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    To save Dal, Army begins clean-up ops

    To save Dal, Army begins clean-up ops

    Soldiers remove lilies and weeds from the Dal Lake in Srinagar on Tuesday. Tribune Photo: Amin War

    Tribune News Service

    Srinagar, December 18

    In a desperate move to save an ailing lake in Srinagar, Army men have joined efforts to clean up the Dal Lake, which is at the heart of Kashmir’s tourism industry.

    An official of the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) said 100 soldiers were working for the past two days to clean up the lake, which is facing an existential crisis due to the outgrowth of lilies and weeds.

    The soldiers start the exercise of removing lily patches from the lake early morning when the temperatures are still sub-zero. The uprooted lilies are collected in boats and dumped on the banks.

    On social media, a Netizen described the Army’s intervention to clean up the lake as the “proof of the failure” of politicians, bureaucracy and the administration.

    The LAWDA official said the soldiers come with 20 boats to perform the operation clean-up. “The soldiers are not trained to this and they asked for 20 skilled labourers, who are now guiding them,” the official said.

    The lake, which receives perennial high-altitude glacial melt and run-off from a catchment spread over more than 350 sqkm, has a total area of 25.76 sqkm and is the focus of continued conservation efforts.

    The increased human interference over the decades and the slow and unscientific conservation efforts in the past have resulted in continuous degradation of the lake with entry of sewage and high-nutrient load posing a major challenge to its eco-system.

    The water expanse of the lake covered by lilies is estimated to be 6 sqkm. The LAWDA launched a major clean-up drive of the lake in July and pressed into service nearly 1,000 skilled and unskilled labourers to uproot lilies and another 500 for deweeding. The official said 1.5 sqkm of lily patches have so far been uprooted in the past six months.

    Rs 759 crore spent, but little to show  

    • According to the state government, Rs 759 crore has been spent on the lake since 2002 even as little has been achieved to conserve it and prevent its decay
    • Once pristine and picturesque, Dal is at the heart of the tourism circuit of the Kashmir valley and serves as a base for thousands of tourists arriving in the region each year


    General, the slip is showing by Capt Amarinder Singh

    Can’t lose sight of caution when it comes to Pakistan and its army

    General, the slip is showing

    A LONG WAY: It is one thing to be hopeful, another to be realistic. We need to be both.

    Capt Amarinder Singh
    Chief Minister, Punjab

    IT is strange that two weeks after the ceremony of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor at Dera Baba Nanak, it dawns on five-time Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to insinuate that I am attempting to sabotage its opening. Had he read reports of my speech that day, or my letter to the Pakistan Foreign Minister, declining his PM’s invitation to their ceremony on November 28, it would have been crystal clear to him why I did so.

    At Dera Baba Nanak on November 26, I made it clear that it was part of every Sikh’s ardas each morning that we should be united with our gurdwaras which remained in Pakistan after 1947. I welcomed this initiative between the governments of India and Pakistan, and said Punjab would do everything to hasten its construction. We have since set up Dera Baba Nanak Development Authority and will start acquiring land once the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways gives us its requirement.

    To Mr Badal goes the credit for the 35,000 deaths in Punjab during the 80s-90s, and the destruction of our economy. Using gurdwaras for his politics, demolishing every vestige of constitutional propriety, creating massive unemployment, and putting himself before Punjab and our people has been his sole contribution — history is witness to it. 

    For me, to be CM at a time that this corridor has come about, to open access to pilgrims from India to visit one of our holiest shrines, is a singular honour. My grandfather Maharaja Bhupindra Singh rebuilt Kartarpur Sahib from 1920 to 1929, after floods in the Ravi destroyed it. My father Maharaja Yadvindra Singh, in 1932, did sewa at Punja Sahib. In 2004, the then CM of Pakistan Punjab, Parvez Elahi, and I laid the foundation stone for a road linking Nankana Sahib to Wagah, for easy access to pilgrims from India.

    However, I cannot forget that it is my duty as head of Punjab Government to secure my State against any agency or individuals who attempt, yet again, to create disturbed conditions. Punjab has been through terrible times from the 70s through the 90s. It was our security forces and the people who finally ensured an end to the prevailing madness. Having lived through that period, I was determined that I would never allow such a situation to again engulf my State. I therefore decided not to visit Pakistan, regardless of my personal loss in not visiting Kartarpur Sahib, till that country stopped its nefarious activity in my State and country.

    Do we see light on the horizon? I think not. If the Pakistan government and its army want better relations with India, why not start by stopping cross-border fire, killing or wounding Indian soldiers every day? Why not rein in the ISI, which continues to weaponise and train terror outfits in Kashmir? Why attempt to start terror activities again in Punjab? Referendum 2020 is ISI’s new game. The frontman is a decrepit US-based lawyer called Pannu, who professes a peaceful referendum for Khalistan, which finds contradiction in a recently neutralised terror module’s confession to owing allegiance to this organisation.

    The question arises: why did Pakistan army agree to the corridor now, after rejecting consistent attempts made over the years? For any student of ISI functioning, the reason is obvious: create a universal euphoria among the Sikh community and gain as much sympathy by any disgruntled youth or citizen, and thus widen its terror base with the objective of gaining support for the referendum.

    Do not for once believe that the Pakistan army has any love lost for India. The army calls the shots in all spheres of government. Behind the figurehead civilian rule is the gun, and the gun today in Pakistan has a warped strategy. Its army today is engaged, in the north and west, in a war with the tribals, in what used to be the NWFP; in the south the Balochis keep it engaged; in the northeast it is Kashmir; and to the east it wishes to engage Punjab. Arrogance in the extreme — a four-front war!

    In Pakistan, the army is the largest corporate body built from the post-war reconstruction fund, running virtually everything. The corps commanders, PSOs and the COAS, who call the shots, are more interested in furthering their monetary interests as retirement approaches. The COAS gets a million dollars as bonus on retirement, apart from land and housing on his way up the ladder. And all this while the core of the country is on the verge of collapse.

    In our Punjab, each village is linked by a hard-top road, is electrified and has drinking water. Each village is connected by buses, and now each village is being provided piped gas, and CNG stations for gas-operated vehicles. Pakistan has none of the above. Karachi has become a slum, gas pipes were recently removed as gas could not be provided, and Lahore is close behind. The country be damned, the generals must survive, therefore divert public opinion away from these miseries. What better way than to rope in Punjab as well!

    General Bajwa should understand that the Punjab he sees in India today is not the Punjab of the 70s. The Pannus of the so-called pacifist movement, or ‘Happy PhD’ advisers to terror outfits are of no consequence. Do not underestimate the Punjab of today. When trouble started in 1978, our police force was a fledgling one with a strength of 20,000, employed mostly in routine policing duties. Today, we have a 81,000-strong, highly professional and motivated force, prepared for any eventuality. In addition, we are backed by our paramilitary and defence services.

    My suggestion to you, General, is that you should consider a hand in friendship, which would pay greater dividends, rather than continue with the current belligerence your ISI is executing. We have, since my government took charge in 2017, neutralised 20 ISI modules, arrested 95 operatives and seized caches of arms and explosives.

    Sacrilege at India Gate must stopby Lt-Gen SR Ghosh (Retd)

    Lt-Gen SR Ghosh (Retd)

    An aura of sombreness and serenity generally prevails around war memorials the world over. There is an unwritten code of conduct for the visitors. It is sacrilegious to talk loudly, shout and laugh or have picnics at these monuments. But not so at India Gate. We need to have a code of conduct.

    Sacrilege at India Gate must stop

    INDIA GATE: In honour of soldiers who gave their today for the nation’s tomorrow.

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

    RECENTLY, I visited India Gate in New Delhi to show the “Amar Jawan Jyoti” to an American visitor on his first trip to our country. India Gate, an architectural masterpiece, was constructed in honour of our gallant soldiers who had laid down their lives during World War I and the Third Anglo-Afghan War. The names of 13,218 of these soldiers are inscribed on India Gate. Designed by Edwin Lutyens, the 42-metre tall memorial was inaugurated on February 12, 1931 by the then Viceroy of India, Lord Irwin, who said in his inaugural speech, “The stirring tales of individual heroism, will live forever in the annals of this country. This tribute to the memory of heroes, known and unknown, will inspire future generations to endure hardships with similar fortitude and no less valour”.

    Four decades later, and after many more deaths of Indian soldiers, the Amar Jawan Jyoti was created under India Gate to commemorate the memory of those who had lost their lives during the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war. Since then, the Eternal Flame and the reversed rifle with a helmet on top, stand in mute remembrance of the immortal souls of all Indian soldiers who “gave their today for the nation’s tomorrow”.

    Almost every country that has lost soldiers in a military campaign has created war memorials, many of them constructed and maintained through private funding by residents of that area and who look after these with care and pride. In the UK, France, Canada and Australia, war memorials have been constructed in hundreds of villages and towns by residents in honour of their fallen. In Russia, newly married couples traditionally pay homage at a war memorial immediately after their wedding in remembrance of the great sacrifices made by the soldiers of the Soviet Union in previous wars. 

    Washington DC memorials

    The US has some of the finest war memorials in Washington DC which are visited by almost five million people every year. 

    • The famous Vietnam Memorial is a place of sorrow and memories, where the names of over 58,000 dead are etched on the highly polished, black granite Wall.
    • The Korean War Memorial comprising 19 statues of US soldiers on a patrol represents more than 36,000 American military personnel killed in that war.
    • The  World War II Memorial, constructed in 2004, honours the spirit and sacrifice of the over 4,00,000 dead.

    Just across the Potomac river lies the National Arlington Cemetery, cradling over 4,00,000 graves, including that of President John Kennedy, and the Tomb of the Unknown.

    War memorials are silent symbols of heroism, sacrifice and patriotism and are looked upon with utmost reverence across the world. When a soldier stands in homage at a memorial, a sea of silent emotions flows through his body and mind, as he remembers battles fought and fallen comrades. Citizens come here to remember and honour the sacrifices made by the soldiers, or to grieve for a father, a brother, a husband or a son who has laid down his life for the country.

    These memorials are also historical touchstones which link generations of families and remind them of their forefathers who fought and died for their country.

    Interestingly, each year, more than 300 “Honour Flights” are organised by non-profit American organisations to bring World War II, Korean and Vietnam War veterans, many of them on wheelchairs, to these Washington DC memorials, at no cost to the retired soldiers.

    An aura of sombreness and serenity, therefore, generally prevails around these monuments. There is an unwritten code of conduct for the visitors. It is sacrilege to even talk loudly, let alone shout and laugh or have picnics at these monuments.

    Shocking scene at India Gate

    I had not visited India Gate for many years and it was with these sombre thoughts that I stepped on to Rajpath and walked up to the Eternal Flame. But what greeted me was something that shook my sensibilities. While the enclosed segment of the Amar Jawan Jyoti was immaculate, the entire area around it was a huge “tamasha”, with hordes of men, women and children shouting, laughing and making merry. Children were having rides on mini cars behind the memorial, while vendors and hawkers sold ice creams, bhelpuri and other eatables. Dirty paper plates, water bottles and plastic packets littered the area and the stench of food and waste hung around like a shroud. Stray dogs roamed around or basked in the afternoon sun. It was shocking that this national monument of sacrifice, valour and patriotism had been reduced to such levels…..a sacrilege to the memory of the fallen soldier.

    Who was responsible for this? Was it the fault of the government agency tasked for the upkeep and sanctity of the area, or was it the general apathy of the citizens?

    Take steps to restore dignity

    It is imperative that we take steps to restore the dignity of the immortal soldier and the sanctity of the memorial.

    • At the outset, there must be strict enforcement of the rules or code of conduct in and around the memorial.
    • This could be done through education, monitoring, levying of fines and infrastructural changes.
    • We need to make the circular road around India Gate into a no-horn/no-parking zone.
    • Hawkers, vendors and all other commercial activities must be banned in the road and no food items allowed to be carried by visitors.
    • Strict enforcement should be put in place against littering, defacing or urinating.
    • Visitors must also be educated by official guards and through notice boards to maintain silence and decorum within the memorial area.
    • And finally, we need a dedicated organisation to manage and take care of the National War Memorial area. Nobody can do this better than the military itself as can be seen in the manner that they maintain the upkeep and sanctity of war memorials within cantonments.

    It would, therefore, be in the fitness of things to hand over the responsibility of the National War Memorial to the Territorial Infantry Battalion located just across India Gate. This unit, with a little reorientation, training and reorganisation will be ideal for this vital job.

    As we wait for the Prime Minister to inaugurate the National War Memorial in the coming months, let us start now and put in place some urgently needed rules, regulations and codes of conduct so that the spirit and dignity of the soldiers who have laid down their lives in the defence of our nation is honoured for all times to come.


    463 tonne airlifted in 6 hrs, IAF sets record

    463 tonne airlifted in 6 hrs, IAF sets record

    A C-17 Globemaster from Chandigarh arrives at Leh with cargo.

    Vijay Mohan
    Tribune News Service
    Chandigarh, December 18

    In a dramatic display of its airlift capabilities, the Air Force today ferried a record 463-tonne load from its airbase at Chandigarh to airfields and drop zones in the Ladakh region in a single wave in a few hours.

    The aim of the exercise undertaken by the Western Air Command was to evaluate the IAF’s rapid airlift capability and to enhance crew training and competency in this role. In routine operations, the IAF averages about eight tonne a day.

    The effort was accomplished through a fleet of 16 fixed-wing transport aircraft comprising the C-17 Globemaster and IL-76 Gajraj heavy-lift freighters as well as the AN-32 medium-lift tactical aircraft.

    The entire wave was accomplished in less than six hours. All aircraft were assembled, loaded and launched from Chandigarh airbase in the morning. The maximum payload capacity of the C-17 and IL-76 is 70 tonne and 45 tonne, respectively, while the AN-32 can carry up to six tonne. While the C-17 is an American aircraft, the other two are Russian.

    While the heavy aircraft landed at Leh and some among them were “turned around” in a short time to enable more aircraft to come in, drops were carried out in forward areas by the AN-32.

    Airlifting of around 500 tonne within the designated timeframe in a single wave happens to be a record that enhances the commands’ capability towards rapid and heavy airlift.

    The command is responsible for air maintenance of the entire northern region of the country and under normal operating circumstances airlifts close to 3,000-tonne load, which includes rations and fresh food, fuel and lubricants, ammunition and ordnance stores and equipment, per month.

    “Rapid air mobility is a key component of modern warfare. This assumes greater significance in short and intense wars,” Air Marshal NJS Dhillon, Senior Air Staff Officer, Western Air Command, said.

    “This is very true in India’s context, especially when related to air mobility to airfields in the Ladakh region. With a wide spectrum of military transport aircraft in its inventory the IAF today has a credible airlift capability that has provided succour on numerous occasions when the nation was struck with natural calamities,” he added.

    In recent times, the IAF has been focusing on enhancing its logistic support capability in forward areas. Besides activating several advance landing grounds (unpaved strips) in the northern and north-eastern sectors for operations with aircraft such as the C-130 Hercules, it has also conducted exercises involving para-dropping troops in Ladakh.

    The newly acquired C-17 aircraft have also been test-landed at some forward airstrips such as Tuting in Arunachal Pradesh.


    Army changes promotion norms for Major General

    Army changes promotion norms for Major General

    Ajay Banerjee

    Tribune News Service

    New Delhi, December 17

    The Army has just ended the “edge” enjoyed by alumni of the prestigious National Defence College (NDC) in securing promotions to the rank of Major General.

    Till now, Brigadiers, who got selected for the NDC, were getting promoted as Maj Gen. Getting selected for the NDC meant an assured promotion to the rank of Maj Gen, making the NDC a sort of “holy grail”.

    The NDC is located in New Delhi and it runs a year-long course for Army, IAF, Navy, IPS and IAS officers.

    In the latest promotions announced over the weekend, four NDC passout Brigadiers have been overlooked and not promoted as Maj Gen. Two others have been given “staff” duties and not “command” duties.

    In all, 36 officers, including six on “staff”, were promoted. Of these, 11 are those who did not go to the NDC.

    Sources say it shows the NDC is no guarantee for promotion. Some officers have missed out on these courses as marks that differentiate one from the other are in decimal, making it more of a case of ill-luck to miss out.

    The change in thinking keeps the race open. There are only 340 posts of Maj Gen and around 1,100 that of Brigadier. It means that officers passing out from NDC have to start again on a level-playing field and do not get the “edge” by just qualifying for the course.

    Some months ago, Army Chief Bipin Rawat had issued a 23-point directive to the Military Secretary’s (MS) branch. One of the points made by the Army Chief being that even if good officers do not get selected to courses like the NDC, there should be no hindrance to further selection.

    Capt hails Sajjan’s conviction in ’84 riots, says justice finally delivered

    Rajmeet Singh
    Tribune News Service
    Chandigarh, December 17

    Capt hails Sajjan’s conviction in '84 riots, says justice finally delivered

    Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Monday welcomed the conviction of Sajjan Kumar in the 1984 riots, terming it a case of justice finally delivered to the victims of one of the worst instances of communal violence in independent India.

    The reversal, by the High Court, of the earlier acquittal of Sajjan by a trial court had once again proved that the judiciary in India continued to stand tall as a pillar of the nation’s democratic system, said the Chief Minister.

    Reacting to the Delhi High Court judgement awarding life term to the former Congress MP, Captain Amarinder said the conviction vindicated the stand he had been taking since those dark days of the violence perpetrated on thousands of innocent Sikhs in the wake of the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi.

    He had been naming Sajjan Kumar, along with a few other former Congress leaders, including Dharam Das Shastri, HKL Bhagat and Arjun Das, for the past 34 years, based on the information he had personally received from victims in refugee camps in Delhi during the riots, said Captain Amarinder, hailing the long-awaited verdict.

    Incidentally, Sajjan Kumar was the only surviving former Congress leaders implicated in the riots, as the others had since passed away.

    The name of Sajjan Kumar had repeatedly cropped up in his interactions with the victims in the refugee camps, said Captain Amarinder, who had last month also welcomed the first death sentence awarded in the 1984 riots case.

    Captain Amarinder had, through the years, been calling for the strictest of punishment for the handful of individual Congress leaders who had been involved in instigating the riots. These leaders, who included Sajjan Kumar, did not have any official party sanction and deserved to be punished for their horrendous crime, the Chief Minister had maintained all along.

    The Chief Minister, however, reiterated his stand that neither the Congress nor the Gandhi family had any role to play in the rioting and lashed out at the Badals for continuing to drag their names into the case at the behest of their political masters – the Bharatiya Janata Party, who were clearly shaken by the clear mandate given by the people to Rahul Gandhi’s leadership in the recent Assembly elections in three states, said Captain Amarinder.

    There was no Congress conspiracy behind the violence and the names of the Gandhis did not come up even once during his visits to the refugee camps, said the Chief Minister, adding that it was vested political interests that had been trying to draw the Gandhi family into the controver.

    Major put on trial for killing officer’s wife

    Major put on trial for killing officer’s wife

    Major Nikhil Handa. — File photo

    New Delhi, December 17

    A Delhi court today put an Army Major on trial for allegedly killing another officer’s wife he was obsessed with and destroying evidence in the case.

    Special Judge Rakesh Syal framed the charges against Major Nikhil Handa under Sections 302 (murder) and 201 (destruction of evidence) after the accused pleaded not guilty and claimed trial.

    The court has fixed the matter for January 19, when it will start recording the prosecution evidence.

    In the chargesheet, the police had alleged it was a planned murder. It had claimed that a night before the incident, the accused had watched Youtube videos on how to kill someone, which indicates his intention to murder the woman. They claimed the accused was “obsessed” with his fellow officer’s wife and wanted to marry her.

    Major Handa knew the women and her husband, also a Major, since 2015 when both of them were posted in Nagaland. If convicted for murder, he may get a maximum of death penalty. — PTI

    IAF creates history, flies plane on bio-fuel blend

    IAF creates history, flies plane on bio-fuel blend

    New Delhi, December 17

    The Indian Air Force created history today as it flew an AN-32 using a bio-fuel blended with normal aviation turbine fuel (ATF). The transport plane, which routinely drops supplies, men and equipment to Leh, Siachen-base camp, Kargil and Srinagar, took a 45-minute sortie from Chandigarh using green fuel.

    The plane was flown by experimental test pilots and a test engineer from IAF’s aircraft and systems testing establishment (ASTE).

    The project is a combined effort of the IAF, DRDO, Directorate General Aeronautical Quality Assurance (DGAQA) and Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research CSIR-Indian Institute of Petroleum.

    This opens the possibility of having a continued use of bio-fuel in military aircraft. The IAF may decide to test other aircraft like helicopter and fighter jets, significantly reducing the oil import bill and also encouraging framers in arid area to grow more plants that yield tree-based oil.

    The IAF Chief, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, had in July announced their intention to promote bio-fuels.

    Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (retd), Additional Director General of the Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS) — a think-tank — said: “It is the first step. It can help reduce crude imports. However, many more steps are needed to have an efficient logistics trail.” — TNS

    VVIP chopper case: Dubai-based accused moves court for anticipatory bail

    VVIP chopper case: Dubai-based accused moves court for anticipatory bail

    File photo of an AugustaWestland chopper.
    New Delhi, December 17

    A Dubai-based businessman and accused in a money-laundering case connected with the Rs 3,600-crore VVIP chopper deal moved a Delhi court on Monday seeking anticipatory bail.

    Rajeev Saxena, a director of two Dubai-based firms — UHY Saxena and Matrix Holdings — filed application through his advocate before Special Judge Arvind Kumar, saying he was anticipating arrest.

    The court sought response from the ED by December 24, when it will next year the matter.

    The court has already issued non-bailable warrant (NBW) against Saxena in the case. PTI

    Lt Gen Ranbir asks troops to ensure safety of people

    Lt Gen Ranbir asks troops to ensure safety of people

    Northern Army chief Lt Gen Ranbir Singh interacts with soldiers.

    Tribune News Service

    Srinagar, December 17

    Days after civilian killings in south Kashmir’s Pulwama, the Army on Monday asked the troops to maintain a safe, secure and peaceful environment for the people of Kashmir.

    The directions were issued by Northern Command chief Lt Gen Ranbir Singh during his interaction with field commanders in Kashmir.

    “Lauding the excellent synergy among all security forces, he asked all ranks to maintain a safe, secure and peaceful environment for the ‘awaam’ of Kashmir,” said an Army spokesman quoting the Northern Command chief.

    Earlier, General Ranbir arrived here to review security. He was briefed by Chinar Corps GOC Lt Gen AK Bhatt at Badami Bagh cantonment on the overall situation and major operational, informational, logistic and administrative aspects pertaining to the Corps.

    They also visited the forward areas in the frontier districts of Kupwara and Baramulla, where the Northern Command chief was briefed by the commanders on ground on operational preparedness.

    “During his interaction with the troops, General Ranbir lauded their professionalism, sharp vigil along the Line of Control and high morale and exhorted them to remain alert for any eventuality,” said the spokesman.

    Later in the day, the Northern Command chief visited hinterland formations in south Kashmir and was briefed about the current situation and recent counter-terrorist operations. General Ranbir complimented the troops for eliminating the terrorist leadership from south Kashmir and dedication to duty.

    Tehreek-e-Hurriyat leader held in Kishtwar

    Doda: After a crackdown on terror activities, the police arrested an overground worker (OGW) in Kishtwar on Monday. Noor Mohammed, alias Fayaz Malik, of the Fiqsoo area in Doda was wanted in a militancy case in Kishtwar. He is a self-styled leader of the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, Doda. Kishtwar SSP Rajinder Kumar Gupta said, “The OGW was active in the process of radicalising youth to join militancy. He had close links with Qamar-ul-Zaan, a terrorist recently arrested in UP, and local militant Usama-bin-Javed.” OC