Sanjha Morcha

Avalanche deaths & the Kargil syndrome Lt Gen (retd) Syed Ata Hasnain

The spate of casualties due to avalanches in Jammu and Kashmir raise the question of whether vacation of high-risk areas can minimise deaths or not. Perhaps the impact of the Kargil war has is responsible for the extra-cautious approach adopted for security measures in high-altitude areas.

Avalanche deaths & the Kargil syndrome
Countering NATURE’S FURY: This photograph released by the Army on January 27 shows a rescue operation underway to find soldiers trapped at the site of a snow avalanche in Gurez sector, 130 km north of Srinagar. AFP

WHAT do avalanches have to do with Kargil and the lessons from 1999? This needs explanation. On social media recently there have been comments on the spate of avalanche casualties of the Army in Gurez valley and Sonamarg areas of Kashmir. People wished to know why the Army was reluctant to vacate areas which were vulnerable to avalanches in the high-altitude terrain. If not permanently, then at least for the winter when dangers from avalanches exist; the same could be re-occupied later as the weather improves. Responses were quick, bringing out the essential facts about the LoC and the necessity for maintaining its sanctity through physical presence. The “Kargil syndrome” isn’t a term used in social media but responses alluded mostly to that broad understanding. It goes back to the days when the Army suffered a “walk- in” by Pakistani troops, into winter-vacated areas of Kargil, Dras and Batalik sectors in the winter of 1998-99.  The Army suffered a heavy toll of casualties in recovering these through conventional assaults at obnoxious heights in the next summer. On hindsight, the Army is obviously playing it extremely safe. It has minimised winter vacation and left little to chance. Obviously, lesser the vacation in winter greater will be the casualties. How does this policy work and is their scope for more pragmatism through execution of winter vacation as part of winter redeployment? These are inevitable questions Indian citizens will ask as they get better informed on matters strategic. More technology is available for drone, helicopter, unattended sensor and satellite-based surveillance which many consider as alternatives. In 2011-12, the Army suffered horrific casualties when a field workshop company was wiped out by an unexpected avalanche of such intensity that it threw lorries 300 metres away in its wake. Eighteen good soldier-technicians of the electrical and mechanical engineers died in the tragedy which occurred at night. The next day, the Army’s transit camp was hit similarly, at Sonamarg with more casualties; the snow flood jumping right through a river and crossing to the plateau on the other side, something unimaginable. Both areas have been hit again this year, although not the exact spots. What the layman has to understand is that avalanches rarely strike at the same place twice and the predictability factor is rather poor. The Sonam avalanche, which buried 10 brave jawans in February 2016, witnessed a rare ice fall.  Although the Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE), Manali has its detachments all over Jammu and Kashmir and does a marvellous job in issuing avalanche warnings, accurate predictions of time and place can be extremely difficult. SASE also does mapping of avalanche-threat areas, based upon data collected over years. Bulletins issued by it need to be read in detail to get an idea of potential avalanche areas. The problem is that a very large number of posts and picquets of the Army and other forces are deployed tactically keeping domination, defensibility, approaches and inter se distance between such posts. Vacating one may create an unviable gap or endanger the security of another. With this in mind, some posts are stocked and considered “winter cut off”. This denotes that except for the fact they occupy the real estate there are only limited tactical functions they can perform. The manpower deployed at these is without relief for as much as six months and no logistics resupply is done; men are specially selected for this arduous duty after spending leave and STD facilities are provided on priority. Occupation of a forward winter posture with maximum posts remaining occupied is done for two purposes. The first is to prevent a Kargil-like walk-in occupation by Pakistan in places where the snow level on their side is lower than ours. It ensures the sanctity of the LoC without any operational risk except that of avalanches or being heavily “snowed up”. The second purpose is to prevent infiltration into the Valley zone and the Poonch sector. Terrorists seek to take advantage of gaps created by winter vacation of some posts. Every year, frozen bodies of a few terrorists are invariably found although some may succeed in getting through. The Army delays such vacation till the last when it seems almost impossible to hold on any longer. There lies the dilemma of decision-making by senior commanders. In 2008, I requested permission for vacation of a post as the weather-prediction charts revealed heavy snow days approaching. I was advised to hold a little longer. The post had to remain deployed until abandoned in the face of an almost impossible situation. In the process of moving to another location a major avalanche struck, leading to deaths of 13 servicemen and civilian porters. I regret that situation till date. It was completely avoidable. Thereafter, the authority to withdraw was delegated to much lower commanders.Later, in the position of authority I made it known to my command that a few terrorists getting through could be accepted as we would soon neutralise them. However, lives of our own soldiers risked under climatic and terrain threats was not acceptable. Kargil has no doubt stymied our thinking to a great extent. It is not easy risking loss of posts or occupation of vacated areas by the adversary.  In places such as Gurez valley, the scope for redeployment of posts is extremely limited due to space constraints and the lay of the ground. Besides that, many of the posts are under direct adversary observation. Building avalanche-deflection walls is a limited measure that works wherever there is a history of regular avalanches.Can portions of Gurez be vacated? It all depends on the state of trust with our adversary, Pakistan. Under the circumstances, more can be spent on technology and surveillance. However, encroachment or occupation by the adversary cannot be prevented if the latter is determined to play dirty. All actions will need to be reactive should we choose to vacate for winter and the posts are occupied by Pakistan. Drone flights and helicopter-surveillance sorties are surveillance measures to give an early warning of infiltration or occupation of vacated areas. The intrusions may be detected but ultimately will have to be physically countered and evicted.We are not at that stage where we can trust our neighbour not to back stab us. There can be no carte-blanche policy on the vacation of posts. This has to be entirely situational.  The government could spend more on avalanche-rescue equipment, and build infrastructure to restrict avalanches. Perhaps a review of some posts which may have lost relevance could be authorised. Reluctance in this regard is very much likely while playing safe under the “Kargil syndrome”.  The time for mass vacation of avalanche-prone areas on the LoC and the deployment of technology for detection of intrusions is not yet upon us; perhaps someday it will be. Situational discretion remains the flavour and rightly so.  The writer, a former GOC of the Srinagar-based  15 Corps, has extensive experience in handling high-altitude operations.

14 soldiers die in J&K avalanches Gurez worst affected in snowstorm

14 soldiers die in J&K avalanches
Soldiers clear snow from their stranded vehicles near a base camp in Gulmarg on Friday. PTI

Azhar Qadri

Tribune News Service

Srinagar, January 27

Fourteen soldiers have died in twin avalanches that hit an Army post and a patrol party in the remote Gurez sector of north Kashmir as one of the worst snowstorms of recent years ended today in the region.The bodies of four soldiers were recovered from an avalanche site in Gurez, close to the Line of Control, today, taking the snow-related death toll in the Kashmir valley to 21.The snowstorm, which lasted from Tuesday to Thursday, triggered deadly avalanches in several parts of north, central and south Kashmir.(Follow The Tribune on Facebook; and Twitter @thetribunechd)The worst hit was Gurez sector, where an Army post and a patrol party of soldiers were swept away by avalanches and four members of a family were buried inside their house. Army officials yesterday said coordinated search operations enabled the rescue of six soldiers. Bodies of 10 soldiers were recovered last evening and of  four today morning, Army and police officials said.The Army identified the dead personnel as a Major, who died in an avalanche at Sonmarg on Wednesday, and a Naib Subedar, a Havildar, a Naik, 10 sepoys and a craftsman — all killed in Gurez avalanches.Besides, a total of 40 structures, including houses and shops, have been damaged by heavy snowfall in Srinagar, Budgam, Ganderbal, Kulgam, Baramulla and Kupwara districts of the Valley. In Gulmarg, 6 feet of fresh snow has blocked entrances to hotels and markets. The 300-km-long Srinagar-Jammu highway remained cut off due to landslides and avalanches along its mountainous stretches. An official of the traffic department said a massive avalanche hit the highway near Shaitani Nullah, burying the road under 15 to 20 feet of snow. “The region received one of the heaviest spells of snowfall, surpassing all records of the past decade,” said Sonam Lotus, Director, Srinagar Meteorological Centre.

Veterans vow to back Cong

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 22

Ex-servicemen associated with the United Front Indian Ex-servicemen Movement (Jantar Mantar) led by General Satbir Singh today said they had decided to support the Congress as they felt ditched by the NDA government in the implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission benefits extended to them.The organisation today held a rally near Jamsher village to announce support to Capt Amarinder, who too was present on the occasion. “Our anguish against the NDA government is much higher than the hope we got from the Congress in the state. Though ‘One rank, one pension’ is a union matter, we have decided to support the Congress in the forthcoming Assembly elections to express our anger against the BJP, which has reigned for over 10 years as coalition partner in the state,” said Brig JS Sandhu (retd).

Army chief says military must prepare for Cold Start

New Delhi  January 14, 2017 Last Updated at 01:23 IST

Army chief, General Bipin Rawat, who this month became the first senior official to publicly confirm the existence of India’s so-called Cold Start doctrine, explained on Friday why he acknowledged this controversial term publicly.

Cold Start is the Indian operational plan for rapidly mobilising infantry and armour to launch lightning strikes across the plains and deserts of Pakistan. The aim is to break into Pakistani before its defensive formations can prepare and occupy defensive positions along the border.

Indian policymakers and officials have always downplayed Cold Start, partly because it scared Pakistan’s army into relocated defensive formations close to the Indian border, and into developing highly destabilising “tactical nuclear weapons” (TNWs) — small-yield, nuclear bombs, delivered by short-range ballistic missiles like the Nasr (Hatf-IX) — to halt a Cold Start strike.
Previous Indian chiefs said there was no Cold Start plan. Instead, they pointed to a “proactive strategy”.
Rawat’s acknowledgment of Cold Start on January 6, in an interview to India Today, was a radical departure. It was sharply criticised by strategic analysts like Vipin Narang and Walter C Ladwig III, who claimed the “[Indian] army simply lacks the material and organisation to implement the more aggressive versions of Cold Start.” They argued that India has too few troops and tanks, it faces critical equipment shortages, and the army and air force do not coordinate air support. “This has put India in the worst possible strategic position: claiming a capability that it does not have, but which provides justification for Pakistan’s aggressive expansion of its conventional and nuclear forces”, Narang and Ladwig wrote in The Hindu.
Today, Rawat, at a press conference in New Delhi, initially downplayed his acknowledgment of Cold Start, arguing that offensive plans are a part of India’s overall defensive strategy, aimed at safeguarding the country’s territorial integrity.
“[We] know that the future wars will be short and intense and, when short and intense wars are the future forms of combat, you have to be prepared to move fast. Now this is something which you can term in whatever way you want”, said Rawat.
But Rawat also clarified that publicly acknowledging Cold Start was a signal to the army to be prepared for that eventuality. “The other reason for coming out with this was, to communicate to the rank and file and field commanders the kind of preparations they have to carry out for future combat. That is the messaging that was meant to that statement that I made,” said Rawat.
Asked by Business Standard about operational shortcomings that might prevent the success of Cold Start, Rawat stated: “Weaknesses have to be overcome. And these weaknesses can only be overcome if you accept the strategy (Cold Start). If you don’t accept the strategy, then you will let your weaknesses [limit you]. But when you enunciate a strategy you say: these are the weaknesses which I need to overcome to adopt success.”
It is ironic that Rawat, an infantry officer who the government chose because of his expertise in counter-insurgency, has made his first bold statement in the realm of warfighting and mechanised operations.
Cold Start was born of the failure of Operation Parakram in 2001-02, when the military moved into battle stations after Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists attacked Parliament on December 13, 2001. However, by the time the army’s three mechanised strike corps (which are stationed deep inside India in places like Mathura and Bhopal) were transported to the border and were ready to launch their tanks and infantry combat vehicles (ICVs), Pakistan’s defensive formations were deployed and ready to beat them back.
Thus was Cold Start conceived, a plan to attack Pakistan within 48 hours of any dire provocation traced back to Pakistan — like a particularly damaging terrorist attack, or the assassination of a top Indian leader. Instead of waiting for the mechanised strike corps to make their long journey to the border, the attack would be launched by 8-10 “integrated battle groups” (IBGs), cobbled together from the large number of tanks and reserve infantry in the defensive corps, already located along the border.
Benefiting from surprise, and with Pakistan’s armoured reserves divided, Cold Start estimates that many of the IBGs would pierce through Pakistan’s forward defences. That would allow the strike corps, as it reaches the border, to stream through those breaches and penetrate towards the large towns and cities in Pakistan’s heartland. This would allow New Delhi to call off the war quickly, in a victorious position.
Western policymakers have been critical of Cold Start, since it alarmed Pakistan into developing TNWs, which are seen as highly insecure and destabilising weapons. Given the Nasr missile’s range of just 60 kilometres, TNWs would per force be physically located with forward commanders, and control over them decentralised early in any conflict.
This “de-centralisation” would render TNWs vulnerable to theft by jihadi groups, or unauthorised use by renegade Pakistani commanders. It is unclear whether Pakistan has fool-proof security protocols for TNWs, like preferential access links (PALs). Nor is it known how early, with a battlefield debacle imminent, would control over nukes be handed over to local commanders — probably at the level of corps commanders — who would be presumably more prone to use the weapons.

Ex-servicemen extend support to Congress

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SAS NAGAR: “After formation of Congress government in Punjab, the demands and problems of ex-servicemen will be solved on priority basis,” said Balbir Sidhu, Congress candidate from SAS Nagar while addressing ex-servicemen during the celebrations of All India First Armed Forces Veterans’ Day at the community hall in Phase 6 here on Sunday.

The programme was organised by All India  ex-servicemen joint action front ‘Sanjha Morcha’. It was largely attended by the ex-servicemen of three services from Mohali, Morinda, Fathegarh Sahib, Khanna and Jalandhar.

Sidhu further said, “We will raise ex-servicemen welfare issues with the Centre. The ex-gratia amount will be enhanced and we will try for the release of prisoners of 1971 war. The shortcomings of OROP and 7th pay commission will be rectified and the ex-servicemen will be made free from paying tax on highways.”

“To save Punjab from further downslide, it is very urgent to bring Congress into power. To reduce unemployment, check farmers’ suicides and drugs and to give ex-servicemen their dues, we all should now stand unitedly to ensure the Congress victory in the upcoming polls.

Meanwhile, homage was paid to the martyrs of defence forces.

Col Charanjit Sigh Khera (retd), general secretary of Sanjha Morcha, said that subsequent government failed to recognise their services, sacrifices and instead lowered the status of defence force.

The veterans appreciated the points included for the welfare of ex-servicemen in the Congress manifesto. They said that they are confident that they will get an opportunity to serve Punjab government in administration works if Congress comes into power.

Col RS Bopari, president, Sanjha Morcha highlighted the details, policies and views of Capt Amrinder. Among others who attended the event were Maj Gen SPS Grewal, Brig KS Kalon, Brig Inderjit and other officers.




The hand needs a firm grip

Out of power for a decade, Congress wants to avoid a repeat of 2012

Rajmeet Singh

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 7

As the New Year’s Day dawned in 2012, the Congress looked forward to a new dawn in Punjab. Banking on anti-incumbency and positive surveys, the opposition party assumed that a victory in the Assembly elections was a foregone conclusion. Complacency crept in, ticket allotment was messed up, and the Akali-BJP alliance was again voted to power. Over 30 rebels ate into the party’s vote share, while Manpreet Badal’s People’s Party of Punjab played spoilsport too.Five years down the line, the Congress finds itself in an uncannily similar situation. Barely four weeks are left for polling, but candidates for 40 seats are yet to be announced. The delay in ticket allotment has slowed down the party’s campaign at a time when it should have picked up pace.While the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Aam Aadmi Party are going all out in the electoral arena, the Congress is busy dousing the bush fires of rebellion, triggered by the release of its two lists for 77 seats.So, is the party going the 2012 way? “The Congress is walking on the crutches of media strategist Prashant Kishor, who is lording it over the leaders as if they have never fought any election,” says former senior party leader Bir Devinder Singh, who was expelled for questioning the leadership of PPCC chief Capt Amarinder Singh. He rues that the party has failed to keep its word on announcing candidates six months before the poll.Ludhiana-based political observer Gurpreet Singh Mandiani says the Congress’ strength lies in Amarinder, who is known for aggressively taking on the Badals. He doesn’t look his belligerent self this time, but the former CM is still the best bet for the party that has been out of power in the state for the past decade.A senior party leader, who doesn’t wish to be quoted, says: “The PPCC chief needs to take along his predecessors, some of whom have been pushed out of the frame by him. By imposing the ‘one family, one ticket’ rule, he has targeted stalwarts such as Lal Singh, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Partap Singh Bajwa. He and the party’s MPs are not on the same page over preferring turncoats to own leaders. This has made them his adversaries.”The “outsider versus insider” debate has reached a crescendo in recent months after the induction of Akali MLAs Pargat Singh, Inderbir Bolaria and Sarwan Singh Phillaur and BJP legislator Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu. Senior MPs such as Bajwa and Shamsher Singh Dullo have put their foot down, opposing the candidature of defectors, thus holding up the final list. Despite the discord, Akali-turned-PPP chief-turned-Congress leader Manpreet Badal has been fielded, while former BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu is set to spice up the proceedings as the party’s star campaigner.Amarinder feels there’s nothing alarming about dissidence. “Everyone can’t be given the ticket. We will accommodate the unsuccessful applicants, provided they support the party candidates,” he promises.On the “so near yet so far” story of 2012, he says 37 rebels fought against the party candidates, damaging their prospects. According to him, these nominees were picked without his consent. But he hastens to add that he’s firmly in the driver’s seat this time.Wary of the rumblings, the party’s think tank has made the campaign Amarinder-centric, coming up with “Coffee with Captain” and “Punjab da Captain” programmes and promising sops such as loan waiver for farmers and free smartphones. The Congress is again factoring in anti-incumbency to turn the tables on the Akalis. But it can’t afford to dream of getting power on a platter. The national party needs to get its act together in the state — before it’s too late.

Jakhar comes out with Doda’s phone details, seeks probe

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 7

Providing the details of seven phone numbers allegedly used by liquor baron and murder accused Shiv Lal Doda and his nephew Amit Doda in Fazilka jail, PPCC vice-president Sunil Jakhar today lodged a complaint with the Punjab CEO, seeking an inquiry into the matter.Jakhar alleged that despite the election code being in force, the officials were working at the behest of their political masters as they had not booked the duo, besides failing to recover mobile phones from them during the raid.“The police recovered 25 cellphones, but failed to confiscate these seven numbers which were in use in the restricted area for the past one year. One of these numbers is with an unauthorised cook who makes food for Doda in a special kitchen inside the jail,” he alleged.He said: “The call details of these numbers should be drawn which will point to the fact that the accused were in constant touch with Satinderjit Singh Manta, OSD to Deputy CM Sukhbir Badal and a DGP (not Suresh Arora). If I can manage to get these details, so can the police and the EC.”Jakhar also expressed shock over the fact that open access was provided to the criminals in prison even after the recent Nabha jailbreak.

Plea to fight poll

Fazilka: Shiv Lal Doda (pic) has filed an application in court, seeking permission to file nomination papers for the Assembly poll. The application before the court of Additional District and Sessions Judge Lachhman Singh came up for hearing on Saturday. As the lawyers stayed away from court on Saturday on their plea of having five working days in a week, the application will be heard on January 9. In the application, Doda has demanded adequate security and permission for filing nomination papers on January 13. — Praful Chander Nagpal

No delay in ticket allocation; Cong will form govt in state, says Capt

No delay in ticket allocation; Cong will form govt in state, says Capt
PPCC president Capt Amarinder while talking to mediapersons in Zirakpur. A Tribune photograph

Satinder Pal Singh

Zirakpur, January 7

Punjab Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh today exuded confidence that the party would form the next government in Punjab. This was stated by him during a stopover near Zirakpur while on his way to Delhi.The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president denied any undue delay in the declaration of candidates for the Assembly elections. He said the Congress was a large party and needed to go through a set procedure to ensure a proper ticket allocation. “The delay will not impact campaigning by Congress candidates,” he said. The PPCC chief added that the remaining candidates would be announced after the approval by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who was not in India right now. On the candidature of Deepinder Singh Dhillon from Dera Bassi, Amarinder Singh said the decision would be taken by the Congress president and the winability would be the sole criteria in the selection process. He denied any major dispute in the party on the issue.Speaking about AAP, the PPCC  chief said there was a clear wave in the Congress’ favour as the SAD-BJP and AAP failed the people of the state due to their corrupt and anti-people policies. 

Cong leader joins SAD

  • Mohali: The vice-president of the Mohali District Congress Committee today joined the SAD and extended support to the party candidate for the Mohali constituency, TPS Sidhu. Sukhpal Singh Brar and his supporters were welcomed by Sidhu into the SAD fold.
  • Addressing the media at the Mohali Press Club, Sidhu said he was getting support from people in the constituency even though he had started his campaign only two days ago. He said a lot of development had taken place in Mohali and surrounding areas under the SAD-BJP government. A sum of Rs 2,000 crore had been spent on development works in the area. — OC

Property dealers back Balbir Sidhu

Our Correspondent

Mohali, January 7

The Mohali Property Association today announced its support to Balbir Sidhu, Congress candidate, for the Mohali Assembly seat.A delegation of the association, led by its chairman DS Benipal, met Sidhu and assured him of its support. While thanking the association, Sidhu said various problems facing property dealers would be solved.The real estate sector witnessed a record boom during the Capt Amarinder Singh-led Congress government in the state. However, the lethargic attitude of the SAD-BJP government to the growth of the real estate sector had eclipsed the property boom in the area. As a result, most property dealers suffered losses in the past 10 years.

Sandhu, Bitti, Bajwa front runners for Cong ticket from Sahnewal

Lovleen Bains

Sahnewal, January 7

While there is a long list of those seeking Congress ticket from Sahnewal, Jasminder Sandhu, Satwinder Bitti and Bikram Singh Bajwa are considered strong contenders.Jasminder Sandhu, former chairman of the Market Committee, has been senior vice-president of the Youth Congress of Punjab, vice-chairman of Kisan Cell of the state and councilor numerous times. “The party high command cannot overlook the local leaders who have been with it through thick and thin and just give ticket to someone who either may be a relative or a popular public figure,” Sandhu asserted. He claimed that all these years he had worked for his people, hence greatly enjoyed their favour. Given a chance, he would win confidence and active support of his people to the fullest, he added.Bikram Singh Bajwa, son-in-law of CLP Leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, is also believed to be a strong contender. Though his greatest qualification till now has been that he is the son-in-law ofBhattal, a tag which he now wishes to keep aside and stand alone to get the party ticket, as no two candidates from the same family shall be given ticket as per the party norms.Singer Satwinder Bitti, married at Koom Khurd village in Sahnewal, is another strong contender for the party ticket. It is said she might be given preference because of her popularity. She is said to be camping in the area to garner support in her favour and make people forget that she is not an outsider.Another Congress leader Sukhjit Singh Hara has also staked his claim to the party ticket for being in the party for a long time. His grandfather Bahadur Lal Singh was an MP and his father has been the sarpanch of Nandpur village for 30 years. He himself has been the vice-president of the Nagar Council and a councillor twice. Another contender, Swaran Singh Sandhu, is believed to be enjoying NRIs’ support. He has assured the party high command that he could garner public support if he was considered as the party candidate from Sahnewal.Other local leaders Satwant Singh Sidhupur, Sukhwinder Singh Jhajj, Mewa Singh Chauhan, Balwinder Singh Lali, Dr Balkar Singh Rajput, Ramneet Singh Gill, Satwinder Tajpur, Udairaj Singh Gill are, too, in the race for ticket. They said they would never be able to support the party with zeal if the high command ignored their honest services to the party.

Gen JJ Singh joins Akali Dal

Gen JJ Singh joins Akali Dal
Former Army Chief General JJ Singh (right) and his wife with Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Badal in Chandigarh on Saturday. Tribune photo: Manoj Mahajan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 7

Former Chief of Army Staff Gen JJ Singh was inducted into the Akali fold here today. Fielded by the SAD from the Patiala Urban seat against Capt Amarinder Singh, Gen Singh said he would force the PPCC chief to leave his “qila”.Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal, who presented a siropa to the new entrant, said, “He was the first Sikh to lead the Indian Army. This General will defeat a Captain.”Gen JJ Singh said his maternal and paternal families were from Patiala, rebutting the Congress allegation that he was a “paratrooper”.“Phatte chak deyange,” he said, when asked how he would plan his campaign against Amarinder. “Unlike my opponent, known for his royal arrogance, my humility and humble roots in Patiala will help me get the voters’ support. Like a true soldier, I launch Operation Sampooran Fateh,” he added.

Sidhu likely to join Cong tomorrowAmritsar: Former BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu is likely to join the Congress on January 9. His wife, Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu, said Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi would induct him into the party. “Sidhu will arrive here on January 10 for campaigning in Amritsar East Assembly segment, from where he will be fielded,” she said.  Dr Sidhu had won the seat on the BJP ticket in 2012. Sources said Sidhu would be joining the Congress at the party headquarters in Delhi in the presence of senior Punjab leaders. TNS

SGPC member Gora to join Cong todayMuktsar: Three-time SGPC member and SAD leader Gurpal Singh Gora will join the Congress on Sunday. His son Jagsir Singh was the OSD of SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal in the 2007 government. Gora said, “I was feeling suffocated in SAD. I will join the Congress tomorrow. I am not going for any post but for my self-respect. Manpreet Badal, Raja Warring and Ajaib Singh Bhatti will be there.” Gora, during the desecration incidents in Octoberlast year, had announced to quit the SGPC post. TNS

Akali leader’s son in AAP foldGidderbaha: Kuljeet Singh Monty Brar, son of senior SAD leader Sant Singh Brar, on Saturday joined AAP in Ludhiana. Monty was vice-president of the Youth Akali Dal (YAD), Malwa. His father had contested the Assembly election in 2012 from Gidderbaha on SAD ticket. This time, the party has given ticket to Hardeep Singh Dimpy Dhillon from this constituency. Monty said: “I have joined AAP without any precondition. I will now work to strengthen our candidate Jagdeep Sandhu in Gidderbaha.” tns


Bid to ‘influence’ voters, LPG kits seized

Bid to ‘influence’ voters, LPG kits seized
A PRTC Bus with Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s photograph.

Raj Sadosh

Abohar, January 7

Acting on a complaint by a resident of Panjkosi village,  whose sarpanch is nephew of a BJP minister, a team of state government officials today raided the village panchayat ghar and seized 44 stoves and cylinders.Ahead of elections, the distribution of LPG kits had been going on for the past two weeks on a war-footing, sources said.Sub-Divisional Magistrate Jaspreet Singh directed the flying squad to examine whether LPG kits were being distributed in Panjkosi village to women from BPL families under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana.The team comprising Assistant Food and Supplies Officer Bhupinder Singh, Naib Tehsildar Jaswinder Singh and Assistant Sub-Inspector Baljit Singh raided the panchayat ghar and took the LPG kits into custody that were being distributed by an Azamwala village-based private gas agency.The kits have been stacked in Khuyiansarwer police station, an inquiry is in progress and the Returning Officers concerned have been informed.The gas agency staff said that the distribution of LPG kits had been going on under the central government-sponsored scheme and no politics was involved. After the raid, all the gas agencies have decided to suspend the distribution of kits.BJP and SAD leaders had posed for photo sessions with the beneficiaries to claim credit on the eve of the Assembly elections. They had also distributed hundreds of sports kits to win over the youth. 

Badal’s pic still on PRTC busesPatiala: Even as the model code of conduct is in force, slogans and pictures of the ruling Akali Dal can still be seen on PRTC buses. While a number of buses sport the picture of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, party’s tagline “Raj nahi sewa” is seen painted on several others. PRTC Managing Director Ravinder Singh said they had ensured that all such advertisements were either covered or removed. If at all some buses were left, they would get every bit of such publicity removed by Sunday, he added. tns

Bhagwant Mann fails to turn up at rally

Bhagwant Mann fails to turn up at rally
Empty chairs during a rally organised by Balwinder Singh Sahota, the AAP contestant from Amritsar West constituency, on Saturday. Photo: Vishal Kumar

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 7

In a major embarrassment for the leadership of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) at the local level, Member of Parliament Bhagwant Mann failed to turn up at a political rally organised in support of party candidate from Amritsar (West) constituency from where Balwinder Singh Sahota, a software engineer, is contesting as the party candidate.The crowd had gathered opposite Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) since 4 pm in the afternoon braving chilly winds and severe cold conditions. They had to return dejected while a large number of chairs remained vacant.Finally, the leaders speaking from the stage announced that Bhagwant Mann was not coming. The crowd had started leaving when no prominent leader from the party turned up till 6 pm.Speaking over the issue, Sahota said Mann was to arrive from Gurdaspur where he was to address another political rally. He said due to inclement weather conditions, his programme got delayed and finally he could not arrive. He claimed that there was no resentment among the people because of this and that the people are connected to a party and not a particular leader.It is pertinent to mention here that a similar situation occurred in the Attari constituency a few days ago when Bhagwant Mann did not turn up to address the crowd that was eagerly waiting for him. He cancelled his programme abruptly. Prior to this, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was to address the rally and people had to return disappointed.

Congress, BJP weigh options for Amritsar Lok Sabha bypoll

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 7

Hectic activity and lobbying is underway in political circles after the announcement of election for the Amritsar Lok Sabha bypoll along with Assembly election on February 4.The bypoll was necessitated after sitting MP Captain Amarinder Singh resigned from the Lok Sabha on November 28 to protest against the verdict of the apex court on the Satluj Yamuna Link (SYL) canal. He had ended the 10-year long BJP rule on the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat defeating BJP stalwart Arun Jaitley.Congress leader Navjot Kaur Sidhu said neither she nor her husband Navjot Singh Sidhu would contest the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat. As a BJP nominee, Navjot Singh Sidhu thrice won the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat in 2004, then a bypoll and again in 2009 General Election. She confirmed that she was approached by the Congress leaders to contest the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat but turned it down. She said they did not recommend any name for the seat.Former MLA and district Congress committee president Jugal Kishore Sharma said all three sitting Congress MLAs— OP Soni, Raj Kumar Verka and Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria— turned down the offer of contesting the Lok Sabha bypoll as they preferred to serve the people of their constituency. He said they would recommend the name of former MLA Sawinder Singh Kathunangal, who had been twice elected MLA from Majitha, for being fielded for the Lok Sabha bypoll.A major surprise was seen in the BJP camp as its firebrand leader Lakshmi Kanta Chawla, who had earlier said she would not contest the previous assembly election, announced she would contest the Amritsar Lok Sabha bypoll in case the party decides on her nomination.Her name along with three other leaders, Tarun Chugh, Pappu Mahajan and Ram Chawla, have been forwarded for being fielded against sitting Congress MLA OP Soni from the Amritsar Central constituency. When asked, she declined to contest the assembly election and reiterated she would contest the Lok Sabha election only.Another BJP leader Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina has already announced that Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley endorsed his candidature.Meanwhile, insiders said the party had already conducted a survey and would announce its candidate at its parliamentary board meeting to be held in Delhi soon.Verka residents to question politiciansAround the corner Assembly elections and no let up in appalling condition of civic amenities in Verka have given an opportunity to residents to question candidates visiting their area about their contribution in removing basic problems being faced by them.They complained that open sewerage in the area posed serious health problems. Verka was neglected by the ruling SAD-BJP combine, they added.“The government boasts of development in its advertisements, which is nowhere visible in parts of Verka,” said Pawan Deep Sharma of Punjab Sudhar Sabha.He said people had met area councillor many times and apprised him of problems being faced by them, but nothing was done. The councilor had expressed his helplessness, he added.Maninder Pal Singh Arora of the Guru Nanak Nagar area said, “The agency engaged in laying sewerage has dug up a large pit in front of the house of a handicapped school teacher. Due to her disability she fears coming out of her home.”He said, “We have decided to question visiting politicians and stage protest against the administration in coming days if our problems are not solved.”Meanwhile, residents complained that waste water of houses could not drain as the sewerage work was incomplete.“Due to stagnant water in toilets and washrooms, a foul smell fills the entire area,” said Harpal Singh. Residents have also threatened to boycott all political leaders coming to their area.

Sidhu all set to join Congress tomorrow

Party’s final list for Punjab to be out on January 10

NEWDELHI: Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu is likely to join the Congress on January 9 or 10 after much dilly-dallying and unsuccessful talks with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

According to sources, Sidhu will be given the choice by the Congress leadership to contest either from Amritsar East assembly constituency, held by his wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu till recently, or Amritsar Lok Sabha seat. Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh resigned from the seat in November last year on the Sutlej Yamuna Link canal issue.

The assembly elections in Punjab along with the by-poll for the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat will be held on February 4.

If the former BJP MP decides against contesting the elections, the Congress will field his wife from Amritsar East and utilise his services in campaigning for the party candidates across the state.

After quitting the BJP in September last year, Sidhu had been in talks with both the AAP and the Congress.

However, his negotiations with the AAP broke down after the new party rejected his demand for naming a chief ministerial candidate ahead of the polls. His wife along with former Indian hockey captain Pargat Singh later joined the Congress in November.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will release the Congress poll manifesto for Punjab at the Congress headquarters on January 9.

The Congress will also finalise its third and final list of 40 candidates on January 10 in a meeting of its central election committee, headed by Sonia Gandhi.

The announcement of the final list has been delayed due to the induction of rebel leaders from the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) that has caused widespread resentment in the Congress. The proposed move to field former Akali leaders such as Sarwan Singh Phillaur, Deepinder Singh Dhillon, Harinder Pal Singh Harry Mann and Inderbir Singh Bolaria is facing stiff resistance.

Congress leaders have argued that the move to give tickets to these Akali rebels will hurt the party badly in elections as some of them are facing the allegations of being close to drug traders.

“It will weaken the fight against drugs in Punjab and derail the agenda set by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi to make Punjab a drug-free state,” a senior party leader said.

It’ll be royalty vs soldier’s grandson’

CHANDIGARH :Former army chief Gen JJ Singh (retd), who will be contesting elections against Punjab Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh from Patiala Urban assembly segment, joined the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) here on Saturday.

“This will be not be a battle between a captain and a general, but between a scion of royalty and a soldier’s grandson,” said Gen JJ Singh, vowing to make Amarinder “bite the dust”.

The ex-army chief was reacting to Amarinder’s Friday remark that for the first time in the history of army, a captain will be defeating a general.

SAD president and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who welcomed the general into the party fold, said the Congress was facing a “bankruptcy of ideas” and was raking up non-issues.

“Congress is a divided house, fighting against itself. The Congress must decide on its war horses before launching a broadside on its rivals,” he added.

Gen Singh said he will fight the political battle with all humility and approach all sections of society. “The fight will be clean, though I will give a befitting reply if the rival tries to use foul means,” he said.

On his late entry, when less than a month is left for the polls, Gen Singh said he will be working 18 hours a day while Captain works for only six hours.

“Thus, I have 66 days with me that are more than sufficient, while Captain has only 22 days,” he said.

Ardasia who denied siropa to Badal says will contest against him

AMRITSAR Balbir Singh, the ‘ardasia’ who denied ‘siropa’ to Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal in the sanctum sanctorum of the Golden Temple last year, has now decided to challenge him from Lambi assembly segment.

Balbir Singh, who was recently reinstated by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and had resumed duties, said: “I had never thought of contesting elections. I am not a politician. But I fear if the Badals retain power, more sacrilege incidents will take place in the state.”

Claiming he was in talks with various parties, Balbir Singh said, “If I get a party ticket, it’s fine. Otherwise, I will enter the contest as an Independent and ensure Badal’s defeat.”

“The Badal government failed to nab the culprits behind incidents of sacrilege. This is the reason I denied ‘siropa’ to Badal. If Badal comes to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple again and I am on duty, I won’t offer him a ‘siropa’… Even if I lose my job, I have no problem,” he said.

Balbir Singh was transferred by the SGPC after he denied ‘siropa’ to Badal, but SGPC president Kirpal Singh Badungar reinstated him in December. Balbir Singh claimed he was currently on leave.

Book on Udham Singh released

Book on Udham Singh released
Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina (centre) and others during the release of a book on Shaheed Udham Singh at Virsa Vihar in Amritsar on Saturday. Photo: Vishal Kumar

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 7

Honorary secretary of the Khalsa College Governing Council, Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina, today released a new book on the life of legendary freedom fighter Shaheed Udham Singh, who killed Michael O’ Dyer, the man responsible for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. The book is written by Principal Balwinder Singh Fatehpuri, who has already penned down books on freedom struggle.Chhina praised the work on the book, ‘Shaheed Udham Singh— Ik Yodhe Dee Dastan’ and said the martyr is a highly acclaimed figure of independent struggle, who took revenge for the killing of innocents during the massacre on April 13, 1919.Chhina said he was happy to know that this was a highly researched book and lay bare the many aspects of the life of Shaheed Udham Singh. The book release function was organised by Amritsar Vikas Manch (AVM), whose patron Prof Mohan Singh gave a detailed account of the prolific writer.Writer and poet Deep Davinder Singh also spoke about the writer and his works. He said the book was a tribute to Shaheed Udham Singh who wanted to take revenge for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and finally succeeded in achieving the target in London.Dr Inderjit Singh Gagoani, KS Ankhi, Daljit Singh Kohli, Ikbal Kaur Saundh, Germanjit Singh and Amrit Lal Mannan also addressed the audience on the occasion and thanked Chinna for sparing the time to share his views on the subject with those who represented various writers’ forums and social organizations, apart from the AVM.They also presented a charter of demands to make the holy city beautiful and improve basic amenities for the residents here.

Martyr Udham Singhs great-grandson on dharna for peons job

New Delhi, Jan 3 (PTI) When nationalism and patriotism are dominating the national discourse, the great grandson of iconic revolutionary Udham Singh is struggling to secure the job of a peon in Punjab government which had been promised to him by former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh 10 years ago.

The promise of Congress government did not materialise as the party was out of power for 10 years in the state. The repeated pleas of Jagga Singh, who is great grandson of Udham Singhs elder sister Aas Kaur, to the Shiromani Akali Dal and BJP government did not yield any result.

In a daredevil act, Udham Singh had avenged the killing of hundreds of innocent people in Jallianwala Bagh on Baisakhi Day on April 13, 1919 by General Reginald Edward Harry Dyer.

Singh, who was present on the spot at Jalianwala Bagh in Amritsar on the bloodiest day of Indian Independence struggle history, had avenged the massacre 21 years later by killing in London Michael ODwyer, who was the Governor of Punjab when the massacre took place in Jallianwala Bagh.

Charged with murder, he was hanged to death in one of the prisons in London.

Singh is going through days of extreme poverty with a family of six to take care of which includes his 60-year old father Jeet Singh, a daily labourer.

30-year old Singh, a class X pass out who works at a cloth merchant shop in Sangur on a monthly salary of Rs 2,500, is hoping to draw the attention of Prime Minister Narendra Modiand Home Minister Rajnath Singh through his letters.

Braving the chill of foggy mornings here, Singh has shifted his protests to Jantar Mantar hoping to get his voice heard in the power corridors of the national capital.

But so far, neither the BJP, which is ruling the Centre, nor the Shiromani Akali Dal in the state have offered anything concrete to him.

Speaking to PTI, an emotional Singh said he was promised a job in 2006 by the then Punjab CM Aamrinder Singh but after the government changed, he has been running from pillar to post to get the promise implemented.

“We met Finance Minister Parminder Singh Dhindhsa several time. After a number of meetings, he had told me that our representation was put before the Chief Minister, who said that he cannot help us as the letter of appointment was issued by the Congress-led Amarinder Singhs government and so the job cannot be given to us,” Singh claimed.

He said the then Deputy Collector whom his father had met after Amarinder Singh issued a letter could have given him any job “even that of a peon” but the present regime is not ready to offer even that. (More) PTI SMJ/ABS KIS ASV

शहीद उधम सिंह का पड़पोता चपरासी पद की नौकरी के लिए धरने पर बैठा – 

shaheed-udham-singh- 03 01 2017

नई दिल्ली। क्रांतिकारी नेता शहीद उधम सिंह का पड़पोता पंजाब सरकार की चपरासी पद की नौकरी की मांग को लेकर यहां जंतरमंतर पर धरने पर बैठा है।

इस नौकरी का वादा पंजाब सरकार के भूतपूर्व मुख्यमंत्री अमरिंदर सिंह ने 10 साल पहले किया था। इसके बाद कांग्रेस सत्ता से बाहर हो गई थी इसलिए यह वादा पूरा नहीं हो सका।

उधम सिंह की सबसे बड़ी बहन आस कौर के पड़पोते जग्गा सिंह इस नौकरी की मांग को लेकर कई बार चिट्ठियां लिख चुके हैं लेकिन वर्तमान शिरोमणि अकाली दल की सरकार ने इस पर ध्यान नहीं दिया है।

मालूम हो कि उधम सिंह ने जलियांवाला बाग पर फायरिंग का आदेश देने वाले जनरल डायर से 21 साल बाद लंदन में गोली मारकर बदला लिया था। तब डायर लंदन का मेयर था।

जलियांवाला बाग कांड 13 अप्रैल 1919 को हुआ था। हत्या के आरोप में उधम सिंह को लंदन की जेल में फांसी दे दी गई थी। से जुड़े हर ता

Centre urged to bring back Udham Singh’s pistol from London

CHANDIGARH: Haryana minister of state for food, civil supplies and consumer affairs Karan Dev Kamboj on Saturday said that he had urged upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi to bring back from London the pistol of martyr Udham Singh and the book in which he had concealed the pistol when he entered the Caxton hall to shoot at Michael O’Dwyer.

The book and the pistol will be kept in a museum to inspire the youth and future generations, the minister added.

Kamboj and sports minister Anil Vij were speaking at a function organised on the occasion of 117th birth anniversary of Udham Singh here.

Kamboj also said that as announced by chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, the biography of Udham Singh will be included in the syllabus of schools.

He further said that one of the entrance gates, being built in the golden jubilee year, will also be named after the martyr Udham Singh.

Also, a chowk would be named after the freedom fighter in the major cities of the state.

Vij said that the martyrs did not belong to a particular religion or community, as they belonged to the entire country. He said that Udham Singh had killed Dwyer to avenge the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar.

Both Vij and Kamboj also paid floral tributes to martyr Udham Singh and announced ₹5 lakh each for the construction of Shaheed Udham Singh Memorial Bhawan in Chandigarh.

Unlike state unit, Tarn Taran Cong puts up shows

TARN TARAN: Unlike its state leadership, known for factionalism, the district Congress committee is giving an impression of unity as almost all dissenters have extended support to the candidates fielded by the party high command openly, thereby paving way for a close fight in the assembly polls in all four segments of the district.

After the Congress high command announced the tickets, the local leaders of all segments except Khadoor Sahib, strongly opposed the party’s decision and warned of revolt if the party did not change its decision.

Even Khemkaran candidate Sukhpal Singh Bhullar faced revolt from his family as his elder brother Anoop Singh Bhullar wanted the ticket to be given to his father and former Punjab minister Gurchet Singh Bhullar. However, the dissents have now settled with the intervention of senior leaders.

However, Bhullar had just taken a sigh of relief after his father and brother came out to his support, when another influential local party leader Sarwan Singh Dhun, a close aide of former Punjab finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal, continued to up the ante against him and lay claim on his own candidature citing that he stood first in the survey conduct by the party in the area.

The unsuccessful candidate from Peoples’ Party of Punjab (PPP) which was floated by Manpreet from the segment, Dhun was about to declare himself as an independent candidate, but eventually declared support to Bhullar in a public rally conducted in Khemkaran on Saturday. Other dissidents including Tarlok Singh Chakwalia and Peter Sandhu who opposed the candidature of Bhullar, also backed Bhullar in the rally.

In Tarn Taran, some ticket seekers including Sukhdev Bhargav, Ranjit Singh Gaddiwind, Karanbir Singh Burj, Satinder Singh Dobalian and Gurpartap Singh Palasaur wanted the ticket to be given to one of them and indirectly opposed the candidature of Dharamvir Agnihotri who lost the last polls from SAD candidate Harmeet Singh Sandhu by a margin of only 4,621 votes.

Meanwhile, with the intervention of Rajasansi MLA Sukhbrinder Singh Sukh Sarkaria, all ticket seekers except Satinder Singh Dobalian have been persuaded to back Agnihotri on pretext that they would also be entertained once the party forms the government in state.

On the other hand, youth Congress leader and president of Lok Sabha constituency Khadoor Sahib Harpreet Singh Sandhu and his father Principal Hardeep Singh, who were contenders for the ticket in Patti segment, were going separately from candidate Harminder Singh Gill, too supported Gill openly in a public meeting on Saturday.

In Khadoor Sahib, there was already no competitor of Ramanjit Singh Sikki who came in limelight after he resigned from the post of MLA in protest against a sacrilege incident of Guru Granth Sahib.

The unity being shown by the Congress leaders is expected to give a close fight to SAD candidates Harmeet Singh Sandhu (Tarn Taran), Adesh Partap Singh Kairon (Patti) and Virsa Singh Valtoha (Khemkaran).



Manpreet comes up with poll promises

Addresses public meeting at Lal Singh Basti, promises to turn district into an industrial hub like Gurgaon

Manpreet comes up with poll promises
Manpreet Singh Badal greets residents of trans-railway line areas during a public meeting held at Lal Singh Basti in Bathinda on Monday. Tribune photo: Pawan Sharma

Nikhila Pant Dhawan

Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 2

Aiming to capitalise on the unrest among residents of the areas across the railway lines, the Congress candidate from Bathinda (Urban), Manpreet Singh Badal, today addressed a public meeting in Lal Singh Basti and promised a number of sops to the voters.The meeting was organised, as promised, by the Bathinda District Congress Committee president, Mohal Lal Jhumba, who is a staunch supporter of Harminder Singh Jassi, who was also a ticket hopeful from this constituency.Manpreet took a dig at the SAD-BJP alliance and accused the leaders of siphoning off the taxpayers’ money.He accused the Badal family of using helicopters, without caring about the high expenditure that they incur.He promised that if voted to power, the Congress would sell off these helicopters and use the money for welfare schemes.Exhorting the voters to “not let go of the chance to bring about a change in power”, he promised that his party would bring the deteriorating law and order situation in the state back on track.Reiterating the promises made by Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief Captain Amarinder Singh, Manpreet said the party would ensure that one person from each family would get a job and monthly unemployment allowance of Rs 2,500 would be paid till the time job is not given.Deriding the state government for shutting down the state-run thermal plants and rendering many unemployed, he promised that the Congress would ensure that the thermal plants located in Bathinda would be restarted.Targeting the foundation-stone laying spree, which the SAD leaders have undertaken, Manpreet promised that the Congress would initiate and also finish projects rather than just laying foundation stones.“We will end the trend of laying foundation stones to lure voters. We will also ensure that like Gurgaon, Bathinda also turns into an industrial hub, which will generate revenue and jobs for the residents of the region. If the youth are employed, they will never turn to drugs. It will also lower the crime rate in the region,” he said, while addressing another meeting held at Adarsh Nagar. The meeting was organised by Tahal Singh Sandhu.


  • We will end the trend of laying foundation stones to lure voters. We will also ensure that like Gurgaon, Bathinda also turns into an industrial hub, which will generate revenue and jobs for the residents of the region. If the youth are employed, they will never turn to drugs. It will also lower the crime rate in the region.— Manpreet Singh Badal, Congress candidate fromBathinda (Urban)

‘Questioned’ at function, SAD MP’s men beat up 2 villagers

‘Questioned’ at function, SAD MP’s men beat up 2 villagers
Residents of Dulowal village protest outside Kotdharmu police station in Mansa on Monday. Tribune Photo

Gurdeep Singh Mann

Tribune News Service

Dulowal (Mansa), January 2

Senior Akali Dal leader and Rajya Sabha MP Balwinder Singh Bhunder’s supporters today allegedly beat up two workers engaged by the Forest Department following an argument over non-payment of their dues.It all started around 3 pm when Bhunder reached the village’s Government Senior Secondary School for distribution of cheques for various grants. Addressing a gathering, he eulogised the developmental works carried out by the SAD government. Objecting to his claims, the workers, Raja Singh and Jalandhar Singh approached the MP claiming their wages had been “siphoned off by some officials”.One among Raja and Jalandhar is learnt to have held the SAD leader by his hand reportedly to put forth his view. Fearing their leader could be manhandled, Bhunder’s men allegedly attacked the two and dragged them to some distance till they were taken into custody by the police.When contacted, Bhunder claimed the villagers were not beaten up, and only heated arguments took place. “They were under the influence of some intoxicant,” he said. Kotdharmu SHO Gurmel Singh corroborated Bhunder’s claim: “The two men were attacked. They were either drunk or were high on drugs and started arguing with the MP.” CPM district secretary Kulwinder Uddat, however, said, “Bhunder’s bogus claim of development did not go down well with the workers, who have been seeking the arrest of the officials who usurped Rs 78 lakh, which was to be paid to them as wages.”“Questioning by workers upset Bhunder during an election programme. He signalled his men to teach them a lesson. The two men were mercilessly beaten up and then dragged in full public view,” said Uddat. Congress MLA from Sardulgarh Ajitinder Singh Moffar came out in support of the villagers: “This is an unfortunate incident. The voters will teach them a lesson.” The villagers later gheraoed the police station seeking the release of the two workers. Their protest was on till the filing of this report.

Parties put Amritsar Lok Sabha seat on back burner

GS Paul

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 2

Amid campaigning for the Assembly elections, the vacant Amritsar Lok Sabha seat has evoked a “mild” interest from parties.Having been vacated following the resignation by Capt Amarinder Singh, the bypoll for the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat is likely to be held along with the Assembly elections. However, none of the major political parties have declared their candidates.A former Congress minister said the party’s earlier Lok Sabha contestant OP Soni and MLA Sukhbinder Singh Sukhsarkaria had declined to contest the Lok Sabha bypoll, as both preferred to contest the Assembly seat.AAP too is silent over its plans for the Lok Sabha seat. The party’s Majha spokesperson, Gurbhej Singh, said, “We are yet to spare a thought on fielding candidates for the bypoll as our priority is to finalise candidates for Amritsar’s East, North and Central constituencies,” he said.There are also reports that newly inducted Sikh face Jaswinder Singh Advocate might be asked to contest the seat. Insiders say that AAP’s candidate for Majitha Himmat Singh Shergill too could be asked to contest the Amritsar Lok Sabha bypoll, along with the Assembly seat.From the BJP, prominent leaders could be Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina, Kamal Sharma and Tarun Chugh. Chhina who is a popular local face and an arch rival of Sidhu has been making trips to Delhi. Chhina confirmed that he had met some senior leaders of the party and added that he was ready for the fight. He is also a confidant of Arun Jaitley who will have the final say in deciding the ticket.

Focus on assembly polls

  • Congress: The party’s earlier Lok Sabha contestant OP Soni and MLA Sukhbinder Singh Sukhsarkaria have reportedly declined to contest the Lok Sabha bypoll, as both preferred the Assembly polls
  • Aam Aadmi Party: The party leadership is silent over its plans for the Lok Sabha seat. The party says its focus is on finalising candidates for the Assembly polls
  • BJP: The names doing the rounds are Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina, Kamal Sharma and Tarun Chugh. Chhina, an arch rival of Navjot Singh Sidhu, has been making trips to Delhi


Sensing scam, govt puts lid on utensil kits scheme

Tender was given to company that was involved in books scam

Sensing scam, govt puts lid on utensil kits scheme

Ruchika M Khanna

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 2

Sensing a scam worth crores of rupees in the purchase of utensils meant for distribution to panchayats, mahila mandals, NGOs and clubs across Punjab, the state government has cancelled the tender and put off the scheme.The distribution of utensil kits was touted to be a major exercise to woo rural and semi-urban voters.Sources told The Tribune that the tender, floated for Rs 90 crore, to buy 22,500 utensil kits, has been cancelled as just one Sangrur-based company could qualify. The price quoted by the company for supplying these kits was Rs 8,000 per kit more than what a state government authorised committee had evaluated.Rural Development Minister Sikander Singh Maluka confirmed that the tender had been cancelled and the scheme had failed to take off. He told The Tribune that since the price differential was too high, he decided to cancel the tender. “The officers’ committee had quoted a price of each kit at Rs 32,000, while the supplier had quoted Rs 40,000. Though the quality of the kits offered was good, we decided not to go ahead with it due to huge price differential,” he said.Interestingly, the Sangrur-based company, Mittal Traders, is the same company that was involved in the infamous book scam that rocked the state in 2013. This company, selected by a committee of the Education Department, had then supplied practical notebooks to the Punjab State Education Board-affiliated schools at inflated rates. Maluka was at the helm of affairs in the Education Department then.The state government had announced this scheme in the Budget proposals for this year and an initial outlay of Rs 79 crore was made in the Budget for distributing utensils for use in social and community functions. The outlay was revised later to Rs 90 crore.

Akalis’ love for kits

Ahead of the 2012 Assembly elections, 12 steel industrialists from Jalandhar, Sangrur, Hoshiarpur, Mohali, Patiala, Panchkula, Zirakpur and Ambala were asked to supply 250 kits, embossed with Akali tagline of “Raj nahi sewa” and “Punjab sarkar” on each utensil. The trunks in which kits were packed, had pictures of the CM. The trunks were not even lifted by the government then as it delayed the purchase orders and in the meantime, the poll code was enforced.


Bajwas can’t take Qadian lightly

Cong clan faces uphill task in pocket borough

Bajwas can’t take Qadian lightly

Ravi Dhaliwal

There’s a buzz about Qadian, the international headquarters of the Ahmadiyya community. Of the seven Assembly seats in Gurdaspur district, this one is being discussed the most as it’s the stronghold of the Bajwa clan.Sitting MLA Charanjit Kaur, wife of Rajya Sabha MP Partap Singh Bajwa, has vacated the seat for her brother-in-law, Fatehjang Singh. The latter faces a strong challenge from former Cabinet Minister and Akali veteran Sewa Singh Sekhwan and AAP candidate Kanwalpreet Kakki, a relative greenhorn who led ‘Pagdi Sambhal Jatta’, a campaign to help sugarcane farmers of the region get their arrears.As Partap Bajwa’s prestige is at stake, he will pull out all stops to ensure a victory for his younger brother. Kakki is banking on the youth vote, while Sekhwan, the halqa incharge, has initiated development works to make his presence felt. The Dhanoa Pattan bridge, linking the sugarcane-rich Bet area with the Dasuya and Mukerian sugar mills in Hoshiarpur district, is being cited as a major initiative of the ruling SAD. This bridge, built on the Beas river, is facilitating the movement of sugarcane to the mills.All three candidates will have to contend with the (Sucha Singh) Chhotepur factor. The AAP-turned-APP leader may be trying his luck from the adjoining seat of Gurdaspur, but he still wields influence in Qadian. Pre-delimitation, he had contested from the now-defunct Dhariwal seat, which now forms a part of the Qadian constituency.The other renowned Bajwa family of Qadian is represented by Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa, who was a two-time MLA from here before delimitation pushed him to the neighbouring seat of Fatehgarh Churian ahead of the 2012 poll. The two Bajwa familes have been at loggerheads for the past couple of decades.Tripat says the town is barely 18 km from Batala, the ‘steel city’ of Punjab, but no allied industry has been established here. “Not long ago, there were a dozen rice mills. Only three are left. The state government has killed the mills with its flawed policies. Our youth have to go to the neighbouring towns of Jalandhar and Amritsar to find employment,” he laments.

SAD fields Bibi Jagir Kaur’s son-in-law from Bholath

SAD fields Bibi Jagir Kaur’s son-in-law from Bholath
Yuvraj Bhupinder Singh

Deepkamal Kaur

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 2

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) today named Yuvraj Bhupinder Singh (41), son-in-law of sitting MLA and former SGPC chief Bibi Jagir Kaur, as the party candidate from Bholath.The party had withheld the candidature due to an appeal filed by Jagir Kaur in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, seeking stay on her conviction in the case of her daughter Harpreet Kaur’s death.Holding her guilty of forcible abortion, kidnapping and criminal conspiracy, the CBI special court had sentenced her to five years’ rigorous imprisonment in 2012, soon after she had taken oath as a minister following her victory in the Assembly elections. After her conviction and sentence, she was removed from the ministry and lodged in Kapurthala jail.The hearing of her appeal was being put off for the past few months, the next date being January 10.Son of a retired Army Subedar from Raipur Peer Baksh Wala village in Bholath constituency, Yuvraj was a nonentity till he got married to Jagir Kaur’s younger daughter Rajneet Kaur. He is a member of the core committee of the Youth Akali Dal leader and the chairman of the Kapurthala Zila Parishad. He also works as the manager of the dera of Jagir Kaur’s father-in-law Sant Prem Singh Murarewale at Begowal.Earlier called Bhinda, it was Bibi who reportedly named him Yuvraj Bhupinder. “Having faced problems by opposing the marriage of her elder daughter, Bibi readily agreed to accept her younger daughter Rajneet Kaur’s lover as her son-in-law. Yuvraj has been staying at the dera since their marriage in 2003,” said residents of Begowal town.Jagir Kaur had contested the past four elections from Bholath, all against Sukhpal Khaira, who was then in the Congress. She lost to him only in 2007. While Khaira is now the AAP candidate, the Congress ticket has gone to ex-MLA Gurbinder Atwal.Industrialist to contest from Dhuri seatChandigarh: The SAD named industrialist Hari Singh of Preet Tractors as the candidate from Dhuri. The party has now announced 88 nominees. It is yet to name candidates for six seats: Lambi, Jalalabad, Patiala Urban, Mohali, Kharar, and Amritsar South. — TNS

Will contest two seats if Sukhbir does so: Mann

Will contest two seats if Sukhbir does so: Mann
AAP MP Bhagwant Mann addresses party workers in Khanna on Monday. Tribune Photo

Our Correspondent

Khanna January 2

Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann today said that he would contest from two seats if Deputy CM Sukhbir Badal too decided to contest two seats. Addressing a rally here in favour of party candidate Anii Dutt Phalli, Mann claimed that fearing that he might lose from Jalalabad, Sukhbir was planning to contest from one more place.He flayed Punjab Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh for challenging AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal to contest from Patiala. He said Amarinder himself should contest from Jalalabad against Sukhbir.In his address, Mann said any of the ongoing welfare scheme would not be discontinued, rather its implementation would be improved, especially the quality of foodgrain under the Atta-Dal scheme.He said after coming to power, AAP would scrap toll tax barriers after a review. He alleged that the people of Punjab were fed up with the SAD-BJP government.

Congress will get majority: Khalsa

Tribune News Service

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 2

Suspended Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MP Harinder Singh Khalsa has claimed that the Congress will get absolute majority in the Assembly elections as people who were fed up with the SAD-BJP government are now also disappointed with AAP.Khalsa, who was in the town to distribute cheques to the panchayats in the district for various development works, stated to mediapersons here today.Khalsa said the people in the state were now also fed up with the day-to-day dramas of the AAP and added that the level of political ethics was already low but with AAP it had declined further.On formation of a new party Khalsa said it was not easy to form a political outfit at this juncture and added that no AAP leader had contacted him after his suspension from the party. He said he would support the candidates with a clean image.The MP said Rs 32 lakh had been provided to various panchayats for development works such as construction of streets, drains, dharamshalas and crematoriums. He said besides this Rs 1.99 lakh had been provided to the schools for installation of ROs so that clean and safe drinking water could be provided to the schoolchildren. He added that only Akali and Congress leaders were approaching him for grants whereas none of the AAP leader had approached him for the grants

AAP names Narinder Shergill from Mohali

Mohali, January 2

Narinder Singh Shergill, a resident and former sarpanch of Jhingran Kalan village in Kharar, is the Aam Aadmi Party candidate for the Mohali seat. This was stated by senior AAP leader Kanwar Sandhu.Sandhu said Shergill would contest from the Mohali Assembly constituency on the party ticket.Earlier, advocate Himmat Singh Shergill was selected for the Mohali seat, but he was shifted to Majitha to contest against Akali stalwart Bikram Singh Majithia.“With the selection of Shergill, the party has resolved the internal bickering. It is an open secret that Narinder Shergill was interested in the ticket from Kharar. His supporters were not happy over the decision  to give the ticket to Sandhu,” said a local leader. — TNS

SAD to field ‘heavyweight’ against Capt: Chandumajra

Manish Sirhindi

Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 2

Even as mystery over the SAD candidate to contest Assembly poll against Capt Amarinder Singh continues to baffle party cadre in Patiala, SAD general secretary and MP Anandpur Sahib Prem Singh Chandumajra today claimed that the party was planning to bring in an ‘Akali heavyweight’ to contest the elections from Patiala.The statement which could change the equation within the local unit of the Akali Dal is being seen as an indication that the party might not give ticket to Harpal Juneja, who is so far being considered as the ‘obvious’ choice of the party to contest against Amarinder.Following the revelation made by the party general secretary, the political strategists in the SAD could be heard discussing name of Harjit Singh Adaltiwal, who had earlier contested the Patiala bypoll in 2014 on an AAP ticket against former union minister for external affair and wife of Amarinder, Preneet Kaur, but had lost.The fact that he is closely associated with Chandumajra as he had been made general secretary of the Youth Akali Dal’s Patiala Wing in 1982 when Chandumajra was the president and the fact that Chandumajra played an important role in his rejoining the SAD three days ago also turned this discussion into a political strong point.As of now, it was being thought that Juneja, who had visibly increased his presence in the constituency over the last several months, would be given the party ticket from Patiala. However, the delay in announcement of his name even as the SAD has named candidates at most of the seats across the state, has also rendered weight to the fact that party might change its candidate.Other than Juneja, the Kohli clan led by former Akali minister Surjit Singh and his son Ajit Pal Singh Kohli, along with incumbent City Mayor Amarinder Bazaz, are also being thought aspiring for ticket from Patiala. However, all three have been maintaining that they would ‘serve the party in any capacity that the leadership deems fit’.During the last bypoll, the Preneet Kaur royals had defeated the SAD candidate, who was Harpal’s father BD Juneja by a margin of 23,282 votes even as there was the SAD-BJP government in the state. The Patiala seat has been a stronghold of the Congress since 1957. Till date, the Congress has won this seat nine times, while the SAD could win this seat only thrice. Meanwhile, political observers said the SAD seemed to be strategising to create circumstances that might force Capt Amarinder Singh to rework his poll campaign for his ‘home constituency’, where he had not held any rally or political programme till date to woo the voters.

Cong leaders seek change of Atwal’s nomination

Cong leaders seek change of Atwal’s nomination
Congress leaders from the Bholath constituency address the media in Jalandhar on Monday. Photo: Sarabjit Singh

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 2

Giving a four-day ultimatum to the Congress high command to change the candidate from the Bholath constituency, party leaders who had been ticket-seekers from the seat said today that they would otherwise be forced to choose an Independent candidate from among themselves.Party leaders Kulwinder Singh Babbal, Pritam Singh Sikri, Avtar Singh Walia and Shriniwas Kuki openly opposed the candidature of former MLA Gurbinder Atwal saying that they would not support him at any cost.“Atwal has no standing in Bholath. He is an outsider. No one knows him there. The party should have rather imposed faith on us as we helped to keep the cadres intact since former MLA Sukhpal Khaira backstabbed us and joined the Aam Aadmi Party. The party should cancel his ticket and announce one among us by January 6 or else we will field an Independent candidate,” said the leaders.The four leaders were also present during a meeting at Nadala called by Kapurthala MLA Rana Gurjeet Singh for building solidarity in the constituency for Atwal post the announcement of Atwal’s ticket. Babbal’s turban was tossed and chairs had been thrown as tempers flared up against the party’s move.Post the incident, Babbal had also got lodged an FIR against Rana and his two aides.Babbal today reiterated his demand of arrest of Rana Gurjeet Singh.“The police booked him on December 26 under non-bailable offences but has till date made no efforts to arrest him as he roams freely”, he alleged.The situation for the party has been getting bad in the constituency and Atwal has not been able to start his campaign since the past 10 days.

Polls at the door, Badals go on mission inauguration

From bus stands to memorials, the Badal government has gone on an overdrive to inaugurate a slew of half­built projects in the past month or so. HT takes a look at some of the projects, which were given the green signal before completion


This is a dream project of deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal. The first-of-its-kind busopolis in region, this air-conditioned bus stand is spread over 6.6 acres adjacent to the Verka Chowk on the National Highway-21 Cost: ₹500 crore Original deadline: December 2011 Inauguration: Sukhbir Badal inaugurated it on December 16, 2016

Present status: Only Phase 1 is complete. Phase 2, which includes retail outlets and a 10-screen multiplex in Tower A of the complex, will be made operational by June, while Phase 3 will be completed by the end of 2018


Chabhal, a small town, connects the border belt to both Amritsar and Tarn Taran district headquarters. The bus stand is spread over an acre Cost: ₹2.5 crore Original deadline: December 2016 Inauguration: By Tarn Taran MLA Harmeet Singh Sandhu on Dec 26, 2016

Present status: Major construction work is pending, and the bus stand is not yet ready to dock buses


To operate on the confluence of the Sutlej and Beas, it’s part of the Badal government’s efforts to develop Harike headworks, a famous wetland and bird sanctuary of North India spread over 86 sq kms Cost: ₹10 crore Original deadline: September 1, 2016 Inauguration: The deputy CM inaugurated it on December 12, 2016

Present status: Ever since ferrying Badal Junior, the bus has been lying locked in a garage with its staff away for training. The infrastructure at the lake, including a cafeteria, is also yet to be completed

Poll panel issues to-do list to state CEOs, chief secys

INSTRUCTIONS Officials told to activate flying squads to check flow of contraband, cash within 24 hrs of poll announcement

CHANDIGARH: With the announcement of assembly polls in Punjab and four other states expected by January 4, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has sent an advisory to chief electoral officers (CEO) of these states to get into action immediately for subsequent enforcement of the model code of conduct.

Along with the CEOs, chief secretaries have also been told to pitch in and make arrangements for activating flying squads soon after the announcement to check flow of liquor, cash and narcotics.

Punjab CEO VK Singh, who has been called to Delhi for a meeting with chief election commissioner (CEC) Nasim Zaidi on January 3, hinted of the poll announcement soon after.

Speaking on arrangements once the poll code is imposed, he said the entire machinery was in place and he was waiting for the announcement.

The communiqué has also asked the CEOs to put in place a complaint monitoring system and activate the toll-free number 1950 besides SMS service and a website to receive the complaints and track the action taken by district-level poll officers.

“All unauthorised political advertisements in the form of wall paintings or posters at all public places, such as railway stations, bus stands, airports, railway bridges, roads, government buses and electric or telephone poles, should be removed within 48 hours from the announcement of the polls,” state the directions to the pollbound states of Punjab, Goa, Manipur, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

The communication, received from election commission senior principal secretary RK Srivastava, also seeks a ban within 24 hours on use of official vehicles by any political party, candidate or other persons connected with poll campaigning.

“No advertisement be issued in electronic, and print media, highlighting the achievement of the government at the cost of the public exchequer,” the directions add, besides calling for removal of photographs of politicians from central or state government websites.

The EC has already started the process to check “paid news” given by politicians, particularly in the print media.

How The Indian Army Battles Extreme Winter Conditions by Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain

How The Indian Army Battles Extreme Winter Conditions


Yes, some positions which the Indian Army occupies are dangerous. But it has to be done for national security. Remember Kargil?

Every few years the Indian Army deployed in all parts of Jammu and Kashmir battles extreme winter conditions, which bring heavy snowfall, avalanches and extreme cold spells. From Siachen to the Pir Panjal and from the Ladakh Range to the Shamshabari each zone or sector has its own peculiarities. The altitude may be higher but precipitation is low and vice versa in some areas, while wind and blizzard like conditions prevailing over an extended period of time accumulate huge piles of snow. Contingent upon angles of slopes, type of rock composition of the mountains and direction of the sun, different areas hold snow differently. The Shamshabari range and its adjoining ridge lines have huge snow slides and avalanches, with little predictability about the time or exact location. The Pir Panjal too does not hold its snow too well. It’s Eastern Ladakh, which has high snow accumulation but few avalanches. The Siachen Glacier’s Saltoro Ridge has sharp drops where avalanches are predictable.

The reader will get a good idea from the fact that an area such as Uri sector is as low as 4,000 feet above sea level but it is surrounded by heights of the Line of Control (LoC), which rise to 14,000 feet within a short distance, making slopes extremely steep. On certain ridge lines in this area, snow accumulation in bowls goes up to 50 feet and on ridge lines up to 20 feet. Avalanches are a regular phenomenon here and just like the glacier permanent habitat in flat areas or bowls becomes almost impossible to occupy due to snow levels. Ridge lines are inhabitable, but full picquets are known to sometimes slide away with snow avalanches.

The cycle of extreme winter usually comes once every three to four years or so. Casualties are then high and even civilian population in rural areas is affected. However, social media (not media) makes every smartphone owner an expert in winter management with doubts cast over the Indian Army’s expertise, levels of commitment and training to meet the challenge. ‘Knowledgeable’ people advise the Army to get expertise from other organisations. It’s important for the Army to explain why casualties occur in certain winters.

It must be brought to public notice that the Indian Army’s expertise on high altitude, glaciated and ‘white shod’ operations is respected the world over. Our medical proficiency to cater for such contingencies is considered even better. The government ensures clothing, equipment, boots and other paraphernalia, including heating devices, dry cell batteries and fuel for warming and drying which are are all available in plenty. The logistics preparation for stocking supplies, fuel and basic replacement equipment begins a year before the winter and its implementation goes like clockwork through the year, in fact an exercise worthy of study by management training institutions.

Simultaneously, newly inducted units undergo training and each unit prepares its winter standard operating procedures (SOPs) along with training the avalanche rescue teams (ARTs). By September each year, an elaborate and updated set of instructions are issued to formations and units that carry out their checks. Fixed nylon rope which assists in movement over snow is checked for strength, relaid, tightened and made ready for snow conditions. The High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS), located at Gulmarg, has the best expertise and is often consulted by units for training of specialists in skiing and rescue.

The Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) in Manali has elaborate arrangement for collection of data and issues warnings from time to time when snow accumulation becomes high. It also maintains elaborate maps with historical avalanche records, which helps in predicting extreme weather conditions. However, no amount of scientific research has been able to pinpoint occurrence in terms of time and exact place of an avalanche.

Why do casualties occur in winter when sufficient training has been imparted and the best logistics are planned and implemented. As brought out prediction is well nigh impossible but avalanche prone areas are known in advance so habitat is avoided at such places. There are compulsions which force certain vulnerable areas to be occupied with risk. There are also contingencies which are human related. Let me elaborate with anecdotal references. The deployment of 10 men below the snow wall at Sonam in Siachen/Saltoro which led to them being buried under 35 feet of ice in February 2016, was a compulsion because it was the staging area with the logistics element for another crucial deployment which cannot be held without this backing. The Sonam wall was known to be firm in winter and more vulnerable in summer, but it collapsed for no explainable reason; some say a low level seismic activity preceded the collapse.

Another case of a different kind will explain just how frail human existence can be in such areas. Jawans are supposed to move and perform all duties in buddy pairs in all operational areas. However, a jawan at an isolated forward LoC post, carried out clearance of snow from the running communication trench; the snow shovelled out accumulated in a soft pile on the side. He rested an hour in the afternoon due to a pending night duty on ambush. On waking he proceeded to answer the call of nature but did not sound his buddy nor did he take him along, as is customary. Outside his bunker he slipped on glass-like ice and went head first into nine-foot deep soft snow piled by him on the side of the trench. He struggled to get out but could not because his head was at the bottom. No one could find him for a few hours until his footmarks gave indication of the location where he was buried alive. He died an unfortunate death frozen and choked.

It’s not as if avalanches occur only once SASE gives a warning. Life cannot come to a standstill. Although posts are well stocked, mail, stores, equipment and leave parties have to move. Officers are rotated on posts and Commanding Officers like to be with the men when things get difficult. Such movements take place at night when the snow is firm. For 72 hours after a heavy snowfall all movement ceases as per SOP. However, any number of scientific factors taken into consideration cannot explain how an avalanche occurs seven days after the last snowfall and that too at midnight, just when a leave party is on its way.

The Gurez valley where the current incidents have taken place this year is narrow with sharp slopes on both sides. The February 2012 avalanche which wiped out 21 lives of an Army sub unit, rumbled down the slope and had so much power that it travelled almost 400 metres on plain ground throwing lorries in the air and crushing some shelters. Jawans died while eating their food. No amount of warning from avalanche sentries could have helped them.

I have been informed on social media that some concretised hardened shelters have been prepared for Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) habitat in the Joshimath area. Avalanches can actually move over such structures leaving the inmates safe. These will be extremely expensive and time-consuming to construct, but in limited numbers in extremely vulnerable stretches of Gurez or some areas around Shamshabari they may prove invaluable in saving lives.

The last information necessary for the public to be aware of. Your jawans do not pull back from most areas along the LoC. If they did the sanctity of the LoC would be suspect and terrorists would risk getting through unchallenged. In some very crucial posts physically and psychologically fit jawans having availed full home leave, are inducted in December and continue at the post without relief for six months. There only connect with the outside world is a TV, radio or trunk dialling link. A sick jawan cannot be evacuated because the route is choked or avalanche prone and the helipad is 400 metres away and cannot be beaten in the prevailing weather conditions. Remember what happened in Kargil in 1999. We vacated some high altitude posts for winter but the Pakistanis risked creeping up and occupying them before we could return. Over 500 good men were lost in recovering that ground. With an untrustworthy adversary there can be no guarantee of mutual withdrawal for winter. Our officers and men have thus to grit their teeth, pray to their gods and hope that their training and inherent toughness will let them survive such contingencies.

Suggestions regarding pull back and use of technology for surveillance sound good on paper and those of us experienced in this type of warfare can deduce that sensor, satellite or drone surveillance over unoccupied posts cannot prevent it from being occupied. It will still need to be recaptured at the cost of lives as response can only be reactive.

The Indian Army has tremendous experience in winter management but will suffer winter casualties unless we are ready to risk Kargil like occurrences. In a nation where an inch of ground lost even for tactical reasons invites public wrath, those offering advice of withdrawal for winter must re-examine the national collective conscience. Perhaps we need to build a consensus for both Indian and Pakistani armies coming to some agreement about mutual pullback from some vulnerable areas in winter. Can that happen under present state of relations? That is a million dollar question.

Time to grasp the nettle

A chief of defence staff must be superior in the chain of command to the service chiefs for him to be effective and empowered

The expert committee led by Lieutenant General (retd.) D.B. Shekatkar has recently submitted its report to the defence minister. The panel, composed mostly of retired senior military officers, was appointed in May 2016 and was tasked with looking at “Enhancing Combat Capability and Rebalancing Defence Expenditure”. Among its many recommendations is the appointment of a single-point adviser to the Defence Minister. Since Manohar Parrikar has already spoken of his desire to move in this direction, the recommendations of the Shekatkar panel assume greater importance.

PTIDefence Minister Manohar Parrikar has already expressed his desire to move in the direction of a single­point military adviser

The panel has reportedly recommended the new post should be a four-star appointment – equivalent to those of the service chiefs. This top four-star officer is envisaged as a coordinator, who won’t impinge on the operation or administrative functions of military chiefs. The creation of such a post should be accompanied by the integration of the service headquarters with the Ministry of Defence. However, the panel has apparently recommended against integrating the three services into joint commands. This is seen as an American model tailored for expeditionary role rather than homeland defence and hence unsuitable for the Indian context.

While the committee’s recommendations are well-intentioned and such reforms long overdue, the proposed institutional design is deeply problematic.

The idea itself is hardly new. The Group of Ministers (GoM) following the Kargil Review Committee called for the appointment of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) as a singlepoint military adviser to the Defence Minister. This stemmed from the lack of integrated planning and operations between the services during the Kargil War. In fact, this is a problem that has plagued the armed forces in every conflict since 1947. The appointment of a CDS was expected to usher in top-down integration among the services and better coordination between the services and the government.

The Vajpayee government created a new joint headquarters of the Integrated Defence Staff (HQ IDS). But it baulked at appointing a CDS and instead appointed a Chief of Integrated Defence Staff who would run the HQ IDS until the CDS was appointed. This half-baked solution persists to date. In fairness, HQ IDS has managed to bring a degree of coherence to issues like procurement and joint doctrine. But this is hardly adequate. More importantly, it has allowed the political leadership to perpetuate an illusion of reforms while continuing to resist the appointment of the CDS.

Then again, in the early years after the GoM report, the services themselves were a divided house on this. The air force resisted the creation of a CDS – apparently on grounds that it would pave the way for institutional domination by the army. This came handy to political leaders and bureaucrats in deflecting questions about their own unwillingness to institutionalise the system. Towards the end of the UPA-II government, the three service chiefs jointly wrote to the prime minister expressing support for the creation of a CDS.

Meanwhile, the government had appointed another panel led by Naresh Chandra to examine why the GoM’s recommendations of were not fully implemented and to suggest a new road map for security reforms. This panel suggested that instead of a full-fledged CDS, the government appoint a permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee with a fixed tenure. By giving the chairman a fixed term of, say, twoyears, it was hoped that he would have enough time to work on key issues of integration between the services. Now the Shekatkar panel has come up with another halfway house.

Any institutional solution along these lines is unlikely to deliver the necessary levels of integration. If the CDS does not outrank the service chiefs, then his ability to function as the single-point military adviser to the government will be undoubtedly circumscribed. At best, it will amount to an incremental improvement on the existing HQ IDS. Worse still, it will yet again create the illusion of progress and delay real reforms . The idea that such reforms should be imposed gradually or piecemeal is seriously mistaken. In most countries that have achieved institutional integration, the process has been driven politically from on high.

The CDS must be empowered fully. There should be no doubt about his being superior in the chain of command to the service chiefs. The appointment should be followed by the setting up of integrated theatre commands. The supply and logistics commands could be integrated. It is an indispensable prerequisite for ensuring “jointness” in war fighting. Simultaneously, the service chiefs should prepare to relinquish operational control over the services and become what their titles suggest: chiefs of staff, responsible for raising, equipping and training of the forces. The chain of operational command should run from the Defence Minister through the CDS to the integrated theatre commanders.

Something is not always better than nothing. As the case of HQ IDS shows the half-life of such institutional short-cuts tends to be very long. More worryingly, it helps anaesthetise the system and masks need for real reform. Enhancing the combat capability and effectiveness requires full-blooded measures. It would be sad if the government perpetuates or aggravates the problem by using palliatives. It would sadder still, if the government were forced to consider real reform by another external crisis.


J&K: How lessons from past can power future by Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain (retd)

After a particularly harrowing year, now is the time in J&K to be more optimistic. We can move ahead by strategising. Serious ideation, instead of negative reviews, is required and a window is available for that. The world is witnessing a change in the strategic environment. Tackling core issues is the need of the hour

J&K: How lessons from past can power future

POWER of RESILIENCE: A file photo of Kashmiri people busy shopping in the Sunday market at Lal Chowk in Srinagar. Tribune Photo/ Mohammad Amin War

THE year 2016 had so much negativity for Jammu and Kashmir that in the new year every article or essay related to the state is tending to be negative. Recalling the year gone by; the state of polity, level of alienation or the continued Pakistani role, are among the subjects being discussed by analysts but rarely do we find suggestions on the way forward.  2016 will probably be most remembered for the reverse in the tide although we have witnessed equally serious situations in the past and bounced back to full control thereafter. There have been constants in all these situations as well as dynamic and fluctuating aspects too. Strategic planners, who are reviewing and re-examining future strategy, need to be aware of the reverses and the bounce backs of the past. They have to be aware of the constants, the imponderables and the “definitives”. It is not as if India sat back on its haunches and did not respond in equal measure and more when its security was threatened in Jammu and Kashmir. What perhaps it did lack was the killer instinct to resolve the issue or send an appropriate message to adversaries that there was no question of their success in the face of India’s comprehensive resolve.There are different ways of looking at the situation and this can be done by reviewing what happened at some junctures in the 28-year asymmetric conflict in the state. In 1996, militancy was still at a high but the mercenary content from outside South Asia was diluting. A bold decision was then taken to go in for elections, with the full knowledge that neither was the situation conducive for electioneering, nor would the turnout indicate any major success. This was just a year after the Al Firan kidnapping incident which had sent shock waves around the world. Alienation was high, Kashmir’s media and intelligentsia were spewing venom at the Indian government and Army but militarily some success had been achieved with the setting up of the Rashtriya Rifles (RR) headquarters in south Kashmir. Prime Minister Narasimha Rao had succeeded in building a political consensus of  sorts with his February 22, 1994, joint parliamentary resolution indicating India’s full resolve to not only defend its stance on Jammu and Kashmir but also recover all its former territories. The Indian position on Jammu and Kashmir and human rights was projected at the 1994 meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission at Geneva by none other than a delegation which had the presence of Atal Behari Vajpayee and Salman Khurshid. Could there be a better message of political consensus on a national security issue? This brilliant period of national consensus diplomacy needs reiteration in today’s environment. It was India all the way. Later, 1996 proved to be a crucial year in which the democratic process was re-seeded in Jammu and Kashmir after a fairly long time. The effects of it may not have been immediate but the long-term effect was profound.In 1999, the situation was the worst in a decade. North Kashmir had been denuded of troops with the move of 8 Mountain Division to Kargil. Tension on the LoC remained high even after withdrawal of the Pakistani troops in Kargil. There were incidents in Gurez, Gulmarg, Lipa and elsewhere even post-withdrawal. The so-called Fidayeen had just commenced their suicide attacks in mid-1999, which had got all security forces in a defensive mode, at least for some time. Yet, the Parliamentary elections were held, though again with low but a marginally better voter turnout. There was no flinching from the difficult task. I remember running battles with terrorists and sounds of blasts all around our location at Avantipura on polling day. In 2003, the LoC was still alive with heavy artillery exchanges when we decided to commence construction of the LoC Fence. As the then Commander of the Uri Brigade even I had serious doubts about its viability. However, the ingenuity and energy of the troops in taking ownership of respective segments ensured that the terror mathematics was reversed in three years. Along the way, President Pervez Musharraf announced a unilateral ceasefire.  We supported it and played along. There was no change whatsoever in the levels of alienation or activities of the separatists but the effect of changed strategy of focusing closer to the LoC, led to reduction in successful infiltration and dilution in terrorist strength in the hinterland. This had a cascading effect on future operations. The period 2001-7 was the consolidation stage. The Army had the sagacity to fully support Mufti’s “healing-touch” campaign, even as it undertook proactive operations against the terrorists and achieved spectacular results.In 2008-10, the separatists changed strategy and took their struggle to the streets. There was paralysis of administration and chaos in the streets but it could not be sustained. With an outreach programme for the youth, the public at large and greater political activism, we turned 2011-12 around. This gave Jammu and Kashmir probably its most peaceful period in two- and-a-half decades and its best tourism and horticulture figures in some years. Infiltration was reduced to the lowest ever and the ratio of security men to terrorists killed during the year was also by far one of the best. A hope was rekindled in the public. Unfortunately, new militancy, lack of continuity, out-of-context demands by the state government, without considering the security situation and a general apathy by the leadership allowed a drift. This resulted in the mayhem of 2016, post the killing of Burhan Wani. The current situation has been described as an ominous silence awaiting outburst from pent- up passion. 2017 could witness this or, going by our past record, fresh initiatives could come from any quarter. This could once again witness a turnaround, this time hopefully sustainable.There is no need for despondency among those who matter in India’s strategic discourse. Such campaigns by our adversaries are open-ended, without pegged way points to objectives. The world is witnessing a change in the strategic environment. This is the time when those with a grasp of geopolitics have to be in sync with those looking at geo-strategic aspects. Initiatives must include incentives for Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. A general theme giving sustained peace a chance, along with means by which all core issues can be discussed by the people most affected, could be the need. For that, leaders have to come forward, shed inhibitions and take issues by the horns, as was done in the past. The stakes of peace must be dwelt upon minds and hearts   with a resolve that 2017 will never be a repeat of 2016.The writer, a former General Officer Commanding of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps, is now associated with the Vivekanand International Foundation .