Monday, December 21, 2009

In Parliament House canteen, delectable dishes don’t act pricey



Can you imagine a vegetarian thali lunch for Rs 12.50 or a small bowl of dal at Rs 1.50, and chapatis for a rupee each at a time when the prices of essential commodities are touching the sky? 

Yes it is possible, even if food is getting out of the reach of the poor in the country. Welcome to the Parliament House canteen.

A series of catering units run by Indian Railways at Parliament House, including the library and the annexe building, serve food at rates that are a good decade old but are hard to digest for a newcomer.

The MPs, who are seen shouting at each other and castigating the government over the rising food prices, definitely relish the cheap canteen food. But, mind you, the facility is not for them only. Parliament staff, low-paid security personnel and accredited journalists too enjoy the delicacies at rates that an ordinary citizen outside cannot even think of.

Where does this come from? Remember, behind the cheap commodity there is a subsidy. All this costs the government a huge amount of tax payers' money.

The gap between the actual cost and what the MPs, journalists and others have to pay, is bridged with a food budget set aside by Parliament.

“Over Rs.5.3 crore has been allocated during the current financial year for the canteens. The Lok Sabha pays some Rs.3.55 crore and the Rajya Sabha shares the amount to over Rs.1.77 crore," said an official.

“Not only MPs, we serve food to everybody who is allowed inside Parliament. They also include workers, gardeners and labourers," the official told IANS, defending the low prices. The food prices were last revised in 2004.

A 15-member joint parliamentary committee on food management headed by then MP K Yerranaidu of the Telugu Desam Party was constituted in 2005 to consider revision of the rates and the service.

“The committee didn't give any report and the rates were not revised," the official said. — IANS

Defence ministry to follow ISRO model

 Tribune News Service

The private-public partnership model followed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in developing its acclaimed products will now be followed by the Ministry of Defence also. 

This aims at a long-term approach and “hand holding” of the private industry during development phase and competitive environment later. The government has accepted the recommendations of the Vijay Kelkar Committee made in this regard. The Ministry of Defence tabled a report in Parliament this week on the action it is taking to encourage long-term indigenous production.

In the past, Defence Minister AK Antony has expressed his anguish at the slow pace of development of local equipment and also the strategic shortcoming by depending heavily on imports.

Now for strengthening self-reliance in defence preparedness, the ministry will follow an in-depth study of the practices and procedures being followed by ISRO and also the Kelkar Committee report. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence had met Dr Vijay Kelkar, who said the committee that ISRO “embraced” the private sector to meet its high-tech requirements. 

Separately, the Defence ministry informed the committee that there were two aspects to the issues. One is of developing systems indigenously and the level of indigenisation through the transfer of technology (TOT) route. As regards indigenous research and development, major systems are in place like Prithvi, MBT Arjun and electronic warfare systems for Army and Navy. 

The ministry said the frontline fighter Sukhoi-30MkI would have 43. 5 per cent local content by this year. This is up from 13 per cent during 2004-05. Similarly, in case of HAWK, the indigenisation percentage will increase from present level of 12 -15 per cent to 45 per cent in the raw material phase of production. 

In case of T-90 Tank, the indigenisation percentage in the current year is 30 per cent and is likely to go up 70 per cent by 2010-11.

101 unhappy pilots looking to get out of IAF

NEW DELHI: Unhappy with the career prospects in the Indian Air Force (IAF), over 100 of its pilots have sought premature retirement in the last one year.

"Around 101 pilots of the IAF have applied for grant of premature retirement during the last one year. The broad reasons furnished by the applicants for grant of the premature retirement are supercession, lack of career progression, medical and compassionate grounds," Defence Minister A K Antony told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply on Wednesday.

The IAF has been facing a shortage of 400 pilots; according to senior officials, it would take another five years to plug the gap.

The IAF has set on a "proactive publicity" campaign to contain the exodus of the trained pilots.

"Concerted efforts are taken by the IAF to carry out a proactive publicity campaign to reach the target group across the country, such as participation in fairs and exhibitions, advertisement in print and electronic media including recruitment and career related articles, motivational lectures at school etc," said Antony.

According to senior IAF officials, the lucrative salary packages outside and not so smooth career progressions within the air force are forcing youngsters to opt for greener pastures.

The development is a cause for concern for the IAF, which is 800 officers short, and has fighter jet squadron strength much below the required strength of 42.

Army statistics reveal infiltration is down



Srinagar, Dec 20: Contrary to the claims being made by New Delhi that there has been a ‘significant increase’ in infiltration attempts by militants into Jammu and Kashmir, the statistics prepared by army reveals that the infiltration bids have witnessed a steep decline in 2009. It says that as against 80 infiltrators killed on Line of Control (LoC) in 2008, only 11 were killed this year.

According the figures obtained from Army’s Northern Command, the number of contacts with militants have reduced considerably along the Line of Control (LoC) this year.

Most of the infiltration bids have taken place in North Kashmir’s Gurez and Keran sector and Poonch and Rajouri sector in Jammu province.

The statistics compiled by army discloses that a total of 150 contacts were established with infiltrating militants on LoC in 2009. “This figure was on higher side in 2008 when 197 contacts were established,” the statistics reveal.

Similarly, as against 335 militant killed in 2008, only 236 militants have been killed along the LoC while trying to sneak into the State.

The statistics further reveal that 40 infiltration bids were foiled this year while 42 such bids were foiled in the previous year.

“80 infiltrating militants were killed on LoC in 2008 while in 2009, 11 militants have so far been killed while trying to breach the line,” it disclosed.

Meanwhile, the defense officials said the militants preferred Poonch and Rajouri sectors in Jammu province for sneaking into this side of LoC from Pakistani administered Kashmir. “The militants used the treacherous routes of Gurez, Tanghdar and Keran sector to sneak into Valley,” they said.
The officials said, unlike past, the militants used new strategy by making infiltration attempts as early as in March, when all the mountain peaks and ridges were covered with snow.

At least, 17 militants and eight troopers were killed in the five-day long gunfight in north Kashmir’s Hafrooda forests in March. In the same month, reports suggested that 80 militants supported by 40 porters crossed the snow laden LoC along the Gurez sector.

The defense officials said the militant action forced them to activate counter insurgency posts along the LoC during the winter months. “They remain abandoned for four months due to heavy snowfall on LoC, where sometimes snow exceeds 40 feet mark. At least seven RR troopers got killed in mid-April after avalanches hit military posts activated ahead of time by army due to infiltration of attempts,” they said.

The official said the strength of infiltrating groups has remained same. “The pattern has not changed. The strength of infiltrating militants groups ranged from 8 -12 except in some rare incidents where more men have infiltrated” they said.

Most of the infiltrating militants, according to officials, were engaged within some meters of LOC.

“We have placed surveillance equipment and increased our patrolling along the LOC,” they said.
Talking to Rising Kashmir recently, DGP Kuldip Khoda Police termed infiltration as a cause of concern. “The militants were making concerted efforts to sneak into Jammu and Kashmir to cause trouble,” he said.

On December 6, IG BSF Baljeet Singh said militants were making attempts to sneak into the LOC. He, however, said, there is no information about the militants waiting across the border to get into Kashmir.

However, Indian Army Chief, in his recent statement said, they have reports that 2000-2500 militants are awaiting to sneak into Jammu and Kashmir.

Home minister P Chidambaram told Rajya Sabha that violence in the State has come down but the infiltration is on. He said people are making desperate attempts to cross over LOC.

Navy foils piracy attempt

MUMBAI: The Indian navy on Saturday foiled a piracy attempt on cargo vessel MV Sanderling Ace in the Gulf of Aden. The vessel had sent out a distress call after sighting seven persons aboard a white skiff (a small boat) approaching it at 20 knots. MV Sanderling Ace also raised an alarm on Ship Security Alert System.

"A warship deployed by the Indian navy in the Gulf of Aden received a distress call from the vessel around 5.30 pm on Saturday,'' said Captain Manohar Nambiar, public relation officer, Indian Navy. "Upon receiving the call, the naval warship immediately launched helicopter Chetak to intercept the boat. Officials fired warning shots from the chopper, following which those aboard the skiff stopped proceeding towards the vessel.''

"There were seven people aboard the boat. It was difficult to communicate with them since they only spoke Arabic. All were released as nothing suspicious was found on the boat,'' added Captain Nambiar.

A navy officer said pirates for the fear of being apprehended throw their weapons into the sea. Post 26/11, the navy has increased surveillance on the seas.