Tuesday, December 1, 2009

VAT Rule for CSD changed in West Bengal.....( Good or Bad ????)

Dear Readers,

No deduction in terms of Rule 26C shall be admissible in respect of sales of taxable goods to CSD, West Bengal or to Regimental or Unit-run canteen in West Bengal for the period 1st November 2009 to 30th June 2010. 

CSD and Regimental Units in West Bengal shall now be required to pay tax on all purchases made within West Bengal. 

Upon amendment of Rule 26D as above, sales of any taxable goods to the defense personnel within West Bengal made by the said CSD and Regimental Units in West Bengal shall be without charge of tax only if such goods are purchased within West Bengal. 

With the insertion of new Rule 26DA, CSD in West Bengal can now effect sales to Regimental Units in West Bengal without charge of tax only in respect of such goods purchased within West Bengal. 

All inter-State sales made by the said CSD and Regimental Units in West Bengal shall be upon charge of tax. 

the link is here:

latest on OROP....

A Committee was constituted under the Chairmanship of Cabinet Secretary to look into the issue of One Rank One Pension and other related matters. After considering all aspects of the issue, the Committee did not find it administratively feasible to recommend One Rank One Pension, as such. However, several other recommendations to substantially improve pensionary benefits of Personnel Below Officer Rank (PBOR) and Commissioned officers have been made, which have been accepted by the Government:-

(i) Inclusion of Classification Allowance for PBOR from Jan 01, 2006.

(ii) Removal of linkage of full pension with 33 years from Jan 01, 2006.

(iii) Revision of Lt Gen Pension after carving out a separate pay scale for them.

(iv) Bringing parity between pension of pre and post October 10, 1997 PBOR pensioners.

(v) Further improving PBOR pensions based on award of GOM, 2006. (vi) Broadbanding of percentage of disability/war injury pension for pre Jan 01, 1996 disability/war injury pensioners.

(vii) Removal of cap on war injury element of pension in the case of disabled pensioners belonging to Category ‘E’.

Recommendations at (i) and (ii) stand implemented by issue of Government letter dated October 30, 2009.

This information was given by Minister of State for Defence Shri MM Pallam Raju in a written reply to Smt Sushma Swaraj and others in Lok Sabha today.

Source : 90paisa

Why special privileges for female fighter pilots?


spectator – Ladies’ Special

The brouhaha about female fighter pilots shows how feminists are falling prey to the culture of entitlement NO, THERE WAS NOTHING REMOTELY SEXIST ABOUT AIR FORCE VICE CHIEF P K BARBORA’S STATEMENT

Seema Goswami

 I KNOW  I’M going to get sack-loads of hate mail for this (bring it on, ladies!) but I simply have to say this. When it comes to women being inducted as fighter pilots in the Indian Air Force, I’m one with the IAF Vice Chief, Air Marshal P K Barbora, who famously voiced his reservations on the subject.

As Barbora explained, an obscene amount of money goes into the making of a fighter pilot. So, it makes no sense to train someone who would then take ten months off on maternity leave.
Hence, if women are to be inducted as fighter pilots, they should undertake not to have children until a specified time.

Honestly, what is so chauvinistic about this statement that it has feminists foaming at the mouth with indignation? It’s a valid point, surely? If the Indian state is going to spend several crore on training someone with a specific set of skills, it stands to reason that it would want these skills to be available to it for a certain period of time.

In the Indian Air Force, that period is defined as 14 years. If a male fighter pilot quits before that, he has to compensate the Air Force for his training costs. So, if women are also expected to serve for 14 years  without taking nearly a year off on pregnancy-related leave  what is so scandalous about that?

After all, isn’t feminism all about equal rights for men and women?

Isn’t it all about equal pay for equal work? And in that case, isn’t it a given that women should be held to the same service standards as men? So, why target Barbora for saying something that should be obvious to everyone, irrespective of gender?

No, there was nothing remotely sexist about the Air Force Vice Chief’s statement. But what is indubitably sexist is what some women are doing: claiming special rights for female fighter pilots  when they finally are inducted into the Indian Air Force  merely because they are women.

It’s not the Air Force Vice Chief who should be apologising for his remarks. It’s the women who are making a mockery of feminism who should say sorry to the rest of us.

Surely it is self-evident that if women are to gain respect at the workplace it has to be on the basis of equality. We have to embrace a level playing field, not ask for special sops for the girls. And anyone who does ask for special treatment is a traitor to our cause. And yet, such is the culture of entitlement has begun to take root within the ranks of feminists that their demands have now become faintly ludicrous if not down right surreal. Now, it is no longer enough that women get enough time off to have babies, they should also be able to work flexible hours or part-time once they rejoin office. What’s more, despite putting in less work (for the same pay) they should still remain on the fast track for promotion.

Surely, this kind of self-serving nonsense beggars belief. Why should a woman who puts in fewer hours, makes less contribu tion be treated on par with her other col leagues  male or female  who are far more invested in their jobs, just to fulfill the demands of political correctness? And why should women take for granted their place in the sun no matter how long they have been in the shade?

None of this makes any sense. I am not suggesting that we deny women the right to a family life, or make it impossible for them to have a healthy work-life balance. I am merely making the point that these are choices that women make. And when they decide to put family first they cannot realistically expect to be treated the same as someone who puts work first.

Unfair? Not a bit. You make your choices and you take the consequences. After all, it makes little sense to replace the much-derided glass ceiling with a baby vault in the boardroom.

So, if you are female and want to become a fighter pilot, then there are some sacrifices you will be expected to make. Postponing childbirth will be one of them. Because no matter what the posters may tell you, you really can’t have it all  well, not all at the same time, certainly.

The kind of militant feminism that says otherwise actually harms the cause of women. It makes women  especially those of an age to have babies  a much less attractive employment prospect. And it pre-disposes businesses and employers to choose men over women instead.

But more than that  and this is what really worries me  it leads to the infantalisation of women. Instead of being seen as equal partners in the business of life they are projected as some sort of special-needs minority group that needs extra protection. Rather than being seen as strong adults they are portrayed as helpless little kids who need looking after.

That is what is truly offensive. That after all these years, we are still asking for special dispensations to help us cope.

If we don’t want to be treated like the weaker sex, perhaps it would make sense to stop behaving as if we are, in fact, weaker.

Rs.64 mn outstanding from VIPs for using military aircraft


NEW DELHI - VIPs flying in military aircraft and helicopters have run up a staggering Rs.64.59 million in unpaid bills, parliament was informed Monday.

A total amount of Rs. 64,592,973 is outstanding,” Defence Minister A.K. Antony said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha, adding: “Bills of airlift are raised by Air Headquarters against the concerned and necessary follow up action is taken thereon.”

No names or details of those against whom the bills are outstanding were given. Neither were the steps being taken to recover the money specified.

Antony also detailed the dignitaries who were entitled to fly in military aircraft, They include the president, the vice president, the prime minister, the deputy prime minister, the defence minister, the finance minister and other ministers of central government.

Besides them, the cabinet secretary, the defence secretary, the three service chiefs, foreign heads of states, the vice presidents and heads of foreign governments on state visit to India and foreign service chiefs on official visit to India are also eligible to travel by military aircraft, Antony added.

Vice Admiral RK Dhowan takes charge as new Deputy Chief of Naval Staff

Vice Admiral Robin Dhowan, AVSM, YSM who was the Commandant of the prestigious National Defence Academy took over today as the Deputy Chief of Naval Staff.

A Navigation and Direction Specialist, Vice Admiral Dhowan is an alumnus of the National Defence Academy (45th Course C Sqn) and the Defence Services Staff College. He has undergone various courses in India and abroad including the Sea Harrier Direction course at Yeovilton, UK and the Naval Command Course at Naval War College, Rhode Island, USA.

The Vice Admiral has held various important staff appointments at Naval Headquarters, which include Deputy Director Naval Operations, Joint Director Naval Plans and as Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff (Policy and Plans), Integrated Headquarters, Ministry of Defence (Navy). He has also served as the Senior Instructor at DSSC Wellington.

Ships commanded by him include INS Khukri, INS Ranjit and INS Delhi. He served as the Naval Adviser at the High Commission of India, London and as Chief Staff Officer (Operations), Headquarters Western Naval Command.

The Vice Admiral had the privilege to command the Eastern Fleet as Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet, one of the two operational fleet of the Indian Navy and subsequently took over as Chief of Staff at Headquarters Eastern Naval Command, Visakhapatnam. The Admiral took over the duties of Commandant NDA on 31 Dec 08. His leisure pursuits include Golf and Yachting.

Soldier on guard duty kills self at Command HQ


PUNE: A soldier on duty at the Headquarters Southern Command Officer’s Mess in the Pune cantonment allegedly committed suicide by shooting himself with his service rifle on Sunday afternoon.

Speaking to TOI, assistant commissioner of police Ashok Gaikwad of the Pune Cantonment police said the soldier, Sanjeev Kumar (24) of Ranchi, was working in the Pioneer unit of the mess. “At 1.15 pm on Sunday, while he was sitting in his chair near the main gate, he fired two rounds from his Insas rifle. One bullet hit him in the stomach. His colleagues immediately rushed him to the Command Hospital at Wanowrie, where he was declared dead on arrival,” Gaikwad said.

“Prima facie investigations indicate that Kumar committed suicide. We have recovered an empty cartridge from the spot,” said Gaikwad. “We have not found any suicide note.”

According to Gaikwad, the police have seized Kumar’s cellphone. He had just resumed work after taking a few days off. “He lived in the military barrack. We are searching his belongings to check if he has left a suicide note,” said Gaikwad.

Kumar’s body has been sent for a post-mortem. “The Cantonment police and the military police are investigating the case,” Gaikwad said.

When contacted, senior Southern Command officials flatly refused to speak, saying they were not aware of the incident.

Vice Admiral Soni takes over as NDA chief

PUNE: Vice Admiral Satish Soni took over as commandant of the National Defence Academy (NDA), Khadakwasla, on Sunday from Vice Admiral RK Dhowan. Dhowan has been appointed Deputy Chief of Naval Staff.

According to a press release issued by the NDA, Soni, a navigation and direction specialist, is an alumnus of the NDA. A member of the Academy's 48th course, he was commissioned into the Indian Navy on July 1, 1976.

Soni is also a pass-out of the prestigious Defence Service Staff College, Wellington, and has undergone various courses, including the Naval Higher Command Course at the College of Naval Warfare, Mumbai.

The Vice Admiral is a qualified ship's diving officer. He has also been the commissioning commanding officer of two warships in Russia INS Kakinada, a Natya class minesweeper, and INS Talwar, India's first guided missile stealth frigate. He has also commanded frontline warships such as INS Kirpan, a missile corvette, and INS Delhi, the country's first guided missile destroyer.

Soni has also commanded the coveted Eastern Fleet, based in Visakhapatnam. He has held several positions in his career, notable among them being assistant chief of personnel (human resource development) at the Integrated Headquarters, Ministry of Defence (Navy), and Chief of Staff of Eastern Naval Command.

The new NDA commandant is a keen sportsman and has represented the navy in squash and golf in the Inter-Service Championships.

The Army’s decade in review

Just as the US would likely date the first decade of the millennium to 9/11, for India it needs be dated to nuclearisation in May 1998. The Army has had a busy decade beginning with its triumph at Kargil. As it contemplates the coming decade it can be justifiably proud that its exertions have placed it reasonably well to take on the coming one. This commentary attempts to retell how the decade unfolded for the Army and to discern how it will navigate the coming decade.

The Kargil Review Committee Report set the reform agenda. In its recommendations made available in the form of the book, From Surprise to Reckoning, it attempted to forge a strategic culture from the popular interest generated by the media in matters military. The Army, embarrassed by the intrusions, set to work to ensure that these did not recur by raising HQ 14 Corps for Ladakh. It also had to roll back the impact of the conflict in the Valley in increased terrorism, reinforced by action of suicide squads called fidayeen. The government tried out the political approach in a period of ‘non-initiation of combat operations’ followed by the Agra Summit but to no avail. It was only with the induction of additional troops for Operation Parakram - the military mobilisation in the wake of the terrorist attack on Parliament - that the situation was mastered. Thereafter, there has been a steady improvement in the situation in Jammu & Kashmir in part due to successful counter-insurgency operations such as Operation Sarp Vinash in Surankot. The ceasefire since November 2003 along the Line of Control has enabled construction of the fence, dubbed ‘Vij line’ by Lt. Gen. S.K. Sinha. Adoption of an ‘iron fist in a velvet glove’ policy, in line with its sub-conventional warfare doctrine of 2006, has helped with winning hearts and minds. The innovation in this direction has been Operation Sadhbhavna.

The operational aspect, however, is perhaps not the most significant one. Instead, it is in doctrinal developments amounting to what a Pakistani analyst has characterised as ‘doctrinal awakening’. Immediately prior to the Shakti tests, the Army had already rolled out the first explicit edition of its doctrine in the form of the HQ Army Training Command publication, Indian Army – Fundamentals, Doctrines, Concepts. Coincidentally, the techniques of multi-directional attack and cliff assault were also disseminated timely for employment in Kargil. The Army’s introspection in the wake of Kargil resulted in its leaning towards Limited War thinking. The idea was to exploit the gap between sub-conventional operations and the nuclear threshold along the Spectrum of Conflict for conventional operations. This was to reinforce conventional deterrence. Kargil had demonstrated that credibility of the Sundarji-era conventional doctrine of ‘strike hard-strike deep’ needed refurbishing. Operation Parakram in 2002 revealed another shortcoming, that of a relatively longer mobilisation time period. This eventuated in the 2004 release of the second edition of the Army doctrine, referred to colloquially as ‘Cold Start’. Several exercises have followed in which the Army has tested its doctrine and its preparedness to face a nuclear future. It has reorganised with an additional Corps and Command HQ each along its western border. Essentially, it has transited from a defensive to a proactive and offensive mindset.

In addition, firstly, since the Army does not defend the country alone, there have been complementary movements. The Arun Singh Task Force recommendations at the beginning of the decade have firmed in, except for the crucial institution of the Chief of Defence Staff. In its absence, efforts towards Jointness have been sub-optimal. Secondly, the Strategic Forces Command, under the Nuclear Command Authority, is now a reality. The Army component only last week test-fired the Agni II missile. Though a failure, it has proven its ability to operate in trying night time operational conditions. Thirdly, the Army has shifted its focus decisively away from Pakistan to the over-the-horizon strategic challenge posed by China. It is in the midst of raising two mountain divisions and infrastructure improvement; in tandem with similar efforts by the Air Force. This would help cope with the Chinese challenge by shifting from ‘dissuasive defence’ to ‘active defence’. Fourthly, the Army has had an expanding interface with foreign armies in training over the period in addition to its long standing commitments in peacekeeping. Lastly, it is currently contemplating ‘Transformation’. The study undertaken by Eastern Army Commander, Lt. Gen. V.K. Singh, is likely to be released for implementation as early as the coming Army Day. The significant point is that the Army remains an adaptable and learning organisation, an essential characteristic in any organisation facing the speeding up of time.

Without doubt and without getting perturbed, plenty needs doing still. There is scope for the higher defence organisation being streamlined through formally institutionalising the military input into strategic decision making. Presently, there appears to be friction between the military and the bureaucracy, moderated somewhat by personal equations. But national security would do better than to rest on informal networks and chemistry between players. Secondly, while an aligning of the acquisition process has been done, the military concentrates on delivery of their requirement; not on better procedures. This gains importance in light of the likelihood that the next conflict could well begin without strategic warning. Therefore, for prevailing in short order, equipment at the start of the conflict will determine the outcome. The situation of the Army Chief saying ‘We’ll fight with what we have’ should not recur. Lastly, the effect of the vibrant economy has been such as to place a premium on the ‘right’ officer material. The present largesse, in conjunction with the recession, has given the Army a breather. But its recruiting and retention policy would require a long term facelift. Additionally, in mid-decade, there was the avoidable spectacle of the military pleading with the government for better emoluments. The next time round, the military will have a separate Pay Commission, which could ameliorate this aspect.

These problem areas would form the agenda for the next decade. However, doctrinal evolution must continue at the forefront. Rightly, the Army doctrine is in for another iteration. Its direction would be determined by the Transformation initiative. Two areas need urgent attention.

The first is that the nuclear era requires a rethink on the higher-end of conventional conflict, Total War. The issue that needs rethinking is the implications of the nuclear threshold on continuation of the strike corps as they are presently configured and employed. The concept of Integrated Battle Groups could be fleshed out in exercises. This important issue can do without retarding turf battles. There is a need to orchestrate diplomacy with military moves to achieve objectives. There needs to be a shift from the aim of inflicting punishment that informed thinking on war earlier to an aim of avoiding damage as much as possible. This owes to increased lethality and cost even of conventional arms, the nuclear overhang and that increasingly, because of its socio-economic advance, India has more to lose.

Secondly, the social culture within the military needs changing. This is a prerequisite for the Transformation initiative to succeed. Military sub-culture has dispensable legacy from the Mughal era and undesirable accretions from civil society. This would be the difficult part. One, the top-heavy structure the Army has acquired since implementation of A.V. Singh Committee II will retard the top-down approach for cultural change. The shedding of ‘privileges’ will not come easily. Two, ‘mandalisation’, resulting from pro-rata arms and services vacancies, requires revising in order to bring in meritocracy. Self-esteem should not be predicated on a ‘jhanda and danda’ definition, but on specialisation. Towards this end, training and subsequent employment of middle piece officers would require streamlining. The idea of a core ex-NDA (National Defence Academy) cadre, supported by a short service supporting cadre from an additional feeder academy, has the potential to make the hierarchy leaner and needs careful handling. Three, the Army Wives Welfare Association should be made autonomous of military resources in manpower and finances. Lastly, broad basing recruitment to include under represented ethnic groups, even at the expense of groups advantaged by the outcome of the 1857 War of Independence, is recommended.

Crystal gazing into the coming decade is a fraught exercise. Over the short term, events in Pakistan dictate higher order readiness. Over the middle term, managing equations with China should be so as to gain time to get the second strike capability and infrastructure organised. In both cases, a conflict avoidance strategy based on military deterrence would be in keeping with India’s economy-centred grand strategy. Recourse to writings of the military sociologist, the late Charles Moskos, indicates that the Army would change from ‘war readiness’ to ‘war deterrence’, even as society moves to being a ‘warless’ one. It can be predicted that this endeavour would make the decade eventful; the Army a ‘happening’ one; and watching it, an absorbing academic exercise.

India peace role in south Lebanon

In a remote corner of south-eastern Lebanon, Maj PPS Chauhan is commanding a UN check post near the strategically significant Sheba Farms area.
"The mountain you see on the other side of the Blue Line is part of the Golan Heights," he tells me.
"And over there is the Israeli check post," he says pointing to a small structure with satellite antennas on top of the mountain.
Like many Indian troops, before coming here Maj Chauhan served along the Line of Control - the de facto border between India and Pakistan in Kashmir.
He says his role as UN peacekeeper is very different from what he's used to as an Indian army officer back home.
"In Kashmir, we are tasked with fighting the insurgents and cross-border militants," he says.
"But here, we are not fighting anyone in particular. In fact, our job here is to make sure there is no fighting at all."
Keeping peace
Maj Chauhan recently arrived in south Lebanon as part of India's latest peace contingent.
India first sent peacekeeping troops to the troubled country 11 years ago, in November 1998.
Major Chauhan commands a UN check post near Sheba Farms area
Since then, soldiers from various sections of the Indian army have been coming here on rolling assignments.
The current Indian contingent, 3/11 Gorkha Rifle Battalion, consists of about 900 soldiers mainly drawn from eastern Nepal, and the north-eastern Indian states of Sikkim and Darjeeling.
They form part of the 12,400-strong UN peacekeeping force from 30 countries - all here to ensure there isn't another armed conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.
A big part of their peacekeeping effort involves gaining the trust and respect of the local people.
In the town of Al-Fardis, scores of men and women have gathered at a local government building.
The mainly Druze town doesn't have a health facility.
So, many people have eagerly waited for the day when free weekly clinic is organised by the Indian battalion.
Hearts and minds
"Our main job here is to hold peace in this volatile area," says Lt-Col Jasmeet Khanna, senior doctor in charge of the medical camp.
"These humanitarian services are all in addition to that."
According to local villagers, the nearest medical facilities in the area are located in Hasbaya, a city about 12km (7.5 miles) away, where treatment is often expensive.
Blue Line
The peace in the area is fragile at best
"You can't imagine what a relief it is to have the UN doctors here and get free medical treatment," says Anis Slika, a prominent local representative.
There is no doubt that most people in south Lebanon look up to the UN troops.
At the same time, they don't really rely on the peacekeepers for protection from future attacks from the other side of the boundary.
In case of another bloody conflict with Israel, many would tell you, it is Hezbollah they depend on to face up to Israeli power.
According to the UN Security Council's 2006 Resolution 1701, Hezbollah is supposed to have stopped its militant activities in this area south of the Litani river.
Israel says that hasn't happened and that the UN is partly to blame.
Careful line
Israel points to instances of rocket firing from the Lebanese side as evidence of continued armed activity in the area.
Just this month, Israel claimed to have seized an Iranian weapons shipment allegedly destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon. Hezbollah denied the accusation.
When quizzed about Hezbollah's alleged militant activity in the region, Indian peacekeepers told me that they hadn't seen much of it in their area of operation.
Anis Slika says it is a relief to have the UN doctors in the area
Given Hezbollah's ever-present influence in the area, the troops are expected to tread a careful line.
Privately, though, officials admit to having adopted a policy of sorts.
"If we see any armed activity in the region, we will surely act to stop it. But if we do not see anything, we can't act against it," one official told me.
"There may very well be Katyusha rockets and arms in many households. But it is not our mandate to go on a house-to-house search in an area like this," said another.
If true, the approach seems to be based on a pragmatic assessment of the situation on the ground.
Many people in the area feel that if Hezbollah decides for some reason that it cannot tolerate the UN's and the Lebanese army's joint presence in the area, it would be impossible for the UN to continue its peace mission.
Paying off
Hence, the unavoidable need for the UN to perform its role in some kind of co-ordination with the biggest and the most powerful player in their area of operation.
So far, the UN's peacekeeping efforts seem to be paying off.
In a presentation at the Security Council last week, UN special co-ordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams concluded that despite the repeated violations of the ceasefire agreement by both sides, the cessation of hostilities "has actually held remarkably well".
Lt-Col Jasmeet Khanna
Lt-Col Khanna says their main job is to maintain peace in the area
From 1978 to 2000, these villages in southern Lebanon experienced the Israeli occupation.
During the July 2006 war, many of these towns bore the brunt of the Israeli attacks. The conflict killed 160 Israelis and left 1,187 Lebanese, mainly civilians, dead.
While many analysts feel that both Israel and Hezbollah do not seem to have an appetite for another armed conflict any time soon, villagers in southern Lebanon can never be too sure.
The people here seem grateful to the UN for helping them get on with their lives through its humanitarian efforts.
But they get jittery every time rockets are launched into Israel and threats are exchanged between the Israeli leadership and Hezbollah.
For many, it remains a question of "when" not "if" the next conflict with Israel will break out. 

Probe finds proof against 4 generals in Sukna land scam

NEW DELHI: After liquor, fuel and ration scandals, land scams are now exploding in the Army's face. The fate of four generals and several other officers hangs in the balance after a court of inquiry (CoI) found that a prima facie case does exist in the alleged land scam at the Sukna military station earlier this year.

Though an embarrassed Army HQ on Monday flatly refused to say anything about the CoI findings, sources say there is ``more than enough'' evidence to ``try some senior officers'' for ``gross improprieties and irregularities'' through a court-martial.

Incidentally, one of the generals questioned by the CoI, Lt-Gen Avadhesh Prakash, is among the eight principal staff officers to Army chief Gen Deepak Kapoor as the military secretary at the Army HQ here.
Moreover, the appointment of another general, Lt-Gen P K Rath, as the new Army deputy chief (information systems and training) from November 1 has already been cancelled by the defence ministry, as reported by TOI earlier.

Lt-Gen Rath was `attached' to the CoI at the Kolkata-based Eastern Army Command in October because he was the commander of the crucial 33 Corps based in Darjeeling district of West Bengal, under which the Sukna military station comes, when the alleged land scam took place.

Lt-Gen Rath's then deputy, Lt-Gen Ramesh Halgali, who is commanding the 11 Corps at Jalandhar at present, and some other officers in the `chain in command' have also apparently been indicted by the CoI.
Incidentally, another CoI is being conducted into alleged financial irregularities in the construction of a war memorial and museum renovation at the Ranikhet-based Kumaon Regimental Centre.

While the centre commandant Brigadier Bhupinder Singh is being questioned in this CoI, Lt-Gen Prakash — interestingly enough — also happens to be the `Colonel of the Kumaon Regiment'.

Defence minister A K Antony, on his part, has asked the Army to fix responsibility in the land scam, which revolves around the grant of a no-objection certificate (NoC) on February 6 to a business group and private education trust, which posed as an affiliate of the Ajmer-based Mayo College, to acquire a 70-acre tea estate adjacent to the Sukna military station.

Incidentally, Army authorities had initially rejected the NoC to the Kolkata-based business group on the grounds of security but the decision was later overturned when Lt-Gen Rath was the 33 Corps commander. Even documents were apparently forged to help the business group to start a Rs 300-crore venture on the land in question.

Antony, in fact, has warned the Army that such cases ``not only damage the Indian Army's image'' but also ``adversely affect the ability of senior officers to measure up to the expectations of the men they lead''.

The minister expressed the worry that the involvement of senior officers in such cases would ``weaken the ability of the armed forces to ably handle ever-increasing security challenges''. The Army should, therefore, ensure that a loud and clear message is sent that corruption will be ``dealt with absolute sternness and promptness''.

The declining standards of probity and discipline in armed forces have been underlined by a series of meat, cereal, liquor and fuel scandals. So much so that a major-general has faced the music for even sexual harassment in recent times.

Sukhoi crashes near Jaisalmer

NEW DELHI: First, it was the ageing MiGs which were falling from the skies with alarming regularity. Now, even the latest Sukhoi-30MKIs are going down, sparking widespread concern in IAF.

In the second Sukhoi mishap this year, one of these `air dominance' fighters, the most potent in the country's combat fleet, crashed at the Jetha Ki Dhani near Pokhran firing ranges in Rajasthan on Monday evening.

The two pilots, Wing Commander Srivastava and Flight Lieutenant Arora, fortunately, managed to eject safely. After taking off from the Jodhpur airbase at about 4.45 pm, the ill-fated Sukhoi was taking part in fire-power exercises at Pokhran when the accident took place around 5.30 pm.

This is the 13th aircraft crash in IAF this year, which makes it one of the worst years for the force in recent times, especially since around 25 people have also been killed in these mishaps.

Though the court of inquiry ordered into Monday's crash will ascertain the exact reason behind the mishap, sources say that IAF is contemplating the grounding of the entire Sukhoi fleet till technical checks can be carried out.

The two main reasons for crashes are attributed to "human errors'' and "technical defects''. In other words, "inadequate'' training to pilots, ageing machines and shoddy maintenance practices form a deadly mix for IAF.

What is especially worrying is that the Sukhois are the latest fighters to be inducted into the IAF. The first Sukhoi crash, in which one of the pilots was killed, took place on April 30. "It was due to a mix of human error, a design flaw and a system malfunction,'' said an officer.

IAF has inducted 105 of the 230 twin-seater Sukhois already contracted from Russia in three deals worth upwards of $8.5 billion. As first reported by TOI, with both China and Pakistan bolstering their air combat fleets, IAF has asked the government for another 50 Sukhois -- each of which would cost around $45 million -- to cater for any contingency on both the eastern and western fronts.

Of the initial 230 jets, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd is supposed to manufacture 140 of them under transfer of technology by 2015. After Pune and Bareilly, IAF has already earmarked airbases like Tezpur and Chabua in Assam, Halwara (Punjab) and Jodhpur (Rajasthan) as the new airbases to house two Sukhoi squadrons each. Earlier this year, the first four Sukhois were deployed in Tezpur to kickstart the entire process.

The Sukhois, which have a cruising speed range of 3,200 km and can carry around eight tonnes of armaments, can strike targets deep inside China. This strategic capability gets a further boost with air-to-air refuelling by IL-78 tankers, enhancing their radius of operations to around 8,000 km.

India's "dissuasive deterrence'' military posture against China, after all, revolves around the Sukhois as well as the 3,500-km nuclear-capable Agni-III missile, which will be ready for operational deployment only by 2012, and the 5,000-km range Agni-V missile in the pipeline. 

China objects, India obliges

NEW DELHI: After Chinese objections to construction of a road in a forward area of south-eastern Ladakh, India today claimed that the incident could be a result of different perception of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). New Delhi is said to be ‘concerned’ about the fresh dispute in the area, where Chinese troops have reportedly been painting the rocks and writing messages in Mandarin.Pallam Raju, Minister of State for Defence, said the matter is being inquired. “We will inquire into the matter. The whole problem arises in the different perception of the actual border. That is why it has possibly been stopped,” he said.Work on the road to link the Demchok village, located 300 kilometers south-east of Leh, beyond India’s last post in the Ladakh region was stopped in October after objections by China.The road was being constructed under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme to connect two remote villages, Demchok being the last settlement on the Indian side.Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah has also drawn the Centre’s attention to the incident. The government is planning to take up the matter through diplomatic channels with Beijing, sources said.Officials claim that the construction of road was well within the Indian territory. The 3.8 kilometer stretch was almost complete when Chinese army personnel intervened and stopped further construction.The Chinese army had also raised the issue in a flag meeting with their Indian counterpart.The People’s Liberation Army troops have adopted aggressive tactics and there have been several reports of violation of the LAC. The ministry of external affairs is likely to intervene and take up the matter with the Chinese foreign office through diplomatic channels.