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Thursday, 29 March 2012

Indian security is at the stake! Politics apart, the nation must be answered abiout the reality. If the army Chief is right in his claims what you have to say about the Arms` race, budget Hike and defence scams?


Indian security is at the stake! Politics apart, the nation must be answered abiout the reality. If the army Chief is right in his claims what you have to say about the Arms` race, budget Hike and defence scams?

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is upset over the Army chief's action! Army chief has contended in the letter that the entire tank fleet is "devoid of critical ammunition to defeat enemy tanks", the air defence is "97 per cent obsolete" and the infantry is crippled with "deficiencies of crew served weapon" and lacks "night fighting" capabilities.

Troubled Galaxy Destroyed Dreams, chapter 759

Palash Biswas

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Indian security is at the stake! Politics apart, the nation must be answered abiout the reality. If the army Chief is right in his claims what you have to say about the Arms` race, budget Hike and defence scams?The UPA government has been caught unawares once again. The latest salvo from Army Chief V K Singh, this time targetting the Prime Minister's Office, has left it groping in the dark for options.General Singh's letter, which gave shocking details of India's security breaches, was leaked in a Mumbai-based daily on Wednesday.


An embattled army chief VK Singh on Wednesday found himself embroiled in another controversy over a letter that exposes weaknesses in the 1.3 million-strong force. Asking Army chief Gen V K Singh to go on forced leave is one of the options before the government, which is more than upset over the leakage of his letter to the Prime Minister projecting the country's defence preparedness in poor light.A minister who declined to be identified said as of now there are only two options before the government "tolerate the Army chief till his retirement due in the next two months or force him to go on leave". Tensions between Army Chief Gen V K Singh and the government escalated  over the leak of his letter to the Prime Minister on national security, triggering demands for his removal as Defence Minister A K Antony promised "appropriate action". In a fresh blow to the government, Army chief General VK Singh has written a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warning that the country's security is at risk.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is upset over the Army chief's action but the government was not thinking of any drastic step as it was not seeing the issue in terms of an officer but in terms of an office. "No sacking" was the refrain of another senior minister, who said that the General has violated Army discipline by writing directly to the Prime Minister and not through the defence minister. Incidentally, Gen Singh had done a similar thing during the row over his age. The latest controversy was the worst thing that could have happened to the government at a time when it was hosting leaders of the BRICS nations including China.

In the midst of a row over Army Chief Gen V K Singh's bribery allegations, manufacturer of Tatra trucks today said the heavy vehicles have not faced any quality issues in the last 20 years. Gen Singh had recently alleged that he was offered a bribe of Rs 14 crore by a lobbyist to clear the sale of a tranche of 600 'substandard' trucks for the Army. "Tatra supplies only 30-35 per cent of the parts and the balance are produced or furnished by BEML, which assembles the trucks. Tatra has not heard of any quality issue from BEML in last 20 years," Tatra CEO Ronald Adams said in a statement. On the issue of over-pricing of these trucks, he said, "Tatra is a vehicle specially designed for severe Army use. It is unique in its construction and not a vehicle simply converted from civilian use to military use. We remain competitive globally." Adams said more than 38 armies in the world have either used or are using the Tatra trucks and many continue to place repeat orders. Indian armed forces have been using Tatra trucks since 1986 and since then, 7,000 of them have been inducted. The Army has not procured even a single one of them after from March 2010. In a press release issued on March 5, Army had alleged that Lt Gen Tejinder Singh had offered a bribe on behalf of Tatra and Vectra.

Last week Jane's Defence Weekly, a prestigious publication on security matters, published a report by their New Delhi-based representative Rahul Bedi, who reported, "The operational efficiency of India's 1.2 million-strong army is hampered not only by severe equipment shortages, obsolete hardware and restricted night-fighting capabilities, but also by its strained relations with the Ministry of Defence, which is solely responsible for the force's long-delayed modernisation programme."

Quoting Brigadier Arun Sahgal (retd), joint director of the New Delhi-based Institute of National Security Studies, the report said, "This prevailing impasse will impinge on co-operation between the MoD and army headquarters to urgently modernise the army's armoury, artillery, air defence and infantry assets, all of which are in disarray, afflicted by a lack of timely planning and resource management."

Amid demands by political parties for the dismissal of the Army chief, the government has taken serious note of the fact that V K Singh's letter to the Prime Minister was leaked to the media.Defence Minister A K Antony has said "appropriate action" would be taken on this and also noted that the contents of Singh's letter could not be a matter of public debate.

The contents of the letter rocked the Rajya Sabha with members terming it "disturbing" and "serious" and demanding the government take action against those responsible -- "whatever position he holds".

Responding to concerns expressed by members, Antony said, "I have made serious note of the observations... After consulting the Prime Minister and colleagues, we will take appropriate action."He confirmed the Army chief had written to the Prime Minister on March 12 drawing his "attention to issues related to national defence and security."He said: "These issues are under the consideration of the Ministry of Defence. By very nature of these issues, they cannot be a matter of public debate."

Earlier, Antony met the Prime Minister over the issue. Home Minister P Chidambaram and Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma were also present at the meeting.

Retired Lt Gen Tejinder Singh on Tuesday filed a criminal defamation case against Army Chief V K Singh and four others before a trial court amid allegations that he had offered Rs 14 crore as bribe to Gen Singh to strike a defence deal.

Tejinder Singh has sought the court to summon and initiate proceedings against Gen Singh for making the "libelous" statement in media about him. In his complaint, the retired Lt Gen has also named S K Singh (Vice-Chief of Army staff), Lt Gen B S Thakur (DG MI), Major General S L Narshiman (Additional Director General of Public Information) and Lt Col Hitten Sawhney, accusing them of misusing their official position, power and authority to level false charges against him.

"Because of the false, unfounded and libelous statement and illegal act in past and present by the accused persons not only the complainant's reputation and honour has been lowered/ harmed but he is being held up to ridicule in his business, fraternity, acquaintances and family alike, leading others to avoid and shun him.

"And they have caused immense incalculable loss and damage to the reputation of the complainant and loss of business opportunities in present and in future," Tejinder Singh said in his petition filed in a Magistrate's court through counsel Anil K Aggarwal and S M Pandey. The petition is likely to be taken up on March 29.

The petition comes after the Army Chief had claimed in media interviews that a lobbyist, who had "just" retired, offered him a bribe of Rs 14 crore for clearing a file relating to purchase of a tranche of 600 "sub-standard" vehicles of a particular make and he had immediately informed defence minister A K Antony about it.

Refuting that he had offered bribe to the Army Chief, Tejinder Singh said that no conversation related to any Tatra trucks deal took place the last time he had met him and said any such incident "should have been investigated at that time itself."

Tejinder referred to the statement of the Army Chief and various press releases issued by the Army in connection with the defence deal and said, "the accused persons have abused and misused their official position, power and authority to level false charges of offence against the complainant with intent to injure."

"The accused persons have committed an offence punishable under section 211 (false charge of offence made with intent to injure) of the IPC," his plea said.

He added that such type of press releases issued by the Army officers are against the Defence Technical Publicity Rules, 2004.

"The complainant has suffered huge social and civil humiliation as a consequence of various press releases and their subsequent wide and extensive publication in mass media," he said, referring to a media report of March 6.

Tejinder Singh, in his complaint, said Gen V K Singh levelled false allegations against him to get his name cleared from the controversy over the illegal Air Monitoring or tapping of cellphones in Delhi by the Army, which was done at his behest.

"That while seeking to clear his own name appearing in some media reports, regarding alleged illegal Air Monitoring/ snooping/ tapping of mobile phones in Delhi by the Army at his behest, Gen V K Singh has made or caused to make, in complicity with the other accused persons, entirely false and unsubstantiated, ill-founded allegations against the complainant with malafide intention to defame and to bring disrepute to the complainant (Tejinder Singh)."

The complainant also accused the Army Chief of "misusing his official position, power and authority" by directly addressing media in September last year on the issue of his date of birth and by making statement against the government.

Referring to the press release issued by the Army on March 5, 2012, Tejinder Singh said, "The said press release contains ex-facie defamatory statements and allegations against the complainant, which are entirely baseless, false and concocted one."

He also said that the accused had specifically named him in the press release whereas they "deliberately withheld the names of the so called disgruntled officers of Military Intelligence serving under the accused persons particularly accused nos. 1 to 3 (V K Singh, S K Singh and B S Thakur) and supposedly known to them."

According to a newspaper report, the Army chief has contended in the letter that the entire tank fleet is "devoid of critical ammunition to defeat enemy tanks", the air defence is "97 per cent obsolete" and the infantry is crippled with "deficiencies of crew served weapon" and lacks "night fighting" capabilities.

According to Times Now, the letter which was written on March 12, 2012 states that army tanks in the country have run out of ammunition. The letter emphasises the need to bridge the shortcomings and bring the army to fighting level.

Sources told Times Now that in his letter VK Singh has called 97% of the air defence obsolete. Singh has also said that the elite special forces are woefully short of weapons.

The Army chief has been in news this week for his claims of being offered a bribery of Rs 14 crore to clear a tranche of sub-standard equipment for the army. Times Now sources have said that the CBI may record his statement in this regard on March 30, 2012.

Defence minister AK Antony has said that Army chief VK Singh had told him that a bribe of 14 crore was offered by an equipment middleman but Singh didn't want to pursue the case. Responding to the furore in Parliament over the issue, Antony named Lieutenant General (retd) Tejinder Singh as the person named by General Singh.

"I have always said the truth. When General VK Singh told me about the incident, I was shocked. The Army chief told me it was Tejinder Singh who offered him the bribe but he said he doesn't want to pursue it," Antony said.

In his defence, Antony said that once news reports on the alleged bribe offer was made public on Monday, he ordered an inquiry, even though there was no formal complaint. "I immediately told the defence secretary to take action without waiting for any formal complaint.

This was the action I took. CBI will inquire into everything," Antony said. The announcement of a CBI probe on Monday had led to an uproar in Parliament, as members felt that the minister should have taken Parliament, which is in session, into confidence before announcing the probe.

The Prime Minister held deliberations with defence minister A K Antony and home minister P Chidambaram in Parliament as the issue rocked the Rajya Sabha in morning.

Antony also held discussions on the matter with the NSA separately.

The government's view in the matter will be crystalized when the issue is expected to come up in Lok Sabha tomorrow.

The General's actions are the result of his failure to get one more year in service is the view of the government.

Minister of overseas affairs Vayalar Ravi put it more succintly. "I do not know what is the issue. I have not seen the letter. The Army is a disciplined force. (He) could not get an extension even by the court. May be a frustrated man suffers," Ravi said.

For the second day, Rajya Sabha was thrown into a tumult after a media report on the purported contents of the letter in which Gen Singh had reportedly said the country's security may be at stake forcing the top leadership of the government to go into a huddle with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Today's development came on top of acrimony between the Army Chief and the government in the last two days over his media interview in which he had claimed that he was offered a bribe of Rs 14 crore by a retired Lt Gen for swinging a sub-standard defence deal.

"I have made serious note of the observations. After consulting the Prime Minister and colleagues, we will take appropriate action," Antony said after members expressed serious concerns over issues of national security, a confidential matter, and being brought to public domain through media leaks.

JD (U) member Shivanand Tiwari demanded the Army Chief's removal while Pyari Mohan Mohanpatra said "people who are to be sacked should be sacked immediately".

CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechury said those responsible for the leak should be held accountable irrespective of the position held by them.

Though the Congress party steered clear of the controversy, Union Minister Vyalar Ravi attacked Gen Singh saying his actions reflected "frustrations" of an individual who had to withdraw his petition on the age row in the Supreme Court.

Gen Singh was away from the capital on an official visit to Jammu and Kashmir and paid obeisance at the Vaishnao Devi temple.