Sunday, April 27, 2008

Bangalore Airport - Daylight Dacoity

I suspect I'll get some heat for my rant here, but here me out.

For those of us who are celebrating the imminent opening of the Bangalore International Airport as a truly Indian achievement, the delays and the recent AAI strike should sober us down a bit, or at least get people thinking. The fact that the consortium wanted to pen the airport when the even runway and ATC were not completed should be a big concern. The strike may very well have been too little too late, and was probably politically motivated. After all, who can forget the eons it took to get the project off the ground, so much so that even the Prime Minister and Infosys Narayanamurthy had to intercede on its behalf.

But behind all that cheer about us getting an Indian Changi, and how efficient the new airport will be, its just a dream of mirrors. Heres why:

1. Commute - The airport is 40 km away from the city centre. Imagine how much that will cost per person. The planned airport shuttle train from High Grounds will cost Rs. 250 per person.

If you wish to take a taxi, its 29 km from High grounds, and 45 from J.P. Nagar side. Now multiply that two way, and you can see your pockets lighter by 600-1000 Rs. It might be slightly cheaper by Auto, but it wouldn't really matter.

You cant really expect to travel by bus with all the luggage, but even then, there should be some shuttle bus service, shouldn't there? Well guess what; there is. BMTC will provide bus service from different points in the city. The catch of course is the cost- It will cost 135 Rs to get from South Bangalore to the Airport. A taxi will cost Rs 600. Obviously, its the same cost if you're travelling with friends or family. And if you're flying low cost carriers, you may very well end up spending the same cost getting to the airport itself.

The road itself isn't that bad, as made out to be. There is a pretty good 6-lane Highway all the way to the airport, and beyond; and is being widened to 10 lanes to accommodate the increased traffic. The only question is whether that would be enough. The problem really is the last 2 km from the highway into the airport, where a cloverleaf junction is being built. Its not ready yet, and is unlikely to be for at least another two months.

The time of travel is another thing - it will take at least an hour or more to get to the airport (2 and a half, if you're travelling from South Bangalore), and another 1-1/2 hours once inside there. So if you're flying to Chennai, it might be faster and much cheaper to just take a bus. And you can forget about flying to Mysore - it ain't worth it.

2. Drop-off - After a long and tiring ride to the airport, encountering jammed roads throughout, you'd expect some respite at least, or a chance to sit and say a half-decent bon voyage. There again, you will be disappointed. Non passengers aren't allowed inside the terminal, and just like the present airport, will have to see the passengers off at the entrance itself.

There is no place to even sit, no seats, no benches. BIAL says there will be food stalls outside, which is a small relief. But with no seats, and so little space, its hard to see how this will not end up looking like a railway platform. Hustle, bustle, people running to the gates, non-passengers seeing off or picking up people, no place to sit... you can imagine. If the arrival flight is delayed, god help you if you're not the passenger but the welcoming committee.

And if you expect some shelter from the heat or rain, don't count on it, what with so much rush and so little space. So god forbid, if you end up getting caught in the rain, throw the passenger out of the car with his luggage, and scoot... that way, you might even end up saving the not-so-small Parking Fee. Of course, there wont be any skirting the hefty entry fee that BIAL is sure to soon levy as another 'User development fee'.

3. Refreshments - Now you're obviously thinking that there should be at least some hotel or rest area. No great airport is complete without it. And you won't be disappointed. If you're a millionaire that is. Hilton Hotels will be building a hotel at the airport. So expect to have your wallet considerably lightened by the experience.

Don't expect any drinking water points or toilets either - its probably hard to fit in civic amenities when your aim is to develop something for cheap and rip money from the passengers who don't have any other choice. Its unlikely that you'll find a Darshini there either. Even though there will be some food courts at the drop-off area, if the rates at HAL airport are anything to go by, the food at any stall in BIAL would not come cheap. So pack your own food and get your own chairs. In fact, if you are so finicky about money, stay at home and let the traveler hitchhike his way to the airport.

4. Inside the Terminal - If you expect a Changi out of BIAL, dont hold your breath over it. The terminal isn't grand, and will certainly not take your breath away. Sure, the terminal is one big building that will be able to handle 11 million passengers annually. But I would have liked to see something that looked more colorful, with better furnishing, rather than the sparse factory-floor look that it has now.

The 54 Check-in counters are modern and will be integrated, that is, there will not be an airline specific, and anyone can check in anywhere. There will not be any messy and time-consuming pre-screening of the baggage - it is all done after check-in, in an automated luggage transfer system which will have a 3-level security screening, in line with most modern airports.

Then, you take a lift or escalator up a level to the main departure area. The immigrations and customs will also be a breeze, like in the present airport (its not sarcasm. The upgradation work on the Immigration counter has made the process smooth as hell). There will obviously be the premium priced shops for super-rich travellers. And thats where the comfort ends. and rows and rows of seats that can seat 10-12 plane-loads of travellers, like on a railway station platform.

Unfortunately, for an airport that claims to be built to cater to 11 million people a year, the planning doesn't seem to show that. For one, the terminal is far too narrow. There is far too little room between the escalators and the customs counters, which means that on a busy day, there will be massive pileups at the escalator area, which is a big safety concern, especially if people on the escalator have no space to get off.

There are only 4 small escalators and two small 8-man lifts along the whole terminal, and it certainly doesn't seem equipped to take the traffic load. And if one escalator does break down, the stampede at the only staircase would be worse than a cricket stadium gate during the World Cup Finals.

The final crib till I get a better look at the Airport - it doesn't have a nice big information board that most airports have. Imagine people searching for and trying to crowd around the small LCD TVs that BIAL says it will install. Not a nice sight.

5. Arriving in BIA - Arriving passengers at the airport will surely have a better experience than they have at the present airport. For one, no more ducts and pipes; and much better shopping. But there are a few issues. One, for a facility thats looking at becoming a major player in the Air travel market, and hopes to become a major hub for transit passengers, the infrastructure is shockingly inadequate. For one, there is no transit hotel or lounges for passengers. In fact, even in the master plan, there is no mention of a hotel. The only option for those on long layovers is if they have a India visa, they can stay at the Hilton. Otherwise, very sorry mate, but its the waiting seats for you.

Once they exit the plane, the passengers will have to walk through a narrow passageway and take a set of stairs down (overcrowding problem here as well), after which they will walk through a small area to collect their luggage... it looks more like a warehouse than it does a modern airport. The walk from the gates to he immigrations counter is a narrow passageway, and unlike the rest of the airport, is quite dark. The number of counters also seems a bit too small to handle peak hour rush.

The baggage collection area itself is as bad as HAL. See the picture.. there are only 4 carousels - 3 for domestic passengers and 1 for international arrivals - not nearly enough for a 'hub' which must handle 11 million people a year and up to 50 million passengers (when Phase 2 is complete).

6. Expansion plans - Which brings us to the so-called "BIAL Master Plan". Essentially, with 4000 acres of land and such a small terminal, BIAL has so much free land that they dont know what to do with it. There will be another runway and another terminal just like the present one, with an underground train linking them. They finally hope to have 60-80 gates, but looking at the present terminal, I find it hard to believe that their 50 million target is achievable. The present airport can handle 11 million, but only just. cranking that number up four and a half times with only a doubling in capacity will need a lot more planning and building.

They have 250 hectares of land which they plan to lease out to developers for building malls, tech parks, hotels, flats, and what not. Space that could have been used to plan for a third terminal (when the traffic will easily increase to about 35-40 million passengers per year), is being diverted to make money for the builders. No problem with it- after all, they also have to make money. The issue crops up when they decide that the money comes before user comfort. Additionally, the present number of beltways is nowhere close to anything needed for a full scale international airport. Right now, International flight timings are strictly limited. But if we want a truly international airport, these restrictions are a bad thing. In order to remove these restrictions, the airport needs more infrastructure.

7. Show me the Money - Finally, looking at the money, its clear that BIAL stands to make a killing - they've got a 60 year lease at the nominal amount, they have a 150 km no-airport zone (although, if the HAL airport continues to function, that will change for the better), and they have large tracts of land to give away to developers. Finally, above all that, they are overcharging the already-burdened passengers for using the airport. This after the poor sod (me included) pays through his nose so that the Airlines can pay through their noses to the Airport - higher fuel charges (not completely the airport's fault of course), Berthing charges, MRO charges and other misc. payments. And these fat fees will be borne by the passenger, who has to spend another 500 Rs just getting to the airport.

Now, if 8 million passengers pass through the airport each year, and about 20% of them are international passengers, who pay 1000/- Rs as User Development Fee, and the local passengers about 500/- Rs. That comes up to 480 Crore Rs. each year. Which means that BIAL can easily recoup their investment within 5 years AT MOST. And thats counting only the UDF!!! Imagine the amount of money they're rolling in with the Airline fees an land development money coming in. And now figure out why passengers are unhappy.

The Positives:

Now, before you get the impression that I'm all rant and no admiration, hold that thought. BIA is very well developed, and certainly does look good, at least from the outside. Its miles better than HAL, whose exposed pipes and AC ducts give one the feeling that he's a piece of luggage being transported. The airport will also be much cleaner and presentable than the present one.

The airport is extremely well lit, with a whole load of energy saving and eco-friendly features to cope with this post-Inconvenient Truth world. the large number of check-in counters means that no one will need to wait more than 10 minutes to check in. The check-in counters will not be airline specific, which means check-in anywhere. This is a good idea, but may be a problem for passengers who are in a hurry or when airline-specific counters is needed. Mind you, even most of the best airports today do not have common check-in yet.

It may also not look favorable compared to other airports around the world. For one, the amount of money spent, 2000 crore Rs., is far less than other countries spend on their airports; so it might be a little hypocritical asking for wine while paying beer money. But then, for a city that wants to call itself modern and world class, we should have paid a lot more to build a better airport, especially when even a smaller city in China has a billion dollar swanky airport that stuns everyone who enters. Look at the new Beijing Airport, and you get an idea of the pride they take in building these edifices. We've built functional, stripped-down airports; the Chinese make them functional, and then add a billion dollars to make it an architectural marvel.

What I think:

Overall, the Terminal building itself is reasonably modern looking. Its not a bad looking building at all. My grouse is that they built it so conservatively, and even after that, didn't make it functional enough, which will make it crowded and difficult to navigate around very soon. Even after that, they're overcharging the passengers. I think it won't be too long before the honeymoon and glitter wears off, and large numbers of passengers end up grumbling. The problem isn't the airport building per se, but the whole experience for the users. Its an expensive experience, and I think it won't be a comfortable one either. At least not unless BIAL decides to make some drastic changes to their operating paradigm.

Photos used with permission of Flickr user Photoyogi, from the BIAL visit photoset.

See Also:

Bangalore Praja:

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Paying for security

This isn't a post with my opinions in it; just a couple of news reports that I found very interesting. Unfortunately for our Armed Forces, this year hasn't been a good one for them, personally that is. After getting peanuts from the Budget (where else do you think Chidu-burr-rum, our educated and erudite, but ultimately spineless Finance Minister got the money for his sops to buy votes next year?), they've been screwed over by the Pay Commission.

The Armed Forces, after years of silent forbearing, finally decided that enough was enough - the men, at least. Thankfully, the Government, alarmed by the 200 high grade officers who put in their papers, decided to take a look and placate them. The Defence budget though, was somewhat forgotten...

In all the hoopla about the budget, most channels only had time to say that the defence budget had been hiked. What they conveniently forgot to mention was that overall percentage-wise, the budget actually fell, and alarmingly, to less than 2% of GDP. India should ideally spend around 3% of GDP on defence. This is a truly terrifying prospect when we consider that China is spending three times our own spending on its forces; and combined with its clamour over Tawang, the hard-nosed rhetoric from Beijing and its expanding tentacles across our Sphere of influence, it should have woken up the government to the threat that's been knocking on our door for some time now. Unfortunately, the sloth over essential defence deals seems to suggest otherwise.

Now, finally, the MPs have taken up the issue in parliament:

MPs want defence spending to match buildup by Pak, China

Concerned over the "sharp decline" in India's air and naval assets, members in Lok Sabha on Tuesday demanded a hike in defence spending to match the military build up by China and Pakistan. This was for the first time in more than 10 years that Lok Sabha took up for voting the Demands for Grants of the Defence Ministry which were earlier guillotined along with most of the Demands for Grants.

Participating in the discussion, members made a strong pitch for hiking India's defence spending in GDP terms to speed up acquisitions and modernisation of the armed forces. They said though India's defence spending had been considerably increased, the country had yet not been able to bring its air and naval power to the authorised level.

"This is a matter of grave concern," T P S Rawat, a retired Lt Gen and a new BJP member, said initiating the debate and demanded that the military expenditure be sustained at three per cent of the GDP for some years to enable India to equip its forces with advanced weapons systems and platforms.

Pointing out that in 2004-05 the defence budget was 2.41 per cent of the GDP, while for the current fiscal it was just 1.99 per cent of the GDP, Rawat said such a trend would have adverse impact on defence preparedness of the country.

He said government should bear in mind the budgetary allocations of Pakistan (3.5 per cent of GDP) and China (4.3 per cent of GDP) which are developing nuclear arsenal and anti-missile technologies, a potential threat to the country.

Lets hope that the Government actually takes their advice. There are far too many critical requirements that are being strangled by red-tape and corruption. I'm scared, I admit. Scared at the prospect that we may actually end up losing a war to Pakistan. And I'm sorry to say, if we do have a war within the next 3-4 years, there isn't really much we have to win it with. General Malik's quote, "We'll fight with what we have", will be the only thing that our Generals will have to say then; except that we won't be fighting men on mountaintops with only assault rifles and stingers.

1. Helicopters - The Helicopter deal, which is meant to replace the old Chetaks, and is essential for heliborne operations and transport of supplies. Apart from being essential to keep our Jawans in Siachen and other areas well supplied, in times of war, Military Utility Helicopters play a critical role in quickly moving troops and supplies to areas where they are needed most, moving the wounded out, and acting as critical elements in any high intensity, high mobility warfare.

2. Artillery - Artillery isn't the flashiest element in any operation, but its the most important. The Gulf War wasn't won by Tanks. It was won by Artillery. Kargil was won by the Bofors; the 1967 Nathu-La attacks by the Chinese were beaten back by our strong artillery. The problem is, we only have 350 155 mm guns left. So if there is indeed a war, we won't have anything to stop the enemy; our troops will not get critical fire support. In short, we'll lose. As for wheeled and Self Propelled Artillery pieces, the less said, the better.

Of course, this doesn't really concern our Soniaji, who is more worried about her Munna and her reputation rather than the lives of our Jawans. I can only pray that the next government actually cares.

3. Aircraft - The Chief of Air Staff, ACM Major has warned us that at this rate, our IAF will end up worse than the PAF. This is something that everyone should heed, not ignore as a Cassandra warning. Even when we were strong, Pakistan never hesitated to attack at the smallest sign of weakness. Imagine if we're weaker than them. What if an Islamist government comes to power in Islamabad? We need aircraft, and fast - the 126 aircraft MRCA has taken too long already. Right now, nothing short of a whipping is needed to get our procurement machinery on its wheels.

As for pay, its disgusting that we don't even care for our soldiers who willingly lay down their lives for our safety and prosperity. Forget honoring them, we don't even care to pay them well... And they have most justifiably complained. It is a testament to their dedication and values that they haven't revolted. But having heard their complaints and woes, its only a matter of time before they quit in disgust or throw down their weapons.

And its not only our soldiers, but our scientists as well. The Week has this report:

Brain damage
Strategic scientists feel short-changed by Pay Commission
By R. Prasannan

It was meant to be a cure-all pill. But the Sixth Pay Commission seems to have hit the brain badly. The country's space, atomic and defence scientists-who have launched satellites, are sending a moon probe, building missiles, rockets, warships and tanks-are the most disappointed lot. Worse still, they feel that the Pay Commission's recommendations would render their advanced labs into training ground for foreign companies.

As it is, the strategic science departments have a high attrition rate. Around one-sixteenth of those who join are leaving the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), which has 41 labs dealing with globally-denied missile science to cutting edge-technologies in food preservation. Atomic energy has a sanctioned strength of 35,519 posts, but only 32,855 personnel. The Department of Space is supposed to have 17,386 personnel, but is making do with 14,058.

Scientists feel that the pay panel has given them little more than this lip-service. "There had been proposals to offer incentives to strategic scientists. But I don't see anything of that kind. I think we have missed another opportunity," said Dr Amitav Mallik, former DRDO scientist and member of the National Security Advisory Board.

Scientists had suggested that they be paid one per cent of the contract value of technologies transferred to the industry. This has been rejected. No luck also for a demand for incentives for publishing scientific papers, or for a paltry Rs 20,000-price for filing a patent. Interestingly, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research shares with its own scientists 60 per cent of the royalty received from technologies transferred to industries. A similar demand by strategic scientists has been rejected.

To prevent intellectual stagnation, scientists had demanded that the bright ones among them be encouraged to go on sabbaticals, as university teachers are. The commission rejected this and instead recommended contract appointments to bring about flexibility between government and private sectors. Even a demand for adjunct appointments, as visiting professors in universities, has been turned down.

Scientists point out that very few of their demands have actually been for money. The perks they were asking for were aimed at intellectual advancement, and a more academic career life. "Most demands, on the other hand, were for enhancing the quality of scientific talent available to strategic science laboratories. But the commission seems to have looked at them merely from an accountant's point of view," said an Ahmedabad-based space scientist.

Scientists are peeved that they continue to be treated like administrative personnel. Like the armed forces who have got their special status recognised through a military service pay, they had asked for an intellectual capital pay. This could be effected by amalgamating the three strategic science departments into an India Technical Service with different pay scales and perks. The demands have not even been discussed, though the commission pays lip-service to "the pre-eminent status" of the three strategic scientific services with a separate chapter on them.

Scientists point out that since their promotion system is merit and performance-based, their salaries should reflect the intellectual effort they have to put in. "At higher levels, promotions take place after evaluation by scientists from outside the departments. Since the scrutiny and evaluation is stricter, their work also demands better remuneration," said Dr A. Gopalakrishnan, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.

Even a demand for a hazard allowance for those working on explosives (given to ordnance factory workers) has been turned down. Instead the commission said they could be given insurance, which scientists consider as blood money. Similarly, armed forces personnel deputed to posts like Leh in Ladakh get a high altitude allowance, but defence scientists working along with them in the same field research laboratory don't. "We also go on submarines, work on risky airborne experiments, and conduct field trials in deserts," said a DRDO scientist. He recalled the crash of the experimental Aerial Surveillance Platform 10 years ago in which half a dozen scientists, who were fitting a rodome on an experimental aircraft, died. "If test pilots are given an allowance for flying unproven aircraft, why can't we be extended the same allowance?" he asked.

Many of the younger scientists even suspect that the recommendations have been tailored to suit the interests of multinational R&D companies. "There are not even half a dozen companies in the world who can build jet engines," said a scientist at the Centre for Airborne Systems, Bangalore. "I have been working here for 15 years for the sheer pleasure of being part of a team that develops systems that you won't get even in Europe. I have spurned offers from Lockheed Martin and British Aerospace. I bought my first Maruti three years back. Even a receptionist in those companies drives better cars." Lockheed Martin may get him this year; next year he may be driving a Mercedes. (read more)

And you wonder why DRDO struggles so much?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Daily pill of Defence - 12 April 2008

CBI chargesheets former RAW officer
Yahoo News

The CBI on Wednesday filed a chargesheet against a former senior officer of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) for divulging "top secret" information in his book, which alleged corruption in country's external intelligence agency. Accusing both author Maj Gen (retd) V K Singh and publisher of the book - India's External Intelligence, Secrets of Raw - Vivek Garg, the CBI filed its chargesheet under two different sections of the Official Secret Act, 1923 in the court of Chief Metropolitan Magistrate here. (read more)
Indian Navy reaches North Pole

The Indian Navy team has reached the geographic North Pole at 2016 Hrs (local time) on the night of 9th April 2008. Having created many a records in the past including the successful ascent of Mt. Everest in 2004 and ski traverse to the geographic South Pole in 2006, the team of ten officers and men of Indian Navy set out for a historic ski traverse to The North Pole at 90° North. The team reached North Pole yesterday night, thereby becoming the first ever Indian Team to have successfully ski traversed to both the geographic poles. Three of the ten members have also joined the elite club to successfully complete the “Three Poles” Challenge. (read more)
See Also: MoD Press Release - Times of India - The Statesman - The Telegraph - The Hindu -
French company attempted illegal export of sensitive technology to Iran

Cryostar SAS, formerly known as Cryostar France (”CRYOSTAR”), a French corporation, headquartered in Hesingue, France, has pleaded guilty in a US court to conspiracy, illegal export, and attempted illegal export of cryogenic submersible pumps to Iran. (read more)
Fight for Sadr City a Proving Ground for Iraq Military
Michael R. Gordon, New York Times

The Iraqi soldiers pushed their way up a main thoroughfare in Sadr City over the past week, but the militias that still prowl the Shiite enclave were sniping at them from the alleyways. So a platoon of American troops drove up a bomb-cratered road in their Stryker vehicles on Thursday to give the Iraqis some pointers on how to hold the line.
The struggle for control of Sadr City is more than a test of wills with renegade Shiite militias. It has also become a testing ground for the Iraqi military, which has been thrust into the lead. (read more)
India to invite bids for purchase of 312 helicopters
The Hindu Business Line

Close on the heels of floating multi-billion dollar global tenders for buying long-range artillery guns, India plans to invite international bids for purchase of 312 light helicopters. The tenders for these helicopters, 197 for the army aviati on and another 115 for the air force, are to be floated in the next few days and are estimated to be worth over $2 billion. (read more)
See Also: Times of India - Economic Times - Zee News - Thaindian

Monday, April 7, 2008

Daily pill of Defence - 8 April 2008

Chandipur test site to get a facelift

India's ballistic missile and weapons testing facility in Orissa's Chandipur is being expanded to thrice its present size and modernised to test indigenously-developed weapons for India's defence forces. (read more)
Army gets first Muslim Major General from Kashmir
M. Saleem Pandit,ToI

Ever since Jammu & Kashmir became part of India, there has never been a Kashmiri Muslim general in the Army. This has now been remedied. With the elevation of Brigadier Mohammad Amin Naik to the post of Major General, Kashmiris, who have historically felt alienated from the mainstream, would now have one grievance less. (read more)
China using Sikkim to push Arunachal claim?
Rajat Pandit, ToI

China continues to play cat and mouse game in the eastern Himalayas despite having implicitly accepted Sikkim to be a part of India as a quid pro quo for New Delhi's unequivocal recognition of Beijing's claim over Tibet. There have already been already as many as 40 "intrusions" by Chinese troops across the 206-km border between Sikkim and Tibet since January this year, say top sources. (read more)
A.K. Antony visits Tawang
MoD Press Release

The Defence Minister Shri AK Antony has said ‘infrastructure development in the North East is now a top priority for the Government’. Addressing jawans on his maiden visit to Tawang today, Shri Antony said infrastructure development in the North East will not only contribute to the security of the nation but also accelerate the growth process of this vital region. (read more)
Sri Lanka Minister killed in suicide blast
The Hindu

A powerful Sri Lankan Minister was on Sunday assassinated by suspected LTTE rebels in a suicide attack on a marathon opening that also killed a former Olympian and 12 others while injuring nearly 100, in a bloody start to the strife-torn country's traditional New Year. (read more)
Gates: U.S. May Send More Troops to Afghanistan in 2009

The United States may send more troops to Afghanistan in 2009, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates confirmed on April 4. President Bush said during the NATO summit conference that ended today (April 4) that he expects the United States would make a significant additional contribution to the Afghanistan mission next year, Gates said. (read more)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Our overweight Netas

The cabinet almost unanimously decided that they would not allow an independent committee to decide the salaries of our Members of Parliament. Why would they. After all, giving themselves pay perks is one of the few things that our MPs agree upon at all times. How else would one explain the 26 times they have given themselves a pay rise, compared to the six times that the rest of the suffering government employees have been given a bonus.

So while the Jawans have been begging for a modest pay rise for the past few decades and been disappointed each time, our MP's salaries have jumped almost 25% since 2002. Of course, our Netas have never really cared about our soldiers (or for that matter, anyone else but them), have they?

So how much do our elected representatives earn anyway?

Chacko Joseph has posted a very interesting analysis of how much our great leaders cost us. And the numbers may shock you... After all, these are the very same people who always talk about simplicity, Gandhian ideals, frugality, and talk about their connection with the poor of this nation. Plus, with our Manmohanji's constant bickering for Private sector salaries to reduce, it would be an interesting thing to look at their hypocrisies.

Looks like the Privy purse was not abolished; our leaders commandeered it for themselves. Thats 1300 Crore Rs. per 5 years that we waste on our non-performing leaders.

I have updated the information and made it into an image format.

The Image is small, so click on it to see the full size.

Along with the free tickets, the MPs are further reimbursed money over the ticket cost - for Air Travel (by Business Class of course), they get 25% of the ticket cost, for Rail Travel, its the cost of a second class ticket, and if they travel by steamer, 60% of the ticket cost (for the highest class cabin, of course)

The links on the image are:

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Daily pill of Defence - 6 April 2008

LCA to fly at Berlin Air Show-2008
ILA press release

ILA2008 likely to set new records:

- Over 1,000 exhibitors from more than 40 countries expected.
- Partner country India announces its largest presentation abroad.
- Over 300 aircraft expected.

The partner country at the ILA2008 is India, which has announced its largest-ever presentation at any foreign aerospace show.
Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) of this year’s partner country, India, intends to display its single-engined HJT-36 “Sitara” jet trainer, the light military and civil helicopter “Dhruv” and the “Tejas” light combat aircraft for the first time in Europe.
The Indian Space Research Organisation ISRO will be making its first appearance at the ILA with a review of its wide-ranging work. (read more)
Related Report:
Agni-III ready for retrial on April 27
Hemant Kumar Rout, Newindpress

After the successful test-fire of Agni-I missile by the Army, defence scientists are all set to testlaunch the indigenously developed sophisticated long-range ballistic missile Agni-III in the last week of April. (read more)
'Top' Kashmir militant arrested

Police in Indian-administered Kashmir say they have arrested a top leader of a leading militant group. Junaid-ul-Islam is the third in the hierarchy of the Hizbul Mujahideen and was its spokesman for 15 years. (read more)
See Also: The Hindu
Mastermind of 2005 IISc attack nabbed
Times Now

A man arrested by Uttar Pradesh police along with 5 other militants in February 2008 has admitted to have masterminded the 2005 Bangalore IISc attack. Sabauddin has also revealed to the Bangalore police that it was another man, Abu Hamza who carried out the attack. (read more)
See Also: Times of India - Deccan Herald - Hindustan Times - Sify News
Update on HAL's programmes
Shiv Aroor, Livefist

ALH Dhruv - A new ALH Mk III, with the Shakti engine, will be equipped with a second generation vibration system and glass cockpit. The Home Ministry has placed an order for six ALHs.

Hawk Trainer - HAL will deliver 14 Hawks this year. By end of April or early May, the first Indian Hawk will be rolled out.

HJT-36 IJT - The IJT will be inducted into the IAF by 2009 end.

Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) - The first trial run will be done in December 2008.

MRTA - HAL has tied up with Ilyushin for the Multi-Role Transport Aircraft, a 60-tonne class aircraft. The $600 million cost of development would be on a 50-50 basis.
(read more)
Ignore the comments, read the text. Related News - HAL's revenues topped US$ 2 billion, up by 11%.

Related stories: CNN Money - The Hindu - Domain-b - Economic Times
Dengue Cure discovered in Ayurveda

A recent research done by scholars of Burdwan University in the suburbs of Kolkata has shown that the berries of a wild weed used in Ayurvedic formulation can help to eradicate mosquitoes spreading dengue and act as a resistant to synthetic insecticide. (read more)
See Also: Reuters - - Science Daily
Pakistan gets Swedish early warning aircraft

The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Thursday got first of the five airborne early warning and control system aircraft it ordered from the Swedish Saab, according to a PAF statement. The Saab 2000 Erieye aircraft for the PAF will be put through trials before being delivered to the PAF in 2009, according to officials. (read more)

Friday, April 4, 2008

Daily pill of Defence - 4 April 2008

Tejas: ADA looks to Boeing to provide help
Ravi Sharma, Hindu

The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), the defence laboratory behind the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), could soon be turning to global aerospace major Boeing to help them with the aircraft’s flight testing programme. (read more)
NATO invites Albania, Croatia, Georgia and Ukraine into NATO

Allied leaders decided to invite Albania and Croatia to begin accession talks with NATO. The decision was announced at the Summit meeting of NATO Heads of State and Government in the Romanian capital Bucharest. The Heads of State and Government of the 26 NATO countries held an extraordinary session in the presence of their counterparts from Croatia and Albania to welcome these two new members. (read more)
Its an extremely slippery slope that the heads at Brussels are leading NATO down. Looks like they need to get their priorities right and their heads checked. Or it may just be that they're living 20 years in the past.
New SPG unit to combat snipers
Vishwa Mohan, ToI

In a bid to strengthen its defences against a Lee Harvey Oswald type incident or a 'Day of the Jackal' scenario, the Special Protection Group (SPG) — the elite force providing close security to serving and former prime ministers and their families — will soon have a counter-sniping unit. (read more)
Better late than never... they should have had such a unit a long time ago.
For 4 yrs, VIPs flying unsafe: CAG indicts IAF
Vijay Mohan, The Tribune

While pointing out several infirmities in the acquisition process of aircraft for the Indian Air Force’s VIP squadron, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has revealed that the IAF has been ferrying the country’s leaders in aircraft that have been unsuitable for VIP flights for the past four years. (read more)
INS Kesari (Shardul-class) to be commissioned on April 5
Shiv Aroor, Livefist

INS Kesari (see photos), the Navy's latest amphibious vessel of the Shardul-class will be commissioned into service on April 5 at the IN Jetty at Naval Base, Vizag. The GRSE-built vessel is the second in the Shardul-series of landing ships. (read more)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

PV Narsimha Rao and the Bomb

No doubt that the father of Modern India is PV Narasimha Rao (PVN). One of his best kept secrets was the 1994 incident where US detected Indian test preperations for nuclear test. What happened then? PVN when interviewed said that he will carry the secret to his grave.. which he did.

Then came this report. It really helped put the pieces togther.

Nuclear Scientist Krishnan Santhanam told Times Now TV that the plans to explode the bomb at Pokhran was put on "hold" due to apparent US pressure.

PVN had denied it, he had said that it was not the US pressure but national interest was the reason. here is the other version

Bhuvnesh Chaturvedi, who was the Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office at the time of the 1994 nuke plan, told Times Now that the government was indeed planning for a nuke test, but cited domestic reasons for its deferment.

"We had the capacity to do it, but we did not do it, because the elections were near. We did not want the successive government to bear the brunt. If the government would have continued in power, we could have done it," Chaturvedi said.

Bhuvnesh Chaturvedi seems to be telling the truth. Because as per former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who ordered the nuclear tests
an emotional Vajpayee said when he assumed the Prime Minister's office in 1996 (the 13-day stint), he received a paper from his predecessor urging him to continue the country's nuclear programme.

Rao had asked me not to make it public; but today when he is dead and gone, I wish to set records straight.

In typical Vajpayee fashion, the former Prime Minister went on: Rao told me that the bomb is ready. I exploded it. I did not miss the opportunity.

Its worth quoting C. RAJA MOHAN in his article Portrait of Rao as N-architect

Rao’s mandate to his foreign secretary J.N. Dixit (1991-94) was to buy time and space for India’s bomb programme.

Together Rao and Dixit, now the national security adviser, devised a variety of diplomatic strategems to resist international pressures without confronting the US head-on and thus gained valuable time for Indian scientists to come up with a credible programme of nuclear tests, including the Hydrogen bomb.

The appointed day arrived in mid-December 1995. The nuclear devices were already put into the L-shaped hole dug for the purpose in Pokhran desert. The Ministries of External Affairs and Finance had estimated of the costs of US sanctions that would have followed. The officer in the MEA specialising in the nuclear issue had a prepared statement in his drawer justifying India’s decision.

As US satellite pictures began to show Indian preparations for the test, the New York Times broke the story about India’s plans to test on December 15. After two days, India finally declared it had no intention to test.Had Rao tested in 1995, India’s political history might have been different. With elections due in mid-1996, the nuclear card could have possibly returned Rao to power. Yet, inexplicably Rao chose not to. Some say he succumbed to US pressure. Others say he was concerned about Pakistan’s reaction and the economic consequences.

Nuclear ambivalence summed the man that Rao was — laying foundations for the transformation of India’s security, foreign and economic policies, but holding back at key moments.

A million salutes to you Mr. PV Narasimha Rao

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

After Dalai Lama, now its Uighurs

Chinese now accuses Muslim Turkic-speaking Uighurs of creating trouble in the lo lo land China. They just finished accusing the man of peace Dalai Lama of creating trouble.

The unrest occurred in China's Muslim-majority Xinjiang region last
month, after Chinese authorities warned that "terrorists" based there were
planning attacks on the Beijing Olympics and had tried to bomb a Beijing-bound

In the latest event, extremist forces tried to incite an uprising in a marketplace in Khotan city on March 23, according to a statement from the local government posted on its website this week.

Like Tibet, the Muslim-majority Xinjiang region too detests being called a part of China. It is understandable.

While China says just few people incited the violence, Uighurs say that it was actually hundreds of people took to the streets on two occasions.

The Chinese are very particular about the law, they say "Our police immediately intervened to prevent this and are dealing with it in accordance with the law." The problem is "Law and China?" Does anyone has a manual? Is it defined?

Look at the current list og grievences Uighurs have against Chinese other than illegally occupying their lan
1) "The Uighurs began protesting after the killing of Mutallip Hajim, who had died in police custody," Alim Seytoff, head of the US-based World Uighur Congress said.

2) "The women were also protesting the ban on head scarves." The two protests included up to a total of 1,000 demonstrators, he said, adding that as many as 600 protesters had been detained.

3) Hajim, a wealthy jade trader and philanthropist, was taken into custody in Khotan in January, according to the US government-backed Radio Free Asia . But his body was turned over to his family on March 3, with police instructing them to bury him immediately and inform no one of his death, it said.

Funnily Chinese claim that "the people involved adhered to the three evil forces" a Chinese expression that refers to separatism, religious extremism and terrorism.

Chinese still want to look innocent and law abiding while continuing the genocide, ethnic cleansing and land grabbing.

Announcement: New Author - Chacko Joseph

I'm delighted to inform you that P. Chacko Joseph has accepted my invitation to become an author at this blog. Chacko-ji is the editor and C-in-C of Frontier India Defence and Strategic News Service (FIDSNS) -, one of the best online sources for Defence related news. He's been following defence and strategic issues from long before I (and i think, even he) can remember. He's obviously busy most of the time, but I hope he'll be able to provide his views here - views which he cant always express at FI, but are brutally truthful all the same. Welcome Chackoji.

Why can't they find a room to fight?

He (Prachanda) also criticized the comments made recently by India’s Security Advisor to the Prime Minister by stating that “Mr. M.K Narayanan’s statement is deplorable…a man who is holding such a high position in India must not have talked so lightly…it is a direct interference in Nepal’s internal affairs”.

Common on both these men are useless and attach a lot of self importance to themselves. The region can do without both of them.

Daily pill of Defence - 2 April 2008

3,500km range Agni-III to be testfired this month
Rajat Pandit, ToI

India plans to test-fire its most ambitious strategic missile Agni-III, which can hit high-value targets deep inside China with a strike range of 3,500-km, towards April-end. (read more)
Arjun Tank to be put through summer trials

The next part of accelerated usage cum reliability trial (AUCRT) of Main Battle Tank Arjun above 40 degree is set to begin in April. The below 40 degree trials of Arjun Tank has been without any major issues. One issue that had cropped up was with the imported transmission, which, was rectified immediately. (read more)
Tibetans are planning suicide attacks: China
Saibal Dasgupta, ToI

The Chinese government on Tuesday claimed that Tibetan rebels were in the process of organizing "suicide squads" for strikes across China in the wake of the coming Olympic Games. This is the latest in a series of 'exposes' by Chinese authorities to establish the violent intentions of the "Tibet independence forces". (read more)
An April Fool's day message from China... Below is the Indian April Fool's message. Except of course, that in this case, its no joke (though it sure sounds like one).
India's 'curry bomb' against terror
Pamela Timms, Telegraph, UK

Indian army chiefs are set to deploy a 'curry bomb' to win the war on terror.

Weapons development experts have created an eye-watering spice bomb, packed with a potent mix of red chilli and pepper which will be used to smoke out militants during counter-insurgency operations. (read more)
More news about this (to prove that it isn't an April 1st prank) - The Hindu - Kashmir News
DRDO may have major say in defence purchases
Josy Joseph, DNA

A high-powered committee appointed by the government to overhaul the working of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has called for major administrative changes that would give DRDO a significant say in defence purchases. (read more)
A first look at the Rama Rao commission to overhaul DRDO.