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Govt practicing politics of deception on OROP, says Congress

New Delhi: Congress on Tuesday accused the government of practicing “politics of deception” on the ‘one rank-one pension’ (OROP) issue that has led to threats from agitated ex-servicemen to return their awards.

File photo. Image courtesy: PTIFile photo. Image courtesy: PTI

File photo. Image courtesy: PTI

“First, we saw delay in announcement and then we saw cut-back in the scope of the announcement before giving anything. We saw the quantum reduced by technicalities”, party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi told reporters.

He also alleged that the government of practicing “politics of deception, hypocrisy and deceit” on the issue.

Telling the government that a grateful nation owed the ex-servicemen everything, he said, “We are not doing any charity to them. We are giving them what they are owed by the nation in a debt of gratitude which is unending.”

His statement came on a day when Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in Goa said that the behaviour of war veterans protesting the notification on OROP scheme is “unlike that of a soldier” and they have been misguided even as he asked them not to link their decision to return medals to a financial demand.

He said he was “pained” to see such tactics being used.

PTI

OROP row: Not all demands can be fulfilled: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar

New Delhi: With the protesting ex-servicemen dissatisfied with the formal notification of one rank, one pension (OROP) scheme, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Monday said that everyone has a right to make a demand in democracy but not all demands can be fulfilled.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Underlining that the “maximum” demands of the veterans have been fulfilled, he said the judicial commission that will be set up, will look into the “problems”.

“This is democracy. Everyone has the right to demand. But the maximum… their main demand for same pension for same rank has been given. Rest is everything that we had declared (on September 5). Out of that, the confusion about VRS has been removed,” Parrikar said on the sidelines of a function in New Delhi.

He said, “Har ek cheez mangte hai, wohi agar satisfy hone laga to kabhi khatam nahi hoga, aur koi kuchh aur mangega (even if all demands are satifisfied, someone will ask for something else).”

The minister said that the “basic core issue” has been addressed and if there is a problem, the judicial commission will look into that.

He was replying to questions on veterans being unhappy with the OROP notification issued by the government on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Air Force Chief Arup Raha said that the government has given directions on the OROP issue and everyone should accept it.

He said that if anomalies were still persisting, these could be sorted out in due course of time.

The government had on Saturday formally notified the one rank, one pension (OROP) scheme for the over 24 lakh ex-servicemen and six lakh war widows in the country.

The notification is more or less in line with what Parrikar had announced on 5 September.

However, it has dropped the contentious proposal to exclude ex-servicemen who had sought premature retirement from the ambit of OROP.

But the armed forces personnel who opt to get discharged on their request would henceforth not get OROP benefits.

“It will be effective prospectively,” according to the notification.

The notification does not include the demands for an annual equalisation of revised pension, for pegging the pension to the maximum of the current pensioners, and for appointing an expert commission with serving military personnel and ex-servicemen representatives.

Ex-servicemen who have been protesting at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi since June, rejected the notification.

Maj Gen (Retd) Satbir Singh, Chairman of Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement spearheading the protest, had said on Saturday, “The notification will not be acceptable to the rank and file. It is not one rank, one pension but one rank, five pension.”

PTI

OROP scheme will be implemented after Bihar elections, says Parrikar

Panaji: The One Rank, One Pension (OROP) for retired military personnel will be implemented after the Bihar elections, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said on Sunday.

He also said that contentious issues including those related to premature retirement had been resolved, conceding that the inclusion of the phrase Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) in the declaration announced by his ministry in September had triggered confusion.

File photo. Image courtesy: PTIFile photo. Image courtesy: PTI

File photo. Image courtesy: PTI

“I think I will have to wait up for the Bihar elections, because the Election Commission is in no mood to give permission to actually issue the order. This is my understanding. I will not like to be in part of controversy,” Parrikar said during a public interaction near here.

“The notification will be issued after Bihar election because I do not want to get notice by Election Commission,” he said.

Parrikar clarified that “those who get premature retirement will get OROP even in future”.

“That confusion started because the word VRS was a part of the declaration. The interpretation got slightly mixed up. It was not (done) intentionally,” he said.

IANS

IAF to induct women pilots to fly fighter jets soon: Here’s why this plan is historic

In a stunning announcement, IAF Chief Arup Raha said on Thursday said the Indian Air Force is now planning to induct women into the fighter aircraft stream.

“We have women pilots flying transport aircraft and helicopters. We are now planning to induct them into the fighter stream to meet the aspirations of young women in India,” Air Chief Marshal Raha said as the air force celebrated its 83rd anniversary in Hindon, Uttar Pradesh.

The plan to induct women into a fighting arm is a first in the three services which were earlier not open to the idea of women taking part in combat roles.

An IAF fighter plane. Image courtesy PIBAn IAF fighter plane. Image courtesy PIB

An IAF fighter plane. Image courtesy PIB

This comes in stark contrast to a statement by Raha last year, where he said women were physically not suited for the job and they might face problems while flying fighter planes.

“As far as flying fighter planes are concerned, it is a very challenging job. Women are by nature not physically suited for flying fighter planes for long hours, especially when they are pregnant or have other health problems,” he said in March, 2014.

If the decision goes through, India will join countries like Pakistan, Israel, United Arab Emirates, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway and Switzerland and United Kingdom, among others, who have women in active combat roles in their country’s air force.

While Indian women have been serving in the forces since the early 1990s, they haven’t been allowed to have any combat roles.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has also previously expressed skepticism with recruiting women for combat operations in armed forces due to apprehensions about their safety.

In May 2015, Parrikar said when asked about the matter, “No. Think of what can happen if a woman is taken as a prisoner in combat operation,” implying at possible atrocities they might suffer if held captive by enemy forces.

IAF currently has women in seven areas: administration, logistics, meteorology, navigation, education, aeronautical engineering – mechanical and electrical – and accounts. The air force currently has about 1500 women on its rolls of which 94 are pilots and 14 navigators.

A major hindrance for women in the IAF until now, was that it took well over Rs 13 crore to train a single fighter pilot, with the huge investment being recovered only over 13-14 years of active flying. Women fighter pilots, the force believed, may get married, have children, and consequently disrupt the IAF’s tight flying schedules, reports The Times of India.

Also the fact that women couldn’t get a permanent commission in the IAF didn’t help matters. But in June 2010, after three-year-long court battle, women officers of the Air Force were accorded permanent commission for IAF. Previously, women officers could serve a maximum of 14 years of service in the air force.

The court orders came in March on a petition from 22 IAF and other 30-odd Army women officers, who accused the government of discriminating against them vis-a-vis their male counterparts.

It also helps that technological advancements have made traditional attributes like physical toughness (as cited by Raha in 2014) redundant for fighting roles, as this TOI report points. Also, flying a fighter is significantly different from a ground combat role in close proximity to enemy forces.

The move will also help IAF overcome shortage of officers in the fighter aircraft stream. In April this year, a parliamentary committee had slammed the defence ministry over the gap between the sanctioned strength of active fighter aircraft squadrons and their actual number, saying that “even the slight edge over rival neighbouring nation” would be lost if the “complacency” remains.

The Standing Committee on Defence said that while the sanctioned strength was 42, Indian Air Force at present has 35 active squadrons. The panel also said in a report, that IAF would need 45 squadrons to counter “two front collusive threat”.  The reference was likely to Pakistan and China.

It is still not certain what prompted today’s announcement by Raha. Is the IAF becoming more progressive with an aim to be more in sync with global trends, or is it just the shortage of combat personnel and pressure to counter the forces like Pakistan and China? Either way, it could mean a historic flight for an Indian woman pilot soon.

with inputs from agencies

Who introduced ‘VRS’ in OROP? Ex-servicemen call it mischief by the babus

New Delhi: After a long day of hectic activity, a big announcement and sharp reactions thereafter, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar met ex-servicemen who have been on a hunger strike at Jantar Mantar on Saturday evening and sought to clarify the misgivings on the word VRS which finds its way into the government’s OROP announcement. He is believed to have agreed with the veterans that there is indeed nothing called VRS (voluntary retirement from service) in the defence services and the right word to replace it would be pre-mature retirement (PMR).

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

It’s not clear yet whether the protesters are fully satisfied with the minister’s gesture – there are conflicting reports on this – but they are certainly wary of the use of VRS, which started making its presence felt in the whole OROP stand-off very late. Many ex-servicemen from the three wings of the defence forces called it a “bureaucratic mischief”.

“There’s nothing called VRS in defence services; it’s nonsensical. Some bureaucrat with ulterior motive has introduced it to mislead our movement and the government. The objective behind this is to prevent extending OROP to those who have taken pre-mature retirement,” Maj Gen (retd) Jagjit Singh Mahil, a member of the ex-servicemen group on agitation told Firstpost.

VRS vs PMR

According to ex-servicemen, there’s no concept of VRS in defence service. Instead, there is the PMR, which a jawan or an official can opt for during his service tenure.

· VRS is a scheme offered by the government undertakings, PSUs, banks, corporate sector – in which a lump sum amount is given to the employee as ‘golden handshake’ and no pension is offered.

· In defence services, for officers, the minimum permissible service period is 20 years, whereas for the jawans, it’s 15 years, to be eligible for PMR.

· After completing the statutory period, if one seeks PMR and it is accepted, the officer or the jawan becomes entitled for pension.

· If an officer or a jawan is short even by a day in completing his permissible service period and gets PMR, he won’t be eligible for pension.

· PMR is usually applied by defence personnel, in the following cases: (1) when one is superseded by a junior and the former doesn’t want to work under the latter (2) fails to get promoted on time, and decides not to continue (3) unfit on medical grounds (4) extraordinary conditions related to personal problems.

· The government has said the OROP scheme will not be applicable to pre-mature retirees.

· Ex-servicemen have demanded OROP for pre-mature retirees as well.

General (retd) VK Chaturvedi said, “We have the PMR system and those who go for it should also be given OROP because they have served the defence forces and are drawing pension. They are relieved with the consent of the ministry. If it rejects their application, they cannot leave the service. Therefore, OROP becomes their legitimate right.”

Added Commodore (retd) Yashwant Prakash added, “It’s misleading to equate VRS with PMR. If, one doesn’t complete his permissible period, his option of getting pension automatically becomes invalid and so there’s no question of OROP. But, if he’s eligible for pension, OROP should be applicable to him as in normal case announced by the government.”

Though, the retired defence personnel on agitation welcomed the government’s OROP announcement, they were visibly angry on the use of the term ‘VRS’ and said they would continue with their relay hunger strike and agitation.

The leader of the movement on OROP, Maj Gen (retd) Satbir Singh said, “Government agreed to OROP implementation. We welcome this move. But, we’ll approach Defence Ministry for clarification on ‘VRS’. We want that OROP should be applicable to pre-mature retirees as well. If the government agrees to this demand of ours, we’ll withdraw our fast unto death, but continue our agitation and hunger strike till all conditions are fulfilled.”

No one has the clue how this term ‘VRS’ got onto the negotiation table. According to the ex-servicemen, the term ‘VRS’ came into existence “all of a sudden” some three-four days ago during discussions with the government.

A majority of those on agitation believes that “it was done intentionally to derail the process”, but nobody has any idea who put this term into their negotiation with the government.

“It got into the discussion some three-four days back. It’s the game of the IAS lobby which controls each and every decision-making body of the government. And, it’s not possible to have VRS in defence service, as there’s already shortage of 12,500 officers. The question doesn’t arise. In fact, the government wants to keep 40% of those who seek PMR out of OROP to save money,” said Capt (retd) Shubhendu Kumar.

Those who didn’t act on OROP for 42 years have no right to speak on jawans’ rights: Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said that those who did not act on the issue of One Rank One Pension (OROP) for 42 years have “no right” to speak about the rights of jawans.

Speaking about the recent announcement by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on the issue, Modi said that the government is fulfilling its promise, while previous governments merely ‘expressed lip service.

Image courtesy: CNN-IBNImage courtesy: CNN-IBN

Image courtesy: CNN-IBN

At a rally here in Haryana on the inauguration of a new Delhi Metro line, Modi said: “Since the time people have elected us, our sole aim has been development.”

He said as long as railways, roads are not constructed, the fruits of development cannot reach people.

Modi said the way ahead for the country lies in the way the central and state governments work together, adding that infrastructure is essential for progress.

“Every Indian should have his or her home. This work maybe tough, but we have to complete it,” he said.

The new Delhi Metro line will connect Delhi and Faridabad.

With inputs from IANS

OROP row not over yet: Govt has made no promises on VRS issue, say sources

Merely a day after leaders of agitating ex-servicemen met Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and said the government was going to come out with a ‘clarification’ on applicability of OROP to those who have opted for premature retirement, government sources have told CNN-IBN that the government has in fact made no promises to veterans on the voluntary retirement from service (VRS) issue.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

According to CNN-IBN, government sources further clarified that early retirement by army officials was not in the interest of the government because it was the government which was losing trained officers.

However, the sources also clarified that those retiring early due to disability will get the benefits of OROP.

On Saturday, Maj Gen (retd) Satbir Singh, who had met Parrikar along with few others, had said the veterans would take a call on continuance of the agitation, that had entered its 84th day, after a core committee meeting of the veterans.

“Defence Minister has confirmed that there is no VRS in defence services and so OROP will be applicable in PMR (Pre-mature Retirement). An official note would be given in a day or two after having a word with the Prime Minister. Parrikar has confirmed that he would give a clarification tomorrow evening or day after tomorrow. As far as Defence Minister and we are concerned that clause goes,” Singh had told reporters.

Singh had said he was “satisfied” with the Minister’s statement. However, he had also said, “..there are other issues which are yet to be done but the major issue is PMR which unnecessarily got put in. It was not required to be part of the note. How it has come we do not know.”

Singh, who had earlier stuck to the stand of continuing with the agitation till every demand was met, had also indicated towards a rethink of on whether to continue with the protest. “We will take any decision on the agitation after talking to the core group. The decision would be taken tomorrow morning. For now the clarification has been taken from the Defence Minister. If the VRS is not applicable to armed forces then there is no question of retrospective (impact),” he had said.

Apart from the VRS issue, one of the main issues facing OROP is the uncertainty over when it will be finally implemented.

As Bikram Vohra points out, the people still don’t know when the first war widow will get the first cheque or when the oldest wounded soldier who was boarded out will receive the new pension.

(With inputs from PTI)

Congress slams govt over OROP implementation, says it betrays ex-servicemen

New Delhi: Congress on Saturday described key components of government’s announcement of ‘One Rank One Pension’ as a “betrayal” to the cause of ex-servicemen. Former Defence Minister A K Antony charged the government with doing politics over OROP, “substantially diluting” its provisions and “ridiculing” ex-servicemen.

Attacking the government’s decision to keep out of OROP those ex-servicemen who had opted for VRS, he said it was sad because 90 percent of service personnel retire between 35 to 40 years of age, losing lakhs of rupees.

Military veterans who are on hunger strike, being greeted by their family members after the announcement of the implementation of OROP scheme by the government, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Saturday. PTIMilitary veterans who are on hunger strike, being greeted by their family members after the announcement of the implementation of OROP scheme by the government, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Saturday. PTI

Military veterans who are on hunger strike, being greeted by their family members after the announcement of the implementation of OROP scheme by the government, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Saturday. PTI

“There is no comparision of those in Defence forces with those in other services”, Antony told reporters here. Former Union Minister Kapil Sibal said that Congress was
against the provision of revision of pension every five years announced by the government. He also faulted it for not adhering to the equalisation principle.

Antony took exception to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar‘s remarks that OROP was being implemented for the first time in four decades by his government. “The Defence Minister is doing politics,” he said insisting that UPA government had announced acceptance of OROP last year and had even provided a token amount of Rs 500 crores and constituted an expert committee.

Replying to a question as to what was the estimate of the financial impact of the erstwhile UPA on its acceptance of the OROP demand, Antony merely said that an expert committee was constituted.

Asked whether government’s decision has opened up a Pandora’s box as OROP announcement would lead to demands from other central security forces, Sibal said that the party would react only after the Prime Minister makes his stand clear in the matter.

He steered clear of a question whether Congress would participate in a rally being called by the agitating ex-servicemen in the national capital soon. Both Antony and Sibal targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi recalling that he had promised OROP in toto within 100 days of coming to power.

PTI

Govt implements OROP, but deadlock remains: Veterans to continue agitation for five demands

In a landmark decision, the Narendra Modi government on Saturday decided to implement the One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme. Addressing a section of the media on Saturday afternoon, Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said, “The Government of India respects its defence forces. They display courage and bravery in difficult circumstances. The issue of OROP has been pending for over four decades and the Prime Minister has on many occasions reiterated this government’s commitment to implement OROP.” Parrikar added that the previous government had estimated that implementation of the scheme would cost Rs 500 crore, however the “reality is that OROP scheme would cost 8,000 crore to the exchequer. Therefore, the government has decided to implement the OROP scheme despite huge financial burden.”

Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.

Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.

Veterans demanding the implementation of the One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme met the defence minister on Saturday. “OROP will be implemented from 1 July, 2014 and the base year for calculating the arrears has been fixed at 2013. Personnel who opt for voluntary retirement will not be covered under the OROP scheme,” Parrikar told the media. “The pension will be re-fixed every five years. A one-member judicial committee will be constituted, and the panel will give reports in six months. Expenditure on arrears alone would be Rs 10,000-12,000 crore.”

Since there are many cases of veterans of the same rank earning different pensions, the government proposed to take the average of the maximum and minimum pensions paid per rank, while protecting those who earn above average pensions in their rank. “All widows, including war widows, will be paid arrears in one installment. Further enhancement in the rate of pensions will be automatically passed to past pensioners, bridging the gap between current and past pensioners,” Parrikar said.

Earlier in the day, Major-General Satbir Singh (retd), who is leading the OROP campaign, had said that the government has agreed to implementing the OROP scheme, however according to him there is still a deadlock on the issue of pension revision period, which is five years. However, after Parrikar’s announcement, General Singh spoke to the media and said that the protesting-servicemen were not happy with government’s proposal. “We will continue to protest. We are not fully satisfied. Out of the six demands that we made, the government has only agreed with one. We want clarification on the premature retirement point in the OROP from the government. We want a clarification on the VRS issue, if they still don’t accept it, then it is a big blow to the forces.”

Speaking to mediapersons at Jantar Mantar, the venue of the protest, Singh, however, indicated a softening of position towards the government, saying the hunger strike would be called off but the veterans would continue their agitation till all their major demands were met, Firstpost’s Akshaya Mishra said.

Singh said they welcomed the government’s decision but observed that the base year and five-year period to revise the pension still remained contentious issues. They also rejected the proposal on VRS and the announced shape of the one-man judicial committee. “Revision of pension after every five years will not be in the spirit of One Rank, One Pension, it will be One Rank, Five Pensions,” said Singh addressing the striking veterans.

Explaining how, he observed, “Many serving men in uniform will retire in the five year period and they will continue to get pension more than what their seniors, who retired in the same rank earlier, are drawing. Therefore, we urge the government to rethink it.”

Rejecting the announcement of the government to constitute a one-man committee headed by a retired Supreme Court justice to suggest the government a mechanism for equalisation of salaries being drawn by senior and junior ex-servicemen, he added, “We will not accept the proposed one-man commission. It should comprise three military veterans and an official from the Ministry of Defence. We will recommend three names who will represent us. The defence minister can pick any officer of his choice from his ministry.”

He also rejected to accept the government’s decision to exclude those who have taken pre-mature retirement from the benefits of OROP. “We have reiterated time and again that there is no concept of VRS (voluntary retirement scheme) in defense forces. Those who take pre-mature retirement already draw pension and that is why, they are entitled to OROP,” he argued. If the government accepts these demands, then only they would call off the strike, he said.

The veterans have announced a mega rally at the Jantar Mantar where ex-servicemen from across the country will be called in a show of strength. They have also decided to intensify their agitation and take it throughout the country. “If the government does not listen to our demands, we might consider sending three lakh veterans to the poll-bound Bihar to campaign against the BJP,” he told Firstpost.

Asked why does not he accept what the government had promised to implement, he replied, “The definition of OROP has already been approved by two successive Parliaments and the apex court as well. The government is not doing charity, it is our right.”

General VK Chaturvedi told Firstpost, “In defense services, there is no concept of VRS. We have pre-mature retirement system and those who go for it should also be given OROP because they have services the defence forces and are drawing pension. They are relieved with the consent of the ministry. If it rejects their application, they cannot leave the service. Therefore, OROP becomes their legitimate right.”

The veterans are also unhappy with the government’s decision to set up one man judicial commission to evolve a mechanism for equalisation of the pension being drawn by senior and junior ex-servicemen. “The judicial commission should have representatives of the veterans as well as serving men,” said Col Bhatiya, who retired from Indian Navy.

He said the promised time to submit the committee’s report is also not ‘justified’. “One month is sufficient to give the committee’s recommendations,” he added.

It is understood that a draft proposal on OROP was circulated at a RSS meeting on Friday which envisaged commencement of the scheme from 1 July, 2014, besides the revision of pensions every five years. According to the draft, the basis for the implementation of the scheme will be 2013, and arrears are to be paid in four instalments.

Satbir-Singh2_OROPSatbir-Singh2_OROP

Major-General Satbir Singh, who is leading the campaign.

The veterans and the government have been negotiating for months now. The Prime Minister’s Office stepped in last month after the protests escalated into a hunger-strike and a few veterans were taken critically sick.

Soldiers were brought, alongside other Central government employees, under the ambit of the Pay Commission in 1983. The following year, a 17-member committee headed by minister of state for defence Kamakhya Prasad Singh Deo submitted a proposal that is credited with carrying the first reference to OROP.

Unfortunately, there has been no movement by the government on the issue since.

Close to 26 lakh retired servicemen and over six lakh war widows stand to be immediate beneficiaries of the scheme, which envisages a uniform pension for the defence personnel who retire in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement.

Currently, the pension for retired personnel is based on the Pay Commission recommendations of the time when he or she retired. So, a Major General who retired in 1996 draws less pension than a Lt Colonel who retired after 1996.

With inputs from Tarique Anwar and agencies

OROP agitation to continue: Veterans welcome implementation, but see devil in details

In a landmark decision, the Narendra Modi government on Saturday decided to implement the One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme. Addressing a section of the media on Saturday afternoon, Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said, “The Government of India respects its defence forces. They display courage and bravery in difficult circumstances. The issue of OROP has been pending for over four decades and the Prime Minister has on many occasions reiterated this government’s commitment to implement OROP.” Parrikar added that the previous government had estimated that implementation of the scheme would cost Rs 500 crore, however the “reality is that OROP scheme would cost 8,000 crore to the exchequer. Therefore, the government has decided to implement the OROP scheme despite huge financial burden.”

Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.

Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.

Veterans demanding the implementation of the One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme met the defence minister on Saturday. “OROP will be implemented from 1 July, 2014 and the base year for calculating the arrears has been fixed at 2013. Personnel who opt for voluntary retirement will not be covered under the OROP scheme,” Parrikar told the media. “The pension will be re-fixed every five years. A one-member judicial committee will be constituted, and the panel will give reports in six months. Expenditure on arrears alone would be Rs 10,000-12,000 crore.”

Since there are many cases of veterans of the same rank earning different pensions, the government proposed to take the average of the maximum and minimum pensions paid per rank, while protecting those who earn above average pensions in their rank. “All widows, including war widows, will be paid arrears in one installment. Further enhancement in the rate of pensions will be automatically passed to past pensioners, bridging the gap between current and past pensioners,” Parrikar said.

Earlier in the day, Major-General Satbir Singh (retd), who is leading the OROP campaign, had said that the government has agreed to implementing the OROP scheme, however according to him there is still a deadlock on the issue of pension revision period, which is five years. However, after Parrikar’s announcement, General Singh spoke to the media and said that the protesting-servicemen were not happy with government’s proposal. “We will continue to protest. We are not fully satisfied. Out of the six demands that we made, the government has only agreed with one. We want clarification on the premature retirement point in the OROP from the government. We reject the one-member committee. We want five members of which three will be veterans, one will be serving serviceman, and one of their choice. We want a clarification on the VRS issue, if they still don’t accept it, then it is a big blow to the forces.”

According to reports, ex-servicemen have withdrew the hunger strike but added that the agitation will continue.

It is understood that a draft proposal on OROP was circulated at a RSS meeting on Friday which envisaged commencement of the scheme from 1 July, 2014, besides the revision of pensions every five years. According to the draft, the basis for the implementation of the scheme will be 2013, and arrears are to be paid in four instalments.

Satbir-Singh2_OROPSatbir-Singh2_OROP

Major-General Satbir Singh, who is leading the campaign.

The veterans and the government have been negotiating for months now. The Prime Minister’s Office stepped in last month after the protests escalated into a hunger-strike and a few veterans were taken critically sick.

Soldiers were brought, alongside other Central government employees, under the ambit of the Pay Commission in 1983. The following year, a 17-member committee headed by minister of state for defence Kamakhya Prasad Singh Deo submitted a proposal that is credited with carrying the first reference to OROP.

Unfortunately, there has been no movement by the government on the issue since.

Close to 26 lakh retired servicemen and over six lakh war widows stand to be immediate beneficiaries of the scheme, which envisages a uniform pension for the defence personnel who retire in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement.

Currently, the pension for retired personnel is based on the Pay Commission recommendations of the time when he or she retired. So, a Major General who retired in 1996 draws less pension than a Lt Colonel who retired after 1996.

With inputs from agencies

Ex-servicemen’s agitation enters 83rd day: All you need to know about OROP

After an 83-day-long agitation by armed forces veterans, the government, in an effort to clear up the logjam on One Rank One Pension (OROP) for ex-servicemen, has drafted a provisional document on the implementation of the scheme. However media reports have quoted several ex-servicemen terming it “unilateral”, and rejecting the draft.

The major sticking point remains the issue of equalisation. The government is firm on the revision every five years in view of the administrative difficulties of doing it annually, however, the veterans have rejected it. Talks are continuing to find common ground.

Last month, two of the protesting ex-servicemen stepped up their agitation on the demand for implementation of the One Rank One Pension scheme at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, by going on a fast till death, demanding the early implementation of the long-pending scheme.

“Col Pushpender Singh (Retd) and Haviladar Major Singh rpt Major Singh (Retd) have undertaken fast unto death from today,” Col Anil Kaul (Retd), media advisor to the United Front of Ex-Servicemen Movement, said as the agitation at Jantar Mantar entered its 64th day, last month.

The protesters have been on a relay hunger strike so far. Havildar Major had been on relay hunger strike since the agitation started.

To the disappointment of protesting ex-servicemen, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had not given a specific timeline for the implementation of ‘One Rank One Pension’ (OROP) in his Independence Day address on 15 August.

“Every government has even given small promises but the issue has not been resolved. Even after I came, I have not been able to do it till now. Today, I am assuring my soldiers once again…in-principle OROP has been accepted by us but talks with stakeholders are on,” he had said in his Independence Day address. “A solution has to be found for an issue which has been lingering for 20-25 years. I expect good news seeing the way the talks are going on. And that is why I again promise that in-principle, this government has accepted OROP,” the PM had said.

General (Retd) VP Malik, the Indian Army chief during the Kargil war, had said on Friday that he had acted as mediator between ex-servicemen and the Modi government on the OROP issue but had given up “within 48 hours”, according to a Hindustan Times report.

The main dispute, according to the report, was the argument over which year’s scales should be taken as base for OROP. The government wants to take the 2011 rates while veterans want those of 2014.

The reason for the anger among the veterans is the long delay in the implementation of the One Rank One Pension scheme.

The OROP scheme has been a long-standing demand of the over two million ex-servicemen of India. It seeks to ensure that a uniform pension is paid to the defence personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement.

The scheme is estimated to cost around Rs 8,600 crore initially and subsequently several crore rupees annually.

Currently, all pre-2006 pensioners receive lesser pension than not only their counterparts but also their juniors.

Anger among military veterans over the delay in One Rank One Pension scheme is growing. Reuters

Anger among military veterans over the delay in One Rank One Pension scheme is growing. Reuters

The demand for the implementation of OROP had led to a massive protest on 8 February 2009, when more than 300 retired soldiers of varying ranks had marched to the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi and had returned medals won in combat and for distinguished service as they sought equal pension for each rank.

The veterans were among the thousands who had gathered earlier in the day at the Jantar Mantar observatory in the heart of the capital for a protest that some said marked a black day for the Indian armed forces.

However, it still took five years for the government to recognise this demand made by the military veterans. In February 2014, the government accepted the long-standing demand of ex-servicemen for OROP and had allocated Rs 500 crore to the Defence Pension Account for the implementation of the scheme.

The scheme had also been announced in the Interim Budget in February 2014, but was yet to be implemented.

A few days after this development, Narendra Modi, who was then rallying for the Lok Sabha polls, had slammed the Congress for delay in implementation of OROP.

“The government, which is sitting in Delhi has always been playing a farce with the Armed Forces. Before this also, a number of times, the Finance Minister of Congress had made announcements about One Rank One Pension but never fulfilled it,” Modi had said.

“Even this time since I am repeatedly talking about it, they have announced it but this is a fraud with you. Had Congress party been honest, they had the chance to it in 10 budgets from 2004 to 2014. But they did not do it,” he had said.

Modi had also claimed that “only our government will be able to implement it.”

After coming to power, the Modi government also had a perspective on OROP different from past governments. Past governments contended that granting the full scheme was neither financially nor administratively possible because it could lead to similar demands from other government employees, according to Economic Times. But the Modi government argued that the service of other government employees could not be equated to that of the military because military officers retired at a much earlier age, generally between 34-35 years of age, and also underwent prolonged and stressful tenures.

In the July 2014 Budget, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had also announced an allocation of Rs 1000 crore for this scheme.

In December 2014, Parrikar had said that OROP will be implemented in the defence forces before the next Budget.

However, while presenting the Budget 2015, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley did not announce its implementation. “I have already, in the last budget, said that we are going to implement One Rank One Pension. This need not be stated on every occasion. We are completely committed to it,” Jaitley had told reporters when asked about the delay in launching the scheme.

Explaining the reasons behind the delay, Jaitley had said: “The methodology of calculating the One Rank, One Pension is an issue pending between the services and the defence ministry.”

On 17 February this year, the Supreme Court had directed the Centre to implement its six-year-old verdict to follow OROP and had also reminded the BJP of its pre-poll promise made to the people, according to Hindustan Times. The apex court had given this order while hearing a contempt petition filed by Maj Gen (Retd) SPS Vains.

In 2009, the Supreme Court, in the case of Union of India & Maj Gen SPS Vains & Others, had ruled that “no defence personnel senior in rank could get a lower pension than his junior irrespective of the date of retirement, and that similarly placed officers of the same rank should be given the same pension irrespective of the date of retirement,” according to Scroll.

It was expected that PM Modi would make an announcement on OROP during his rally in Mathura to mark his government’s first anniversary. But to the disappointment of many ex-servicemen, he did not do so.

Miffed over the delay in the roll-out of the scheme for the armed forces, 1971 war veteran Wing Commander (Retd) Suresh Karnik and Wing Commander (Retd) KV Bopardikar on 28 May had boycotted a gallantry award function in Pune attended by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.

At the function, Parrikar had said that his ministry had completed all formalities in respect of the one rank-one pension’ (OROP) scheme for ex-servicemen and nobody should try to “politicise” the issue, according to PTI.

“My ministry has completed all formalities and OROP will be implemented,” he had said, adding that the executive process takes some time. “People still do not know financial implications of this. The Defence Ministry has completed its calculations and there was a unanimous agreement with the Armed Forces on the formula,” he had added.

Parrikar had also said that the figure of the One Rank One Pension scheme provision had touched about Rs 22,000 crore since he took over as Defence Minister.

The Defence Minister had also said that he is working hard on the scheme and the MoD will send its views to the Finance Minister by 17 February next year, according to IBNLive.

On the other hand, praising the veterans for boycotting the function, almost all veterans’ organisations in the country had decided to boycott government functions.

He had said the veterans plan to go on hunger strike if the government does not keep its promise.

Lt Gen B Pandit (retd), who spoke on behalf of the veterans, had said delay in the implementation of OROP was causing anxiety among the fraternity.

“It is the sacred responsibility of the state to create conditions to keep the morale of the Armed Forces high,” he had said.

(With agency inputs)

OROP breakthrough? May accept revision of pension once in two years, say defence veterans

New Delhi: The agitating ex-servicemen and the government appeared to have ironed out some major differences over the contentious issue of one rank one pension with the defence veterans saying on Wednesday night that they may accept revision of pension once in two years instead of one year as demanded by them.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

War veteran Maj Gen (retd) Satbir Singh, who has been leading the protest in Jantar Mantar for the last 80 days, said they have got positive signals from the government for the last few days but stopped short of saying there was a breakthrough.

Singh said the issue was non-negotiable and both the elements of the OROP concept cannot be interfered. An agreement can be reached once we know what is on the platter (offer by the government), he said, adding effective date of revision must be from 1 April, 2014.

Independent MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who has been mediating on the issue, said it was time veterans must return home with honour and grace by reaching an early settlement.

He urged them to accept the revision of pension every three years.

Meanwhile, not in the best of health yet undeterred, Colonel (retd) Pushpendra Singh on Wednesday resumed his fast-unto-death demanding prompt implementation of One Rank, One Pension scheme at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi hours after he was discharged from an army hospital.

Singh, one of the ex-servicemen fasting in demand of the immediate implementation of the OROP scheme, was hospitalised on Monday last — the ninth day of his fast after his medical report showed increased ketone levels.

Singh was admitted to the ICU of Army Hospital Research and Referral, from where he was discharged on Wednesday.

Hours later, he returned to the protest site to join his fellow ex-servicemen, whose agitation entered the 80th day on Wednesday.

Satbir Singh later said, “We will not agree to a three-year revision. We have made it clear that we can only settle down to two years of revision and not beyond that.”

He added that no fresh proposal has come from the government’s side in this regards.

PTI

OROP row: Veterans boycott 1965 war golden jubilee celebrations

New Delhi: Agitating ex-servicemen on Friday boycotted the golden jubilee celebrations of the 1965 war after rejecting Government’s latest offer on resolving the vexed issue of OROP over which they started protests 75 days ago.

“Whatever they have finally offered is not acceptable to us. Yesterday what was told to us is nowhere close to the definition” that had been decided and accepted by Parliament,” Maj Gen Satbir Singh (Retd), Chairman of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement said.

Protesters seeking the implementation of OROP. PTI imageProtesters seeking the implementation of OROP. PTI image

Protesters seeking the implementation of OROP. PTI image

He said that the ex-servicemen have turned down government’s offer to increase pension every five years instead of doing it annually.

“They were saying it will be done after five years which is totally incorrect because it will defeat the very definition of OROP,” Satbir said.

“We are also firm on our stand that the base year has to be 2013-14 and that payment should begin from April 1, 2014. OROP should not be left to the 7th Pay Commission and the definition has to be the same as accepted by Parliament,” he said.

Government is insisting that 2011 be made the base year while making it clear that there will be no three per cent annual increase. It also wants payment to begin from April 1, 2015, which has been rejected by the veterans.

Unhappy with the prolonged delay by the Government in setting a timeframe for OROP, the veterans boycotted Friday’s golden jubilee celebrations of the 1965 war with Pakistan.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar drew flak from the veterans for his remarks that Government needs “some time” to fill “small gaps” for implementation of OROP.

“Now the small gaps are being filled. Give it some time for completion. In principle, the Prime Minister on August 15 (Independence Day Speech) has given his approval. Now, PMO is directly involved…then by saying that do it in these many days will not help. “All efforts are being made to solve the issue,” he said.

The protesters said they are “disheartened” by Parrikar’s remarks to reporters on the sidelines of a function here.

“What Raksha Mantri said, I’m rather disheartened. He is now saying that there are gaps. He cannot say anything that is totally different than what was told to us all these days,” Satbir said.

“Hundreds of veterans who participated in the 1965 war joined the protest and boycotted the Golden jubilee program organized by the government,” a statement by the United Front of Ex-Servicemen, the umbrella organisation of veterans leading the OROP protest, said.

“Notable amongst the 1965 war veterans (who joined the OROP protest on Friday) were Brigadier D P Nayar who had participated in Hajipir operation and Wing Commander Vinod Nebb (Vir Chakra) who brought down one enemy aircraft in Punjab sector,” the statement added.

However, the Defence Ministry in the evening released pictures showing certain veterans at the wreath-laying ceremony organised at the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate.

A delegation of ex-servicemen on Friday met Home Minister Rajnath Singh who assured them that necessary action will be taken by the government which has already in-principle accepted their demand.

“Work is on to find out a solution but it needs some more time”, he told the veterans, official sources said.

Satbir said the veterans have requested a meeting with the Prime Minister.

“I am sure Prime Minister is the last word and he had assured us….we tell him the correct position. All the wrong information fed by the babus would be thrown away and what is right will be accepted,” he said.

Asked if the veterans are going to give an ultimatum, he said they are soldiers and hence don’t believe in setting deadlines.

“If Prime Minister says that give us another 1 or 2 days, 5 days, 1 week or 10 days… anything but let him look into our eyes and say so,” he said.

Army chief Dalbir Singh Suhag on Thursday had met representativces of ex-servicemen at his South Block office but there was “no forward movement”, they later said.

Close to 22 lakh retired servicemen and over six lakh war widows stand to be the immediate beneficiaries of the scheme, which envisages a uniform pension for the defence personnel who retire in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement.

Currently, the pension for retired personnel is based on the Pay Commission recommendations of the time when he or she retired. So, a Major General who retired in 1996 draws less pension than a Lt Colonel who retired after 1996.

PTI

OROP protest: Third veteran goes on fast till death

New Delhi: Notwithstanding “advice” from Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to put off their stir, a third veteran on Tuesday joined the fast-unto-death by ex-servicemen as part of the agitation to press for implementation of ‘One Rank One Pension’ (OROP) scheme.

Representational image. Firstpost/Naresh Sharma

Representational image. Firstpost/Naresh Sharma

“Havildar Ashok Chauhan has also gone on fast-unto-death in support of OROP. Those at Jantar Mantar have tried to dissuade him, but he is not relenting,” Col Anil Kaul (Retd), media advisor to United Front of Ex-Servicemen (UFESM), said on the second day of the hunger strike.

Stepping up agitation on OROP, a fast-unto-death was launched by two of the protesting ex-servicemen at Jantar Mantar on Monday.

Meanwhile, in a statement UFESM said their advisory council had met Parrikar on 16 August at his residence. “He advised to postpone fast-unto-death till August 24 as he would meet with the Prime Minister on August 23 and would attempt to get the solution to this vexed problem,” the statement said.

It added that the advisory council had counseled the veterans to delay the fast-unto-death, but “they were so charged up and determined because of total neglect of Government to ESM problems that they started the indefinite fast”.

“Their anger was further fuelled by the action of government, police and NDMC in manhandling the senior and old veterans protesting peacefully at Jantar Mantar,” the statement said.

The ex-servicemen have demanded that an FIR be lodged against the defaulting policemen and officials. They demanded “suspension of the officer who had ordered this barbaric crack down on peacefully agitating ex-servicemen”.

PTI

Technical issues in OROP, but govt will fulfil promise, says Parrikar amid stepped up demand

New Delhi: Amid stepped up demand for One-Rank-One-Pension, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Friday said there are “technical difficulties” in implementing it but insisted that government will fulfil the “assurance” made to the ex-servicemen in this regard.

Asserting that NDA government was committed to implementing OROP, Parrikar said it was working to fulfil the long-pending demand of the ex-servicemen.

Manohar Parrikar. AFPManohar Parrikar. AFP

Manohar Parrikar. AFP

“We will fulfil the assurances that we have given in this regard… When we have said this, the government has to do it within its tenure and we will do it quite early. We are bound by our assurance. We will comply with our assurance,” he said.

Parrikar, however, said “there are are technical difficulties” in implementing OROP.

A group of ex-servicemen are on a protest at Jantar Mantar for two months demanding early implementation of OROP.

Earlier in the day, Delhi Police tried to evict them on the grounds of security ahead of Independence Day celebrations. However, later, Police Commissioner BS Bassi said they have been allowed to continue with the protest.

The Narendra Modi government has been maintaining that it is committed to OROP, a key promise made during Lok Sabha polls.

Close to 22 lakh ex-servicemen and over six lakh war widows stand to be the immediate beneficiaries of the scheme, which envisages a uniform pension for the defence personnel who retire in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement.

Currently, the pension for ex-servicemen is based on the Pay Commission recommendations of the time when they had retired.

PTI

Technical issues in OROP, but govt will fulfil its promise, says Parrikar amid stepped up demand

New Delhi: Amid stepped up demand for One-Rank-One-Pension, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Friday said there are “technical difficulties” in implementing it but insisted that government will fulfil the “assurance” made to the ex-servicemen in this regard.

Asserting that NDA government was committed to implementing OROP, Parrikar said it was working to fulfil the long-pending demand of the ex-servicemen.

Manohar Parrikar. AFPManohar Parrikar. AFP

Manohar Parrikar. AFP

“We will fulfil the assurances that we have given in this regard… When we have said this, the government has to do it within its tenure and we will do it quite early. We are bound by our assurance. We will comply with our assurance,” he said.

Parrikar, however, said “there are are technical difficulties” in implementing OROP.

A group of ex-servicemen are on a protest at Jantar Mantar for two months demanding early implementation of OROP.

Earlier in the day, Delhi Police tried to evict them on the grounds of security ahead of Independence Day celebrations. However, later, Police Commissioner BS Bassi said they have been allowed to continue with the protest.

The Narendra Modi government has been maintaining that it is committed to OROP, a key promise made during Lok Sabha polls.

Close to 22 lakh ex-servicemen and over six lakh war widows stand to be the immediate beneficiaries of the scheme, which envisages a uniform pension for the defence personnel who retire in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement.

Currently, the pension for ex-servicemen is based on the Pay Commission recommendations of the time when they had retired.

PTI

From ‘synchronised’ Kejriwal to clueless Vijaykanth: Our favorite netas caught in the yoga pose

International Yoga Day was a success with PM Modi leading a huge crowd at Rajpath in New Delhi from the front and a new Guinness World Records for yoga being set with 35,985 participants performing asanas at one venue.

From students, armed forces to Bollywood celebrities, everyone came out in hordes to mark the occasion by performing yoga asansas together. But the highlight of the live yoga performances was seeing the various ministers stretching it out.

We have seen these very politicians in their kurtas and/or mufflers shouting aggressively or making absurd statements in the Parliament and press conferences. To see them lying in their track suits, seemingly peacefully, on their yoga mats as they contorted their bodies for various asanas was unusual to say the least. Add to that the hilarious gaffes some of our politicians tend to make regularly, the awkward positions certain yoga asanas can result in, and we have a list of photographs to remember.

Here are some of the funniest photographs of our ministers performing yoga and what their asanas indicated.

Vijaykanth

The DMDK’s chief performing yoga, or rather attempting to perform yoga, has to be one of the funniest take-offs from the International Yoga Day events. He is seen looking around cluelessly, not knowing which side to face and which asana to do. I fact he confuses the basic breathing exercises as well, not to mention the great effort he has to put in to sit and stand. Watch the full video

Image Credit: YouTubeImage Credit: YouTube

Image Credit: YouTube

Suresh Prabhu

Coming a close second in Yoga Day gaffes is Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu who supposedly fell asleep during a yoga event and had to be woken up. Images of him stirring awake were published in a regional newspaper and have been making the rounds on Twitter as well. Looks like he found the asanas to be so very peaceful indeed.

Image Courtesy: TwitterImage Courtesy: Twitter

Image Courtesy: Twitter

Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia

The Aam Aadmi Party may be having their share of internal problems, but they put their best foot forward at the International Yoga Day event in Delhi with CM Arvind Kejriwal and deputy Manish Sisodia performing in perfect synchronisation. We wonder who they are pointing at with such stern expressions.

Image Courtesy: PTIImage Courtesy: PTI

Image Courtesy: PTI

Devendra Fadnavis

The Maharashtra Chief Minister did not have an International Yoga Day shirt but he made it up for it with a scarf akin to that of PM Modi. However, his asanas were not as much in sync with that of Delhi. Here, he looks more like a part of a dance performance than a yoga performance.

Image Courtesy: PTIImage Courtesy: PTI

Image Courtesy: PTI

Manohar Parrikar

How many people out there want Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to keep his mouth shut after all the controversial statements he has made over the last few months? Well, they got their wish as Parrikar performed yoga in seemingly silent meditation.

Image Courtesy: PTIImage Courtesy: PTI

Image Courtesy: PTI

Ravi Shankar Prasad

The Minister of Communication went all out to participate in the International Yoga Day event. He showed his enthusiasm for yoga by performing a very difficult asana. Unlike many other ministers who preferred to perform conventional meditation, Prasad went ahead and plopped himself in a reptilian position with full concentration.

Image Courtesy: PTIImage Courtesy: PTI

Image Courtesy: PTI

Vasundhara Raje

She may be in the eye of a storm thanks to a certain Mr Modi, but that did not stop Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje from giving her full attention to International Yoga Day. Her asana here seems fitting considering the supposed gag order imposed on her by the BJP.

Image Courtesy: PTIImage Courtesy: PTI

Image Courtesy: PTI

Anandiben Patel

The Gujarat Chief Minister is another politician who whole-heartedly participated in the yoga events, performing a number of asanas and leading from the front, just like her predecessor. Here we see her performing a strenuous asana, which is noteworthy considering she is over 70 years old, proving that yoga keeps you healthy indeed.

Image Courtesy: PTIImage Courtesy: PTI

Image Courtesy: PTI

#56InchRocks becomes 50 Shades of Red: Modi’s Obama moment in Myanmar unravels

If Narendra Modi had been a master at anything, it was about spectacle, PR and messaging. His spectacles were always masterfully choreographed down to the last hologram. His spokespersons were always on message and Modi had the ability to even turn something as dull as Teacher’s Day into a must-watch television drama.

A successful #ManipurRevenge #MyanmarRaid should have been a sixer for the government. All this looks more and more like a self-goal. Not the actual raid conducted by the Army, but the packaging of the raid, which is unraveling by the day while there is radio silence from Modi himself #DespiteBeingThePM.

Narendra Modi. PTINarendra Modi. PTI

Narendra Modi. PTI

The Myanmar raid had all the hallmarks of that Osama assassination. Like America, India wanted to prove that someone who brought terror to it was not safe no matter where they were holed up. Like America, India wanted to show they could conduct a daring operation with speed, precision and without any casualty on their side with top-notch intelligence. And while the SEALs got the credit for the operation, Obama reaped the benefit of being the one who took the risk in greenlighting it. India’s junior I&B minister Rajyavardhan Rathore seemed to say exactly that when he said while the Army carried out the strike, “our PM ordered hot pursuit in which two camps were completely annihilated.”

This looked like it would have been Modi’s Obama moment. But instead the government is forced to do damage control on multiple fronts.

The Army Problem: The government stands accused of trying to steal the Army’s thunder and as an Indian Express editorial writes trying to “harvest political capital out of the Army’s success”. The Army had merely said it had conducted strikes “along the border”. It was hashtag friendly Rajyavardhan Rathore who shot off his mouth about “our Special Forces crossing the border and going deep into another country”. His boasting actually forced more attention on the operation and compelled Myanmar to publicly display its annoyance. Now the Economic Times reports that the government is unhappy with Rathore’s braggadocio. “Rathore’s statement was avoidable,” one minister tells ET. Another says “Rathore should not have spoken like that… what was the need?”

But there is a bit of shooting the messenger here. Rathore did not rush in front of television cameras. He was chosen to do so precisely because he is a former military man. The Indian Express says “it was because it felt he could send the message across louder and clearer than the Army could. Sources said a political intervention was felt necessary at the ‘highest level’ and that’s how Rathore, a retired Army colonel, was chosen to give out details the Army couldn’t.”

Unlike V K Singh, the other minister who landed the Modi government in a soup with his tweets, Rathore was not doing any of this for himself. It was entirely about buttressing the PM’s strongman image. Now the PMO is distancing itself from Rathore but let’s not forget Rathore was not bragging about his own #56inch chest. And he was chosen to go before the media AFTER those tweets.

The Diplomacy Problem: Narendra Modi came to power with unprecedented SAARC bonhomie by inviting all the neighbouring leaders to his swearing in. He has played prompt and kindly big brother to Nepal after the earthquake. Thought social media slammed his ‘Despite Being A Woman’ comment in Dhaka, his Bangladesh visit was in general successful. K Anis Ahmed commented in Scroll “In words and gestures, Modi’s visit seemed designed to signal the one thing that many Bangladeshis have felt missing from their bigger neighbour: respect.”

Now Myanmar is complaining vociferously that New Delhi is not showing them that same thing: respect. Rathore bragged that the Indian Army “went into” Myanmar to target militant camps and initial reports talked about how the Myanmar army provided the intelligence and then turned a blind eye to the operation. Even if that was true, diplomacy demands both countries do not go to town talking about it. Certainly Washington and Islamabad have not admitted to any collusion even though Seymour Hersch alleged that they worked very much in tandem. But Rathore’s braggadocio has forced a normally tight-lipped Myanmar to say categorically “we will not allow foreign troops to enter our territory.” Rathore did not stop to think how India would feel if the tables were turned and Myanmar wanted to claim credit for an operation conducted on the Indian side of the border.

So now suddenly India and Myanmar, who are allies and partners, are putting out embarrassingly different scenarios of what happened. Happymon Jacob, an international affairs expert at Jawaharlal Nehru University tells The Telegraph “If you do not treat these things with a certain kind of secrecy and sensitivity, it could impact how Myanmar and other countries treat similar requests from India in the future.”

Meanwhile Pakistan which had no reason to get involved in the story, has decided to adopt a sanctimonious tone and lecture India about a “moral high ground” and how they would continue their “quest for a peaceful neighbourhood” despite “irresponsible” and “imprudent statements” from India’s leaders. Basically Nawaz Sharif wants to use Manohar Parrikar’s statement that the operation in Myanmar was about sending messages to India’s other neighbours to rally his country together with some India-bashing.

The Photo Problem: Then there is the photo goof up that has left everyone with more questions than answers. Two photographs allegedly from the operation started going around social media and media outlets. It showed the soliders carrying guns in front of an army helicopter flashing victory signs. ANI carried the pictures with the faces blanked out to protect their identities. But then the defence ministry tweeted it had “NOT issued any photo relating to the Indian Army action along the Indo-Myanmar border in the North East, so far.” ANI claimed the photos were authorized by the Additional Directorate General of Public Information which said it had done no such thing. Then the whole affair blew up further when the images were found via Google as being from 2009-13.

Now the Army is back pedaling saying according to The Hindu that the photographs were only approved as a “representative picture” not an “operational picture.” That’s even more ridiculous because why should the Army be in the business of giving media outlets “representational pictures” anyway? Especially pictures that were already out there and available. Whether the pictures were an honest mistake or a deliberate attempt to jazz up the story and make it more front-page worthy, someone royally goofed up along the way.

The Bodycount Problem: Now it seems the death toll from the strike is in dispute as well. The Army had kept mum about the casualties inflicted though in background briefings it had suggested 20 dead and 11 injured though some in the media have floated the claim that 100 insurgents were killed. But Indian Express says only seven bodies have been recovered and about a dozen militants were injured.

More damningly Rathore’s #ManipurRevenge did not hit the perpetrators of the 4 June ambush that cost India 18 lives. Express also says that Niki Sumi, the head of one of the camps destroyed left it with 40 of his cadres before the Indians attacked. If Sumi is the Osama equivalent in this story, he it seems got away. And IE claims SS Khaplang, the aging patriarch of the NSCN-K insurgent group, is undergoing medical treatment safely in Yangon. So now questions are being raised as to the strategic value of the attack beyond providing some high-octane television drama and an ego stroke to India about its military prowess.

When President Obama placed the killing of Osama bin Laden at the centre of his re-election campaign, he too was accused of politicizing the event and making it a campaign slogan by his opponents. But Modi’s Obama moment seems to be unraveling not because of his opponents but because those around him were too greedy and too hasty to turn it into a PR-spectacle tailor-made for television. As Modi maintains an uncharacteristic silence, his minister’s #56inch Rocks boast is turning into 50 Shades of Red .

Guidelines to resolve problems between military, civil authorities to be issued: Parrikar

Pune: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Monday said a clear set of guidelines will be issued to resolve problems between military establishments and civil authorities of different cantonment boards in the country.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

“A misunderstanding can occur between civil and military authorities due to various problems in cantonments as there is a growing desire for more civic amenities. In proper consultation with all stakeholders, clear guidelines will be issued to resolve the issues to the satisfaction of many if not all,” Parrikar said.

He was here to inaugurate an orientation programme for elected representatives of Cantonment Boards falling in the jurisdiction of the Southern Command, headquartered in the city.

Making a reference to the issues such as closure of roads in cantonment areas and revision of outdated bye-laws of Cantonment Boards, the minister said civilians should also know that all military installations are “sensitive” places involving the aspect of national defence.

He urged the elected representatives of Cantonment Boards to study legal aspects of their functioning in relation to the military prerogatives for a better coordination.

About 150 representatives of Cantonment Boards from various states are attending the two-day workshop here.

PTI

Ex-servicemen, Parrikar talks on OROP fail, former soldiers to go ahead with stir

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No question of women joining combat roles in defence forces, says Manohar Parrikar

Pune: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has ruled out recruiting women for combat operations in armed forces due to apprehensions about their safety but said they would be encouraged to join other operational areas with their inclusion being stepped up in phases.

“No. Think of what can happen if a woman is taken as a prisoner in combat operation,” he said, implying at possible atrocities they might suffer if held captive by enemy forces.

PTI imagePTI image

PTI image

He, however, said except for combat role women will be encouraged to join other operational areas of the forces.

“This inclusion will be increased in phases,” Parrikar said during a brief interaction with reporters on the sidelines of a passing out parade at the National Defence Academy (NDA) at Khadakwasla near here.

On shortage of officers in the forces, he said the deficit is being reduced and the gap currently stood at 7,000 as against 11,000 earlier.

Parrikar said the admission capacity of the Academy, the premier institute which trains future officers of the three wings of the Armed Forces, too will be enhanced from existing 1950 to 2400 in next two years.

On his arrival on the campus, Parrikar reviewed a smartly turned out parade of the passing out cadets on the sprawling premises and asked them to cultivate a “sound mind and sound body” to serve the country with an emphasis on moral and ethical values.

He awarded the President’s gold medal to cadet A K Sinha. The silver and bronze medals were bagged by cadets Nishant Philip and R S Bisht.

PTI

Date for implementing one rank-one pension can’t be specified, says Manohar Parrikar

Mumbai: A day after saying that all the formalities for the ‘one rank-one pension’ (OROP) scheme have been completed, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Friday said no time frame could be specified for its implementation as a couple of administrative steps were still pending.

“There cannot be a date specified to implement OROP. This scheme was not understood by the previous government properly. There are many fine prints and aspects that need to be considered. After taking a lot of time, I have crystallised the department…There are two-three administrative steps that are still pending,” Parrikar said.

Manohar Parrikar. AFPManohar Parrikar. AFP

Manohar Parrikar. AFP

He was speaking during an interactive seminar here at the Indian Merchants’ Chamber on ‘Make in India for Defence Production’.

“My ministry has completed all formalities and OROP will be implemented,” Parrikar had said yesterday, adding that the executive process takes some time.

The Minister said the sacrifices made by defence personnel cannot be measured in terms of money given to them after their retirement.

“The promises we made (during election time) were for five years and not one year. I am sure we will do excellent work in five years. The sacrifices made by our defence personnel cannot be counted in terms of money given to them. I have been to all borders and I know that staying in isolated places for six months at a stretch is virtually impossible for a common man,” he said.

“OROP is a part of our promise, but, sacrifices cannot be measured in terms of rupees,” he added.

OROP scheme is aimed at ensuring that all retired soldiers, who have the same rank and the length of service receive the same amount of pension, irrespective of their date of retirement. Currently, all those soldiers who retired before 2006 receive less pension than their counterparts and even their juniors.

Protesting government’s “delay” in the implementation of OROP, 1971 war veteran Wing Commander (Retd) Suresh Karnik had yesterday boycotted a gallantry award function in Pune attended by Parrikar.

PTI

Pakistan parl committee passes resolution slamming Parrikar’s remarks on terrorists

Islamabad: A parliamentary committee of Pakistan on Wednesday passed a resolution condemning Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar‘s remarks that “terrorists have to be neutralised only through terrorists” and asked the government to take up the matter with the UN Security Council.

The resolution was unanimously passed during a meeting of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Defence at the Parliament House here with Chairman Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed presiding over the proceedings.

Manohar Parrikar. AFPManohar Parrikar. AFP

Manohar Parrikar. AFP

The committee, in its resolution, took strong exception to Parrikar’s statement, terming the remarks by him as an “open confession” of sponsoring terrorism as a state policy.

The meeting also demanded that the Pakistani government take up the matter with the UN Security Council and the international community.

The resolution said the statement has serious implications for India’s neighbours and endangers peace and stability in South Asia.

The reaction by the Senate committee is part of a series of statements by Pakistan leaders expressing anger over Parrikar’s remarks.

Last week, Parrikar had said India will take “pro-active” steps to prevent a 26/11-type attacks hatched from a foreign soil.

“We have to neutralise terrorists through terrorists only. Why can’t we do it? We should do it. Why does my soldier have to do it?” he had said.

PTI

Parrikar’s ‘neutralize terrorists through terrorists’ remark confirms India sponsors terror: Pakistan

Islamabad: Manohar Parrikar‘s remarks that “terrorists have to be neutralised only through terrorists” is the “worst” declaration by a state functionary and “confirm that India is sponsoring terrorism against its neighbours”, his Pakistani counterpart, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said.

Parrikar’s statement at an event in New Delhi last week has triggered a strong reaction from Pakistan, with many top officials condemning it.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Pakistan Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said Parrikar’s statement was a blatant admission of sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan, according to a report by state-run Associated Press
of Pakistan (APP) today.

Parrikar’s remarks confirm “our assertions of Indian involvement in terrorist activities on Pakistani soil”, Asif said, adding that the Indian minister had categorically stated
that rules would not be followed to quell terror activities; instead terrorism would be promoted for the purpose.

“This is the worst kind of declaration by a state functionary of cabinet level which confirms that India is sponsoring terrorism against its neighbours in the name of preventing terrorist activities,” Asif said.

On Thursday, Parrikar had said India will take “pro-active” steps to prevent a 26/11 type attacks hatched from a foreign soil.

“We have to neutralise terrorists through terrorists only. Why can’t we do it? We should do it. Why does my soldier have to do it?” he had said.

On Saturday, the Foreign Office issued a statement by Advisor to Pakistan Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz expressing concerns over Parrikar’s remarks.

“This statement only confirms Pakistan’s apprehensions about India’s involvement in terrorism in Pakistan,” Aziz had said.

Minister for Information Pervaiz Rashid had also condemned Parrikar’s statement the same day, calling it dangerous for regional peace and exposed Indian designs.

World needs peace, but India is talking of using terrorists, he said.

PTI

Apprehensions about India confirmed: Pakistan hits back at Parrikar on terrorism remark

Islamabad: Pakistan has expressed serious concern over Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar‘s remarks that ‘terrorists have to be neutralised only through terrorists,’ saying his comments confirms its suspicion about India’s involvement in terrorism.

“This statement only confirms Pakistan’s apprehensions about India’s involvement in terrorism in Pakistan,” said Sartaj Aziz, Adviser to Pakistan Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs while reacting to Parrikar’s statement.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTIDefence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

“It must be the first time that a Minister of an elected government openly advocates use of terrorism in another country on the pretext of preventing terrorism from that country or its non-state actors,” Aziz was quoted as saying in a statement by the Foreign Office on Saturday.

He said Pakistan sincerely pursues a policy of good neighbourly relations with India.

“Terrorism is our common enemy and it is vital for the two countries to work together to defeat this menace, from which Pakistan has suffered much more than almost any other country,” he said.

On Thursday, asserting that terrorists have to be neutralised only through terrorists, Parrikar had said India will take “pro-active” steps to prevent a 26/11 type attacks hatched from a foreign soil.

“There are certain things that I obviously cannot discuss here. But if there is any country, why only Pakistan, planning something against my country, we will definitely take some pro-active steps,” Parrikar had said.

The Minister had used Hindi phrase “kante se kanta nikalna” (removing a thorn with a thorn) and wondered why Indian soldiers should be used to neutralise terrorists.

Earlier, senior Pakistani officials including army chief General Raheel Sharif and Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry in recent statements have accused India’s external intelligence agency RAW of fanning militancy in Pakistan.

PTI

Pakistan should extend full cooperation in checking terrorism: Rajnath

Lucknow: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday asked Pakistan to extend all help in tackling terrorism as it was also a victim of the menance.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh said Pakistan should cooperate in tackling terrorism. Reuters

Home Minister Rajnath Singh said Pakistan should cooperate in tackling terrorism. Reuters

“It (Pakistan) should extend full cooperation in checking terrorism because the country is facing a similar problem today,” Singh told reporters.

On Pakistan’s strong reaction to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar‘s recent remarks about neutralising terrorists through terrorists, Singh said, “Not only India, but the entire world knows who is promoting terrorism.”

Reacting to Parrikar’s comments, Adviser to Pakistan Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz had said it confirmed Islamabad’s apprehensions that India was involved in terrorism in that country.

“It must be the first time that a minister of an elected government openly advocates use of terrorism in another country on the pretext of preventing terrorism from that country or its non-state actors,” Aziz had said in a statement released by Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Earlier, addressing a SBI officers’ convention Singh expressed concern over Fake Indian Currency Note (FICN) racket and said it was used to promote terrorism.

“FICN is a big problem as fake currency is used to promote terrorism,” he said and asked banks to be alert to that.

The Home Minister said India was taking all steps to fight terrorism.

Singh described banks as the “spine” of the country’s economy and said,”I want to see it as the nation’s lifeline.”

He described the nationalisation of banks as the “biggest” decision taken post-independence to improve the health of the economy.

“But even after nationalisation the connect with the people was not there. I want to congratulate the banking sector that they associated 15 crore families under Jan Dhan scheme. It’s not a small achivement,” he said.

The Home Minister also lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi for launching social security schemes.

“Even those who criticise us will realise this sooner or later. Even the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has appeciated the scheme,” he said.

He rubbished Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi‘s accusation against the Centre for scrapping the food park project in his constituency Amethi.

The Home Minister asserted the government’s initiatives on the economic front will result in GDP growth touching the 10 percent mark.

“India has the fastest growing economy. I am confident that GDP will reach minimum upto 10 percent due to policy decisions,” he said.

He recalled how GDP growth had reached 10.4 per cent during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure due to execution of massive infrastructure projects.

The minister said government’s attempts to check black money generation will also boost the economy.

Rajnath Singh said through PM Modi’s Make in India initiative, the government wanted not only to promote domestic investors but also potential investors from abroad. “We want Made in India to be a big brand,” he said, adding the government wanted a manufacturing revolution to be ushered in.

PTI

Remember the Ikhwan? Parrikar’s ‘kanta se kanta nikalna’ approach to terror is a terrible idea

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar is known to speak freely on most issues but on Friday had to quickly clarify on what seemed to be an endorsement of using terrorists to fight terror.

Speaking at the Manthan conclave organised by Aaj Tak, the defence minister said that he was in favour of “kante se kanta nikalna” (removing a thorn with a thorn) approach to tackle terrorism. His response came to a question asking how the government would react if a repeat of Mumbai attacks or a Parliament attack takes place.

PTI imagePTI image

PTI image

“We have to neutralise terrorists through terrorists only. Why can’t we do it? We should do it. Why does my soldier have to do it?” he said.

Wisely expecting outrage, he later sought to tone down the statement in an interview with the Times of India saying that he was in favour of targeted strikes based on intelligence and not covert operations undertaken by civilians or militia.

“Every case is handled firmly with clear-cut intelligence for targeted kills, ensuring minimal if any collateral damage,” Parrikar said in the interview.

While the normally outspoken Defence Minister may have performed a quick u-turn, one can only hope that it isn’t purely rhetorical. Past experiences of using a ‘kanta se kanta nikalta approach’  on the ground may have yielded returns but at a very high cost and the past lessons come from none other than Kashmir itself.

Security forces in the past deployed surrendered terrorists in the 1990s who were called Ikhwans locally. A Human Rights Watch report in 1996 revealed that these armed groups were allowed to operate with almost complete impunity. The results were disastrous, as the report noted:

“The extrajudicial killings, abductions and assaults committed by these groups against suspected militants are instead described as resulting from ‘intergroup rivalries.’  But civilians have also been their victims, and the militia groups have singled out journalists, human rights activists and medical workers for attack.”

The report also pointed to how it had also sparked disputes between different security forces, and the various parallel operations resulted in ‘disappearances’ and sparked widespread outrage across the state which was already angry about security forces excesses.

Even the security establishment were reportedly not averse to using the militia as a force to settle personal scores. Like this report in Asia Times in which an army official admitted to using the Ikhwan to intimidate people who had filed ‘baseless complaints and cases’ against his men.

“This is a dirty war. The enemy is not fighting according to civilized rules of armed conflict. The surrendered militants were willing and able to give as dirtily as they got from their erstwhile comrades,” he was quoted as saying.

A Frontline piece noted how these state-sponsored ‘terrorists’ even entered politics as political turmoil persisted in the state:

“Intelligence assets overnight became political leaders. But, there was a serious problem. The absence of a clear structure of control over the Ikhwan, and the fitful financial support for its operations, meant that indiscipline and corruption were rife.”

Many of them later reportedly continued to work with the state police even after official sanction for the militia was revoked.

There’s also the problem of reprisals from militants. Top Ikhwan leaders were targeted by terror groups years after they had left operations. As this report in the National documented in 2010, former members of the militias were often targeted by terror groups for their role in aiding security forces and at the time as per official figures about 3,000 of them had been killed either in action or assassinated by former comrades.

Other such movements in which civilians were used to take on insurgency movements like Salwa Judum to tackle Naxals have also had similar results.

Despite meeting with operational success for some time, such tactics often alienate the local population and inflict far more collateral damage than was ever planned or claimed. The use-and-throw of such milita by security forces often does avoid the loss of security personnel’s lives, but the long-term effects are much worse than ever intended.

Parrikar for now has thankfully publicly backtracked on the use of covert operations using civilians or other terror groups. But it remains to be seen as to whether the u-turn was genuine or whether his original words are a better reflection of the government’s thinking. Let’s hope it is not the latter.

Remember the Ikhwan? Manohar Parrikar’s ‘kanta se kanta nikalna’ approach to terrorism is a terrible idea

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar is known to speak freely on most issues but on Friday had to quickly clarify on what seemed to be an endorsement of using terrorists to fight terror.

Speaking at the Manthan conclave organised by Aaj Tak, the defence minister said that he was in favour of “kante se kanta nikalna” (removing a thorn with a thorn) approach to tackle terrorism. His response came to a question asking how the government would react if a repeat of Mumbai attacks or a Parliament attack takes place.

PTI imagePTI image

PTI image

“We have to neutralise terrorists through terrorists only. Why can’t we do it? We should do it. Why does my soldier have to do it?” he said.

Wisely expecting outrage, he later sought to tone down the statement in an interview with the Times of India saying that he was in favour of targeted strikes based on intelligence and not covert operations undertaken by civilians or militia.

“Every case is handled firmly with clear-cut intelligence for targeted kills, ensuring minimal if any collateral damage,” Parrikar said in the interview.

While the normally outspoken Defence Minister may have performed a quick u-turn, one can only hope that it isn’t purely rhetorical. Past experiences of using a ‘kanta se kanta nikalta approach’  on the ground may have yielded returns but at a very high cost and the past lessons come from none other than Kashmir itself.

Security forces in the past deployed surrendered terrorists in the 1990s who were called Ikhwans locally. A Human Rights Watch report in 1996 revealed that these armed groups were allowed to operate with almost complete impunity. The results were disastrous, as the report noted:

“The extrajudicial killings, abductions and assaults committed by these groups against suspected militants are instead described as resulting from ‘intergroup rivalries.’  But civilians have also been their victims, and the militia groups have singled out journalists, human rights activists and medical workers for attack.”

The report also pointed to how it had also sparked disputes between different security forces, and the various parallel operations resulted in ‘disappearances’ and sparked widespread outrage across the state which was already angry about security forces excesses.

Even the security establishment were reportedly not averse to using the militia as a force to settle personal scores. Like this report in Asia Times in which an army official admitted to using the Ikhwan to intimidate people who had filed ‘baseless complaints and cases’ against his men.

“This is a dirty war. The enemy is not fighting according to civilized rules of armed conflict. The surrendered militants were willing and able to give as dirtily as they got from their erstwhile comrades,” he was quoted as saying.

A Frontline piece noted how these state-sponsored ‘terrorists’ even entered politics as political turmoil persisted in the state:

“Intelligence assets overnight became political leaders. But, there was a serious problem. The absence of a clear structure of control over the Ikhwan, and the fitful financial support for its operations, meant that indiscipline and corruption were rife.”

Many of them later reportedly continued to work with the state police even after official sanction for the militia was revoked.

There’s also the problem of reprisals from militants. Top Ikhwan leaders were targeted by terror groups years after they had left operations. As this report in the National documented in 2010, former members of the militias were often targeted by terror groups for their role in aiding security forces and at the time as per official figures about 3,000 of them had been killed either in action or assassinated by former comrades.

Other such movements in which civilians were used to take on insurgency movements like Salwa Judum to tackle Naxals have also had similar results.

Despite meeting with operational success for some time, such tactics often alienate the local population and inflict far more collateral damage than was ever planned or claimed. The use-and-throw of such milita by security forces often does avoid the loss of security personnel’s lives, but the long-term effects are much worse than ever intended.

Parrikar for now has thankfully publicly backtracked on the use of covert operations using civilians or other terror groups. But it remains to be seen as to whether the u-turn was genuine or whether his original words are a better reflection of the government’s thinking. Let’s hope it is not the latter.

Will neutralise terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir with terrorists: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar

New Delhi: Asserting that terrorists have to be neutralised only through terrorists, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Thursday said India will take “pro-active” steps to prevent a 26/11 type attacks hatched from foreign soil.

“There are certain things that I obviously cannot discuss here. But if there is any country, why only Pakistan, planning something against my country, we will definitely take some pro-active steps,” he said at an event in New Delhi.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTIDefence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Speaking candidly, the Minister used the Hindi phrase “kante se kanta nikalna” (removing a thorn with a thorn) and wondered why Indian soldiers should be used to neutralise terrorists. He said the pro-active steps could include pressure tactics.

“We have to neutralise terrorists through terrorists only. Why can’t we do it? We should do it. Why does my soldier have to do it?,” he said adding that this issue cannot be discussed beyond this.

He was speaking at ‘Manthan’ conclave organised by news channel Aaj Tak and was replying to a question on what would be government’s reaction if a repeat of Mumbai attacks or a Parliament attack takes place.

He said the best response would be to ensure it does not happen.

Meanwhile, he said the army has been given orders to neutralise infiltrators trying to enter India.

“I can only say that anyone trying to infiltrate will be neutralised,” he said.

He also aid that a terrorist who comes with a gun cannot be lectured on human rights.

However, the Minister added that instructions have been given to take precaution that there is no “collateral damage” and that no Indian soldiers die.

“Take precaution there is no collateral damage. Don’t touch civilians,” he said.

Asked what has changed from the previous government’s tenure, the minister said, “Porosity on borders is less; intelligence has improved”.

Parrikar also said he will stand by the army at any cost if they are right.

PTI

AgustaWestland probe: CBI awaiting response from 8 nations, says govt

New Delhi: CBI’s probe in India into alleged irregularities in the AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter deal is at an advanced stage even as the agency is awaiting responses from eight countries to which it has sent letters rogatory in this connection, Lok Sabha was informed on Friday.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

“The investigation by CBI in India is at an advanced stage… Letters Rogatory (LRs) have been sent by CBI to eight countries — Italy, Tunisia, Mauritius in 2013 and UAE, UK, Switzerland, Singapore and British Virgin Islands in 2014,” Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar informed the House in a written reply.

“LR execution report is awaited from all the above mentioned countries,” he added.

He said while authorities in UAE have sought more information, a fresh letter rogatory has been sent to Mauritius as desired by the island nation.

The Enforcement Directorate had also registered a criminal case under PMLA last year to probe alleged financial violations in the 12 VVIP-chopper deal with AgustaWestland.

PTI

Rafale deal: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to meet French counterpart

New Delhi: French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will hold talks with his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar in New Delhi on Wednesday to “launch negotiations” for the 36 Rafale fighter jets that India has decided to buy from France.

Drian will arrive in the capital later tonight after his visit to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Defence Ministry Manohar Parrikar. PTIDefence Ministry Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Defence Ministry Manohar Parrikar. PTI

The French Minister will meet Parrikar tomorrow during which he will “pursue” discussions on matters that were taken up during Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s visit to France last month, a French Embassy statement said.

This includes negotiations for the acquisition of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft.

“The aim is to launch negotiations pursuant to the Indo-French Joint Statement of April 10,” it said.

This trip of Drian follows the 14th edition of the “Varuna” exercise between Indian and French Navies, conducted from April 28 to May 2, off India’s western coast with the carrier battle groups of the two countries.

A “powerful symbol” of the strategic partnership between France and India, this exercise enabled the navies of both countries to deepen their mutual knowledge and strengthen their close ties of friendship, the statement said.

“It is also a concrete illustration of the importance that France and India, both regional powers of the Indian Ocean Region, attach to maritime security,” it added.

PTI

Sindhurakshak accident cannot be blamed on anyone: Govt tells Rajya Sabha

New Delhi: The government on Tuesday said the explosion onboard submarine INS Sindhurakshak in 2013 that led to the death of 18 personnel was “probably induced” during the process of arming of the torpedoes and cannot be blamed on anyone.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, in a written reply to a question, told Rajya Sabha that the accident cannot be blamed on anyone since none of the officers or sailors present inside the submarines survived.

However, he said that disciplinary action against two officers in the chain of command has been initiated for individual lapses.

“Board of Inquiry (BoI) has concluded that the incident onboard INS Sindhurakshak in the night of 13/14 August 2013 was an accident probably induced during the process of arming of the torpedoes.

“Since none of the officers and sailors present inside the submarine survived, it has not been possible to attribute any blame to any individual for failure or negligence, if any,” he said.

He said that lessons learnt from the reports of BoI are implemented appropriately.

Corrective steps have been taken by Naval Headquarters with extensive checks on weapon-related safety systems and audit of Standard Operating Procedures on all operational naval units, he said.

“Safety procedures and professional checks have been re-emphasised. Incidents Study and Analysis Cells have been instituted at professional schools wherein lessons learnt are incorporated into professional training. Safety Audits of various units are being regularly conducted,” he said.

The INS Sindhurakshak accident is regarded as the worst submarine disaster for the Indian Navy and had led to the resignation of then Navy chief Admiral DK Joshi.

The Minister also gave details of accidents or incidents involving the Navy since 2014.

According to his figures, there were 12 accidents or incidents involving Navy vessels since January 2014.

PTI

Success! Desi howitzers trials a hit, indigenous Bofors even better than Swedish original

India’s latest experiment in the defense sector has turned out to be a resounding success. According to the Times of India, the army has built an improved version of the original 155mm howitzer the Army bought in 1987 by upgrading the barrel from 39mm to 45mm.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

The upgraded gun has been named Dhanush, and  has successfully cleared both winter and summer trials, says an 27 April Ministry of Defence release.

“The indigenously designed and manufactured 155mm x 45mm caliber artillery gun, Dhanush, has successfully met all technical parameters during the winter and summer trials, said Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Monday . “Dhanush incorporates many improved features than the guns [that] the Army is possessing at present.”

The state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) began upgrading the howitzer, which was originally  bought from Bofors of Sweden, as part of the controversial 1986 purchase of 410 FH-77 howitzers.

‘Dhanush had earlier this year entered the production phase at the Jabalpur Gun Carriage Factory of the Ordnance Factory Boar.

OFB was going to build over a thousand of these howitzers but allegations of kickbacks scuttled that plan for years. According to a report in the Business Standard, OFB will  receive an order for building 114 Dhanush guns, to equip six artillery regiments. If these guns perform to the army’s satisfaction, the order could go up to about 400 guns.

A report in Economic Times says both the Army and OFB,  are ‘quite excited’ about Dhanush, which performs ’20-25% better’ than the original Bofors gun in virtually all parameters like range, accuracy, consistency, low and high angle of fire and shoot-and-scoot ability.

Another report in Times of India points out that the Army has not inducted a single 155 mm howitzer post the Bofors scam, which in later years got reinforced by scandals around other artillery manufacturers like South African Denel, Israeli Soltam and Singapore Technology Kinetic’s (STK) to derail all its artillery modernisation plans.

In November last year, defence minister Parrikar  finally  put an end to this 30-year old freeze on acquiring artillery guns for the Army  and sanctioned the purchase of 814 mounted gun systems (MGS) for an estimated Rs 15,750 crore. The guns were  bought for under ‘buy and make’ category of the defence procurement procedures — meaning the first 100 guns will be bought off the shelf from an original equipment manufacturer and the remaining 714 will be manufactured in India, according to the Indian Express report.

Pacheco case: Court issues warrant to search Parrikar’s Delhi residence

Panaji: A local court today issued a warrant to search Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar‘s official residence in Delhi to trace former Goa minister Francisco ‘Miccky’ Pacheco who is reported to be absconding for a fortnight since his conviction in a 2006 assault case.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTIDefence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

The Judicial Magistrate First Class, Bosco Roberts, ordered that 10, Akbar Road residence of Parrikar be searched even as it extended the non-bailable arrest warrant against Pacheco returnable on Monday.

“The order does not mention name of Parrikar but the address is that of his,” said social activist and lawyer Aires Rodrigues who had petitioned the court against delay by police in tracking down Pacheco.

The order came after Rodrigues submitted to the court that there was “information” that Pacheco was “hiding” at 10 Akbar Road.

Goa Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar said they will challenge the court order.

“We will challenge the court order which has issued a warrant to search residence of Parrikar,” he told PTI adding the opinion of the Advocate General has been sought on this issue.

The court also rejected the plea of Colva police to issue a proclamation against Pacheco and instead issued a fresh warrant of arrest returnable on 27 April.

Opposing the police’s plea for proclamation, Rodrigues argued that if the court initiated the process of
proclamation, Pacheco would get a breather as the court has to give him 30 days notice to appear before it, in terms of section 82 of the CrPc.

Observing that harbouring an offender is a cognisable offence under section 216 of IPC, Rodrigues alleged the prosecution and police are colluding with Pacheco and instead of diligently executing the arrest warrant they have in connivance and collusion been shielding Pacheco in total disrespect and contempt of the court.

The Margao JMFC had issued a warrant of arrest against Pacheco, chief of Goa Vikas Party, a partner in the BJP-led government in the state, on 9 April as he has to undergo a six-month sentence for assaulting a junior engineer of the electricity department in 2006.

The warrant was later extended by another five days, which ended today.

Colva police inspector Uttam Raut Desai in his report to the court today stated that despite their efforts, police have not been able to apprehend Pacheco.

The former rural development agency minister had filed a review petition in the apex court against his conviction with the apex court, which is yet to be admitted.

PTI

VK Singh shoots off his mouth again, blames arms lobby for ‘media attack’ on him

Union Minister Gen (retd) V K Singh today alleged that an “insidious campaign” is being run against him by a section of media at the behest of the arms lobby that is “working overtime” to subdue him and he has briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi regarding it.

“It is only an insidious campaign in which the arms lobby is working overtime. They were not able to subdue me when I was the Army chief. They have carried on,” Singh said and accused a former senior Army official of being a part of the conspiracy.

“I won’t go beyond saying as to what relationships he enjoys with various chaps. There are a lot of people who were paid by him. So, obviously, you have some journalists and others who will write what they are told,” he told PTI.

He was reacting to the controversy which erupted after his visit to Pakistan High Commission on March 23 for a reception. He was again at the centre of a controversy recently over his remarks comparing the Yemen evacuation operation with his visit to the Pakistani mission. Singh had later sparked a controversy with his remarks against a TV channel for playing up the issue.

PTI imagePTI image

PTI image

Asked if the arms lobby was still active against him, he said that it was very much so.

“They did a lot to dole out resources when the elections took place. We know how much money was received by various people. They are active. They are very active. Their sole aim is to how to get me out,” he said.

Singh added that following the campaign against him for his presence at Pakistan Day, he had spoken to the Prime Minister and explained why he was being targeted.

“I also told the Prime Minister that this was an orchestrated campaign… That is my way of working. Come out clear, don’t hide your punches. I told him this was a motivated campaign, this is what has happened. I leave it to you to find out who is motivating it,” he said.

Asked what was Modi’s response, Singh said he understood.

“He is too media savvy not to understand it. He said leave it to me,” Singh said.

Defending his presence at the Pakistan High Commission, the former Army chief said, “It was just protocol. I was the Army Chief earlier and now am a Union Minister”.

He had faced a lot of criticism on the social media and the electronic media over his visit.

“I was very upset with the charges levelled and the accusations made against me. Doing something as per protocol is different from conducting policies. And, hence, I tweeted definition of two words. But it was also twisted by a section of the media,” he said.

He said he was deeply upset that the moment he came out of the Pakistani Mission, panels were up on TV saying Army morale has been lowered, which he felt was ridiculous.

“Thereafter, I tweeted the definition of two words – duty, disgust. Duty was about me going there and disgust was the way I felt about the way the channels were playing it up,” Singh said.

The Minister courted another controversy during the evacuation process in Yemen when he took a swipe at the media saying the operation was not as exciting as his visit to the Pakistani mission.

“I was joking about the fact that my 15 minutes in Pakistan High Commission got so much air time but not the evacuation process,” he said. His comments had created a controversy.

He had later tweeted using the word “presstitutes” for a TV channel for playing up his comparison remarks. Singh apologised to journalists for using the word, barring a small section of media persons who, he said, were carrying out a “motivated campaign” against him.

Meanwhile, talking about defence procurement, Singh said he had spoken to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar about the state of affairs.

“I have had a word with him. I have explained to him what it is,” he said.

Singh explained that if he needs a particular mobile phone today, it will have no meaning if he gets it after 36 months. “It is of no meaning. The policy has to be such that it makes things relevant. I have said that our procurement policy is like a game of snakes and ladders in which there are no ladders and only snakes. You can be bitten any time and you come to zero. Not even anywhere in between,” he said.

PTI

Rafale jet deal extremely positive decision by PM Modi: Defence Minister Parrikar

Panaji: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Saturday welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s “extremely positive decision” to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets during his trip to France, saying a deal of such magnitude had not been signed for the last 17 years.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

He was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a book release function in Panaji.

“I welcome Modi’s decision. It was necessary and was the most urgent requirement,” Parrikar said, as Modi and French President Francois Hollande signed a deal at their summit in Paris for purchasing the 36 Rafale jets.

He also said that the ‘Make in India’ campaign was a long-term solution and the need to purchase the 36 fighter jets was immediate.

Parrikar said that a significant number of Indian Air Force planes were facing maintenance issues and the purchase of the fighters would boost the morale of the force.

The defence minister said that the weightage of Modi’s “word” in the international community had increased thanks to diplomatic initiatives taken by the prime minister.

“I will give him 10 out of 10 marks for international diplomacy,” Parrikar said.

Jammu and Kashmir: Two militants shot dead, civilian injured in Samba terror attack

Jammu: Terrorists struck again for the second time in as many days when two of them opened fire at an army camp on Jammu-Pathankot Highway in Samba district on Saturday and were killed in the counter attack.

The militants opened fired and lobbed grenades at an Army camp in Meshwara area of Samba around 5:50 am, security officials said.

Naresh Sharma/FirstpostNaresh Sharma/Firstpost

Naresh Sharma/Firstpost

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said in Delhi that two terrorists have been killed in the operation.

A civilian, who was passing by the area, fell off his cycle during the firing and was injured, the Army said.

Defence PRO Lt. Col Manish Mehta said it was difficult to say whether the two militants were from the same group which had attacked a police station in Kathua yesterday.

“At 5.45 AM, the terrorists had opened fire and let me tell you nobody has been injured. No soldier or civilian has been injured. The individual, who has been injured, had fallen off from his cycle during the firing. It is not a bullet or a splinter injury,” Mehta told reporters.

“They (attackers) were not trying to enter any unit. They have fired from outside and now they have been cordoned outside the army area,” he added.

Officials said the Jammu-Pathankot Highway has been closed for vehicular traffic as a precautionary measure.

Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh told reporters that, “The first gunshots were heard at around 5:30 AM. One person was injured during the firing. As the state has been put on high alert following yesterday’s attack, the militants could not launch a bigger attack on Samba”.

“Security forces have been alerted and will prevent such attacks. Combing operation is underway,” he said.

This is the second such terror attack in Jammu in as many days.

‘Fidayeen’ militants in army fatigues had stormed a police station in Jammu’s Kathua yesterday, killing three security personnel and two civilians, and leaving 11 others including Deputy SP wounded.

Two militants were also killed in the gun battle.

PTI

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to visit Japan this month

New Delhi: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar will go on his maiden foreign visit to Japan later this month as part of India’s effort to step up its defence diplomacy.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Parrikar will undertake a two-day trip starting from 30 March, the first foreign visit by an Indian Defence Minister since November 2013.

“A number of requests have come from various countries and a visit by Indian Defence Minister was due for a very long time. Parrikar is going as part of defence diplomacy to strengthen our bonds ” defence sources said.

The last visit was undertaken by then Defence Minister AK Antony in November 2013, when he visited Russia.

Analysts point out that Parrikar’s choice of Japan for his first international visit is of strategic importance.

China, Japan’s neighbour, has been perturbed by increasing Indo-Japanese ties besides increasing American interest in the region.

The thrust of Parrikar’s visit will be increasing defence cooperation and pushing the government’s Make in India initiative.

Interestingly, the government is yet to take a final decision on a major defence deal for acquiring 12 amphibious aircraft- US2 from Japan.

The Defence Acquisition Committee, headed by Parrikar, had sought additional information on the deal and hence a final decision was not taken.

While a number of foreign defence ministers have visited India since the Modi government took over, no trip has been organised by the Indian side so far.

While interim Defence Minister Arun Jaitley was scheduled to visit US last year, his visit was put off due to health issues.

Parrikar is likely to undertake a number of visits soon.

PTI

No final decision yet on Dassault aircraft deal: Parrikar

New Delhi: Negotiation is taking place for procurement of medium multi-role combat aircraft from Dassault Aviation France but “no final decision” has been taken, the government informed the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTIDefence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar also said review of existing fleet and induction of new aircraft is a continuous process and such a review is carried out keeping in view the operational requirements of the air force.

On whether fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) are in place for the Indian Air Force to have superior air strike capabilities, he replied in a negative.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had last month held talks here with Parrikar to salvage the multi-billion Rafale contract even as a deadlock continues to hold up the deal.

As the two ministers met, the Cost Negotiating Committee (CNC) is understood to have submitted its report to the Ministry of Defence.

Le Drian met with Parrikar during which the French Minister took up the issue of the Rafale fighters manufactured by Dassault Aviation.

India had selected Rafale for the deal in 2012 but the final contract is yet to be signed. While 18 jets are to be bought off the shelf, 108 are supposed to be manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

The main issue concerns the pricing, which is basically the production cost in India, and Dassault’s reluctance to stand guarantee for the 108 fighters to be built by state-run HAL.

PTI

Gandhi Jayanti row: This is not the first time Goa has dropped 2 Oct from list of official holiday

Panaji: The controversial official gazette notification axing of Gandhi Jayanti from the Goa government-endorsed list of “commercial and industrial” holidays, which has sparked nationwide outrage, was issued when Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar was still holding the reins of the state government.

Mahatma Gandhi. GettyImages

Mahatma Gandhi. GettyImages

The Goa government’s official gazette, which published the notification was issued on 18 September, 2014, a good two months before Laxmikant Parsekar took over as the state’s Chief Minister, following Parrikar’s elevation to the Union Cabinet.

“Parsekar has now said that the notification was a result of a mistake or mischief. If it is an error, will the state government now take action against the person responsible for it? And if it is mischief, is he acknowledging that the mischief occurred during Parrikar’s tenure as Goa chief minister?” Congress spokesperson Durgadas Kamat told Firstpost.

Parsekar was sworn in as chief minister of Goa on 8 November last year, after Parrikar, who has held the reins of state since March 2012, resigned from the position.

The September 2014 notification has suddenly became a subject of national outrage on Sunday, with the Congress accusing the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party of insulting the Father of the Nation and denigrating his image.

While state BJP leaders have been dodging reporters on the issue through the day, Parsekar on late Sunday brushed aside the controversy saying he had not made any such decision.

“If any such decision is to be taken, the file has to come to me. I have been here for four months, I haven’t got any such decision,” Parsekar said, even suggesting that the website of the concerned department which released the notification could have been hacked.

“The government has no intention of dropping Gandhi Jayanti as a holiday. If it has happened it was either by mistake or due to mischief by the Congress. There is an election (Zilla Panchayat) election in Goa, the Congress will go to any level to create a controversy,” Parsekar told reporters in Panaji.

Incidentally, while dropping Gandhi Jayanti as a holiday, the notification adds an additional holiday on occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi on 18 September, making it two holidays in a row for the religious occasion.

The Congress has also linked the axing of the Gandhi Jayanti holiday to the powerful casino industry operating in Goa, which the Opposition party claims, is behind the state government’s decision to cancel the 2 October holiday.

Closure of casinos even for a day, Kamat claims, causes a loss of crores of revenue to the five onshore and dozen-odd onshore casinos operating in Goa.

“It is only because we insisted that casinos be closed on Gandhi Jayanti last year, that Parrikar, as chief minister, ordered their closure. This time the casino lobby wanted to get rid of the holiday itself and therefore the holiday was knocked off,” Kamat said.

This is not the first instance of the Parrikar-Gandhi Jayanti combo triggering uproar.

“It seems like Parrikar is at it again. During his first stint as chief minister, Parrikar had cancelled government holidays on Gandhi Jayanti, Good Friday and on the feast of St. Francis Xavier and now this,” says Congress MP Shantaram Naik.

In 2001, shortly after assuming charge as the chief minister of Goa for the first time, the Parrikar-led government had issued a similar notification dropping Gandhi Jayanti and Good Friday from the list of official holidays, triggering protests in Goa, especially amongst the Christian community, which accounts for 26 percent of the state population.

In view of the civil dissent against the decision, the notification was kept in abeyance and then subsequently withdrawn.

Incidentally, Parrikar, through his 2001 notification had stolen a march on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, by making it mandatory for bureaucrats to clean their office premises on Gandhi Jayanti, 12 years before Modi launched his ‘Swachch Bharat’ campaign in 2014, which also requires government servants to clean their offices and the area around it.

Naik now has insists, that an insult to the Father of the Nation demands a statement from Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in Parliament.

“Since it is a question which involves Mahatma Gandhi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh should make a statement,” Naik has demanded.

Pak boat case: Coast Guard DIG Loshali who contradicted govt version shunted out

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Coast Guard DIG who contradicted govt version of Pak boat case shunted out

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Terror boat row: Pakistan accuses India of violating international rules

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Pakistan boat: Braggart DIG Loshali dents defence ministry’s credibility

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Pakistan boat: Braggart Coast Guard DIG dents defence ministry’s credibility

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