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    Gangsters enter Army firing range, arrested

    Gangsters enter Army firing range, arrested

    The arms and ammunition recovered from gangsters.

    Abohar, September 18

    Five members of a gang were nabbed with the help of villagers when they drove into the Mahajan field firing range of the Army on the Sriganganagar-Bikaner highway on Monday.

    The police said the gangsters had escaped on September 13 after firing at the house of another gangster Sukha near Sikar. They were planning to go to Sriganganagar, but in a haste drove into the Army’s field firing range. Realising their error, they reversed the car, which triggered suspicion. As an alarm was raised to intercept the car, villagers came out and assisted in nabbing the occupants. The car-borne gangsters have been identified as Mukesh and Hira Lal of Paproli, Anil of Katrathal, Shrawan Kumar of Bhairupura and Divesh Pareek of Sikar. Three unlicenced pistols, two magazines and some cartridges were seized.

    Suratgarh DSP Lokender Dadarwal said a case under Sections 399 and 400 of the IPC and the Arms Act had been registered against them. Preliminary investigation indicated that they were allegedly involved in incidents of loot, burglaries, snatching besides attempt to murder. — OC

    Antony seeks JPC on Rafale, counters Sitharaman

    Antony seeks JPC on Rafale, counters Sitharaman

    Former Defence Minister AK Anthony (right) and Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala address a press conference at the AICC headquarters in New Delhi on Tuesday. Tribune photo: Manas Ranjan Bhui

    Aditi Tandon

    Tribune News Service

    New Delhi, September 18

    Former Defence Minister AK Antony on Tuesday reiterated the Congress demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe in the Rafale jet deal and accused Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of leveling false allegations on him in the matter.

    Antony said the BJP Government had jeopardised national security by being unable to procure the Rafale aircraft in time despite citing emergency purchase for the April 10, 2015 direct deal with the French Government.

    He also said Sitharaman had tarnished the reputation of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited nationally and internationally by saying it did not have the ability to manufacture 108 Rafale jets in India.

    On Sitharaman’s previous charge that Antony had delayed the procurement of the jets despite the deal being ready in UPA times, the former Defence Minister said the accusation was “unfair”.

    “The Finance Ministry at the time had objections to the life cycle cost approach concept, which was new and I told them to take the matter to the Cabinet Committee on Security. A senior BJP member also wrote to me at the time and I as minister acted with responsibility by referring the issue to the CCS,” Antony said at a press conference today.

    He accused Nirmala Sitharaman of suppression of facts and said BJP’s claim that 36 jets negotiated with the French government in 2015 were cheaper was false.

    “If the deal was indeed cheaper why did the BJP Government not negotiate for all 126 aircraft and why only 36?” asked Antony.

    He then said the Modi Government had claimed emergency purchased as the reason behind scrapping the UPA time deal and negotiating a new deal.

    “The first aircraft will be delivered by September 2019 and the 36 jets by September 2020. All the 126 aircraft are not arriving before 2030. So where is the urgency clause now?” Antony asked.

    He also accused the Government of undermining the prestige of HAL by saying it cannot make the aircraft in India.

    “If there is any firm that can make the aircraft it is HAL,” Antony said.

    Asked by The Tribune whether the Congress planned to move the Central Vigilance Commission against the Rafle deal, Antony said the first demand of the party was the JPC.

    The Congress added that at an appropriate time it will also petition the CVC and CAG to fulfill their “constitutional obligation of looking into the Rafale deal on their own”.


    Back to daggers drawn India, Pak find ways to needle each other

    Back to daggers drawn

    The détente was probably not meant to last for long. Days after PM Modi dialled his Pakistani counterpart, the two sides are back to acrimonious exchanges. Imran Khan had raised hopes with his famous ‘you take one step forward and I will take two in return’ offer but it now appears this was more of a customary politically-correct but empty statement by a politician on assuming office. The Pakistan army, which unabashedly uses armed non-state actors as a tool of foreign policy, was not amused. Its chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa used the defence day forum to promise to avenge every drop of blood shed on the border. And now Imran Khan has nettled South Block by terming its bête noire ISI as his country’s first line of defence.

    The State’s policies and priorities have to be terribly warped when its intelligence agency is held up as the first line of defence. A normal country generally has diplomats and its soft power backed by military deterrence as its front-office to the world. The implication of a newly elected Pakistan PM talking up ISI was not lost in India. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh played the statesman by ending his barrage with the hope that Pakistan mends its ways. But the vitriol was unmistakable and undisguised. His Cabinet colleagues picked up the threads to deliver more verbal fusillade.

    It is hard to say whether this was a ploy to keep Pakistan under a joint Indo-US pincer pressure. A better alternative would have been to throw a few olive branches in the mix. Talks on a passage to Kartarpur could have built on recently held conversations on soft subjects. But Kartarpur seems to have fallen in the cracks of political divisiveness. Neither PM Modi at the fag-end of his term is likely to pick up the talks gauntlet nor can Imran take up a big ticket subject early in his tenure and risk a failure. Back channel, rather than public diplomacy, with its attendant domestic constraints, seems a more viable option.

    Missing BSF man found dead along border with Pak

    Missing BSF man found dead along border with Pak

    Jammu, September 18

    A BSF jawan, who went missing from a forward area along the India-Pakistan border in Jammu on Tuesday morning, was found dead later in the day, officials in Delhi said. Head Constable Narinder Singh of 176 Battalion is suspected to have been hit by a sniper shot from across the border when troops were clearing the ‘sarkanda’ grass ahead of their post in RS Pura.

    “The body was found by a search party,” a senior official said. A flag meeting was held between BSF and Pakistan Rangers. Ram Avtar, IG, Jammu Frontier, too visited the area but did not speak with the media.

    A source in the local administration told The Tribune that the Head Constable was driving a tractor when he was targeted. The incident comes within 24 hours of Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s visit to the Makwal border outpost. Rajnath had warned there was no change in Pakistan’s attitude towards India. — TNS


    Major Gogoi shifted out of Budgam unit

    Major Gogoi shifted out of Budgam unit

    Majid Jahangir

    Tribune News Service

    Srinagar, September 18

    Days after a Court of Inquiry (CoI) held Major Leetul Gogoi  guilty of fraternising with a local Kashmiri girl and being away from his place of duty in an operational area, the officer has been shifted out of his unit based in Budgam and attached to the local formation headquarters.

    Major Gogoi will face summary of evidence (SoE) and, if required, the Army will later initiate court martial proceedings against him.

    Officials said Major Gogoi had been shifted out of his 53 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) unit based at Beerwah, Budgam, and “attached” to the Army’s Awantipora-based Victor Force headquarters to face the SoE. “The shifting is a normal procedure once the SoE begins,” a Defence official explained.

    Major Gogoi was detained by the police on May 23 while he was in a Srinagar hotel with a local Kashmir girl and another soldier Sameer Malla.

    Barnala soldier shoots 2 seniors dead, kills self in Dharamshala


    DHARAMSHALA: An army jawan shot his two colleagues dead before committing suicide in Dharamshala military station in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, police said on Monday.

    HT PHOTO■ Jasbir Singh’s father Nirbhai Singh (R) being consoled by neighbours at his house in Barnala.“A soldier of 18 Sikh Regiment ran amok in the early hours on Monday shooting two of his colleagues dead before killing himself,” said Kangra assistant superintendent of police (ASP) Badri Singh.

    “The incident took place at around 2.15 am inside the cantonment,” he added.

    According to the information, 21-year-old Sepoy Jasbir Singh fired at Havildar Hardeep Singh, 45, and Naik Harpal Singh, 35, with his INSAS rifle before shooting self.

    Jasbir was a native of village Rajgarh of Barnala, while Hardeep was from village Marhana, district Tarn Taran, and Harpal from village Thundi, district Gurdaspur in Punjab.

    Jasbir had joined the army a year-and-a-half ago while Hardeep and Harpal have completed 23 and 18 years in service, respectively. “Circumstances in which Jasbir took the drastic step are yet to be ascertained,” said the ASP. “A case under Section 302 has been registered at the McLeodganj police station. We are investigating all possible angles to find out the exact reason,” said Badri, adding Jasbir fired 10 rounds on his colleagues.

    He said a team of forensic experts from Regional Forensic Science Laboratory (RFSL) Dharamshala visited crime spot and collected samples.

    Commanding Officer (CO) of 18 Sikh Regiment at Dharamshala cantonment Navdeep Brar said prima facie it seems that Jasbir, after coming back from the duty, had an argument with the other two soldiers and in a fit of rage he shot them and later himself. Jasbir was on sentry duty in the cantonment mess.

    Army has ordered court of inquiry into the incident.

    Meanwhile, bodies of the deceased soldiers have been sent to Dr Rajendera Prasad Government Medical College Tanda.

    It is the first fratricide incident in the 18 Sikh Regiment. BARNALA : At Rajgarh village in Barnala district, some neighbours and relatives gathered at the house of Nirbhay Singh, a farmer, on Monday afternoon. There were curious faces all around as they knew something wrong had happened.

    People came to know from some news channels that a fratricidal shooting had taken place at the Dharamshala military station in the neighbouring Himachal Pradesh, resulting in the death of three soldiers.

    And the man who opened fire was Nirbhai’s younger son Jasbir Singh who also killed himself before shooting his two senior colleagues — Havildar Hardeep Singh and Naik Harpal Singh — of the 18 Sikh Regiment.

    Jasbir (21), a sepoy, had joined the army only one-and-a-half-years back.

    All that Nirbhay and his wife were informed by those present was that Jasbir had met with an accident and was hospitalised. But his father would not buy it. “I usually get calls from Jasbir every three days. I had spoken to him on Saturday. Today, his phone is switched off. Kitey uss di maut taan nehi ho gayi? Sach dasso mainu. (Seems like he has died. Tell me the truth).”

    Also, his mother, getting suspicious, repeatedly enquires about the well-being of her son. “My nephew left his lunch even before he started having it. I got a call from my elder son Jagdeep but he did not say anything. It seems something serious has happened,” Nirbhay said further.

    Jasbir’s uncle Surjit Singh, who knew about his death, said, “My son’s marriage is fixed for November. A few days back, Jasbir told me over phone that he will take leave to attend the marriage. Now, he will never come. He had left his polytechnic diploma course midway to join the army.” A MILD-MANNERED MAN, SAY LOCAL RESIDENTS Many relatives and friends of the family recalled Jasbir as a softspoken person. His elder brother, Jagdeep Singh, also in the army, is posted at Baramulla in Jammu and Kashmir.

    Village sarpanch Karamjit Singh said, “Jasbir was a polite. Around six months back when came on leave, he met me. He was quite happy about his job.”

    “His body will reach here tomorrow after conducting of autopsy,” added Karamjit.

    Jaspal Singh, a villager who retired as havildar from the army, said, “As there are not many job options here, Jasbir opted for the army. As his brother was already in the army, the ‘relation certificate’ made it easy for Jasbir to get recruited.”

    A village panch, Amrik Singh, said, “There are around 12-13 persons in army from our village. Nirbhai was brave enough to send both his sons to the army.”

    The family had got no official communication either from the army or the district administration regarding the incident till filing of the report.


    Capt lashes out at Badals for ‘fanning communal hatred’

    Our Correspondent

    Zirakpur, September 17

    “We will not allow anyone incriminated in any case of religious desecration to go scot-free”. This was stated by Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh here today.

    The Punjab Chief Minister was speaking after inaugurating Cine Plaza near McDonald’s in Zirakpur. He lashed out at the Badals for fanning communal hatred, warning that nobody involved in the sacrilege cases would be spared.

    Capt Amarinder Singh also flayed Akali veteran Parkash Singh Badal for trying to divert the people’s attention from the findings of the Justice Ranjit Singh Commission, which had squarely blamed the previous regime for the desecration of holy scriptures.

    He reiterated his firm resolve to bring to book all culprits involved in various sacrilegious acts, saying that the SIT team would thoroughly investigate nearly 200 incidents of sacrilege of holy scriptures, including Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Gutka Sahib, Srimad Bhagwad Gita and Quran Sharif.

    To a query on the proposed Congress rally in Parkash Singh Badal’s home ground Lambi, Capt Amarinder said he would expose the malicious intent of the Badals to vitiate the peaceful atmosphere in the state.

    Capt Amarinder said his government had planned to develop Zirakpur town as one of the best cities in the state with ultra-modern facilities and civic amenities. The Chief Minister also stated that Zirakpur had only a few scattered houses and had, over the years, grown into one of the fastest growing satellite towns as an integral part of the tricity.

    Highlighting the revived positive investment sentiment in the state ever since the Congress government took over, the Chief Minister said construction activity in Zirakpur had recently picked up, resulting in the sale of nearly 28,000 new houses in the area.

    On the issue of Dashmesh canal, Capt Amarinder Singh said as the matter of river waters was with the Supreme Court, the state government would explore the feasibility of constructing Dashmesh canal in due course of time.

    Prominent among other who were present on the occasion included senior Congress leader Kewal Singh Dhillon, Mohali Deputy Commissioner Gurpreet Kaur Sapra and SSP Kuldeep Singh Chahal.

    Govt has planned to develop Zirakpur as one of the best cities in state, says CM

    Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh said his government had planned to develop Zirakpur town as one of the best cities in the state with ultra-modern facilities and civic amenities. The Chief Minister also stated that Zirakpur had only a few scattered houses and had, over the years, grown into one of the fastest growing satellite towns as an integral part of the tricity.

    Ministry of Defence gives go-ahead to two more Akash missiles

    Ministry of Defence gives go-ahead to two more Akash missiles

    Nirmala Sitharaman. PTI file

    Tribune News Service

    New Delhi, September 18

    The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, on Tuesday gave approval for the procurement of two additional regiments of the Akash missile, an air defence weapon.

    These Akash Missile Systems will be supplied by Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL). The missile to be procured is an upgraded version of the previously inducted Akash missiles and will include seeker technology. It possesses a 360- degree coverage and will be of compact configuration with reduced signature.

    The upgraded Akash Weapon System is an operationally critical equipment which will provide protection to vital assets.

    In all, the DAC okayed the procurement of equipment for nearly Rs 9,100 crore.

    The DAC also gave approval for progressing Design and Development of Individual Under-Water Breathing Apparatus for T-90 tanks developed by the DRDO.

    The DAC also approved the design and development of test equipment for guided weapons system of T-90 tank. The equipment is being developed by the DRDO.


    No proposal so far to cut down Army numbers: Sitharaman Anti-national’ activities at JNU

    No proposal so far to cut down Army numbers: Sitharaman

    Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was addressing women journalists at the Indian Women Press Corps on Tuesday. ANI photo

    Ajay Banerjee
    Tribune News Service
    New Delhi, September 18

    Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday said there was no proposal before her to bring down the strength of the Indian Army.

    itharaman, who was addressing women journalists at the Indian Women Press Corps on Tuesday afternoon, was asked about the proposed restructuring of the army and reports that its numbers could be cut down.

    Choosing her words carefully, Sitharaman said there was “no proposal” before her, adding that Army chief General Bipin Rawat and his senior commanders were discussing a report is based on report of committee headed by Lt Gen DB Sheketkar (Retd).

    The committee recommended making the army leaner and having a certain ‘teeth to tail ratio’ (military euphemism for ratio of fighting units and support services).

    The proposal has yet to reach the Ministry of Defence.

    Speaking about a promised panel promised panel to induct more women in the Short Service Commission (SSC), Sitharaman said details of the proposition were being “worked out”.

    The Prime Minister had announced a permanent commission on Independence Day during his speech from the Red Fort.”We are working to get all three services to see that more areas will be available for women to be join as permanent officers,” the defence minister said.

    Army chief has ordered four studies to review the structure of the Army. A review is slated in first week on October and another one in end-October.

    On the issue of getting the S 400 air defence missile system from Russia, Sitharaman said: “Negotiations are in final stage. We have to see when we can sign. Our relationship with Russia is longstanding it’s a constant issue of balancing and we have balanced (between US and Russia)”.

    During Indo-US 2+2 dialogue, the CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) was not raised. Referring to the overarching security information exchange (COMCASA) the Defence Minister said:  “We are the only non-NATO country to get the deal. It is an historic step forward in strengthening relations with US”.


    On being asked about former Defence Minister AK Antony’s allegations why Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was not made the Indian partner in the Rafale deal, Sitharaman said one of the things that did not happen during UPA was that HAL and Dassault could not work together.

    “To say that we have not taken care of HAL is incorrect, the UPA did not care of IAF or HAL,” Sitharaman said, adding it is for UPA to answer whether HAL’s terms were appealing enough. “All questions on HAL should go to UPA it is them who did not sign the agreement,” she said.

    She dismissed Congress party’s calls for a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) saying: “Why JPC? We are discussing it. We are talking about it in parliament”.

    Countering Antony on why the central government limited itself to only 36 Rafale jets if the price was low, Sitharaman said: “No plane is not an over-the-counter purchase. We’ve had to negotiate the price. Our basic price is 9 per cent cheaper than the one negotiated by UPA”.

    On being asked about what is happening in Jawharlal University (JNU), of which she is an alumna, the Defence Minister said: since the past four-five years what is happening in JNU regarding slogans and pamphlets being distributed (by a section of students) is anti-India. I will call them anti-national”.

    On Mallya

    When asked about press reports that said the Central Bureau of Investigation downgraded their lookout notice for embattled liquor baron Vijay Mallya before he escaped the country two years ago, Sitharaman refused to comment, instead questioning the former regime UPA over “indiscriminate” lending to Mallya’s failing Kingfisher Airlines.

    “I refuse to comment on CBI’s working. But the question is why did UPA allow more loans in 2011 despite Kingfisher being on the verge of closure,” she asked.

    Mallya revealed recently he had met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and offered to “settle his dues” before he left the country in March 2016—a bombshell that had rivals questioning the minister’s role in his escape. Adding to this debate were press reports that revealed that the CBI, one of the several agencies investigating cases of fraud against Mallya, downgraded its lookout circular from ‘detain’ to merely ‘inform’, which critics say allowed him to leave with any hindrance.

    Mallya left the country in March 2016, leaving a trail of unpaid loans worth Rs 9,000 core that a consortium of banks led by State Bank of India have since been struggling to get back.

    The CBI is currently battling in a UK court to have him deported to India.

    Sushma assured me draft on Kartarpur ready, would soon send letter to Pak: Sidhu

    Sushma assured me draft on Kartarpur ready, would soon send letter to Pak: Sidhu

    Navjot Sidhu. Tribune photo

    Vishav Bharti

    Tribune News Service

    Chandigarh, September 18

    Rubbishing Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal’s claim that he was snubbed by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on the Kartarpur corridor issue, Punjab Local Bodies Minister Navjot Sidhu on Tuesday said Swaraj had assured him that the draft was ready and the letter would soon be sent to Pakistan.Following the meeting between Sidhu and Swaraj on Monday, Harsimrat had claimed that the Punjab minister had made an unannounced visit to the External Affairs Minister and was “told that the matter was already being pursued by me and that he had no business making false claims”.

    However, Sidhu rubbished her claim saying he would not do politics on the religious issue. “The appointment was taken in advance and the minister said that the draft of the letter was ready and would soon be sent to Pakistan,” he clarified in a press conference here.He said former minister MS Gill accompanied him on his request as he had been pursuing the issue for long.

    In a separate letter sent to Swaraj, referring to the Pakistan government’s offer of opening the corridor, Sidhu said Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had held a meeting with all stakeholders and Sikh pilgrims’ yearning to visit Kartarpur Sahib would soon be fulfilled as they were ready to open the corridor.

    He said it was also reiterated by Pakistan Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry through a tweet and a video interview to the BBC Punjabi on September 7. Chaudhry had said that Pakistan is willing to open the corridor and is waiting for India’s formal affirmation.

    Sidhu said he had requested Swaraj to send a formal request to the Pakistan government for an early agreement and opening of the Kartarpur Sahib passage immediately after the current monsoon session.