Tag Archives: The Hindu

Close watch: As journalism goes for a nosedive, India calls the US officials’ bluff on count of Pakistan’s F-16 fighter jets

Lalit Shastri

MiG-21

A Correspondent of The Hindu, who did a piece with the heading “U.S. count of Pakistan’s F-16 fighter jets found none missing, claims American magazine” on April 5 relied upon a report published by “Foreign Policy” to give wider coverage to the “Foreign Policy” story and join in casting serious doubt on the Indian government’s claim that an F-16 was downed.

The Hindu journalist and his newspaper, both obviously were in a hurry to take lead in pushing this story in the public domain and in order to show that journalistic ethics was not being compromised, the Pakistan military spokesman was quoted but with regard to the official Indian reaction, The Hindu story ended with the statement: “The Hindu has reached out to the Indian Embassy in Washington, DC, for a comment.” This was obviously to tell the readers that all efforts were made to ensure the story was not one-sided.

Shortly after publishing the “Foreign Policy” based story which was only backing the Pakistani agenda , The Hindu had egg on its face as the Pentagon denied any audit (of Pak F-16). Question arises, why The Hindu did not publish a story on the Pentagon denial.

The Hindu piece takes off from the “Foreign Policy” story. It says: two U.S. officials have said they counted the F-16 aircraft in Pakistan and found none missing, throwing doubts on the Indian government’s claim that it had shot down an F-16 during an aerial engagement with Pakistan on February 27.

Just like some other journalists of his ilk, The Hindu Correspondent in question didn’t get a tour of Balakot but apparently needs proof from the IAF. Stories on similar lines, as published by The Hindu, were published by a section of the media

The Hindu story in question was followed up by the same newspaper with a rejoinder from the IAF.

The Rejoinder

“All attempts of PAF to attack any targets were thwarted by the IAF. During the aerial engagement that followed, one Mig-21 of the IAF shot down one F-16 in Nowshera sector,” the IAF has said adding during the aerial engagement on February 27, a Mig-21 Bison shot down a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) jet and electronic signatures confirm it as an F-16.” Indian Air Force (IAF).

Indian Defence authorities have based their conclusion about the downing of an F-16 based on evidence, such as images from AWACS, debris recovered from crash-site and wireless intercepts of Pak army communication to indicate that their aircraft had not returned to base.

Post Balakot airstrike targeting terror camps in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack, Pakistan had been left gasping when a Pak Air Force F-16 was brought down by an IAF MiG-21 fighter jet on 27 February 2019. The US report is now being used to the hilt by Pakistan as a face-saver.

“Truth always prevails. Time for India to speak truth about false claims and actual losses on their side including the second aircraft shot down by Pakistan,” Pakistan military spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor has said – as quoted by The Hindu.

Both Pakistan and the US (officials) should know that it doesn’t take a month to count the f-16.

The report published by “Foreign Policy” is only a reflection that the US is not going to accept that an antiquated MIG-21 had shot down a frontline US fighter. When it comes to Pakistan, it is too well known that Pakistan never admits the truth. Everyone knows what happened when they lost Bangladesh, when they lost Kargil, or the surgical strikes.

Setting the record straight

On 27 March 2019, Pakistani military spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor had claimed that two Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots had been arrested. One pilot was injured and was shifted to a hospital, while another one was unhurt, he had told media-persons in Islamabad. He also told journalists that one of the IAF aircraft crashed in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir while the other fell in Jammu and Kashmir.

A day later, on 28 February 2019, The Indian defence authorities issued a statement to convey to the entire world that in the aerial combat that ensued one F-16 of PAF was shot down by an IAF MiG-21 Bison. The F-16 crashed and fell across the LOC in Pak occupied Jammu and kashmir (POJ&K).

It was also placed on record that the IAF lost one MiG-21 in the aerial engagement and though the Pilot ejected safely his parachute drifted into POJ&K where he was taken into custody by Pakistan Army.

It was also underscored in this statement that there were many factually incorrect statements that made by Pakistan in this regard.

India made it categorically clear that the first blatant disinformation was that two IAF aircraft were shot down by Pakistan and three pilots were downed. This figure was later revised downwards to two IAF aircraft and two Pilots. The fact however, was that Indian Army units had reported sighting two parachutes falling in the POJ&K which were of two F-16 pilots shot down by the IAF MiG-21 Bison. Pakistan later in the evening changed its statement to say that one Indian pilot (Abhinandan Varthaman) was in their custody. Therefore, it was only by late evening that Pakistan accepted the fact. Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who had shot down the F-16, was released and returned to India on March 1.

Pakistan claimed that they intentionally dropped weapons in open space where there was no human presence or military posts. The fact is that the PAF aircraft targeted military installations. However they were intercepted by IAF fighter aircraft that thwarted their plans. Although PAF bombs fell in Indian Army Formation compounds, they were unable to cause any significant damage to the Military Installations due to swift IAF response.

Pakistan also stated that no F-16s were used in the operation and no Pakistani Plane was downed by Indian Air Force. In response to this India had made it clear that there was enough evidence to show that F-16s were used in this mission and Pakistan was trying to hide this fact. Also, parts of AMRAAM Air to Air Missile that is carried only on the F-16s in PAF were recovered East of Rajauri within the Indian territory. Therefore, the fact that was especially highlighted by India was that one F-16 of PAF was shot down by an IAF MiG-21 Bison aircraft.

The chain of events – a day after the Balakot airstrike

In the morning of 27 February 2019, the India Air Defence system was on full alert. Build up of PAF aircraft on their side of LoC was noticed in time and additional aircraft were scrambled to tackle the adversary. In their attempt to attack Indian ground targets, PAF aircraft were engaged effectively. From IAF side, Mirage-2000, Su-30 and MiG-21 Bison aircraft were involved in the engagement. PAF aircraft were forced to withdraw in a hurry, which is also evident from large missed distances of the weapons dropped by them. During combat, use of F-16 by PAF and multiple launches of AMRAAM were conclusively observed. Prompt and correct tactical action by Su-30 aircraft, in response to AMRAAM launch, defeated the missile. Parts of the missile fell in area East of Rajouri in J&K, injuring a civilian on ground. Detailed report in this regard has already been released by IAF. All the Su-30 aircraft engaged in combat landed back safely. India took a dig at Pakistan then stating that “False claim by Pakistan of shooting down a Su-30, appears to be a cover up for loss of its own aircraft.”

Media watch: Where to draw the line

 

Newsroom24x7 Network

There’s so much positive about this media campaign on breast feeding. It is strange, why there’s no protest against the shoddy and creepy pictures depicting women as sex objects that pop out as ads on popular news websites. There are also the entertainment world related clips that fall in such category and are totally irrelevant on page 1. These are obviously made and published only to arouse carnal desires and attract oogling eyeballs. Tragedy is that the editors of media brands like The Hindu and Times of India are not interested in filtering out such material from their websites.

A few examples of the blurred line

 

Meeting of judges on a holy day for a minority sparks a debate

Jamsheed Rizwani 

Chief Justice o India HL Dattu
Chief Justice o India HL Dattu

Prominent Indian newspaper The Hindu today published a news item with the heading “Holidays on holy days?” pointing out “to many the exchange of letters between Justice Kurian Joseph of the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice of India (CJI), H.L. Dattu, might seem a trivial issue. But was it really so? Justice Joseph had recently expressed anguish at the way secularism was being tinkered with, objecting to a meeting of State Chief Justices on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, since these were national holidays and also days of prayer for the Christian community, in a letter addressed to the CJI. Justice Joseph had also gone to Kerala to attend Easter services. Hence, it was inappropriate, he argued, to hold the meeting on these days.”

The Hindu says : In the exchange of letters between CJI & a fellow judge on subject of secularism, several issues of import have been raised which merit a public discussion.”

On this issue Jamsheed Rizwani writes from Paris:

Secularism has a particular sense in Europe, where religion is not evoked in the public sphere. Public holidays are sacred (without necessarily having divine blessings) to the French….. The learned CJI should have diplomatically asked all the Judges for their avaiability for the crucial meeting and tried to fix one where all were available. What blew it out of proportions in the Indian context, was the ruling party leaders’ (and their fellow travellers’) all out attacks verbal for some and violent for many others on minorities… As long as party leaders make irresponsibile comments on the minorities and their rights, there will be some ambiguity for some strange décisions like the one taken by the CJI to maintain the meeting on a public gazetted Holiday – a holy day for a minority……The intention of the CJI with regard to minority rights will now be under constant scrutiny which could have been avoided…..He has invited a cloud of suspicion over the Court which could have well been avoided…..

Transparency in Public Purchase

Lalit Shastri

 Mostly the system remains shrouded and the government working remains under wraps as long as there is no disgruntled element, someone who has been rubbed the wrong way by his superiors or co-workers, who ends up spilling the beans. Even when that happens, the entire government machinery becomes a cohesive unit and officers at each level become instrumental in creating a protective shield to protect the guilty, the wayward and the dishonest. Even when complaints are filed, FIRs get lodged, either the relatively junior officers get accused or the complaints get restricted to leveling charges of irregularities or non-compliance of rules leading to financial loss. One rarely sees officers down the line being accused of conspiracy and siphoning money from the exchequer.

As a journalist, first covering the state of Madhya Pradesh for The Hindu for almost 18 years and The Asian Age and Deccan Chronicle for more than 4 years, I have had the advantage of seeing the government working from close quarters. Before the enactment of the Right to Information Act, governments at the Centre and in the states have been accountable to Parliament and the state legislatures. Then we have the Comptroller and Auditor General of India as the apex audit agency and the pointers from the CAG based on random surveys are major eye openers. The media has also been playing its role as a watchdog unearthing and exposing corruption related scams—both big and small.

While the RTI is a monumental step forward towards ensuring accountability and transparency (to some extent) but the law as it stands today when it comes to guaranteeing people’s right to have access to a whole gamut of information including that relating to public procurement or government purchases does not wholly insulate the system from the malaise of corruption. It is another matter that proposals have been mooted to take away much from the present reach of the CIC. It is also debatable whether or not those from the judiciary should have primacy over others when it comes to appointment as Information Commissioners or during the course of hearing appeals under RTI Act.

Babus in Madhya Pradesh

The case of a Rs. 12, 000 crore claim pending before a sole Arbitrator

Case of Dewas Udyog, an industrial unit originally valued at Rs. 58.24 lakh owned by Madhya Pradesh State Industries Corporation Limited (MPSIC), which was handed over to a private Indore based business house on the basis of a 20-year management contract in 1998. State government departments had been issued letters by MPSIC to give Dewas Udyog preferential treatment in purchase matters.

Some bureaucrats in Madhya Pradesh apparently devised methods to abuse the process of the court to bleed the exchequer and extend huge financial benefits to business houses. This got amply reflected by the case of Dewas Udyog, an industrial unit originally valued at Rs. 58.24 lakh owned by Madhya Pradesh State Industries Corporation Limited (MPSIC), which was handed over to a private Indore based business house on the basis of a 20-year management contract in 1998.

In the Dewas Udyog case, which came up before a sole arbitrator appointed by the Supreme Court, Bhagwati enterprises, the proprietary firm managing this unit, filed a claim demanding Rs. 12000 crore. This case become more complicated as the state government passed a “deed of assignment” on April 30, 2011 to acquire all 16 industrial units owned by MPSIC. This despite the fact that Bhagwati Enterprises’ 20-year management agreement was still valid when the deed if assignment was issued.

The state government ordered transfer of Dewas Udyog from MPSIC to Madhya Pradesh Laghu Udyog Nigam (MPLUN) in 2002. Bhagwati Enterprises challenged the state government order in an Indore court, where MPLUN took the stand that the managing director of MPSIC was the arbitrator under an arbitration clause and hence the court had no jurisdiction in this case. Since the Indore court accepted this plea, Bhagwati Enterprises went to High Court, which set aside the Indore court order.

The state Government contested the High Court order in Supreme Court and when the apex court was seized of the matter, state Industries commissioner V.K. Semwal gave consent to a proposal by Bhagwati Enterprises to appoint retired judge P.C. Agrawal as arbitrator on August 5, 2010. Immediately thereafter, On August 31, 2010 Bhagwati Enterprises filed an application in Supreme Court to include “other disputes” in this case. During the course of hearing, the state Government took a u-turn and surrendered its position by giving consent for appointment of an arbitrator and also did not oppose enlargement of scope of this case. In this situation, the Supreme Court passed an order on January 13, 2011 appointing Justice Agrawal as the sole arbitrator in this case. In the meanwhile, Justice Agrawal had awarded a compensation of Rs. 16.50 crore to Bhagwati Enterprises in a case against the state Irrigation department. This was contested by the state government in High Court, which passed an order saying the arbitrator was not “fair and just” to have proceeded in this matter.

Inquiry has revealed how many state government departments had been issued letters by MPSIC to give Dewas Udyog preferential treatment in purchase matters. In a later development it has also come to light that since Bhagwati Enterprises had been using MPSIC letter-heads, a decision has been taken to file an FIR against the business house. The state government  also filed a petition in Supreme Court contesting Justice Agrawal’s appointment as arbitrator in this case since he had been censured by the High Court in another matter.

Government insiders point out that only a thorough inquiry would expose those in the government who delayed the filing of FIR and were instrumental in leaking classified documents and protecting the interests of the business group involved in this case.

In 2010, a retired High Court judge appointed arbitrator by an order of the High Court had ordered the state electricity Board to pay a compensation of Rs. 205 crore to Shubham Agency of Indore. This company and Bhagwati Enterprises have a common director. Fresh probe in this matter at the state government level drew a blank as the case in now shrouded in secrecy.

CAG: ATIR Report (Urban Local Bodies & Panchayati Raj Institutions), Madhya Pradesh For the Year 2009-10. The expenditure of Rs. 51.29 lakh incurred on procurement of office furniture and computers without establishing the sub divisional offices by Zila Panchayat, Khargone, was injudicious.

According to Rule 9 (ii) of Madhya Pradesh Finance code Vol.-I:

Expenditure should not be prima facie more than the occasion’s demands.

Government of Madhya Pradesh Panchayat and Rural Development Department decided (May 2008) to establish an intermediate sub-divisional level office to supervise, monitor and guide 10-12 Gram Panchayats and to maintain better co-ordination between Gram Panchayats and Janpad Panchayats of the area out of funds received for National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. These offices would be headed by Janpad Level Extension officers.

The expenditure on establishment of such office could be incurred on building rent, purchase of furniture, stationary, computer, telecommunication devices and drinking water subject to the limit of four percent of scheme fund prescribed for administrative charges.

Scrutiny of the records of Zila Panchayat, Khargone (September 2010) revealed that Zila Panchayat (ZP) decided (May 2008) to establish 43 sub-divisional offices in the district. For operation of proposed sub divisional offices, furniture and computers worth Rs. 51.29 lakh were procured from MPLUN and DG&SD in June 2008 and issued to all nine Janpad Panchayats including Zila Panchayat (July to December 2008) so far (August 2010) as shown in Appendix -XVI. During test check of records of Janpad Panchayats of Bhikangaon, Kesrawad, Maheswar (September 2010) of Khargone district it was observed that neither any sub divisional office was established nor

progress was made in this regard. Thus, the expenditure of Rs.51.29 lakh incurred on procurement of office furniture and computers was without establishment of sub divisional office in the district which was contrary to the Rule-9 (ii) of M.P.F.C Vol. -I.

On being pointed out in audit (September 2010) the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Zila Panchayat Khargone stated that an office order to open the sub-divisional offices had been issued to all Janpads and the progress would be reported to audit later on. It was however stated in March 2011 that

Government of Madhya Pradesh had not sanctioned the posts of Janpad level extension officers and after obtaining sanction of the posts, the sub-divisional offices would be established. Thus the expenditure of Rs. 51.29 lakh incurred on procurement of office furniture and computers without sanction and availability of the staff for formation of sub divisional offices was injudicious and contrary to the Rule-9 (ii) of M.P.F.C. Vol.-I and was against the standards of financial propriety. It has also come to light that Social audit is not being conducted by gram sabhas (village general bodies).