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EDITORIALS

Modi not above law
SIT can now question CM, colleagues
T
HE Gujarat High Court’s refusal to stay the probe by the Special Investigation Team appointed by the Supreme Court into a complaint alleging the role of Chief Minister Narendra Modi, his Cabinet colleagues and senior administration and police officials in the 2002 communal carnage at Gulbarg Society in Ahmedabad is eminently fair and appropriate.

Lean season
Centre helps Punjab, Haryana
T
HE Central allocation of more power for Punjab and Haryana is insufficient to bridge the demand-supply gap, but is welcome nevertheless. It is now accepted that the rainfall in the North-West region will be less than normal. The area under paddy too has shrunk as farmers have turned to less-water consuming crops like maize.



EARLIER STORIES

Redefining education
July 26, 2009
Who rules Haryana?
July 25, 2009
Musharraf in the dock
July 24, 2009
A disgraceful act
July 23, 2009
Better than expected
July 22, 2009
Two years for killing six!
July 21, 2009
Sharif’s triumph
July 20, 2009
Bringing out the best
July 19, 2009
No to wheat exports
July 18, 2009
Dealing with terror
July 17, 2009

The vigilant eye
CAG questions Gorshkov, Scorpene deals
T
HE nation has been suffering huge losses owing to delays in defence purchases, but babus in the Defence Ministry seem to be the least bothered about these. The Comptroller and Auditor-General’s latest report has slammed the defence establishment for the way it has been handling many big acquisitions, particularly of Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov and six French Scorpene submarines for the Navy.

ARTICLE

Unending Maoist menace
Fight it with a well-coordinated drive
by Maj-Gen Ashok K. Mehta (retd)
M
ORE than a decade after the Naxals took to the jungles and continue ravaging Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal, among other states, the government has finally admitted that it does not have a strategy and has underestimated the strength of the Naxals. It is an SOS and a surge to stem the rampage that will follow.

MIDDLE

A perfect shot
by J.L. Gupta
T
HE first day in the city of Vancouver. I looked out of the window. The sight was splendid. A clear blue sky. The vast span of clear blue water. The thick green trees. The snow covered peaks. The sea planes taking off and landing on water. It made a perfect picture. It was crying to be captured. I felt the need for a good camera. Better than the “cyber shot” that I was carrying.

OPED

Burqa-clad bombers who terrorise Afghanistan
by Kim Sengupta
M
ALE suicide bombers disguised in womens' burqas stormed government buildings and security headquarters in co-ordinated attacks which killed a dozen people and injured 22 others in eastern Afghanistan last week. Hamid Karzai's government described the "commando-style" raids as a new tactic being employed by the Taliban in what has been one of the most violent months in the country's war.

Shortage of warships
by Premvir Das
R
ECENT reports indicate that the government has approved the acquisition of six new frigates for the Navy, all to be built locally, three at the Mazagon Docks (MDL) at Mumbai and the remaining three at Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) at Kolkata. The decision to acquire these ships, when the force levels are dwindling, is something to feel satisfied about; what is not so reassuring is the manner in which this decision is sought to be executed.

Chatterati
Hillary Clinton charms Delhi-ites
by Devi Cherian
T
HE special aircraft carrying the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton landed at the domestic terminal with the multi-layered security turning the airport into a fort. Security arrangements ensured that the usual sight of taxi drivers, vendors and even beggars were nowhere to be seen. But in-between her appointments, the lady did get stuck in a traffic jam for a few minutes at the ever-busy Dhaula Kuan inter-section.





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Modi not above law
SIT can now question CM, colleagues

THE Gujarat High Court’s refusal to stay the probe by the Special Investigation Team appointed by the Supreme Court into a complaint alleging the role of Chief Minister Narendra Modi, his Cabinet colleagues and senior administration and police officials in the 2002 communal carnage at Gulbarg Society in Ahmedabad is eminently fair and appropriate. It paves the way for Mr Modi to be questioned by the court on the complaint filed by the widow of former MP Ehsan Jaffrey who was among those killed during the attack. Zakia had alleged in her complaint that Mr Modi and some of the ministers in his Cabinet had, along with police officials and senior bureaucrats, aided and abetted the post-Godhra communal violence. The refusal to stay the probe satisfies a long-felt need for Mr Modi to be called to account for the manner in which the police stood by and the administration in general looked the other way as people were massacred.

Mrs Zakia Jafri indeed deserves credit for pursuing the issue with rare tenacity and doggedness. She went from the DGP to the Gujarat High Court, to the magistrate’s court and failed to get help until her plea was finally heard by the Supreme Court which issued directions for SIT’s probe and its report within three months.

Indeed, Zakia has raised some pertinent questions which demand an answer. Why were no minutes of the meetings held by the chief minister and other senior officers for a review of the situation from February 27, 2002, onwards prepared? Why were the bodies of the Godhra train fire victims paraded through the streets of Ahmedabad City? Why was there an inordinate delay in imposition of curfew, particularly in Ahmedabad City? The ends of justice would be duly served if answers to these and other questions are duly elicited and action taken on them. Justice must be meted out decisively, strongly and without further delay.

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Lean season
Centre helps Punjab, Haryana

THE Central allocation of more power for Punjab and Haryana is insufficient to bridge the demand-supply gap, but is welcome nevertheless. It is now accepted that the rainfall in the North-West region will be less than normal. The area under paddy too has shrunk as farmers have turned to less-water consuming crops like maize. In Punjab farmers stick to paddy, while some with an eye on the market have shifted to Basmati, which gives better returns. Though Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has allayed fears of any shortage of food grains, his worry is evident.

Punjab farmers are relatively less affected by an erratic monsoon as the state has a strong irrigation network. But their cost of production shoots up in case of deficient rains. Most will do anything to save their crops even if it is uneconomic. They may take loans to buy diesel for tubewells, but wont’ let the crops wilt. Instead of appreciating their efforts, the Centre usually denies them relief, which is normally given in case of widespread crop damage due to a drought or deficient rains. It is, therefore, a rare departure from the past for the Centre to agree to pay for the 50 per cent diesel subsidy given by states.

The ultimate goal of the government should be to ensure India’s food security through the generation of more power at the Central and state levels and reduce the country’s heavy dependence on the monsoon. There are avoidable policy-related follies like exporting wheat and non-Basmati rice, at times below domestic prices, or permitting futures trading in scarce essential commodities. Agriculture heavily depends on water. Saving the fast-depleting water resources should, therefore, be on top of the government’s agenda. Raising budgetary allocations is not enough. Mass participation is required for efficient water management and the harvest of rainwater, much of which is allowed to go waste.

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The vigilant eye
CAG questions Gorshkov, Scorpene deals

THE nation has been suffering huge losses owing to delays in defence purchases, but babus in the Defence Ministry seem to be the least bothered about these. The Comptroller and Auditor-General’s latest report has slammed the defence establishment for the way it has been handling many big acquisitions, particularly of Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov and six French Scorpene submarines for the Navy. India entered into a contract to acquire Gorshkov in 2000, a second-hand refitted war ship, at $875 million but ultimately it may have to shell out as much as $1.82 billion with the delivery time extended from 2008 to 2012. Why should India suffer when the Russians cannot fulfil their promise in accordance with the contract?

The CAG has expressed surprise why India should go in for Gorshkov when it could have bought a similar new aircraft carrier at a price 60 per cent less than Gorshkov. A new ship could have served the Navy for at least 40 years whereas Gorshkov may be useful for a much shorter period.

The story of the purchase of six Scorpene submarines is also shocking. As the CAG report points out, the French firm was favoured with “large concessions” and that too when the “submarine design selected has not proved its efficacy in any other navy”. This is not the way to go in for defence-related purchases. The CAG has come down heavily on those involved in defence acquisitions in the past also like in the case of the purchase of HDW submarines from Germany. Yet the babus in the defence establishment continue to function in the way it suits them. It is time Defence Minister A. K. Antony looks into the CAG report closely and holds an enquiry to find out what has gone wrong in the acquisitions of costly defence wherewithal from other countries. The CAG report has increased his workload.

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Thought for the Day

Words are the tokens current and accepted for conceits, as monies are for values.

— Francis Bacon

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Corrections and clarifications

  • The headline “Admn for resumption of plot” (Page 1, July 23, Chandigarh Tribune) was faulty. It should have been “Admn for repossession of plot”.
  • In the headline “The online cyber crime is keeping parents on their toes” (Page 3, July 23, Lifestyle) the word “The” was wrongly used before “online”.
  • The headline “Apple fetches record price” (Page 9, July 24) should have been “Apples fetch record price”.
  • There is a discrepancy in the Airtel Q1 results as reported (Page 19, July 24). While the headline says the net went up by 22 per cent, the report says the increase was by 24 per cent.

Despite our earnest endeavour to keep The Tribune error-free, some errors do creep in at times. We are always eager to correct them.

This column will now appear thrice a week — every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We request our readers to write or e-mail to us whenever they find any error.

Readers in such cases can write to Mr Kamlendra Kanwar, Senior Associate Editor, The Tribune, Chandigarh, with the word “Corrections” on the envelope. His e-mail ID is kanwar@tribunemail.com.

H.K. Dua
Editor-in-Chief

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Unending Maoist menace
Fight it with a well-coordinated drive
by Maj-Gen Ashok K. Mehta (retd)

MORE than a decade after the Naxals took to the jungles and continue ravaging Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal, among other states, the government has finally admitted that it does not have a strategy and has underestimated the strength of the Naxals. It is an SOS and a surge to stem the rampage that will follow.

“Dilli Gheri Lebo” is the war cry of the Naxals or the Maoists as they are now called after the merger of Left wing extremist groups in 2004. Last month they momentarily captured Lalgarh police station in West Bengal. Dehyphenated, Lalgarh means Red Citadel. The Maoist aim is to capture Lal Qila — Red Fort — in Delhi, that is political power through armed struggle.

Neither Lalgarh nor Lal Qila can be held by them, yet Maoists, not jihadis, interfered with the parliamentary elections striking at will in their strongholds — in short, expanding the people’s war and the feared red corridor. For Maoists, Lalgarh was more a political theatre about discrediting the Left Front government in Kolkata than any intent to establish a liberated zone.

Recovering from the aftershocks of Mumbai, the Centre asked the state government to flush out the Maoists, making Operation Lalgarh the first major Centre-state anti-Naxal offensive. Nearly 5000 men of the state police, the East Frontier Rifles, the CRPF, the BSF, the IRB and the Cobra Force were deployed against 100 to 150 armed Maoists, who used their favoured indirect weapons, mines and IEDs, against which the police has no antidote or SOP. After two weeks of shadow-boxing, the Maoists melted away in thin air.

But Lalgarh has been pushed into the background by the stunning multiple ambushes involving IEDs employed by the Maoists in Chhattisgarh after Andhra Pradesh, the only other state to have done the most to combat Naxalism but with limited success. Coupled with other attacks in Orissa and Jharkhand recently and the revelations that a Delhi businessman has been supplying electronic equipment to Naxals in Jharkhand, notorious for the diversion of counter-Naxal funds, it is obvious that the menace is beyond state capability and is a national problem.

For some years now, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been describing the Maoists as the most serious internal threat facing the country. Home Minister P. Chidambaram informed Parliament recently that “we did not assess the challenge correctly, we underestimated the challenge and LWE (Left-wing extremism) has extended its influence”. He also stated that clearing out Maoist-held areas is a precondition to development work. This is for the first time that there is an admission of the lost time and no strategy to reconcile defence and development.

In the last five years, rather than being contained, the Maoists have expanded their sway to 16 states, with six seriously affected ones. The Indian Maoists have ideological links with their counterparts in Nepal though operational connections had been severed after the latter joined multi-party democracy. In June, a truck from Jharkhand laden with explosives destined for Nepal was intercepted by the Bihar police. The Maoists had called an all-India bandh last month to condemn the killing of Prabhakaran in Mullaithivu and Sudhakar Reddy in Warangal, declaring the two as true revolutionaries. They are also known to have links with jihadi groups in Pakistan, notably the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba.

The Maoists run an all-India unified command, sharing intelligence, pooling resources and coordinating their activities across the Naxal operational grid. Their latest directive commands state units to expand the People’s War and learn from the mistakes of the Nepali Maoists and the LTTE. Since government response to the threat posed by them is disjointed and not at the national level, Maoism is spreading despite numerous socio-economic schemes under NREGA and the Backward Areas Development Programme. The delivery mechanism to bring relief to the tribals in inaccessible areas, with ineffective administrative structures, is the biggest failure of the Indian state.

Differing perceptions between the states and the Centre, law and order being a state subject, is yet another problem. State and Central governments belonging to different parties have not achieved the political consensus necessary to confront the Maoists. The piecemeal state-by-state approach of combating Maoists is unlikely to work. Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya lamented the non-cooperation by Jharkhand during Lalgarh operations where Lalgarh Maoists escaped.

In Chhattisgarh, it is the fifth year of the Salwa Judum, depicted as people’s uprising and a foil to the Maoists. With mixed results, its mentor and senior Congress leader, Mr Mahendra Karma, has refined the strategy from one of direct confrontation to isolating the Maoists with the help of the people. Jharkhand has come up with an attractive surrender and rehabilitation plan with cash incentives for firearms. Orissa, where nearly half of the 30 districts are hit by Maoist depredation, has its own plan. While a template to fix the Maoists is not sought, a common approach will optimise the response mechanism. A collective threat calls for a national strategy.

In the last five years, violence in the seven worst affected states has claimed 3500 lives in 7800 incidents. Till July 1 this year, 460 persons, including 160 security forces, had been killed in Left-wing extremist violence. This marks an 18 per cent increase in violence and 37 per cent rise in police fatalities over last year and reflects how the nation is suffering more casualties from Naxal violence than in J&K. Next month is the meeting of Chief Ministers where Home Minister Chidambaram is to unfold a new counter-Naxal strategy involving Central and state resources.

The Army is monitoring the Maoist map closely as it does not wish to get sucked in. It has attached a Brigadier to the anti-Naxal cell in the Ministry of Home Affairs and is helping in producing the new counter-Naxal concept paper. Army training of anti-Naxal police forces started in 2006 at the CIJW, Wairangte, the Infantry Regimental Centres and 4 Corps Counterinsurgency and Anti-Terrorism School. Fighting a Naxal like a Naxal focuses on skills in countering IEDs, mine warfare, jungle survival and winning hearts and minds of tribals. Other measures being considered include setting up of Army cantonments and training centres in Maoist-dominated areas as well as the use of armed helicopters.

At least 20 CRPF battalions, the lead force for anti-Naxal operations and 20 counter-insurgency and anti-terrorism schools, are to be established shortly in the worst affected states. Sadly, the police units which come for training are unaccompanied by officers and are not a cohesive lot. Without implementing the full scale of police reforms ordered by the Supreme Court and injecting modernisation and motivation, the state and central police will not be optimally operational.

A twin-pronged inclusive development and security strategy, integral to a national plan, and a refurbished delivery mechanism are required to counter the march of the Maoists. It is not as if the Maoists are invincible. Rather the response has been too little, too late. To be successful, operations have to be coordinated with neighbouring states/districts and the Centre. Without a common minimum political consensus and upgrading the Maoist threat beyond the law and order category, the Maoist chant of Delhi Gheri Lebo will come closer to the national Capital.

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A perfect shot
by J.L. Gupta

THE first day in the city of Vancouver. I looked out of the window. The sight was splendid. A clear blue sky. The vast span of clear blue water. The thick green trees. The snow covered peaks. The sea planes taking off and landing on water. It made a perfect picture. It was crying to be captured. I felt the need for a good camera. Better than the “cyber shot” that I was carrying.

Soon, I was out in the street. And from the first person I met, I sought directions to a good camera shop. The response was spontaneous. The kind lady marked the shops on the map in my hand. It will take five minutes on foot and 10 by bus. The cool breeze prompted me to opt for the walk.

A huge mall. One could buy almost anything in the world under one roof. I waded my way to the photo shop. Almost all the known brands of cameras were there. In every conceivable size. From something that could be put in the pocket to the one that needed a back-sack. I examined the various pieces with the pretention of an expert. Listened intently to every word spoken by the patient salesman. And after spending about two hours, I expressed interest in the one that seemed easy to operate and promised good results. So, the salesman took out a sealed pack and delivered it at the cash counter.

Mr. Ali, at the counter, opened the packet. Examined everything meticulously. Having satisfied himself, he turned to me and asked, “Are you a professional photographer?” No! “Do you take fifty thousand pictures in a year?” No! “Five thousand?” No! “I do not think, you need this camera. You should buy a much smaller one. I think ‘Canon-G10’ should meet your needs. I do not have it. You might check at the next store.”

I saw G-10. I was not satisfied. So I again asked for 50-D. He took out the camera and asked, “Are you a professional?” No! I just want to take a few good pictures to remember your beautiful city. “Why do you want to buy a Ferrari to visit your next door neighbour?” The message was loud and clear. I thanked him and walked back to my room.

Days have passed. Still, a question continues to nag me. Shall we ever catch up? I suspect, despite all talk of a rich heritage, we have a long way to go. We only talk of values. But we really love valuables.

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Burqa-clad bombers who terrorise Afghanistan
by Kim Sengupta

An Afghan soldier stands guard near a discarded burqa used by a Taliban suicide bomber to attack government buildings in Gardez
An Afghan soldier stands guard near a discarded burqa used by a Taliban suicide bomber to attack government buildings in Gardez.

MALE suicide bombers disguised in womens' burqas stormed government buildings and security headquarters in co-ordinated attacks which killed a dozen people and injured 22 others in eastern Afghanistan last week.

Hamid Karzai's government described the "commando-style" raids as a new tactic being employed by the Taliban in what has been one of the most violent months in the country's war.

Bombers wearing burqas, male and female, have struck on a number of occasions in Iraq. The modus operandi is, however, new to Afghanistan where, due to religious sensibilities, women in traditional dresses face less risk of being searched than in Iraq.

Fierce firefights broke out in the towns of Gardez and Jalalabad after about 15 bombers produced Kalashnikov assault rifles from under their long robes and opened fire. Several of the insurgents who managed to get inside the buildings then detonated their explosive vests, causing carnage.

Azizuddin Wardak, the provincial police chief said that all the bombers had entered Gardez town centre wearing all-enveloping burqas.

"This is a new type of tactic. They wanted to kill innocent people as well as government officials," he said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks which came during the "surge" of US and British forces in southern Afghanistan which aims to establish secure zones ahead of next month's national elections.

The bombings yesterday were described by Afghan and American officials as attempts by the Taliban to relieve pressure on their fighters in the south.

The east was the scene of ferocious clashes between US-led Nato forces and the insurgents before the focus moved to Helmand and Kandahar.

Curfews have been imposed in Jalalabad and also in Gardez. Mohammed Nizam Ali, a Gardez shopkeeper, said that residents were afraid. "You can try to keep away from the fighting, but this is now happening in places we have to walk past every day," he said.

"What happened was very bad, I saw a lot of blood and also a body of a policeman who was shot."

Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said the organisation claimed responsibility for the bombings and that "similar missions" would take place in the future. According to Nato sources, there has been increasing evidence of insurgents crossing over the border from Pakistan. One official said: "They have been coming over in some numbers. The first batches, it was felt, may have been pushed out by the Pakistani military offensive. But what we are seeing subsequently have been well-armed and well-organised groups who are obviously being sent on operations."

Taliban assaults have shown increasing signs of complexity and attacks have also targeted the capital, Kabul. Two months ago, 11 Islamist fighters took over government buildings in Khost, 40 miles east of Gardez, leading to gunbattles in which 20 people died and 17 were injured, including three American soldiers.

Kyle Landers, a US military analyst who is writing a book on Taliban tactics, said: "These types of operations obviously follow training and that is taking place across the border in Pakistan. Al-Qa'ida may have been the ones who are responsible for the training, but there is also bound to be suspicion that the ISI [Pakistani intelligence] may be involved."

The EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, said that there was widespread support among member countries for the American led "surge" but that the overall security situation in Afghanistan was "evolving not in an ideal manner".

Meanwhile, losses among Nato forces have continued to mount. A second British soldier was killed in 24 hours, the 18th to die this month, bringing the total number of UK fatalities since the mission began to 187. The soldier, from the Joint Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group, died after a blast in Helmand while he was on patrol.

The engagements have also seen a steep rise in the numbers of the injured. Captain Harry Parker, the 26- year-old son of General Sir Nick Parker, the third highest officer in the British army, is reported to have lost a leg after being severely injured by a roadside bomb at Nad Ali in Helmand.

The outgoing Nato secretary- general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who leaves office on 1 August, declared during a visit to London that withdrawing from Afghanistan was not an option as this would mean that "al-Qa'ida will have a free run again, and their terrorist ambitions are global".

— By arrangement with The Independent

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Shortage of warships
by Premvir Das

RECENT reports indicate that the government has approved the acquisition of six new frigates for the Navy, all to be built locally, three at the Mazagon Docks (MDL) at Mumbai and the remaining three at Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) at Kolkata. The decision to acquire these ships, when the force levels are dwindling, is something to feel satisfied about; what is not so reassuring is the manner in which this decision is sought to be executed.

Look at the record of MDL. Its first frigate came out in 1972, the twelfth, in 2002. In short, the shipyard took 30 years to build a dozen ships. Since 2000, it has had six destroyers/frigates on order, the first of these may join the Navy in 2011 and the last, even with some miraculous increase in productivity, by 2020.

In this background, the decision to ask this yard to produce three more frigates within the same time frame is seriously flawed and totally out of touch with reality. It can hardly begin work on these, leave aside exaggerated claims, until those already in its order book are got ready and delivered. So, what is being said, in effect, is that the new frigates would come to the Navy from MDL only after 2020.

The picture at GRSE is worse. This yard was asked to build three frigates in 1986, to be delivered by 1994; they were actually delivered by 2002, double the earlier time frame offered by GRSE. No more orders were given taking into account this unsatisfactory performance.

The decision to now ask this yard to produce three frigates for delivery by 2020 i.e. in eleven years, when a suitable collaborator is still to be selected, is clearly something surreal; it is just not going to happen. Expertise in building complex warships is not something that comes up overnight built on pious hopes.

There have been claims that technology transfer arrangements for the new ships with the chosen collaborator will involve modular construction techniques which will permit work to be progressed faster than has been possible hitherto.

This is debatable. Not only does this involve the availability of very heavy duty cranes (which can be got) but availability of space where huge sections can be put together before being taken for assembly.

These additional areas are just not there at MDL which is already loaded with the orders mentioned above, not to speak of the six Scorpene class submarines whose construction in that yard is also running behind time by two to three years, mainly because neither the required facilities nor expertise has been built up as originally claimed.

As for the GRSE, there is some cushion in terms of space but manpower skills are way behind that of MDL. So, any expectations that results will quickly move from dismal to brilliant are misplaced, to say the least.

The story at MDL is not much different. But in these 30-odd years, gaps have been successively filled by purchases from abroad, five destroyers from the erstwhile USSR in the 1980s, three frigates from Russia in the 2000s followed by orders for another three of that class, to be delivered in the next three to four years.

This has been a wise approach, which has enabled the Navy to remain afloat when dependence on indigenous sources only would have surely been suicidal. There is need for judicious balancing of the two avenues, local construction and import.

In earlier imports of frigates and destroyers, there was no real transfer of technology. So our shipyards did not benefit too much. We should learn from those experiences as we select our options for the future.

The acquisition of six new frigates offers exactly that opportunity, to the advantage of the yards as well as the Navy. The first two ships should be bought from the chosen foreign yard and while those vessels are under construction, personnel from MDL and GRSE should be deputed to gain familiarity with the methods and technologies being used as both will be new.

This association will also enable our workers to differentiate between those areas which require critical attention and those which are familiar. They will then be better able to handle indigenous construction.

This process was followed very advantageously when four submarines were acquired from Germany in the 1980s and early 1990s. The first two were bought outright from HDW, the German shipyard, and workers from MDL attended their construction.

Consequently, time and cost overruns with the two built locally thereafter were minimal. If this same route is followed for the frigates, the first two could be delivered within five to six years, with the remaining four coming later. This would plug the gaps in the Navy’s force levels quicker while making the indigenous process more confident and capable.

In short, the decision to build all six ships locally is not consistent with the need to supplement force levels quickly while developing indigenous capabilities. It should be reviewed. Exaggerated and optimistic claims by the local shipyards are not new and have been made repeatedly over the decades.

That mistaken assessment of capability is natural, even understandable, but it should not cloud decision-making, which should be based on awareness of ground realities and a pragmatic view of what is probable. Hoping against hope is not the way to go.

The writer is a former Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command.

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Chatterati
Hillary Clinton charms Delhi-ites
by Devi Cherian

THE special aircraft carrying the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton landed at the domestic terminal with the multi-layered security turning the airport into a fort.

Security arrangements ensured that the usual sight of taxi drivers, vendors and even beggars were nowhere to be seen. But in-between her appointments, the lady did get stuck in a traffic jam for a few minutes at the ever-busy Dhaula Kuan inter-section.

Hillary Clinton makes headlines even with the slightest gesture. On Monday, the lady, dressed in a black and white business suit, rubbed shoulders with a cross-section of Delhi-ites. She stuck to wearing bright, power suits throughout the visit. From students of Delhi University to store owners at Santushti, she charmed everyone.

Clinton started her day at the Taj Palace Hotel with a breakfast of steamed idlis and paranthas. The former First Lady had planned her day well in advance. Thrilled at the idea of an en-suite spa, she took an evening appointment. The hotel had flown in a Jiva Spa specialist to make hers a memorable experience.

The hotel had also placed a small album of the Clinton family pictures as a memento in the Grand Presidential Suite, where Hillary was staying.

At 7 in the next morning, she met celebrity hairstylist Sumit Israni, who gave Hillary a slightly layered hair style. Israni was completely floored by Hillary's humility and so were the designers from whose store Hillary shopped for outfits at the Santushti Shopping Complex.

Since she had bought clothes from them during her last visit to the city, she came unannounced this time. She picked several raw silk jacket outfits, which will be now couriered to her as they are to be made to fit her size.

Clinton visited Dilli Haat, where she could not resist the temptation to strike a bargain and managed to get a concession of Rs 20 on one of the items she bought.

It was like a dream for the salesman to sell an item to somebody like Ms. Clinton. But he would not let the dream "affect" his "business acumen". He sold her a brass bangle for Rs 180. But he had begun with Rs 200 and did not want to give any more concession.

She went around the Haat appreciating everything. She bought a green kurta for Rs 150 made by "international refugees".

Hillary had dinner at Bukhara of Maurya, which is her husband's favourite and has two platters named after the former US President and their daughter Chelsea. Businessman Chatwal accompanied her for dinner.

Despite the jetlag, Hillary was very much on the go – a "strong, durable woman" with a sense of humour that was "spot on" and was very warm to all. Clinton recently injured her right arm and revealed that the arm is still stiff. So she greeted most with her left arm.

Quite a few MPs now sport ear-buttons

If the ear-stud enhances the sanyasi look of Yogi Adityanath, the BJP MP from Gorakhpur, there are other MPs who wear "ear buttons" – the male equivalent of a woman's earrings.

Orissa BJD MP Sidhant Mohapatra, a film star in his state, and Sheila Dikshit's son, Sandeep Dikshit, sport one. Sanjay Singh, the Congress MP from Uttar Pradesh, has also begun wearing one. Kirti Azad of the BJP also has one. It’s turning out to be their trademark now. Parliament sure has become a colourful, somewhat amusing place today.

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