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    Army officer dies of heart attack near LoC in Poonch district

    Army officer dies of heart attack near LoC in Poonch district

    The JCO was on duty at a post in Sonawali Gali in Mankote sector when he suddenly fell unconscious on Tuesday morning, they said. File photo

    Jammu, January 15

    A Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) died on Tuesday apparently after suffering a massive heart attack while performing his duty near the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir, police said.

    The JCO was on duty at a post in Sonawali Gali in Mankote sector when he suddenly fell unconscious on Tuesday morning, they said.

    The officer was shifted to the hospital where he was declared brought dead, he said, adding that the body was handed over to his unit after legal formalities. PTI


    CAG refuses to share Rafale audit; cites breach of Parliament

    CAG refuses to share Rafale audit; cites breach of Parliament

    Section 8(1)(C) of the Right To Information (RTI) Act exempts information the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature. Tribune file

    New Delhi, January 15

    The Comptroller and Auditor General has refused to disclose details about its audit in the controversial Rafale aircraft deal, saying the process is not yet complete and any disclosure at this stage will amount to breach of Parliament’s privilege, an RTI reply said.

    In its response to Pune-based activist Vihar Durve who had sought the report from CAG, the country’s auditor said, “The audit is under progress and the report is yet to be finalised. The information cannot be given under Section 8(1)(C) of the RTI Act as the disclosure would cause breach of  Parliament.”

    Section 8(1)(C) of the Right To Information (RTI) Act exempts information the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature.

    Last month, the Supreme Court had dismissed pleas challenging the deal between India and France for procurement of 36 Rafale jets, saying there was no occasion to “really doubt the decision-making process” warranting setting aside of the contract.

    It rejected the pleas seeking lodging of an FIR and a court-monitored probe alleging irregularities in the Rs 58,000 crore deal, in which both the countries have entered into an inter-governmental agreement (IGA).

    “The pricing details have, however, been shared with the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), and the report of the CAG has been examined by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). Only a redacted portion of the report was placed before Parliament and is in public domain,” the bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had said, relying on the sealed note submitted by the government.

    After the Congress raised the issue that no such CAG report had been placed before the PAC, the government approached the court seeking changes in the judgment.

    In the application, the Centre said the two sentences in paragraph 25 of the judgment appeared to have been based on the note submitted by it along with the pricing details in a sealed cover, but indicated the words used by the court lent a different meaning.

    The Centre made it clear that it did not say that the CAG report was examined by PAC or a redacted portion was placed before Parliament. It clarified that the note had said the government “has already shared” the price details with the CAG, which was written in past tense and “is factually correct”.

    However, where it was stated by the Centre in the note that the report of the CAG “is” examined by the PAC, was a description of the procedure which is followed in the normal course, but in the judgment, ‘is’ was replaced with the words ‘has been’, according to the application.

    In its response to the RTI application filed by Durve, the CAG also refused to share its correspondence related to the audit of the Rafale deal with any government department or political party, claiming that such records were “confidential and held in fiduciary capacity” hence, exempted from disclosure under the RTI Act.

    The CAG added that audit in the Indian Air Force is done by designated principal audit officer of the force and the reports were submitted to the national auditor for approval. PTI

     


    A force to reckon with by Lt Gen DS Hooda (Retd)

    Army Day should also be the time to revisit the many challenges and fix them

    A force to reckon with

    Future-ready? Revenue costs are coming in the way of modernisation plans.

    Lt Gen DS Hooda (Retd)
    Former Northern Army Command Chief

    Today, as we celebrate the 71st Army Day, the Indian Army can be justifiably proud of its past record of having served the nation with distinction and honour, while retaining its secular and apolitical character. However, it is also an opportune time to consider the many challenges that face the Army as it looks at the year ahead.

    The Army’s primary responsibility is to guard the borders, and these borders remain troubled. The LOC with Pakistan is extremely hostile. As per reports, 2018 witnessed 2,936 ceasefire violation cases, the highest in 15 years. The latest martyrdom of Major Nair and another soldier in an IED attack is a grim reminder of the dangers that our soldiers are exposed to on a daily basis.

    In the absence of any diplomatic engagement, only the guns will do the talking. Unfortunately, this is the bloody reality of the LOC in the foreseeable future. Faced with this, the Army will have to move urgently to minimise casualties by better individual protective gear, modern counter-IED equipment, advanced surveillance systems and an effective ‘smart’ fence that detects infiltration. Each death on the LOC raises high emotions among the citizens that further restrict political and diplomatic space. Some way has to be found around this vicious cycle of death and retribution.

    After Doklam, there has been relative calm on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China. However, this should not lull us into a sense of complacency. Two neighbouring rising powers cannot have a completely harmonious relationship. As John Mearsheimer reminds us in The Tragedy of Great Power Politics: ‘Even when a great power achieves a distinct military advantage over its rivals, it continues looking for chances to gain more power. The pursuit of power stops only when hegemony is achieved.’

    An outbreak of conflict with China is unlikely, but Chumar and Doklam-type incidents are very real, and fuelled by nationalistic fervour, such incidents can take on a larger dimension. With superior Chinese infrastructure along the LAC, our Army remains at a disadvantage in many areas, particularly Arunachal Pradesh. The present government has given a push to the building of roads along the LAC but the pace remains unsatisfactory. According to the Border Roads Organisation website, by January 20, 2017, the East Directorate had achieved only about 30 per cent of its road construction targets for the financial year 2016-17. There is a need for a comprehensive plan for speeding up infrastructure development.

    In internal security, J&K remains the biggest challenge. The situation is worrying, and we should not quote selective data to support claims that things are on the mend. The Army often states that its job is restricted to bringing the security situation under control so that political steps can be initiated for conflict resolution. While this statement is not incorrect, this compartmentalisation of strategy has not proved helpful. In the past, on many occasions, the Army has brought the situation to near normalcy, but the opportunity was squandered as corresponding political and governance issues were not addressed.

    The Army leadership must insist on the framing of a coherent government strategy for J&K that combines the security, economic, political and information domains. In the preparation of this strategy, the Army must be a major stakeholder. The political leadership ultimately has the final word, but Army leaders, with their vast experience in the state, must offer frank, unbiased and professional advice.

    Internally, the Army is considering an ambitious plan to reduce its manpower. In the time of stressed military budgets, revenue costs are prohibiting modernisation plans, leaving the Army with a majority of vintage equipment. The raising of the Mountain Strike Corps has put added pressure, as in the absence of a dedicated budget for the raising, the War Wastage Reserve was depleted to equip the new corps.

    There is no option but to trade off manpower for modernisation. The Army should seize this opportunity for restructuring and reforming itself to fight future wars. This requires a deeper look at emerging threats, and a review of the Army’s current doctrine, strategy, and tactics. The government must support this transformation by not viewing it merely as a money-saving exercise but one that will enhance national security. This will require a comprehensive long-term plan and not one that promotes ideas like selling off cantonment lands.

    The Army must also renew its focus on people. The men and women are our greatest asset and must remain highly motivated. Some current trends are worrying. More and more of our officers and men are approaching the civil courts. Dissatisfied officers from certain corps appealed against what they considered to be an unfair distribution of Colonel’s vacancies as recommended by the AV Singh Committee. The arguments in the SC took on a somewhat Arms vs Services tenor that left a bad taste.

    Last year, over 300 officers and soldiers approached the SC over the dilution of AFSPA. The court rejected their contention, but their worries cannot be wished away. There is obviously no ban on the rights of soldiers to appeal before courts and tribunals, but if such cases increase, it could chip away at the faith in the military organisation. Officers and soldiers must feel that they will get justice from their Army. This is squarely a priority task for the Army’s leadership.

    Finally, issues like women in combat role, and decriminalisation of same-sex relations and adultery are some of the matters that the Army will have to grapple with. The Indian Army has its own unique ethos and culture, but these sensitive concerns cannot be casually dismissed without a serious internal debate. Dealing with challenges defines the true mettle of an organisation.

     


    Army will not hesitate in taking action against terror along Pak border’

    'Army will not hesitate in taking action against terror along Pak border'

    Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat addressing during Army Day parade in New Delhi on Tuesday. Tribune photo: Manas Ranjan Bhui

    New Delhi, January 15

    NThe Indian Army will not hesitate to take strong action to deal with terror activities along the border with Pakistan, Army chief Gen Bipin Rawat said on Tuesday.

    The country along India’s western border is providing support to terror groups and the Indian Army is dealing with them effectively, Gen Rawat said in an obvious reference to Pakistan, “We are ensuring moral dominance along border in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said while addressing Army personnel on the occasion of Army Day here.

    The Indian Army will not hesitate to take strong action to deal with terror activities along the western border, Gen Rawat said.

    He said new guidelines are being followed to maintain peace and tranquillity along the border in the eastern sector.

    “We will keep reviewing the situation along the eastern border,” he said, referring to the border with China.

    “Our soldiers will not allow any compromise in guarding the border in the eastern sector,” he said.

    Gen Rawat also said the Army was carrying out major restructuring and modernisation of the Army. P


    Protocol and politics of state funerals BY Lt Gen SR Ghosh (Retd)

    Lt Gen SR Ghosh (Retd)

    Whims and fancies of people in power, vote-bank pressures and a loose ‘discretionary’ clause can imbalance protocol-based events, resulting in controversies and debates. While honours accorded to well-known personalities have generally not been objected to, what has vexed people is the draping of Tricolour over bodies of some of the departed.

    Protocol and politics of state funerals

    Homage: State funerals with full military honours, including the 17-gun salute, should be accorded to Field Marshals/Marshals of the Air Force/Admirals of the Seas and all Param Vir Chakra/Ashok Chakra awardees.

    Lt Gen SR Ghosh (Retd)
    Former GOC-in-C, Western Command

    RAMAKANT Achrekar, a cricket coach known for having nurtured Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli, passed away recently. However, even before the embers had cooled, a controversy flared up about a ‘state funeral’ not being accorded to him. The Maharashtra Government had to go into overdrive and apologise for the ‘omission’.

    Such controversies have erupted several times. In 2017, the Karnataka Government was slammed for according a state funeral with a 21-gun salute to Gauri Lankesh, a journalist known for her support to Naxals and views on right-wing Hindu extremism. The administration claimed that the gun salute was given as “a mark of respect for her selfless service and not for ideological reasons”. Another recent case was that of Sridevi, who was given full state honours at her funeral under the Chief Minister’s discretionary powers for being an “eminent personality who has done public service”. A third case is that of Sarabjit Singh, convicted of spying and subsequently killed in a Pakistani jail in 2013, for whom the Punjab Government ordered three-day mourning and a state funeral.

    It is these powers of discretion that give rise to controversies and hype among the public. Over the past several years, state funerals under the discretionary powers have been given to several other personalities, including Rajesh Khanna, ex-cricketer Ajit Wadekar, journalist Muzaffar Hussain, Mother Teresa, Sathya Sai Baba, singer Gangubai Hangal, BJP leader Pramod Mahajan, who held no ministerial position when he lost his life, and Dada JP Vaswani. It is strange that Bollywood star Shashi Kapoor was also given a state funeral, complete with a three-gun salute by the police, while legendary thespian Raj Kapoor had been accorded none of these honours. 

    However, nothing can be as glaring as the difference in the treatment meted out to two giants of the Armed Forces. In September 2017, Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh was cremated in Delhi with full state honours. The Tricolour was flown at half mast and both the President and the Prime Minister paid tributes at his residence, where the body lay in state. The funeral was attended by top political leaders, including Manmohan Singh and LK Advani, the Raksha Mantri (Defence Minister) and the three Service Chiefs. A 17-gun salute, a fly-past by three Sukhoi fighters and helicopters carrying the IAF colours were part of the honours accorded to the ‘Air Warrior’.

    Compare this with the shocking treatment meted out to India’s most iconic soldier, Field Marshal SHFJ Manekshaw, the Chief of the Indian Army which liberated Bangladesh in 1971 and captured over 90,000 Pakistani prisoners of war. Sam passed away in June 2008 at Wellington, Tamil Nadu. However, for reasons unknown, the Indian Government appeared to deliberately downplay the state honours that this great soldier so richly deserved. In any other country, such a funeral would have been attended by the highest officials of the nation. However, here no national mourning was declared and not one among our constitutional and central political leadership, including the Defence Minister, found time to attend his cremation. Nor did the Governor or Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. The sole representative of the government was the Minister of State for Defence. Even the Air Force and Navy Chiefs did not attend the funeral and instead chose to send two-star-ranked officers.

    All these cases exemplify how politics, whims and fancies of people in power, vote-bank pressures and a loose ‘discretionary’ clause can imbalance such protocol-based events, resulting in avoidable controversies and debates. While honours accorded to well-known personalities have generally not been objected to, the two main issues that have, however, vexed the people are the draping of the Tricolour over the bodies of some of the departed and the rendering of gun salutes to them.

    A ‘state mourning’ was initially reserved only for the President, Prime Minister and former Presidents, while Governors were added to the list for ‘state funerals’. However, this came with a clause that in the case of other dignitaries, the Centre could issue special instructions or order a state funeral. Thus, over the years, rules have been relaxed or overlooked on several occasions to accommodate some personalities. There is, therefore, a need to review existing instructions and streamline and standardise these to ensure uniformity and transparency across the country.

    Some recommendations are: ‘National mourning’ and a ‘national funeral’ should be authorised only for the President, Vice President, Prime Minister and former Presidents. These dignitaries would be entitled to most of the existing protocols, including a 21-gun salute by the military and a recommended four-day period of mourning during which the Tricolour would fly at half mast. Based on a Fifth Pay Commission recommendation in 1997, the government had notified that a public holiday would be declared only in the event of the death of the incumbent President and Prime Minister. It is now recommended that this practice be abolished in totality.

    ‘State funerals’ should be reserved for former Vice Presidents and Prime Ministers, sitting Cabinet ministers, Governors, Lieutenant Governors, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Chief Ministers and Bharat Ratna awardees. The Honour Guard at such funerals should be drawn from the state police or the Central Armed Police Forces, which would fire three volleys by seven riflemen. Bodies would be draped in the Tricolour, but there would be no lowering of the National Flag.

    State funerals with full military honours, including the 17-gun salute, should be accorded to Field Marshals/Marshals of the Air Force/Admirals of the Seas and all Param Vir Chakra/Ashok Chakra awardees.

    All other prominent citizens of great stature could be accorded a ‘ceremonial funeral’ at the discretion of the Central or state governments. A ceremonial funeral should also be authorised for former Union Cabinet ministers or equivalent former government dignitaries.

    Such a funeral would basically entail logistical and security arrangements by the government, provision of a police escort and attendance by appropriate elected/government dignitaries. Bodies of such departed citizens would neither be draped in the Tricolour nor would rifle volleys be fired.

    National mourning with flags lowered to half mast throughout the country should be proclaimed if the nation goes through any major calamity or natural disaster resulting in large-scale loss of lives.

     


    Govt to build 44 strategic roads along China border

    Projects in Arunachal, Sikkim, J&K, among others, will cost ₹21,040 crore

    › All efforts to improve infrastructure along the border are most welcome. These projects will be helpful for… military and civilian purposes
    SL NARASIMHAN (RETD), Lieutenant General

    From page 01 NEWDELHI: The government is set to clear the construction of 44 “strategically important roads” along the India-China border as New Delhi has sharpened its focus on ramping up border infrastructure to counter Beijing, according to the Central Public Works Department (CPWD)’s 2018-19 annual report. The roads in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh are expected to be built at cost of around ₹21,040 crore, the report adds.

    PTI FILE■ Twenty-two foot tracks measuring 750km are also in the works to support the movement of ITBP in Arunachal Pradesh.

    The detailed project reports (DPRs) for the roads, which are aimed at swifter mobilisation of troops, have been submitted to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-headed Cabinet Committee on Security for approval.

    The construction work is expected to be split between the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and the CPWD, two government officials said on condition of anonymity.

    BRO and CPWD are currently engaged in the construction of 73 strategic roads measuring 4,643 km along the India-China border. The BRO, which comes under the defence ministry, is constructing 61 of these roads. The CPWD is building the remaining 12.

    “All efforts to improve infrastructure along the border are most welcome. These projects will be helpful for both military and civilian purposes,” said Lieutenant General SL Narasimhan (retd), who commanded a corps in the North-East and is currently a National Security Advisory Board member.

    Twenty-two foot tracks measuring 750 km are also in the works to support the movement of Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel in forward areas of Arunachal Pradesh, the report said. They are likely to cost 1,275 crore.

    Projects along the India-China border form the bulk of the CPWD’s work. The CPWD is also set to execute projects along the border with Pakistan. It will construct axial and lateral roads measuring around 2,200 km along the India-Pakistan border in Punjab and Rajasthan at a cost of ₹5,450 crore, the report said. “To secure the vast and remote border areas of Rajasthan and Punjab, the DPRs of constructing lateral and axial roads along the Indo-Pak Border are under preparation in CPWD.” The CPWD is also eyeing the construction of permanent integrated buildings at 96 ITBP border outposts. These buildings in high-altitude areas will have thermal insulation and renewable energy technologies. The report said the preparation of DPRs for the ₹2,500-crore project was in full swing.

    Developing border infrastructure in the North east has been among the government’s top priorities. Modi had on December 25 inaugurated the Bogibeel Bridge in Assam to improve road and rail connectivity in the region, especially to Arunachal Pradesh. The bridge facilitates the movement of troops in a strategically sensitive region. The government has focused on building infrastructure in the North-East as part of its Act East policy to develop the region and use it as a link to parts of South and South East Asia.


    AAP MP moves SC seeking review of Rafale verdict

    AAP MP moves SC seeking review of Rafale verdict

    Separate pleas were filed by Singh, lawyer M L Sharma, Vineet Dhanda and former BJP leaders Arun Shourie, Yashwant Sinha and activist-lawyer Prashant against the deal. File photo

    New Delhi, January 14

    Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) lawmaker Sanjay Singh moved the Supreme Court on Monday seeking review of the verdict by which several pleas challenging the deal for procurement of Rafale fighter jets were dismissed.

    A Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, on December 14, had dismissed as many as four petitions challenging the deal and had said that there was no occasion to “really doubt the decision making process” warranting setting aside of the contract.

    Separate pleas were filed by Singh, lawyer M L Sharma, Vineet Dhanda and former BJP leaders Arun Shourie, Yashwant Sinha and activist-lawyer Prashant against the deal.

    Singh, a Rajya Sabha lawmaker of the AAP, has filed the review plea through lawyers Dheeraj Kumar Singh and Mrinal Kumar. PTI