Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The story behind the bribe offer to COAS

The video of the programme

The Article

The revelation by the army chief of an offer of a 14-crore bribe has sharply brought into focus what was really at stake.  The bribe was allegedly offered by a lobbyist for  a truck supplier who  flooded the army for more than two decades with 7,000 over-priced vehicles which performed poorly when put to use.  Yet, this supplier, Tatra, a Czech manufacturer , who supplies the trucks to the Army through a Defence Public Sector Undertaking Bharat Earth Movers Ltd.  was not blacklisted.   In fact, the swindle worth hundreds of crores appears to have been facilitated by the government-owned BEML which supplies the army with trucks and other equipment.

The middleman who met General Singh wanted clearance for one more batch of 1600 vehicles in September 2010.  For this, the lobbyist allegedly offered 14 crores.  In 2010,  the government changed the rules so that different manufacturers could apply for the contract through open bidding.  After nearly 25 years of a monopoly, Tatra became one of the three or four contenders. The Ministry wanted the open tender to be implemented from that year onwards. But two years on, the contract remains un-awarded for various reasons. 

Tatra all-weather all-terrain trucks are  used to transport missiles, artillery and troops .  These trucks are manufactured in Czech Republic  The cost to the country has been huge.  A  4X4 Tatra truck, for example,  costs between 40 to 50 lakhs in Europe .  It was sold by BEML to the army at to nearly double that price.  Ashok Leyland and Tata Motors supply these trucks at between 16-18 lakhs for similar trucks. Jacks for theTatra truck, available in the market for Rs 3000 for similar heavy vehicles,  were  bought for Rs 30,000 each by BEML on behalf of the army.

The top dollar paid for the trucks wasn’t matched by performance.  A whistleblower named Anil Bakshi  reveals  that the army has for a while been unhappy with the performance of the Tatra trucks.   Mr Bakshi was a defence contractor for the Indian Army and was contracted to prep vehicles for the army’s use after they had been bought.  In 2009, he said that 45 Tarra trucks arrived with faulty or damaged tyres and old batteries.  He refused to clear them for usage.

Other experts say that spare parts are not easily available for Tatra trucks. BEML takes upto two years to supply spares.

Instead of buying these trucks directly from the manufacturer, BEML uses a middleman named Tatra Sipox, a London-based trading company.  However, government rules make it necessary for all defence equipment to be bought directly from the manufacturer.   In 1986, India signed a transfer-of-technology agreement witha Czech company named  Omnipol.  The idea was for BEML to learn how to eventually build heavy vehicles locally.  That deal continued till 1997 when BEML signed with  Tatra Sipox, a London-based trading company, and not the original manufacturer of the trucks. The Czech company is the original manufacturer. In violation of defence rules, a middleman or dealer had entered the picture.  BEML never gathered the expertise to eventually build a Tatra-like truck on its own

Monday, March 26, 2012

Army Chief goes ballistic

I was offered a bribe of Rs 14 Crore, says India's Army Chief Gen VK Singh

The COAS seems to have decided to take the bull by the horns.

More than a fortnight ago, the Army HQ had issued a press note drawing attention to the cabal of officers indulging in conspiracy and bribery going to the extent of even naming a retired Lt. Gen (see the entire note below. The portions in red are shocking)

Today, the Army Chief has gone a step further.

Read the Press note below

1.         The Story on Maligning the Army is a fabricated fiction and people responsible are some disgruntled officers, retired and serving, whose sole aim is to create a mistrust between the Army and the Ministry of Defence  (MoD).  The Military Intelligence has the mandate to routinely debug the offices of senior functionaries of the MoD and the Army.  In a routine check, some abnormality was noticed in the Raksha Mantri’s office, which was brought to the notice of the Defence Secretary.  Further checks carried out revealed that the voltage drop noticed was due to malfunctioning of the instrument.  The Army does not carry out “Of the Air Monitoring” but seeks the assistance of the IB, if it finds the need.  The Monitoring equipment is in the possession of the Signal Intelligence and is deployed along the borders and in Counter Insurgency areas.  This equipment is under the control of the Director General Defence Intelligence Agency(DG DIA) and not under the Military Intelligence. 
2.         The present story has been put out by Lt Gen (retd) Tejinder Singh, who was the Ex DGDIA and who has been earlier questioned on the purchase of the “Of the air Monitoring System”, without sanction by the technically empowered committee.  This officer has also been an allottee in Adarsh Housing Society in Mumbai and has also offered bribe on behalf of Tatra and Vetra Limited, which supplies vehicles to BEML.  The Officer along with some disgruntled serving officers of the military intelligence, against whom disciplinary and administrative actions is in the pipeline has worked out this fictitious story.  The Army strongly denies this and take strong exception to such salacious and malafide stories, coming out as news.                                 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

India the big loser at UNHRC?

The adoption of a US-sponsored resolution at the UN Human Rights Council at Geneva today should not be seen as the end of the world by Colombo although it fought tooth and nail to get the resolution defeated.

What must have hurt Sri Lanka the most was India’s 180 degree turn and decision to go with the US.

To begin with the resolution for “Promoting Reconciliation and Accountability in Sri Lanka” is not binding.

 And, the last paragraph amended at the very last minute should give Colombo some kind of a face saver.

The amended last paragraph said: "Encourages the OHCHR (UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights ) and relevant special procedures mandate holders to provide,… IN CONSULTATION WITH, AND WITH THE CONCURRENCE OF, the GoSL (Govt of Sri Lanka) to accept, advice and technical assistance on implementing the ... steps." (emphasis mine)

Colombo will of course see this as the rap on the knuckles by the international community.

India however says it worked very hard to get this amendment included so as to make the resolution “non-intrusive.”  

An Indian External Affairs Ministry statement explaining why India voted in favour of the resolution said: “India subscribe to broader message of resolution & objectives it promotes.”

“India Will continue to remain engaged with Govt of Sri Lanka to take forward process of reconciliation,” the note said.

At best this is glossing over ground realities.

One look at who voted with Sri Lanka and it should be clear that India is losing ground in Sri Lanka.

China, Russia, Maldives, Indonesia, much of ASEAN in fact supported Colombo.

Despite India stressing on “thousands of years of cordial relationship” with Sri Lanka, today’s development will drive Colombo further into China’s arms.

As a long-time observer of Sri Lankan affairs remarked in the immediate aftermath of the vote: “India has just handed over its backyard to China.”

More worryingly, the resolution may trigger another round of aggressive chauvinism by the majority Sinhalas and  repressive measures by a wounded Government against ethnic Tamils in the Island nation.

The Sri Lankan state has repeatedly said that it needs “time and space” to complete the process of rehabilitation and reconciliation.”

Now it may be tempted to go slow with those measures.

In the short term Colombo will also be peeved enough to make India’s task of contributing to the welfare of Sri Lankan Tamils that much more difficult. So the very very Tamils whom India wants protected may be the losers in short and medium term.

India may continue to think Colombo has no choice but to remain engaged with New Delhi in the ultimate analysis but the but the fact is: India has repeated its mistake of allowing the US to set the agenda in its own neighbourhood as it did almost two decades ago in its policy towards Myanmar.

That time, smitten by the prospects of cosying up to Washington India went against its own national interest, supported Aung san Suu kyi and contributed to declaring Myanmar a pariah state only to reverse the policy in less than five years to once again re-engage with the military junta.

By that time China had already made huge inroads into Myanmar.

The same scenario may play out in Sri Lanka in the next half a decade.

For all its wishy-washy explanation, India has proved the adage that those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Draft resolution on Sri Lanka as on 6th March

Much heat has been generated on what the UNHRC will do either today ot tomorrow on Sri Lanka. 

India has vacillated between abstaining and "inclined" to vote for the resolution even as Colombo has appealed to New Delhi to review its decision.

Opinion in India, driven both by domestic politics and  strategic need, is divided. 

Now one hears the effort is to amend the resolution in such a way that it neither embarrasses the Sri Lankan government nor spares the LTTE .

 It is likely to go down to the wire, as they say in cricket. 

Read the draft as it existed on 6th March, a fortnight ago.

Harmless enough?

By the time it is put to vote in the next 48 hours, the draft would surely undergo a lot of change.


Monday, March 19, 2012

India's North-east: A view from not-so-recent past

NOTE: Since India's North-east is getting some much needed attention in national and international media of late, I though let me republish a couple of pieces I had occasions to write in the past six-seven years. Often ours--those of us who reported on the North-East for much of the past three decades--have been voices in wilderness. But we persevered nonetheless.

Read on for whatever they are worth--at least one thing is sure. These are thoughts of some one who had the singular good fortune of spending 23 years on-ground in the region, observing, mingling, making friendships of a life time and of course reporting.

Smile, Seven Sisters

In the collective consciousness of India, the Northeast is like a long forgotten, distant relative: one who exists somewhere; who is at the bottom of the priority list and about whom many misconceptions abound in the family. Little wonder then that most Indians carry a stereotypical image about the seven sisters and its people — violence, disasters, ethnic clashes are what instantly come to mind when any reference to the Northeast is made. True, violence is omnipresent. Disasters and ethnic clashes are more frequent here. But that’s only half the picture. The other half hardly gets the space it deserves in the nation’s thoughts.

A Bhupen Hazarika or a Ratan Thiyam is an exception to the general lack of information on the region’s achievers, its successful high-fliers. But if non-Northeasterners are guilty of indifference towards the region, we, in the Northeast, are equally culpable of not taking pride in our own triumphs and achievements. We have got into a collective habit of always looking at the downside; to bemoan what we lack.
Mainstream India stereotypes the seven states of the Northeast as centres of insurgency and violence. It’s time we dismantle this absurd cliché and showcase the great achievements of its multicultural ethos and communities
We, for instance, do not take pride in the fact that a Bodo from the backwaters of a small place like Gossaigaon reached the pinnacle of his ips career to head the elite National Security Guards (NSG) and subsequently the Border Security Force (BSF). Ranjit Shekhar Mooshahary may be an ips officer from the Kerala cadre but doesn’t he belong to this region? Doesn’t HT Sangliana belong to the Northeast? Yes, the same Sangliana, a Mizo, who became the much-feared top cop in Karnataka, on whose life at least three feature films were made and who is now a Lok Sabha mp from Bangalore. The Mizos can justifiably take pride in the fact that they have two Lok Sabha mps when there is only one Lok Sabha seat from the state! Isn’t former Chief Election Commissioner JM Lyngdoh from this region? The same Lyngdoh who won the Magsaysay award in 2003 for his exceptional moral courage to call the spade a spade in Gujarat?

And yet, we in the Northeast do not seem to take these achievers as role models. We, or at least many of us, perhaps do not know that there are several nris from the Northeast who are doing well in their respective fields abroad. The late Jupiter Yambem went from distant Imphal to New York to head the famous revolving restaurant atop the now destroyed World Trade Centre. Jiten Gopal Borpujari from Jorhat was in the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Deepak Jain, who used to be a student of Guwahati University, today heads the prestigious Kellogs Business School. Isn’t this something to be proud of?

This beautiful region of pristine landscapes and multiple cultures is full of people who are doing interesting, positive and constructive work. Do we know that a schoolteacher from Salakati in Kokrajhar district, Malti Rani Narzary, has adapted the traditional Bodo designs to the needs of modern fashion and created a market for them in places like Delhi and Bangalore? Narzary’s craft is now being retailed in the Taj Groups’s chain of hotels.
Steeled Symphony: Mothers of Manipur protest against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in Imphal
Do we know that 12 Manipuris are leading players in the football league in Goa and Kolkata? Or a farmer’s cooperative in Kokrajhar is extracting fragrant oil for a French perfume company in a big way?
Do we know that half-a-dozen footballers from Manipur are leading players in the football league in Goa and Kolkata? Or a farmer’s cooperative in Kokrajhar has taken to patchouli farming (shrub/leaves of the mint family) in a big way and is now running a plant that extracts fragrant oil that is used to make globally famous perfumes in France? Are we aware that an ordinary entrepreneur in upper Assam now supplies shampoo bottles and sachets to Hindustan Lever and provides livelihood to 30 families after taking a big, risky bank loan of Rs 90 lakh?

There are 110-odd journalists from this region working in various media houses in Delhi and doing well. At least half-a-dozen others are excelling in places like Hyderabad and Pune. Arnab Goswami, an Assamese, heads Times Now, toi’s foray into TV news. Why, even in management and business circles, Nazeeb Arif, secretary general of the Indian Chamber of Commerce, is a boy from Assam. Rupam Borah is an important decision-maker in the competitive world of advertising. Three successive chairmen-cum-managing directors of India’s largest company, ongc, have been from this region.

Even the state governments, often criticised for being corrupt, slothful and indifferent to the needs of the common people, show results in the most unexpected manners. Two examples should suffice: community education in Nagaland and computer literacy programmes for schools in Assam.

Community education is a novel initiative of the government of Nagaland that has developed a synergy between the community and the government. This programme has created a sense of ownership of public institutions and better management of limited resources. The Nagaland Communitisation of Public Institutions and Services Act, 2002, to cover power, water supply and education sectors empowers the community to own, manage and control government schools by vesting them with legal powers and responsibilities (see more in a separate story). In neighbouring Assam, an ambitious computer literacy programme named after Rajiv Gandhi has started imparting free computer education to more than four lakh students in 630 government higher secondary schools.

Ratan Thiyam is a renowned name in theatre circles worldwide. The latest to make a splash in the international arena is an unlikely Tibetan monk. Ngawang Tashi Bapu, who has been nominated for a Grammy in the ‘Best Traditional Music Category’, is based at the Centre for Himalayan Culture and Studies at Dahung, in Arunachal Pradesh. Lama Tashi had been the principal chant master of the Dalai Lama’s Drepung Loseling Monastery in south India before returning to Arunachal to take up his present assignment in early 2004.
We in the media have failed to focus on our achievers and positive events because that takes time, energy and money. Instead, we concentrate on law and order, killings, insurgency and all things negative
The multi-phonic chants for which the Lama has gained so much acclaim are a ‘’totally different kind of music,’’ as he says. It’s a genre that is beginning to make waves in the West. Lama Tashi will fly to the US next week for the 48th annual Grammy Awards function, where Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera, Sheryl Crow, U2, Bruce Springsteen and Eric Clapton are also expected to participate. In Dahung, Bomdila and Tawang, the younger monks are holding special prayers for their musical guru so that he can return victorious.

Most of us in the media have failed to focus on them since profiling achievers, writing about positive events and doing development reports takes time, energy and money. Instead, we tend to concentrate more on law and order, killings, insurgency and all things negative. Doing a report on killings and interviewing an underground leader on e-mail is definitely easier than traveling to distant corners of this difficult region and reporting from the spot. Besides, we give disproportionate importance to what politicians say.

Let us learn a lesson from the brave mothers and women of Manipur, who tought the Northeast and the entire nation the great art of relentless non-violent struggle: in the anti-liquor struggle, in the self-identity movement, in the huge, protracted protests after Manorama’s rape and murder by Assam Rifles men, and in the concerted fight against the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which goes on till this day. When the police fires indiscriminately, the mothers stand as vanguard; when a woman’s dignity is violated, mothers strip themselves in front of the Assam Rifles headquarters. From the fine, classical arts to the classical struggles in Manipur, are we ready to uphold this great narrative of hope and courage for the whole world to see?

First Published Feb 2006

Neglected, Deprived North-east:  
Is it the Whole Truth?

There are two very popular and convenient views in New Delhi about India’s north-east.
One view is that the region, comprising the seven states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh,
Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipur and Tripura, is the country’s pampered child.
That the Centre has been pouring in disproportionate amount of money into the region,
which is ultimately misutilized. The second school of thought holds that New Delhi and
New Delhi alone is responsible for the economic backwardness of the region and that the
neglect by the Centre is monumental.

The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in between.

The region has indeed suffered from so much neglect and apathy in the past that it is
next to impossible to catch up with other parts of India. Therefore to say, as former
Mizoram Governor, Amlok Ratan Kohli said at a seminar that “the north-east is a spoilt
child of the Centre,” is also a bit exaggerated.

Yes, all the seven states in the region are granted a “special category” status by the
Government of India which means these States receive 90 per cent of Plan assistance as
a grant, and just 10 per cent as a loan, as against the norm of 30 per cent grant and 70
per cent loan for other States. As former journalist and first minister heading the
Department for Development of North Eastern Region (DONER), Arun Shourie was

wont to remark: “Funds are never a problem. Proper and timely utilization of the
allocated money is.”

And yet every state in the northeast is facing bankruptcy. Consider some more facts:

Fifty-six years after Independence, five of the seven state capitals in the region are not
connected by rail. Itanagar, Kohima and Shillong (all State capitals) do not have a proper
airport even now. The entire North-east has to import essential goods worth nearly Rs.
2,500 crore annually since the states in the region have not modernized their agricultural

Nearly 55 per cent of India’s tea production, 60 per cent of its plywood (till the timber
felling ban came) and a substantial part of its oil is produced in the region but not even a
tiny percentage of the profits is re-invested here.

Vital sectors like education, health care and communication are still in the primitive
state in the region.

Nothing illustrates the neglect of the North-east by the Centre like the figures of funds
released by All India financial institutions. Between 1996 and 2006, out of the Rs
72,000 crore plus sanctioned by these institutions, Assam got a measly 221 crore,
Nagaland received Rs. 4 crore and the rest of the states went without a single paise. All
the states in the region are today heavily in debt; Assam’s internal debt in fact stands at a
staggering Rs. 10,000 crore plus. Another development indicator, the credit deposit ratio
of commercial banks for all the states in the region at 26.9 is substantially lower than the
all-India average of 62.3.

Who is to blame for this mess? Not the Centre alone surely. After all, 10 per cent of each
of the Central ministries’ budget is earmarked for development of the region. Where does
the money go then? In reality, the isolation and backwardness of the North-east has as
much to do with the Centre’s failure to monitor the funds utilization as with failure of
local leadership and the lack of initiative on part of its own people.

For years, a section of the leadership and the educated elite among the North-Eastern
states, have become willing partners with the ‘exploiter’ class from Delhi. Today, the
entire North-east is dependent upon rest of India more than it ever was. There is no
internal revenue generation worth the name in these states, private enterprise is more an
exception than a rule and a majority of the population is dependant upon the
government one way or the other. Insurgency, political instability and unending violence
keep the region on a perpetual boil.

A high-profile study group constituted by the Ministry of Home Affairs in 2002 to draw
up a 25-year vision on development of the North-east has made some interesting
observations on the current state of affairs in the region. It blames corruption,
insurgency and “contractor Raj,” for the turmoil in the seven states of the region. “A
parallel system of governance by the insurgents on the one hand and ministers, MLAs,
the bureaucracy and police on the other, is responsible for the political instability and
backwardness in the North-east,” SK Agnihotri, Chairman of North-east Study Group
(NESG) has said. Former IAS and IPS officers like K. Saigal and KPS Gill besides retired
Lt. Gen SK Pillai were members of this group.

The group felt that the entire system of governance is in a state of collapse in the region.
“Whatever money comes into the region for development ends up in the hands of a
chosen few,” former senior bureaucrat Saigal said. The militants then get a major share
out of this, he pointed out. This happens mainly because of an inappropriate

development model, the group said wherein, the money gets concentrated in the hands
of contractors and suppliers instead of trickling down to the masses.

The region is clearly trapped in a vicious circle, which, despite best attempts, no one has
been able to break so far.

Economist Jayanta Madhab, formerly with the Asian Development Bank traces the
region’s problem to the country’s partition. “Northern India suffered heavily in terms of
lives lost during the turbulent period of partition, but the east and the North-east took a
body blow in terms of infrastructure and links to the mainland,” he points out. In one
stroke of his blue pencil, Sir Cyril Radcliffe isolated the region from the rest of India. As a
result, the region’s seven states are now connected to the main body through a 20 km
wide ‘Chicken’s neck’ corridor running through North Bengal. This has added to the
isolation of the North-east. For example, in the days of pre-partition era, residents of
Tripura could reach Calcutta overnight. Today, it takes a minimum of 60 hours to do the
same by road.

So the region’s first problem is isolation. Physical isolation has aggravated the already
existing mental quarantine. The British, as a deliberate policy followed the dictum leave-
them-alone in splendid segregation. The new rulers in post-independent India refined it
further by applying the yardstick out-of-sight-out-of-mind. The result: armed uprising in
many parts of the North-east. Contrary to general perception outside the North-east,
most of the insurrections in the region, except the Naga insurgency, are direct fallout of
this neglect of the area by the ruling class both in Delhi and in the region. Large-scale
misuse of Central funds has widened the gap between the haves and the have-nots
resulting in frustration among the youngsters. This frustration has often found
expression in the swelling ranks of the militant organization across the region. At last
count there are some 40-armed militant groups operating in the region.

According to conservative estimates, there are 20 lakh educated unemployed youths in
the region. So far the government has been the main employer. With time, however, jobs
in the government are becoming few and far in between. Naturally, with hardly any
employment available outside the government, the youths do not need much
encouragement to take to arms since it provides easy money when you have a gun in
hand. Insurgency today, therefore, has become a big business in the North-east. One
educated estimate of the turnover in this ‘industry’ puts the figure at something like Rs.
250 crore annually!

The question is: Why has it happened? There are no clear-cut answers, but endemic
corruption and poor management of funds are the two main reasons identified by many
analysts. The funding pattern, evolved over the years has given rise to a nouve rich class
comprising mainly of the corrupt politicians, a section of bureaucrats and businessmen
in the region.

The other issue is, people in the North-east have been indoctrinated by their leaders to
look at themselves as victims of a conspiracy hatched by Central leaders and people of
rest of India in general. The truth is, no one has the time or inclination to do so. The
reality is several other states in the country are also suffering neglect and poverty as
those in the North-east. In some cases like Orissa, Jharkhand and Bihar, the human
development and poverty indices are worse than those in the North-east. For example,
Orissa’s poverty ratio at 47.15 per cent is far higher than Assam at 36.09 per cent. Or
Bihar’s poverty ratio at 42.60 per cent is much above any of the north-eastern states.
Even the credit deposit ratio in Bihar, Orissa or Jharkhand, is lower than the north-
eastern states. So why should the north-eastern states only get special attention, asks one

section of planners. My answer to that is: the North-east needs extra and focused
attention simply because they are the bulwark against balkanization of India. Having
said that, even the people of the North-east must admit that over the past decade,
matters have certainly improved in terms of more funds, focused attention and more
awareness about the region. And yet, we keep complaining about step-motherly
treatment. We, in the North-east must ask ourselves: Are we protesting only for the sake
of protesting?

So, have we lost the North-east forever? Many optimists, like me, are convinced that the
North-east has several things going for itself to catch up with the rest of the country.
Unlike most other states, the North-east has a very high percentage of literacy. This itself
should be a major strength. All that this pool of manpower resources needs is proper
direction. Take the natural resources available with the region. Arunachal Pradesh has
so much of water resources available that it can produce about 30,000 MW of electricity
through hydel projects. This energy is not only sufficient to feed the region’s states but
also to export to the neighbouring countries as well.

Another point that the North-east has in its favor is the proximity to South-east Asia.
Identified by economic experts as the boom area of the 21st century, South-east Asia is
best accessed from North-east India. The big question however is, who will do this? Not
retired mandarins. Not people from MHA. Not people from rest of India.

Ultimately, it is the civil society, well-meaning politicians and committed bureaucrats,
who will have to take up the lost cause and bring the North-east out of its current mess.
Only then the rest of India will start looking at the North-east more seriously. Only then
others will start treating the North-east not as an exotic faraway entity but as an integral
part of the idea that is India. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

India's Sri Lanka dilemma--reflected here

Statement by External Affairs Minister in Rajya Sabha on “The Situation in Sri Lanka”

March 14, 2012

Hon’ble Chairman,

I rise to inform the House on “The Situation in Sri Lanka”.

At the outset, allow me to convey that I fully share the concerns and sentiments raised by the Hon’ble Members of this august House regarding the welfare of Sri Lankan Tamils.

2. The end of the long period of armed conflict in Sri Lanka in May 2009, left around 3,00,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) living in camps in Northern Sri Lanka and general devastation of infrastructure in the affected areas.

3. Since the end of conflict in Sri Lanka, the focus of Government of India has been on the welfare and well being of the Tamils citizens of Sri Lanka. Their resettlement and rehabilitation have been of the highest and most immediate priority for the Government.

4. The Prime Minister, in June 2009 immediately after the conflict announced a grant of Rs. 500 crores for relief, rehabilitation and resettlement work in Sri Lanka. The Government of India has implemented and continues to implement a wide range of projects covering assistance projects for IDPs in the areas of housing, de-mining, education, connectivity, livelihood restoration, economic revival, etc. We have been informed by representatives of Sri Lankan Tamils that the tractors, seeds and agricultural implements gifted by the Government of India have greatly benefited the people in the area.
5. India also announced the construction of 50,000 houses, mainly for IDPs in Sri Lanka. During my visit to Sri Lanka in January 2012, I handed over first lot of completed houses to the beneficiaries at Ariyalai, Jaffna and Kilinochchi. These houses have been constructed under a pilot project for construction of 1000 houses. As of end-February 2012, a total of 365 houses had been completed, another 370 houses completed up to roof level and 230 houses completed up to lintel level. It may also be kept in mind that construction is taking place in largely inaccessible areas, which in many cases has to be freed of mines and other explosive ordinance and cleared of jungle.

6. In December 2011, the Cabinet approved the modalities for construction and repair of the remaining 49,000 houses. A Memorandum of Understanding for construction of these houses was signed between India and Sri Lanka on 17th January 2012 in Colombo. The project is expected to be completed within three years of commencement of work on the ground.

7. In addition to houses, I also gifted bicycles to IDPs and handed over hospitals and schools rehabilitated under the assistance of the Government of India in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka.

8. I would like to underline that it is mainly as a result of our constructive engagement with the Government of Sri Lanka and our considerable assistance programme that a modicum of normalcy is beginning to return to the Tamil areas in Sri Lanka. There has also been progress given the withdrawal of emergency regulations by the Government of Sri Lanka and the conduct of elections to local bodies in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka.
Hon’ble Chairman,

9. Our primary objective in all that we are doing in Sri Lanka is to ensure the welfare and wellbeing of Sri Lankan Tamils, including IDPs, and to assist in the reconstruction and development of areas affected by the conflict.

Hon’ble Chairman,

10. Several Hon’ble Members of the House have raised the issue of alleged human rights violations during the protracted conflict in Sri Lanka and on the US-initiated draft resolution on ‘Promoting Reconciliation and Accountability in Sri Lanka’ at the ongoing 19th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

11. Concerns have been expressed by various quarters on allegations of human rights violations, including as shown in the Channel 4 documentaries; it is the responsibility of the Sri Lankan Government, in the first instance to investigate and inquire into them through a transparent process.

12. We understand that the Government of Sri Lanka has initiated a series of measures, including appointment of a Cabinet Sub-committee to monitor implementation of the proposals in the National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) and reactivating the National Police Commission, in line with the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) report. Separately, the Sri Lankan defence authorities are reported to have appointed a Court of Inquiry to look into allegations of human rights violations as required by the LLRC report.
13. The Government of India has, nonetheless, emphasised to the Government of Sri Lanka the importance of a genuine process of reconciliation to address the grievances of the Tamil community. In this connection, we have called for implementation of the recommendations in the Report of the LLRC that has been tabled before the Sri Lankan Parliament. These include various constructive measures for healing the wounds of the conflict and fostering a process of lasting peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.

14. We have been assured by the Government of Sri Lanka, including during my visit to Sri Lanka in January this year, of its commitment towards pursuit of a political process, through a broader dialogue with all parties, including the Tamil National Alliance, leading to the full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution, so as to achieve meaningful devolution of powers and genuine national reconciliation. We hope that the Government of Sri Lanka recognising the critical importance of this issue acts decisively and with vision in this regard. We will remain engaged with them through this process and in the spirit of partnership encourage them to take forward the dialogue with the elected representatives of the Sri Lankan Tamils.

15. Hon’ble Members may be aware that the Sri Lankan authorities had said they would be happy to receive an all party delegation of Members of both Houses of our Parliament. We are working to undertake such a visit at the earliest.

Hon’ble Chairman,
16. Several Members have raised the issue of a draft resolution initiated by USA at the ongoing 19th Session of the UN Human Rights Council at Geneva on the issue of reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka.

17. I would like to highlight here that on such sensitive issues we will need to consider the implications of our actions carefully. Any assertions on our part may have implications on our historically friendly relations with a neighbouring country. We would also need to examine whether our actions will actually assist in the process of reconciliation in Sri Lanka, and enhance the current dialogue between the Government of Sri Lanka and Tamil parties, including the Tamil National Alliance.

18. As far as our position on the resolution is concerned, we are engaged with all parties in an effort to achieve a forward looking outcome that is based on reconciliation and accountability rather than deepening confrontation and mistrust between the concerned parties. I may mention that the issue of human rights allegations against Sri Lanka is yet to come up for formal discussion at the 19th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. A view on this issue will be taken as and when the time is finalized for consideration of the draft resolution on Sri Lanka in the UN Human Rights Council.

Hon’ble Chairman,

19. I, therefore, would like to inform this House that our objectives, as always, continue to remain the achievement of a future for the Tamil community in Sri Lanka that is marked by equality, dignity, justice and self-respect.
20. I may assure the House that the Government will bear in mind the views and sentiments expressed in this House, and once a final view is taken Government will keep the Parliament informed.

Thank you,

New Delhi
March 14, 2012

Sri Lanka wants Home-grown solution to Tamil issue!

As the controversy over the video allegedly showing Tamil Tigers' Chief V. Prabhakaran's 12-year old son Balachandran being shot in cold blood on the last day of Eelam War IV on May 18, 2009, rages, the Sri Lankan government is seemingly on the defensive.

I did a short interview with him on Monday much before the story gathered momentum in the Indian media on Tuesday. Here's the transcript. Read on.

Nitin Gokhale: Nearly three years after the Sri Lankan forces decimated the LTTE militarily, fresh human rights violations allegations have resurfaced in the West against the Sri Lankan forces. How does Sri Lanka intend to tackle these allegations and how does it respond to the resolution that is being sought to be moved by the United States in the UNHRC at Geneva  later this month alleging human right violations in Sri Lanka. To answer those questions we have with us, Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to India Prasad Kariyawasam.

Sri Lanka is once again facing these allegations how does Sri Lanka intend to tackle these fresh allegations about human rights violation. What is your response?

Prasad Kariyawasam: Well, it is very surprising why such things are coming up because after defeating this abominable terrorist group three years ago, we want a path of reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation and for that purpose we were looking at what we call restorative justice not retributive justice. Retribution is not in our grain and for that purpose we set up for what we call Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, an independent commission with lot of good credentials to come up with ideas to search for all the solutions as well as address the context of the conflict and to come up with the recommendations. And as we expected, they have now come with the report which has lot of good elements commended by international community themselves and we want time to work on those matters. And in time like that international non-governmental and some governments in the west seek to intervene and try to force of hand in Sri Lanka is something to my mind is misplaced and ill-judged. it does not help in our path of step by step reconciliation.

Nitin Gokhale: What do you think of these new allegations that Prabhakaran's 12-year old son was killed in cold blood by the Sri Lankan forces?

Prasad Kariyawasam: That is by Channel 4, this is the second time channel 4 in UK has come up with such allegations. Like the first set of productions, this is also unsubstantiated, uncorroborated and not been checked by any authority and we think is concoction. And we would not welcome it because that part of the war was unclear, it was incomplete and to that purpose to set up some examination of what happened, Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission has made some recommendations and govt and our parliament is now in the process of looking at those things and take step by step measures as they are recommended and we want home grown solutions. We are a democracy for the last sixty years. We are responsible govt, and our govt leaders have to be elected, so they will take this thing step by step like other democracies like say India. And we don’t need this extra regional intervention in our region. We can very well work with India and other friendly nations. We will find solutions, this is what uncalled for. 

Nitin Gokhale: What about the UNHRC resolution that is being moved by the United states against Sri Lanka. What do you think is going to happen there and what is going to be Sri Lankan stand there?

Prasad Kariyawasam: Sri Lanka does not welcome UN involvement in our reconciliation process at this point. I think we are on a right path, we think we have to come up with a home grown solution. We need to talk to our own political parties, own people and have to come up with a understanding that will serve us for the future. UN by trying to force or hand, or US trying to use force to speed up the process is counter-productive. We want to do it at our own pace, we need time and space, that is all we are asking. LLRC has recommended some things, the govt is in the process of looking at it and come up with an idea as to how to.... already some recommendations have been implemented. We have been looking at other things as well, and to our mind, this whole effort is to satisfy a particular lobby and that lobby is Tamil expatriate lobby who used to support LTTE  who are stunned by the defeat of the LTTE and are now using western electoral power at their hand to force our hand.

A veteran soldier's lament--Must Read

*Letter dt 09 Feb 2012 to Mr Salman Khurshid*
*Honble Minister Of Law & Justice*
*By Lt Gen (Retd) SK Bahri*

1.           Thank you for your DO letter No MLJ/2011-125 dated *6 Jan 2012*.
I am glad that you have got the urgency and sense of frustration which I
was trying to convey in my letter dated 14 Nov 2011. What is heartening is
that you cared to reply even though it was not directly addressed to you.
Grateful for your offer to try and persuade your colleagues to help our
cause.  I did get an acknowledgement from Mr AK Antony, RM saying that he
has noted the points made by me. But knowing the people who craft the
actions of MOD, I do not expect any positive action from that quarter. It
seems that you did so because you as Minister Of Law & Justice felt that
something was related to your charge.  Truly it does!

2.           If you are aware of the judgements that the Supreme Court,
various High Courts and the Armed Forces Tribunals have passed in favour of
veterans you will notice that there is one thing very evident ie. the
government has been consistently *resisting* the implementation of the
crystal clear orders of the Honble entities. The excuses are many which you
can easily ascertain from your senior law officers, who represent the
government in these courts. Largely the counter petitions are designed to
frustrate and tire an aging veteran community, till they give up in
disgust. Even though law is on the veterans side they are being denied
justice. Mr Minister this is where you come in. As you are the Minister of
Law & *Justice.*

3.           *Please carry out an audit of all the cases* your law officers
are defending in all the courts mentioned by me above and decide, in an
expeditious manner, if they are being pursued only because the bureaucracy
is trying to prove the point that it has to lord over the defence services,
however discriminatory it may be. The serving and the retired soldiers *are
totally disillusioned* with the government, specially the political set up,
for not protecting them from *a rapacious bureaucracy*. Imagine, the
judgement given by the Supreme Court on 8 Mar 2010 regarding payment to
officers of the rank of Majors to Brigadiers, rank pay due to them from the
5th Pay Commission onwards is being contested on the plea that it involves
too many calculations to work out the dues of so many veterans that it may
take years, so the order is not implementable!  This is plea given after
numerous adjournments due to the absence of the Attorney General. Is the
government still living in the pre calculator age and not aware that we are
an IT power? According to experts, the whole exercise should not take not
more than 3 months! Mr Minister please put some sense into the heads of
these born obstructionists. The beneficiaries are only old soldiers or
their widows.

4.           The IAS is responsible for putting India  amongst the bottom
few of the worlds most corrupt countries. IPS is a law unto itself and
people fear it and stay away from it rather than go to it for help. But
every IAS man retires as an Additional secretary and an IPS man retires as
an IG Police, at the minimum. While even after 63 years 60 % of officers
retire as Lt Cols. Their edge in pay and pension having been eroded by a
relentless campaign by the bureaucracy against soldiers, supported by
condescending politicians.

5.           I thank you for all the compliments you have paid soldiers
like me for protecting the country from our external enemies but please Mr
Salman Khurshid, *protect us from our enemies within*. Thats the least you
can do. We are a bit cheesed off by the platitudes being heaped on us
during the Republic Day and Independence Day celebrations and instead want
to see them converted into action.

*Mr Salman Khurshid*
Honble Minister Of Law & Justice

*CC**:   *Mr AK Antony