Armed Forces BRO Rajnath

‘Armed Forces, BRO Ready To Defend’: Rajnath

Indian Armed forces and Border Road Organisation are prepared to defend the country against any conflict, said Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in Arunachal Pradesh on Tuesday emphasising that India does not believe in war and always wants to maintain cordial relations with its neighbours.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh was speaking during the inauguration of the Siyom Bridge of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) in the Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh.
This is Singh’s first visit to Arunachal Pradesh after the face-off between Indian and China troops in the Tawang area on December 9.

The Defence Minister today inaugurated 28 infrastructure projects built by the BRO across seven states. These projects are going to be built to facilitate the movement of heavy artillery and the movement of the troops of the Indian Armed Forces along borders.

“In this era of changing priorities and interests of the nations, it is necessary for any nation to keep itself empowered. Although, India has always remained against war as its policy. Our Armed forces are always ready to face any kind of situation and Border Road Organisation is walking along with them,” Rajnath Singh said.

He further added that PM Modi’s government is working on developing better and smooth commuting facilities for the people in the country, especially in the North-East areas.

“PM Modi’s government is working on developing better and smooth commuting facilities for the people in the country, especially in the North-East areas. These roads are significant from the strategic point of view too,” Singh said.

He further added that a large number of Armed forces personnel are deployed in areas where no transportation is available throughout the year, and in winter most of the roads get closed due to snowfall. These projects will provide extreme help in the delivery of rations, military equipment, and other help,

At the event, Singh also released the ‘Vision BRO@2047’ document that will guide the organization about its deadline and targets in the next 25 years. The document is a comprehensive study based on an analysis of BRO’s Strengths, Challenges, Opportunities, and Threats. It will help BRO to achieve new capabilities with more power.

“I appreciate the role and contribution of BRO in strengthening Border Security. For example a few days back the situation we faced in the northern sector, and the way we faced adversaries, was not possible without adequate infrastructural development. Such situations will keep us inspired for the development of border areas. And I can proudly say that we have a dedicated organization-BRO for development in these areas,” he said.

He said that infrastructure development transforms lives the lives of f people living in Border areas it is a game changer for locals.

“In plains, the government is constructing smart roads but in many Border areas roads are scarce. Many areas even don’t have basic tracks. In such remote areas, the government has initiated several welfare schemes along with basic civic amenities like electricity, telecommunications, education, and health that require connectivity,” Singh said.

“Despite being beautiful and full of natural resources, the entire North East region remained ignored from development. Even after several years of freedom, the region was ignored in the name of security issues or connectivity and remains deprived of basic facilities and it has largely affected the economy of the region,” he said.

The Defence Minister said that the North-East region is important not only for the development of the entire nation but is a gateway to east Asia and strengthens relations with East Asia in terms of trade, travel, and tourism. For this reason, the development of the region is the priority of the government

“A total of 28 projects at the cost of Rs 724.3 crore are being undertaken by BRO across the country in strategic locations – including eight in Ladakh, two in Rajasthan, three each in Uttarakhand and Punjab and four have been identified in Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir,” Singh added.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh lauded the spirit and speed with which the BRO carried out development works in the recent past.

“The spirit and speed with which the BRO has carried out development works in the recent past are commendable. The plan to connect more and more border areas is the priority of the government, so that along with the development of the people living there, they can develop a sense of trust in the system,” said Singh.

Defence Minister further called the Border Roads Organisation actual brothers of the armed forces and people.

“I used to confuse BRO (Border Roads Organisation) with ‘Bro’ means brother but after seeing the work they are doing, they are actually brothers of our Armed forces and people,” he said.

The visit comes a month after Indian and China troops clashed along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Tawang sector.

The 100-metre-long Siyom bridge over river Siyom is a strategically important bridge as it gives the military a strategic advantage in deploying troops to the far-flung areas of the Line of Actual Control. (ANI)

Read More: https://lokmarg.com

Weekly Update: Why Agnipath is A Good Path; How Oppn is BJP’s Strongest Suit

In the first four days after registration opened for recruitment to the Indian armed services, the Indian Air Force (IAF) alone received 94,281 applications. That volume of applications will, in all probability, grow manifold as the days go by and as the other services, the Indian Army and the Indian Navy, tot up the applications they receive.

The announcement of the number of applications that the air force received has done two things. First, it has almost instantly silenced critics of the scheme who were calling it discriminatory and undemocratic. And second, more importantly, it has highlighted what is probably the Indian economy’s toughest challenge: frighteningly large levels of unemployment among the country’s youth.

The Indian government introduced the Agnipath Scheme as a new way of recruiting youth into the armed services at ranks lower than that of commissioned officers. Inducted cadets will get a four-year tenure with a stipend paid to them and at the end of the tenure, 25% of them will be inducted into the services while the rest will get a golden handshake–a sum of ₹12 lakh to start entrepreneurial ventures as well as preference if they want to join police or other state security services.

The background to the scheme is important. The armed services incur a huge outflow of money that goes to pay pensions, salaries and other personnel-related expenses. By some estimates they account for a quarter of India’s defence budget. The Agnipath scheme would alleviate some of those recurring expenses and allow the defence ministry to deploy more funds into critical areas like augmenting defence equipment and modernisation.

However, opposition parties, including the Congress and some other regional parties vehemently opposed the scheme, mainly on the grounds that they felt a more consensual approach ought to have been adopted but also that it discriminated and curbed the rights of new recruits, 75% of whom would leave service after the four-year tenure. But as initial data show, the scheme could turn out to be a hit.

The reason for its appeal is simple and stark. Youth unemployment in India has reached staggering proportions. According to the Times of India, “Youth unemployment in urban areas across India rose sharply to 25.5% in the April-June quarter of 2021 and remained in the double digits thereafter as the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic battered economic activities and dealt a severe impact on jobs.”

Do the maths. Nearly 40% of the Indian population is aged 13 to 35 years (defined as youth in the National Youth Policy). Forty per cent of the population is roughly 560 million people. If we look at the minimum employment age in India, which is 14, we are still talking about at least 500 million employable youth. If 25% of them are unemployed, how serious do you think the problem is?

It is small wonder that the Agnipath Scheme has found growing appeal among young Indians. Jobs in the public sector have not been growing; and in the private sector the emphasis is on automation and leaner workforce with lower wage costs. In scenario such as that if young people have an opportunity to earn and get training for four years and then have a shot at either becoming soldiers, airmen or sailors or, if they aren’t inducted, entrepreneurs, is that not an appealing alternative, say, to driving an auto rickshaw or delivering food from restaurants to people’s homes?

Some more numbers to mull. In the first year, an Agnipath recruit would earn (in-hand) ₹21,000 a month and by the fourth year that would go up to ₹28,000. Not really a bad deal, is it?

India’s Opposition Needs a Plan

Some years ago when the Congress party had started what has now become its free-fall journey into oblivion, one newspaper had written that Rahul Gandhi was the Bharatiya Janata Party’s strongest trump card. Gandhi was then messing up in all possible ways: losing election after election for his party; lacking coherent strategies about any issue that he addressed; and losing the support and respect of his party’s other leaders and functionaries.

Now, one could expand on that cheeky comment and probably say that the BJP’s strongest suit is the Opposition. Besides opposing anything that is proposed or done by the government–the misplaced opposition to Agnipath is a case in point–India’s Opposition parties have little else to get active about. The situation is the same in the states as it is in the Centre.

When was the last time we heard a constructive critique of the Union Budget from any Opposition party? When was the last time an Opposition party leader appraised India’s handling of the Covid pandemic (which, considering the number of people that live in India, has been quite commendable)? Have we ever seen a whitepaper from the Opposition on how India’s unemployment problem ought to be tackled? Or a strategy that addresses our government’s bewildering stance when it comes to international issues such as the Russian aggression in Ukraine? Sadly, India’s Opposition is bankrupt of ideas. And that is why it is the strongest suit in BJP’s hand.

‘Army Is A Family; We Can’t Abandon Our Boys After 4 Years’

Major (Retd) A Singh says he was appalled to see Services Chiefs acting as Govt spokesmen to defend the new recruitment scheme. His take on Agnipath

Although the Agnipath scheme seeks to cut costs for Indian defence establishment – which is a long pending reform – the manner in which the Government launched the scheme is shocking. Any decision or scheme that impacts the masses must pass through a public debate, open discussion and resultant feedback. But, as in the case of GST, demonetisation or 2000 lockdown, the Government has in one swift stroke ruined the ambition and aspiration of millions of youth.

I have served the Indian Army for several years – I voluntarily retired as a Major in 2004 – and I can vouch that such a scheme goes against the ethos of our defence services. Indian Armed Forces serve as a large family unit as per their tradition, culture and ethics. Armed forces are not a tourist venture that will abandon their boys after a four-year tour of duty.

Ideally, such a scheme needs a pilot project and phased implementation. This will entail a small unit of recruits, say 10%, to be hired as Agniveers while the rest follow standard permanent recruitment. On the basis of the pros and cons of the first experimental Agniveer unit, the Defence establishment may decide on its future.

Everyone remembers how many times the entire GST framework and its rulebook were changed to suit the new challenges emerging out of its implementation. Ditto with the decisions of demonetisation and lockdown. How the government seems so cocksure about Agnipath’s success beats me. They haven’t learnt anything from their past mistakes.

ALSO READ: ‘Agnipath Has Burnt Down My Dreams, Career’

I was also appalled at the way our Service chiefs appeared on camera to defend this scheme. Do you remember any such occasion in the 75 years of the glorious history of our defence forces when top commanders had to defend a government action? They were clearly forced to act as the spokesperson of the government.

There have been media reports about the plight of thousands of men who had cleared their physical tests for the Armed Forces and were waiting for their joining letters when suddenly this scheme was announced. There was no consideration about their future despite an assurance from the force.

Out of four years in service for Agniveers, the training period will be of six months and there is also a provision for a nine-month leave period. So practically, the Agniveers will have three years of active duty. Can such a brief training and service period produce a skilled and up-to-the-mark soldier? In addition they will not get the rank of an ex-Serviceman.

Various announcements are being made by private industrial houses to absorb Agniveers after returning from the forces, but it is easy to break a promise after four years. Can they be held accountable for these assurances? And God forbid, how will our police forces tackle a situation when these trained but jobless Agniveers, in desperation for work, join some unlawful venture!

As told to Rajat Rai

(The photo used is representational as the narrator requested anonymity for personal reasons)

‘Armed Forces in 21st Century Must Be Lean And Mean’

Abhimanyu Rai, a retired Subedar Major from Military Engineering Services, says it is too early to comment on Agnipath scheme as much will depend on its implementation. His views:

The Centre’s decision to shorten the service period of foot soldiers under Agnipath scheme has caused largescale protests in the country. However, as I see it this is a long-due reform to cut the flab in defence services, decrease recurring costs and build a lean and mean force. This is 21st century. Our Armed Forces need some course correction to meet the challenges of new-age warfare.

Right now, it is too early to comment on the scheme as its success will depend on how our top bureaucrats and political leaders bring it into force. They must look beyond short-term gains of this recruitment scheme. Being an ex-army man, allow me to examine the scheme dispassionately.

The primary motive of the scheme is to reduce the burgeoning pension bill of the Armed Forces. I recently read an article that stated that 58% of the military expenditure is towards pension and related costs.

Reducing the period of training (six months) and the entitled leaves (nine months, provided one is entitled to it), they will be an effective service period of about a three-year tour of duty, discharge employment needs to be effectively taken care of.

Singh (inset) feels Agnipath entails a far-reaching reform in Indian Armed Forces

The battle or ‘attributed to military service’ casualties will be treated on par with regular soldiers. This is appreciable and in addition, a fixed percentage from such intake will be absorbed as regular soldiers on merit is also welcomed.

ALSO READ: ‘There Will Be No Rollback Of Agnipath Scheme’

Additional advantages cited in the scheme are: reducing the age profile of the Armed Forces, strengthening the society with military connect, improving career prospects of regular soldiers, instilling military character qualities and nationalism among the youth.

The scheme is certainly a far-reaching reform and short-term engagement for officers/soldiers is a time-tested method of managing manpower and reducing the pension budget of the defence services and the Indian military is no stranger to it.

It will give strength to the armed forces by creating a strong pool of skilled youth, who can, in the future, easily work in private security forces and other allied professions. This will help our youth to become disciplined which will, in turn, also effectively benefit the country.

However, what I can make out from what is available in the public domain, it, no doubt, has a number of conceptual flaws — be it the motivation of the youth for enrolment, service tenure, training period, operational/organizational needs of the forces and post-discharge benefits — for it to be a viable option.

However, the strength of the armed forces will not be reduced because the recruitment of 50,000 soldiers is going to continue every year to replace 60,000 retiring soldiers. The scheme, thus, comes with the advantage that this will make the country’s army young and it is also being propagated that the Indian Armed Forces will become more `jawan’ on average.

As told to Rajat Rai

AFSPA Needs Constant Reviews, Not Knee-Jerk Repeal

The recent case of December 5, 2021 where the security forces in Mon, Nagaland killed 13 innocent civilians in an ambush and subsequent unrest and resulting in death of a soldier, has renewed the demand for repeal of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act -1958 or AFSPA. As per the presumably draconian act, Security Forces (including the para military forces of Assam Rifles and Rashtriya Rifles) and Central Police Organisations (CPOs) including BSF and CRPF, are given sweeping powers to search and seizure in civilian inhabited areas and arrest suspects without warrant for a limited period. Armed Forces can also open effective fire on terrorists or militants under this act.

AFSPA can only be applied by the Union Government where law and order has broken down and a defined area, district or the entire state has been declared disturbed, under the Disturbed Area Act, by the State Government. While the AFSPA gives special powers to the security forces and CPOs, the principle of minimum force and restraint is always exercised by commanders and troops at all levels. ‘One off’ actions like the incident at Mon happen due to the lack of judgment, scanty knowledge of the ground, and inept training at the junior level, and the actions by erring members of security forces never go unpunished.

Most of the areas where the Disturbed Area Act has been applied, fall in border areas wherein trans-border or trans-Line of Control (LoC) movement takes place with connivance of security forces of Pakistan, China and Myanmar. Immunity for acts of murder, rape, kidnapping, arson, looting or drug trafficking is not given under this Act to any security forces under the AFSPA; as is widely misunderstood by a section of the society. Because the security forces in these border areas have to intercept armed infiltrating and exfiltrating groups in real time, immunity to take action against such groups is covered under AFSPA.

In practice, invariably, the security forces are accompanied by local civil police who are handed over the captured terrorists, militants, suspects, weapons, ammunition and dead bodies after the encounters. Utmost care is taken to use minimum force against such terrorist or militant in order to avoid collateral damage. However, if some unfortunate collateral damage takes place in conduct of bona fide duty, then the security forces who had operated in good faith are immune from being apprehended by the civil police and tried by civil court. However, the actions of troops are scrutinised under the Army Act and departmental disciplinary action is taken against defaulting service persons without delay; in pursuit of justice for the innocents, as per the law of the land.

The AFSPA is required to defeat the machinations of the adversaries who sponsor proxy war on our borders in a bid to destabilise the Indian state. AFSPA has also been applied in counter insurgency operations in hinterland in our Northern and North Eastern States of J&K (now Union Territory), Punjab, Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, Tripura, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh. Without the legal shield provided by AFSPA, the security forces would be hesitant to take offensive actions against the armed insurgents and those groups may continue to operate with impunity.

ALSO READ: Indian Army Is People’s Fauj, Not Modi’s

However, utmost care has to be taken to ensure fire is not opened on innocent civilians and warning and restraint need to be exercised. Normally, the security forces only open fire in self defence when the terrorists open fire on to them from the opposite direction or from a flank. This restraining action also ensures that innocent civilians are not targeted. The life of an active terrorist or militant is not more than an year after he starts indulging in violent actions against the population, civil police or security forces. Therefore, if the information about the movement of terrorists is not confirmed, they are given the benefit of the doubt with the hope that they will fall in the hands of the security forces if they continued perpetuating violence in the society.

An issue related to continuity of AFSPA in some border states is the state and quality of the civil police in that state. Due to coercion or sympathy for the terrorist groups, who may be seen as freedom fighters by a section of the local population, a portion of the civil police invariably gets compromised and may not be acting in the interest of the Indian State. There is a dire need for police reforms in the country wherein politicians are stripped from the powers of employing the civil police as per their whims and fancy resulting in employment of overwhelming strength of the police force only on protection of the VVIPs leaving a small portion of the force to do the extended police duties for the common man.

Whereas the need to have AFSPA is paramount for security forces operating in difficult terrain against armed groups in border areas, its continuation in hinterland in less disturbed areas needs to be constantly reviewed and the act should be lifted wherever semblance of normalcy start showing up. The Act was lifted from Punjab after about ten years of its imposition once the state dramatically returned to normalcy in 1995. Similarly, in the North East, the law has been lifted from Tripura and Meghalaya but continues to be applied in Nagaland from 1958 onwards. There is a case for identifying less threatened areas of Nagaland and Manipur and lift the Disturbed Area Act and AFSPA from those areas. The state governments and security forces need to be dynamically reviewing the situation every three to six months to decide if a particular area needs to be removed from the listed Disturbed area so that AFSPA is no more applicable in that area.

(Lt Gen Ike Singha was on the Kashmir desk in Military Operations Directorate from 1993 to 1997)