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    MoD mulls new policy on blacklisting foreign firms

    Ajay Banerjee
    Tribune News Service
    New Delhi, November 28
    In an effort to strike a balance between tackling corruption in defence deals and having a method to deal with foreign companies who pay bribes, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) will address the contentious issue of ‘blacklisting’ companies in the forthcoming new Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP).
    The MoD is all set to do away with ‘uniform blacklisting’ of foreign companies which were found guilty of offering bribes.
    A new policy is being considered and ‘blacklisting’ a firm may not be good option as it just forecloses options for India.
    The challenge is from corrupt elements on the one side and cutting down on the delays in equipping the forces with the best equipment, weapons and aircraft on the other.
    Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar today told an annual conference of the industry body PHDCCI, “The blacklisting issue will be addressed in the DPP”.
    He said he would welcome positive criticism of DPP “which will help us correct it”.
    A committee headed by former Union Home Secretary Dhirendra Kumar, after talking suggestions, submitted a report on DPP and suggested that misdeeds of an entity or its employees should not be visited on the equipment or system.
    In other words, it has been suggested that there is no need to block the supply of equipment in case some bribery charge emerges.
    The MoD banned the Bofors artillery gun in the late 1980s. Since then, there has been no artillery gun purchase. Recently, the purchase of AgustaWestland helicopters was stopped midway. In both cases, suspected bribery charges emerged.
    The question before the MoD is how to deal with foreign companies who — despite being the best in their class — offer bribes or are forced to offer bribe to bag contracts in India.
    There would be no ‘blanket bans’. This will be in line with the decision the MoD took in August last year when it did not blacklist Finmeccanica, which owns AgustaWestland but offered a solution of graded punishment which ensured that no ongoing project would suffer.
    The company was contracted to supply 12 AW 101 helicopters for VVIP travel in India which was mired in allegations of kickbacks. The deal was stopped midway.
    Then, the MoD took a decision that the company would go ahead with all other contracts under execution; continue supply of spares and upgrades to India.
    However, all contracts in which the company had been declared lowest bidder after competition shall be put on hold till further orders. The MoD said that in case of fresh tender or request for proposal, Finmeccanica would not be invited.


    READY TO COMBAT CHALLENGES IN MARITIME DOMAIN: NAVAL CHIEF ADMIRAL R K DHOWAN

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    KANNUR: As the nation observes the seventh anniversary of Mumbai terror attacks, the Navy today said it has taken a “large number of measures” along with other agencies that operate in the maritime domain to deal with such threats from the sea route.

    “As Navy, as maritime force, as lead agency which looks after all aspects of coastal, maritime security, we gear up ourselves for any kind of challenge or threat,” Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral R K Dhowan said.

    He was talking to reporters after reviewing the Passing-out Parade of 330 cadets of the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard and six cadets from friendly foreign countries at the Indian Naval Academy, Ezhimala, near here.

    Navy, which has emerged as multi-dimensional network force, has taken “a large number of measures” along with all the other agencies that operate in the maritime domain to deal with such threats, Dhowan said, referring to the 26/11 attacks.

    Seven years ago, 10 Pakistani terrorists had arrived in Mumbai by sea route and opened fire indiscriminately at people killing 166, including 18 security personnel, and injuring several others, besides damaging property worth crores.

    The Navy chief also spelt out the steps taken by the Navy to strengthen the maritime-coastal security.

    “Today we have 87 automatic identification system (AIS stations) all along our coast. We have 46 coastal radar stations,” he said.

    “The Navy has set up National Command Control Communication and Intelligence Network with the Information Management Analysis Centre at Gurgaon, 51 nodes of the Navy and Coast Guard are integrated— all to provide a comprehensive maritime domain awareness … This is part of leveraging of technology,” he said on the steps taken by the Navy to prevent Mumbai model terror attack.

    Besides, he said the Navy and Coast Guard have taken all steps to see that India’s 40 million strong fishermen community in nine coastal states is part of “our eyes and ears.”

    “Because you can leverage technology. But you need to take everybody a part of the team and for that the Navy and the Coast Guard actually mapped every single coastal village of the West and East coast of India, spoken to the fishermen in their language, make them understand the importance of coastal security and how each one of them is an important member as eyes and ears of coastal service,” he said.

    Noting that the registration of around 2.5 lakh fishing boats are in progress in nine coastal states and bio metric ID cards are being issued to fishermen, Dhowan said, “The aim is to have all these people, firstly all the agencies, then all our fishermen, anybody who operate in the sea as part of the security.”

    “It is with these measures, we hope to have the seas around us safe and secure,” he said, responding to queries on steps taken to prevent Mumbai model terror attack.


    Attackers storm Indian army camp in Kashmir

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    Armed militants stormed an army camp in Indian-administered Kashmir Wednesday near the heavily militarised border that divides the disputed territory with Pakistan, police said.
    Loud explosions were heard as the attackers entered the army camp throwing grenades and firing automatic weapons in Tangdhar, 140 kilometres northwest of the main city of Srinagar.
    “Three to four suicide attackers entered an army unit headquarters,” superintendent of police, Aijaz Ahmed told AFP.
    “In the ongoing exchange of fire one army man has been injured.”
    Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947.
    Both claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety and have fought three wars over its control.
    Several rebel groups have for decades been fighting Indian forces deployed in the region, seeking independence or a merger of the territory with Pakistan.
    The fighting has left tens of thousands dead, mostly civilians.
    India often accuses Pakistan of arming, training and sending rebels across the border into Indian-administered Kashmir.
    Islamabad denies the charge, saying it provides only political support for their struggle.


    India, Malaysia ramp up defence ties

    Putrajaya, November 23
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    Vowing to combat terror, India and Malaysia today decided to ramp up their strategic ties in security and defence sectors and called on all states to bring perpetrators of terrorism to justice as Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with his Malaysian counterpart.
    Modi, while speaking at a joint media briefing after his talks with Malaysian Premier Najib Razak, said the recent spate of attacks in different countries, “not to mention the ceaseless terrorist attempts against India and Afghanistan are a reminder of the global nature of this threat.” Modi also complimented Najib for providing leadership in combating extremism and radicalisation, rejecting any link between terrorism and religion and in highlighting the “real values of Islam”.
    A joint statement released after the talks said both sides expressed “strong condemnation for terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and called upon all states to reject terrorism and bring perpetrators of terrorism to justice. In this context, they welcomed the ongoing cooperation between the two countries on counter terrorism and agreed to further enhance cooperation in this direction.”
    Malaysia and India also agreed to continue sharing of information and best practices to address the challenges posed by terrorism and other “traditional and non-traditional threats”.
    Modi and Najib recalled their stake in promoting multiculturalism and reaffirmed their “commitment to democracy, pluralism and development”.
    Appreciating Najib’s leadership in combating extremism and radicalisation, Modi said this was a great contribution and an important aspect of global efforts against the challenge. Warning that terrorism is the “biggest threat” to the world, Modi had yesterday said it should be delinked from religion.
    Talking about security and defence cooperation, Modi said both countries will make it stronger, including for advancing maritime security and strengthening disaster response in the region.
    “I am pleased that we have agreed to upgrade our joint exercises and set up the SU-30 Forum,” he said, adding that both sides will do more in terms of level and complexity of exercises and collaboration in training and defence equipment.
    “Our agreement to cooperate in cyber security is very important. As our lives get more networked, this is emerging as one of the most serious concerns of our age,” the Prime Minister said. — PTI
    SNAPSHOTS
    Putrajaya (Malaysia)
    Grand welcome for PM
    Prime Minister Narendra Modi was accorded with an impressive ceremonial guard of honour in Putrajaya on Monday. The national anthems of both the nations were played by the ceremonial band after which Modi met with the Malaysian cabinet ministers and dignitaries. He joined the programme for the inauguration of the Torana Gate and visited the Batu Caves Temple. anI
    Singapore
    Modi, Lee to launch stamp
    Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong will launch a joint postage stamp on Tuesday featuring the presidential residences of both the countries to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. The stamp has pictures of the Istana of Singapore, and the Rashtrapati Bhavan of India, Singapore Post said today. PTI


    Veterans frown as key benefits abolished

    Tribune News Service
    Chandigarh, November 22
    Ex-servicemen today flayed the Seventh Pay Commission’s recommendations to abolish several existing allowances and benefits that were applicable to members of the armed forces.
    Speaking to mediapersons, they pointed out that the Commission has recommended that the entitlement of free rations for defence officers and furlough leave be abolished. Further, the Commission has also recommended that counting Military Service Pay (MSP) for calculating house rent allowance and transfer grant be done away with.
    The perk of 100 free units of electricity to defence personnel as well as the funeral allowance of Rs 5,000, that had been introduced to ensure dignified last rites to ex-servicemen from the lower strata, have also been abolished.
    Ex-servicemen said the rates of MSP recommended by them to the government was 52 per cent of basic pay for officers and 62 per cent for other ranks, which have not been accepted. Even the Siachen allowance, the highest for hardship, has been capped at Rs 31,500, whereas a civilian officer of the rank of joint secretary, when posted to cities in Ladakh or the northeast will get 30 per cent of basic pay, which works out to Rs 54,810 per month.
    Ex-servicemen urged the three service chiefs to take up the issues strongly with the government and ensure that the armed forces are not harmed or degraded.


    India spends more on defence infra, less on men & maintenance: Study

    Vijay Mohan
    Tribune News Service
    Chandigarh, November 21
    India is at the top among 10 major countries in terms percentage of expenditure on procurement of military equipment and development of defence infrastructure of the total defence spending, but is at the bottom of the list as far as expenditure on operations and maintenance is concerned. The position regarding expenditure on defence personnel is also on the lower side.
    While the imminent pay hike for the armed forces, as for all other central government employees, is good news on the personal front, higher pay scales come at the cost of funds for operations and maintenance.
    This has been the finding of a study conducted for the Seventh Pay Commission by New Delhi-based think tank, Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis. The countries with which India has been compared include the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Russia, China and Pakistan.
    In 2007, India had been placed in the ninth spot in terms of expenditure on personnel and in 2012 it moved up to the sixth spot. On the operations and maintenance front, it was in the ninth place in 2007 and slipped to the 10th in 2012.
    “In India, expenditure on personnel as a percentage of total defence spending witnessed a sharp increase from 27.55 per cent in 2007 to 41.12 per cent in 2012, reflecting the impact of the implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission. The conclusion that increased expenditure on personnel has been at the expense of operational and maintenance expenditure, which declined from 25.21 per cent in 2007 to 15.26 per cent in 2012, is inescapable,” the Commission’s report states.

    Changing priorities

    In 2007, India was placed in ninth spot in terms of expenditure on personnel (with 27.55% of defence budget) and in 2012 (41.12%) it moved up to the sixth spot

    On the operations and maintenance front, it was in the ninth place in 2007 (25.21% of defence budget) and slipped to the 10th in 2012 (15.26%)


    Over 4% hike in upper class Rly fares from today

    New Delhi, November 14
    Railway fares for travel in the upper class categories will go up from tomorrow as a service tax levy of 14% and a Swachh Bharat cess of 0.5% become effective.

    A Railway Ministry circular says fares will go up by 4.35% for First Class and all AC Classes from November 15. There was a notification by the government for imposing a Swachh Bharat cess on all taxable services on November 6.
    “Service tax of 14% and Swachh Bharat cess of 0.5% are chargeable on 30% total passenger fare equivalent equivalent to 4.35% of the total fare on first class and all AC fares,” the circular said. However, the service tax will not be applicable for tickets issued before November 15. The levy will not be applicable for general and sleeper class travel. — PTI


    Kejriwal calls govt’s OROP order farce, backs veterans

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    Arakkonam/New Delhi, Nov 13
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    The OROP row escalated today with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar terming attempts by veterans to burn medals as an insult to the nation and asked the protesting ex-servicemen to prove there was no political motive behind their stir even as Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal voiced support to them.
    “If I say something, it will become an allegation. Let them prove that it is not political,” Parrikar told reporters in Arakkonam in Tamil Nadu when asked if he saw a political link to continuing agitation despite the government’s response and notification on “one rank, one pension” (OROP) scheme.
    He said the medals were a recognition of the nation for the sacrifice done by the armed forces. “Burning and returning them is an insult to the nation and the defence forces,’ Parrikar said.
    His comments came on a day when Kejriwal visited the protesting ex-servicemen at Jantar Mantar wearing a cap and T-shirt with OROP slogans.
    He asked the Centre to implement OROP for the veterans in its “true spirit” rejecting its recent notification in this regard.
    Kejriwal, who spoke to the media near the makeshift stage of the protesting veterans, however, he did not address the gathering as he was asked not to make any “political statement” by Major General Satbir Singh (retd), who is spearheading the movement.
    “The government notification is a farce because it is not in its true spirit. Please don’t fool the veterans. Implement OROP as per its definition. They are not begging but asking for their rights. It is unfortunate that the country’s soldiers are fighting for their rights on the streets,” Kejriwal said.
    The Chief Minister also tweeted his support for the ex- servicemen saying all their demands are “logical” and that the BJP-led Centre has been “unjust” to them. “Centre shud immediately accept their demands.”
    The protesting ex-servicemen had earlier met Kejriwal and briefed him about the “shortcomings” in the OROP notification. — PTI


    OROP: Retired Armymen surrender medals in Ambala

    Our Correspondent
    Ambala, November 10
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    Nearly 30 ex-servicemen unhappy with the Centre’s OROP (one rank, one pension) notification reached the Deputy Commissioner’s (DC) office here today to return their medals.
    Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Shakti Singh, who was present in the DC’s office, asked them to keep their medals with them as it would be an insult of them if these were kept in the office. Since the ex-servicemen were adamants on surrendering their medals, the SDM asked them to deposit the medals with the Zila Sainik Board.
    Subedar (retd) Attar Singh said Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar had misled the Army personnel.
    “The main demands have not been accepted in the notification and it is not acceptable to ex-servicemen. According to the notification, Army personnel who took premature retirement are not qualified for the one rank, one pension,” he said.


    Govt issues OROP notification, ex-servicemen not impressed

    Tribune News Service
    New Delhi, November 7
    The Centre tonight issued a notification implementing ‘one rank one pension’ scheme for the retired armed forces personnel, but the ex-servicemen said it was not acceptable to them.
    The notification comes a few days after some decorated veterans threatened to return their medals next week in protest against delay in OROP implementation.
    Ministry of Defence spokesperson Sitanshu Kar said pension would be revised every five years. The protesting ex-servicemen had demanded a revision every two years. The pension of the past pensioners would be re-fixed on the basis of the benefits being given to retirees of the calendar year 2013. The scheme will be effective from July 1, 2014.
    The pension will be re-fixed for all pensioners on the basis of the average of minimum and maximum pension of personnel retiring in 2013 in the same rank and with the same length of service. The pension of those drawing above the average will be protected.
    The arrears will be paid in four equal half-yearly installments. However, all family pensioners, including those getting special/liberalised pension, and gallantry awardees shall be paid arrears in one installment. The government has also decided to appoint a judicial committee to look into the anomalies, if any, which would submit its report in six months.
    The issue of giving pension to those opting for premature retirement (PMR) has been settled, though it could have long-term repercussions. The notification says those opting to quit on their own request in the future would not be entitled to the scheme benefits. This shall be effective prospectively, meaning officers and jawans who took PMR in the past shall be benefitted but those opting for PMR now onwards would be excluded. It also means there will be fewer PMR applications, which may strain the existing housing and infrastructure as officers were likely to stay on.
    Maj Gen Satbir Singh (retd), Chairman of Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement, a body spearheading the OROP stir, said the notification “would not be acceptable”.