources said. The D-41 battalion was earlier stationed in Bhopal had been deployed in Gumla district on November 16 for conduct of peaceful elections scheduled on December 2.