Thursday, March 13, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Pitfalls in defence planning

The article, “India’s defence budget” by Gen V.P. Malik (March 8) and the letter by Dinesh Gupta “The defence budget” (March 10) point out the dichotomy and pitfalls plaguing our defence planning and system of investment assessments. The non-utilisation of Rs 9,000 crore during the financial year 2002-03 is not a small matter and will have far-reaching consequences at a time when our defence forces have to contend with deficiencies of hi-tech weapons, spares, equipment and manpower. It is pertinent to remind our defence planners regarding the urgency to procure advanced jet trainer (AJT), light combat aircraft (LCA), sensors, radars for detection of infiltration of insurgents through our porous borders.

The Integrated Financial Advisory Scheme for defence financial management was introduced in various ministries to achieve decentralisation. Consequently, the government also set up a comprehensive system of investment appraisal separately. The Ministry of Finance has strict control over budgetary allocations, apart from long-term plans, so that the MOF could focus on existing geopolitical changes to ensure proper financial utilisation to achieve projected and planned objectives.

A vital omission in our defence set-up is the non-appointment of Chief of the Defence Staff. Countries like the USA and the UK have watchdog panels regularly monitoring the emergency, short-term and long-term projects in addition to oversee modernisation. Any slip-ups, drawbacks and/ or slackness in execution levels is detected for reappraisal and completion. Some years ago during a debate on national policy on defence cutbacks a British parliamentarian described it as a “comedy of errors”! What could be describe our national policy on defence, a “comedy of errors” or “tragedy of errors”?


Defence preparedness is a relative term. It has to be viewed and reviewed in relation to threat perception. Threat perception to our security is ever-changing, depending on regional, global and insurgency operations being undertaken. The process of modernisation of our defence forces can no longer be left “hanging fire” but has to be regularly overviewed to ensure updating through modern managerial objectives. There are no short-cuts to military victories.


The defence budget

Apropos Mr Dinesh Gupta’s letter (March 10), wherein he has commented on my earlier statement. “We could not force Pakistan to deliver anything substantial in a year long stand-off because we were not as strong as we should have been in conventional forces” (March 6). I stand by my statement with full sense of responsibility and beg to explain the facts.

Though we have a larger Army, but we also have far larger commitments, including defending the Chinese border, our island territories, not to mention the Army required for internal security duties in North-East and J and K. Thus on the western front we have near parity. Despite the withdrawal of some troops from the Chinese border for “Operation Prakarm,” we did not have a strongly favourable ratio of troops equipment and other wherewithal for decisive results.

These facts enabled General Musharraf to dare us to cross the border. Had we been really strong, as indeed we should have been, we could have sent a very strong “message” by acting the way Israelis do by targeting the sprawling residence of Ibrahim Dawood in Karachi by sending a missile with a very low-yield conventional high explosive warhead of about say, 50kg only (to avoid any collateral damage to other buildings). This would have sent correct signals to all concerned, including the USA, that we meant business and had the “capability” to do so. It is a matter of conjecture whether we had this “capability”. If we had it, we would not only have got the wanted terrorists but Pak would have been forced to end cross-border terrorism since we would have “raised the cost” for the same. This is a very vital issue and needs widest debate. Let those who understand “matters military” respond and the subject must not be left for the laymen to comment.

About the effect of my statement on the “morale” of the general public and the defence services, I would take the line BBC took during the Falkland War in 1982. When requested by the authorities not to air news which could adversely affect the “morale”, a BBC spokesperson replied, “We are not here to raise or lower anybody’s morale, we are here to report facts”, or words to that effect. In the instant case the “fact” is that our defence budget which was only about meagre 2.5 per cent of our GDP and out of which a huge amount of Rs 9000 crore remains unspent because our defence services are too meek to “demand” its proper utilisation.

Why doesn’t the budget of the BSF or other central police organisations or other departments remain unspent in such huge proportions? Why is there an astronomical shortage of officers (out of the authorised strength of about 40,000 officers, the shortage is of about 13,000 which is about one-third of the total authorised strength) in our Army? Why are there no shortages in civil services (in fact they are over staffed)? Because the civil services “demand” that their “service conditions” be such as attract talent whereas the defence services only meekly “submit” for the same. The results of such submissions are there for all to see (reluctance of youth to join the Army and keenness of those to leave who have a chance to land a job in civil).

As regards the “morale” of the defence services, what could be a better barometer of the same than the vast shortages in the officer cadre (and keenness to leave) and increase in disciplinary cases, including troops shooting their own superiors or colleagues? Let the issue of “morale” be debated in public and analysed by experts on the subject, remedial measures taken and not swept under the carpet for sentimental reasons.

As someone has said, “Problem defined is problem solved”, let us not shy away from “defining” the problem. Problems connected with “national security” are too vital to be taken lightly. It will be suicidal not to face them with correct perspective. Let us have the “courage” to solve them. Howsoever difficult the solutions may be, for “courage is destiny”. Let us act courageously now before another Kargil overtakes us.


Substandard road repair

A small patch — between the local Government College and the mini-secretariat — of the Chandigarh-Una-Dharamsala national highway which passes through the district town of Una is under repair. What is intriguing is that over the last few years, metalling and dematlling/dismantling of the accursed portion of the highway has been undertaken with an alarming frequency.

How do the authorities justify the expenditure over the curious exercise.?

If the work carried out earlier turns out to be woefully substandard and the “patch” gives way, is somebody held accountable for it?

TARA CHAND, Ambota (Una)

Monkeys in Sonepat

Sonepat has become a monkey safari. Monkeys destroy plants, take away clothes and sometimes tear them. They bite kids and persons who try to shoo them away. Many residents complain about scratched cables and broken antennas. The monkeys jump on cars, disproportionating their roofs.

The authorities concerned are not ready to wake up despite several complaints.


Anand Karaj Act

There is an urgent need to enact a separate Anand Karaj Act for the Sikhs. This will remove confusion at the international fora where Sikhs have been misinterpreted as Hindu (by overactive people like the chief of the RSS). Today the Sikh diaspora is spread all over the world and they are recognised by their physical appearance as a separate race. By enacting a separate Anand Karaj Act, Sikh will feel more satisfied, though nothing practical will be gained. No non-Sikh clergy or politician should interfere in the Sikh religious affairs.

UJAGAR SINGH, Chandigarh


Order on sex ratio

We appreciate the concern of the Deputy Commissioner of Ludhiana over the distorted male-female sex ratio, but his idea of directing women in the reproductive age group to deposit their photographs and proof of address is another gross injustice to them. Their treatment will be delayed and their right to privacy violated.

The women, who are already deprived of medical treatment (compare the male-female ratio of patients in the OPDs and wards of any hospital), will be further neglected. Rural women coming to the city for medical treatment will have to make another trip armed with the necessary documents.

Taking into account the extra expenditure on photostat copies, photographs, travelling, wasted manhours of the patient and the person accompanying her and all the harassment, I think most women will shy away from this most useful examination. This decision will do more harm than good to the health of the already discriminated against women.

S. KAUR, Ludhiana


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