Sanjha Morcha

Blacklisting defence firms Beef up ability to investigate corrupt deals

Reports indicate that the government is embarking on a new blacklisting policy for defence companies that have allegedly crossed the Lakshman Rekha of ethical propriety. The Manohar Parrikar-headed Defence Acquisition Council is tipped to approve this policy for penalising firms suspected of bribing to win defence orders. Under the existing policy, an entire military-industrial complex is blackballed if one of its many companies or employees is suspected of unlawful activity. Under the new policy, the axe will fall only on the subsidiary company or the employee directly involved in bribery and not on the entire group. This is common sense.The need for a realistic and level-headed policy has long been recognised by sober and experienced administrators. The time has come to undo the damage when AK Antony headed the Defence Ministry and institutionalised a populist streak. Indiscriminate blacklisting helped “Saint” Antony to hold on to his pristine image. But his trigger-happy approach left everyone displeased. India’s defence acquisition schedule went haywire and probe agencies dragged on with the cases. The new system of blacklisting proposes a product-specific ban instead of Antony’s blanket bans. In other words, if a company making bullets is banned, its sister company that manufactures rifles won’t be blacklisted just because it belongs to the same group.The proposed policy is eminently realisable. But it will remain prone to misuse because the investigating agencies seem to lack the competence to probe cases with cross-border ramifications. It is also no secret that military-industrial complexes are highly resourceful and influential. They may be encouraged to take the risk of bribing decision-makers. If caught, only one company will be barred while the rest of the group firms can carry on with business. And even if a company is blacklisted, the probe will lead to nowhere. Changes in blacklisting norms may at best let some favourites off the hook. Investigating agencies need to be invested with the capability and confidence to go after the corrupt. No policy on blacklisting can be successful unless the fear of the law is instilled in the shady and the crooked.

Heavy border shelling a day after BSF strike

An elderly woman shows parts of mortar shells fired from the Pakistan side in Korotana Khurd village of RS Pura sector, about 27 km from Jammu, on Saturday. PTI

Amir Karim Tantray

Tribune News Service

Jammu, October 22

Hours after the Border Security Force said it had killed seven Pakistani Rangers and a terrorist yesterday, Pakistani forces resorted to unprovoked firing and shelling on the International Border (IB) during the night in which six cattle were killed in Suchetgarh sector.

The ceasefire violation, witnessed all along the 198-km-long IB of the Jammu frontier, continued till 2 am.

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Heavy shelling was witnessed in Korotana and Bidhipur villages of Suchetgarh sector and around Abdullah and octroi border outposts (BOPs) where the administration advised people to stay indoors. The BSF said it gave a befitting response to the unprovoked fire from the Pakistan side. Pakistan forces used 60 and 82 mm mortars.

With escalation in tension on the IB, the Jammu district administration ordered the closure of 55 to 80 schools in the border areas.

“People have been advised to stay indoors during the day as there is a likelihood of shelling during day time also. SDMs have been told to close schools in vulnerable areas,” Simrandeep Singh, Deputy Commissioner, Jammu, said.

Ever since the Army conducted surgical strikes across the Line of Control on September 28, it has been witnessing heavy shelling and firing at regular intervals. The International Border had remained peaceful, till an infiltration bid was foiled by the BSF at Bobiyan border outpost in the Hiranagar sector on Thursday. This was followed by ceasefire violation by Pakistani forces, and strong retaliation by the BSF.

Jawan succumbs to injuries

  • BSF soldier Gurnam Singh (26), who was battling for life after being grievously wounded in a sniper attack by Pakistani troops on Friday, succumbed to his injuries at Government Medical College and Hospital, Jammu, on Saturday night.

Heavy firing by Pak in Poonch, Rajouri

Our Correspondents

Poonch/Rajouri, October 19

After a lull of over 72 hours, Pakistani soldiers again violated ceasefire on the Line of Control in the BG sector of Poonch today by resorting to heavy firing.The Pakistani army also resorted to indiscriminate and unprovoked small and automatic weapons firing and heavy mortar shelling in the Tarkundi area of Rajouri.Indian soldiers retaliated to the firing, which was going on in both the sectors when reports last came in.“The Pakistani army resorted to unprovoked firing at Indian forward posts in the BG sector from 4:30 pm using small arms, automatic weapons and 82-mm mortars,” said Lt Col Manish Mehta, defence spokesman.“Our soldiers are responding appropriately and no casualty or damage to our men was reported till reports last came in. The firing was still going on,” he added.“Tension gripped residents of Naka, Panjgrain and Tarkundi Gali villages. They locked themselves inside their houses apprehending mortar shelling,” said Haji Zakar, naib sarpanch.He said more than 10 mortar shells fell in Naka hamlet, but no loss t

PoW’s wife observing ‘Karva Chauth’ since 1971

PoW’s wife observing ‘Karva Chauth’ since 1971
Angrej Kaur shows her picture with her husband Surjit Singh days after their marriage, in Faridkot on Wednesday. tribune photo

Balwant Garg

Tribune News Service

Faridkot, October 19

For the last 45 years, Angrej Kaur is observing “Karva Chauth” even as she has not seen her husband Surjit Singh who went missing during the Indo-Pak war in 1971.Angrez Kaur believes that one day her husband will return home. Surjit Singh was a BSF sepoy who is lodged in a Pakistan jail as a prisoner of war (PoW) since 1971.For all these years, Angrej Kaur and her son Amrik Singh continue to waffle between hope and despair. They pray for better relations between India and Pakistan, hoping that it would help in the release of Surjit Singh.The bitter relations between the two nations, especially after the surgical strikes by the Indian Army across the LoC, have again left the family crestfallen.They met Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj a few days ago. “Sushma Swaraj has assured us all help in tracing my father. But all we have got after meeting the authorities is assurances that never bore any fruit in the last 45 years,” rues Amrik Singh.“My son was barely one year old when my husband was captured by the Pakistan rangers during the 1971 war,” said Angrej Kaur, adding that they had also sought former Pakistan minister Ansar Burney’s help in tracing Surjit Singh and his repatriation.

IAF expedition to Pangerchula

Dehradun, October 17

Air Commodore Nitin Sathe, Air Officer Commanding, No.1 Air Force Selection Board, Town, flagged off a trekking expedition to Pangerchula here today. The No.1 Air Force Selection Board has organised the trekking expedition from Auli to Pangerchula.Eight Air Warriors from the 1 AFSB are participating in the expedition, which is led by Wing Commander KHB Singh. The entire expedition is spread over six days, covering various places such as Tali, Khulara, Tapovan and Pangerchula which is situated at 4,500 mtrs. The trip, besides keeping the adventure spirit alive, also aims to reach out to remote places spreading awareness about the IAF.—TNS

Kashmir issue ‘main cause of unrest’ in region: Sharif

Kashmir issue ‘main cause of unrest’ in region: Sharif

Islamabad, October 15

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday said Pakistan is ready for talks with India if New Delhi was serious to resolve the Kashmir issue which, he said, is the “main cause of unrest” in the region.Pakistan had offered talks on outstanding issues several times but India did not reciprocate, he told reporters in Baku, Azerbaijan, where he wrapped up a three-day visit.“Kashmir was main cause of unrest in the region and India must show seriousness for resolution of the issue and honour its commitment under United Nations Security Council Resolutions,” Sharif was quoted as saying by Associated Press of Pakistan.

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Pakistan is committed to peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue, he said.Sharif dismissed India’s allegations that Pakistan was behind the attack on an Indian army base camp in Uri, saying India levelled allegations against Pakistan within six hours of the incident.He said no infiltration took place across the Line of Control (LoC).Sharif’s statement comes amid strains in the relations between Pakistan and India in the wake of the Uri terror attack in which 19 Indian soldiers were killed last month. PTI

Like Army, Parrikar speaks by actions: PM

Like Army, Parrikar speaks by actions: PM
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the Ex-Servicemen Convention at Lal Parade Ground in Bhopal on Friday. PTI

Bhopal, October 14

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said the Army would never “forgive” the country if it is found “sleeping” when it should be awake, in comments that come against the backdrop of the recent surgical strikes.He asserted that the Army does not believe in speaking but in displaying its valour. “Our Army does not speak but displays its valour. When I would say this earlier, they (critics) would tear my hair out. They would say Modi is sleeping and doing nothing. Like our Army, which does not speak but displays its valour, our Defence Minister also does not speak…” he said with a pause as the audience broke into applause with some raising patriotic slogans.“Our Army is happiest when we sleep in peace. They have no complaint. But they will never forgive us if we sleep when we should be awake. Unfortunately, we have been found sleeping when we should have been awake. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. We have to keep alert always. It will be injustice to the army if we sleep away when we have to be awake,” he said without elaborating.Addressing ex-servicemen and their families at the inauguration of ‘Shaurya Smarak’ (memorial to valour) here, he devoted his speech hailing the role of armed forces and their spirit of sacrifice in adverse situation.Modi said the ancestors in hundreds of years of India’s history never waged a war to capture a country. “But if it comes to fighting for values and ideals, India is never found wanting,” he said.Lauding the valour and humaneness of armed forces, he referred to their relief and rescue operations in Srinagar during the floods two years ago despite the violence they face from the stone-pelting mobs. — PTI

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A war can stall the economy

Conflicts are expensive and exhausting. So it is essential that the people stay away from hysteria and let the government do its job

R emember ‘Little Boy’ and ‘Fat Man’? These are not comic book characters but names of nuclear bombs that scripted the largest devastation in human history in 1945. Around 1,25,000 people were killed and lakhs injured because of the bombings. Wounds from the attack still fester in the minds and hearts of the Japanese. Why am I reminding you of this heart-rending story? The reason is obvious. Attempts are on to stoke the fires of a war between India and Pakistan. Those trying this forget that wars have always proved to be tragic for humanity. India fought its first war with China in 1962. According to economist Jean Dreze, the Indian economy was limping at 2% in the aftermath of the Indo-China war. India hadn’t even managed to put salve on these wounds that Pakistan foisted a war on us in 1965. The result: India’s growth rate turned negative to the tune of 3.7%.

HTSoldiers standing guard during a night patrol near the fence at the India­Pakistan International Border, Akhnoor, October 2

Coming to Kargil, Operation Vijay was executed after spending billions of rupees, but the cycle of expenses did not stop. After the terrorist attack on Parliament, the Vajpayee government kept 7,00,000 soldiers deployed on the borders for nine months. Pakistan did likewise. According to a study by The Strategic Foresight Group, India spent ~40 billion under this head between December 2001 and January 2002. In the same time period, Pakistan squandered ~42 billion on this build-up.

In those days, I was the editor of a national news channel. To understand the ground reality, I spent one evening at the border next to Jammu. At that time, both sides used to indulge in meaningless firing every night that raised the tensions of the soldiers. Cannoneers from both sides didn’t know why they were doing it. Those giving them directions were unable to make them understand why they asking them to do it. This blind and futile tussle taught me how exhausting and expensive waiting for a war is. The consequences were soon evident to everybody.

India extracted a 5% defence surcharge from tax-payers for the next two years. On the other side of the border, Pakistan levied a ‘war-risk surcharge’ from those using its ports and insurance companies on a large scale. The economy of both the countries began limping and they had to make haphazard increases in their defence budgets. Pakistan spent 24% of its GDP on mobilising defence resources, even as India allocated 15% of the GDP on the same. Despite this, loudmouthed defence analysts kept calling this inadequate. One doesn’t know why their eyes did not reach beleaguered schools, hospitals and the people. Those singing the war tune for no rhyme or reason ignore the fact that both the nations don’t need the hatred of war, but the light of economic aid.

Now let us look at another aspect related to this. In the aftermath of India’s surgical strike in response to the Uri attack, a strange but vicious phenomenon reared its head. Questions were raised over the military action and attempts were made to drag it into the political quagmire. The immaturity displayed by the politicians of the world’s largest democracy was shocking. Some media houses decided to add fuel to this fire. When Pakistan’s prime minister and commander-in-chief were in war-mode, our political veterans, from different political parties were indulging in a game of mud-slinging. The Mahabharat of words that was fought after the surgical strikes is not a good sign for democracy.

Our warriors of the word forget that the hurt sentiments of soldiers can sometimes force them to take the wrong steps. Here’s one account of such an incident. After Operation Blue Star, rumours were spread in the Ramgarh cantonment that hurt the sentiments of a big segment of Sikh soldiers. They murdered their commander, Brigadier General RS Puri. Civilian trucks and buses were hijacked and the soldiers headed towards Delhi, which was at a distance of 850 km from their cantonment. After two or three days, when the units of the army intercepted them on the banks of the Ganga in Allahabad, they surrendered without any resistance. Why did this happen?

Sitting on their knees in a field near Shastri Bridge, the rebels were scorched by a forest-fire of guilt, it appeared. Their heads were bent. That ordeal was tougher than a death sentence for them. Indian soldiers are fearless, not rebellious. The realisation of their mistake was gnawing at them from the inside. Whenever I remember that moment, I feel like praying. ‘God don’t make me see another moment like that.’ Those dark days were a blot on the sanctity of the Army and on democracy. Still, what can one do? Human nature is adept at forgetting old follies and marching towards the next hysteria. That is why some people sing the war tune and the common man bears its brunt.

For this not to happen this time, it is essential that the people stay away from hysteria and let the government do its job. Our Army has hit terrorists nurtured in Pakistan in their own territory. They’ll do it again if required.

Let me say something to those indulging in useless debt-hinactions. ‘Fat Man’ and ‘Little Boy’ were less lethal than the nuclear weapons of today. God forbid, if another nuclear war were to happen, I wonder how many people will survive to talk about it?