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    Roads blocked, copters troops

    Ravinder Saini,Tribune News Service,Rohtak, February 20

    With the main roads leading to Delhi, Hisar and Jaipur either dug up or blocked by protesters, choppers were used to drop troops at the Police Lines ground early this morning. As three Army helicopters made several rounds to drop the personnel, curious residents rushed to their housetops for a better view. The district authorities had to call more troops in the afternoon in view of the large number of protesters who encircled the city.Though the district authorities imposed a curfew and issued shoot-at-sight orders, people were seen roaming around on two-wheelers. Over a dozen autos were found burnt at various places on the city’s main road. Distraught traders and shopkeepers whose business establishments were set on fire last night were seen assessing their loss. The Army and the police staged a flag march from the Police Lines till the Maharshi Dayanand University (MDU) campus where a large numbers of protesters were on dharna. The protesters did not budge despite repeated warnings.  BJP to issue show-cause notice to Saini New Delhi: The BJP has decided to issue a show-cause notice to its Kurukshetra MP Raj Kumar Saini for speaking against reservation forJats. “The party has taken cognisance of remarks made by Saini and decided to issue him a show-cause notice,” BJP general secretary Anil Jain, who is in charge of Haryana, said. “Saini was asked to refrain from making such statements but he defied the central leadership’s diktat,” Jain said at a press meet jointly addressed by Union Ministers Chaudhary Birender Singh and Sanjeev Balyan and Haryana Minister OP Dhankar. TNSPowergrid puts off recruitment examNew Delhi: The state-owned transmission utility firm Powergrid has deferred screening test for engineers due to the Jat agitation. The test was originally scheduled for Sunday. “Test stands postponed. Fresh dates will be be announced later,” Powergrid said in a statement. Haryana continued to be on the boil on Saturday as the Jat stir unleashed fresh incidents of violence and arson, in which railway stations,  police stations and some buildings were set ablaze even as the Army had to use choppers to reach parts of the blocked Rohtak district. PTICentre keeps tabs; UP, Rajasthan on alertNew Delhi: With Haryana on the boil, the Centre is monitoring developments in the state and has advised UP and Rajasthan Governments to be on alert, as it fears spread of the agitation in other parts too. Sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs while refuting the allegation of Intelligence failure said, “The ministry is keeping a watch on the development in the troubled state and has assured the local administration all possible help.” UP and Rajasthan Governments have been asked to be on alert, as “they might witness a cascading effect of the stir in Haryana,” they said. TNS


    In a step towards greater transparency, the Raksha Mantri has ordered the declassification of the Report of the Committee of Experts constituted for reduction of litigation, review of service and pension matters and strengthening the institutional mechanisms of redressal of grievances. The panel had submitted its Report on 24th November 2015.

    The Raksha Mantri has already directed all wings of the Ministry of Defence to submit an “Action Taken Report” on the same.

    The entire Report has been placed in public domain on directions of the Raksha Mantri and can be downloaded from the official Ministry of

    Defence website:

    It was for the first time after independence that such a committee had been instituted and at the time of submission of the Report the Members had thanked the Minister for taking a historic step to minimize litigation and grievances in the Ministry of Defence so that the focus could remain on the core issues of governance and administration. The Expert Panel had also thanked the Minister for ensuring that there was no interference in the Committee’s functioning and for encouraging the panel to come up with honest, dispassionate and objective observations without fear or favour.

    As per the Ministry’s official press release at the time of submission of the

    Report (

    relid=131870), the Committee’s approach remained to identify practical on-ground solutions to reduce litigation, especially appeals, and steps towards reduction of heartburn, maintenance of harmony between employees and the establishment and balancing of rights of both parties which could lead to an increase in productivity and enable the Government to focus upon its basic responsibilities. As per the release, the Committee had postulated practical, workable, reformatory and gradual solutions in its 509 page report encompassing 75 recommendations in areas concerning service and pension matters, discipline and vigilance issues, matters concerning promotions and confidential reports, military justice, issues related to civilian employees and other potential areas of disputes.

    The Members of the Committee Lt Gen Mukesh Sabharwal, Lt Gen Richard Khare, Maj Gen T Parshad, Maj Navdeep Singh and Maj DP Singh thank everyone for the support and the faith.

    download (1)



    Jai Hind


    Major Navdeep SIngh(Retd)


    Some pertinent incongruities in the OROP tables and the Circular issued for implementation of OROP by the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (Pensions)

    On careful perusal of the OROP tables issued by the Office of the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (Pensions) vide Circular Number 555, the following preliminary observations take shape:

    (a) The Circular, on its own, has added many ifs and buts to the parent Government of India/Ministry of Defence Letter dated 07 Nov 2015 on OROP. These additional clauses are not a part of the OROP Scheme as implemented vide the above letter of the Ministry.

    (b) As per Govt of India Letter above, pensions of past retirees are to be re-fixed on the basis of 2013 retirees of the same rank and same length of service. However, in the Circular, the PCDA(P) has reintroduced the distinction between the ‘rank last held’ and ‘rank for pension’ [See Note (b) under Para 11 of the Circular]. This has been apparently stated so because prior to 2006, service of 10 months in a rank was required to earn pension for that particular rank. Hence, as per the PCDA(P) Circular, if a Naib Subedar had served only for 6 months in the said rank, he would be paid the pension of a Havildar and not that of a Naib Subedar. This stipulation is incorrect since the parent MoD letter does not discriminate between ‘rank last held’ or ‘rank for pension’ which is a dispensation anyway abolished w.e.f 2006. The pension, as per the Ministry’s letter, is to be based on ‘same rank and with the same length of service’ and not as per ‘rank for pension’ [See Para 3 (ii) of the Letter].

    (c) As per the PCDA(P) Circular, pension is only to be granted as per maximum terms of engagement existing at the time (See Para 7 of the Circular). So for example, if the maximum term of engagement for a particular rank was 22 years but the person was made to serve for 26 years, or had 26 years of combined service based on two spells, his pension would be capped at 22 years. This also is a condition superimposed by the Defence Accounts Department and does not find mention in the Ministry’s letter. The Ministry’s letter is simple: pension is to be based on live data of 2013 based on similar rank and similar length of service. Hence, if a person retired in a particular rank with 26 years of service, he is to be paid a pension in accordance with a person of the same rank with 26 years of service retiring in 2013, nothing more, nothing less, and as simple as that. An imposition of an additional condition is undue display of creativity.

    (d) It seems that the system of full pension at 33 years and proportionate reduction below the said length has again been applied in the tables, which is incorrect, since as stated above, the pensions are to be linked with live 2013 data as per the Govt of India letter. Hence for example, if a Colonel had retired in 1996 with 22 years of service, he is to get his pension in accordance with a Colonel retiring in 2013 with 22 years of service, similarly, if a Colonel had retired with 33 years of service, he is supposed to get pension in terms of what a Colonel with the same length got in 2013. The system of 33 years is not applicable after 2006 and since OROP is based on live pension data, it cannot be brought back by circumventing the main notification.

    (e) The pension tables of Territorial Army personnel seem incorrect. The system of non-grant of weightage to TA stands abolished in 2006 and the pensions are to be granted as per the live pension data of 2013 wherein TA and Regular Army personnel were at par. However, still, the system of calculation is woefully off the mark. For example, a Lt Col of the Regular Army with 33 years of service has been shown with a pension of 34,765 while an officer of the TA of the same rank with same service has been granted a pension of 16,405, the logic of which is totally incomprehensible since both TA and Regular Army Lt Cols in 2013 were in receipt of the same pension with the same length of service.

    (f) Pensions of Lt, Capt and Maj of AMC, ADC and RVC seem awry. For example, the pension of a Major of the AMC which should be much more than other Arms due to addition of NPA, is shown as 17,010 while that of a Major of other branches is shown as 23,815.

    (g) Calculation of pensions for the ranks of Major and below, on notional basis, have not been undertaken correctly. Since nobody retires in the rank of Major as per the current dispensation, the pension of past retirees was to be based on notional fixation. The figures in the tables however fall below the notional fixation for the said ranks. An officer of the rank of Major, if taken as not promoted to Lt Col and progressing in his own rank with due increments in his own pay-band would retire with a higher pension than what has been recorded in the tables.

    (h) Rounding off of qualifying service has been undertaken based upon various cut-off dates in the circular (Para 10). This is incorrect since the concept of cut-off dates in now otiose in view of the Ministry’s letter- pension is simply to be based on the live pension data of 2013 linked with the length of service with the same length of service, which takes into its ambit the system of calculating the said length of service too.

    (i) Honorary Naib Subedar and Naib Subedar are supposed to be at par w.e.f 2006 since the grant of Honorary rank of Naib Subedar is now to be treated as a regular promotion for the purpose of pensionary benefits. Further, the distinction in pension between pre and post-2006 retirees of the rank of Honorary Naib Subedar has been struck down and upheld as such till the Supreme Court, hence the wide difference in the tables of both seems to be a little incompatible and perhaps more clarity would be required on the same.

    As per my opinion, various disabling factors that existed earlier as per old dispensations including some of which have already been set aside by judicial fora, have been reintroduced by the Defence Accounts Department in the tables and in the Circular while giving effect to the Ministry’s letter dated 07 Nov 2015 whereas no such conditions were imposed by the said letter of the Ministry. Needless to state, the DAD/CGDA/PCDA(P) could not have superimposed their own conditions over and above of what had been prescribed by the Ministry of Defence. I am sure the Services HQ would convey the above (and other anomalies) to the concerned competent authority and that the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare, as also the Judicial Committee, would take note of the infringement of the conditions of the letter issued by the Govt of India on 07 Nov 2015.The above is an analysis only after a cursory glance. Shall update in case more issues crop up.Let us work towards resolution of all anomalies in a methodical manner.

    Indian, Nepal armies hold joint guerrilla exercise

    Indian, Nepal armies hold joint guerrilla exercise
    A helidrop exercise at Pithoragarh as part of the India and Nepal military exercise linked to disaster managment. Tribune photo

    Our Correspondent

    Pithoragarh, February 18

    On the 10th day of the India -Nepal military exercise, named ‘Surya Kiran IX’, Army units of both nations today held jungle disaster mitigation and guerrilla war exercises at the Army ground of the local Cantt area.According to a press- note of the Army, the troops taking part in the exercise are also getting training in searching hidden enemy through jungle warfare and in reaching at the war zone by helicopters. “We have also organised friendly volleyball, football and basketball matches between the units of the two nations and a seminar on disaster management,” said Rakesh Manocha, an officer taking part in the exercise.

    Guwahati stint ‘harder’ than Siachen::: COMPARE SAICHEN VEDIOS :WORTH WATCHING

    Indian Army Soldier’s Miraculous Survival After Being Stuck Under Siachen Snow For 6 Days


    Great battles – Indian army in siachen glacier 1 of 3


    Great battles – Indian army in siachen glacier 2 of 3


    Great battles – Indian army in siachen glacier 3 of 3


    Life Of A Siachen Soldier


    pakistan army siachen glacier


    NDTV at Siachen: How India is consolidating its hold on world’s highest battlefield


    What warriors are up against at Siachen

    Quite obviously, if you have seen it all live and felt the frozen chill of the Siachen Glacier, the memory will not leave you in a hurry.

    Soldiers walking up to the Glacier often witness returning helicopters carrying the victims of the Glacier’s vagaries. They secretly pray to every god that they should return safe to see their comrades and their families.

    Inevitably they turn towards OP Baba, the legendary keeper of the Glacier whose huge cavern-like cave at Base Camp also has a resemblance to the Shivling on the pattern of the Shri Amarnathji shrine.

    There is no individual faith here. OP Baba is revered by all Indian soldiers, symbolising the uniqueness of the Indian Army’s social culture. After the prostration and ringing of bells, it is a crisp salute by the soldier to the Baba which initiates his climb to Siachen.

    It is only when tragedies strike that the warriors are remembered and this is as good a time as any to educate the public about what its warriors are up against at the Glacier.

    Just remember the Glacier itself is like any other, a frozen river of ice which is several hundred feet deep. The slope is just about that of a river but that’s not where the Indian soldier lives or remains deployed to protect the national interest.

    Running on its west along its entire 76km length and even more is a ridge of sharp peaks and precipices; it is called the Saltoro Ridge. The Indian Army was proactive enough to get to the Saltoro Ridge and occupy it in 1984 and since then, Pakistan has been attempting to dislodge us without success.

    What does deployment or occupation mean? Tactically important passes exist along the Saltoro which can provide access to the sub-glaciers which lead to the mother glacier or Siachen. Each of these passes has to be denied by occupying the shoulders which are formed by high peaks.

    The space for deployment is extremely limited and there is no local construction material except snow and ice which can be packed into thick plastic bags to form large ice bricks. Other material has to be lugged all the way from the bulk breaking point lower down in the sub-glacier.

    Survival of pre-fabricated shelters is for a year or little more. Usually 10 men stay together but besides maintaining vigil (many attempts have been made by the enemy to sneak up almost un-passable sharp ridges to capture a post), it is daily survival which takes up most of the time and energy.

    Life starts early at Northern Glacier because when the sun is not up, the snow is firm and movement is easier. Usually after 11am, all movement away from posts is halted unless it is for life-saving purposes or for tactical reasons.

    In the seven or eight working hours of the morning, there will be heli-dropping of kerosene and some heavier stores near the flatter portions of the sub-glacier. Teams of spotters ensure every load is marked and recovered by snow scooters and sledges which themselves are in danger of being swallowed up by wide chasms called “crevasses”. These chasms can be a couple of hundred or more feet in depth. Links of five or six men are known to have disappeared down such crevasses, never to be recovered.

    The problem of low ambient temperature is worsened by wind chill brought on by blizzards or snow storms reducing visibility. It is in such conditions that the enemy may make suicide attempts to get to a post at Saltoro. Hence, the vigil in bone-chilling conditions where even firing a weapon has to be done by removing the trigger guard and converting it to an “arctic trigger” to enable firing while wearing mittens.

    Maintaining line communications to smaller posts is extremely challenging. Line parties of Corps of Signals and unit signalmen are always vulnerable because of the amount of movement they do.

    The lifeline is provided by light helicopters which are responsible for maintenance, stocking of the posts at Saltoro, movement of key personnel such as rescue teams and casualty evacuation.

    In the instant case of the avalanche at the base of the ice wall, helicopters had to be employed to move the heavy equipment and machinery for the rescue teams to work with. Five days of continuous digging at 20,000 feet requires superhuman stamina.

    These teams are trained for rescue and are accompanied by avalanche rescue dogs (ARDs) which have the capability to sense life under deep snow.

    All movement of helicopters is restricted to morning hours because as the heat rises at the glacier, the density of air reduces and the thrust required by a helicopter is insufficient. In addition, air turbulence increases exponentially.

    However, for casualty evacuation, there are no restrictions and pilots risk everything to save a single life.

    Why is the Indian Army hellbent on weathering minus 50-60 degree temperatures and uncomfortable habitat in the most unique, one-of-its-kind environment. Can it afford a mutual agreement with Pakistan to withdraw to lower heights?

    The public needs the rationale upfront because the taxpayers’ money is involved – almost Rs 4-5 crore every day, 365 days of the year for an interminable period.

    The long and short of it: simply because we have the tactical advantage of occupying the heights of the Saltoro which Pakistan Army would give its right arm to occupy.

    We cannot trust it enough that it won’t renege on an agreement and occupy the heights when we vacate them. Take it from me, if we have to recapture the heights which give depth to the Glacier, it will be at a cost of a thousand lives or more.

    Now with the Pakistan-China collusion in construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor through Pakistan-occupied territory in Gilgit Baltistan, at its height our hold over Siachen gives us the leverage of occupying a flank and giving Leh the necessary military depth.

    Last, it is important for the public and more important for the Seventh Pay Commission to know just what conditions exist in Siachen’s lofty wasteland. Reports that the Pay Commission has recommended allowances for bureaucrats in “remote Guwahati” that are double and more than that of warriors at Siachen are both an insult to the collective intellect and conscience of the nation and a symbol of almost depraved thinking.


    • Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain is a former commanding officer of the Northern Glacier, who later also commanded
    the strategic, Srinagar-based 15 Corps. He is currently associated with the Delhi Policy Group and
    the Vivekananda International Foundation

    Guwahati stint ‘harder’ than Siachen:7TH PAY COMMISSION

    Ajay Banerjee,Tribune News Service,New Delhi, February 5

    Posting in Guwahati is “tougher” than serving on the forbidding Siachen Glacier, if one goes by the 7th Central Pay Commission (CPC) recommendations to the government. The CPC has suggested Rs 31,000 per month for officers and Rs 21,000 per month for jawans as allowance to compensate them for the “hardship” faced at Siachen. However, once the pay commission’s new salary slabs come into place, the tough area allowance (TRA), which is about 33% of the basic salary, in civilian services works out to be in excess of Rs 55,000 for IPS and IAS officers and Rs 30,000 for others posted in areas like Guwahati.Demanding “fair play”, the armed forces in a representation to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar have suggested a new “hardship matrix” to decide allowances. The representation contends that the facts presented before the CPC are erroneous and its 899-page report submitted in November 2015 has inaccuracies while dealing with military salaries, say sources.The armed forces feel Siachen cannot be equal or lower to Guwahati when deciding on the “hardship” factor. On Wednesday, 10 soldiers died after an avalanche struck “Sonam post” at 19,600 feet on Siachen Glacier, burying them alive and wiping out a helipad.A soldier is posted for six months on the glacier with the mission to protect it from the Pakistan army. The induction process involves three months of acclimatisation and a three-week trek to the post with a full load of weapons. Besides the Army, IAF’s 114 Helicopter Unit and Army Aviation are tasked with providing supplies, besides carrying out rescue missions.The armed forces have suggested a “hardship matrix” that grades the hardship on two fronts — nature of job and geographical location.They have suggested that Siachen be placed on the top of the list and those posted should get 65 per cent of their basic pay as “hardship allowance”. This, as per the new salary slabs of the CPC, will be a fair allowance.Antarctica comes second on their list of suggestions, followed by counter-terrorism duties. Fourth on the list are special operations forces in counter-terrorism roles.

    Rs 31,000 vs Rs 50,000: Pay panel’s strange logic

    • The 7th Central Pay Commission has suggested Rs 31,000 per month in hardship allowance for officers posted at Siachen
    • However, IPS and IAS officers posted in areas like Guwahati are set to get Rs 55,000 as tough area allowance
    • The armed forces have approached the Ministry of Defence seeking a new ‘hardship matrix’ to decide allowance

    Headley names ISI officers, Hafiz Saeed in 26/11 case

    Deposition strengthens demand for faster trial in Pak, Saeed’s indictment

    MUMBAI: Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative David Coleman Headley told a court on Monday that he was in touch with Pakistani spy agency officers before the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and that the militant group chief Hafiz Saeed knew about the deadly plan.

    Deposing via video conference from the United States, Headley also said he visited India seven times to identify terror targets and revealed terrorists tried to attack Mumbai twice before 26/11 but failed on both occasions. In one instance, their boat hit some rocks and sank in the sea, taking down with it a cache of guns and grenades.

    Monday’s deposition is the first by the 56- year- old US national in an Indian court and will be admissible as evidence in the trial against another key 26/11 accused Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal. He had made similar revelations in a US court and to the National Investigation Agency.

    The testimony may also help Indian authorities put together a fresh dossier of evidence, and strengthen New Delhi’s demand that Islamabad speed up its trial into the 26/11 attack, including the role of Saeed who Pakistan has refused to indict.

    “It is clear, we think, that there was a close nexus between ISI and LeT. That is what has been gathered from the revelations made from Mr Headley,” said public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam outside the court in Mumbai.

    Headley’s deposition is unlikely to hurt efforts between New Delhi and Islamabad to revive peace talks after the attack on an Indian airbase last month.

    India says Saeed was the brain behind the multiple terror strikes that hit two luxury hotels, a popular café, a Jewish centre and Mumbai’s main railway station, killing 166 people.

    Headley called Saeed his inspiration, named his close associate Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, and told the court details of terror camps he attended in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir’s Muzaffarabad since 2002.

    For two years, he was given leadership training, how to handle AK-47 assault rifles, bombs and explosives. Headley said 10 terrorists were to strike in the first attempt in September 2008, but their boat hit some rocks in the Arabian Sea, resulting in loss of weapons and ammunition, but those on board survived as they wore life jackets.

    The second attempt came in October, with the same people involved as in the first, but that also failed for unknown reasons, before the third and successful attack was executed on November 26, he said. Headley, who has been sentenced to 35 years in prison in the US, was granted conditional pardon by a Mumbai court in December in return for a deposition. Monday’s testimony brought into focus the role played by Pakistani authorities – especially the Inter Services Intelligence.

    Headley said though his sole contact in the LeT was Sajid Mir, he was also in touch with an ISI agent he called Major Ali.

    Headley told judge GA Sanap that he came in contact with the ISI officer after he was arrested along with a retired Pakistani military officer, Major Abdul Rehman Pasha, at Landi Kotal along the Afghanistan border in the Federally Administered Tribal Area.

    Headley said Major Ali introduced him to one Major Iqbal as the former thought that the US national could be used to gather intelligence in India. Headley, according to his deposition before the court, changed his name from Syed Daood Salim Gilani to David Coleman Headley in Philadelphia in order to conceal his identity and also obtained a passport in the new name, as instructed by Mir.

    He said he gave false information while applying for a visa at the Indian consulate in Chicago and later took the help of his friend and former Pakistani army doctor, Dr Tahawwur Husain Rana, and his partner Raymond Sanders to obtain a five-year business visa with multiple entries.


    Russian aircraft service centre soon in India

    Technodinamika (a Rostec company) will shortly open a service centre in India, for repairs and maintenance work on various Russian-made aircraft, and ensure parts are always available for Russian airplanes and helicopters operating in India.

    “ASC Aeronautical Equipment, part of the Technodinamika Holding, will open a service centre in India before the end of the first quarter of 2016,” Oleg Vasiliev, CEO of the Aviation Service Center (ASC) Aeronautical Equipment, a member company of the Technodinamika Holding, told RIR..

    “This company will be engaged in repairing Russian military vehicles currently operating in India, supplying accessories and ground equipment, and ensuring all aircraft and helicopters have the parts they need. Technodinamika has already concluded long-term agreements for repairs with local operators,” Vasiliev said. In particular, they will repair and maintain components of the Antonov and Ilyushin transport aircraft and Mi series helicopters.

    Active work on organizing repair works in India started last year. In early 2015, ASC became accredited with the Indian Air Force, giving it the opportunity to participate in tenders for supply of components and assemblies, as well as maintenance of the Air Force’s aircraft fleet.

    “Repair works will be fully localized in India. A joint venture is now being created with the Indian side. Repair and maintenance of aircraft in the service centre will be carried out by local staff who will be trained by our specialists. The centre will be provided by all the necessary repair documentation and, in fact, this will be an Indian company. At the same time, the Air Force will receive guaranteed scheduled repairs and quality at manufacturer prices,” said Vasiliev.

    Earlier, the head of Technodinamika Maxim Kuzyuk informed Russian media that such centres would start operating in Peru, China, and several African countries.

    Technodinamika (part of the state corporation Rostec) – is a leading developer and manufacturer of equipment for aircraft, including landing gear, fuel systems, flight control systems, and auxiliary power units.

    In addition to aircraft equipment, the holding produces parts and components for other industrial sectors such as oil and gas, automotive, transport, and energy.

    The Queen is being robbed

    he degeneration of Shimla into a concrete jungle is not just old hat. It represents the collective failure of government wings and the capricious builder lobby that has systematically struck at the capital city’s vital organs. There’s a ray of hope, though. The National Green Tribunal-appointed panel is set to submit its report next month. The findings can help the government to redefine the ‘carrying capacity’’ of the city and make it livable.

    How many of us would prefer Shimla to other hill destinations in Himachal as tourists? The answer could as well tell you why the ‘Queen of Hills’ has badly lost out to other choices. The arguments against Shimla are as much well-known as the measures thought to have been taken by state governments to stem the rot, an urban concrete jungle that has taken in its stranglehold the once summer capital of the British. Take a look at where the state capital, spread over about 25 sq km, stands: if you are there in your car, you may take hours to find a parking place, if you are looking for accommodation, chances are that of the 275 hotels, you may have to settle for a place from where you can see only rooftops instead of picturesque valleys, and if it is summer, you may also face drinking water shortage. The hill capital is virtually imploding with haphazard constructions. So much so that several houses have trees jutting out of the houses or roofs caving in to cover trees with walls all around. Such trees over a period dry up and later permission is sought to remove them (see picture on the left).So many committees and assessments have been done. Nothing substantial has happened; the municipal corporation doesn’t even have a map clearly showing problem areas. The only ray of hope this time is that the city’s carrying capacity – how much the city infrastructure can take — is now being assessed by an expert group, set up on the directions of the National Green Tribunal (NGT). The committee drawn from experts from National Disaster Management Authority, Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology Dehradun, Union Ministry of Environment and Forest, GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development and School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, visited the town last month.The panel is expected to submit its report next month, on the basis of which the NGT could take a final and holistic view. “We will decide as per the NGT directives, but we had proposed some relaxation as we plan to increase the area under green belts in the suburbs,” says Town and Country Planning Minister Sudhir Sharma.Is there any redemption? First parking: Shimla with a population well above 2 lakh has 80,000 registered vehicles, but has a parking provision for a mere 1,000. The work on the multi-storeyed parking lots in Chotta Shimla, Lift and Bypass is underway. The High Court on May 5 last year ordered that no vehicle meant for use in Shimla would be registered in the city unless there is a parking provision. The vehicle owner will have to produce a certificate issued by the Shimla Collector, based on the physical verification by the area SHO. Ever since, some 3,000 vehicles have been registered.”The tourism industry is the main sufferer of the traffic chaos. Tourists who suffer on this account once, do not wish to return ever, making Shimla very unpopular,” says Harnam Kukreja, president, Shimla Hoteliers and Restaurants Association. 

    Amorphous growth

    The year 2000 was the watershed for the city as 17 green belts (no-construction zones) spread over 414 hectares, were set up. Even though the government notified the green belts, there were no khasra numbers (revenue records) of the area forming part of the green belts, leading to a number of missing links. A lot of ambiguity exists in the physical and revenue records. As a result, there have been several cases where influential persons have got away with approval for construction, including hotels and commercial ventures like apartments in the green areas. The Cabinet nod for special relaxation has not gone down well with several plot owners who, despite buying land before the ban was imposed in 2000, are yet to get permission to raise two-storey need-based structures, solely for personal use. There are about 75 such plot owners.”I don’t think constructing a small house on a plot with buildings on either side will affect the environment. Moreover, we are being made to suffer for no fault of ours as we bought plots before the green belts were carved out in 2000,” says RL Jain, president of the Green Plot Owners Association. “We are law-abiding citizens who have been running from pillar to post for so many years to plead our case. We feel let down and hurt when exceptions are made for a select few,” says a plot owner.

    Satellite imagery

    The Government took up Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) for the 17 green belts in January 2014 by engaging the Society for Environment Protection and Sustainable Development. The report mentions a spurt in construction gobbled up vast stretches of lush greenbelts in and around the capital. Backed by satellite imagery, the highlight of the EIA is the comparative study in the 17 green belts and the rest of the town and later in 2013. Clearly visible were the no-construction, regulated areas and other parts where the green area is under a tremendous strain.A drastic change in the land use has taken place over the last decade. The EIA report recommended eco-sensitive zones within the Shimla Planning Area. It meant areas free from human habitation and vehicular traffic. Another important recommendation is to enhance the tree and vegetation cover. The EIA has looked into the seismic, hazard risk and soil analyses and tested the air and water quality and requirement of the town.
    Result: No action. Ambition vs intentionSix years ago, the Department of Town and Country Planning prepared the Shimla Development Plan (SDP), which remained buried in the files and could not get the government approval. It recommended that the number of green belts be enhanced from 17 to over 100 by including forests in Tara Devi, Mashobra, Totu and others in the suburbs. Neither did the government give nod to the SDP nor were new areas included to increase the area under green belt. There was a proposal to include forests in Tara Devi, Mashobra, Totu and other suburbs under the green belts. No construction was to be allowed at least 5 metres from a tree. Result: No final decision, though certain areas have been identified and marked. Yet another panelWithout bothering about the EIA of green belts, the state government on May 28, 2014, formed a committee headed by Town and Country Planning Minister Sudhir Sharma to examine the anomalies in the demarcation of the 17 green belts. The committee with officials of the Shimla Municipal Corporation, TCP, Forest and Revenue departments visited all the 17 green belts within the Shimla Planning Area. The main objective was to verify the physical and revenue boundaries. Their report was to decide granting partial relaxation after redefining the boundaries of the green belts. No action was taken. Result: The real estate lobby prevailed. “Several people who are politically very influential managed to get relaxation for constructing commercial flats and hotels,” says an official on the condition of anonymity.

    Court interventions

    The NGT in its order passed on September 30, 2015, restrained the state government from lifting the ban on construction in the green belts. “The two studies placed before us show that there should be no construction, not only in the areas covered under the notification of 2000, but even in the nearby areas including open areas. One of the main cited reasons is that Shimla has already gone much beyond its carrying capacity. The adverse environmental and ecological consequences are seen in day-to-day life,” read the NGT order. In another order passed recently, the NGT has asked the district administration to see if the main Cart Road (Circular Road) cane made one way to ease vehicular clogging.  The Himachal High Court on May 5, 2015 observed that a high intensity quake can turn Shimla into a tomb of rubble as it falls in a high seismic Zone IV and V. The court observed that fourteen major localities in Shimla are located at 70-80 degree slope, whereas, most buildings violate byelaws and building norms and have not even adhered to the seismic building norms. “Most buildings are precariously hanging on steep slopes and clinging to one another. A moderate and high intensity tremor can be catastrophic for congested settlements with no escape routes and they are likely to collapse like a pack of cards,” the judgment read. The court restrained the government from bringing about any retention policy to regularize the over 25,000 illegal construction in Shimla and outside.The 17 Green belts in Shimla Tuti-Kandi, Nabha, Phagli, Lal Pani, Bemloe, Himfed, Khalini, Chotta Shimla I and II, Kasumpti, Charlie Villa, Jakhu, Bharari, Shankali, Ruldu Bhatta, Summer Hill, Boileauganj, Chaura Maidan.But there are no revenue records, leading to confusion over the physical and revenue record. Shimla Interim Development Plan (IDP) 1979 The growth of the town facing serious traffic, civic and environmental issues is still based on the 1979 interim development plan (IDP). It was in 2004 the Town and Country Planning (TCP) Department prepared City Development Plan which never got the government approval. It has suggestions from stakeholders, architects, planners, environmentalists. Another Plan

    • It was in May last year that the Town and Country Planning Department initiated the process for getting the Shimla Development Plan (SDP) of Shimla Planning Area (SDA) to enable it to regulate the haphazard growth. It will have components like satellite townships and decongestion plan with involvement of 15 stakeholder departments. The document will exhibit land use, traffic and transportation system, water supply network and other details.
    • Even though the population of the SPA has crossed 2.50 lakh, the development plan will cater to the present and future needs of the population based on 2011 census report.
    • The limits of the SPA, which includes Shimla City, Kufri, Shoghi, Ghanahtti and the additional planning area in the suburbs, covers about 22,450 hectares

    Green warrior

    Had it not been for the petition filed by environmentalist Yogendra Mohan Sengupta before the NGT, the 17 no-construction green belts notified in December 2000 would have been thrown open for construction. “Shimla is a disaster-prone area and even a mild tremor can spell doom. I have met all the authorities concerned urging them to take remedial steps, but nobody has bothered to enforce regulations. I am confident the NGT-appointed high-level committee will help in sorting out the mess,” he said.

    Army to train Punjab Police

    CHANDIGARH: The Army’ s Western Command has offered to train Punjab Police personnel at its different camps in Jalandhar, Pathankot, Zirakpur and Nahan, a Punjab Police spokesman said here on Friday.

    A two-week training programme was also being considered for nearly 20 young police officers for strengthening the Punjab Police SWAT team as a follow-up of a recent meeting between Punjab’s additional general of police (ADGP-HRD) MK Tiwari and major general MP Singh, the in-charge (training) at the Western Command.

    The Army has also agreed to enhance the expertise of Punjab Police in handling improvised explosive devices, and antisabotage and bomb disposal techniques.

    OROP struggle to continue :Col Anil Kaul(Retd)