gfiles magazine

February 9, 2011

fighting capabilities | air commodore jasjit singh

God is on the side of bigger batallions
The way out of the adverse air balance is to acquire combat aircraft swiftly and make up for earlier mental blocks in South Block

MORE than two decades ago, China publicly acknowledged that the Indian Armed Forces were among the best in the world. There was a clear respect and even a touch of envy in those words because China’s military was nowhere close to Indian military capability. China, the PLA and the Chinese Air Force had hardly recovered from the effects and after-effects of the Cultural Revolution. The links with the US military had started but became a victim of the Tiananmen tragedy in 1989. With that, China’s hopes of modernization of its armed forces were also dashed. It sought closer ties with India and showed keenness to establish military to-military relations. That was then. And that was the period when – though heavily criticized at home – the IAF’s modernization reached its peak for the first and last time.
The modernization began its downslide two decades ago. The AOC-in-C, Western Air Command, the premier operational command, and others started to caution against the expected drop in force level if modernization was not restored. This author had strongly and frequently argued for re-opening the manufacturing line of the MiG-21 and upgrading it. About 125 aircraft were finally upgraded nearly a decade later. But there was no modernization and even when it was partially restored it would not keep the force level up to strength even though the Russians came to our rescue and extended the design life of the MiGs, providing a reprieve from force levels dropping in the 1990s. The LCA, which was to have replaced the MiG-21 by the end of the 1980s, was nowhere in sight and the first aircraft under the fancy title of Initial Operational Capability has been handed over to the IAF very recently. It will take at least another year before a squadron is established and even then one wonders how much of the weapons would have been integrated and cleared for operational use.
We are manufacturing the Su-30MKI at HAL, Nashik, but its output has been far less than the mandatory life-end retirement of frontline aircraft. The effect of all this and more has been an unplanned deleteriously rapid drop in the combat force level of the IAF. By publicly known data, the combat force level has shrunk by nearly 40% of the authorised levels.

I had frequently argued for re-opening the manufacturing line of the MiG-21 and upgrading it. About 125 aircraft were upgraded a decade later.

This would mean that, on the Pakistan front, the IAF will have less combat squadrons than the Pakistan Air Force even if it maintains a mere eight squadrons on the China front! It is not as if we did not have the money or foreign exchange. Both were available and budgeted but nearly Rs 50,000 crore were surrendered unspent during BJP rule, probably because of the “Bofors Syndrome”. This made a mockery of “India Shining” and the high economic growth rates. If the government had spent even a quarter of the sum returned to the exchequer, there would have been no shortfall in the combat force level today.
But the story does not end there. Defence Minister AK Antony informed Parliament last year that the IAF is short of 600 pilots. He said “pilots” and not officers, implying that the shortage is at the operational level. As it is, shortage in the higher ranks can actually be welcomed so that a larger number can be promoted against existing vacancies and not against hypothetical figures of “cadre reviews” which are not based on responsibility, authority and accountability. The actual number of pilots required will keep going up since the Su-30MKI, of which over 300 will be in service, require two pilots per aircraft. Also, the 250-300 Indo-Russian Fifth Generation Fighter is designed for two pilots per aircraft, not counting the non-effectiveness due to a number of reasons. These shortages have occurred not so much because there are not enough recruits, but because sufficient flying training establishments and aircraft have not been created over the decades. Even now, the primary trainer is no longer available to provide the foundations of a service pilot.

On the Pakistan front, the IAF will have less combat squadrons than the PAF even if it maintains a mere eight squadrons on the China front!

THIS provides a grim picture of the IAF and its combat capability. But there is another side to the picture – and that concerns the quality of training. The IAF’s fighting capabilities are among the best of the leading air forces of the world. The culture of the Air Force is such that few can survive in flying assignments unless they are professionally very competent. At the same time, the best of them undergo one or both of the two courses – the Fighter Combat Leader course (FCL) at Tactics and Combat Development Establishment, and the Qualified Flying Instructor course at FIS (Flying Instructors School) which hone flying skills to higher levels of professional competence.In every war that India has fought, the IAF and its aircrew (fighter and transporter/helicopter) and ground crew – all now termed air warriors – have demonstrated exceptional professional ability and initiative.

In a Nutshell
THE obvious solution to redress the adverse air power balance is to acquire combat aircraft on high priority and make up for the earlier lack of decisionmaking in South Block. The IAF has been waiting for an MMRCA since 2001. The RFP was issued only in 2007, a good three years after the decline in the force level began. The IAF’s evaluation of all six aircraft in the run was complete last year and further action is now up to South Block. But there is a long process ahead. We will be fortunate if the first squadron is equipped by 2015 at the earliest and the total supplies of 126 aircraft are delivered in the following decade. By that time, most of the MiG-21s and some of the MiG-27s would have finished their design life.

In 1965, Pakistan launched surprise air attacks and managed to destroy a large number of IAF aircraft on the ground. The IAF was in the middle of reorganization and expansion, equipped largely with low technology and even semi-obsolete aircraft. It tackled the far superior PAF, then equipped with high technology aircraft and radars supplied by the US, rapidly pushing it on the defensive and literally out of the war in a few days. The PAF, a pretty professional air force with state-of-the-art weapons and aircraft, cried out for help and President Ayub Khan flew a secret mission to Beijing at night to seek assistance. And China obliged, even offering a couple of nuclear warheads! Overall, in the 23-day war, the PAF was losing three aircraft to one of the IAF in air warfare.
In 1971, the IAF hit back at the ambitious line-up of “Tikka Offensive”, aimed to break through the Indian defences in the west. But while the Pakistani forces were assembling for the offensive, the IAF began knocking out Pakistani tanks. Pakistan was forced to abandon the offensive. Farther south, at Longewala, the IAF destroyed a regiment of tanks when a Pakistani Division tried a clandestine offensive into India. Many more examples can be cited, and the past gives us a degree of confidence for the future.

Exercises held with the air forces of various developed countries have consistently proved that the IAF can hold its own against the best in the world.

But a lot of water has flowed down the Ganga. The IAF’s greatest handicap now would be the adverse airpower balance in the coming 10-15 years. This means that the current force will have to do more, especially if there is coordination in a potential conflict with China and/or Pakistan, or both. But the air exercises held with the air forces of various developed countries, especially the US, have consistently proved that the IAF can hold its own against the best in the world. Extensive studies are being undertaken in the West to understand how the IAF manages to achieve such dramatic results. (The MiG- 21 taking a camera shot of the frontline USAF F-15 fighter after getting behind it in a mock air combat exercise is still the talk of the crew rooms and training establishments in the West, probably as much due to the skill of IAF pilots as to injured pride!) Consequently, more countries are seeking air exercises with the IAF to train their air forces.
Thus, the capability for air dominance is undeniable. The problem is the quantitative balance against the IAF. Even in the days of high technology aerospace warfare, Napoleon’s dictum that God marches with the biggest battalions remains valid. More robust decision making to fill the void of depleted force levels would enormously help to avoid the fighting people having to bear the cost of errors of the planning people.
Preparedness | china and Pakistan | air marshal narayan menon

Lip Service
While the two neighbouring air forces modernize and upgrade, the IAF has been shrinking in size!
IN the armed forces, dereliction of duty is an offence that could result in a court martial which in turn leads to dismissal in peacetime and a death sentence during war. Apparently, no such retribution is available in our democracy where ruling parties and coalitions can be apathetic and negligent about rising threats across our borders and get away by paying lip service to national security through clever rhetoric. India has an army that is desperate to modernize its artillery, a navy that needs ships and an air force whose combat capability is shrinking. Yet, proposals and needs stated by the armed forces mostly languish in a procedural maze concocted in the name of “transparency in defence deals”.
I made a presentation in early 2001 to the then Defence Minister about the IAF requiring 126 combat aircraft to replace older fighters that were on the verge of being phased out. Today, 10 years later, the contenders are still contending and costs have skyrocketed. The selected fighter will become fully operational or fit for combat duties only after a considerable length of time, perhaps three or four years, as our technicians have to absorb its technology and maintenance aspects while our aircrews master its operational envelope. All this while older aircraft in the IAF’s inventory will be junked for obsolescence and the spectre of a two-front conflict looms in the region. Both China and Pakistan are modernizing their militaries but India’s military capability creation lacks focus and resource commitment.
Pakistan and China have jointly produced the JF-17 Thunder which will become the mainstay of the PAF in coming years.

The armed forces are equally at fault for not yet arriving at a joint approach to capability creation, with each service charting its own course with regard to modernization. This issue was supposed to be addressed by the establishment of an Integrated Defence Staff, under the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), who would have been the single point adviser to the Government of India on military matters, especially threat evaluation and a long-term vision about capability creation. No CDS has been appointed so far, due to politicians’ fear of too much power being vested in one individual and the infighting among the services themselves. The Ministry of Defence has promised to spend the equivalent of $100 billion in the next decade on modernization of the military but no roadmap has emerged as to how these resources will be utilized.
In sharp contrast, China has a clear and time-bound plan and there are obvious indications that implementation is on in full. It laid down a three-step developmental strategy (see box). Its plan to “lay a solid foundation by 2010” appears to have been achieved, as demonstrated by the large-scale exercise, Stride-2009, held to coincide with the celebration of 50 years of communist rule. Fifty thousand troops were moved from western China to a region in the eastern part. The objective of Stride-2009 was to test the ability to move forces on a large scale from the areas they had trained in to areas they were unfamiliar with. Another aim was to subject the massive rail, road and air infrastructure created over the years to heavy military movement pressure and examine if such pressure adversely affected civilian population. The US Navy’s huge flotilla, sailing in Korean waters as a show of strength, was recently unnerved and shocked when a Chinese submarine surfaced right in its midst, displaying sophisticated stealth capabilities.
The current century has seen acceleration of the modernization programme enabled by the remarkable growth of the Chinese economy. By 2005, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) had acquired 105 Su-30MKKs, 100 upgraded Su-30MKK2s and 126 Su-27SK/UBK. The letter “u” suffixed to an aircraft type denotes a trainer version. Domestic production of J-10 and J-11 air superiority multi-role fighters is in progress with 160 J-10s and 140 J-11s already in service.

In sharp contrast, China has a clear and time-bound plan and there are obvious indications that implementation is on in full.

A new version of the JH-7/7A entered service in 2004. This is a strike aircraft with a reported maximum armament load of 9,000 kg. Older fighters like the J-7 and J-8 which have been the mainstay for many years will be gradually phased out and replaced by the newer fourth and fifth generation aircraft. The planned induction of the Su-33, the carrier version of the Su-30, indicates that a carrier group is under formation. The PLAAF is also upgrading its heavy lift and strategic reach capability by the planned induction of 70 Il-76 and 30 Il-78 tanker aircraft. China has also bought large numbers of high-tech air to ground and air-to-air armament from Russia.
THE PLAAF’s aim is to have a primarily fourth generation air force. JH-7/7A will be the backbone of the precision strike force with large numbers of J-10 and J-11 in the air superiority role. The interceptor role will be undertaken by the JF-17 which is under evaluation in China. The transport force will have Il-76, Il-78 and Y-9 aircraft. The KJ- 200 is an AWACS erected on an Il-76 platform and will be in service soon.
China has a variety of helicopters and other aircraft to undertake specialist missions and routine tasks. With a fast developing C4ISR and its shift to joint operations, the Chinese military will be a formidable force to reckon with even for a well prepared adversary. In this process of modernization, the PLAAF has improved exponentially, though it is yet to be tested in actual operations.

China’s roadmap
1st step – lay a solid foundation by 2010.
2nd step – make major progress by 2020.
3rd step – achieve strategic goal of building “informatized” (net-centric warfare enabled) armed forces capable of winning wars by 2050.

Pakistan benefits from both the US and China. The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has plans to retire several types on its inventory in the next decade. But many inductions are also planned. Pakistan and China have jointly produced the JF-17 Thunder which will become the mainstay of the PAF in coming years. A hundred and fifty of these will replace all A-5, F-7P, Mirage-111 and Mirage-5 fighters. Three hundred JF-17s will be inducted and the F-7PG will also be retired. The PAF will also induct 36 Chengdu J-10 from China, as well as 26 upgraded F-16AM/BM and 18 new F-16C/D Advanced Block 52 from the US. Its Airborne Early Warning & Control force will be replenished with four Saab 2000 Erieye aircraft from Sweden and Chinese AEW&C aircraft based on Shaanxi Y-8F- 600 transport aircraft. Four second-hand Il-78 flight refuellers capable of aerial fuelling of JF-17 and J-10 are being acquired from the Ukraine and 75 K-8 Karkoram Intermediate Jet Trainers will replace the existing fleet of T-37 and FT-5 trainer aircraft.

With a fast-developing C4ISR and its shift to joint operations, the Chinese military will be a power to reckon with even for a well prepared adversary.

While the two neighbouring air forces modernize and upgrade, the IAF has been shrinking in size. An approach paper presented some years ago envisaged 45 combat squadrons for a one-front war and 55 for a two-front conflict. The IAF was built up to a strength of 39.5 squadrons by late 1984. It remained so for some years and then the downslide began. Aircraft types like the Su-7, Mystere, Gnat/Ajeet, variants of MiG-21, MiG-23MF and MiG-23BN began to be phased out without replacements. The induction of the Su-30 was a major boost but still did not meet the overall deficiency in numbers. The logic that one Su-30 was equivalent to 3 MiG- 21 aircraft is fallacious, as one Su-30 cannot be in two places at the same time.
THE IAF has upgraded the MiG-21 Bisons and has plans to upgrade the MiG-29s and Mirage-2000s. But upgrades have limitations and generational improvements are difficult to incorporate in older aircraft. India and Russia are jointly producing a fifth generation fighter but there will be a time lag before it can be inducted into the IAF and become operational. The 126 aircraft deal being finalized will also take time to become operational. Basic flying training needs urgent attention. The DRDO has promised much but delivered little. They must jettison their bureaucratic approach and adopt a professional and result-oriented attitude to make any significant impact on military capability.
The IAF has done well to upgrade air bases and air defences in the Northeast sector so that Su-30/Mirage-class squadrons can be based there to meet any contingency. The induction of modern transport aircraft and flight refueller aircraft has added to the IAF’s strategic lift capability. The helicopter force is also being strengthened and an indigenous “light combat helicopter” is being developed. This will be important as most of our conflict potential is in mountainous terrain where slow moving helicopters are as effective as fighters. It is the fighter force that needs to be expanded at the earliest.
Other areas like cyber warfare, space and jointness will all be critical in any future war. Salvation lies in the political parties, the Ministry of Defence and the armed forces envisioning a capability creation roadmap, committing resources and ensuring implementation within the emerging overarching national security structure.
NATIONAL SECURITY | defence services | policy blunders
Shooting ourselves in the feet
It is time to overturn detrimental decisions rather than justifying them
EVERY organization has its archetypal character and traits, some positive and some negative. The services are no exception. They have numerous admirable attributes but one major failing is their penchant for making a change for the sake of change. For no ostensible rationale, well tested practices and policies that have stood the test of time and served the services well are worked over and altered. It is a case of shooting oneself in the foot.

The problem of shortage of officers in the services has been defying a solution. There is a combined shortfall of 14,244 officers in the three services.

It is commonly pointed out that making mistakes is not as bad as persisting with them. Like all bureaucratic organizations, the services find it extremely difficult to admit their blunders – thereby making rectification impossible. Instead of extricating themselves boldly from an untenable abyss, they try to justify their actions through frequent policy amendments and get sucked deeper into a hole. The following issues illustrate this.

Raising of NDA entry criteria
The problem of shortage of officers in the services has been defying a solution. As stated by Defence Minister AK Antony in the Lok Sabha in August 2010, there is a shortage of 14,244 officers – 11,500 in the Army, 1,507 in the Navy and 1,237 in the Air Force. It is often said that an adequate number of suitable youths are not joining the services because other professions have become more lucrative. Under-subscription of seats at the National Defence Academy (NDA) is cited.
Unfortunately, the primary cause of the under-subscription is of the services’ own making. Till the 1980s, NDA enjoyed the “first pick advantage” and attracted the brightest youths. As Class X was the minimum qualification for entry to the NDA and the age group was 15-17 years, entry into the Academy was the first career option available. Understandably, parents encouraged their sons to sit for the NDA examination and be settled in a career at the earliest. As no other career option was available at that stage, most bright boys considered it prudent to give the NDA a try.
Further, as the average age of candidates at entry was around 16 years, their trainability quotient was very high. Early and middle adolescence are undoubtedly the best stages for moulding as per services’ requirements. With motivational levels high, young cadets of impressionable age easily developed the necessary mental and physical robustness.
NDA cadets, after four years’ training, got commission at an average age of 20 years and kept the age profile young at junior levels. Moreover, they served the services for longer periods. Resultantly, for the same quantum of resources invested in training an officer, the services got better returns by way of longer service span.
In a blunder of monumental proportions, the entry qualification was raised to 10+2. Consequently, the age group rose to 16-and a-half to 19 years. The fallout of this ill-advised move was quick and severe. NDA became one of many choices, if not the last one. Most candidates sat for the NDA examination only after failing to make the grade elsewhere.
With an average age of over 18 years at entry, cadets are near-adults. With established mindsets, habits and behavioural traits, they are difficult to train. Since the usual age at commissioning has climbed to 22 years, the service span has correspondingly reduced.
The justification given for this misguided move is laughable. It was stated that 10+2 qualification is essential to grant a graduation degree to cadets at the time of passing out to help them in having a second career after retirement. Can there be a more ridiculous reason? While selecting a young boy, the imperatives of a military career are being subordinated to his post-retirement resettlement after 30 years or more of military service.

Induction of women
In the early 1990s, when the euphoria over induction of women was still going strong, a group of Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) was overheard discussing the issue in all seriousness. The oldest remarked, “The Army has enough problems at hand. I do not know why another one is being sought.” Another declared, “The Army is going to rue its decision in the near future.” There was a rare unanimity in the group – they were all convinced that the move to induct women was ill-conceived and unwarranted.
The events of the past few years have proved their apprehensions to be prophetic. The JCOs foresaw what the top brass failed to. Instead of earning kudos for giving women a chance, the services are getting flak from the judiciary, media and self-appointed experts. Demands are being made to grant permanent commission to women in the combat arms, a demand that is unprecedented in any army. Worse, some have gone to the ridiculous extent of demanding all-women battalions. A matter that critically affects the health of the services has been belittled as one of “equality of sexes”.
The decision to induct women, taken in the early 1990s by a service Chief, was neither need-based nor well thought-out. No attempt was made to study the long-term implications of the multiple issues involved. In other words, a decision of colossal significance was taken in a totally cavalier and hasty manner. The first batch of women Short Service Commission (SSC) officers joined in 1992. As the other two services did not want to be seen as “male chauvinists”, they followed suit. Soon a race got underway between the three services.
Till date, no one has been able to justify the decision to induct women in the services. The low-tech Indian military is totally dependent on the raw physical strength of its manpower. With their abysmally poor physical fitness standards, women just cannot perform these tasks. Moreover, they suffer from frequent back problems, pelvic injuries and stress fractures. As very few desk jobs are available, most commanders are at a loss to employ them gainfully.
Instead of contributing to the effectiveness of the organization, women have become an encumbrance as considerable resources are diverted towards ensuring their comfort, dignity and safety. Worse, every commander runs the risk of being accused of sexual discrimination, harassment and even exploitation. It is no wonder that no commander wants women as they are considered a liability.
The SSC tenure was five years, extendable to 10 years. It has since been increased to 14 years. One does not need to be a visionary to understand that grant of SSC to women at 24 years of age is the most impractical proposition. That is the time for them to get married and raise their families. With two-child norms, they spend most of their service tenure involved with their children. For every delivery they are exempted physical activities for three years. A woman SSC officer is hardly ever available for military activities.
Champions of sexual equality are very selective in their demand. No demand has ever been made to induct women as soldiers. Women want to join only as officers, in the erroneous belief that an officer’s job is soft and easy. When reality dawns on them, they resort to the standard ploy of the weaker sex needing special dispensation. As regards their acceptability as leaders, the troops consider their induction to be a political gimmick that merits no serious deliberation. “How can a leader, who is unable to carry her personal weapon and equipment and keep pace with us, be expected to lead us in war?” is a common refrain of the troops.

Cadre review, mushrooming senior appointmentsWith a view to improving officers’ promotional prospects and to offset the effects of largescale upgradation of civil appointments, the services resorted to creating a huge number of senior appointments. Comparisons are often made with police appointments to justify this. Admittedly, every State police force has dozens of Directors General of Police (DGP). State governments can upgrade or downgrade any appointment to accommodate chosen incumbents, job content notwithstanding. It is always a political decision. A DGP might look after purchase of 100 computers or furniture. The services cannot follow the police in this.

Instead of earning kudos for giving women a chance, the services are getting flak from the judiciary, media and self-appointed experts.

All higher headquarters have become bloated and overstaffed. With overabundance of General Officers – red tabs and stars have lost their exclusivity. The stature of senior ranks has got diluted. Every alternate room in the Services Headquarters (SHQ) is occupied by a Brigadier or a General Officer. It is a sad sight to see them flitting between various offices, clutching bundles of files.
A job done earlier by a Brigadier is now being carried out by a Lieutenant General. Further, he has a Major General as his deputy and two to three Brigadiers to head different sections. Thus, a Brigadier has been substituted by two General Officers and two/three Brigadiers. As the job content has not changed materially, functioning has become totally bureaucratic and decision making is the main casualty. Decisions taken by a Brigadier earlier are now taken by a Lieutenant General. The emergence of multiple tiers has increased paperwork. As every link in the chain wants to remain in the loop and retain its relevance, urgency becomes inconsequential.
The Indian Army follows a system of command and staff streams. After doing mandatory command tenure, officers are sidestepped into staff appointments. As command appointments are limited, it has become a challenge for the organization to accommodate all aspirants. Consequently, the duration of command tenures has been considerably curtailed, affecting continuity of command adversely.
The services never tire of claiming uniqueness and dislike comparison with other Central services. Yet they have diluted their contention by demanding parity with the civil services. The Warrant of Precedence (WoP) cannot be adequate justification for seeking more senior appointments. As is well known, revision of WoP is a regular exercise and every review invariably results in lowering the status of service officers. As the services cannot go on upgrading appointments to keep pace with the rate at which WoP is revised, it is a self-defeating exercise.
The services are rigidly structured organizations with authority well delineated. Such organizations invariably become one-man shows with commanders at every level enjoying overriding powers. Dissonance and difference of opinion cease to exist. In the absence of any contrary perspective, commanders tend to acquire misconceptions of their infallibility, resulting in faulty decision-making. For instance, it is inconceivable that no staff officer could foresee the adverse fallout of inducting women and caution the cavalier Chief.
Due to the steep pyramid-like structure, the environment in the services is highly competitive. To ensure career advancement, one has to not only excel but outshine others as well. In the absence of any quantifiable and measurable performance matrix, performance is measured in terms of initiative displayed, howsoever misplaced it may be. Recognition as the initiator and author of fresh ideas fetches credit and good reports. Therefore, every aspiring officer strives to score brownie points by pretending to be an original thinker. He wants to suggest something new – it may be a scheme, concept or programme. The sole aim is to impress senior bosses by displaying original thinking, assiduousness and thoroughness.
In the absence of ability for genuine original thinking, the only alternative available to an ambitious officer is to tinker with existing policies and suggest changes. Further, prolonged staff tenures make many officers lose touch with ground realities. They start living in the make-believe world of files and notings. They fail to visualize the fallout of the policy changes.

The way forwardAll over the world, the ruling mantra is “catch ’em young”. Corporate houses go to professional colleges to have the first pick in campus interviews. The services have irrationally surrendered the same advantage. A graduation degree cannot be enough justification for forfeiting the opportunity to pick the best youth for the services. The entry age and educational qualification for admission to NDA should be reduced to the earlier norm. Grant of SSC to women should be stopped. Women have made creditable contribution in the medical, dental and nursing services. They have done India proud. Grant of permanent commission to them in legal and education departments of the three services, the accounts branch of the Air Force and constructors of the Navy is undoubtedly a sensible move forward.
The services should stop chasing the mirage of retaining parity with the civil services. Bureaucrats govern the country and call the shots. They will continue to concoct ingenious stratagems to maintain their supremacy.
The top brass must show sufficient moral courage to admit that the present mess demands a holistic review of the related policies. It is far better to accept mistakes honestly than continue with them indefinitely to the detriment of organizational interests. Most important, no decision that affects the primary role of the services should be taken as a compulsion of populist expediency and without studying the long-term consequences.
NATIONAL SECURITY | coastal protection  
Guarding India’s seafront
Is it time to pat ourselves on the back? Can India be sure of preventing another terror attack?

THE Indian security agencies’ successful handling of a series of events involving lucrative terrorist targets in the last quarter of 2010 showed they are succeeding in setting right their woeful performance during the 26/11 attack in Mumbai two years ago. The tasks faced by them would have been daunting for even the security agencies of the global powers.
The blue ribbon event was the high profile visit of US President Barack Obama, the world’s Number One terrorist target. It was followed by the XIX Commonwealth Games, in which 83 countries took part. The quarter also included two other potentially explosive anniversaries – that of the 26/11 attack and of the demolition of the Babri Masjid. There were also two other add-ons to the security nightmare – the longawaited judgement in the Babri Masjid ownership case and the visit of French President Nicholas Sarkozy of the French burqa ban fame. But all the events passed off peacefully. Glitches, if any, were minor.
Of course, the security agencies were kept on tenterhooks by reports of Pakistan-based jihadi groups preparing to strike at some prominent targets in India. However, the terrorists were kept at bay apparently due to the security elements in place. A number of arrests of suspected terrorists were also made.
No doubt success in this crucial period is a direct outcome of the efforts of Union Home Minister P Chidambaram to tone up the internal security set-up. His multi-pronged approach and broad-based strategies to improve the command and control of security response systems on a networked basis are slowly coming into their own. So coherence in action has become visible. However, the task of providing muscle and teeth to State and Central police and paramilitary forces is not yet complete. So the much-needed progress has not yet reached the ground floor.
There is no dearth of money for the action plan. The Centre’s allocation for internal security is now poised to go up to Rs 40,852 crore this year, if we go by the first Budget supplementary. This represents nearly a 50% increase over the previous allocation of Rs 25, 923 crore in 2008-09.

The media in Maharashtra says the State Home Ministry has not shown a keen interest in providing training to the lowest rank – police constables.

The expenditure is mainly due to the two schemes for modernization of State police and Central paramilitary forces (CPMF). Both schemes have been extended to 2010-11. The force levels of the three CPMF (BSF, CRPF and SSB) are being increased by 109 additional battalions. The hardware and software to connect the security control centres in State capitals with State Special Branches are in place. And connectivity is expected to be complete very soon.
One Central Academy for Police Training (CAPT) in Bhopal, two Central Detective Training Schools (CDTS) in Lucknow and Ahmedabad, and 20 Counter Insurgency and Anti-Terrorist (CIAT) Schools are also being set up. After a review, the sanctioned strength of the IPS to the State cadre has been increased by 717 to 4,730.
Is it time to pat ourselves on the back? Can India be sure of preventing another terrorist attack on the scale of 26/11? It is difficult to answer these questions with surety if we consider our inability to execute time-bound projects. In this respect, the Union Home Ministry’s record is slightly better; at the State level, the leadership has not shown the urgency required to revamp the set-up to handle the terrorist threat. This is not mere lethargy. The States have always resisted carrying out police reforms. Despite judicial direction, politicians do not want to lose control over the law enforcement machinery. Even after the 26/11 disaster, this mindset does not appear to have changed.

The biggest chink in national security is in coastal areas. The issue is mired in power games played by diverse Ministries and state governments.

Nothing illustrates this better than the attitude of the States towards changing existing systems. The media in Maharashtra says the State Home Ministry has not shown a keen interest in providing training to the lowest rank – police constables. The Special Forces, raised with a lot of fanfare, still carry old weapons and do not have enough body armour. There are huge deficiencies in police strength in many States. Efforts to fill these vacancies are tardy.
However, the biggest chink in national security is in coastal security. No doubt it is a complex issue mired in the roundrobin power games played by diverse Ministries. Apart from the State governments, at the Centre also it involves coordinating the functioning of many agencies and Ministries, including defence, ports and shipping, fisheries, agriculture, off-shore drilling, maritime trade, environmental protection and international relations. So it is not surprising the Union Home Ministry took two years to embark on forming a multidimensional command structure. Four Joint Operation Centres have been set up under the respective naval commanders-in-chief. A Sagar Prahari Bal under the Navy has been set up to patrol shallow waters off the coast. A thousand sailors equipped with 80 fast interceptor boats are being trained in phases. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for coastal security have been finalized with respect to all coastal States and Union Territories.
The Centre is optimistic that the first phase of the Coastal Security Scheme will be implemented nationwide by March 2011. Its expectations of States and Union Territories are that the States will establish 73 coastal police stations, provided with adequate manpower, apart from 204 boats, 153 vehicles and 312 two-wheelers.
IN the second phase, the Coastal Security Scheme is even more ambitious with an outlay of Rs1,579.91 crore. Ithopes to provide States/UTs 131 additional coastal police stations, boats and infrastructure to make them operational. The Scheme will also provide support for equipment, computer systems, vehicles, two-wheelers and so on. A uniform system for registration of all boats is being introduced. The process of issuing ID cards to all fishermen is on. There is increased emphasis on technology usage; installation of transponders on vessels to ensure identification and tracking is also being initiated. Radar chains are being strengthened. So where is the problem? It lies in our national inability to execute plans on paper in time. Barring Gujarat, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, coastal States have made little progress in implementing coastal security projects. The setting up of coastal police stations envisaged even in the first phase of the plan is lagging. The infrastructure is not in place. So it is doubtful whether the Coastal Security Scheme will be implemented fully even by end-2012.
According to defence analyst Major General Ashok Mehta, “while the Indian navy, the nodal agency for coastal security, has issued elaborate papers on plugging gaps at sea through maritime domain awareness, little has been done in augmenting capabilities of the Coast Guard.” Only two aircraft or helicopters have been added to the fleet of 48 since 2008 for watching India’s 7,600-km coastline.
At the heart of the problem is incompetent political leadership. After all, what happened to Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilas Rao Deshmukh after he messed up the handling of the 26/11 terror attack? He was pushed out to a plum post in the Central Cabinet as Minister for Heavy Industries. With this law of diminishing returns in operation, any improvement to national security will come if and when the political leadership becomes accountable and demands accountability from the bureaucracy. Otherwise, the nation is likely to limp along from year to year, explaining why we failed rather than talking of our successes.
FIRST STIRRINGS | lt gen dattatray balajirao shekatkar

‘ The government’s mistake is not talking directly with the adivasis ’
A soldier looks back on tackling Naxalism, terrorism and insurgency, and occupying the Sialkot-Lahore highway area 
I was commissioned in June 1963 and was posted as Second Lieutenant in the Maratha Regiment. My battalion had seen action in tackling insurgency in Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura. Insurgency in the Northeast began with infiltration in 1952. The Naga rebels were actively supported by Pakistan and China. The insurgency spread to neighbouring Manipur and Mizoram. I was stationed there for five years.
Thereafter, in 1970, I was posted in Andhra Pradesh to tackle the Naxalite problem in the Telangana region. Naxalites, or Maoists as they now so fashionably call themselves, have control over territory from Nepal to Andhra Pradesh. They famously call it “from Pashupati to Tirupati”. Now, in their next big phase, they want to target big urban cities. For that they are slowly infiltrating unions in the industrial belts of the country.
They have been able to spread their roots far and wide with help from the CPI (M). The spread of Naxalism in Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and now Tamil Nadu has been possible because of the CPI(M) supporting the UPA-I government. They are now in touch with the ISI in Pakistan, insurgents in the Northeast and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
They are fooling the poor adivasis with false promises of fighting for their cause against the government. They have their own land, forest and mining mafias. The government’s mistake is that it has not talked directly with the adivasis. For the adivasis, “government” represents BSF and CRPF jawans with guns chasing them. They have never known any health centre, post office, school or any other infrastructure or civic amenity. The Communists have taken full advantage of the situation.
What do Naxalites from Bihar and Jharkhand have to do with Andhra Pradesh? And what does Home Minister P Chidambaram have to say? His words are, “There is a trust deficit and there is a confidence deficit amongst the people.’’ My first real experience of warfare came as a Major on December 3, 1971, with Pakistan declaring war on India. I was stationed with my 9 Maratha battalion on the western front in the Samba sector, along the Pathankot-Jammu border. In retaliation, India attacked Pakistan and our battalion bulldozed all their defences. We occupied their Sialkot to Lahore highway region for almost two years!
The area was as large as that of the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. On December 16, the ceasefire was declared. We met some senior Pakistani Army officers. They were angry with their junior officers and jawans for letting us “kafirs’’ in. They told their men that, had they done 50 percent of their work honestly, the kafirs would not have reached there. That’s how humiliated they felt. After two years we handed back their territory.
There may not be any such examples around the world of an army handing back occupied territory to the enemy. During the Bangladesh war, I was entrusted with the task of training the Mukti Bahini. Again, within six months of the war ending, we left Bangladesh.

Maoists are fooling the adivasis with false promises of fighting for their cause against the government. They have their own land and forest mafias.

I was again posted in Mizoram between 1973 and ’76. During 1976-77, I joined the Counter Insurgency and General Warfare School. I trained there with foreign cadets. Between 1978 and ’80, I was posted in the Northeast as insurgency raised its head there once again.
Insurgency is still on in Manipur and Assam. It has become a way of life. Government servants in Manipur, Nagaland and Assam have to pay 10 percent of their salaries to insurgents. Even contractors and industrialists are not spared. People are fed up. All that the Prime Minister does when he visits the Northeast is announce packages. All these packages end up in the pockets of the insurgents. In the army we have always opposed these packages.
IN 1980, I joined the Defence Staff College for a year’s training. I was then posted at Ahmedabad as a Colonel. The city often witnessed bitter communal violence. The Army had to be called in to control the situation.
Between 1981 and ’84, I commanded my 9 Maratha battalion, posted along the border in Jammu and Kashmir. Thereafter, I did a one-year course in Defence Management at the College of Defence Management. Between 1986 and ’87, I was Chief Instructor at the Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School at Vairengte, Mizoram.
I was promoted to Brigadier in 1989 and posted in Punjab. The next two years were among the worst as terrorism was on the boil. Terrorism did not survive in Punjab because of the excellent cooperation between the army and the local police. Most important, the people of Punjab realized that they did not stand to gain from terrorism.

Terrorism did not survive in Punjab because of the excellent cooperation between the army and the local police.

In 1992, I attended the National Defence College in New Delhi. Here, we from the Army rubbed shoulders with the best foreign officers and our own IAS and IPS officers. Thereafter, I was posted as Deputy Director General, Military Operations, at Army Headquarters. I was part of the Joint Working Group that was set up between India and China to resolve the boundary dispute. The efforts of the group led to the Sino-Indian boundary agreement signed in 1993-94 during the tenure of Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao. I was then made Major General and posted as Additional Director General, Military Operations.
In 1995, I once again commanded the troops in Jammu and Kashmir. It was then that the Charar-e-Sharif incident took place. Trouble quickly spread to Pulwama, Baramullah and Sopore. Assembly elections were held. Pakistan, some Western powers and some of our Opposition parties did not want polls to take place. To establish the supremacy of our Constitution, the elections were held despite the opposition.
For the first time since militancy began, a record number of militants – more than 1,200-odd – surrendered arms. Our intention was not to kill these people, but to give them a chance to reform. Since the thought of surrender was unacceptable to them, we gave them the third option of going back to their own people and joining the mainstream. In Assam also, we applied this theory with success – resulting in 700-odd ULFA militants surrendering.
The main reason for militancy in the Valley has been lack of governance on the part of the political establishment. In 1989-90, the elections were rigged. Promises of good governance were never kept. It enraged the people. Unemployed youth revolted. Be it the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war or the 1971 war, the local people did not support militancy or, for that matter, Pakistan. The Pakistanis only took advantage of the prevailing circumstances and we are now paying for our mistakes.
The general populace has never been in favour of independence. It is just a handful of 200 families in the Valley, the Hurriyat leadership, sections of the judiciary, and politicians in power as well as in the Opposition who want the situation to continue. Terrorism has become a “cottage industry’’ for them to make money.
As for the government, it is fooling us. If terrorism does not continue, the people will seek accountability. The government does not want that. In the past 12 years, the Centre has pumped Rs 98,000 crore into the Valley. These are the figures of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Where has all the money gone?
THESE 200-odd families creating trouble are mostly in Kupwara, Sopore, Baramullah, Badgaum, Pulwama and Srinagar. Close to 23 percent of the population is Shia. Even during the Kargil war, the Shias did not support Pakistan. The Bakarwals and Gujjars do not support Pakistan at all.
For these people, militancy must go on in order to keep their business thriving. The US, in 2001, gave a billion dollars’ worth of aid to Pakistan for the war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Pakistan’s economy is totally dependent on US military and other aid which it invariably uses against us. If terrorism is finished in Pakistan and Afghanistan, will the US still give aid to Pakistan?

As for the government, it is fooling us. If terrorism does not continue, the people will seek accountability. The government does not want that.

The thaw in Indo-US bilateral relations dates back to 1997-98, when defence cooperation started. I was part of the Indo-US Defence Cooperation Group that was set up then. The Americans used to hate us like anything, for they believed we were pro-Soviet Union. Until then, US diplomats and defence officials used derogatory terms for our Prime Minister. Now I am amused to see US leaders and diplomats shaking hands with Indian leaders.

The general populace has never favoured independence. A handful of 200 families in the Valley and politicians want the situation to continue.

Between 1997 and ’99, I was posted as Additional Director General, Strategic Planning, at Army Headquarters. Here, the Army plans its growth for the next 25 years. All aspects are taken into account, including the need to acquire modern weapons and what weaponry the US is developing. That is because most of those weapons after some years are given to Pakistan in the name of its anti-terror activities. China too supplies weapons to Pakistan. Our task was to prepare ourselves for this challenge.
In 1999, I was promoted to Lieutenant General and posted in Assam to tackle the ULFA and the Bodoland movement. In 2001, I was posted as the Commandant at the Infantry School in MHOW, Madhya Pradesh, which imparts commando warfare training. The next year I retired and settled in Pune.
I have co-authored 11 books on counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, counter Naxalite operations and psychological warfare.
-(As told to Prashant Hamine)
SILLY POINT | onion crisis | vincent van ross
The onion makes the common man as well as governments weep
IN India, onions have brought tears to more governments than one. No wonder they are called tear-jerkers! The current shortage of onions is not entirely the government’s fault, the rain gods too were mischief-makers this time. Like the bulb, the crisis is also enveloped in problem layers. You go on peeling layer after layer and there is hardly any visible change right up to the last.
This is not the first time that the price of onions has skyrocketed. In 1998 too, the price shot up to Rs 80 a kilogramme. In fact, the current onion situation is a repeat performance of 1998. The government has directed the State Trading Corporation (STC) to import as many onions as possible to deal with the crisis. That’s not all, it has also put the Minerals and Metals Trading Corporation (MMTC) on the job. Finding a solution is the immediate issue. Whether onions should be categorized as minerals or metals can be sorted out later!

The government has put Minerals and Metals Trading Corporation on the job of finding a solution, which is the immediate issue. Whether onions can be categorized as minerals or metals can be sorted out later!

Asked why the government did not foresee this crisis and make contingency plans, a spokesman retorted that predictions are not part of any government strategy as of now. Besides, the Agriculture Ministry does not have an astrology department! But, if somebody could convince the government that astrological predictions can be used to foresee such problems, the government would be more than willing to consider the possibility of creating such a department.
For the common man, onions have always been tear-jerkers. When they are available in plenty, they bring on tears while chopping and slicing. When they are in short supply or being sold at exorbitant rates, they bring tears to people’s eyes for obvious reasons. As to why we are so obsessed with this all-season tearjerker defies explanation.
People who could not afford even dal (lentils) with their rotis (bread) used to eat their rotis with onions. Now, they cannot afford it anymore. They are forced to look at other options.
Every time there is an onion crisis, the humble radish emerges as a temporary hero. In fact, that is what happens in Bollywood too. When they cannot afford Amitabh Bachchan or Shah Rukh Khan, they settle for an affordable hero.
Another commendable step by the government comes in the form of income-tax raids on onion traders. If it were not for this onion shortage, the government would have had no clue that the earnings of onion traders are above taxable limits.
Our friendly neighbour, Pakistan, is contributing to the problem by holding back trucks loaded with onions meant for India. It is time we start looking for alternatives. The politics of the Pakistani government and the internal politics of their traders should not be allowed to become a national problem for India!
The files relating to a consignment of onions that arrived at Mumbai by ship are rumoured to have been misplaced. Now, nobody knows what to do with the onions. So, it has been ensured that the onions get sufficient storage space at the dockyard on a priority basis to be stored until they rot.
Successive governments have shown their keenness to empower the masses. Now, the government wants people to find solutions to the problems that the government creates.
Some may dismiss the onion as just a vegetable the way you make an idiomatic reference to a person who can do nothing. But nobody should ever make the mistake of underestimating the power of the onion. It can bring tears to any government. If you do not believe this, Sushma Swaraj may be able to throw some light on what it did to the Delhi government in 1998.
MANDARIN MATTERS | appointments | cvc row
Doubting Thomas
Had the Central and State governments implemented existing executive and judicial guidelines, the office of the CVC could have avoided being besmirched

THE deepening controversy over the appointment of the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) has brought to the fore the larger issue of bad governance and inordinate delays in the litigation process. The row threatens to snowball into an executive versus judiciary showdown.
The affair began some months ago when the United Progressive Alliance could not achieve consensus on the CVC’s appointment. The swearing-in of IAS officer Polayil Joseph Thomas (1973, Kerala cadre) as CVC in the President of India’s office on September 7, 2010, kicked up a storm. The leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, boycotted the ceremony. As a member of the statutory committee that appointed the CVC (the other two members are the Prime Minister and the Home Minister, as provided for in the CVC Act, 2003), she had opposed Thomas’ candidature because he is a co-accused in the 19-year-old palmolein import case that led to loss of Rs 2.8-crore revenue for the Kerala exchequer.
Swaraj met the President after the ceremony to explain the boycott. She had proposed selecting the CVC either from among the two other short-listed candidates or enlarging the panel of candidates to select a person of impeccable credentials. She put the blame squarely on the Prime Minister. As she told a newspaper: “Only three of us were there — the Home Minister, the PM and the Leader of Opposition. I told him, ‘This is wrong, I will object in writing.’ I gave alternatives – choose any one of the other two names on the panel, apart from Thomas; or enlarge the panel; or defer the meeting by a day and take feedback. He [the PM] said, ‘The swearing-in is on Tuesday.’ I said, ‘Today is Friday, let’s meet on Saturday.’ He said, ‘Give your dissent,’ and went ahead with the appointment.”
The Prime Minister now runs the risk of reprimand from the Supreme Court in case it upholds the public interest litigants’ contentions regarding Thomas’ appointment. A major contention is that the lack of consensus with the Opposition representative in the appointments committee should itself serve as the basis for quashing the CVC’s selection.
Further mismanagement by the government was evident in the failure to implement existing disciplinary guidelines (see box) pertaining to corrupt as well as innocent and maligned officials.

Swaraj met the President after the ceremony to explain the boycott. She had proposed selecting the CVC either from among other short-listed candidates or enlarging the panel of candidates.

In its affidavit, the government has not only strongly defended the Thomas appointment but almost questioned the judiciary’s right to raise concerns over the suitability of an appointee. The affidavit reportedly says: “It is well-settled that the question of a candidate is squarely the domain of the appointment authority.” The government’s stand is that Thomas was cleared in the palmolein scam by the CVC itself in 2007 and the Kerala government’s wavering stance in the case should not affect his career.
He is the eighth accused in the charge-sheet framed by Kerala’s Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau with the first and prime accused being former Chief Minister K Karunakaran. The latter had managed to delay the judicial process by securing stays from the Supreme Court. After his death on December 23, 2010, the Supreme Court disposed of his appeal against the State government’s move to revive prosecution in the palmolein scam. With this, the way is clear for framing of charges against the accused in a trial court in Kerala. In addition to Karunakaran’s delaying tactics, the State government also shifted stands due to political factors.
The Supreme Court has resumed hearing the case. Its verdict will certainly help the government avoid controversy in the CVC’s appointment in future as well as strengthen its role in fighting corruption within the government and its appendages. The two member bench that is hearing the case has already voiced doubts over the ability of a person facing criminal charges to oversee anti-corruption cases.
The government’s affidavit has quoted Centre-State correspondence that led the Centre to grant a de facto integrity certificate to Thomas, who was transferred to the Centre in January 2009 as Secretary, Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs. He later served as Telecom Secretary where he was involved in fire-fighting in the 2G scam.
UNDER the existing rules at the Centre, even when a criminal case is pending investigation or a disciplinary inquiry is contemplated against an official, the person does not get the “integrity certificate” from the Department/Ministry and consequently cannot be considered for promotion.

The painful price of delay
“Delay in the disposal of disciplinary cases is neither in the interest of the Government nor in that of the Government servant. Undue delay in the disposal of the disciplinary cases also affects the morale of the Government servant.” Thus states the preface to the “Guidelines for Expeditious Disposal of Disciplinary Proceedings”, issued by the Union Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) on April 2, 1985. Several such guidelines have been laid down. The “Guidelines for checking delay in grant of sanction for prosecution” were issued by DoPT on November 6, 2006, after Delhi High Court took suo moto cognizance of a newspaper report about the problem.
They state: “Delay in the disposal of sanction of prosecution cases is not in the interest of the Government. The Government is keen that innocent officers should not needlessly face harassment through prosecution while at the same time the really culpable and guilty officers should not escape prosecution on account of failure of the competent authority to appreciate properly the fact brought out in the CBI investigation reports.”
Had the Central and Kerala governments implemented these two sets of guidelines and several other executive and judicial orders regarding delays in prosecution of central services officials, the office of the Central Vigilance Commissioner could have been saved from tarnish.

Thomas, who is yet to file his affidavit, obviously believes that resigning would be tantamount to admission of guilt in the palmolein import case. His contention is that he merely implemented the decision of Kerala’s Council of Ministers in his capacity as Food Secretary. “On that basis, to level a charge of criminal conspiracy against me is funny,” he told PTI.
If Thomas’ contention is correct, the charge against him might get diluted from criminal conspiracy to that of being a pliable official. Politicians, especially in the States, try to ensure that officials from the all-India services are pliable. Those who are not get pushed to the fringes. They also face suspension or false charges that torment them for the rest of their careers.

Will the crisis bring about a review of the delicate power balance between the executive and the judiciary?

This brings to the fore the need for reviving the Public Services Bill, whose first draft was unveiled in 2006. Yet, the Bill has not even reached the stage of Cabinet approval. Among other things, it provides for a Public Services Management Code which would specify the interface between the political executive and the public services based on the principles of neutrality, professional excellence and integrity. It would also hold public servants accountable for their decisions or the decision making process in implementation of the code.
Apart from enacting the proposed law, both the Center and the States should act on the recommendations of the Committee of Experts on Disciplinary & Vigilance Inquiries that submitted its report to DPT in July 2010 under the chairmanship of PC Hota, former Chairman, Union Public Services Commission. The Hota Committee suggested a new framework for speedy action against corrupt officials as well as protection of innocent officials. Its recommendations include appropriate amendments to the Constitution, Prevention of Corruption Act, Code of Criminal Procedure and setting up of statutory vigilance commissions in all States.
The Committee’s observation that the problem of delay in the course of disciplinary inquiries and in their final decisions is far more serious in the States than in the Central government is relevant to the Thomas case. It recommended amendment to the All- India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969, for intervention and action against such accused officials serving in the States.
The Thomas case might acquire larger dimensions during the Supreme Court hearings. It remains to be seen whether it will pave the way for a new roadmap for governance and bring about a review of the delicate power balance between the executive and the judiciary.
STOCK DOCTOR | gs sood
Worrisome dip in growth

THE Indian economy has been growing at a brisk pace despite the government – this is perhaps the best way to describe the latter’s failure to address reform-related issues due to its preoccupation with those relating to corruption, inflation, political manoeuvring and so on that have not only swallowed the huge financial resources of the nation but also kept the policymakers too busy. No headway has been made on reforms relating to goods and services tax, subsidies, land acquisition, foreign direct investment in retail and insurance, companies Bill, direct taxes code and so on. I do not expect any of this to happen quickly with the worsening fundamentals of the economy, political compulsions and other pressing problems that may take up the time and energy of our policymakers.
The growth may therefore be seen to be faltering. Most analysts have started revising the growth targets for 2011-12 downwards and appear happy with an 8% target just now. On the other hand, they have revised the target for the inflation index upwards which is way off the policymakers’ expectations. The RBI’s latest policy statement shows that it is more worried about inflation than growth. Also, top officials have admitted that they do not have adequate tools to control inflation which essentially remains a supply side issue, mainly affected by factors such as weak monsoons leading to lower farm output, rising global commodity prices led by crude, rising incomes in towns and villages, inadequate infrastructure support leading to logistics problems and so on.

Nucleus Software
(CMP Rs 110)
THE company is a global software firm engaged in providing products and software solutions to the banking and financial services industry and recently won the Gold Shield for Excellence in Financial Reporting 2010 awarded by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) for the third consecutive year. The South Asian Federation of Accountants (SAFA) also awarded Nucleus’ Annual Report the joint first runner-up position for the Best Presented Accounts Award for 2009 under the Communication and Information Technology Sector Category.
Though the consolidated results for the nine-month period ending December 31 has not been very satisfactory, the future looks promising for the company. It has made investments in newer markets and channel partners that have delivered substantial wins with over 40 orders this financial year. For the quarter ending December 31, 2010, the company has won 10 new orders, added eight customers, won orders for 34 new products and has successfully implemented 35 product modules worldwide.
With a book value of more than Rs 72 and likely EPS exceeding Rs 10, the stock is available at a PE of around 10-11 as against the industry PE of 28. The company is debt-free and has excellent management. The promising outlook for the IT sector in view of the revival of the advanced economies and the stock being available at a 52-week low makes it a compelling buy.

The rising inflation is threatening the domestic demand-led growth theory that has so far attracted most of the FIIs. The slowing growth may further impact the fiscal situation during 2011 due to lower tax revenues, increasing food, oil and fertilizers subsidy and the missing 3G windfall. All this will adversely impact the corporate earnings growth which till date has remained robust as shown by the Q3 results. But it has started feeling the pinch with profit margins of companies shrinking due to rising input costs, including of raw materials, interest rates, wage bills, and so on. If the latest Q3 results of some prominent companies such as HUL, Asian Paints and the like are any indicator, operating margins may be under stress for companies across various sectors. Though the 25 basis points hike in repo and reverse repo rates by the RBI is seen by the markets as a timid response to fight inflation that gave the policy a thumbs-down, rising interest rates have already played havoc with the realty, auto and banking stocks. The only silver lining may emerge from rising exports and the hope that the IT sector will do well due to the revival in the developed world.
SEBI has prohibited the office bearers of Investor Associations (IA) empanelled with it from recommending stocks. Being the president of a leading Delhi-based IA, I will have to limit myself to writing about the economy and the markets.

The author has no exposure in the stock recommended in this column. gfiles does not accept responsibility for investment decisions by readers of this column. Investment-related queries may be sent to with Dr Sood’s name in the subject line.
Segregation at Rashtrapati Bhawan
  vvips, vips and the janta
 THE annual Republic Day at-home of the President in Rashtrapati Bhawan is acquiring elements of the ludicrous. The number of invitees has grown enormously though the high tea still manages to retain its gracious quality. What is most startling is the decision, since President Pratibha Patil assumed office, to bifurcate the lawns into separate areas for VIPs and non-VIPs. There has always been one VIP area meant for the President as well as top government functionaries such as the Prime Minister and party leaders. Other invitees would meet the President in this area in groups.
Now, there is yet another VIP area meant for Cabinet members and chiefs of the defence services. The rest of the invitees are kept outside these two areas. Not only are all the invitees security-cleared, the purpose of the evening is to ensure that the members of the legislature, executive, judiciary and media mingle. President APJ Abdul Kalam would even venture out of the VIP area to meet everyone, in keeping with the spirit of the do since 1947.
Sharmila Tagore charms scribes
begum’s grace wins all
 IT was veni, vidi, vici (I came, I saw, I conquered) for Censor Board chairman Sharmila Tagore when she was invited to address members of the Indian Women’s Press Corps. The Begum of Pataudi spoke on a variety of issues relating to the Censor Board’s functioning, including the fact that the chairman is never consulted on the other members and learns the composition from the media. Her tenure ends in February and she is sure that she will find out who her successor is from the newspapers. At the same time, she was all praise for the board members and their dedication in ensuring that films get the right certification. Conceding that one has to move with the times and be more liberal in dealing with sex and violence onscreen, she was also perturbed at the needless use of profanity in films. Sudhir Mishra’s forthcoming Yeh Saali Zindagi could have had a more proper title, she said. Asked for her “take” on the chances of son Saif marrying Kareena Kapoor, she smiled: “I don’t have any take on it. They are financially independent and can take their own decisions.” Her grace contrasted with the temper of Jaya Bachchan during her visit to the same venue. The only controversy she touched on was the promos for Prakash Jha’s new film not being cleared by the board.
Rahul to Moily’s rescue?
 how he survived cabinet re-jig
THE Union Law and Justice Minister, M Veerappa Moily, has not only saved his Cabinet post but also his portfolio despite hushed talk in the corridors of power about his imminent ouster from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Council of Ministers. It is being said that not only is Moily’s performance lacklustre, but he has failed to protect the image of the UPA in the prevailing circumstances with one scam after another breaking. Those close to Moily claim that he is himself seeking a change of portfolio. Apparently, his dream is to move to HRD. A little bird told us that Moily should thank son-in-law Anand Adkoli. Married to Moily’s second daughter, Sushma, who is a mediaperson, Adkoli works for a certain high-profile Congress General Secretary headed for the seat of power on Raisina Hill. Adkoli is an admired IT professional who had a brief but successful career in the US and returned home to join Rahul Gandhi’s staff. Sushma had a stint in journalism before graduating to the small screen under celebrity director MS Sathyu.
Jairam Ramesh turns vocalist  
minister to sing at festival
UNION Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has always been fond of music. During his stint in the Planning Commission at least two decades ago, he was known for his love of music. He had a large number of cassettes of various genres of music, including Carnatic music. Now, it appears he wants to join established vocalists performing at the annual music jamboree at Thiruvayaru in Tamil Nadu, as part of Thyagaraja utsavam. This festival goes on roundthe- clock over a number of days. Aspiring vocalists and musicians who play instruments such as the violin, veena and mridangam come together in the hundreds. They sing in unison, to the delight of music lovers. The kirtans of saint Thyaraja are especially popular. It will be a rare first for a Minister to sing at Thiruvayaru, and Ramesh’s performance will be much anticipated.
Safety handed over to accident-prone pilot
 INTRIGUING are the ways of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), when it comes to picking the overseers of safety aspects. Take the case of Capt A Ranganathan, who has been made a member of the Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Council (CASAC). The pilot has had to leave several airlines, including Indian Airlines and Spicejet, because of safety-related incidents. The RTI has been resorted to for information about a 2006 air accident when he was with Spicejet. He reportedly shut down a perfectly good engine, suspecting a fuel leak, and made an emergency landing. Spicejet, in its report on December 1, 2006, maintained that there was fuel imbalance in the number 2 tank of flight SG 107 with registration number VT-SPD. The pilot report stated, “Central fuel tank was used for departure. No 2 engine shut down and single engine landing carried out.” Before this, in the 1980s when Capt Ranganathan was with IA, he had been at the controls of an Avro 748 and approaching Coimbatore for landing. He is reported to have hit a boulder and went round and landed when the visibility was below normal and the runway surface was wet.
Ex-DGP Gafoor signs off unheralded

WHEN former Director General of Police Hassan Gafoor (1974 batch) retired as head of the Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau on December 31, no one in the state IPS cadre bade him adieu or gave him a ceremonial send-off. The handy excuse was that all the top police brass was involved in security operations for New Year’s Eve. In reality, ever since the state government held him accountable for the lapses connected with the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, everybody seems to be maintaining an arm’s length from Gafoor. There was no farewell dinner at the Officers’ Mess at Worli or a ceremonial parade the next day at the Police Parade Grounds at Naigaon by the Local Arms Constabulary. In 2000, then DGP Arvind Inamdar too had to forgo a ceremonial send-off after he stepped down from office following differences with the Congress-NCP government.