Sanjha Morcha



Donkey at the border! by GS Aujla

Donkey at the border!

GS Aujla

WHAT would appear to be the most objectionable provocation at the International Border today was known in the mid-seventies as an acceptable indulgence on the dhussi bundh separating India and Pakistan. The heavily vegetated area, with a kutcha road all along the border in Gurdaspur, was home to a teeming brood of black partridges and wild boar.A tacit courtesy that Pakistan Rangers extended to their Indian counterparts was to allow shooting partridge and wild boar. Since pork is forbidden in Islam, they did not mind us shooting the pigs. I found in the late PD Vashisht, the then Additional Deputy Commissioner of Gurdaspur, an avid hunter. Although a Brahmin by birth, his mouth would start watering the moment he saw a partridge in the bushes. In the hunting season, the two of us — after duty hours — would proceed to the dhussi for ‘patrol’, with our 12-bore shotguns jutting out of the windscreen. We would often leave the jeep and let a bird fly to take a shot. The chances of survival of our likely prey was 50-50 as neither of us was an expert at flying shots. I was an ace rifle shot in my younger days and made a lousy shot with the shotgun. I am told a good rifle shooter scarcely becomes a good shotgun firer. Vashisht was a cerebral hunting addict and was happy with a small bag of partridges — mostly ‘sitting ducks’, as the phrase goes.The BSF officer at the border outpost would facilitate the roasting of the partridges and had a cook who was an expert at barbeque that he made out of wild boar. We had the most enjoyable time at the International Border and there was no cross-border tension.One day, when we were driving on the dhussi bundh, we saw a donkey in our territory. It was so heavily loaded that it could hardly walk. We got off our jeep and with the help of our driver and retainers searched the animal. We found five cases of ‘Solan Number One’ (a popular brand of whisky made in India) in the bags. Handing over the donkey at the outpost, we were told that Indian smugglers used to load donkeys with their favourite brand of liquor for Pakistani counterparts. We were also told that a bottle of ‘Solan’, costing Rs 35 in India, was sold for Rs 350 in Lahore on the black market. The forbidden fruit is always dearer.The unfortunate donkey had strayed back into the Indian territory, apparently having lost its way and failing to deliver it to the assigned receiver across the border. Ironically, there was no punishment for it — it was mercifully spared a torturous interrogation. A triumph for animal rights!

The Gurdaspur verdict More than Congress victory, a jolt to BJP

The Gurdaspur verdict

SUNIL Jakhar has notched up an impressive victory margin in the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha byelection. It was, in many ways, an inconsequential election; the outcome does not make any substantial difference to the Lok Sabha numbers. In any case, the ruling parties tend to prevail in byelections and the Congress has registered an absolute victory. Still, a Congress defeat would have rendered the Amarinder Singh government deeply wounded; the Congress, it appears, has not yet run afoul of the voter; on the other hand, Punjab remains curiously indifferent to Narendra Modi’s charm and charisma.Ever since 2014, a negative vote has been a recurring theme, contributing to a despondency among the voters over political choices. All major contestants in Gurdaspur had an opportunity to redeem themselves; all of them gave it a miss. The Congressmen, instead of pushing the “delivering CM” image of Capt Amarinder Singh that they have been trying to build, were content with sticking the sleaze charge on the rivals. The SAD, instead of demonstrating some humility in the wake of the Assembly drubbing, fielded the same old discredited and arrogant campaigners, who this time did not have the advantage of the “official machinery”. The BJP, in a constituency with a significant Hindu presence, could not prove it had anything other than Vinod Khanna’s star power for nearly the past two decades. The limits of its self-styled Chankayas and their political wizardry have been made evident.The Gurdaspur contest is not without certain lessons. The Congress high command needs to sit up to the sharp divisions within the party, which required a leader from the other end of the state to come in and contest. AAP may try and register its presence the next time. The Akalis, of course, need to send some of their star leaders to the cleaners, and wake up to a new level of voter awareness, especially in the time of social media. But the most important and urgent lesson is for the BJP. It was its doings at the Centre — demonetisation and GST — that have actually handed the victory to Sunil Jakhar on a platter.

IAF ready to fight at short notice, if need arises: Air Force Chief

Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa inspecting guard of honour on the occasion of 85th Air Force Day at Hindon, Ghaziabad, on Sunday. Tribune photo: Manas Ranjan Bhui

IAF’s Suryakiran jet trainers perform on the occasion of 85th Air Force Day Parade at the Air Force Station, Hindon, in Ghaziabad  on Sunday. Tribune photo: Manas Ranjan Bhui

Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

Hindon (Western UP), October 8The Indian Air Force is ready to fight at a short notice, if the need arises, said IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa on Sunday morning.(Follow The Tribune on Facebook; and Twitter @thetribunechd)He was speaking at the Air Force Day parade at Hindon air base located east of the national capital.He paid homage to the seven military personnel who died in a helicopter crash near Tawang on October 6.The IAF Chief, talking to mediapersons, said the copter crash in Tawang on October 6 was prima facie caused as the copter’s tail rotor was dis-engaged.“The exact cause will be known latter. Will not speak more on the issue as the court of inquiry is on,” he said. The Mi-17 v5 copter, like the one that crashed, is flying.On being asked about the role of the women fighter pilots, the IAF chief said, “We intend to put women on MiG 21 jets as these are the best to hone your skills.”Addressing the issue of fighter jets, the IAF Chief said an early decision on the Make in India project (for some 120 single-engine jets) will help matters. The IAF, he said, was progressively reaching network-centric warfare. “We have maintained operational readiness by way of exercises.”He also said the Air Force was acquiring multi-spectrum strategic capabilities and remained committed to building a “joint manship” with the Indian Army and the Navy.Dhanoa said security of all Air Force stations have been enhanced to combat any threat, including sub-conventional threats, after the terrorist attack on the IAF base station in Pathankot last year.In January last year, terrorists sneaked in from across the border and attacked the air base. The attack claimed the lives of seven security personnel while four terrorists were killed. — With agencies

Pak violates ceasefire for third consecutive day

Pak violates ceasefire for third consecutive day
Villagers show mortar shells fired from the Pakistani side. File photo

Shyam Sood

Rajouri, October 4

The Pakistan army has violated the ceasefire for three consecutive days in the first week of October so far. During these days, a soldier attained martyrdom, three others were injured, while two minor children were killed and 12 others suffered injuries in Qasba, Bagliyar Dhara and Banwat villages of Poonch district.Today, the Pakistan army used mortars and automatic weapons to target Poonch, Balakot (Poonch district) and Lam sector in Rajouri district. No loss to property or injury to any civilian/soldier has been reported today. The Army, however, retaliated heavily to unprovoked mortar shelling and firing by the Pakistan army.In Balakot sector, troops of Pakistan’s 801 Mujahidin battalion targeted Indian forward posts manned by Gorkha unit using mortars and automatic weapons around 5.30 am.In Lam sector, the Pakistan army violated the truce and fired mortar shells on Indian posts manned by Sikh Li unit. It initiated unprovoked firing/mortar shelling along the LoC in Poonch sector around 9 am.“The Indian Army has retaliated strongly and effectively” said defence spokesman Col NN Joshi.

Too little, too late Excessive duties on petrol and diesel are anti-poor

Too little, too late

THE Modi government has finally slashed excise duty on petrol and diesel by Rs 2 per litre each after continuously raising it in small doses nearly a dozen times in less than three years. Maybe the Finance Ministry yielded to public pressure and slashed excise duty; many others see it as a political compulsion ahead of the crucial Gujarat election, the home turf of PM Modi. With public anger building up, the government could not remain indifferent to the demand of providing relief from rising fuel prices. The Finance Ministry has, however, justified it as a move to quell rising inflation, ignoring minister KJ Alphons’ cocky comment that those who own vehicles could also pay higher fuel prices. The Finance Ministry had been a silent spectator to the gradual increase in fuel rates because there was no immediate political compulsion. Undoubtedly, petrol and diesel are the biggest revenue earners for both the Centre and states. But, indirect taxes on fuels ultimately hit the common man. The poor are being asked to pay for roads, airports, educational institutions and hospitals, which are mainly patronised by the affluent sections of society. All good governments instead choose the direct tax option to increase their revenues, where people are taxed as per their income and ability to contribute. Not only has the government taken its own time in reducing duty but also the quantum of the cut is inadequate. This half-hearted move will neither provide the desired relief to the consumer nor save the Finance Ministry from missing the revenue deficit target as it will still lose a revenue of Rs 13,000 crore. If the government is serious about protecting the consumer’s interest and shielding the poor from the cascading impact of transportation fuel on essential commodities, it needs to slash excise duties by another Rs 3-4 per litre to align retail prices that existed three years ago. Simultaneously, the Centre and states should work together to bring auto fuels under the GST regime to bring predictability in pricing and have a one-nation one-tax policy.  

Choices for Raj Bhavans Gravitas missing, mostly

Choices for Raj Bhavans

The only thing that recommends itself about the Centre’s choice of six new gubernatorial faces is that the Home Ministry at last could attend to this critical task of filling vacancies in various Raj Bhavans. It is, at best, a mixed bag. It is perhaps too late in the day to lament that every regime at the Centre ends up using the Raj Bhavans and Raj Niwases as parking space for redundant political figures. There is not much to write home about choices, belatedly, made. There is one significant omission in the Saturday’s announcement: the Srinagar Raj Bhavan remains undisturbed. For too long there have been unhealthy and unbecoming speculations – mostly emanating from the ruling party quarters in Delhi and Jammu—that a new Governor would be arriving shortly in Srinagar. Jammu and Kashmir is too sensitive a state to be subjected to such uncertainties and doubts. All said and done, the Jammu and Kashmir Governor is the Centre’s emissary and representative, as well as New Delhi’s eyes and ears besides being constitutionally obliged to be a watchful guardian of the state’s well-being. Given the state’s troubled circumstances, at no time there should be any doubt about the Centre’s confidence and trust in the Governor of the day. NN Vohra’s presence has had a stabilising and salutary effect in these times of considerable confusion atop the Raisina Hills.And, there is a significant inclusion—Brigadier (retd) BD Mishra as Governor for Arunachal Pradesh. While it has been customary for some time now to trawl the retired armed forces leadership for potential gubernatorial choices in the North-East, it is the first time that a Brigadier-level official has been tapped on the shoulder. Arunachal Pradesh is a state where the Army has considerable voice in guaranteeing its security and stability. A retired Brigadier in the Itanagar Raj Bhavan would make a strange interlocutor for the Army brass, wedded as it is to the discipline of hierarchy and protocol. Brigadier Mishra’s only claim to fame is that he has been associated with the BJP’s ex-servicemen cell and was actively involved in mobilising the fauji constituency during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. This choice is fraught with implications, mostly unhealthy.  

DISCONTENT IN INDIAN ARMED FORCES by by Air Marshal R. S. Bedi (retd)

A few decades ago a senior former bureaucrat wrote in his book that it was not possible for the Armed Forces to stage a coup in India. The argument was simply based on the fact that Indian society was a complex body comprising different castes, religions, languages and ethnicities.
No General, however popular, could be sure of the total loyalty and backing of so diverse a force as the Indian Armed Forces. He was perhaps right. Despite this, the fear in the corridors of power continued to persist, for many a fledgling democracy was falling prey to ambitions of men in uniform. There lay the genesis of the process of downsizing and subordinating the Indian Armed Forces.
At present, the state of affairs in the Armed Forces is somewhat disturbing.
• The cumulative effect of years of neglect of the Armed Forces has begun to manifest. Today’s soldier is educated, conscious of his status and standing. His aspirations are growing with the fast-changing environment around him. This, perhaps, is the main reason for repeated incidents of indiscipline in the Army.
• The men were never so verbose and openly daring as they are now in expressing their dissatisfaction. The palpable resentment of the mass of the Armed Forces against the government doesn’t augur well for the future.
Year after year, the Armed Forces have been given a raw deal. They are downgraded with regular periodicity and denuded of power due to them. Enough has been said about their dwindling status. Even the paramilitary forces seem to be overtaking them in many respects.
• The bureaucracy has tightened its grip to the extent that orders from the highest in the government establishment are either diluted or not implemented in proper spirit.
Realising deep discontent in the Armed Forces in regard to the Sixth Pay Commission award, the Prime Minister ordered a high-powered committee to look into the Armed Forces’ grievances. The bureaucracy got away with impunity without delivering. The problem continues to simmer. There is mounting discontentment over the government’s inability to set things right. The political leadership that should, in fact, be the epicentre of power is gradually becoming ineffective.
The retired community, less shackled with rules and regulations, is far more verbose and has even resorted to rallies and dharnas to express their dissatisfaction. They surrendered their hard-earned medals to their Commander-in-Chief to protest against the step-motherly treatment meted out to them. The president showed scant regard for this desperate act of the soldiers.
• Surprisingly, even the paramilitary forces are better placed and better looked after by their Home Ministry than the Armed Forces by their Defence Ministry. In the case of the latter, the Services first struggle with their own ministry to get past it to secure government approval for anything that it needs. The reason not generally known for the paramilitary forces to be under the Home Ministry instead of the Defence Ministry in itself assures them somewhat better treatment.
• They don’t have to fight with their own ministry as do the Armed Forces.
The Armed Forces are not in any major decision-making loop, not even in regard to national security.
This is when the country is on the verge of completing its nuclear triad and acquiring strategic weapons. Presently, no uniformed personnel serve in the Ministry of Defence despite the recommendations made by various committees in the past to make decision-making more informed and rational. Many a committee, including the one on Kargil, has made such recommendations but none has been implemented by the all-powerful bureaucracy.
It’s a pity that despite the highly specialised staff available at the Services headquarters, the political establishment relies totally on the (inept self-serving) Ministry of Defence civil servants drawn from diverse backgrounds. Since the Services have a limited access to the political establishment, they are unable to make any worthwhile contribution to matters of national importance. The Chiefs can hardly meet the Prime Minister. Meeting the Defence Minister is not a routine affair either.
The plight of the soldier has not moved the conscience of the government.
He is taken for granted and tasked to perform what his civilian compatriots prefer not to do or perhaps consider it too dangerous to stake their lives.
• He is killed almost every day which is just a matter of statistics for the government. Only his family sheds tears for they will have to struggle for the rest of their lives; first with the bureaucracy to get what is due to them and then try to subsist with growing responsibilities and scarce resources. His status and emoluments are perhaps among the lowest in the government hierarchy. Yet he does not come out in the streets to protest.
• But now the discontentment is no more confined to whispers. It is getting louder by the day. Questions are asked but unfortunately the answers are not forthcoming. How long will the mandarins in the North and South Blocks ignore the writing on the wall?
The military leadership has been sounding the government at various levels but to no avail. In a rare display of political magnanimity, the Defence Minister wrote to the Prime Minister a couple of months ago with an implicit warning in regard to the deteriorating state of affairs in the Armed Forces. The Prime Minister acted ‘promptly’ and asked the bureaucracy, the same people who are largely responsible for creating the mess, to look into it.
The bureaucrats, as is their wont, refused to include representatives from the Armed Forces whose problems they are supposed to resolve. Obviously, one doesn’t expect much from them in the absence of their voice being heard directly. In the end, some cosmetic changes will be brought about, but the problem will linger on.
• They are no more reticent and subdued. At least, three cases have been reported in the recent past of revolts against officers. It may be the tip of the iceberg. In any case, it is a reflection of deteriorating standards and morale of men in uniform. Whatever be the reasons for dissatisfaction—pay, pension, food, facilities or status—once the intensity of feelings reaches the critical stage, the consequences may be serious.
The naval mutiny in 1946 was led by signalman M. S. Khan and Telegraphist Madan Singh as a strike in protest against the general conditions of service, inadequate facilities and poor quality of food. The revolt spread fast throughout British India from Karachi to Calcutta and ultimately came to involve nearly 20,000 sailors on 78 ships and 20 shore establishments.
So was the 1857 Mutiny inspired by an ordinary soldier called Pandey in Meerut that soon escalated into other mutinies and civilian rebellions.
The Indian Air Force too was gradually sucked in the naval strike. And so was the Indian Army. The NCOs defied the orders from their British superiors. In Madras and Poona, the British garrison faced a revolt in the ranks of the Indian Army. In fact, widespread rioting took place from Calcutta to Karachi.
Even the British Air Force revolted against the conditions of service in January 1946. The mutiny began in Karachi and spread to 60 RAF stations in India, Ceylon and Singapore. Lord Wavel, then Viceroy of India, stated that the action of the British airmen inspired both Indian Navy and Air Force mutinies. Revolts and rebellions are not necessarily led by the officer class; in fact, often by men whose only concern is their conditions of service and welfare.
• • Today the discontent is far more pronounced than ever before. Whether it is the lackadaisical attitude of the government or a wilful decision is hard to say.
Courtesy:Facebook Post By Col.Mahip Chadha.

Navy gets INS Kiltan


Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman with Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba (2nd from L) in Visakhapatnam on Monday. PTI

The indigenously built anti-submarine warfare stealth corvette INS Kiltan, which was commissioned on Monday, is equipped with a plethora of weapons and sensors to provide a Common Operational PictureIt is India’s first major warship to have a superstructure of carbon fibre composite material resulting in improved stealth features, lower top weight and maintenance costs, the release said

92 Base Hospital: A Life Saver To The Indian Army Bravehearts And Many More BY LT Gen Syed Ata Hasnain

92 Base Hospital: A Life Saver To The Indian Army Bravehearts And Many More


This is a motivation and leadership-based essay with its backdrop being the iconic 92 Base Hospital located at the Badami Bagh Cantonment in Srinagar. It is a common belief among soldiers that if you are delivered to 92 Base Hospital with your life hanging even by a thread, it is guaranteed that you will live.

I attend various seminars on leadership and speak on it all over the country and abroad. It is fun and sometimes humorous to hear gurus of every hue hold forth on various scientific theories on leadership and how to make it more effective. I rarely speak with reference to such theories as I am unfamiliar with them, and pepper my talk with examples of a lifetime of challenging situations. The term challenge is comparative and perceptional; each to his own way of considering something as a challenge. From warriors stories of valour are expected as related to leadership. Yet, there are more stories not related to battle which make up the repertoire of military leadership case studies.

I recall that when I was appointed to head the Srinagar-based Chinar Corps in 2010, even as Kashmir burned, the challenges were many, each in competition with the other. I mulled over what my first gesture on assuming command should be because that is a symbolic message people you lead, always look to.

It wasn’t difficult to arrive at a decision because for most soldiers life of fellow soldiers is an abiding priority. It’s the Army’s 92 Base Hospital (BH) at Badami Bagh, where lifesaving is done if a casualty occurs in operations or even due to the plethora of life-threatening situations, which are ever present in the life of army personnel in Kashmir. It is the same hospital, which rose magnificently to the occasion, when casualties came streaming in during Kargil 1999. As the staff came to me to take directions on what would be my first activity I made it clear, much to their surprise, that it would be a visit to 92 BH. The idea was to meet not only convalescing patients suffering from gunshot wounds or other debilitating injuries but more importantly to motivate and encourage the medical staff. It is they who needed to maintain the institutional image that a soldier could consider 92 BH as a sure-shot life saver once he had taken the necessary risks in operations for his nation and his fellow soldiers.

A doctor attends to an injured soldier.

A doctor attends to an injured soldier.

Word of my visit spread like wildfire; first it took 92 BH by surprise because in the perception of the medical staff, medical assistance and lifesaving was hardly a priority for senior military officers, whose focus was on operational effectiveness and achieving the task. In that focus the medical field could hardly be the highest priority. That is exactly the perception I wished to change and convey to them; that they were my priority people, who would ensure the motivation of the troops by their energetic commitment to those who became casualty in the daily run of operations.

Where did this aspect of my psyche come from? Officer warriors are sensitive people; we do not forget experiences and especially bad ones. At the rank of a senior Major in Sri Lanka in 1989, my convoy was ambushed and there were casualties on my hands. The militants had quickly broken contact and vanished into the labyrinth of lanes and by-lanes of the built-up area leaving dying men in my arms. I did not consider it worth chasing from a position of disadvantage and would rather save lives. I ceased the operation in which the initiative was not with me and proceeded to evacuate the casualties on priority; they all lived.

However, I was taken to the cleaners for giving priority to the saving of lives rather than to the chasing of militants to gun down a few for brownie points of the formation (my unit never questioned my wisdom but the brigade commander did because the men were not his, although as the commander every life was actually as much his responsibility). The incident never left my memory.

Through my career I continued to preach to my subordinates that in conventional operations casualties would always be second priority, to be attended to as soon as there was a lull in battle. That was how we always looked at the issue of casualties in battle situations. However, I was also aware that in hybrid and irregular operational situations militants and terrorists had short life spans; if not killed in one encounter they would meet their fate at our or someone else’s hands in a matter of days. What mattered more were the lives of the soldiers. That is the priority I wished to convey to the excellent medical staff at 92 BH, give them a feeling of the significance of their responsibility which in turn would convey back to the soldiers that they could take risks in an environment where lifesaving would receive the highest priority as long as there was no loss of national territory.

A soldier’s infant receives medical care.

A soldier’s infant receives medical care.

The need to keep motivated those who perceive that their importance is lower in the scheme of things and many times those who suffer from low esteem due to the very nature of their duties, is an abiding belief in my style of leadership. In early 2012, Kashmir was having a bad winter and that means avalanches on vulnerable army posts or garrisons. One such avalanche hit the Gurez Garrison wiping out 18 good soldiers while another at Sonamarg on the same night took the lives of three more. With 21 fatalities, the priority became the rapid move of the mortal remains to the soldiers’ homes. For that they needed to be prepared for transportation.

92 BH was tasked, as always, to perform post mortem, stitch and prepare the 21 cadavers in 24 hours with all documentation in place. Everything was ready for the wreath-laying ceremony, where we paid our last respects to our fallen comrades, covered by national television. With the ceremony over, and the mortal remains on their way to soldiers’ homes, it was now up to me to show the right sensitivity. I chose to change my programme of the morning, from flying to the Line of Control, to a more somber visit to 92 BH. I asked someone to immediately organise samosasand tea for 20 people, who I wished to fete. That done I announced that I wished to meet every single man involved in the task of post-mortem and the preparation of the mortal remains; those who kept awake the entire night performing a job considered distasteful by many and below their dignity by some.

Little did I know that most of the working people at the morgue were housekeepers (safaiwalas – as per previous nomenclature). On learning this, each member of the morgue and pathology staff was addressed, hands pumped and backs thumped. It conveyed exactly what I needed to convey – that no job that was performed was too small for recognition; even the perceived lowly jobs made a difference to our effort.

A few days ago, I met a lady doctor, who arrived at 92 BH after I had left Srinagar. She excitedly came up to me in a large gathering and said she wanted to meet me because everyone in 92 BH remembered these moments with great nostalgia. The nursing staff remembered the facilities provided in their mess and the provision of heated vehicles to transport them for night and emergency duty. The time and energy invested in 92 BH was minimal, in fact miniscule but the dividend of that investment was huge. That is why leaders must always know where the priority lies. It does not lie in the most glamorous, romantic and media-hyped entities but in the unsung and practical ones, where ordinary human beings will deliver for everyone much greater output than the effort which will go in motivating them.

92 BH remains one of the best known landmarks of the Indian Army in the Valley. Not only the Army, all police forces and even many civilians will swear by its ability to keep people alive even though all hope may have been lost. To its tireless doctors, nurses and medical staff, I convey the nation’s gratitude.

Gen SA Hasnain 1

The writer is a former GOC of India’s Srinagar based 15 Corps, now associated with Vivekanand International Foundation and the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.