Hike in Siachen allowance must be fair

We had taken up the issue for enhancement of Siachen allowance, in these columns, during the Fifth Pay Commission time. Ten years later, a simple issue took an hour of discussion, presumably because some members on the Cabinet Committee appear to have contested the need for increase. Even at the time of the Fifth Pay Commission, the present Finance Minister displayed pronounced bias against the defence forces.Any number of troops during their tenure at Siachen have suffered frostbite and other disabilities, and lost life by slipping into those innumerable crevasses, getting buried under avalanches and, of course, through high altitude sickness.

There has been no experience worldwide on the long stay and the consequent physiological effect of prolonged exposure to low levels of intake of oxygen combined with extreme cold.

Nor has there been a comprehensive study in this field in India. The psychological effect did surface earlier in most cases and is in the knowledge of the Army. The range and extent of these afflictions set the scale of Siachen allowance quite apart from all other types of allowances.

The issue, therefore, is the fairness in the extent of increase when compared to the allowances made available to civil servants even when functioning under normal living and operating conditions.

Lt-Gen HARWANT SINGH (retd) Camp: New York


N-pact blues

If the US now wanted to befriend it could have supported India for the Security Council. Washington could have also vacated its nuclear-armed base in the Indian Ocean — Diego Garcia.

In the 123 nuclear agreement, India is to pay for nuclear fuel and all other reactor hardware, but the agreement is not clear on the question of ownership of the nuclear material. As India pays for the fuel and is responsible for long-term waste management and under the US laws, the waste could not be returned to the US. Still, the US with a one-year notice can cancel the 40-year agreement and can require return of all the hardware for which we have paid.

There is no compensation clause. It takes minimum 3-5 years to set up a reactor on turnkey requiring a lot of ground clearing work. All that would go waste. And in an event of an accident, responsibility should be specific in the nuclear agreement. We have had the Bhopal experience. No US citizen responsible for the Bhopal tragedy had appeared before an Indian court. The agreement offers no sharing participation in energy research and development.

DHIRENDRA SHARMA, Centre for Science Policy, Dehradun

Industrial safety

The industrial package of the NDA government gave the much-needed impetus to the industrial growth of Himachal Pradesh. The state saw a boom with many industries being established here. The Baddi-Barotiwala- Nalagarh belt emerged as the preferred destination of businessmen. This area has become Asia’s pharmaceutical hub.

Similarly, some small-scale pharmaceutical factories have come up in and around Solan. These factories are focusing just on their production and optimum utilisation of the incentives given by the Centre and the state. However, it appears that they are paying no heed to the most important aspect i.e. the safety and security of their employees.

Recently, a blast occurred in a pharmaceutical factory located on Solan’s outskirts in which some workers were injured. Last year, a similar accident occurred in a 
factory located on NH-22. Fortunately, these blasts did not cause any big damage. But we cannot take things casually.


Troop cut demand unfair

This is in response to the news-item, “Mufti demands troops cut again” (July 28). I do not understand why a former Chief Minister keeps raising a demand that suits Gen Musharraf’s evil designs.

Have the killings of innocent Hindus of the valley stopped completely? Has there been a single day in the state without killings by the terrorists? Aren’t pilgrims still targeted by the terrorists? What kind of a world he is living in by saying that the situation in the state is headed for good?

The Indian Army’s hard work has made it very difficult for the terrorists to continue their full-scale subversive operations in the valley. So the latter have moved to places like Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mumbai and have opened their cells there.

What is that the Indian Army is doing wrong there and making the Mufti feel so uncomfortable? What makes him think that terrorists would not resume their full-scale activities after the troop cut?

Indianapolis (USA)

Streamline education

To overcome the shortage of teachers in Himachal Pradesh, the government has promoted 502 TGTs as lecturers. A number of TGTs and lecturers have also been recruited afresh. However, teachers’ associations belonging to these categories are bent upon undoing the good work done by the government by holding strikes and demonstrations. Ultimately, the students are the worst sufferers. In the interest of the students, the government should hold negotiations with the teachers’ associations as also act tough.

VIKRAM VASHISHTH, Sankri (Hamirpur)

Hearse vans

The Rotary Organisation of Shimla has built an electric crematorium in Shimla bypass. Another crematorium at being built at Shamshan Ghat at Sanjauli, near Shimla. Philanthropic organisations like the Rotary, Lions, Masonic, Arya Samaj and Sanatan Dharam Sabha should donate at least one hearse van for each locality in Shimla.



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